The Life and Times of Sam Cel Roman Volume I

There’s an old maxim that if you want to remember something, write it down. The past 36 hours have been so amazing that I definitely want to get some of it written “down” even though in about an hour I’m going to head out and continue with the final phase of it.

In short, a camera crew from a national television station has been following me around, filming me everywhere I go. I’ve done interviews in the past and appeared in newspapers, on the radio and television before but this is entirely different – essentially the folks at ProTV are building an episode of Romania Te Iubesc around Yours Truly.

Alex Dima and his team have been simply wonderful. I have no idea when the footage will air or what parts you will see but we sat down Tuesday evening for about three hours and made a plan (which I loved) to show my Romania, the real life that I live here, as authentic as authentic can be. This isn’t some deal where I pretend to go here or am prompted to do that or “set up” some scenes of me doing this. No. It’s a documentary about me and as close to the real thing as you can possibly get.

Again, I have absolutely no control over what footage will be eventually shown on TV or in what order or how they’re going to use anything that they filmed but here is a short list of the things I did (on camera):

  • Me hanging out in my favorite bar (Cleo), having a good time, including me on stage singing the Numa Numa song – YES!!
  • Me in town talking to regular people on the street
  • Talking to gypsies
  • Talking to little kids
  • Talking to some elderly people
  • Me down at City Hall talking about promoting my book (AWESOME!)
  • Buying vegetables at the piata
  • Chatting with some police officers
  • Having a chat with a couple of homeless guys
  • Me at the monthly meeting of ex-pats where we trade books written in English
  • Running into a ton of people I know as we bop around town

And many, many more, including brief interviews with some of my friends and people I know here.

And then the cherry on top of it all, I mean the sweetest bit of karmic luck was we (and every news crew in the entire city) went down to the courthouse to film Sorin Apostu, the Lord of Cluj, doing the perp walk. Yes! Triple yes! Just absolutely wonderful.

As I said, the filming continues today as well so there will be more good things we’ll do today. But so far it really has been amazing just how comprehensive the filming has been. I really do all of the things in the list above. I’ve written about them lots of times but it’s going to be cool for all of you to finally see it.

For those of you who don’t speak Romanian very well, the bad news is 99% of everything we did has been in Romanian. For those of you who do speak Romanian, well I think you’re really going to like it. I was telling some stories and jokes and at one point both Alex Dima and the camera man were laughing so hard that they could barely keep the camera focused on me. Was I making fun of gypsies, kids, peasants, Hungarians, the elderly or politicians? No. You know the answer to that! I was poking fun at myself and it’s some good stuff. It’s real humor, in Romanian language, perhaps for the first time in the history of (Romanian) television :)

Not only was it cool to see the Lord of Cluj brought down low by his own foolishness but on a meta level, hanging out with the journalists of Cluj in the courthouse was incredibly fun. After doing all these other interviews, I know many of them now so it was a lot of smiles and kisses on the cheeks (the “Euro kiss”) and chatting and swapping jokes and eating snacks together and just having a really fun time with those guys. See? Hanging out with journalists is part of my life now too so I’m glad some of that got filmed as well.

But by far the best moment of the day was pure serendipity. We were walking around outside and I decided to go get a placinta cu mujdei de usturoi (a piece of fried bread with garlic sauce) when a woman next to me did a double take and said, “Hey, you’re Sam cel Roman!” I’ve never met her in my life and had no idea who she is but apparently she’s a fan of the blog. Hello to you if you’re reading this, ma’am!

Obviously the camera crew pounced on that and the correspondent started asking her questions – “Why do you read his blog? Why do you like his stuff?” and all of that. Hand to Jesus (Rom: pe cuvantul meu) I had no idea who that woman is and everything she had to say was completely authentic. She’s a “regular” person just like me and just like you and while she thinks I’m a bit too idealistic, she likes my message of positivity and enthusiasm for Romania. I really, really hope the footage of her gets broadcast whenever the episode comes out.

Because really, that’s what it’s all about. One of the gypsies asked me this so I’ll go ahead and answer it for you – no I did not get paid one penny to do this show. In fact, we filmed until about 1:00 am on Wednesday night and started filming again at 8:30 am the next morning so I went home, slept for two hours and from 3:30 am to 8:00 am I did my “regular work” (the stuff that pays my bills) while most people were sleeping. Yeah it’s a major ego boost to be featured on national television but I didn’t do it for money. I did it because it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to get my message out there to a wider audience. I really do love Romania and I do love my life here.

I love going out to bars, I love talking to gypsies, I love talking to fellow English speaking ex-pats, I love buying fruits and vegetables at the piata, I love chatting with kids and the elderly, I love walking in town, I love hanging out with my friends, I love having interesting discussions with all sorts of people. This really is my life and why I like it. And yes, seeing the arrogant mayor brought low (at least for now) was great as well as having a good discussion (on film!) with the local tourism official in City Hall about how we can better promote this city and this country.

I realize there’s always going to be a certain segment of people who will say Oh it’s because you’re American or Oh it’s because you’re “rich” (LOL) or Oh well if you’ve got a gigantic camera filming you then that’s the explanation of why life is so sweet for me here. Total and utter crap. I’ve written several times about when I’ve been dead broke here in Romania. Certainly until recently I’ve never had a camera crew filming me. And yes while I’ve always been American, very few people knew that. Alex Dima had to intervene several times yesterday to tell people yes I really was American because I (apparently) speak Romanian good enough now that people don’t even believe it.

The only reason my life is sweet here is because I make it that way – and it isn’t my passport or my millions of dollars (LOL) or my charming good looks that make it that way. It’s my attitude. I have a good life here and people treat me well because of my attitude. Every single person I spoke with these past couple of days who got filmed, whether friends I’ve known for years or gypsies in the street, treated me well because of my attitude. I like just about everybody and so just about everybody likes me. And when we get together and have a chat, whether you’re a high-flying television journalist for a major network or two alcoholic homeless guys sleeping behind the dumpsters, we all get along and have a good time. And it makes life sweeter and better and more enjoyable and more fun and it has nothing to do with who has money or where they came from or anything else.

As I said, I don’t know what parts will make the show and which parts won’t. I believe a lot of this will be broadcast on December 1 (Romania’s national holiday) but I’m not 100% sure. Obviously if you own a television, keep your eyes peeled to ProTV because that’s where it will appear. I also shot some promos for the episode so I’m sure you’ll see my grinning face ahead of time as well (LOL). I definitely had a lot of fun and I think all of you (who speak Romanian anyway) are going to really enjoy what you see when it gets broadcast.

Well off to film some more stuff so stay tuned for more on the blog about that later. Also, a lot of what we did prompted some thinking on my part about some of the interesting social dynamics I’ve been witnessing and I know I definitely want to write a full post about that as well.

Again, my thanks go out to my (previously) unknown fan who ran into me on the street, Alex Dima and his crew from ProTV, as well as all of the wonderful people who graciously allowed themselves to be filmed as part of this thing. And since all those lonely years ago, I began my life here in Romania watching ProTV (since I had no cable and it was the only channel I could pick up with an antenna) to learn the language, it’s incredibly fitting that now that’s the circle has now become completed. It’s just really, really, REALLY been wonderful to be part of something so authentically positive.