“Today’s job” in Armenis village, Southern Carpathians, Romania

March 5, 2014

We’ll drop either the roll up banners, the projector or the bags. We’re at the door, cannot go back, cannot go in. A long line of kids, hand-in-hand two and two, are leaving the cultural center. It’s a rehearsal day, they finished now and the tutor asks each one of them who’s waiting for them.

The children are exuberant and loud. From the way they move you can tell they’re in good shape. Some of them repeat the moves they learnt today. The tutor sees me and apologizes: he’ll just cross the street with two girls, they are too little to cross by themselves and there’s nobody waiting for them. And he’ll be back.

He’s been leading the cultural center of Armenis for the last twenty-four years of his thirty-five years of work. In his office, there’s a table and some shelves. The shelves are for trophies, prizes, medals and diplomas. The table is for guests. Of course, I can smoke, he doesn’t, but guests can do anything there. “There in the office, or there in the village?”, I ask. He smiles. He owns the office and God owns the village, he says. The coffee is hot and he serves it as in coffee shops: two sachets of sugar, one coffee creamer and a tea spoon.

The next thirty minutes are about ”Armenisana” the ensemble he founded, leads and tutors. For the last fifteen years. At first, I nod, but soon I realize the story would flow with or without me nodding. After thirty minutes I ask about the money issue, everything else has been said. The answer is not a word; it’s a blehh, a phoa, a chrr. But he founded a cultural association, too, for the money mainly, it’s easier that way, he says.

Now he understands. We are here for the same reason. To help and encourage people from Armenis to get together in a legally constituted association. With the European bison coming to his village in the spring, tourists might come from all over the world. Maybe pouring, maybe dropping by, we’ll see. But no matter how many, they won’t bring sandwiches from home, nor will they carry camp beds. They will also need receipts and invoices. “Will people in Armenis be happy with that?”, I ask. ” Will they want to become small and neat entrepreneurs?”

The answer sounds lighter than the previous one, but still. It depends, he says. So many people have promised so many things here… And people trusted all and lost trust in all. ” But now it’s not about us doing things for them, but about them doing things for themselves”, I say.

“Well, that’s another story, I’ll tell you how things are!”, he says and breathes in, eager to unlock other local stories and facts.

I had to interrupt. People started coming and I was there to welcome them. I leave the office with the soul full of stories and the mind with a single, bothering fact: after thirty-five years of employment, twenty-four years of directorate and an ensemble that’s almost a legend in the county and beyond, he earns 770 lei a month. It’s less than two hundred euros.

Do I believe in what I’ll be preaching at the meeting? Not only that I do, but I must. Even if it’s only for the flock of dancing children. Tomorrow they can fly away, to better countries, places in Europe that maybe pay more than two hundred euros a month to legend makers. But they can also stay. Them staying tomorrow is our job today.

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