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.
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.
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.
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.
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.