Romania Report: We met a man in Bucharest who quietly listened to our conversation, glancing into his rearview mirror every now and again, before deciding that he wanted to engage. He began by pointing out a building that used to be the site of a large Lenin monument– gesturing at the role of communism in Romanian history and culture- before it was taken down after the bloodiest of Eastern European revolutions, the one that overthrew dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.
We respectfully asked about capitalism, specifically: Are things better, or are things worse? His initial, immediate response was that things are better- that people are making more money, moving up the social strata. His remarks about capitalism and industry centered around maritime and shipping activities, the country’s premier source of income driving revenue.
Though the more we delved, the more we uncovered other issues. Romania has a democracy of sorts, but as with most all republics, corruption is not a foreign concept. While capitalism has provided opportunities, the unemployment rate is high. Millions leave the country for better opportunities. We asked about women’s rights, and he became quiet, almost solemn as if he knew it was sensitive terrain to tread carefully while simultaneously being one he was still navigating and grappling with himself. He just said “yes, yes” then after a moment added that it was the tradition and the culture. This is a justification for at best, bad behavior, at worst reprehensible - his response encapsulated the status quo/hopeless nature of the problem. I’ll leave it at that. We asked about the produce: it is not treated with chemicals or harsh pesticides. In fact, Romania has an abundance of natural wealth- too many to list here. But, Prince Charles owns property, and backs more than one sustainable tourism venture. It was good fortune that our new friend spoke impeccable English and was able to give us an incredible primer that was perfectly tailored to the conversation we were having about the sustainability of a small performing arts company within the country’s economy, speaking to the cultural temperature and receptivity to the notion as well.