A Useful List For Those Who Want To Know The New Village Better

excerpts I did a great deal of field work in my life. I was on the road a lot, I slept in official rooms, "good rooms" (for guests), camping grounds, cheap hotels, and especially villages. I visited very different worlds, though some were neighboring. What was preserved in Maramures, was lost in Oltenia. The old, wood houses, some repaired and some mere replicas, traditional homemade costumes, or the old greeting in Cosau valley give an impression of pure, auroral life, untainted in its candor. Concrete prefab houses, with the exterior walls painted with stags and mountainous backdrops strewn with mirror shards, as well as sneakers, berets and vinyl jackets, or the absence of greeting in Gorj seem to reflect the topsy-turvy life of a newfangled peasant – neither horse, nor donkey – who has no place in a Romanian tourist album. If you take some time to talk with them, the people from Maramures will tell you about market economy and privatization, and those from Oltenia will – in an undertone – send you to the woman who "falls into dreams" or saddle you with the bed given as alms during the 40 days period of masses for the dead, so that the departed may have something to sleep on in the next world.Here is a list of brief on-site notes, gathered from all around the country in the last ten years, which can provide a good picture of today's village:· Anuta, 8 years old, who wants to become a folklorist at the Academy, and Gheorghi, 9, who wants to become a neurosurgeon in California.· The old woman who died because her shadow was measured with a string that was buried in the foundation of the house to make it sturdier.· The one-story house the walls of which were painted blue on the lower side and orange on the upper and had two overlaying rows of windows, thus built because construction of one-story houses is no longer allowed.· Dolly, the little bitch that does not watch over the household, but can stand on her hind legs and eat Bonibons. · The magic charms used to cure a dog that felt sick after eating mamaliga (cornmeal mush). · The Alsatian brought by the boys from the city and raised like a child, with beef from the store, lest he might get indigestion; he is such a good watchdog that he chased the priest who came for consecration all around the yard.· The big concrete-and-glass building with a neon sign that says BODY BUILDING, used solely for weddings and election parties thrown by the mayor.· The small, hand-shaped, plastic back-scratching device sent by the son from Canada and hanging by the mirror in the "good room".· Mr. Iliescu, the President, pinned next to the orthodox calendar on the kitchen wall, who'll go down from there because he didn't give them pensions anyway.· The wardrobe packed with homespun quilts – the dowry of the daughters who left for the city; from time to time, a piece of cloth will cover the jars of vegetable hodgepodge preserves.· Sponge cake crumbs scattered on graves for the Meek who celebrate their Easter a week earlier than the people.· Insulating windowpanes in the summer kitchen; ventilation is made through the open door or the gap between the roof and the walls.· The little garden of the Forest Girl, where you must not leave any footprints, because the Fairy will disfigure you.· Domestic waste disposed of on the riverbank and the mayoralty dumpsters, all stolen and kept in the cellars until some utilization is found for them.· The kid, sliced and smoked so that the shepherd may not get hold of it, because he's a thief and will eat it.· The traditional iie (embroidered blouse) sewn with gold thread on plastic curtain fabric, specially tailored for foreign tourists and TV shows.· The gas lamp hanging by the electric bulb from the ceiling, so that everyone can see we've got antiques too.· The elevator running between the cellar and the floor where nobody lives.· Sunday liturgy, watched on TV, because tourists fill the church since early morning.· The automatic Bosch washing machine powered by the electric pole in the street, draining off into the tomato garden.· The boat carpenter turned house carpenter, as he can no longer fish in the Danube Delta in a canoe.· The donkeys named COMMUNIST and the young donkey named UTECISTU' (former member of the Communist Youth organization).· The ewe-lamb that accompanied her master to the pub and was so lovely that they spread her hide at home on the wall; from the young bull they kept a scapula which they painted with a winter scenery and placed on the TV set.· The bride and bridegroom with 14 (fourteen) pairs of godparents.· Dyed Easter eggs with Dracula's castle sold at the fair.· The main gate wrenched off and lugged to a hilltop by New Year masked waits who were not well-received by the host.· The Christmas tree adorned with dyed Easter eggs.· The Canadian-graveyard-without-burials story; for one month, no bugle was heard, and no coliva (funeral wheat porridge) was handed out.· The American-town-where-nobody-works story; people do not grow tomatoes or corn, they only push a small machine across the lawn from time to time.· The yard chicken, born old because they are fed grain and chased around by the hen; only the poor eat them.· GOSTAT (former state-owned food stores) chicken, that stay young until they die; their meat is tender, because they are fed powder and make no physical effort; a respectable housewife can only cook these.· The Pampers diapers hung on the fence to dry.· The cellular phone used to inform the neighbor that the pig has been fed and her coffee is waiting on the table. Dilema, no. 495 (September 2002)

by Ioana Popescu