Archive | January, 2015

Broken and unholy

28 Jan

Abraham’s tomb. The bullet proof window that separates the Jews and Palestinians praying in the same place built around a tomb both people consider sacred. Praying to the same God . In a place where 29 Palestinians were massacred by a Jewish settler.

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The amazing landscape.

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Huge discrepancies. Bedouins living in appalling conditions. All Bedouins’ houses can be demolished at any time. Some were demolished. There are far too many Palestinians in the same situation.

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Jewish settlers on the Bedouins ‘ land living in a comparatively strident comfort. Palestinian Authority that seem they couldn’t care less.

Too many children/youth carrying with them heavy weapons. A paralyzing sensation that there is no solution.  Angry people. Racist  bureaucratic policies that almost nobody in the international community dares to talk about. Money wasted by international aid that makes no sense. Blabla and useless reports that costs millions and justify the good life of a few . Houses build by the UN and Norway and demolished by the Israeli government.  The world turned upside down.

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A street just for those that have the power in Hebron. A nearly empty street in a city that is overcrowded. Two children playing in the middle of the street.

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Snipers. Palestinian children without future. Growing angry and frustrated. Risking to be put in prison at almost any time . With or without justification. With or without proof.

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Lots of corruption and incompetence on the side of the Palestinian politicians. Ghettoes – far too many ghettoes –perfect breeding grounds for violence and radicalism.

The chilling us or them paradigm. The ugly and somehow surreal wall. The barbwire. The soldiers.Check-points. Lack of dignity.

People at war with each other living a few meters away from each other.  Some with all the power; the others more and more desperate.

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But I felt eerie happy spending time with the Bedouins despite the sad stories. Felt peaceful. A moment that could have made me forgive what I really believed.  That it would be impossible to imagine a more sarcastic word for this place than how it is advertised – the Holly Land.

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Puie Mutin –din Georgia cu love pentru Katiusa

24 Jan

Marin, fiul Miței (sora maică-mi), după legenda familiei, a cântat cu Phoenix. Habar nu am dacă a făcut-o sau ba, dar un lucru e sigur : Marin cânta senzațional la chitară. Aproape la fel de bine cam cum pilea, dar considerând că unchii Ghica și  Gigilică Bouroșu erau la nivel de  Hendrix și Segovia, iar tata și Gogu clar superiori, asta cu pileala nu era apreciată cum se cuvine, cel puțin nu în familion.

Deși arăta potențial, ficatul lui Marin nu a fost cooperativă (vorba lui Năzdrăvan) și privat fiind în mod sadic de apă, a decis să se retragă din activitate. Împreuna cu Marin. Într-un gest firesc de solidaritate-sindicatul bețivanilor era și a rămas, cred, cea mai unită, solidă și talentată instituție– nea Ghica, tata și nea Gogu, deși mult mai batrani, l-au urmat relativ repede pe plaiurile eterne/etilene.

Gigilică pare să nu aibă ficat, căci altfel nu se poate explica sănătatea lui impecabilă.

Marin a încercat să mă invețe să cânt. Nu am înțeles nicicând chinul lui și am refuzat cu încăpățânare să mă integrez corului multi-etnic ( Bouroșu e de viță pură si cum spune și numele, ne-parte a neamului nostru superior și zburător).

Dar divaghez.

Sunt în Georgia. Țară  frumoasă tare, tare, dar și săracă rău. Nu Tbilisi, unde sunt acum, dar în jurul capitalei e jale. Sunt cazat  la hotel Diplomat – o semi-bombă care reflectă de minune starea diplomației mondiale. Dorm, frânt de oboseală, căci am prestat la greu prin ghetouri în Kutaisi și Tbilisi unde am amestecat la greu țigăneasca mea de baltă, cele 40-50 cuvinte pe care le stiu în rusă și cu “moldoveneasca” . Sunt câteva mii bune de romi născuți in Georgia, dar care încă vorbesc moldoveneasca de Chisinau și care au “bunei “ din România. Visez, oarecum logic, că mă chinuie Marin ( care avea accent de Piatra Neamț) să cânt împreună cu el , Gogu , Ghica și unii dintre “moldovenii” cu care am vorbit în timpul zilei . Trebuie să cântăm Katiușa și nu prea vreau. E o Katiușă cam ciudată și behăită mult mai rău decât sunt eu obișnuit. Cum îmi e drag să îi revăd, fie și în vis, cedez și rag și eu cu ei. Rag așa de tare încât mă trezesc .

Se cânta totuși Katiușa. Nu e Marin, deci nu e chitară de acompaniament. E o altă versiune. Cântată tare- tare de parcă ar fi la mine în cameră. Mă uit pe geam și înțeleg: la 2 metri sub mine, pe stradă, sunt patru georgieni răzbunători care schilodesc cu entuziasm perla culturii ruse.  Schilodit e de fapt un eufemism. Fiecare dintre ei muge, screme, vomită sute de blesteme toate pe o linie melodică diferită și în dușmania auzului. Dacă făceau asta la invazie , sigur lucrurile ar fi stat cu totul altfel. Dacă aș putea mi-aș sparge timpanele singur și mă simt foarte tentat de suicid pentru câteva minute.

Mă infurii. Sun la recepție. Nu apuc să zic niica. Primesc o lectură rapidă într-o engleză oribilă, că sunt străin și nu înțeleg. Că nu e nimic neobișnuit și că o să plece în câteva minute ca e frig rău afară. Și că au mai sunat și altii. Mă gândesc că dacă recepționera la Diplomat vorbește așa nu e de mirare că și-au luat-o georgienii așa rău de la cei care ar fi trebuit să îi ajute cu ursul rus de la nord. Nu îi zic asta, că la cât de furioasă e, poate vine și mă bate. E ditai dihania și decid să fiu în mod necaracteristic politicos: o înjur doar de mă-sa cu grijă și în detaliu ( desigur în română) și îi trântesc eroic telefonul. Mă închid în camera pe dinăuntru, ca să fim siguri. E 12.10. La 2.30 sunt un alt om.

Baieții au în total 6 cântece. Ok, nu sunt cântece, ci mai degrabă exorcizări ale diavolului care ne-a înzestrat pe noi, cei cu handicap alcoolic, cu auz. Katiușa revine la fiecare 10-15 minute. Nu am rezistat și am cântat și eu o dată cu ei pe geam. În mod sigur sunt cel mai iubit țigan în Georgia. Mă tot strigă să mai cânt. Mă simt răzbunat față de bestia de la receptie.

Inspirat de un drag slogan românesc îi învăț, ielegant, să strige: Muie  Putin!.  Sunt euforic toate trainingurile mele de leadership au dat in sfărșit roade.  Se aude: M……..eeeeeeeeeee Puuuuuuutiiiin! în tot cartierul.

Dorm neîntors. Până înainte de 8.30, când am intalnire cu un domn important de la Consiliul Europei din Tbilisi. Un italian scorțos.

Stau cu el la masă. Bestia (e frumușică foc dar mare rău) ne aduce mâncare și îmi aruncă un zâmbet până la urechi de cred că o să își taie singură capul dacă încearcă un pic.  Mă gândesc , cu pragmatism diplomatic, că ar trebui să îl las doar pe italian să mănânce și să bea. Oricum, ei sunt mai mulți și la felul cum arată nu ar fi din punct de vedere genetic o pierdere prea mare. Vine un nene cu niște ochi roși și cât cepele și un fizic de rugbist  care arăta vag familiar.  E bărbatul bestiei, după cum îi pune mana  pe cur. Are două pahare de pileală cu el, pe care le ține în cazmaua care funcționează ca mână stângă. Ia mâna de pe curul doamnei și trântește un pahar pe masă. Mă pupă pe obraz, încearcă- și aproape reușește- să îmi dizloce umărul, râde la mine și zice cu poftă: M……eeeee Putin !

Agreez.

Bem. Eu și el.

Ragem: M……….eeeeeeeee Putin !

Italianul se uită la mine apoplexic.

Abia aștept să mă mai duc în Georgia.

PS. Lângă Hotel Diplomat e un restaurant, în subsolul unei case – Leul Negru – absolut senzațional. Ziceți: Muie Putin ! când intrați și poate mâncați, ca și mine, gratis. De luni prestez Gaza.

Euro-Narnian* , preservatives, MSG , the Decade and toilet training

20 Jan

*Euro-Narnian is the language used within the bureaucratic heavens in Brussels.

The followings excerpts come from the latest document published on the EU Roma website. The document wishes to prove progress and indicate what needs to be done.

“Member States were Encouraged to Ensure Effective Equal access for Roma to mainstream public employment services, alongside targeted and personalised guidance and mediation for Roma jobseekers, and to support the employment of qualified Roma civil servants.”

The member states were thoroughly EEEE-ed and MSG-ed. Swiftly and powerfully Encouraged, Ensured, Effectived and Equaled in the very first sentence the Member States were trembling with fear. Then in a powerful but yet not final blow within the same paragraph they received a heavy dose of MSG (not to be confounded with the toxic chemical used for flavoring cancerously but nevertheless tastily diverse food products). The MSG – Mediation, Support and Guidance was to be the best type of it – personalized MSG. Four time E-ed, once MSG-ed and thoroughly advised might seem tranquilizing, brain killing blabla, but is in fact the most powerful criticism meant to address appalling discrimination and inequality of Roma within Member States yet.

Euro-Narnia itself is very, very far from doing what it encourages Member States to do. Rumors say that this powerful E-s and MSG package is heftily paid by the Masters that are known to be very generous with our money and happy to strongly enhance and forever preserve whatever they cook/think.  This treatment for Roma employment has been used for years and is well justified.  Hundreds of millions were spent for its design and delivery. It brought amazing results and joy for the careers and fortunes of a few Euro-Narnians. It also created a healthy dependency for the hefty fees of the Euro-Narnian projects of another few Roma experts – most of them not part of the Roma folk or with very limited interactions with those. Admirably it also provided the much needed, reports conferences and pompous and intricate rhetoric for the other millions of Roma who live in abject poverty or complete ignorance of Euro-Narnia  . Some other achievements are mentioned by the document:

“improvements in the educational participation and attainment have failed to translate into improving employment prospects among Roma. In some cases, the employment situation of Roma has even further deteriorated…”

For the feeble hearted you need not to worry. The document provides “promising practices” to make up for the slightly challenging (in vulgar English catastrophic) situation.  True, the mysterious “many positive practices” of the recent past were replaced by a few and rather doubtful “promising practices”. This is the climax of progress as in their amazing wisdom and humbleness the Masters elegantly hinted they accepted the opinion of some of the worst of folk- those that waste their time and effort in the Roma communities. We told the Masters that the level of failure of the Euro-Narnian projects is the only exceptional thing happening and they included our views and translated it into beautiful Euro-Narnian. This is how we ended up blessed with “promising practices”.

 “… quality temporary lodgings have been built with the involvement of the Roma community in France. In Germany, housing projects also include measures that promote the integration of Roma families in neighbourhoods. In Belgium, mediators work to gain trust of both Roma and non-Roma for acceptable housing interventions. In Hungary, cities are required to prepare a desegregation plan as part of city development strategies”

A pragmatic read (a cursed and thoroughly banned practice in Euro-Narnia during the previous lordship on Euro-Narnia lead by Barosolan and the mighty Viviane) will tell that in fact there is as usual nothing to write about. Let’s examine the concrete achievements :

  1. “quality temporary lodging built with the help of Roma” – blessed be their hearts as it is well know the Roma need quality temporary lodging and not old fashioned stupid solid, permanent housing.
  2. measures that promote integration in neigbourhoods” – nothing is more useful when you face hunger and freezing than reading that promoting measures for integration are taken by Euro-Narnia. The fact that nowadays integration is not done in stables or working camps but in neighborhoods is another huge step forward.
  3. “mediators work to gain trust for acceptable housing interventions” is as good of an indicator of good housing for Roma as anything else including a requirement desegregation plan as part of city development strategies.

But why stop here with achievements. The Masters of Euro-Narnia hailed a few years ago that the new anti-discrimination framework represented a quantum leap forward. At that moment it seemed irrelevant for the Gods of Euro-Narnia that quantum physics deal with the tiniest of the worlds and is considered by the experts to be very complicated to comprehend as “our brains are not wired to understand it”.  Anyway this new reports makes clear the monumental dimension of the quantum leap.

Thirteen years after the EU’s landmark anti-discrimination directives were adopted in 2000, discrimination against Roma is still widespread.

Comprehending what the Masters of Euro-Narnia think and do is not for our feeble minds. Our brains are not wired to understand it as proven by another masterful paragraph:

The Decade for Roma Inclusion has been a strong inspiration for the EU Framework.

Even the most optimistic expert will not put the number of Roma who heard about the Decade at more than 0.01 % of the entire population. If you ignore those paid to promote the Decade it is very unlikely that more than 1% will consider the Decade a success. You need to be really delusional to consider it inspiring. Having the Decade as an inspiration for the EU Framework is like saying that the main goal of your life is to master toilet training. It sounds great if you commit to it as a precocious 1-2 years old but is really pathetic and hard to be taken seriously any other time.

Worm and The projectors

13 Jan

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Vierme ( Worm) is ten and is responsible for making money for his family. He steals scrap metal and whatever else he can whenever he can. There are 6 other siblings in his family he is the oldest and the hardest working of all. He is teaching two other brothers how to collect scrap metal. No running water in his home/shack – they steal electricity. Children caught stealing are not prosecuted. If caught he gets a beating. He has lice and scabies.

There is no work for his mother. His father is in prison – he was caught stealing scrap metal. If she steals the children will be left by themselves. No matter how much she tries it is unlikely she will get a job.

There are many families similar to Vierme’s that live on the outskirts of many villages/cities. Access to these families is hard especially during November to March and whenever else there are heavy rains as the roads turn into mud.

These children should be taken to school by a school mediator.The salary of a school mediator is around 150 EUR per month. She/he (it is a rare case when a male has this job) has little incentive to go take children like Vierme to school – it takes a long time to get there, her clothes and shoes will get filthy/destroyed and many times she will have to face  angry and frustrated parents – sometimes people that are drunk or on drugs. Vierme’s mother needs him to collect scrap metal more than he needs him in school.

Teachers do not want Vierme in their class. He started with a huge gap compared to the other children and he would need lots of extra attention to catch-up. Most of the time he stinks, he is dirty and can pass to everybody else in the class lice and scabies. Teachers’ salaries are terrible around 200 EUR per month.

People in the local administration also have poor salaries. The EU funded project is not helping them much at all; it’s just more work for very little pay. There are huge amounts of money that are supposed to be used for the communities like Vierme’s community. People in the local administration that are supposed to distribute the aid think Vierme and his family are lazy, dirty foreigners.

The guys that ran the EU projects have salaries 10 to 20 times bigger than any of the above. Those are the projectors, the people that imagine how things will work; they write the reports about the achievements.

Vierme is in school. The school mediator takes the children to school, the teacher has a full class, is skilled, trained and helps these children to get a good quality education. The local administration is helping the community as it delivers aid to the most impoverished. Funding properly spent.

Bullshit. But this is the report that is considered the truth. And every single stakeholder has an interest to say it is true. The European Commission and the governments because the money is spent and they badly need something positive to show for their overall incompetence and disregard for the poorest of the poor, the projectors because the money is good, those in public administration to keep the pretense that they work for the people, the teacher and school mediator to keep their jobs and work as little as possible.

Gulliver’s travels took him to Balnibarbi and then Lagado. The academy of Lagado was famous for its projectors. The projectors tried to do amazing things such as taking the sunbeams out of cucumbers, store them in vials and use them whenever needed, building  houses starting from the roof,  ploughing with the help of the pigs … Art, literature, mathematics, linguistics, were all concerns of many projectors attempting similarly brilliant things. The academy was thriving and extending– at least 500 rooms in a series of building in the city. The city and its surroundings were becoming a ruin due to the many failed projects but the projectors were well paid to continue their jobs.

There were some hard working and skilled people in Lagado – the lord Munodi was one of them. He was known for his eminent services, integrity and honor. He was also considered by the elites to be the most ignorant and stupid person among the ruling elites as he had an “ill ear for music”.

I know many, many nowadays Munodis. Most in the civil society but also people that work for the European Commission and governments.  Smart, honest people that did or do some amazing things but fail to conform to the lip-service directives and poor users of Eurotalk. They are perceived as stupid and ignorant by the opportunists that couldn’t care less about their jobs but are very concerned about their careers –a good number of them are or end up in senior management positions.

There is wide agreement among these people (most within the Romanian civil society) that the EU Structural Funds targeting social inclusion, poverty reduction, employment, discrimination, education and many other fields are in a far too big proportion useless. That the thinking, design, the process of application and the implementation of the projects financed by EU money are flawed, stupid and sometimes sadistic.

Sadly most of the Munodis continue to work for or apply for EU funded projects. Unwillingly and some unwittingly, they legitimize a system that produce an unacceptable number of failures, fake achievements and corruption.

At the end of the day all of us lose. We waste public money. The credibility of the European Commission – the most educated, diverse and promising bureaucracy in Europe is crumbling and makes Europeans doubt a great achievement – the European Union. The civil society looks wasteful and money oriented and risks becoming completely dependent on money distributed by governments. In this way what should be the watch-dogs of the governments – the civil society organisations- become the lap-dogs of the politicians in power.

EU Funds should make a difference in the lives of many including poverty stricken children. At this moment, unfortunately , far too many of these funds, at least in Romania, seem to be working towards enacting one of the sarcastic metaphor of Jonathan Swift – Lagado.

There are exceptions when children like Vierme are taken to school by some kind and hard-working people. It is even more exceptional when teachers do work with children like him. But those are nothing but aberrations in a system that is profoundly flawed.

The situation of girls living in poverty like Vierme is even more complicated. There are cases when prostitution looks like best possible opportunity. Sadly, sometimes it is the only opportunity to escape a hellish life. I do not describe here a Roma problem but many of the children who are facing these problems are Roma.

There are solutions. We need to start with honesty and critical evaluation of why and where we failed. Or we can continue to find excuses, pay lip-service and prepare ourselves for Gulliver’s visit.

* The picture used is not of Vierme but of a child that has his faith

The good, the bad and the ugly

12 Jan

Zana (Goddess) is, logically, in heaven. She has a new track suit. The girls that needed clothes the most are now dressed warmly and are bubbly happy with their colorful clothes.

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Toto  and Adita ( it is going to be 5 years in March since I know both) organized the 57 boys that came for football – the discipline was much better than any gym class I saw in the school.

Adriana, Denisa, Nicoleta and Natalia (I know them for over 4 years now) helped with sorting and distributing clothes, shoes and boots for some other 16 very small children that came. All of them badly needed the help. Claudiu came also, he was on and off touch for the last 6 years- he is one of the first I started working with. He will be 17 this year, he looks at maximum 13-14. All things considered he is doing ok.  The life of the girls is also better.

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From time to time there is a new child that comes and steals something – a ball, a pair of shoes, socks, T-shirts. The results at school are not that great. Some of the children and many of the parents try to take advantage of me. A few manage.  Some talk crap and imagine ugly things about my motivation to help. Failure is a good part of doing this – it feels crappy every time but I didn’t find a way without it.

Many of the children from the ghetto expect to be disappointed. Expect the worst. Some are rather gifted at forcing out your ugly side. Creating routines takes time and is awfully frustrating. But it works. Not great but it works. Expecting that all those you are trying to help will be thankful it is both stupid and arrogant. Some will. Most don’t.

I spent my afternoon on Saturday and Sunday distributing clothes, food , toys, shoes to those that needed the most in a village next to Bucharest. Some of the children were barefoot or almost barefoot in the snow.

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The living conditions for many are appalling. Many of the children work long hours gathering metal scraps from a nearby dump.  I know that going once in a blue moon there doesn’t help and many of the children will end up uneducated, abused, violent and excluded. Will go again but I am not sure that I will manage to change anything fundamentally. I will try.

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I am not sure that taking pictures of the children is a good idea. It makes me uncomfortable but many times I wished to see some evidence seeing people talking enthusiastically about reports that I knew were bullshit. Long term detailed photo referencing I was told was the only acceptable -good method. Maybe there are other ways that could avoid some of the ugly talks related to picture taking that I hear once in a while.

The ugly is not only about the violence, prostitution, drugs, theft, abuses, garbage and abject poverty many of these children live with every day with. It is also about the projectors and the way we continue to waste public money – especially EU money. About this and how we seem to be living in one of Gulliver’s adventures in a next posting.