Sunday, March 17, 2013

On Language and Recent Activities

I am genuinely grateful to have been born and raised in a country where the language is the one adopted as the "International Language".  I do not mean that statement in any light or facetious manner.  I feel grateful that I am lucky enough to come to another country and get by with the 60-100 word vocabulary that I have in Romanian.  I know enough to exchange pleasantries, to make purchases, to order restaurant meals, and to give instructions to the taxi driver.  Beyond that I must use English.  I am confident that if no one spoke English here my vocabulary would be bigger than it is, but I am lucky that I haven't had to learn.  I want anyone who reads this blog to know that I understand and accept this as a fortunate occurrence   Lots of people the world over must learn at least one if not more languages than their first in order to get along.

What has me thinking about this degree of accommodation I am lucky to receive is the film festival Amanda and I have attended this week.  One World Romania is an international human rights documentary film festival that ended today.  When I initially became aware of the festival I did not pay much attention as I assumed the films would be either in Romanian or subtitled in Romanian when in other languages. They were subtitled in Romanian, but below and secondarily to the English subtitling...

At the beginning of the week I was asked by the director of Invingem Autismul, the center where Amanda volunteers if I would join her as a speaker following a documentary on a young Russian man with autism. She assured me the film would have English subtitles and so I agreed.  Anton's Right Here (click on arrow to the right of the film title for a trailer) was a powerful depiction of the huge difference that environment makes in anyone's - but in this case especially in Anton's - ability to be successful in the world.  When Anton was in a neuropsychiatric hospital where the doctors stated there is no such diagnosis as autism in Russia and where there was significant understaffing, he regressed in all ways.  When he was taken to a farm with one on one assistance, he quickly rose to the challenge of being a productive member of the community.  Both Amanda and I were able to add reactions and point out differences between Russian, Romanian, and American options for treating autism.  It was great to be able to contribute in that way.

Because we went to the one film, we looked at the program and found 3 others we thought we might be interested in.  While all were listed as having English subtitles, the one that was actually in English did not - unfortunate for Amanda who relies on reading captions to understand dialogue in films and on TV.  Two of the films, Little World and Planet of Snail (click here to access trailers) focused on the Abilities of people often thought of as being DIS-abled.  Both were worthy reminders that we are all of us limited more by our own perceptions of what can and cannot be done than by anything else.  Both also focused on how the right kinds of support from the people around can make a world of difference.

Amanda and I were able to enjoy these films because we are lucky enough to have English as our first language, the language of the subtitles, and also because we have learned enough in our living here to find the theatres, buy tickets, and relax!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Amanda the Film-maker

This blog is mostly about me and my experiences here in Bucharest and elsewhere as we travel, but sometimes a mom has to brag and show off her child...

When I was preparing to come here last year, I was often asked, "But what will Amanda do while you are working?"  My response was typically some version of, "She'll do exactly what she does here at home.  She'll attend classes, she will write on her screenplays and novels, and she will explore the city."  While my statement has held up, the truth is even better!  As I have posted previously, Amanda has also been an active volunteer at Autismul Invingem, an Applied Behavior Analysis center for children with autism.  She completed one online class from our community college in the fall and is in process of completing two additional online classes.  She is also taking an in-person class, with Romanian students, in Cross-Cultural Management (taught in English) at a local university.  And she has actively been continuing her budding film career.

Last summer, prior to our coming to Romania, Amanda completed a 5-week program at UNC-School of the Arts in film-making.   As part of that experience - a wonderful one, I might add - she produced a film called Sweet Tooth, that she wrote and directed.  Shortly afterwards she attended the Gideon Film Festival in Black Mountain, NC.  There she learned additional skills and networked with people who assisted her in shooting her second film, Flowers for Sale.  Among these people were Irene Santiago and her daughter, Ariana Baron, both film professionals.  (For further information about Amanda's films, including viewing Sweet Tooth, see her website:

While we have been in Romania, Amanda been actively forwarding her film-making activities.  In addition to continuing her writing on other scripts, she has improved her website and has collaborated with Ellen Hendrix, a professional film editor who edited Flowers for Sale.  Now the film is ready for entry to film festivals.  Amanda has set up a site requesting micro-financing assistance:  I leave it to you, dear reader, whether this is a good use of your own funds.
(after a show on board the cruise we did)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 1

March 1 in Romania is a wonderful celebration of the coming of spring.  Here in Bucharest, I started noticing the red and white colors and the trinkets (martisoara) for sale about the middle of February.  (Amanda and I each had received from our Bulgarian host, David, a symbol of the celebration when we were there.)

But I think the holiday really began for me when Karen sent an email saying she had seen something that reminded her of me and so she had a small spring gift for me...  Before I could collect however, I had tea with a former student, Corina, and I asked her to explain the significance.  As I understand it, tradition held that boys would tie a red & white string around the wrist of a sweetheart on March 1. As long as the string stayed on through the end of March, they would be lucky in love.  Of course as these things do, the symbolism and the celebration grew.  Now, many trinkets can be purchased - from cheap manufactured things to lovely hand-made items - and they can be given to almost anyone as a symbol of luck in the coming season or year. Typically males give these to females, females give them to one another, but females do not give them to males.  Parents might give them to the teachers of their children, one might give them to the doctor, hairdresser, grocer, etc - whomever one happens to visit on March 1.  The red and white colors symbolize the contrast between cold and warm weather, death of winter and new life of spring, old and new...  One of my former students sent me a virtual martisor, sending the picture below in an email:
I finally met up with Karen, and also with David, on Thursday Feb 28.  We went to see a church so that I could photograph its amazing door (a detail from which is shown below) for my Romanian Doors book, then went to lunch at an Italian restaurant Karen had discovered and wanted to share with us.

There she gave me a little handmade leather bound book!  Definitely perfect for me!  We then went to Piata Romana, where she had found the little books and I was able to get some to share with others.
I enjoyed talking with Daniel, who makes his own paper and binds larger journals as well as these little ones.     I plan to follow up with him and learn more about what he is doing in terms of papermaking and binding.  I also enjoyed talking with Radu who paints small pictures and kitchen items for sale at this time of year.
And then I headed home to share with Amanda what I had seen and learned.  She went to the autism center on Friday with several bracelets she had picked out to share with the girls she has come to know there.  And she came home with several trinkets and a small bunch of flowers as well.
We then went to the March fair at the peasant museum, where the selection of martisoara was amazing!  And here it was all handmade items!  Mostly in the form of small trinkets, but ranging to large and expensive items.  Here is a sample of items I selected (which will wait until I get home to be given away, but they will still carry wishes for good luck):
 Petre, the man who carves these small items, is a retired art teacher.
 These small books are fun, but not as well crafted as the ones above that Daniel made.  But, I really like the creativity that Alexandra puts into her large journals.  She had one that used part of an LP record for its cover and one that had a collage of old postcards on its cover.
I also met a third bookbinder, Ioana, who does lovely embroidery on the front of her books:
So not only have I celebrated a new - to me - holiday, but I have had the opportunity to visit with a number of craftspeople and have learned that there are several folks doing bookbinding in this city.

Here is a brief article with more information about the tradition of martisor.

Happy March 1 to all of you!