As a South African, it's something you ask yourself a lot. Do you keep a running total of all the potholes in the street as you drive to work, and allow each one to make your mood a little bit worse - arriving at your office depressed and angry? Or do you set out from work with a plan to avoid the worst potholes, and rather admiring potholes which have been filled?
This can be applied anywhere, of course. What weighting do you give to your experiences? Are you depressed if you get cut off in traffic, AND the ATM you try using isn't working, AND your cellphone call gets dropped by the network, AND you buy a sandwich is stale, AND you realise you cannot afford that thing you really want?
Or do you manage to view all of these incidents separately instead of cumulatively, and measure them against all the times you had a great time driving and singing to your favourite song on the radio, AND you withdrew money effortlessly from ATMs, AND you had ate really great sandwiches, AND you spent hours talking to people you care about on your cellphone?
It's difficult to find balance in our own lives, and far more so when we try to present any semblance of the 'truth' to other people. All we can hope to represent is the truth for ourselves at this very moment, in this context, in this society, in this country, given our current emotional state.
Obviously the thing that got me thinking about this was disagreeing with a certain author about a certain book he's written about Romania. It turned out to be a collection of a wide range of negative microcosms, and in my view (right now in this country at this time given how I'm feeling - lol) it's insanely difficult to present an objective snapshot of a country.
If you think about it, you could write a book about all the experiences you feel and thoughts you have while drinking your morning cup of coffee - clearly summarising years' worth of experiences in a foreign country into a few hundred pages is going to be an exercise in omission rather than inclusion.
The same thing goes for this blog, of course. I'd like to think that as I learn about Romania, my 'voice' and insights into the country change. There are a million ways to emigrate to a country, so my experiences are only going to be informative in that they happened to me, rather than that they'd necessarily happen to you (e.g. if you're not married to a Romanian woman, you're going to have a very different path in).
All the way back in April I said in an e-mail that this is what I was really hoping for, when I looked in vain between travel guides for any mention of Romania at all between 'Portugal' and 'Rome':
I've realised that what I want from Romania I'm not going to find in a book. At least, I don't think anybody's written the kind of book about Romania I'd like to read ... a road-trip across Romania, heavily illustrated with photographs, details about every area visited, a little bit of historical background, discussions with Romanians about life in Romania ... and maybe a nice DVD packaged with it featuring video footage of the trip.Here's to hoping I get a chance to write that book, and am lucky enough to find a distribution agent for it. I just don't know if the world is ready for a Romania without Dracula and an over-riding focus on Communist throwbacks in it - the sad truth is that the real, rich, vibrant and complex truth of a country gets lost too easily, especially when commercial interests are involved. For now, blogging it is :)