About a great day, Silvia’s cakes and the sadness of a good man

15 Sep

* I was accused often that I am not Romanian enough. That I do more for the “others” than I do for my own country. That somehow I betray Romania. It is not true. I am a good Romanian. I decided to live here together with my “foreign” family and worked hard to do what I thought it is best for the majority of Romanians.

It is sad to see good people, people that I respect, thinking I try hard to please the “others”. It is frustrating. It is frustrating to explain it repeatedly in public on TV and nobody to seem to pay attention to it.

I was among those ones that accused Dacian Ciolos being more of a French Commissioner than a Romanian one. Shocked to hear some of my own thoughts said by him to me, yesterday. Made me feel stupid once again.

I brought him Silvia’s cakes. Those are the best cakes I know. Silivia loves her cakes, talks about them and she is hundred of times worst at selling them than baking and talking about them despite being a decent seller. She has a story that is worth hearing and is great to know her.

Sivia’s cakes were in my head the best apology I could come up with. I hope he liked them.

I gave Silvia’s cakes to friends that came or were there. Some are trying to do amazing things for children with cancer (their website is going to be here http://magicamp.ro/ ). Some others try to help serving a hot meal for those that cannot afford it. Some that help others do good or try to find a way to do good for others. I do not always know how to say to people that I like them a lot and I wish I could make them know that. Silvia’s cakes are my hope for now.

Silvia sold out the cakes today. Some of you wrote to thank me for advertising the cakes and are responsible as I am for making Silvia tired and happy. It is great to see people like her happy. Wish to play a part in something one day that would make some if not all the other people I like including Dacian Ciolos look tired and happy. Ideas I have lots and as he might be free for a while (his mandates as Commissioner ends soon) who knows, I might manage. I would even help him with his ideas if needed J.

Toto and Alex were also very happy yesterday at the Rural Fest on Kiseleff. Mitica is grumpy as I did not take him. The other Alex has a new backpack and school supplies. Denisa a new case for glasses and Alex new clothes.

The event on Kiseleff was organized among others by the European Commission. Good to see that.

* this is a summary ( as I remember it) of a discussion I had yesterday with Dacian Ciolos. Instead of “others” you should read French

** I write this in English as many that helped during the years with the children are English and not Romanian speakers.

*** Silvia’s cakes – check Silvia Nanu on facebook

Back – happy and busy

2 Sep

Back to Romania.

The good news is that Alex mother, Monica is back home from the hospital. She is slowly getting back to health after the scare we had in June. The fact that racism is serious – almost deadly serious is what I experienced trying to make some doctors treat her as a human being despite the fact that she is incredibly poor and Roma. That she is an amazing mother and she has a big but seriously  damaged heart did not matter as she struggled for a few days just to get people to investigate her seriously. After a good two weeks in the emergency room and help from some fantastic friends and doctors she was able to breath by herself. A few days before being put in the emergency reanimation room something that took the form of a doctor said that she “as all the gypsies is just faking being sick to get free drugs and then sell them”. It refused to investigate her condition.

Solved the most urgent problems mostly food related. Too many young girls visible pregnant. Vitamins and folic acid pills done. A number of drug addicts are back from prison and back to dealing drugs. The prison system is simply  idiotic helps nobody besides sociopaths such as our ex-prime minister Nastase, the corrupt owner of Antena 3 and Senator Voiculescu and our MEP and owner of Steaua Bucharest Gigi Becali. They play the role of martyrs well enough for a good number of cretins, the leadership of the party in power (PSD) and other creeps to believe it or use these “martyrdoms” to their benefits.

Lots of children in the ghetto all very happy that we are starting again the training. This Saturday at 10 for those of you that want to join. Distributed home made cakes and tomorrow have plans for dinner with some of the children. Silvia Nanu and mom are the heroes as they were the cooks.Silvia’s amazing cakes you can buy on September 14 will post more details 3-4 days before. In the 45 min in the ghetto there were two fights. One involved Alex and a drug addict. Vlad Mixich piece about violence stridently relevant see http://bit.ly/1sU89Ta

The trip in the US and Canada great but feels even better to be back home. Lots of things to do.

The obscenity of guns

16 Aug

I am this week in Seattle. Many great and good things I could and maybe I will write about. But here something that I felt I need to write about.

The Seattle Times – nine-time winner of Pulitzer prize for journalism published this week in its first page an article about the many problems and serious dangers due to poor gun control law in Washington state.

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The main advertising found in the same newspaper that day was for a company that sells guns. Nine pages of it.

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Asked about it an US official (State Department) told me proudly – “this is a great proof of no interference in the editorial policy of the newspaper on behalf of the advertiser. “

I was expecting that – dealt with the European Commission bureaucrats for many years. It is disturbing for a European, I said to her. To exemplify I asked her is she would think it is normal to have in a main newspaper an article against pornography and sexual violence and at the same time to have as the main advertising a porn-site known for the horrific ways it portrays women – splashed on nine pages.

She ignored my parallel and undisturbed told me that in fact the advertising is for hunting. I thought for a moment she could have been a Commissioner or at least a Director General if born in the European Union. For sure she could have lead the Roma initiatives in Brussels.

I showed her the pictures of small guns and told her that I doubt that can be used for hunting anything that is more than 10 meters away.

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I kept for myself that I think those could be used against rats and some of the cockroaches I saw in the US and in Ferentari. Considering the cost of ammunition – advertised generously on another two pages in the same newspaper it would be indeed cheaper than most of the rats extermination campaigns ran by some of the Romanian local administrations.

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I asked her if she thinks advertising things that kill people is worst than advertising anything else. She switched to –“ I am not a pro-gun” person “but I respect the second amendment of the US constitution”.

Guns kill thousands of Americans each year – over 12.000 in 2013 to be more precise.

The US official I write about is a very nice, polite and bright woman. The US is an amazing country and the goodness and generosity of most of the Americans is something I wish I could see us, Europeans, replicate.

But neither politeness, intelligence, goodness and generosity will prevent the death of thousands of innocents. The courage to speak up against a decrepit first amendment , against the most powerful arms lobby in the world and populist , irresponsible politicians will do it.

Guns have no place in being advertised by newspapers. It is obscene and irresponsible. And considering how many Americans die every year because of shootings it is also very much anti-American. Over 12.000 times so. Every year…

Nunta frate …

10 Aug

Biserica este desigur cea mai ciumeaga din oras. Statui urate cu spume dar poleite cu aur sau cu vopsea galbena ca sa para de aur. Masini de masini afara.

Smecherii sunt imbracati toti identic. Costume la fel, veste la fel. Cefe groase, burtosi, tatuaje. O parte din familie – a fetei- sunt bruneti tare. Ma asez inspirat in partea lor asa ca albii din stanga imi zambesc cu gurile pana la urechi. Probabil ca par singurul mai aproape de neamul lor si care nu poate sa manance o vaca de unul singur din familia miresei.

Mirele e imbracat bine tare. Costumul Armani alb lucios pare sa ii dea siguranta. In mod sigur nu ar putea nimeni sa il calce cu masina in timpul noptii – respinge lumina mai bine decat triunghiul meu reflectorizant. Uitandu-ma atent la moaca lui ma gandesc ca in fapt ar putea sa fie multi care sa isi doreasca sa il calce cu masina si probabil i-ar sta mai bine in costum de camuflaj. Camasa e spectaculoasa – un violet dur. Baietii de onoare ( am scris initial si probabil destul de exact de omoare ) au si ei acelasi tip de camese dar sunt in costume negre.

In mod firesc domnisoarele de onoare sunt imbracate ielegant in violet. Nea Gogu ar fi murit de invidie vazandu-le nu de alta dar pare acelasi material ca furourile in care o imbraca pe tanti Ana. La cat de mari sunt unele dintre dihanii nu cred ca mai exista materialul ala pe stoc nicaieri.

Marea lor majoritate, atat barbati cat si femei, poarta cu stil ciocate din piele de sarpe. Afara nu sunt decat 40 de grade.

Mireasa e super piti. Jur ca atunci cand merge se aude piti piti piti piti.Tac-su are un lant de aur care ar putea lejer sa tracteze un TIR. Se rostogoleste cu ea pana la altar. Muzicieni sunt mustaciosi, imbracati sukar cu pantofi rosii si costume negre. Camasile si papioanele sunt atat de stridente incat inteleg nevoia unora sa isi tina ochelarii de soare pe ochi desi biserica este destul de intunecata.

Preotul este asa cum m-am asteptat foarte alb. Inteleg brusc termenul de Marele Alb. Pare gravid in ultima luna cu fata gravida in ultima luna a lui Petre Roman. Nu cred ca am vazut vreodata ceva mai mare. E bine ca se misca caci aerul e destul de statut in biserica.

Mariachii canta impecabil. Cei doi isi spun juramintele – par a fi scrise de varu’ Guta intr-o criza de melancolie.

Ceromonia se termina si ma trezesc pupat cu entuziasm. Ma simt bine. Imi promit sa mai vin in Texas la nunti. In jurul meu spaniola se amesteca cu engleza . Am fost inspirat sa intru in cea mai veche catedrala din San Antonio. Am incercat sa scap de caldura si am trait o super experienta.

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Imi cam lipsesc pustii din Ferentari si mai sunt cateva saptamani bune pana cand o sa ii vad.

Boston, o buna parte din New Hampshire vazut. In poza de mai jos sunt in Concord – firesc la jumatatea drumului intre  Manchester si Liban.

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Urmeaza coasta de vest a Statelor Unite. Mai jos cateva sute de mii de liliaci pe un apus de soare in Austin Texas.

bats

about dreams

1 Aug

Since the beginning of the week I am in the US – received a scholarship. Has nothing to do with me being a Roma as people that nominated me and selected me had no idea I am one.

Last night I had a humbling experience. As an young, dirt poor adult I dreamed of seeing the National Press Club in Washington DC impressed by an American movie I saw.

So, last night I had an amazing dinner at the club. 20 years ago telling anybody about me eating here would have made people think I was insane.

At the entrance in the club there is a bronze plaque with the Journalist’s creed. I took a photo of it.IMG_0592

The last part reads  – I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.

I wish the many talented Romanian and European journalists I know and I read could live up to this creed. There are many reasons why it is much easier and profitable not to. But if to make the European project successful we badly need people that have the ethics and incentives to do it. And I decided a while ago that I will try everything I can to help this to happen. I will also try to control better my “pride of opinion” while keeping “unafraid” and “quickly indignant at injustice” when writing about the systemic failures of the intergovernmental organisations, governments and NGOs dealing with the most vulnerable people.

In 1994 I had an issue of The New Yorker left by an American that visited Craiova. I struggled to read it. I thought it was amazing. I write this in my hotel room in New York. What I can see on the window is this.

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20 years ago I was afraid of dreaming too big.I was wrong. I  hope that in 20 -30 years to read similar letters from a few of the children in Ferentari.

are they “coloured” ?

27 Jul

The dialogue here is between a nurse and the chief doctor responsible for blood transfusions at the hospital in Slobozia, Romania.

T.C – We need blood for a 13 years old that suffered a surgical intervention. They opened her and her belly is full of blood.
Cristina Stoian (C.S) – so what ? No ( meaning don’t give it) , as they did not establish the level of hemoglobin. Talk to the relatives of the girls. Are they “coloured” ?
TC – Yes they are roma.
C.S- So they are coloured, they are coloured… She doesn’t need blood, let it go…when her hemoglobin is going under 7 then you can give her.

The normal hemoglobin value for a child the size and age of the Roma girl that needed blood is between 11.5 and 15.5.

Racism kills. It needs to be stopped. Everywhere. By all of us that are able to see it . And if we do more to stop it our governments and bureaucracies will maybe wake up and start do a lot more to educate our societies about how disgusting and dangerous racism is.

Cristina Stoian can be hardly considered a human being. But if you blame Romanians for what she did then you are just another dangerous racist.

The original text in Romanian can be found here :

http://www.realitatea.net/detalii-halucinante-in-scandalul-traficului-cu-sange-de-la-slobozia_1489883.html?utm_source=BreakingNews-Homepage&utm_medium=Clicks&utm_campaign=trkweb

The age of comfortability – or how did we move from watch-dogs to lap dogs

25 Jul

*This is an open letter/speech that I wrote a while ago for a meeting of senior leaders of Open Society Institute. It can easily apply also to the European Commission (especially DG Justice and Roma Unit) as I can  find the same type of examples involving EC leadership.

You know the successes.  Roma issues are discussed at the highest levels of the European policy. Thousands more Roma went through high education and hundreds that became successful due to OSI’s investments. There are massive global changes in policies and discourse that would have been impossible without the massive investment in Roma issues by the OSI.

You know the mistakes.

You know that most of the available experience and expertise is build at the elegant desks and in hotels and not in the field. You know that nepotism is rampant; that there are very little if any incentives for OSI to speak out against failed practices, corruption and comfortability within or of other intergovernmental institutions. You know about the families of professional Roma activists, about conservative boards that recycle the same people, about conformism and lip-service.

You know that OSI bred mostly “want to be” Roma dignitaries and failed catastrophically to involve successful Roma professionals in the movement. That political representation of Roma in most of the countries is abysmal. That caution and not courage leads your actions.

You know the corruption, the cowardice, the petty politics and the institutional hypocrisy.

You know the dangers of comfortability. You know that you surround yourselves with people that do not challenge you but make you feel good about ourselves.

You know the failures.

And what you and I do is we rationalize all wrongs in order to make ourselves look good. We ignore our formidable failures but we are awfully keen on crucifying anybody around us making the same or smaller mistakes.

You here are all smart enough to rationalize anything I am telling you the way you like it or the way you want to perceive me.

Some of you will ignore me, agree with me, disagree with me, hate me or like me. Most of it will be based on a false assumption as you think you know me despite of the fact you have no idea who am I or how I changed in the last years I did not take part in any OSI meetings.

You will find ways to dismiss anything that puts you on the hot seat and interpret things I say in a way to justify your assumptions, in a way to make you feel good.

I took part in a small meeting with the ex-president of OSI. He fell asleep during the talks and somehow everybody around pretended it did not happen. I was told a few years ago before a meeting with George Soros to make sure I agree with him as “we need to make the old man happy”. Everybody did despite the fact some of his ideas were obviously wrong. I tried to speak-up. I did not get the floor.

Regardless of what my opinions are here some facts:

Roma civil society is artificially created – a donors project run mainly by people that have very limited if any hands on experience working in Roma communities. You are a lot more likely to waste money to keep “friendly” and inefficient organisations afloat than to reform your approach.

Roma identity is an extremely fluid concept. There are many cases when OSI money incentives people to imagine a Roma identity that fits their dreams but not the realities. Some of these dreams are extremist, sometimes racist, homophobic or xenophobic. Most of them are in strident opposition to the basic principles of open societies and the very dear to George Soros theory of fallibility.

OSI is far more adept at cuddling than challenging intergovernmental organisations. A good number of people transition between EC, Council of Europe, UN, OSCE , World Bank and OSI. Sure thing you can rationalize this as being great. It is not. Most people hunt jobs and it is rare they will not trade in some of their convictions for comfort. There are indeed exceptions. Some very few ones. OSI overall failed to challenge the main intergovernmental institutions and starts more and more to look at yet another bureaucracy concerned about its own survival rather than changing or challenging the world. OSI is resembling a lot more a lap-dog than a watch-dog.

What should OSI do :

  1. Finance a completely independent watch-dog organization capable to keep Roma civil society, governments and intergovernmental institutions accountable.  Questioning the ways people in charge of Roma issues were employed, the way the money allocated for Roma issues were spent, the working plans and activities of EU Commissioners and other senior managers responsible on Roma issues can become a fantastic tool to pressure change. The ERRC should have done this but due to many reasons and institutional failures it has never been able to do it.
  1. Start a devil’s advocate institution within OSI willing and capable to challenge not only George Soros’s ideas but also senior leadership ideas, the conformity within the organization, the incentives for nepotism, corruption and complacency. Such an inside institution should be charged to ensuring that OSI is not yet another breeder of dignitaries and opportunistic politicians.
  1. Develop a real leadership school to stimulate people to do things not talk about things. Recruit people that inspire. Not people you “invested” in that are “comfortable” and “easy to work with”. Many of the leaders you created seem to be there just because George Soros or other influential people in OSI like them or think they can control them. Some others seem to be there because they talk well or because their skin color and features fits stereotypes about whom we Roma are.
  1. Publish a black book of Roma movement with at least one chapter about OSI. We need first to acknowledge the catastrophic failures in order to avoid repeating them.
  1. Identify niches and focus on them in order to avoid becoming yet another organisation bridging mainly uselessly and extremely expensively “stakeholders”.
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