Lazy Blogger

26 mai 2007

Well I realize I’ve been a downright lazy poster on here and that’s something for which there is nothing to blame but my own laziness.

I’ve been working a lot and that’s been a good thing (we all need income, right?) and I’ve been walking around a lot, enjoying the absolutely fantastic weather but I still should’ve been blogging more. Blogging is something like an exercise program – it works best when you do a little every day instead of a lot once in a while :)

I’m still in the gorgeous city of Brasov but will soon head to Cluj. I should’ve been there a long time ago but I just love this city so much and I’ve also been working a lot so the two of those factors have been a major impediment to any eagerness to head back to Cluj. I guess one of the major benefits of my "lifestyle" is I have a lot of flexibility in terms of what I do and when I do it.

Besides blogging about my own life, I’ve also been wanting to say a few words about Romania and Romanian culture and language. What’s been strange to me is that it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to do that – more and more difficult for me to completely retain my identity as an American and not as some kind of quasi-Romanian.

To give you a brief illustration:

The other day I went to McDonald’s for some french fries (absurdly overpriced but see below). The price was 4 "new" lei. The currency switched in 2005 and all of the old bills have been entirely removed from circulation. However most Romanians (and me included) tend to talk and think of the "old" lei. So in this case the cash register said 4 lei but both I and the cashier were thinking "40 thousand" of the old lei.

I handed her a 10 lei bill to pay, which is 100,000 lei in the old money. She then apologized for not having the right change and gave me only a 50 bani coin, which is 5000 old lei.

Just in case you’re confused, the price is 4 lei, I paid with 10, therefore the change was supposed to be 6 lei . She attempted to give me 6 (thousand) old lei instead of 60,000 old lei because all that registered in her mind was the number "six". So instead of giving me 6 lei she gave me 50 bani (bani are "cents").

To make it even simpler, imagine in America if you went to a store and bought something for 4 bucks and you paid with 10 and the cashier gave you 60 cents back instead of 6 dollars.

Now the reason I told you all of this isn’t just to show you how people still get confused by the old currency but because when she did this I snapped back at her in Romanian without even thinking. She apologized immediately after realizing the mistake and it was no big deal for me but it wasn’t until I was walking out of the store that I had reacted in Romanian without even hesitating. Making the order was easy as I knew what I wanted to say but when I was surprised by the shortchanging I still kept my mind in "Romanian mode" I guess and that was surprising to me because I hadn’t realized it was so deeply embedded.

It also used to be in this very same town (Brasov) that the wait staff in the downtown restaurants would greet me in English. They’re used to a lot of tourists and I guess I looked sufficiently foreign enough to be identified as one. Well I still dress and look the same but now I find people address me in Romanian. I’ll hear them at the next table helping a tourist in English but with me it’s in Romanian. I don’t have much of an explanation for that really. I guess I could speak English with them too but I almost always speak Romanian with Romanians simply as a sign of respect because I’m in their country.

By the way, I usually detest American fast food joints (even when I’m in America) and Romanian food is so much better but there is one redeeming reason to go to McDonald’s or another American place (like KFC ): the french fries. Not only are they good (in my opinion) but french fries from a Romanian fast food place are absolutely horrible. The Romanian places will make a batch in the morning and leave it all day and just microwave it when you order it. Obviously that ruins the flavor and texture. So if all you want is some french fries, find an American place.

That being said, if you sit down at a restaurant in Romania and order fries, they’re just as good or sometimes better than a fast food place. They’re also made when you order them and come out fresh and crispy like they’re supposed to be. So it’s only when you’re choosing fast food that you should avoid Romanian french fries.

So I guess my point of all of the above is simply how it’s getting harder and harder to be "objective" and look in from the "outside" at Romania and Romanian culture. Things which would immediately appear strange and odd have become normal here for me. There are some Romanian customs which irk me and those I tend to remember simply because I have no desire to adopt them but the ones I do like are hard to bring to mind because they seem "obvious".

I really, really want to write an entire article about Romanian things which bug the snot out of me but that seems to be entirely too negative for my taste, and I really DO love Romania so that seems a bit ungrateful. Maybe I’ll write a kind of "cheers" and "jeers" of what I like/dislike about Romanian culture so we keep it in balance.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to add some new photos. Some are on the link in the sidebar to my "photoblog" and some are on the Flickr link, so take your pick as I don’t think there’s too much overlap.


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