Sunday, February 22, 2009

Latest fashion lips - trout pout



Plastic surgeons fill lips with collagen, and people fill their pockets with money. It's an even situation: full lips and full pockets. Even the nice girl type actress Meg Ryan or the classical beauty model Nicole Kidman did it. Why on Earth would they do it? Or everyone wants to look like Angelina Jolie?

Looks like people don't have enough with fake food and fake smiles, they want fake themselves to top the cake.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The doll I got when I was 33




Pedro re-signified it, Adrian reinterpreted it. I admire her, would she like to play with me?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MY TYPE OF INTELLIGENCE

According to Howard Gardner's test the predominant for me are linguistic, inter and intrapersonal. In comparison my logical-mathematical, musical
and bodily-kinesthetic abilities are dramatically low. No wonder, I was always lousy in maths, I can't make counts in my head, I'm a singing nightmare and my sense of balance is so weak that I frequently hurt myself against doors and pieces of furniture. I've also read about several types of intelligence in Daniel Goleman's book "Emotional Intelligence", that helped me deal a lot with conflicts and inner contradictions.

Linguistic intelligence
involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.

Interpersonal intelligence
is concerned with the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations and desires of other people. It allows people to work effectively with others. Educators, salespeople, religious and political leaders and counsellors all need a well-developed interpersonal intelligence.

Intrapersonal intelligence entails the capacity to understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings, fears and motivations. In Howard Gardner's view it involves having an effective working model of ourselves, and to be able to use such information to regulate our lives.
So communication still looks like the best I can do;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SELF PORTRAIT QUESTIONNAIRE


I AM: energetic, hesitating and hasty

I WISHED: that chocolate won't make you fat

I KEEP: photographs, written things and jiggery-pokery;

I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE: a horse and a pleasant singing voice ( I sing like a hungry she-ass)

I DISLIKE: slush and crowd, hypocrisy (Canada), boorishness (România)

I'M AFRAID: I don't have a choice, especially at elections time

I HEAR: fearfully - whirling wind, pouring rain; joyfully - the voice of my dear people, a child laughing, a cat purring, the waves

I AM SORRY: that I didn't really know my father and not at all his mother

I LIKE: travels and conversations with my mom, Turkish morning coffee, Margherita pizza in Napoli, wine, cognac, French rhum, limoncello, my tiramisù, my mom's spanakopita, tango, the sea, hiking

I AM NOT: stupid

I DANCE: anything, anytime (especially Latin-American and belly dancing), on the tables

YOU CAN NEVER: take back what you said

SELDOM: I am depressive and anxious

I CRY: when sad or emotionally challenged - positive or negative way (when I see miserable people, at the movies, theater, ballet)

I AM NOT ALWAYS: cheerful

I DON'T LIKE MYSELF: when I am angry

I AM CONFUSED: sentimentally

I NEED: nature, love and art

I SHOULD: start to really write

Thursday, February 12, 2009

FEBRUARY 10, 2009 - THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING STRIKES AGAIN

2 days ago

Now that I'm done with my master I feel anxious once more. I wonder where I'm heading to. I can't surrender to routines, to making no effort but just let myself be alive. I need a sense of purpose. I can't really complain about anything. I'm healthy, I share my comfy nest with a sweet and smart man and my job is secure in an insecure global environment. I even make more money now that I got a contract and I don't work anymore through a placement agency. I can do whatever I want: gym, theater, cinema, brunches, lunches and dinners. But I feel restless and unfulfilled. And no, I don't want a child right now, this is not the issue.

I might start making up a bimonthly travel newsletter for a big agency back home in Romania. It would be fun, I like playing around with names, places, descriptions, photos. It would even produce extra dough. It won't be enough but it's a new start. Before the next big jump. Here, there...I can't tell yet.

I only have to be patient and hopeful, live for the day. The idea of going back to that dear old, traffic jammed, noisy, dusty and falling apart Bucharest is getting more and more attractive. Because my smart funny mom is there, my hardworking introvert sister, my careless and big mouthy brother. Because Europe and its low cost short flights are at hand, so I can visit my friends in Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, even Sweden and Lithuania if I feel like. Because there I might get the chance to feel greatful for doing a job I enjoy and I know how to do best, something that would allow me to mark every day like a step forward. Why am I always looking elsewhere for the right place to be?

Everyone around is busy talking about the crisis and how Obama signifies big change and how he could make big changes himself. Meanwhile my life goes its own way. Things don't look too good back in Romania, economically and politically, but it depends what you're looking at. The press there likes alarmism too, shouting about negative things and also eventually distracting people from the corruption and former-communists-still-in-power issues. Top models married with sugar daddies make the first page of most glossy magazines. It's an absurd country but certainly not a boring one. I suppose by the beginning of the summer I'll make up my mind.

Then we have to travel to Cuba in July/August. And I have to get back to writing, now that I got the time.

Until then, Johnny Walker...keep walking.

JANUARY 9, 2009 - LAST STOP: NASSAU, BAHAMAS AND A FEW STEPS IN FORT LAUDERDALE

33 days ago

NEW PROVIDENCE, BAHAMAS

As we approached the island on the fine morning of December 26, we heard loud music, I was to find out later that it came from drum cowbells, horns, whistles, scrapers and brass. Through the narrow spaces between streets we could distinguish some kind of parade sporting a profusion of colourful feathers. I rushed out holding tight my dear Nikon D40 and I joined the cheerful crowds.

The celebration proved to be a Junkanoo, a kind of local carnival, taking place on December 26 and January 1st only. Apparently I saw the Saxon Superstars with the "Exploring the Orient" theme, led by Percy ‘Vola’ Francis - a painter, designer, window decorator, sign writing, song writer and singer. I wonder how comes we saw it around noon, when it was supposed to take place from 2am to 8am. Did they do it only for the three cruiseships in port, to attract and distract, as most shops were closed? It could be, I saw an antique Saturday flea market in Montevideo opening on Tuesday because of the cruise ship docking that day.

It really made my day, especially because it was so unexpected. I took pictures, I followed the parade, walking on and off the street, climbing on benches, feeling the vibe and energy of lively colours and music. On the way I inquired about a nice quiet beach and for $1.25 the local bus took me to Goodman's Bay, frequented by Bahamians, tranquil and pretty. The wind brought over clouds quite often, so I did not really get to enjoy my swims and the sand. I talked to a lady and her ex-brother in law about cruising, the US, Caribbean, Bahamas for a while, they were living in Philadelphia and NY for now, but were originally from Nassau. They offered me a lift back to the ship and on the way we kept talking about Caribbean food, corruption and history.

So it was a nice encounter all over.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Disembarkation went very smoothly, to my great surprise, as I was used to long waiting lines and times. Also, immigration was made outside the ship, in the terminal building. It was so quick that I had to wait outside for my friend to show up. We split at the same place where we met, I was actually quite sad as I was watching the bench where she was sitting a week before, waiting for me.

The Floyd's hostel seemed decent and Katie and her daughter Nicole were nice. I was a bit contrariated though that my CC was charged in advance (by the time of booking) and I didn't have to sign any bill. I decided to trust my feet and walk to the Art Museum. As in many other US cities (Tampa for instance), the streets were completely empty, no one was walking.

I made my way to the nice waterside promenade the Riverwalk, I watched the fancy boats and the mobile bridge opening and closing above them. The Art Museum proved to be a great idea, I went there looking for a Cuban painter exhibition: Carlos Luna.
combined with Picasso's ceramics. This artist was Adrian's professor in Cuba for a short while, he then immigrated to Mexico and in 2003 to Miami. His works bear then both the mark of the Cuban and Mexican way of life, filled with symbols and even materials (like amate paper and Talavera ceramics). Some were huge and were making a strong impression through their bold colours and shapes too. They convey the sensation of being very lively, filled with passion of all kinds (some were showing Fidel being beheaded).

Another exhibition was following the history of the art in the USA, under the title "Becoming of Age" and showing efforts of national artists to find their individual voice, without copying what was happening in Europe in the field of arts.

My next goal was Las Olas boulevard, which I joined at the end of the Riverwalk promenade. It's a very busy avenue, packed with shops, restaurants and bars, but quite enjoyable and extremely lively and crowded, compared to the empty back streets. I had a nice huge salad with sesame pan seared tuna and mango and I jumped on the old wagon that for $1 takes people to the beach. The sea was a little choppy and not so clear, so I decided to stay put, read my book and enjoy the flavourful air. I knew that shortly after 5 Carnival Splendor should show up, leaving on another cruise.

My apparent loneliness attracted the attention of a younger guy who tried to convince me to get acquainted, which I kindly refused. As I advised him to go check the Art Museum on my way back, he followed me on the beach, trying to start a conversation. I guessed he spoke Spanish and he proved to be Uruguayan. After my happy three months in "el paisito" I couldn't help feeling an instant simpathy, so we ended up deciding to go for a drink or maybe dinner later on. Meanwhile I took a walk on the beach, taking pictures and watching around. I saw a deep blue type of jelly fish, several of them were thrown on the beach by the waves. I found out much later that it was the infamous "Portuguese Man of War", that I was longing to see for a long time. I also think it was a smaller one of them that stung me in Barbados, out of Crane beach, on September 3rd 2003, as I was turning 29.

I ended up having dinner with Aaron, who proved to be a very smart, well mannered and kind person, a bit lonely though. He took me afterwards to the hostel, but we stopped on the way for a bottle of wine and my next morning breakfast. We enjoyed our drink next to some crazy yacht crew members, from the US, Australia, UK and Canada, one from each country. The Australian was so drunk that he was rolling on the ground laughing like crazy every five minutes. I went to bed around 11pm, my roomie was some weird black woman who was working for Macy's and tried to convince me she's some big business planner who just moved back from the North and is thinking about getting together some grand schemes. A-ha!
The poor thing was sleeping with all her suitcases around her, some bags were placed on the bed. I was afraid she might get crazy and try to kill me in my sleep.

I succeeded to wake up in time around 7am and jumped in the shower, by the time I was under I noticed the bathtub needed some serious cleaning. Then, to my horror, a tiny lizzard sprang from the drainage hole, desperately flapping its delicate feet, trying not to get drowned. I jumped out of the shower as fast as I could, washed my feet in the sink and rushed to get dressed and eat something (although I had to fight not to get sick). After I calmed down I ran back to take a picture of the poor creature, that had soap stains all over, I was actually afraid it might damage its delicate skin.

The bus came in time and I reached the airport without any farther surprises.

I found Fort Lauderdale, with its many canals and boats and a seizable downtown much more enjoyable than Miami. My friend Mariana, who lives right next to Fl, in Coral Springs, told me the first time she was in Florida she felt like crossing a long, neverending village, because every town joins another. It's nice for a visit, especially when you come from the snow and chilly winds.

JANUARY 8, 2009 - SOME MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN CRUISE


Brewer's Bay, St. Thomas, USVI

Out of the four ports of call, I knew pretty well the first two, the third was completely new and the fourth a vague reminiscence.

OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

In 2002 - 2004, while most of my ship colleagues were rushing to the mall for shopping and movies, I was either wondering through the old city or seeing some film at the Fine Arts Cinema, in case they were playing something Spanish or Latin-American. Stepping on my own traces, I walked once more along Paseo de la Princesa, under the last sunrays; on the blue cobbled stone streets; through the Christmas decorated Plaza de Armas, stopping by the cemetery, the beautiful now hotel El Convento, savouring its walls and furniture centenary atmosphere; eating shrimps with mofongo de yuca and tostones at the traditional creole restaurant El Jibarito, drinking Mexican sangria at Maria's. We ended up taking funky pictures under Columbus' statue, just like I did before Xmas 2002. The funkiest ice parlor I've ever seen - Ben and Jerry's - didn't have any appealing flavor that evening. The coqui frogs accompanied us with their birdlike chirping. This kind of pilgrimage had some kind of therapeutic effects, it was reassuring to go to the same places and do the same things just like more than four years ago.

The guys at Maria's bar recognized me and so did my dear Maria, the french from Biarritz who spent already quite a few decades on the island - this touched me deeply, as did the news that Willy, the gentleman-farmer with a straw hat and dressed in immaculate white, that used to quote me from Pablo Neruda, was ill. I left full of joy and nostalgia.

CHARLOTTE-AMALIE AND BREWERS BAY, ST. THOMAS - US Virgin Islands

As I love turtles I had no choice but go to my paradise like public beach: Brewers Bay, where Green Sea Turtles wander in the crystal clear waters, grazing the bottom sea grass. There are usually very few people around, and this was my favourite nature contemplation spot, where I could sit or swim quietly, feeling one with the Creation. My patty maker and seller, Hyroon, came around lunch time to her kitchen-caravan, to my great joy. She simply asked me "So, you're back?", warming up my heart, you know you somehow belong somewhere when at least one person there knows you when you come back. Unfortunately she brought no dough so I just had a bitter-sweet refreshing mauby juice and we headed to town looking for salt fish and conch tasty patties.

Charlotte-Amalie keeps its antique charm hidden under the excessive commercial spirit, through the narrow lanes called gadde (a memory from its Danish times), packed with bars, restaurants, galleries, jewelry and souvenir shops.

The bookstore on the pier where I bought a few books by my travel writer guru - Bruce Chatwin, is now smaller, there's no more upper floor, which took away much of its charm, but the good books are still there. I found an interesting one: "Cruise Confidential" by the only American guy to work in the dining room (for the sake of a Romanian - hahaha!) - Brian David Bruns. A good story about ship life - in his department. I realized that, although we lived closely, different departments had different stories and issues.

On the pier I also met an ancient boss of mine (Chief Purser), Antonia Kordic, from Croatia, she was a nice one, so I was glad to see her.

The sail away in the velvety night had the same charm, with the lights bright like Christmas candles on the dark silhouettes of the rolling St. Thomas hills.

LA ROMANA, REPUBLICA DOMINICANA

First, we made the bad choice of a beach trip, which had us stranded on Catalina island, Italian property, under alternatively clouded, dripping and rainy skies, with no food around, only souvenir shops. I took a tour of them enoying talking to the Dominicans and buying a small wooden turtle. Those guys have a hard life, selling that Caribbean touristy crap that looks alike all over the place, for hardly food and a dwelling. Still better than cleaning after the tourists I imagine.

The boat brought us back just in time so we can pay a visit to the nice artist village Altos de Chavón, built by an American millionaire (Charles Bluhdorn) for his daughter's birthday with the money he made out of sugarcane and the work of those poor people. The place looks like an Italian middle-age remain, downlooking on the green lazy waters of the Chavón river, over grassy and bushy even greener slopes. Extremely picturesque. Fortunately it was designed by a talented Italian scenographer, so it doesn't look like Disneyland, but still, it has nothing to do with Dominican culture and history. It's part of the Casa de Campo millionaire complex, packed with VIP villas, golf courses and God knows what else a lot of money can buy.

We had a nice cozy lunch at Le Boulanger, topped with an amazing tres leches dessert then we headed back to the departing ship. I had the feeling the only true Dominican things I saw were the river and the dessert. Welcome to the Caribbean islands, US, Spanish and Italian properties welcome you and your money!

DECEMBER 30th, 08 - BACK TO CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN SEA FOR ONE WEEK - PART I - THE SHIP

44 days ago

Ok, not all the Caribbeans, just a few Eastern islands: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas (U.S.V.I.), Dominican Republic and the Bahamas - Nassau actually. The Caribbean humid and salty air seemed to be really nice to my skin, after risking sun burning and having to hide for a while, now it's golden and soft as silk.

THE SHIP

Most important, I did take a cruise on my former employer's latest ship: Carnival Splendor. A good friend of mine from university (and far cousin) still works there and I was able to cruise with her as crew family. I had a god time especially due to the fact that I was able to wander where and whenever I pleased, guest and crew area, in my own clothes. Somehow I missed being employed there, as I could meet people only for brief moments, this time I was just a pleasant outsider who was scheduled to get off after seven days.

First of all, it was great seeing Emi again and getting to spend time with her after more than 10 years. She joined the ships one year after me and I was not even aware. Besides, we never worked aboard the same vessel. Seeing an old friend in a foreign environment is still seeing an old friend, sharing memories and having the pleasure of noting that nothing has really changed between us, on the contrary, I think I became a more understading person and this facilitated our contact. She received me extremely well, with delicatessen and warmth from the heart, thus bringing out the best in me.

The layout of Splendor was very similar to my previous ships: Destiny, Victory and Triumph, only there was just one crew bar, on deck 0, big, but far from the crew open deck, I used to love grabbing a glass of wine and going outside. Another big change was the absence of the jazz trio, apparently they are disappearing from ships. During my three years with Carnival, musicians, especially the jazz trio in the Cigar Bar, were my best friends. So I could not renew some of my daily rituals, like listening to jazz every evening, while sipping some cognac, Cointreau or Grand Marnier.

I did go to the gym the morning of the sea days and to the sauna in the evening, and I hanged out on the deck 3 huge balcony, exposed to the waves spray, air and breeze, but not to the wild winds and pitiless sun light. I showed very few times my almost naked body to the Italian officers on the deck (who are also supervising female crew members taking sun right under their very noses on deck 4). Guests complain they cannot go there, but it is the smallest open area on the ship, meanwhile they have access to all the large ones. I only lied in the sun early in the morning or late in the afternoon. After lunch I used to lie in a sun chair on deck 3 correcting my master thesis. Being very busy at work and spending most of her time with people, Emi preferred to eat late and isolated on the Lido deck guest area, instead of the crowded and noisy staff mess. Her preferred food was the Indian corner called for some confusing reason "Grill", providing curry dishes, different chutneys, humus and yogurt salad, called dal. At night we would indulge in the buffet, that sported smoked salmon and great desserts every night, to my despair, as I was trying to hold my horses when it came to eating. I never set foot at the Gala Buffet though.

We had only one drink in an outside bar on the formal night and I only watched half of the Latin themed main show. The rest of the time we would get our drinks in the crew bar. I talked mostly to a Brasilian guy selling future cruises onboard, a Romanian motorman, the Romanian Shore Excursions Manager, the photographers (the ones from Romania and Macedonia especially) and the Latin trio that had as usual a boring generic name: Latin Fiesta, being three fun loving and nice Dominicans. I was lucky enough to meet one friend from my past contracts: Patricia from Peru, who works in the gift shop. There were other familiar faces around, but none I really knew well. With two exceptions: one Chilean bartender from the last muster station I supervised on Triumph, and one Colombian guy who remembered me because he was involved at some points with my Romanian roomie. Many of my friends are now having regular lives on land. I'd be much happier for Emi if I knew she has left the ships. But on the other hand it's hard to leave, even if people work long hours with little rewarding or none.

I found there were some new rules, like the crew wearing their name tag even in crew areas (I had a Crew Family badge), which I think it's good, this way you avoid guests roaming freely in private zones. It happened once on the Sensation for two fairly drunk couples to get in the crew bar.

To make a long story short, I led pretty much the same life I did when I was a crew member, sticking to open decks and running away from air conditioning as much as possible. I also preferred crew areas because they are quieter. It felt very natural to go back there, maybe because I knew this ship layout very well. I understood that an absence longer than four years did not mean much, after spending three intense years on ships. Somehow it got under my skin. To such point that I felt urged to give people directions or asking their questions while in line at the Pursers' Info desk. By the way, my former position: International Purser, is also about to disappear, they're trying to use more pursers with language skills. What a pity, I loved my job, only it was not well paid and it had no future.

DECEMBER 4, 2008 - WISHES FROM MY FATHER

70 days ago

September 2004, as I got to Canada - he departed less than a year after, but his words stay and comfort me, beyond time.

Farewell, my daughter

You are not going that far and you're strong and striving, so I'm not afraid for you. But I wish that polyglot and ecumenical angels watch over you and may multicultural divinities understand and protect you.

Maybe you won't be always happy but, as given and bearable to the man (and to the wo-man, the female side of it), only every now and then. But I am sure you will always be lively, attentive and creative, and this should fill your life. Which life is full especially when you live its joys and pains, when you taste the good and the bad. There's nothing more stupid and sterile than an always happy optimist.

Don't always wish for the presence, the care or the love of the others: your most precious treasure is your strength of thinking ceaselessly and trying to understand, even throughout the deepest solitude, the world we live in. You won't succeed, nobody did so far, but you will try, which is everything and something more.

Radu father

Drum bun, fata tatii!

Nu pleci asa departe, si esti puternica si razbatatoare, deci nu mi-e frica pentru tine. Dar iti doresc sa te vegheze ingeri poligloti si ecumenici, divinitati multiculturale sa te inteleaga si sa te ocroteasca.

Poate ca n-o sa fi fericita mereu ci, cum e dat si suportabil omului (si oamei, adica omului de parte femeiasca !), doar din cind in cind. Dar sunt sigur c-o sa fi mereu vie, atenta si creativa, ceea ce iti va umple viata. Care viata e plina mai ales atunci cind ii traiesti bucuriile dar si
necazurile, cind ii gusti si binele, dar si raul. Nimic mai stupid si mai steril decit un optimist mereu fericit !

Nu-ti dori totdeauna prezenta, simpatia si nici dragostea celorlalti: bunul cel mai de pret e puterea ta de a gindi neobosit si de a incerca sa intelegi, chiar si in cea mai deplina singuratate, lumea in care traiesti.Nu vei reusi, n-a facut-o nimeni pina acum, dar vei incerca, ceea ce e totul si inca ceva.

Tata Radu

DECEMBER 2nd, 08 - ABOUT MEANING IN LIFE

72 days ago

From this blog I just finished the homonyme book of Thomas Wharton.

Here's a profoundly moving story of someone who found purpose in his life by observing a creature that acted without "purpose" in the human sense, a creature that acted without thought of self:

"There was a lama before the turn of the century who had lived, until he was thirty, as a hunter and bandit (in Tibet, hunters are viewed with no less disapproval than bandits). One day he was trailing a doe that he'd shot and mortally wounded. He caught up with the animal and found her collapsed on the ground. As she lay there, bleeding and exhausted, she'd been giving birth; and he saw that, to her very last breath, her only concern was the newborn fawn she was lovingly licking. The sight completely overwhelmed the hunter, and he decided then and there to give up hunting. Soon the preoccupations of ordinary life began to seem futile and deceptive to him, and he devoted himself from then on to meditating on love and compassion and studying the scriptures. He became a famous teacher."

From The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life, byJean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard. Translated from French by John Canti. Shocken Books, 1998.

NOVEMBER 19, 2008 - MY LIFE SERIES

85 days ago

Yesterday at my milonga class (one of the classic tango types of music: faster and merrier) my partner happened to be an older Romanian gentleman - the perfect kind, who would kiss your hand after the dance. He told me he came to Canada in 1991, that was shortly after the fall of Communism in december 1989. His life basically is divided in two big lumps: before and after, here and there, capitalist Canada and communist Romania. I started thinking about how many big slices my biography had. This morning I happened to read the blog of a kindergarten fellow of mine and strangely enough he was making a balance of his life too.

So I decided to count and tell about the several series or seasons I lived through, that range around regime changes and travels.

SERIES I
COMMUNIST ROMANIA

There was a before 1989 until I turned 15. Even if my mother divorced when I was two, I was a child and teenager surrounded by love but harassed by all kind of shortages imposed by the communist coercive system: food, clothes, entertainment; power, water and heating cuts whenever they pleased. Classrooms were many times cold in winter and I remember that at home the four of us: grandma, my mother, my sister and I were sleeping in the same enormous bed at some point, so we can heat well at least one room. We also had to use a camping stove for cooking during the coldest times of winter. The final blow came when my grandma left in 1987 to West Germany and died two years later, just six months before the big political changes.

SERIES II
TRANSITION ROMANIA

Up to 2001 I lived amidst the contradictions and confusion of a transitory period, that still continues. We were all struggling to figure out a new way of life, after the euphory of what we thought was freedom. But freedom also brought indecision, doubt, too much perspective and not enough knowledge to fill it up. I went to study journalism at the university because I failed my cinema direction exams. Probably today I won't. While a student I worked as a translator, tourism guide and events (political and commercial) hostess, I also experienced a bit of press, radio and TV. When I finished, in autumn 1996, I ended up with a secretatry job that I deserted in January 1997 - that year I was mostly out of the country, somehow I managed to get small jobs in Lisbon, Istanbul and Athens, without planning to do so. This way I managed to learn Portuguese and a bit of Turkish. Somehow that year, as I've been going through hard times and rewarding moments, I grew up more than ever.

When I got back, my professional life really started in December 1997, first with Ludgate Woodstock, a temporary joint venture between two British PR agencies specializing in financial communications. We worked mostly on a national information programme about stockmarkets. I had a great time travelling throughout the country and meeting local press, radio and TV journalists: Iasi, Deva, Hunedoara, Drobeta Turnu-Severin, Targu Jiu, Slatina (the saddest city I have ever been to), Pitesti, Ramnicu Valcea. I got to see parts of the country I would have missed otherwise. It broke my heart to see how hard people lived in certain cities - Slatina, Turnu-Severin, Hunedoara for instance, especially because they were receiving us very nicely. Later on the company name changed to Woodstock Leasor and then they left Romania. I still keep in touch with Stuart, my first professional manager, an amazing person who taught me and encouraged me a lot.

A few months after I landed at Athenee Palace Hilton as their first PR Coordinator, in july 1999. It was quite exciting to work for a five star hotel, with advertising agencies, photographers, glossy magazines, VIP's, even foreign journalists sometimes, talking French and English at work. I was creating and organizing events, writing press releases and managing press conferences, taking care of all advertising and external promotions. The best encountes were with Franco Zefirelli and Fanny Ardant. But the pay was not too good and after two years I felt there was nothing more I could learn there, my job was really the one of a PR Manager, without the recognition. I was dreaming about going to Italy and study for a master degree - Communications for and with Immigrants and Refugees, at La Sapienza, Roma. I spent all my vacations nel bel paese in 1999, 2000 and 2001, but I lacked funds. And then another story started.

SERIES III
CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN SEA

I ended up leaving the Hilton for Carnival Cruise Lines, based in Miami, the biggest cruise company and cruise industry corporation. I started living and working on a boat on the blue tropical seas as a Purser, a combination of receptionist, concierge and client relations. I hated dealing with complaints, everything needed to be thoroughly documented and followed up. I managed though to come back on my second contract as International Purser, working with foreigners: Quebecers, Latin-Americans and Italians. God, that was good fun!!! I was using and perfectioning all the foreign languages I know, making amazing progresses especially in Spanish and Italian.

The people I worked with belonged to all imaginable races, nationalities, religions and social classes. Most of them, of course, were not from what is called the "1st world". I was living in a mix of Babylon and United Nations, learning so much every day. On the other hand I also learned from the countries, the islands and the cities: Mexico, Belize, United States, Barbados, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Aruba, Martinique, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, St. Maarten - Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, San Juan, Fort de France, Playa del Carmen, St. Thomas. One of my dearest dreams came true: observe marine life with my own eyes in its natural environment. I still miss the coral, the fish and turtles. I ate flying fish and breadfruit, cactus pears and fresh red snapper, I picked mango and papaya with my own hands or bought them from local markets.

The Italy plan didn't worked out, it died asfixiated by both Romanian and Italian bureaucracies, going back to Romania after the cruises looked like failure to me, so I decided to immigrate to Quebec, Canada. I sent the forms I had downloaded from the Internet to the Immigration office in Vienna, from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. They got accepted, then further steps went smoothly, until september 2004, when I crossed the Atlantic once again, to start from scratch on my own, right after I turned 30.

SERIES IV
A LANDED IMMIGRANT IN QUEBEC

I started building on my new life a bit more than four years ago. I cried, I cursed, I wanted to go back so many times...but I stayed, waiting for better times to come. My master in communication is a good reason - it was so enriching, the teaching system is so different from ours, I learned more than I imagined it would happen, I discovered new favourite authors like Marc Augé and François Laplantine. The Communication and development course changed dramatically my vision of geopolitics. I got a mobility scholarship and travel support to go to Uruguay and study the amazing world of murga - the open air musical theatre of the longest Carnival in the world.

Here in Montreal I have friends from all over the world, the opportunity to listen to any kind of music and taste any kind of food it might occur to me. I take tango lessons and occasionally practice my samba skills. I learned a little about Inuits and other First Nations, read a couple of books, saw some movies and a few pow-wow's - there is so much to know about them, knowing deeply about life and humans this way.

For the first time in my life, since July 2008, I live with my boyfriend, a charming, socially awkward and extremely imaginative Cuban draughtsman, maybe we'll even form a family soon.

I made changes, I know this had to happen, but somehow I miss something, and it's not only professional frustration that makes feel like this, nor missing my mother and sister. Deep inside I love Europe and its many ways of life, North America never really appealed to me. Probably another big step will follow...SERIES V, when, where, I don't know yet, but soon and somewhere else.

NOVEMBER 7, 2008 - CRISIS, FUTURE SHOCK, OBAMA, AND OUR DAILY LIVES

97 days ago

When everyone around me in Montreal was over excited about the economic crisis, I asked myself why did I play it cool. First of all, I have no credits anywhere, no mortgage, no education loan and no kids to raise. I totally disbelief the continous progress theory that presumes endless development, so I expect system crushes and failures.

And I also strongly believe in two theories: the cyclic history of Ibn Khaldun -"constant renewal or replacement of the ruling group by nomads conquering the towns and settled lands. This was followed by a period when the invaders lost the skills of the desert and acquired the vices and slackness of town life." I think that our conquering nomads are the Chinese and Indians who are eager to learn and move up on the social and professional scale, in opposition to the hedonist consumers.

Then I think about Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave and Future Shock: "Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skill that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional. You can't run the society on data and computers alone."[2] Toffler also states in, Rethinking the Future, that "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."[3]

Most of all I rely on this "change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways."

About Barack Obama - I'm glad he was elected, because he's a democrat and the US needed a political orientation change. Now, he's not black, but a half and half, and he has been raised by his WASP grand parents. He's not a ghetto kid and he spent the first part of his life abroad. I'm pretty sure he didn't hang out with black communities people. I don't identify him with the Afro-Americans I saw in New York, New Orleans or Philly, he doesn't look or talk like them. Take Oprah Winfrey for instance "She was consequently sexually molested by male relatives at a young age and endured the hardship up until she was 14 when Winfrey moved to live with her father in Nashville Tennessee." It doesn't mean I don't trust him, he's just not as symbolic as others think, his lifepath is similar to any other white boy's one. I really appreciate though that he did community work. I don't think his election will change dramatically the face of the USA today, or my country's or my own destiny.

I guess a lot of us like to feel involved in big events for lack of proper entertainment.

NOVEMBER 7, 2008 - CRISIS, FUTURE SHOCK, OBAMA, AND OUR DAILY LIVES

97 days ago

When everyone around me in Montreal was over excited about the economic crisis, I asked myself why did I play it cool. First of all, I have no credits anywhere, no mortgage, no education loan and no kids to raise. I totally disbelief the continous progress theory that presumes endless development, so I expect system crushes and failures.

And I also strongly believe in two theories: the cyclic history of Ibn Khaldun -"constant renewal or replacement of the ruling group by nomads conquering the towns and settled lands. This was followed by a period when the invaders lost the skills of the desert and acquired the vices and slackness of town life." I think that our conquering nomads are the Chinese and Indians who are eager to learn and move up on the social and professional scale, in opposition to the hedonist consumers.

Then I think about Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave and Future Shock: "Society needs people who take care of the elderly and who know how to be compassionate and honest. Society needs people who work in hospitals. Society needs all kinds of skill that are not just cognitive; they're emotional, they're affectional. You can't run the society on data and computers alone."[2] Toffler also states in, Rethinking the Future, that "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."[3]

Most of all I rely on this "change is non-linear and can go backwards, forwards and sideways."

About Barack Obama - I'm glad he was elected, because he's a democrat and the US needed a political orientation change. Now, he's not black, but a half and half, and he has been raised by his WASP grand parents. He's not a ghetto kid and he spent the first part of his life abroad. I'm pretty sure he didn't hang out with black communities people. I don't identify him with the Afro-Americans I saw in New York, New Orleans or Philly, he doesn't look or talk like them. Take Oprah Winfrey for instance "She was consequently sexually molested by male relatives at a young age and endured the hardship up until she was 14 when Winfrey moved to live with her father in Nashville Tennessee." It doesn't mean I don't trust him, he's just not as symbolic as others think, his lifepath is similar to any other white boy's one. I really appreciate though that he did community work. I don't think his election will change dramatically the face of the USA today, or my country's or my own destiny.

I guess a lot of us like to feel involved in big events for lack of proper entertainment.

NOVEMBER 1, 08 - NOVEMBER IT ONLY BELIEVES IN A PILE OF DEAD LEAVES

103 days ago

This is Tom Waits, the great Tom Waits:

No shadow no stars
no moon no cars
November
it only believes
in a pile of dead leaves
and a moon
that's the color of bone

No prayers for November
to linger longer
stick your spoon in the wall
we'll slaughter them all

November has tied me
to an old dead tree
get word to April
to rescue me
November's cold chain

Made of wet boots and rain
and shiny black ravens
on chimney smoke lanes
November seems odd
you're my firing squad
November

Along the same lines and more (or worse?: the infamous Tiger Lillies.

I saw them last Tuesday, they are simply great. Irreverent dark cabaret, or great British black humour mixed with fine music and the hallucinating castrato voice of Martyn Jaques. Brecht with a touch of Lautréamont. Kill you!

OCTOBER 19 - TODAY I MET WIM WENDERS, AFTER SEEING "PALERMO SHOOTING"

116 days ago

First about the closing of the festival and Wim Wenders. I saw no really bad movie. The ones I did not mention here so far: "Snow", by Bosniac débutante Aida Begic and "Four Nights with Anna" by Polish veteran Jerzy Skolimowski were really good, somehow understated characters, simple lives, simple people, little dialog, the surroundings and habits playing an important part themselves. It's like ethnography, the observation is as important as the interviews

Mr. Wenders is quite a figure, tall, with down on his shoulders wavy gray hair, wearing a knee long raincoat and a hat. He answered questions in the showroom, then outside in the yard, expressing his keen desire to understand why the critics massacred the film and the public likes it. I managed to get to him and thank, as a Romanian, for the help he accorded Romanian cinema by producing Catalin Mitulescu's "How Did I Spend the End of the World". Then I gave him a piece of paper on which I had written "MURGA URUGUAY. THE LONGEST WORLD CARNIVAL". He asked me what it was about, I roughly explained him, mentioning there is info on the web about it and that I cannot do anything about this passionating subject, beyond writing my thesis, but he could pull out a film.

Now, about "PALERMO SHOOTING":

I cannot say I disliked it, but I can't say either that I was delighted or thrilled to see it. First of all, I didn't believe too much the story of a glamorous (successful, good looking) photographer who's bored of too many exhibitions, fashion shootings, university classes, wild parties and casual sex.

He's actually very lonely, living in his studio (as his ex refuses to leave the house), listening to great music at max on his IPOD, and having strange dreams. His photos are all re-made on computer by his assistants, mixing buildings, landscapes and skies in a Godlike way. As Mila Jovovich, playing herself, asks him for a more natural photo background than hi-tech studios, he flies to Palermo and chooses to stay there. So far so good, isn't it? Only he has a mysterious enemy, shooting...arrows(?!!!) at him. Wow! Plus, the gray-clad pale faced guy keeps disappearing. Mmmm. Metaphysical thriller, anyone? It reminded me of the Lord of the Rings, or rather Harry Potter. I spare you the details, maybe you'll see the movie, so I'll let the man who's not a man happy within his misery. Maybe the star photographer just got on my nerves because I am so used now to see movies about lives of ordinary people.

Campino, who plays the main character, Finn, has a great body and his image standing naked in front of a large window made the female audience gasp. But his face is unable to go through a whole range of expressions. In real life he leads the German punk band Die Toten Hosen (apparently it translates into boring times - I really love this song. His pair - one beautiful blue eyed art-restorer he meets casually (the dialog at this point is hilarious) is Giovanna Mezzogiorno, I saw her in "La finestra di fronte" and "L'ultimo bacio", I find her quite cold and inexpressive too, I think she would do great as the Snow Queen actually . And how about this line? "I am afraid of Eros' arrows".

At the end I didn't quite understand the point. Manual photography is better than digital, fashion world is hollow and artificial, Lou Reed imparts some deep life philosophy through his songs, love is the answer (really?), death is but a passage, you have to live the present moment deeply and seriously. I've read somewhere that all our actions are motivated by fear of death, the hunger for power, money, celebrity, the search of love, of God, everything has to do with our struggle to leave marks and avoid the emptiness the thought of death fills us with. I totally agree with it, but I didn't quite get it from the film. The existential quest reminded me of Antonioni and the artist facing Death of Ingmar Bergman. The film ended with a tribute to both of them, as they died while Wenders was shooting in Sicily.

Now, the cinematography is great, as is the contrast between the heaviness of life and light in Duesseldorf and the brightness of colorful Palermo. I really loved the market stroll and the meeting with a sheep in front of a painted door hiding a whole animal gathering. Music is fantastic and the sound-surround system made it fill my body. I also like the general idea of trading a hollow luxurious existence with simple pleasures in half-ruined but serene Palermo, after all a metaphor for German/Italian way of life. So watching it was enjoyable for the satisfaction of the senses, but not for my critical mind, sorry, Herr Wenders. Compared to Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, A Million Dollar Hotel, Land of Plenty, Don't Come Knocking, this film is not worth its director.

OCTOBER 18, 2008 - GREAT CINEMA STRIKES AGAIN - "12" BY NIKITA MIKHALKOV

117 days ago

A free remake of "12 Angry Men", made in 1957. I saw it on Romanian TV as a kid - by the time they were showing real stuff not reality shows, talk shows and any other kind of show-much-and-say-nothing.

So, today's film was really strong, the kind of poignant masterpiece that won't even let you breathe. The story was moved to our days, or rather to the days of war in Chechnya. A 17 years old of Chechen origin is accused of the murder of his adoptive Russian father, a former army officer who fought the war but was a family friend.

The lively debate of the 12 jurors is intertwined with horror images of the war and contrasting ones of the boy alone in his cell. The whole movie is a crescendo, going from 12 common, indifferent looking people who just want to finish by voting "guilty" and go on with their own lives, to the shocking unveiling of their personalities and stories, from the chauvinist taxi-driver to the ex-army officer who paints watercolors in his country house and plays the juror from time to time.

It is also a fresco of the Russian society with its social classes, various professions and idiosyncrasies. An explanation on why things are the way they are. The images are amazing, with strong close-ups, attention to detail and people's characters revealed by their gestures and mimic. Mikhalkov himself plays a great discrete part until he choses to appear as some kind of Saviour.

I also disliked the long finale mentioning the "Russian officer's word" (not Soviet:), an allusion to religion and importance of free will expressed through a bird who choses the rough outside weather to the warm closed room. But altogether it was a great cinematic experience, and I was glad to pick this film amongst other choices in the festival.

OCTOBER 16, 2008 - "LE JOUR AVANT LE LENDEMAIN" - INUITS ROCK!

119 days ago

Last night I had a 3rd degree encounter, I actually met three inuit women from Nunavut, the Inuit region above the English side of Canada, the one in Quebec is called Nunavik.

Madeline Ivalu, Carol Kunuk and Susan Avingaq joined forces with Marie-Hélène Cousineau from Montréal and made a film after the book with the same title by Jorn Riel. Igloolik Isuma Productions is an existing production house, put up by three inuits in...Igloolik, they made The Journals of Knud Rasmussen and Atanarjuat - The Fast Runner, in their original language. The women discovered they can do it too, storytelling is what keeps their culture alive. So the cinema is the new way to tell stories, and I find them tremendously beautiful and touching. Besides, the North being so far and expensive to get to, it's the best way for us to learn about the Inuits' ways of life.

I have to say I had tears in my eyes as soon as I saw these women, sitting quietly in the hallway of Ex-Centris, with big smiles on their broad, weary faces. Madeline and Susan, who are learning at an advanced age how to make films.

Madeline is the main character in "Le jour avant le lendemain", Ningiuq, a wise grand-mother who spends the Arctic summer on an island with her 10 years old grandson, Maniq. Then winter comes with terrible news and they start an impressive fight for survival, almost against any logic and hope. The images join contrasts between grandiose landscapes and close details of faces, hands, objects. The light is either bright or dim, the qulliq (oil lamp) is always present inside the tent or the cave, the fire must be kept alive, it's the woman's duty. The dialogue is scarse and reduced to the essential, the action progresses slowly.

This is how life is upthere (or it used to be, at least), slow, also because one needs to be careful and use the hearing, the smell, the sight, the touch, in order to survive. One needs to pay attention to every detail and move in a slow motion or start running, according to the natural conditions. The Inuits used no metals, only stones, wood, bones and skins. And they managed to make a life out of it. So the film has two main themes for me: the strong bond between grandmother and grandson and the Inuit way of life. It's admirable how ingenious they are, how strong and life smart, we could learn so much from them.

When the movie finished I was able to get closer to Madeline and Susan, Carol was translating, but I think the smiles were enough between ourselves. Madeline is so tiny, yet in the movie she fills the whole screen. Not long ago I saw "Ce qu'il faut pour vivre" with Natar Ungalaak, also from Igloolik and an accomplished artist. All the inuits I've seen in films seem to be natural born actors, maybe because storytelling plays such an important part in their life.

I bought the book describing the making off of "LE JOUR AVANT LE LENDEMAIN" , illustrated with drawings and photos, the photographer happens to be Romanian - Oana Spinu, I have to find a way to get in touch with her. Usually I don't care about autographs, but sometimes they are truly symbolic. Carol, Susan and Madeline signed, but Madeline did so in Inuktitut alphabet (sylabic). This book is a great memory for a lifetime now.

OCTOBER 1, 2008 - MON ARONDISSEMENT EN CHIFFRES

133 days ago

In my culturally colourful district: Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame de Grâce, people that don't speak French or English at home (or some combination) speak these languages:

Chinois, n.d.a. 4 820
Tagalog (pilipino) 4 280
Espagnol 4 220
Russe 3 815
Roumain 3 680
Arabe 3 530
Tamoul 2 830
Vietnamien 2 230
Bengali 1 695
Italien 1 450
Autres 14 145

I belong to those that speak Spanish at home (and at work most of the time). I am also part of the 76 500 immigrants, people who were born out of Canada. The total population is 164 246

SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 - WRITE, WRITE, WRITE

142 days ago

This has to be my mantra until I manage to finish my thesis. I just saw my dear professor, Carmen, today, she's in Uruguay until next September on a sabbatical year and summoned me to write a max until her departure on October 11.

I got a new book, “Identidad y globalización en el Carnaval” - an adapted PhD thesis by Isabel Sans that I have to read quickly and my super-mom discovered a fantastic Italian tradition that might be related to the murga. The cantastorie (literally storysinger or storyteller ) is a traditional artist, whose origin goes back to the Middle Age, or even the age of Homer, who used to sing in public places, then - about legendary love stories or war deeds; now - addressing contemporary issues and happenings. Apparently there aren't many left.

Anyway, the cantastorie attitude towards "news" is very similar to the murga. I contacted this one (I love the "Mafia della tradizione" song) who's also an anthropology professor in Messina and, amazingly enough, he sent me a very nice answer, saying he agrees with me about similarities between the two cultural phenomena. I found out this way that there's a Carnival character in...Sicily, called Murgo, the Sicilian who comes back from America with his pockets and hat full of money. I thought this might be a reverse phenomenon, like a Sicilian who returned from Uruguay bringing also the notion of murga with him. Anyway, the cantastorie also offered to send me his book - Italians are such amazing people! At least I have met very few of the mascalzone and truffatore kind.

So...cutting off on outings, poor me, and read read read, write, write, write, like Lenin said "Study, study and keep studying!" At least I got to see one of my fav indie rock groups last night in concert. Enjoy some here.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2008 - POST-BIRTHDAY POST

157 days ago

34th birthday anniversary, no big deal really, contrary to the past years I kept it small and user (me) friendly: improvised tango soiree by the Lachine canal on my actual birthday, Rona Hartner's gypsy vibes on Friday and dinner chez Claudia Saturday.

It's been a good year but somehow I was waiting for some cherry to top it. Like a phone call to offer me the job of my dreams, or something like that, I still believe in magic. Or rather not anymore since I turned 34 and the miracled did not happen.

Although I had a good year altogether, like going to the Sierra Mixteca in Oaxaca for the Mujeres Poetas en el Pais de las Nubes... and travel to Uruguay to study the murga, especially Agarrate Catalina and Araca la Cana I got to dance tango in Buenos Aires (a mythical dream) and to listen to my new Brazilian friends singing and playing bossanova under the almond trees on the beach of Bom Jesus dos Pobres. I set foot in the fabulous city of Salvador de Bahia de Tudos os Santos that I've been dreaming about since I met the unforgettable characters of Jorge Amado.

My classes are over, I "only" have left the master thesis to write, for some reason it goes very slowly.

And last but not least I managed to grow and cherish my relationship with Adrian, the Cuban draughtsman lost in Canadian transition that's now sharing my life with much enthusiasm...who knows what's coming next?

AUGUST 26, 08 - TRAPPED INSIDE

170 days ago

I feel like being on stand-by right now, left here and waiting for something to happen. Something else, although maybe I am supposed to make a move. Get serious about working on my thesis, for a start and decide what I want to do with my future, what I really want from life, instead of just living it. I think I’ve been just too passive nowadays, saying Yes! to all possible things to do, except getting to work on the most important thing.

Somehow I know I have to stop running around, on the other hand my natural lack of patience and restlessness keep me on the run.

I kept myself plugged to Uruguay lately, I saw a great bittersweet movie called “El baño del papa”, another one called “El Ultimo Tren” – both about simple people trying to make a change in their lives, go against the flow no matter what is costs. I liked both of them, they’re very touching. I also attended two national day celebrations, a community picnic with asado, tortas fritas, tango and candombe in Parc Angrignon and a formal reception in hotel meeting room. Uruguayans still amaze me through their kindness and generosity.

The week-end before I was in Toronto with my boyfriend, basically to see his brother and family, I didn’t know what to expect but finally I felt I could consider them family too. No pressure, a warm welcome, we did have a good time, except the Greyhound trip, that left us stranded in Ottawa at 1am, waiting for the next connecting bus that came at 7am. Quite an unforgettable and unforgivable night. Next time it will definitely be Coach Canada.

I liked Toronto, the biggest and busiest city in Canada, a normal American metropolis. The Royal Ontario Museum is beautiful and has an impressive multicultural art collection, much bigger than anything in Montreal, the Ontario Lake looks huge and the harbor is packed with terraces, restaurants and bars, exotic food stalls, a colorful craft market. I liked the street cars and the Korean grill restaurant on Yonge Street where you grill your own stripes of the chosen meat. The weather was gorgeous and I was so happy to see my best friend Laura who left Montreal a while ago. She’s single now, she paints and takes flamenco classes, I miss her, she understands me better than anyone else, and it’s not only about being Romanian. I was glad to get to spend an evening alone with her and I was glad Adrian understood this. I was glad they liked each other; after all she’s the closest person I have in Canada, even if we met here. I wish I had more time to explore China town or some Caribbean neighbourhood.

My “brother-in-law”, Eduardo, took me and Adrian to Niagara, it was more of a courtesy to me, as Adrian had already been there. The falls are beautiful, two white masses of water and foam set amongst green banks, with spray floating in the air like thin fog, but the city by it is a terrible combination of Las Vegas and Luna Park, with at least 5 wax museums, a Frankenstein castle and a Dracula one, accompanied by scary prices everywhere.

This would be the present picture, waiting for the summer to take its last breath and give way to autumn. We’ll be going camping to Mont Tremblant – Lac Chat this week-end with some Romanian friends, I’m looking so much forward to get away from the city for a while.

AUGUST 6 - IT WON'T STOP RAINING AND Alexander Solzhenitsyn DIED

190 days ago

He was burried today in Moscow, according to the Christian Orthodox tradition. He looked like Tolstoi and Dostoievski, exbiting an impressive monk beard. A lot of Russian writers had a special relationship with religion, particularly redemption. Film makers too, I still remember Pavel Lunghin's "Ostrov"/ The Island - a heartbreaking description of what Orthodoxys is really about.

Solzhenitsyn's story is impressive and so are his books, depicting the Gulag's life and the Russian communist regime the way they were. I wonder what would I have done under such conditions. I wonder how today's Romanian teen-agers would be if they were born under communists like my generation, standing with one foot on each side. I was definitely marked by it and I am attracted to stories of those times, admirable stories of the human spirit being stronger than its frail body needs.

May the writer rest in peace and may his work have an everlasting life. Amin

JULY 29, 2008 - WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT?

198 days ago

I use this blog as a diary and during the last month I barely followed routines: cooking, cleaning, going to work daily, to the gym twice a week, re-starting my tango classes and practice. I feel like there was really nothing happening worth to be mentioned. The jazz festival went away without major revelations, except a Cape-Verdian singer – Mayra Andrade, but still, I didn’t buy her CD. This summer is very capricious, it keeps raining for a few weeks now and you can never trust the forecast 100%. The fact is that I feel an urge to get out of the city; it’s been a long time since I got “trapped” here.

My couple life goes well, with small crises which I find normal for two people trying to adjust themselves to living intimately together. We have similar tastes but different backgrounds and lifestyles, even if we watched pretty much the same cartoons as kids. I have a lot of physical energy to spend walking, dancing, swimming, he likes to draw, read, watch films and share time with friends, mostly sitting down and talking. Different basic needs and priorities. So we have to meet somewhere in the middle, which made me give up going on a great hike on Saturday. Time will tell if the efforts on both sides are not too much for a lasting relationship.

At tango I met a new friend from Uruguay, Luis, a very nice gentleman, who also likes murga, so we are talking about the Uruguay national day celebration on August 24th as an opportunity to organize a small tango event. Later in September we want to organize an event dedicated to murga and candombe, with me talking about my experience in Uruguay. And the interview taken for Brecha in April finally appeared in the Montevideo weekly newspaper: “Entusiasmo por la murga a contraestación. El azaroso camino desde Montreal al Teatro de Verano de una periodista rumana tras el pulso y encantamiento de la murga y el Carnaval. A la vez, ayer se presentó un libro de una artista y académica uruguaya instalada en Estados Unidos que reflexiona sobre el fenómeno de la murga joven. Miradas académicas que no dejan de lado la pasion.” I’m not a journalist as they call me, but what matters is the intention.

Only last week I managed to start transcribing the interviews I took myself, I’m half way done, it’s a boring and tiring process. Plus, I hate the idea of telling my Uruguay story filtered by sociological, communication and anthropological theories, but there’s no other way, and I want to have everything done and wrapped up by December.

So I don’t have much to write. On our free time, I spend time with Adrian seeing friends: dinners, barbecues, one wedding, we managed to go to the swimming pool only once, due to weather conditions. I don’t have time for getting back to my creative writing; he’s been looking for a job for two weeks now, briefly, it’s not the greatest summer I ever had, barely bearable, but living with Adrian adds spice and fun to it.

Last but not least, an Uruguyan film to be seen: El baño del Papa/Pope's restroom.

JUNE 25, 2008 - TWO MEDEA, TWO MASTERPIECES

232 days ago

There's the one by Pasolini with Maria Callas and....surprise surprise! Lars von Trier made one based on the Carl T. Dreyer's script, which holds beautiful expressionist images. I watched them both over the week-end - the storyline is slightly different, Pasolini goes through the whole legend of the Golden Fleece and the Argonauts who go all the way to Colchis (situated in nowadays Georgia or Gruzia) to still it. Lars von Trier/Dreyer tell only the end of the story, like the classical play by Euripides.

The focus in Pasolini's version falls onto the difference between two worlds: myth and reason, Medea and Jason, the world of magic and the real world. Maria Callas is beautiful and sensitive, instead of being a sorceress, her Medea is a stranger who's not understood and/or accepted in the culture where she landed. Between her and Jason there's mutual attraction, but he's a man of this world who wants to be accepted and recognized, so he choses to marry somebody more appropriate to his ambition. Medea is not a criminal, only a woman who choses to revive her old rites, re-affirm her vision of the world when she feels trapped and betrayed. The only actor attracting my attention is Laurent Terzieff as the Centaur who plays adoptive father to Jason. The settings and the costumes are overwhelming, recreating a long gone forgotten world in the cine verite style that characterizes the other films of Pasolini. He filmed vast empty lands, troglodyte and mud cities in North Africa with amateurs and I guess a little in Italy (the Corinthian part) it looks ancient but not fantasylike, the impact is amazing, you feel that story is real.

Lars von Trier plays with light and shadow, also with little dialogue, in a Middle Age looking Scandinavia, filled with trembling lights and somber settings. Characters communicate many times through screens: curtains or branches, like they can't really see each other the way they are. His Medea is a feminist who does not accept her destiny of being seduced then abandoned by a man. I understood her murder of the children like a liberation from all bounds with that foreign country. At the end, as she sails away, she symbolically takes off her cap and frees her long hair. The marshlands, the water and forests are the perfect wild setting for wild passions, but people speak in subdued tone, which, together with the empty spaces and fog/dim lights creates the sensation of oppression. The best Lars von Trier film I've seen so far, no doubt due also to the expressionist syle he has chosen, as a tribute to Carl Dreyer.

JUNE 19, 2008 - BLOG TO BLOG, SOMEONE ELSE DEFINED MY LOVELIFE

238 days ago

I found today on another blog, belonging to a young and quite successfull young Italian author Pulsatilla, a few phrases that suit me:

"martedì, 10 giugno 2008

A questo punto te lo dico, qual è la cosa molto semplice da fare per tenermi sempre con te e non farmi andare più via: avere fiducia in me, in te e in noi. Quando ti dirò che non ce la faccio, tu mi dovrai dire che ce la posso fare eccome. Quando ti dirò che forse sarebbe meglio separare le strade, tu mi dovrai dire che non troverò nessun amore bello come il nostro. Quando avrò voglia di scopare qualcun altro, tu dovrai dirmi che nessuno mi sa scopare bene come te. Sono una persona semplice, per farmi restare devi soltanto dire «resta».

Nessuno ha mai osato chiederlo, e forse, in fondo, non sarebbe mai valsa la pena restare. "

"At this point I'm telling you, what's the very simple thing to do for having me always next to you and not makimg me leave: trust me, you and us. When I'm telling you that I can't make it anymore, you should be telling me that I can, here I am. When I'm telling you that maybe it would be better to split ways, you should be telling me that I won't find any other love to match ours. When I'm feeling the desire to have sex with someone else, you should be telling me that no one can give me better sex than you do. I'm a simple person, to make me stay you just have to say "stay". No one ever dared to ask for it, and maybe, really, to stay wasn't even worth it."

Well, I knew this for a long time, it was never hard to find men that I liked who admire me and want to have a good time and experience some intense emotions, but, oh!, who had the guts to tell me "Stay!"? The ones who did didn't quite know who and how I am made, they thought they wanted me when they wanted whom they think I was. The ones who knew me and could have made me stay didn't ask for it, I want it all and I I want it now all the time, too much energy to bear with.

Another thing Pulsatilla says : "I love Pulsatilla but I'd rather be with Rosa". I'm lovely and uncomfortable, like a pair of stilettos that you can't possibly wear every day. Like truffles, foie gras or caviar, an overdose is yucky, once or twice a year in small quantities is ideal.

And still, this crazy boyfriend of mine is unrealistic enough to be willing to share his life with me. I guess you have to be Cuban, artist, be called Adrian and have a lot of patience and perseverance to be able of such a performance. He won't let go, for once I'm getting what I was expecting, the simplest way: STAY. And he won't limit himself to it, he would follow me. I guess he deserves me then, I don't have a choice. A new story is about to begin for me: a real life of two, through good and hard times.

PS There's another Italian blog that I like much more, and I bumped into it because somebody who couldn't tell me "Stay" gave me the author's book: "Di dove sei?". The book is simple and great, filled with stories about our daily lives, revolving around jobs, kids, condos or rented apartments, the hairdresser, the beautician, the fashion obsession, etc. Marilena has a very keen eye on people and their ways of living life.

JUNE 18, 2008 - BACK TO CANADA AND A HEALTHY ROUTINE

239 days ago

I noticed that lately I pretty much went with the flow, followed other people's impulses and suggestions, sticking most of the times to the A plans - like going to Rome with my mom because I was invited; agreeing with my boyfriend to move together; accepting a job because they wanted me very much. And it went well. I have quite a balanced life right now and I feel like I actually need some rest, after all the travelling, I need to let things settle inside and outside.

I need to get back to my thesis studies and writing, get back to the gym and some outdoor activities, like hiking, or indoor, like tango dancing. The big change would be to live in a couple, I'm thrilled by it, it was about time.

For now love, school and some social life are enough, after I finish my thesis I'll be ready for more challenges.

JUNE 11th, 2008 - MY SISTER'S WEDDING AND CONCLUSION OF A STRANGE FRIENDSHIP

246 days ago

Well, after coming back from Italy on May 30th all that followed were marriage preparations, on my side house cleaning actually. I only managed to stick a book launch in between.

Then the civil ceremony followed on Friday morning and a home buffet lunch, my sister was radiant and I cried a little, especially seeing her father getting emotional. On Friday a friend of mine came from Italy and I went to the airport to wait for him and show him a little around town, as it was his first visit ever. We tried to have dinner but by the time we found a place that had its kitchen open we were fed up and tired already. We got unpleasant service here, which is quite sad for such a pretty place and made a stop on the National Theatre terrace - La Motoare, which is almost historical by now.

I've just read that due to the revamping renovation of the National Theatre this terrace is living its last summer. Bucharest is devastated by changes right now actually, the historical centre is exposing all its tubes and pipes along the eviscerated streets, next to brand new cafes and bistros. The University underground passage is smelly and looks like after war remains, there are no more shops, only grey ruins. Besides prices are similar to the ones in Canada and Western Europe, meanwhile incomes did not get there yet.

Saturday started with me playing the guide to Old Bucharest and the Romanian section of the National Art Museum, which is my favourite, next to the open air Peasant Museum. Then it was THE DAY - church and party, my sister was stressing out, also due to rain possibilities, which became real, but during a transitory moment, as we were preparing for the church. I was very glad to see my old Parisian friend, Philippe, made it for the ceremony. I stressed out too, running around the place pinning the traditional flowers onto lapels, blouses and straps, making sure I'm not hurting anyone but myself. When I was done most of the saying was done too and as most people stand in the back I'll have to watch the DVD to see the expression on my sister's face.

We even made it to the park for photographs, my dear old Carol I Park, where I played and climbed trees so many times during my childhood.

The restaurant followed, the Scientists' House (Casa Oamenilor de Stiinta), an absolutely amazing Belle Epoque building, with a typical Romanian wedding orchestra, I enjoyed the cafe concert and folkloric parts most of all, we got to dance like crazy at some points. The food was decent, I got better and I got worse in my life, maybe a bit too bland for my cosmopolitan taste (nothing beats Italian or Thai food anyway). I was exhausted so I left at about 3am, I think it finished around 4. I was happy to see my sister and my mother in the best possible mood.

On Sunday my long-term long-distance friend left (one day earlier than previewed, after approximately one day and a half in Bucharest) and I suddenly got to put things into perspective, only to realize that this kind of friendship is something I could never put up with, no matter how much nervous energy I consume. I realized that although he's kind and gentle and probably cares for me in his own way he's unable to draw a line and decide what kind of friendship this is, how close or how far apart can we come. He's moody, restless, anxious, almost neurotic, which tensed my nerves as if they were steel strings every time we met. I didn't understand and after such a long time I decided I don't even want to understand any more, although I feel good around him. It looks like he's doing his best to spoil it, while he's stating at all times that he respects me and cares for me a lot.

When we first met, in 2000, I felt he was bringing up the best in me. Now it's like he's trying to bend my ego down to a break. My self-esteem runs low and I decided I can't afford it any more, not at this stage of my life. Sad? Yes I am, I care for people and I treasure old times friends, he's a brilliant, brave and honest person and probably a good friend to others, but somehow we suffer a negative transformation when we get together, there's an urge coming from inside that I cannot define to behave in a way that finally drew us apart. Like some emotions die when they come into light (it reminds me of the nice Gremlins when they got touched by water and became monsters). I don't want to hear from him any more, the beautiful memories I had of us are fading and letting place to bitterness. I told him that's the end of it, if he understood the reasons or not it's just another detail.

JUNE 11th, 2008 - ABOUT A SHORT TRIP TO ITALY

246 days ago

Oh, My, another two months without writing. Well, not much to say about my last one month sojourn in Canada. I got the max for my field work in Uruguay and my thesis project and found another Executive Secretary job, in a very pleasant environment, sourrounded mostly by Mexicans, so Spanish is almost my first language in Canada by now.

Back to Romania on May 17th, for a few organizational days, then a trip to Italy with my mom, to celebrate her birthday. As we get along more like siblings than mother and daughter it was such a joy to get to show her around Rome, Naples and Capri (where I've been only once, in 2000). I saw a few long term, long time not seen friends, including my best one ever: Luca, the extraordinarily bubblying, fun and generous Giovanna, a recently elected deputy, Renato F., two other lovely Romanians who hosted me previously: Irina and Ioana and another charming compatriot, Petruta, that I once met thanks to a train that stopped in the middle of nowhere, which led us to speaking to each other. I also chose to see someone I was very fond of in the past, choice that got me into trouble later on, but, hey!, otherwise I wouldn't be me.

The most beautiful and special thing about this sublime country is that you can never grow tired of it, I've been in Rome quite a few times and there is always something to discover, same for my beloved Naples, which I find so attractive and suitable for my personality in spite of being hectic and far from clean and tidy. My new "discoveries" included the San Severo Chapel in Naples with its amazingly achieved statues and the two anatomic models; the painted pavement of the San Michele church in Anacapri; the Santa Maria sopra Minerva behing the Panteon in Rome, which is so full of wonders that I missed a Cristo Redentore by Michelangelo and last but not least Santa Maria in Trastevere, home to 12th century mosaics.

I also made it to a tango night in Prati which wasn't wow, but at least I got to dance a bit with Stefano, the great ice cream maker we found on Via dei Coronari - Gelateria del Teatro. And we saw "Gomorra" - a film inspired by the best selling book of Roberto Saviano, as it was more like a documentary the characters were hardly defined and the stories mingled too much, if one didn't know what it was about, one could not make sense of it.

The only day it rained it was my mom's birthday, it was fun though. As I was leaving I was as sad as the other times (last time in 2003), but not as much as when I left Napoli, there's definitely something about that city and its area (Capri, Pompei, Costa Amalfitana) that sticks to my very skin.

APRIL 18, 2008 - BACK NORTH, LONGING FOR THAT SOUTH

300 days ago

Time to pay taxes and give in my thesis project. Time for spring to come too, it's warm but no leaves adorn the trees yet.

I left Montevideo with tears in my eyes, leaving behind good friends and a careless life, sunny weather and the long walk side by the water - Rambla.

I left Garufa Tango, where I used to go for my private class every day at 4pm to meet Julio who would show me the technique and magic of the most sensual, dramatic and tender dance I could ever imagine. On Fridays there is a collective milonga class followed by dinner, chatting, drinking, dancing. Julio would prepare the grill and salad and people choose from morcilla, asado, chicken, sausage, accompanied by beer and cheap red wine until the wee hours. I wish I was there tonight.

I also left Cristina and her cats and dog, the wise, smart and kind hearted Rosana, my wonderful second family Ariel and Marta, the enthusiastic professor who's Milita Alfaro...too many people to list. I received so much there and I left a part of me, there's no other way.

Ten days ago in Buenos Aires I discovered a great Brazilian painter: Tarsila do Amaral and an Argentinian one: Xul Solar. Both at MALBA - Latin American Art Museum. I bought some more great shoes, danced some more tango, had some more great walks and food and wine.

Coming back is hard, when I saw Montréal from the plane I realized I didn't want to be here. At all. The South changed me, it got inside me and turned me inside out. I know that from now on my trips will have much less to do with sightseeing and more with living with people, talking, eating, drinking, laughing, dancing with them. Trying to see the world through their eyes, trying to show them the world I see. What a great life lesson these three months have been, how it hurts to put it in the past and what a hope to go back there...

MARCH 29, 2008 – BAHIA - IMPRESSIONS

318 days ago

Bahia, Brazil, was definitely the most challenging phase of this trip down South. The most provoking and that left a strong mark in my memory. I cannot say I like Salvador 100%. I was expecting more glamour, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I had a mythical image about it, mostly due to the Jorge Amado descriptions of the city, obsviously out of date due to the galloping modernity. I also think that Salvador is a city you discover in time, with its local artists, life music, theaters, candomblés. A short visit is not enough.

Montevideo and Buenos Aires are more similar to what I know and I am accustomed too. Salvador made me come out of myself and experience a different culture. It wasn’t really a cultural shock, rather getting accustomed to other visual and spoken codes and languages. There was no bubbling nightlife as I expected and people are rather poor or middle class, far from the money producers and big spenders in Sao Paulo or the glamorous and playful Rio, Salvador is rather joyful than hedonistic.

I tried to imagine the arrival of the first Portuguese colons, the view of the rolling hills with luxurious vegetation and the blue, iridiscent, sometimes opalescent waters. The Mata Atlantica, a stretch of rainforest running along the coast, reduced now to 5% of its surface, still hosting endangered species. Salvador da Bahia developed around the gulfs and bays formed by the Atlantic Ocean, it was the first capital of Brazil, until the court moved to Rio. It started from Pelourinho, the now charming recuperated historical district, I don’t know where it went from there. I saw older houses in Barra, Vitoria, Rio Vermelho, Cidade Baixa. A lot of them are rundown. The best looking places are new impersonal condominiums. All guarded, like in other big brazilian cities, Salvador is the 3rd biggest, I presume after Sao Paulo and Rio. Approximately 2.700.000 people, in 2005.

Out of the recognizable coast the city look to me like a chaotic labyrinth, everything taking the same shapeless shapes. High rise and low rise buildings, poor houses climbing up to the top of the hills, deprived of any trace of green. The familiar favela look with their steep narrow streets and houses pushing eachothers, lack of space and air. I don’t know if they were real favelas, I don’t know what defines them, looks, degree of poverty or violence?

Once I got off the bus in the wrong area, near Lapa, nothing was identifiable to me, I felt like getting crazy, lost in post modern Babel tower, sorrounded by highways and car repair workshops. The infrastructure is bad, there are no buses after 11pm, no weekly or monthly cards, so you pay every single trip in cash and the itineraries are winding and long. The terreiro do santo I went to surrounded by that poor neighbourhood made me feel fear and distrust, then I relaxed and confided and felt good about going there.

Some of the best experiences in my life came from overcoming my fear of the unknown. Get over it and step forward. It always paid off and I never got in deep trouble so far.

MARCH 28, 2008 – THINGS I DIDN'T DO IN SALVADOR DA BAHIA DE TUDOS OS SANTOS

318 days ago

- I didn’t buy any souvenir T-shirt (I bought an unique one from a very nice creative couple I met via Internet – it’s in English and not conenected to Brazil at all)

- I didn’t take any pictures of the traditional acarajé vendors nor of the Barra Lighthouse or beach (the only one I frequented). But I did take pictures in the Paraiso Tropical, a type of “best kept secret”, a quite expensive restaurant owned by an agronomist who cultivates all kinds of exotic less known fruits, uses them for cooking and for an impressive fruit plate surprise – free, so to say, but when a main course costs about $50, the fruits are probably included. They also make frozen drinks out of all these fruits and vodka.

- I didn’t go out to dance samba, but probably the best moments I spent were the evenings in Bom Jesus dos Pobres, under the almond trees by the beach, listening to Cristina and her friends playing guitar and singing. I also danced on the street in Pelourinho on Tuesday night, the weekly party day and listened to the great Rumpilezz latin-jazz band.

- I didn’t flirt with any brazilian hottie, the ones that flirted with me weren’t hot, so it was rather annoying. Like the venerable poet who told me I’m very sexy (muito gostosa). How pathetic. Oh, with one exception, a music shop cute seller that I briefly spoke to, one night in Pelourinho, he had good music taste and liked my way of dancing.

- I didn’t buy any CD’s or books. But I have CD’s at home since long ago and Eric lent me a few contemporary authors’ books (Marcelo Rubens Paiva, Rubem Fonseca, Ignacio de Loyola Brandao) that made me see the modern, sarcastic, cruel face of the Brazilian literature.

- I didn’t go to the Museum of Modern Art - Solar do Unhao - or the Bahia Art Museum, but to the aniversary of the Paulo Darzè Art Gallery, exhibiting the works of world famous Tunga, I saw quite a few paintings there by a well known painter – Carybé, that I really liked. Not to mention the interesting people I met. Although these kind of events gather the same types of people all over the world. I also happened to meet a theater director – Macario – the night before I left, at the bus stop, who told me about the “cordel”, a type of story telling poetry (comic or epic).

- I didn’t go to any candomblé celebration but I managed to get to a terreiro do santo in a rather weird, poor looking area – Garcia and the pai do santo threw the caori for me and told me my orixas are: Oba, Oxossi, Yemanja and Oxala. Oba – the main one, is a warrior female, brave, stubborn and sometimes aggressive, but not mean. Looks like me.

MARCH 29, 2008 - FRUITS I DISCOVERED IN BAHIA

320 days ago

Cajá, pitanga, umbú, açaí, pinha, mangaba, cupuaçu, acerola, biribiri, jaca, ingá, cajú (not the nut, the fruit), jenipapo. Dendê and its oil. Not to mention the tropical fruits I knew from before: papaya, different types of mango (pink one...mmmm), goiaba, jackfruit, avocado, maracuja-passion fruit. Here's a picture of the famous caju nut...up in the tree, the orange part gives juice or wine (I had it in Belize). And a mound of different fruits, try to guess them:)


The abundance of fruits there almost blocks me. Speechless.

March 24, 2008 - SALVADOR DA BAHIA DE TUDOS OS SANTOS AND MORE

325 days ago

Monday, March 17th, I landed after 4 other stops: Porto Alegre, change flights in Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Porto Seguro. I was starving and Cristina could not wait for me in the airport, so I took the bus with some Uruguayans, thanks to a lady whose nephews waited for her at the airport. I got off at the right stop (by pure hazard) and then I went round in circles looking for the address because somehow I didn’t get the directions right. With all my luggage on, obviously, in the tropical temperature. My hosts were to be Cristina, baiana, university professor of Education Sciences and Eric, from Québec, anthropologist and professor too. I caught Cristina in the door, as she was going for her evening walk. We went out, walking by the sea as the evening was coming down on the city. Apparently it always comes down around 6pm, all year round. That’s annoying.

She made me drink coconut water and taste acarajé (one of the delicious afro-brasilian foods, deep fried bean paste balls, filled with shrimp, vatapa and God knows what else, made and sold ont the street by decorous black women). We sit down, had a few beers and started to get to know each other, as we hardly spoke in Montréal at her good-bye parties and only exchanged a few e-mails.

Back home I got to know her angel like son: Enrico, a green eyed and blondish 4 years old who speaks Portuguese and French. Eric, her husband, was giving classes until late.

Tuesday Cristina took me to the Porto da Barra beach and went to work. The water was crystal clear and although I had left my towel and had no goggles I enjoyed a lot my encounter with the tropical seas after such a long absence (since I left the Caribbean cruiseships in 2004). At lunch time I went home and had some delicious crab pasta Eric has made. I spent the afternoon in the Pelourinho, with Titilho, history teacher and Cristina’s friend, who accepted to play the guide. The historical district is charming, old and colourful, but a big tourism shop window. Thanks God I don’t appear too exotic here, rather local.

Mercado Modelo is a big shopping center for souvenirs: music instruments, statuettes, t-shirts, blouses and skirts, masks and jewels, etc. The t-shirts are much nicer than in other cities, I guess I’ll get some. I was really impressed with two Baroque churches: Sao Francisco and Igreja da Ordem Terceira de Sao Francisco. The first with an impressive gold decoration inside, the second with a flourinshing façade. There is still a lot left to explore. Including terreiro do santo, the place dedicated to afro-brazilian cults, where the divinities are called orixas and the ceremonies candomblè. I have to find out who’s “daughter” am I or, in other words, who’s my orixa. The pai/mae do santo (father or mother of saint) will ask on my behalf.

Wednesday it rained the whooooooooooole day. I went out only to exchange money and to meet a charming couple who’s thinking about moving to Montreal. Their 3 years old daughter, Olivia, looks like a little mulata fairy.

From Thursday to Sunday I was invited to Bom Jesus dos Pobres, to spend Easter holidays with Cristina’s family, in her parents beach house. A line of colourful houses watching over the sea, most of the neighbours are lifetime friends or family. Unbelievable landscape: a line of hills covered by lush tropical forest, reddish and whitish rocks and fine sand beaches that get larger and larger during the low tide and get narrower and narrower as the sea grows. The food is amazing: vatapa, caruru, bobo de camarao (shrimp), manisoba (mandioca leaves pure), moqueica (could be made of fish or shrimp) and mariscada (contains all kinds of seafood, including softshell crabs - siri mole – that people fish at night with lamps, during the low tide). Plus passion fruit, goiava, papaya, mango and other fruits whose names I won’t even bother remembering, they are far too many.

At night people would play guitar in front of the house and sing Brazilian songs: popular music, bossanova, samba de roda.... Most of Cristina’s friends can sing. Most probably I’m the only one who can’t and won’t. And they do much more than singing and playing guitar. A few examples:

Teca, her cousin, is a psychologist (who works in a clinic but also in prisons) and a prize winner amateur photographer. Valeria studied music and fine arts and is a professional photographer. Jacira, the aunt, teaches Education Sciences at the university, she’s a hard core woman who knows how to live life. Mercia is studying cultural and historical tourism, doing her masters degree. “Café” is a designer and caricaturist, he also teaches. Cristina’s parents are Cleo – she paints and Camilo – he’s a lawyer. Everyone is fun, open and has stories to tell, questions to ask and answers to my questions. They are not just talented, they are warm hearted and received me with open arms. I felt like part of the group already on the first day and I’m already dreaming about coming back. It’s probably also the fact it is not a strange culture to me, partly because I speak the language, partly because I was familiar with some things due to the Jorge Amado novels and certain films and finally because on some sides it’s similar to the Caribbean.

The boat trip on the river Paraguaçú was memorable, floating amongst green hills, the thick vegetation was a refuge for runaway slaves (a quilombo). We stopped in Sao Francisco to admire an amazing church, now left at the mercy of time and weather. We drank beer in the middle of the square, the village is hidden by the trees, invisible from the river. Only the church faces it and a few poor homes. Almost fiction. We had a rain shower on the way back, but the dolphins swimming by the boat sweetened the pill.

Saturday night, at Easter time, we burned Judas on the beach, an impressive silhouette, all dressed and filled with newspapers. The custom also requires a testament to be written and read. Cristina was in charge. For the charming Romanian with big feet he left his shoes. Not that he was wearing any. In the village main square they were also planning some games to take place, like climbing a slippery pole covered with grease, with money and prizes on top, or hitting with a bat a hanging ball filled with prizes, with eyes covered.

Anyway, it’s just amazing how Cristina and Eric, busy with their work routine and little Enrico, invited me to stay over. People here work really hard, sometimes at weird times, early in the morning and late in the evening, having several jobs. Cristina told me otherwise they won’t survive. So the clichés that people in the tropics don’t really work, are lazy, etc. are just bad taste jokes, spread by the ones who don’t really know a damn thing about the country. They work hard but they also know how to enjoy themselves, even with little money. Some people just don’t get that.

I don’t know how will I get to know more of Salvador in just four days. On Thursday night there’s a good bye dinner home. On Tuesday and Wednesday I want to go see some free theater in the Pelourinho district. I also plan to go swimming in Porto da Barra every day. Hope to do it all. I’m also anxious because I have to watch out and be careful every single moment. Salvador does not suffer because of a high violence degree but robberies are frequent. It’s stresful then to be a single female tourist. Maybe I’m not that adventurous after all

MARCH 16th - END OF CARNIVAL, END OF SUMMER, PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER

325 days ago

After spending 12 wonderful days with my unbelievably intelligent, funny, sensitive and playful mother, after counting 8 rainy days that won’t let the Carnival get to its end, it finally ended. I went a few more times to Teatro de Verano, laughed hard listening to the murga songs and I anxiously waited for the results with the Araca la Cana members, in the Club Universal, drinking cheap “clarete” rosé wine. Araca got 14th out of 15, Agarrate Catalina got the first prize. So it ended. I think Catalina missed a little the satyre and playfulness that go with Carnival. It was the best show, complete and professional but from my point of view it has to do more with theater than with Carnival.

During the last two weeks I went every day to the National Library that survives in pitiful conditions, although the staff is charming and helpful. It it also the noisiest library I’ve ever seen. I also paid a visit to the City Hall (Intendencia) looking for the murga lyrics, Curtidores de Hongos and La Margarita, winners of the 2nd and 3rd prizes, never answered my e-mails. It was hard to find the Tourism and Celebrations office and to get off the elevator on the 3rd floor (it kept going up and down and stopping everywhere).

Meanwhile I also visited the Pisano winery and wine cellar – quite impressive, including the family story (Italian and Basque roots). We got the best treatment: a delicious “picada” (homemade jamon crudo, salami, parmesan and Colonia cheese) and five bottles of wine: pink champagne, rosé Cabernet Franc/Syrah, Pinot Noir, Pisano Arretxea (a perfect red cépage) and a sweet dessert wine. I went out with two bottles of Pisano Arretxea, I couldn’t resist the temptation, although it wasn’t cheap. The Tannat grapes make a heavy wine I absolutely love, typical for Uruguay.

Before flying to Brazil I went to a small milonga: El Farolito, and I got to dance a bit. I also met a tango teacher and decided to invest in private classes. I like the rioplatense tango culture, the way the men embrace you for a 3-4 minutes eternity. It’s like a speechless conversation that we both know it it would last as long as the song.

Than time has come to embark for Salvador, located in the Bahia de Tudos os Santos, in the north-east of Brasil. An old dream of mine, feeded by the Jorge Amado novels.

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