Read other short pieces about PCV experiences
Andy's previous articles:
Teaching high schoolers free-market economics
Looking for Ben Franklin in Timisoara
Partying with Peasants and A Letter to America
Romania Themepark Mania
The Neighbor's Goat
Corrupting Future Prosecutors
Some of Andy's photos are at Yahoo
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by Andy Trincia (Romania 200204)
One-Way to Bucharest
A Homecoming with Gypsies
THE BUS DRIVER BARKED ANSWERS to my questions: The bus will leave on time. You have a seat.
As is often the case in Romania, the bus was oversold and standing-room-only. I held a hand-scribbled ticket noting a reserved seat number but that doesnt always stop a stander from taking your seat and refusing to move. I did the visual math as the crowd gathered in no sort of line the door was not open yet and was dreading the journey and the boarding itself, always an adventure of pushing and flying elbows. Not to mention this would be another longer-than-it-should-be trip six hours for 175 miles because of typically potholed, two-lane Romanian roads.
Are you English? came the question from behind me. I turned around to see a young Romanian man who had obviously overheard my accented Romanian as I spoke with the stern-faced driver.
No, Im American.
American? Whoa. I speak some English. Dont worry, Ill make sure you get your seat.
Pleasantly surprised, I thanked him and boarded the packed bus, which was enough to give anybody claustrophobia. Romanian pop music blared, I mean blared, from the speakers. Indeed, the young man ordered somebody out of my seat and switched seats to be next to me. The bus was barely out of town, heading eastward so I could visit other Volunteers, when he asked if we could practice English conversation. I dont speak so well, but I like to. I dont get chances to practice. Would you mind?
His name is Sorin (pronounced Sor-een) and hes from clear across Romania, some 15 hours away and hell be on three buses this day. I asked him what he was doing in this neck of the woods. Thats a story, he says, and we have some time.
Sorin, an amicable guy in his 20s, has worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet. Technology is his passion and, in his view, a ticket to success. With pirated software and a friends computer, and hours spent in Internet cafes, he honed his skills and now considers himself pretty talented. Sadly but understandably, and like many, many Romanians of his age, Sorin wishes to leave Romania because of low salaries and limited opportunities. While some want to go away forever, others, like him, want to make money elsewhere and return home to be near family. Its easier said than done, as Romanians have visa restrictions in many countries and must prove they have several months salary in cash before leaving. Also, an unsavory reputation abroad, especially in Western Europe, isnt helping. It doesnt matter that there are respected Romanian writers, scientists, musicians and others here and abroad, but unfortunately, the rap always goes back to the Romanian thieves, beggars, prostitutes and smugglers not all of whom are Gypsies as is often believed who are frequently busted in Western Europe.
The bus rambles, bumps and swerves along and finally stops for a 10-minute break. I go and buy two beers for us for the rest of the ride. Sorin told me that part of the story involved him and the law, so I was curious to hear the rest. On this days trip, he is returning from Romanias border with Hungary, where he was denied entrance to the more developed neighbor that is next to Austria and the rest of the European Union. I was lucky they just turned me away and nothing else happened, he says.
He goes on to tell me the real story, talking over the loud music. Well, you see, I tried once before, with a fake Italian passport, he begins. My dream has always been to go to England.