Sommer and Lindsey in Romania

Sommer and Lindsey are traveling to Romania for two weeks in summer 2009 to report on the status of orphanages, 20 years after the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Their project is partially funded by a Meadows Exploration Award. Sommer ’08 graduated in December with degrees in journalism from Meadows School of the Arts and history from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Lindsey is a senior marketing major in Cox School of Business and a photojournalist.

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Current thoughts on Romania

An update from Sommer on Sail Right Into the Storm:

When we postponed the trip, Lindsey and I set a goal to expand our Romanian network. We want to reach out to all of our connections. So I sent a message to Arwen Kidd who worked on a documentary with a colleague of mine from University College London.

She has spent a considerable amount of time in Romania working on a lot of different projects (did her journalism thesis project there on the changing media landscape since communism to joining the EU; was originally hired to co-write a book about a rock band in Bucharest, ended up as the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Romanian Ice Hockey Federation; did photos for a number of Romanian-based magazines and NGOs; was communications coordinator for an international film festival based there; helped organize a human rights documentary fest with the Czech embassy and more).

From her resume, we decided she MIGHT know a thing or two about Romania. Maybe.

Her words of advice were helpful and some points got me thinking.

First she said responded to our blog by saying, “Number one thing to keep in mind is that Romania is very much a developed country. Although it’s not England, it is highly capitalistic, it is full of culture and entertainment (Bucharest and its ‘mall’ fixation is something in its own right, to be sure, plus great cafes and night-life), over all very business-minded, and really changing rapidly [even since I started going there back in early 2006.]

I’ve heard from a couple of people looking over our blog that they’ve gathered the impression we might think Romania is a very down-trodden third world country. We don’t. And Lindsey and I are making it a point not to try to peg a story into a hole sized to our perceptions (if our perceptions do not reflect the reality). We’re going with an open-mind and we’re going to investigate. We’re also researching, and I am pulling from my first-hand experiences from my trip in 2006.

Arwen also voiced a pretty reasonable question to the premise of our trip: The orphanage story is an old (and covered) one. What’s the new angle?
Our answer: Yes, it’s been covered. But not a lot has been written recently. And we’re going after the ‘then and now’ stories no one else has covered. We know the conditions the orphans faced right after communism collapsed. But what sort of system did the kids grow up in? And what are their options now?

And here are some random comments and tips she gave that I thought were interesting:

• The countryside is gorgeous. Mountains and beaches, and vineyard country too. it’s all there.
• Romanians are thoroughly hospitable (once you get past their sometimes cold first impression exteriors), and friendly people.
• Watch out for a drink pronounced ‘Polinkah’ however- known to kill that one is.
• Tsuica is the lesser version. Both are offered widely and drunk with hosts. Sometimes early in the morning. Romanians like to sip.

Thanks, Arwen, for the great feedback.

And to everyone else: feel free to share more tips. Our goal is to be practically Romanian by the time we get there. (Lindsey is working on a Romanian tan as we speak.)

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