Thursday, October 25, 2007

Romanian Word of the Week

Misto (Mish-toe)
Derivation: Roma or Gypsy
Meaning: Cool

Update: The embassy has promised that it will hold my drivers license when it is sent to them by the police, so I don't have to move to Arkansas again just to drive. I do have to find my courage though. My invisible plastic I-can-drive-anything shield was cracked in the accident along with the Skoda.
Stay tuned.

They Ain't From Around Here.

Last week I tried to call my US bank on the 800 number. They wouldn't accept calls from Romania.

And when I typed the word "Romania" along with another search word parameter into one of the internal search engines of a site I visit frequently, an odd thing happened. The first half dozen responses all said approximately the same thing. "What to do if my account has been stolen." Hmmm. Shouldn't have surprised me though. When I was on eBay, and my account WAS stolen, it was stolen by, yup, you guessed it, Romanians. Well, not exactly Romanians. By Gypsies.

As any Romanian will tell you, Gypsies are NOT Romanian.

Now the Romanians I am lucky enough to live among and work with, along with your usual assortment of jerks, and geeks, social in-epts and classy-smoothies, dumb-bunnies and smart alecks that you'll find in any random population drift, are, for the most part bright, well-groomed, ambitious, optimistic, hard-working, family oriented, supportive of friends, smart as Rhodes scholars, and all-around swell folks to have added into your buddy lists. (Not to mention how gorgeous most of the women are. I'm sure that there are homely Romanian women here, but they must keep them chained in the attics or the basements, because, honestly, so far I have never seen any on the streets of Bucharest.)

And then there are the gypsies.

Here is a group that writes its own stereotype.

Except for some enterprises involving fresh markets (piata) (pee-aht-saas), fruits, vegetables and flowers, gypsies occupations often include liberating your passport, your traveler's cheques, and your hotel keys, putting your bank account on a forced reduction diet, keeping to themselves in a way that would make David Koresh and the Branch Davidians seem like blabbermouths, and training five-year-olds to look like sex-kittens or Dickensian urchins enough for handouts, depending on the best advantage. (Not to mention crumbling, rusty Dacia truck driver gypsies aiming at poor, unsuspecting Ami ex-pat Skoda drivers for their probable insurance. Opps. Sorry. Didn't mean to get started on that again.)

Unfortunately, for most of the world, think Romanian, and think email fraud, think Ponzi scheme, think paying ten thousand Euros to win a fictitious million, think hi-jacked eBay account. Too bad. Because, more accurately, it should be think real estate fraud, think "Just click here to reconfirm your account password," think paying ten bucks for a genuine non-existent Sony Erikson or Patek Phillipe anything, think gypsy. And leave the poor Romanians in peace.

Well, I’m a spoiled American, who, deluded or not, loves to believe that I have no prejudices (except for the Dacia …. Sorry…never mind) at all. So I decided to do a bit of gypsy research to learn more than just the myth that gypsies won’t cross into churches because it’s hallowed ground, and something about lightening striking them dead, but the outside edges at the egress are perfect Sunday assault pickings for “orphans” costumed in shabby and rehearsed in impoverished to run after you with “alms?” outstretched.

And guess what? The Romanians are right. The gypsies are not Romanians. They’re not even Balkans. They really ain’t from around here. Blame the Pakistani. (see below). It’s just that no one seems to have been able to convince them in the last seven hundred years to go home.

But to be honest, no gypsy has ever invited me over for dinner to talk, so maybe I am being influenced by my non-gypsy friends, and, ok, I'll say it, just the teeeeeensiest bit, ulp, prejudiced.

Begin Gypsy History Lesson:

The Gypsy peoples originate from Sind region now in Pakistan. Their Rom language is close to the older forms of Indian languages. The three tribes of Rom, Sinti, and Kale probably left India after a succession of campaigns in Sind through the C11, initially spending time in Armenia and Persia, then moving into the Byzantine Empire after the Seljuk Turk attacks on Armenia.
Within the Byzantine Empire they dispersed into the Balkans reaching Wallachia (1385) and Moldavia (1370) ahead of this area falling to the Ottoman Turks. Other groups also moved through India to Gujarat and south of Delhi. Gypsy populations can still be found along all these migration routes.
When entering west Europe they initially had letters of protection from the King of Hungary. This privileged situation did not last long as amazement at their way of life commonly led to hostilities. The Gypsy way of life still leads to hostilities from the people of their host nations. Europeans regard "private property" as sacrosanct, whereas gypsies do not have a word for "possess", which gives rise to two incompatible ways of life and a continual problem of gypsies being regarded as "thieves" from the European's view.
In each host nation gypsies appear to take on the religion, names and language of their hosts, but within the Rom they maintain their Rom language, names, music, customs and Indian looks. This tight community has meant that after some six hundred years there is still a large population of gypsies not integrated or assimilated with Romanians.
From the time of their arrival in Romania Gypsies were the slaves of the landowners, only to be emancipated in 1851. While in Romania some of the Gypsies took to speaking a version of Romanian called Bayesh which can be heard in some of the songs of Gypsy groups recorded in Hungary. Nowadays about 40% of the Gypsies still speak Romany and many can still be seen travelling in lines of carts along the roads of Romania.


immanuel pikant said...

Marla Alupoaicei said...

Dear Shelly,

Hello! I enjoyed reading your blog. My husband, Catalin, is Romanian. He and I met in 1998 and now operate an intercultural marriage ministry called Leap of Faith at Blessings-

Marla Alupoaicei