I have to confess it’s been an interesting couple of days as people in my “real life” have been reacting to my recent appearances in the media. Mostly everybody seemed to like it and I definitely got some laughs out of it and had fun seeing my friends’ reactions who had no idea about my “famous” side.
But I did notice there are a few misconceptions that need to be addressed.
Before I do that, I need to tell you a story about the time I went to Washington, D.C., the capital of these United States, many years ago. I was acting in the unofficial capacity of “tour guide” as I had been there before. I was taking a group of people, most of them foreigners but also some Americans, around the White House and The Mall and the central district right there in the capital.
As we turned the corner from Lafayette Park and the White House came into view, one person in my group said, “Wow, it looks exactly like Forrest Gump“. I’ve never actually seen that movie myself but I assume most of you have or are familiar with it.
It was a throwaway comment, comparing the actual brick and mortar White House to a movie but it stuck with me all these years for a reason – it’s a complete inversion of reality. The building doesn’t look like the movie, it is the movie which looks like the building.
My own term for this is the “Tiger Paradox”, something I invented myself just as a shorthand because ever since that Forrest Gump remark I’ve seen it over and over again. The “Tiger Paradox” is that just about everyone reading this is familiar with what a tiger looks like. We’ve all seen tigers with their magnificent fur coats, pacing up and down somewhere. We know they look vaguely like house cats but far, far bigger. We can all call up in our minds exactly what a tiger looks like and how massive it is.
And yet chances are you’re like me – you’ve never actually dealt with a real tiger in your entire life. At most perhaps you’ve seen one at close range when it was trapped behind bars in some zoo or circus. But you’ve never touched one, never interacted with one and certainly never had one walk past you outdoors somewhere. Therefore the paradox is that we all walk around thinking we “know” what tigers are and yet in reality we don’t.
I myself “know” what Japan is like for the same reason even though I’ve never been there in my life. It is because we get all of these images from visual media, the same way the person in my little group “knew” the White House from a movie. And it’s not even that these movies or television programs are “wrong” – perhaps their portrayal of certain buildings or cities or tigers is very factual and accurate. It’s just that it’s virtual knowledge.
So…between the “real” me, the flesh and blood monkey typing these words and the “virtual” me, the guy on television, newspapers and other media, there is a gap. It’s not a huge gap but there is a gap. There is a difference between the guy who farts in his sleep and plays with cats and sometimes drinks too much in bars, and “Sam Cel Roman”, a virtual construct of a person who is nonetheless real on some level as well.
I don’t actually go around constantly praising Romania and being a cheerleader all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is true I do it quite often but it’s not the only thing I do. The “virtual” me is a little one-sided and rather narrowly focused on one subject – hey wow this person from a high-status country (America) voluntarily lives here and rather likes it and has learned the language and adopted a lot of the local customs. That’s all true but it’s one tiny aspect of who I am.
So, let’s all keep in mind the difference between the virtual construct of Sam Cel Roman and the rest of the story.
- Hearing Voices
I have never once actually “heard a voice”, technically called paracusia or an auditory hallucination. I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with hearing voices and there are some very good people who work in that field out of The Netherlands as well as other groups around the world.
Nonetheless, I personally have never heard a voice inside my head other than the normal, every day sensation of being aware of or “hearing” my own thoughts. It is true that I both came to Romania for the first time (as a tourist) as well as moved here based on a spiritual event. If you’ve read my book Balada Supravietuitorului then you know a little bit about that but I’m afraid that there was no big Hollywood movie scene with a crescendo of trumpets and a booming voice speaking to me out of the clouds :)
- Lost In Translation
Romanian is the fourth language for me in terms of ones I can speak* and hold a conversation in. I try my best to speak it as well as I can but it’s never going to be perfect. Usually a lot of other things are going on simultaneously as well – I’m a little “juiced up” because I know I’m being recorded (or broadcast live), I’m trying to get my message out, I’m listening to (sometimes) multiple people speaking fast Romanian and, as in the case of both my radio interview (see right sidebar) as well as Realitatea this week, I can barely hear the people on the other end.
Sometimes these interviews are partially (or wholly) in English and then get translated by the journalists into Romanian. Sometimes they take my Romanian and “fix it” and put in all the things I missed or screwed up. Sometimes they take one part from here and stick it in with this part from over here. So by the time it gets printed or put online it isn’t exactly what I said.
And sometimes, God knows, they make things up out of whole cloth. Yes I’ve traveled a lot in Romania but I don’t know where they got the “fact” that I’ve been to 39 of the 41 countries in Romania. In other words, just because they say I said it doesn’t mean I actually said it – or said it just like that.
* – I can however fake my way through a host of other languages. I had one of the most hilarious conversations of my life last night when speaking a slurry mixture of English, Italian, Spanish, German, Hungarian, Russian and Romanian to a mixed group of my friends. Tell me where else in the world could I have so much fun besides this country. And you really have to ask why I live here? :P
Again, I do all of these interviews and nearly everything on this blog for the purpose of promoting Romania. With perhaps the exception of my cats, everything you will see and hear about me (including on this blog) is always related to Romania in some way. I set it up this way so I’m not complaining. However there is one fact that goes undiscussed because it has very little to do with Romania at all.
Yes, sales from my books more or less cover my rent and utility bills. But I don’t actually “live” from that income, whether it’s traveling, buying cameras or clothes or even food for that matter. I actually have a kind of a “job” that provides nearly all of my income.
I don’t talk about that job for several reasons. Partly it’s because it has nothing to do with Romania. I contract my services with a company in America and everything is done online. I can’t tell you much more than that because I signed a stack of documents that say I can never, ever discuss all of this with anyone as it requires a certain kind of clearance and deals with very sensitive matters. A lot of people read into this something that isn’t true (see the next heading) but I promise you what I do is very tedious and mundane. And no, a Romanian cannot do this job due to the security aspects of it so please don’t ask me to get you a job :)
The unpleasant truth is that I probably work 50 hours a week doing this other job. I do my best to blog, record film, put out an episode every week, answer emails and Facebook messages, Twitter things and all the rest but please keep in mind that it’s all on the side so to speak. The “virtual” side of being Sam Cel Roman, the pro-Romania guy is a lot of fun for me so that’s why I do it. But as to any idea that I am living large off the fat profits from all of this is just completely not true. In reality, my “real job” allows me to do all the fun Romanian stuff and buy cameras and host this blog and all the rest of it.
And again, for the record, I’ve never received one penny from the government of Romania to do anything.
Ever since I first moved to Romania, when people hear I am American and that I’ve done a little work for the government and all the rest of it (including a stint in Washington, D.C., hence the unofficial tour guide stuff) their mind likes to jump to the “fun” conclusion that I am some kind of secret agent or spy or what have you, a dastardly agent of the CIA.
That all sounds fun and exciting and almost like a Hollywood movie but alas, it’s not true. Sorry :) I’ve done a few interesting things in my life and currently have a rather strong non-disclosure agreement in place but I am not a spy. I don’t even work for the government on any level. I am independent contractor who works with an ordinary civilian firm. I don’t have a secret radio or decoder ring or passwords or code names or a hollowed out tooth filled with cyanide or anything else.
I actually work for myself and contract my services out. I do not have a boss or report to anyone and I am not furthering anyone’s secret agenda. Again, it sounds very dashing and cool but it’s just not true. *SADFACE*
AND NOW (HOPEFULLY) YOU KNOW!