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The Lion’s Roar, A Community and Compassion Initiative tells a sad story.

In 2005 Laura Simms, a US storyteller and activist,  faced with the tragic reality of caged starving animals in a Zoo from a small Romanian town, had a plan:

“within four years the zoo will be up to EU standards, the animals will be healthy and Buhusi itself will have a practical and self-sustaining plan for industry, cultural activities, tolerance and tourism.”

After a few months the project initiators learned first hand about “greed and a kind of pride that stood between change and comfort” of local people responsible for the zoo. Players and partners were reevaluated in 2006 only to be challenged again in January 2007 as Romania was entering the EU. The Buhusi Zoo did not meet the European standards at that time and was closed down.  The initial dreams had to be reduced to a main dream of finding new homes for the animals. Two years later the last of the initial 45 animals found a better place to live.

The Lion’s Roar shared the story of this project and stories about the animals with love and compassion. Bella’s story is just one of them, one that has a happy ending.

The four-year plan was successful. At least for most of the animals. It took the hard work and the dedication of passionate people to save the animals from a reality that was killing them.

The questions that I have now are: who has the plan, how many years and where we could find the passion to fight for the people in Buhusi (and other places in Romania) whose lives during Communism and after resembled, in so many ways,  the lives of caged creatures.

Laura Simms tells stories on “How to find Romania“. I don’t know if she adds anything from The Lion’s Roar experience to her grandmother’s stories but I am very interested to listen to the (human) stories that she collected during her work in Romania.

I often have problems when translating syntagmas related to community from English to Romanian.  My understanding of the complex work that needs to be done inside a community to support it and to allow its members to grow happened in an English speaking context.  This is how I came to naturally understand what “community building” means however I am still working to find a Romanian syntagma that would carry the same meaning (and not just merely be a lifeless word by word translation).

In the meanwhile,  I am happy to find that,  without giving it a meaningful name/title, people from different regions of Romania are doing community building work through dance and music!

For example people got together following the sad event of MJ’s death and put together  this dance.  It is the first time when such a response comes from an informal community from Romania in such an organized way.

Another community of more than one hundred children and youth from different backgrounds, schools and institutions was formed during five weeks of rehearsal for dancing the Stravinsky’s Firebird that was presented on the main scene of the Romanian National Theater early this month.  The participants with no previous dancing experience did not know that they were becoming a community and that through dance they were learning to trust themselves and each other. This has been the intention of  “Jungen Rumänen eine Chance!” charitable association and from what we can see in images and read on blogs it has been a real success for everybody involved in the project.

One winner of this community dancing project is eight years old Marian who had Firebird in his life after having a life in a cardboard box in Sibiu train station.

Last but not least I am happy to learn about an art and education project transformed by the Rahova community at the Community Center laBOMBA . As Maria Draghici puts it “they know how to express themselves in an artistic way, it’s just not in the way we have tried to teach them how to do it.”   Supporting the community’s voice is not an easy task (especially in such a challenged community) but the fact that, at the laBOMBA community center, common language was discovered is a huge step forward.

Congratulations to all that worked for and that took part in these projects! Hope that you all will have future projects where you will get to continue this kind of learning in and with communities!

For the first time in 5 years of living in USA I’ve  spent the 4th of July with a small group of Americans.  As natural as it is to say Our Father before dinner, God Bless America was sang before tonight’s dinner.  No unnecessary introductions, just the song, a few skipped words, goose bumps and small tears.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

In Romania a similar moment, even in a small crowd celebrating our First of December,  would be cataloged as right extremism. In USA you  don’t get a denigrating label (as far as I know) for this. Some say this is because you have freedom, some say because it is not politically correct. It may be also because people cannot really see you. As an Orthodox Christian(but not only),  you still have to wear a mask in the  society. Yes, you are free to worship whatever but why are you so different? …and at one point you get tired of explaining. (Nobody cares anyway).  Depending on the  community, you sometimes need to wear a mask in your own church.

We, who came to learn about freedom first from books and movies,   often don’t expect that, once established,  freedom is not free.  We have to continually give something in exchange for freedom for “our people” being them our community, our county, region, state, world.  Compared to other prices like someone’s life, dignity or identity,  a mask is a small one.  However, to get to this price,  many people paid much more along USA history.  (It’s market economy 101,  a friend of mine would say.)

Will the USA be able to allow maskless people to simply be? Don’t know. All I know is that, at the moment, in Romania, even though the Orthodox communities don’t have a mask they might, just might,  get used to the “right extremist” box they are put in and act accordingly.

Having a Communist past, we are just learning about how our face looks like. Some look in the mirror for this, some on the window heading West. In any case we don’t like masks. What we don’t know is that we are expected to wear one and figure very fast  how to wear it properly in the European society. You see, very few people (if any) are looking for God’s blessing of the European Union. And in Romania … we used to ask for God’s blessing even before cutting our bread at dinner.

Following my heart and Mado‘s guidence,

For M.

She’s not ready to go

But she’s tied to.

The children will be looking for her eyes

to take their side on quarrels with the others.

The air will remain still for the time being

She’ll work some place else without really dreaming.

The books will await, computers will boot

exhibits will manage without her input.

The others are stronger and history’s with them,

They are stones but illusion makes them out of cream.

She got tired of working the work

while the others are talking her talk.

It’s painful for her but, can you see?

She’ll leave and we’ll be left with an  empty library.

“You’ll have the books, the others are guarding!”

We have them… up on 3 meter shelving.

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