International Meetings

I've always been fascinated with international meetings. Not that I went to so many, but those I did got to offered me the opportunity to form a opinion, not a very original one, of course, but still, it's an opinion, which may even be subjective. International meetings are of two kinds, as far as we, the Romanians, are concerned. One type of such meetings are those where we go abroad to meet with various foreigners, and do our best either to represent this country with honor, or to sell it, piece by piece, preferably to the Hungarians. The second type includes the meetings we host, hospitably welcoming foreign delegations and proudly showing this country's beauties and our intellectual abilities to them. Well, I wish to refer to this second type of international meetings, because, paradoxically, they appear to me as the most spectacular. Two or three days before the guests arrive on the Otopeni Airport, the Romanian organization committee gets up on its toes. Here we must explain that the mentioned "committee" is made up of two hysterical ladies, in charge of all administrative issues, and a "president" who presides over it of course, and only deals with intellectual matters. At the end of the international meeting, the two ladies are good to be hospitalized and the "president" is sorry about everything. This is the Romanian side. Let us see now how the foreigners act – as, we must explain this too, they belong to either one of two categories: those who come to Romania the way I would go to the United States, and others who come to Romania the way I would go to Bulgaria. I will try to deal with them one by one, to see the widest range of expressions possible. Those who come to Romania the way I would go to the United States. They look bored and come from places like the Caucasus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and so on. They don't know where exactly in Europe they are, but they imagine they are in Europe. During the debates, they sleep with their headphones on and with pens in their hands. They are not surprised at anything, and you have a feeling they don't like anything. If you give them orangutan stake, they eat it as if they had been eating this at home since early childhood. You take them to beautiful places, with abundant nature, the rock is on the verge of falling and the ravine is grand – so what? Nothing. They wonder at the low exchange rate of the dollar, which is similar to the rate they bought dollars for in Kyrgyzstan, and they buy all sorts of kitsch crap from folk art stores. Therefore, they are not so dangerous. However, Those who come to Romania the way I would go to Bulgaria are horrible. They come from Sorbonne, Heidelberg, Oxford, or Harvard, they have traveled around the world, and they have seen all wonders. They get out of the plane on Otopeni, get into cars, and they begin staring out of the windows. The first time they see some dumb hill in Prahova County, they go: "Magnifique! Fantastique! Marvellous." You give them a cretin meatball soup, there they go: "Savoureux, Tasteful! Out of this world!" There is no street corner, roadside, or pasture plot that is not "wonderful," "merveilleux," or "unbelievable" to them. In the evening they go to bed early, to be ready for more wonders the next day. They are dangerous because they are sincere. Every time I happen to go to some international colloquium I don't drink, I don't eat, and I don't sleep. All I do is watch the guests from all over the world. Because, as I said at the beginning, I've always been fascinated with international meetings.

by Cătălin Ţîrlea (b. 1964)