Je ne suis aucune Madame

This post is dedicated to Alina.

Once upon a time, The Poetess and I were flying together on a plane of the defunct Malev Airlines, and, since talking to people when I fly keeps me from barfing and since I was in a shitty mood (I think), I decided to pester her about something completely innocuous like the shaking off of dead skin flakes. During this time, of course, I was gracefully picking my teeth for something stuck in there at breakfast (speedy departure; don’t judge!). One of the conclusions of that conversation was that neither of us is a true lady. We came up with examples and decided we do not fit the criteria.

Last week, for the first time in my life, someone referred to me as Mrs. [insert last name here] and it startled me; and, naturally, with me being the lady that I am (after a little wine), the most mature thing I could do at that time was to send a collective message to colleagues and students, to make it clear that Mrs. [last name] is my mother. Oh, la classe!

No, it wasn’t the first time in my life actually, but it was the first time someone referred to me that way in Romanian, which made it even scarier. Not even telemarketers have done that, because they are stupidly instructed to call people Miss/Mrs./Mr. + first name because some idiot decided it doesn’t sound as childish as it actually does and that it creates a connection  (it doesn’t). In the report my boss drafted after that awful meeting I told you about here, I am referred to as Ms. [last name] which was also not as scary. I like this title, it’s very convenient, and I use it very often, too. Unfortunately, Romanian does not have an equivalent for this handy feminist concoction, so we are stuck with resorting to Mrs. (if we are polite) or with the ever-ridiculous question “So are you a Mrs. or a Miss?” (if we are sleazy jerks).

Why did I bring all of this up? Well because one of the things I have been trying hard to get used to since I started working in Brussels (and occasionally Strasbourg), is being called Madame about twenty times a day. “Bonjour, Madame”, “Oui, Madame”, “Du thé ou du café, Madame?”, “Merci, Madame”, “Bonne journée, Madame!”, ya know, the usual. I just can’t…

I wish I had a scientific explanation for my aversion towards this word, but as you may have noticed I don’t have scientific explanations for anything much. The result of my training, I think; most interpreters know a little bit about everything, but few have in-depth knowledge about a particular subject. Anyway, the first, most obvious reason that I could think of was the cultural difference. In Romania (at least in Transylvania), it is rare that people address each other just by saying Mr/Mrs/Sir/Madam without anything before or after, anything like a title, a last name, that person’s occupation or even an adjective or a pronoun to show affection or consideration. It just sounds BAD! Don’t get me wrong, I have heard it used, but never by well-educated people, and whenever I hear some chav saying “Doamnă” (Mrs/Missus/Madam/lady) without attaching the vocative to anything, I just shudder. It’s like using “Mister” or “Missus” the way children sometimes do in English.

Now “Domnișoară” (Miss) is very often used without any concern for the fact that it is rude, condescending and reeks of unwanted familiarity, but that’s the kind of society I live in. I have never heard anyone complain about this so far, so is it all in my head? Well, the Romanian code of good manners doesn’t say much on the subject. The polite forms of address almost always include a name or a profession after the title, but apparently it is also considered acceptable to address someone with a simple “Domnule/Doamnă” followed by nothing, in the case of strangers.

What do I do? Nothing. I just don’t use any titles at all when talking to someone I don’t know, ever, in any language. I actively encourage my students to not address me using the politeness pronoun and I ask people to call me by my first name. Can this all be explained through a mere cultural difference? Probably not. It is also true that us Transylvanians are less formal than the rest of Romania, at least from what I’ve seen, but surely interpreters should find it easy to move past cultural differences, no? I mean, I haven’t heard of my Spanish colleagues having any issues with being called “Monsieur” or “Madame” in Belgium or France, even though Spain is the least formal country I’ve ever been to.

The truth is I am afraid of formality. Though I’m fairly reserved in my relationships with people, I don’t think I’ve ever gone past college in this respect. For one thing, I went from struggling student to well-off globetrotter in a pretty short span of time, and, for the next, I’m afraid of getting old. When did I have to start dealing with grown-up stuff anyway? Who are all these people in airports, and restaurants, and conference venues, talking to me like I’m an adult? I guess, then, that it is also a form of regression that I may sink into, as a way of seeking shelter from the responsibilities of my new life, as well as a way to cope with the gap between a culture that respects neither women nor children and an ultra-formal, yet egalitarian one that I haven’t quite managed to understand yet.

Yeah, that, and the fact that I am no Madam, I am not a lady. Ladies do not yell or curse or gossip or say inappropriate things; they don’t get angry and start bashing people, even if those people are chavs or sleazy jerks or idiot bosses. Ladies get what they want by using tact and charm, not by going in head-first with the “my way or the highway” attitude. Ladies let shit slide sometimes, because they know it’s not worth the hassle. Ladies are decent even to people who don’t deserve it. I can only aspire to that.

Interpreting for Europe: the Survival Guide

The thing that springs to my mind when I think about my status in this profession is an episode in “House” where the good doctor was forced (by Cuddy, I think) to hold a lecture, for some reason. You probably remember, it’s the episode where he (sort of) reveals how he got his bad leg. The line that got stuck in my mind was one very shocking sentence that went something like this: “Rest assured, you will kill people!”

Well, in conference interpreting we don’t really have people’s lives in our hands, but that advice, in a different form, can apply to us as well, especially to those of us who take their job too seriously (I’ll get back to this someday). Even the most seasoned of interpreters make mistakes, so, the sooner you get used to that idea, the better. I’m sent aback sometimes by the overconfidence of interpreting students who contradict feedback, want to add five languages before they graduate, and imagine they have two retours). However, I am hopeful that reality will hit them in the face someday… which brings me to my first point.

1. You Will Make Mistakes

Do you know all of your experienced colleagues who can understand everything the speakers are talking about AND give every detail in impeccable language and flawless presentation? Yeah, you can’t! The sooner you get used to the idea, the better. This is one of those jobs where you get better with time, so bide your time and use it to learn.

Of course other interpreters do it better! They’ve been at this for a while, probably working for the institutions for years now. They’ve interpreted in plenty of meetings on the same subject, they know the procedure, they’re already familiar with the terminology. This increases their ability to anticipate, thereby reducing the effort they put into deciphering the message, and into searching for the right terms, leaving energy available for recoding, rephrasing, and packing the whole thing up nicely. Patience, padawan, you will get there someday, but not today.

Yes, it is frustrating to have to cut through ideas, give the bare essential, all with a pretty sterile presentation, but safety is your best bet for a while. It’s even more frustrating to miss information, not to understand what’s being said, to find new words you had never heard of in a language you thought was your B. However, you’d better make peace with the thought that there is not much more you can do, given the circumstances.

2. Remove Parasites

In an earlier post, I was talking about some of the things I’ve been getting used to since working for the institutions. According to the definition we have learned and established during our master’s programme, some of those factors, if you allow them to eat at you, are called parasites. Parasites in interpretation are imaginary issues, things that get to you, because, in fact, there are more serious problems that you haven’t dug into yet. When I say big problems, I’m referring to the ones I listed above: not understanding what’s being said on the floor or in your relay booth, not knowing the subject matter, insufficient preparation, not enough practice with one of your languages, or simply problems relating to the difficulty of the meeting, from all points of view. Naturally, when the job is hard, you need to focus even more, and any clicking of the pen, gust of wind, uncomfortable chair or extra testosterone will get on your nerves. It may sound childish, but it did take quite a while for me to figure out what the real problems were and how to tackle them. So the “getting used to” part was more of a treatment of symptoms rather than  an in-depth healing process. It felt amazing to see how, after I started learning to prepare more efficiently and to understand whatta hell is going on in that place, the “background noise” started to disappear.

3. The Bottom of the Food Chain Is a Comfortable Place

Now, while I did come to this particular conclusion myself (too), the wording does not belong to me and even an anonymous blogger should give credit where credit is due. In spite of working in teams, interpreting is, essentially, a lonely profession. Of course it would be useful to have a bit of an “orientation” course when we get there, to break the fall. It is assumed that you should have a pool of knowledge of your own when you get accredited, but you couldn’t possibly know all the inner-workings of several notoriously complicated institutions. If it takes those people a year to agree on a “milk and fruit” programme for elementary school children, then  I shouldn’t feel bad for taking a year to start feeling comfortable in the booth.

Another thing: breeding teacher’s pets the way we do in Romania is extremely damaging for anyone’s psyche in the long-run, not to mention their career. It reduces people to the status of children perpetually seeking attention and approval from the “big people”. I’m not a fan of “know your place” policies, but it’s useful to know that you are, after all, a beginner.

Your life becomes a whole lot easier when you stop trying to impress people…

De ce-mi place mie Hrușcă

Profit de faptul că (aproape) nimeni nu citește blogul ăsta și bag o postare festivă în română. Că de-aia:

1. Cântă. Și nimic mai mult. Cântă cu o voce frumoasă și curată, cântă el și chitara lui, cântă unuia și aceluiași public de mulți mulți ani și publicul se tot întoarce la el și aduce an de an întăriri. Cântă fără pretenții, fără falseturi și căpreli, parcă fără nici un efort, cântă de drag, pe limba lui, cu cuvinte simple, cu accentul lui. Cântă pentru că oamenilor le e drag și lor să-l asculte și tot la fel ar cânta la el în curte fără să-l asculte nimeni.

2. Pentru că dă mai departe. Hrușcă nu strică nici melodia, nici versurile, le lasă așa cum le-a învățat, nu urcă notele și nici nu le coboară ca să arate cât de bine știe el să cânte. Hrușcă stie că nu-s ale lui colindele alea și le lasă în pace așa cum sunt ele de sute de ani. Nu le creștinează pe cele păgâne, nu cântă despre nașterea lui Christos în bucile goale, cu cornițe de ren, lângă un brad artificial, n-aduce un cor ad-hoc de babe behăite să-l acompanieze, nu bagă bas și tobe și masă de mixaj. Știe sau simte că, fără tradiție, colindele alea sunt vorbe goale cu percuție.

3. Pentru că, după atâta amar de ani, colindele cântate de el sunt în continuare preferatele mele, că nu eram întreagă de Crăciun dacă n-acultam cu frate-meu colindele lui pe vinil (vă mai amintiți de discurile de vinil?) și îmi plăcea așa de mult să le cânt în Ajun, abia așteptam să merg la colindat. Și acum, când ți-e și frică să mai deschizi ușa de Sărbători (la oraș, cel puțin), colindele lui îmi merg la suflet, deși le-am auzit de sute de ori de când eram copilă.

What to Do When You Suck

I’ll be damned if I know!

Most interpreters who write blogs are full of advice, which is always useful for a novice. But what I never see on interpreting blogs (maybe I haven’t looked hard enough) is self-criticism. It is always other people who suck: beginners, agencies, speakers. I think it is presumed that if an interpreter should speak on his or her own behalf, they are only worthy of opening their mouths if they have lessons to teach, advice to offer, both based on an immaculate track record.

I do not have advice. I’m apparently slow to learn and to create strategies for myself. I do it well when I finally do it, but I trip and fall a few times before I learn my lesson. I navigate through. Until one day one of those meetings comes. A meeting where everything that can go wrong goes wrong, where, in spite of all your prep work, no strategy works. The content is highly specialized and extremely complex, the topic is completely new, terminology is abundant, language is cryptic, there are no equivalents in your mother tongue (because you come from a country that had no idea what a market economy was until 20 years ago and that imports both solutions and problems (along with their names)), the speakers insist on speaking their own strange versions of English, with thick accents, bad grammar, long digressions, incomplete sentences and fast.

You’ve read all the documents, but when the experts start to speak, their words fly through you, without ringing any familiar bells. You know better than to focus on just words, but you fail to see a message beyond the banking jargon. Your technique has saved you on a number of occasions, but now the speaker virtually mops the floor with you when he starts to speak about the resolution (yes, really!) of financial institutions, but makes long digressions about German administrative law. You know better than to fall into that trap, but you fall anyway. You’re so happy when you hear words you  finally do understand, that you make up sentences with them, not knowing whether that’s what the speaker said or not. You do guess-work, not interpretation. Bref, you suck! Big time.

Since I found no mention of this kind of situation in the literature, I don’t know what one is to do in such cases. Since I was completely out of my depth (OK, I was fucking drowning!), I was at a loss for any ideas, solutions, strategies, techniques that I could adopt to save myself. I wish I could say I was trying to keep afloat, but what I did was manage not to die. So what does one do? I don’t know, but I can tell you what I did.

1. I cried.

So cry! Let it all out. You’re a mediocre to bad interpreter, after one year of working almost every week, you are not capable of delivering in a meeting. Your technique is shit, you can’t speak your own mother tongue, you don’t understand English, your teachers were idiots for ever letting you pass exams, your bosses are dumb for ever letting you near a console. You are never getting work again! You thought you were smart, but your whole life is a lie. All your peers are doing better than you. Your parents are delusional, you don’t deserve their love. You are almost 27 and still unmarried, you old maid, you! You have adult acne, you’ve been putting on (more) weight, your roots show, you have split ends. You are the typical subject of passive-aggressive posts on interpreter blogs. Well, not you personally, but fucktards like you.

Anything else wrong with you? Good! Moving on:

2. Disconnect.

Try to nap, and, if you don’t have time, read something that doesn’t have to do with work for about 30 or 40 minutes, watch the news or a light TV show. It’s good to remember that your job isn’t everything out there and that there are people who are worse off than you (as cynical as it may sound, other people’s problems do have the gift of making me stop whining).

Done? OK.

3. Prepare for tomorrow’s meeting.

And do it well. Don’t underestimate the difficulty or plunge into the abyss of despair. You have to be in shape because your damaged self-esteem can’t handle another botched day in the booth. Work well. You’ll have time to think about how bad you were later. Now go to sleep.

So this is what I did. I cried my eyeballs out, read a magazine, prepared for the next meeting, went to bed and did all right in the booth on the following day, even though it wasn’t easy at all. But it isn’t over. There is a step 4.

4. Figure out what went wrong and how you can keep it from going wrong in the future (if you ever get contracts again).

This is guess-work again, because I have no way of knowing for sure.

  • We don’t do pretty: too much focus on terminology – in trying to avoid Anglicisms (big no-no in our booth), I attempted to come up with the best equivalents in Romanian. That meant 4-5 words in Romanian for every 2 words in English, which led me to waste time and to miss the essential parts of the ideas that followed. I lost who was doing what, whether certain actions are good or bad in the speaker’s view etc. I was too busy speaking at certain points, and forgot to listen.
  • When forced to choose between text and speaker, choose the speaker! I have never learned how to work with a text in the booth, so I’m still at the stage where it hurts my work to read, listen and speak at the same time. In my desperate attempts to not lag behind, I thought the ppt presentations could help me keep up, but they didn’t, as I wasted a lot of energy looking at the slides, instead of listening and trying to understand (something, anything).
  • Freestyling is not always a good idea: I’m not so sure of this one, because either people understand everything better than me or are better at hiding the fact that they don’t understand. If they do bullshit at all, their bullshit sounds a lot more plausible than mine. I don’t have experience, my BS is less than credible, anyone can call my bluffs. Interpret, don’t guess!

I don’t know what difference that would have made a few days ago, but I’ll be better prepared for the next meeting on the resolution of financial and credit institutions (you read that right!).

5. Apologize.

This should probably have been step 1, but I was too busy trying to find a bathroom to cry in.

And life isn’t all that bad… You’re a good human being, your friends like you, your parents would love you no matter how dumb you turned out to be. Sure, you could lose a few pounds, but your boyfriend still thinks you’re sexy, and if you had a six-pack a year ago, you can get one again. A day at the beauty salon and you’ll be as good as new.

You remember there were conferences and meetings where you did well to great, in spite of the difficulty. You’re not a complete idiot. Life is good. There will be other meetings…

Unless…

One of the colleagues in the booth that awful day was your boss…

So it’s a good thing I didn’t set this blog out to be an interpreting blog, because I may need to change my career soon…

On Being Bi…

Bilingual that is…

Jokes and cheesy metaphors aside, my last post (greatly inspired by this) was mainly an allegory of how I was too lazy and never well-disciplined enough to learn French properly and how the way French is taught over here is really getting in the way of students liking and using the language actively. You cannot learn a language from books, you cannot like a language when it’s being shoved down your throat by frustrated teachers who think English is overrated. You learn a language by using it, by immersing in it. In junior high, the books we used were at least 25 years old. The language in them was outdated, with too big of a focus on grammar and almost none on vocabulary. We were not introduced to literature, pop culture (movies, comics, music, stand-up comedy, you name it), the books had been passed down for I don’t know how many generations, they were old, the pictures were black and white, they told almost nothing of French history, culture, the cities, the personalities, modern life, sports, slang… In highschool, we had French students visiting us and they did not speak the language in our books.

Bottom line, the system and the teachers didn’t know how to sell their stuff. We played hookey so much, our junior high French teacher forgot she had class with us. And be honest: have you ever met kids with self-discipline so motivated that they take up something completely new on their own and just because? Maybe I’m making excuses for my failure to be proactive about learning French. The teachers thought it was so great, though! Of course they did! They had probably learned it during the Communist regime and it was a rare connection to an outside world they didn’t know, it was a sort of an escape for them. For us, it was a burden. They never tried to explain, to make us curious about it, to show us all the interesting things behind the language. Ya know: all that stuff that makes teachers good. To them it was beautiful and rich and nothing more, and because they liked it (did they?), we had to like it too, they took that for granted.

The fact that I managed to squeeze through the system (up to a certain point) with mediocre French says something about the educational process in Romania. So now I only work with one language: English. This can’t last long, as interpreters are always under pressure to add new languages. But for now, my Romanian A <> English B is still a bankable combination.

For now…

But they don’t seem to like us of the puny language combinations in Brussels. I’ve heard people say quite directly “yes, well, we, in the bigger booths, we have to add a language every few years, we have to have at least 4 or 5 languages in our combination, and it bothers us to see that our colleagues from the newer booths (hint much?) have only one or two languages. We do appreciate all their work and their excellent retour, but…”

And this is where I come to the point of this post. You see, we had to make up an ambiguous and funky, yet not offensive, name for these people, because they’re so annoying! Bilinguals, people who grew up speaking languages, who had languages all around them, who grew up in Jo’burg, spent their gap year in Argentina, had a government-funded scholarship in Madrid, an aunt in Estonia and spoke to their German cousins on the phone every week. They went to college in France and had their MA in London, spent three years teaching English in Lisbon, freelanced in Geneva and now spend all their summers between Athens and Palermo, while our parents bankrupted themselves to send us on a three-month Erasmus mobility in Aix-en-Provence. You see my point.

I would hate them if I didn’t envy them and their perfect lives so much. “My dad is Belgian and my mom is Swedish, my dad is Spanish and my mom is French, my dad is English and my mom is Spanish” etc. How is life fair? It’s not, but you don’t see me complaining! (right…) Bottom line, we here in this strange corner of the woods had to work harder to learn things people in the West take for granted. We had to work for our languages, while their parents f***ed and produced a bilingual baby.

I know it’s not as simple as I’m trying to make it look. Most interpreters actually don’t come from bilingual families. But they certainly do have more resources, they travel from a very young age, they have more solid educational systems, good quality public TV and, let’s admit it, more open minds (except when they make comments like the one above). I really don’t know a lot of people in Romania who, out of the blue, go: “I think I’ll take a year off from college and spend it in Peru just to learn Spanish.” (When I was 5, I asked my mom if I could walk to kindergarten alone. She got mad and didn’t speak to me for a whole day). They’re born with wings, we need to grow ours. They run in an open field, we’re on an obstacle course.

Then, to hear something like that coming from a colleague and a professional I admire… I’m not trying to downplay the work of the older booths, on the contrary. The quality of their work, the expanse of their knowledge, their style, their charm, the ease with which they express themselves in all of their languages, these things never cease to amaze me. But let me tell you something: the Romanian booth kicks some pretty serious @$$, in spite of us not being as bi as other people are.

French and I Are Over

But we’re still friends…

You may have figured it out from my blogroll that I am an interpreter. Mainly. I also translate, because when that really nice money from interpreting comes in, I really don’t want to tarnish it with measly expenses, like rent. (Yeah, I’m so rich, I still rent…).

Anyway, you can’t do an MA in interpreting without at least two C languages. Mine were English and French. In the meantime, English became my B and I almost completely discarded French. A good B is worth quite something on the private market and the Romanian booth at the EU institutions still accepts freelancers with just a B (or at least 2 C’s) (for now, and if you pass the test, of course). Shame on me to have done away with such a beautiful language, I know, but it was never true love and French knew it… Marriage of convenience, really…

With English, it was so different. It wasn’t immediate attraction, no love at first sight. Back when I was young, French was the popular kid. English was the weird new kid whose parents nobody knew and everyone was afraid to play with it, even though all the older kids openly admitted that French was kind of pain in the ass and an attention whore. So I was brave enough to approach English myself. We hit it off almost immediately and it has never disappointed me to this day. We have the same mind frame, we’re both pragmatic, to-the-point, no bullshit (as you can see from this blog :P), yet still capable of sensitivity and poetry when the mood strikes us. English is one of my best friends to this day and we have a mutually beneficial relationship, so to speak 🙂

With French, however, different story… I ignored it as much as I could, but it hasn’t gone away to this day. Finally, by 6th grade it insisted on making its insidious presence felt in my life on a weekly basis, at least. Not gonna lie to you, the kid is a looker (or sounder, whatever), we enjoyed some good moments together. But you know the old furniture that takes up a lot of space and doesn’t go with the decor or anything else you may have in your house, but you have to keep it there because it’s a family heirloom and it has sentimental value and shit? Yeah, French is like that.

Oh, France’s exquisite culture, France’s glorious history, the teachers ranted. France has always been Romania’s ally, blah blah blah. See what I mean? Popular kid: my parents have money, my family knows people, I’m connected, look at my flashy clothes and shiny car, pay attention to me, that sort of thing! French has an attitude problem!

It’s not all French’s fault. That’s what happens to people when everyone tells them they’re great: they either turn into dictators who insist on taking over everyone’s lives, or they finally see that they’re not exactly as cool as they thought they were and get all frustrated when someone else steals their thunder.

My relationship with French was all flash and no substance. It insisted on addressing me in the most confusing terms, speaking in metaphors and abusing idioms. It thinks so highly of its grammar and its history, it forgets to live in the present. Soon after we started, I realized French was an old soul who had trouble finding its place in the world. I even felt sorry for it for a while and half-heartedly accepted its pointless conversations, its empty quoting of classics, its refusal to open up and see the world changing around it. So we dragged it on for years and years. In spite of my ongoing relationship with English and my flirting with Italian and German, we ended up at that point in a relationship where there is no going back: you’re stuck with each other. I managed to fake faithfulness quite well until recently, I even fooled myself into believing we had feelings for each other.

But it didn’t work out. French, self-absorbed as it is, realized it was too good for me, and I finally figured out that we didn’t fit together at all, all we ever did was annoy each other. Counseling said it would be better for me to stick with just English for now. They also recommended trying to rekindle my relationship with French in the future, but the thing is: we get along better now that we don’t have to put up with each other anymore.

I recently started a little fling with Spanish (doesn’t everyone?), so let’s wait and see where that will take us.

How to Be a Nerd without Anybody Knowing about It

Kids, let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time, there were kids in school who did better than other kids. Some of those kids worked hard for their grades, spent whole afternoons memorizing pages upon pages of information they would never again use (or remember) after the next test. Some of those kids really didn’t try very hard. They would skim through their books in 30 minutes and get praised by their teachers and hated by their colleagues. These kids would rather spend their afternoons doing more interesting and valuable things, such as watching sappy Japanese cartoons. Both of these categories are nerds. I’ll get back to this.

Yeah, well… That happens the world over, so what’s so special, you ask? Well, the perspective. Here in Romania you do not (not in your school years, anyway) adopt and identify with this “nerd” status. You get branded with it and it’s not pretty. It all starts in junior high (fifth grade over here), ’cause up to that point all kids do kinda try to do well in school because they want to impress the big people. However, once puberty sets in and there are more interesting things to do than homework, kids begin putting themselves and others into categories.

But how? Unfortunately, here, this has more to do with the parents’ social status, than the kids’ actual identity. A rich kid who does well in school will never be considered a nerd. A poor kid who does well in school, but shares homework with the rich kids will never be called a nerd (to his/her face). A poor kid who does not do well in school had better have other qualities, because no one will pay attention to him/her otherwise (these guys have a sad fate most of time).  Basically, a poor kid who does well in school is a nerd. Because poor kids’ parents do not have money to buy them nice clothes and cars and scooters. Poor kids don’t go on class trips, they don’t have rich cousins abroad (or outside as we so lovingly call abroad in Romania), and on top of that they have the nerve to not feel so bad about it, because, smart as they are, they see a way out: it’s called learning. I’m generalizing, I know, but these are kids, they have simple minds.

The Romanian word for nerd (tocilar) refers to someone who learns everything by heart, does not have a life outside of school, kisses the teachers’ asses incessantly, knows the answers to all the questions in class, and is poor. It is used as an insult, not as praise. The concept excludes the idea of intelligence and logical thought.

See? Perspective.

Then these kids grow up. Now this could be the part where I rant about the nerdy kids making it in life while the popular kids end up losers, but that would be untrue and immature. Kids with rich parents will always do all right in life, because they have rich parents. And while they may have many qualities, and they do, rich parents are their main asset and a pretty powerful tool in post-Communist societies. The nerds will do well in life, better than the popular kids who are stuck in small towns, because daddy gives/gets them a job and they don’t look further. It’s just, well… it takes us longer.

And then we can buy nice clothes, actually get some sense of style (hey, it comes with practice, give us a break!), get a nice practical car (cos a Lamborghini on Romanian roads is simply a waste), travel the world for business and pleasure, marry and produce nerdy offspring. And nobody in our new life will ever know our pain and shame of having our intelligence insulted at the tender age of 11. Hell, we may even forget ourselves. After all, a grown-up who still sobs about what the other kids did to him/her in school is pretty pathetic.

Then we go to our 10-year reunions and see that even though we are now smart, successful, and stylish, we are still considered nerds. Because the popular kids’ glory days were in highschool, so they refuse to move on.

This is a simplistic categorization, but you see my point.

Welcome to my blog. Don’t expect too much nerdy stuff around here. In fact, don’t expect anything at all. Now go out and play. Or get laid. Or read a book.