Sunday, 25 August 2013

Does your world-view reflect you or the world?

Something I've often reflected on is where one draws the line between healthy optimism and living in denial.

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 :)


  1. I think slowly Romania is coming out from the dark.

    For example, here is the traier for the second episode of Wild Carpathia, that is aired these days on Travel Channel:

    In few weeks, the entire documentary (the second episode, the first already is) will be on youtube, Vimeo etc).

    For a detailed summary of Romanian regions and interesting places (hundreds of destinations), heavily illustrated with photos and videos, please let me remember you this page which contains a structured collection of links to short articles posted on a forum, each one accompanied with maps and at least once for each destination, with descriptions:

    1. Hi Andrei - thanks for those links! The Carpathians do look completely out of this world, and it's only too easy to get lost in the photos. I've fully realised I don't have any hope of trying to see even a fraction of everything Romania has to offer. Having been born and grown up in South Africa, I still can't claim to have seen more than a fraction of this country in almost 30 years! My mindset has now shifted away from trying to see everything, and rather leaving that to later should I get the opportunity to relocate. I can't stop thinking about crazy schemes to get a job offer there, but the truth is I've over-thought everything to the point where my mind is just shutting down. Here's to hoping that when I visit in December I can figure something out while 'on the ground'. Not the best time of the year to talk about jobs, I don't think, when it's bitterly cold and there's snow coming down lol.

  2. There is enormously to see in Romania, if we take only the mountains, each one of the ~70 ranges with its own particularities and hundreds of valleys, canyons etc. Nowhere in Europe there is such a natural diversity and perhaps neither a cultural one (so many contrasting ethnographic regions, ethnic groups, religions etc). I don't know how much the pictures can show, but on the field things appear much bigger, e.g., even few kms of mountains appear to be extremely vast and hard (or impossible) to cross because of the often very rugged relief, dense vegetation etc.

    Nevertheless,even if you can visit only a small amount, the experiences are so much enriching and refreshing afterwards, especially the mountain adventures, although during the trips themselves, you may encounter big dificulties, pain and dangers.

    I'm thinking for myself for a job in touristic journalism (photo / film based) or advertising, that would be ideally for doing what I like and exploring so many places. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like this would be preferred by you too. Maybe until you come here I will have something concrete and can help you too. Sorry in advance if will remain only a promise :).

    1. Have I ever told you that I specialised in photojournalism at University, Andrei? For myself, I realised quickly that it's not a sustainable career by itself - these days I really don't know how professional photographers even manage to pay for their expensive camera equipment, never mind manage to make a living. If you could get a full-time commission from a body like Associated Press or Reuters then it might be worthwhile, but otherwise you're going to struggle. Something I've been thinking of doing is writing a book about Romania when I get there - maybe you can take the photos, and we can publish it together! Again it's not a full-time job, but it's something nice and it will be profitable.

  3. Yes, I remember you saying that you finished photojurnalism.

    In Romania the situation may be different for a professional photographer. I know somebody who for more than 13 years lived and lives from that, although he has a very low level of education and his photos are very amateurish (although he has relatively good cameras). But he worked in television and over time made lot of networks.

    And he said recently to me that the market of photojurnalism in Romania is relaxed, I suppose because those who want to work as professional photographs and are really good prefer to works abroad and the others don't meet the demands of publishers, because the Romanian schools are bad in educating people for this and also, photography is more than visual skills.

    Anyway, as I said with other ocassion, the people working in media in Romania are filthy, just one example: these days were massive demonstrations all around the country and even in some foreign cities against Roșia Montană gold mining project and almost all televisions and newspapers presented it very short, in some cases not at all and trying to make it look a minor event, because all of them were bribed by the mining company under the mask of money for advertising.

    Myself, I'm preparing that project I said, I have also some promise from somebody for another project that doesn't require so much skills but also may be just a hymera.

    The photos I already made are having big issues, the camera being really cheap and also I didn't put much effort when taking them (not using a tripod, not analyzing much the composition), although I worked very much at editing them (up to an hour for each one in some cases). I was requested by Getty (through Flickr) to put some of them for sale but nobody wanted them apparently. If you think they could be good for something, I would be glad to see them used by you.


    1. Andrei, I think photojournalism is like everything else - if you're good at it AND have the right contacts you can make money, and if you're not and don't, then you won't ;)

      I really think investing into a decent camera is worthwhile: you can get some really good compact cameras these days for next to nothing: I've personally got a Sony DSC-HX200V (I think I've told you that before?) and I absolutely love it. Best R5 000 (around 1 700 lei) I've ever spent! The only problem is that it doesn't have a flash hotshoe, but then I don't have a spare R3 000 for a dedicated flash (my other one broke) so it's fine. The best thing is the in-camera editing that it does, and the dynamic range is really good. Oh, and it doubles as an HD video camera. Enough advertising, lol, but you get the idea!

      As for what's happening with the journalists, it might be interesting if you just sent a non-aggressive e-mail to one of the newspapers and ask the editor why there aren't any stories on Rosia Montana ... having worked as a newspaper journalist I can tell you that often there just isn't enough time to work on the complex stories, so newspapers end up getting filled with whatever is easier to produce. Maybe the newspapers are also afraid of being sued (you just know that big corporations would threaten legal action for anything negative).

      Good luck with your career decisions there ... just be careful that you pick a path that will leave you financially secure. You can always make career changes later, but you cannot always escape out of financial difficulties if you find yourself unemployed with nobody to support you and no savings. That's my theory!

  4. Thanks for the camera recommendations, I will check those models's specifications.

    About Roșia Montană protests: now is the tenth day of massive demonstrations, the prim minister announced that as result of protests the mining project will be dropped so the televisions started to broadcast the demonstrations more extensive. It seems is a victory.

    1. That's great news Andrei! :) I'm happy for Romanians! If you have any questions about the camera I'll be happy to answer ... you have my e-mail, so feel free to mail me.