Asta E Lumea

Quite a day, folks, quite a day. If you speak Romanian and “follow” me on Facebook then you’ve probably been keeping up with it but if not, it needs a little more explanation.

Some six weeks ago, a very nice guy from a “news portal” called Gandul called me up and wanted to interview me. I say “news portal” instead of newspaper since they are only online although at one time I do believe they had a paper edition. The journalist in question drove all the way up from Brasov to interview me one day here in Unicorn City and back in the same day, a very long trip.

The whole thing sat in the “can” until Wednesday night, when he called me to let me know it was online. Gandul has a really nice iPhone app and so I loaded it up on my phone and was happily surprised to see it was the top story. I showed it to a few people at the bar and didn’t think much more of it.

However a short time afterwards, a guy on national television mentioned me on his show. His name is Mircea Badea and you can see that clip here (for now – I have no idea how to download the video) at around the 3:30 mark. He has a show called In Gura Presei (literally In the Press’ Mouth) sort of a round-up of the day’s news.

If you don’t speak Romanian, none of this will make much sense to you, but he starts off by skipping over the subject of the Greek economic crisis and goes right into talking about me, ridiculing and belittling me actually. Again, I don’t own a television (thanks to those of you who alerted me to this clip) but years ago I did and I used to watch this guy’s show. It’s part of how I learned Romanian actually. So a guy I used to watch years ago is now talking about me on television – frigging surreal.

By Thursday morning, my phone was blowing up. Realitatea called me first and I did a live segment with them. This channel is equivalent to CNN in America. At the moment there’s no recorded video of that that I’m aware of but I might get a copy from someone later and, if so, put it up here for you to see. The entire experience was interesting and I’ll tell you all about it later. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool to be live on national TV.

I then did an interview with a local newspaper here called Ziua de Cluj. I’m sure that will be online at some point and again I’ll post the link when it is. The guy interviewing me also had his own camera running and at least one clip of that was posted on YouTube, which you can see here. It’s apparently from when I was discussing the visit of the census workers to my house, about which I wrote previously on the blog here. There’s a second video clip from the same interview here as well. Honestly I haven’t seen either of those clips yet because it’s 5:30 am as I write this and too early to be making much noise :)

And then I hustled downtown to go film an interview with Pro TV. There’s no link to that as it will be used as part of a broadcast on December 1 (National Day here in Romania, akin to America’s Fourth of July) as part of some program with people talking about how great Romania is.

So all in all, quite a day. I took a few still photographs myself, including one of me sitting in the television studio, and I’ll get those up here soon. I met some very nice people and I met some rather coldly hostile people. I got served some lukewarm coffee and I got to play with a homeless cat at the TV studios. I got to tell some of my favorite stories and once again propound for the 50th time while I am not a lunatic simply because I enjoy living in this country.

Thanks to all of you who wrote me some very nice and kind messages via the various ways (see Contact Info on the top line of this blog). I think about 10 people added me on Facebook from all these media appearances and sent me some kind words as well. That was really great to hear. This was by far my greatest exposure to the media and even though sometimes it’s hard to keep pumping up the enthusiasm for the same stories, I know it’s new to a lot of people and that makes it all worthwhile. So it was really great to hear that people liked it.

On the other hand, people in my “real life” largely had a different reaction. I guess that’s to be expected in some sense. Even though I was mentioned or featured in a variety of national media (with me speaking a foreign language, mind you) a lot of people I actually know downplayed it as though I’d won five bucks in the lottery and instead decided to bring up a host of personal grievances with me. Certainly Mircea Badea got in his licks on me and there were a few similar comments online at the Gandul article as well.

I mention all of this because years ago I learned a valuable lesson on this topic from Oprah of all people. The title of this post refers to an old manele song which has a refrain of “when things are good, everyone wants to be your friend”. Certainly to an extent that’s true. But actually on some levels, it’s quite different. Whenever you have some success a lot of people get resentful and envious and this manifests itself in a variety of ways, whether ignoring your achievements or else picking arguments with you or being very petty about minor things.

I’ve got a very, very simple message with my blog, my documentary and all of my media interviews – I like living in Romania. Really, that’s it. But every time I make some headway in getting that message out, some people are going to resist it. But my message to you is be aware that in your own life, whatever successes you achieve, a lot of people are going to resist that quite heavily. It could be you lose some weight or get into shape. It could be you get a promotion at work or win a contest or get a new and attractive haircut or pair of glasses. Whenever you take a big step forward, a lot of people will resist it.

It’s hard, hard work being positive on Romania all the time. I’m very happy to make some money from my books but all these TV appearances and the blog and everything else are not about that. I do it because I believe in it. I also do it offline when nobody ever sees it. If you ever meet me, you’ll definitely see it for yourself – I am always encouraging people to be positive, whether it’s about Romania or something else. If there’s something you believe in, I am always the person who you can count on to support you.

Saying I am “positive” sometimes has the connotation that I’m this happy go-lucky naive fool who lives in a land of unicorns and rainbows. Or else it means I am not “realistic” or “practical” as Romanians often say. Actually, the opposite is true. I was a positive person in America after being nearly drowned, electrocuted, poisoned, shot, stabbed and run over by a car. I am a positive person in Romania after being left cold, broke, bleeding and drunk on the side of the road. I got the worst beating of my life here in Romania and was robbed as well. My life has hardly been one of fairytale comfort and ease.

No. I am positive because it is the only realistic way to live. It takes a heck of a lot of courage to be positive but we all die one day so our only choice is to make the best of this short life. Really. Yes I chose to live in Romania and I realize a lot of people here were born here and so didn’t have much of a choice. But open your eyes. There are many beautiful and wonderful things here and the very best of them don’t cost any money. You can see from my episodes (right sidebar) that lots and lots of other people, both Romanian and foreign, agree with me.

No way, life is far too short to be negative. Being positive is the only realistic choice there is. And since I live in Romania, being positive about this country is the only realistic choice there is. Anyone can sit and gripe about the problems of this world – and I do my fair share of complaining too, believe me – but if you can muster the courage and actually learn to appreciate the good things, life suddenly becomes much better. Then you’re no longer the helpless victim of circumstances and instead seizing the ability to shape life into a form that makes you laugh and cry with happiness and joy.

It really does take courage to enjoy it, as Bjork says. And that is why I write this blog and go on television and do all of these interviews. It’s to encourage each and every person around me to stop for one minute and consider that it’s actually okay to be positive about this country. In some small way, it’s me giving people permission to be okay with liking Romania and to be proud of where you live, the language you speak, the foods you eat and the country where you come from.

I know it’s not easy. I know if you step up and say something positive about your country and heritage, a lot of people are going to resist it – maybe even people like your own family or close friends. I know it. But if it makes it any easier for you, they’re mocking me on national TV and websites all over Romania :) And yeah it’s tough to hear it sometimes but hey, I’ve looked down the barrel of a real gun before so at the end of the day, it’s really not so bad.

So hang in there, folks. As BUG Mafia once said, sunt greu de ucis. It’s difficult to kill me ;) I can handle the ridicule and the negativity because at the end of the day, I believe in what I am doing. My only hope is that you will come to the same conclusion.

A lot of Romanians wonder why I have cats. It’s really simple. Whether I’m on national TV or I’m dead broke, they always treat me exactly the same – give me food and pet me. And sometimes that’s really the best thing of all.