Monday, December 16, 2013

The little things

So, my dearest People of the Journal. For once, there is actually no purpose to this entry. It’s just about the little things that happen daily and that make a bigger difference than estimated. Whether it’s good or bad.

Like the time when I was on the subway a week ago, rushing to work. Well the subway was rushing, I was just sitting my ass in there counting the minutes, cursing at myself for running late again. I must reiterate once more the fact that I was born late and this is a genetic problem with no connection whatsoever to my dedication and loyalty for work. HA! Moving on… I was on the subway when the conductor comes on the speaker to announce that due to a suicide case somewhere along the line from Unirii to Piata Victoriei, the traffic is a bit slow. I’ve been in Bucharest for seven years now and this is the second case of suicide I hear of in the subway. So I automatically shift position in my corner, jammed by the crowd filling the metro at such an early hour. My eyes roll over the people sharing the same fate as I am. Not a ripple of a feeling on their faces. The voice in the speaker makes the announcement again and this time I take a more careful look to make sure I haven’t missed people’s reaction to this, otherwise tragic news. But there is nothing. People continue to stare in their phones, watch emptily out into the darkness of the subway tunnels, read their books or chat away with their mates. Nothing. As in nothing. Not even the mere look of annoyance caused by the delay in the traffic which people usually hate in a big city, because everyone has to be at work on time and any such problems piss everyone off. It’s a time is money attitude where I live. Or it’s a “is there anything else that can go wrong” attitude. And if it’s none of the above at least the “come on, it’s Monday! Do I really need this on top of that?” kind of attitude. But there was nothing.

And the irony of it all is that people who are attempting suicide, in most cases, they are not eager to die. They are just desperate to attract attention. It is very sad that in that subway I was on, the old lady’s gesture (as I later found out) attracted 0 (zero!) attention. Not even the crease of a brow, a smirk, nothing. How sad. No one even mentioned it in their conversations across the hallways through the passage at Unirii. At some point when my mom called as I was waiting for my connection, I felt awkward telling her about this as I felt people would stare at me of why do I even bother to mention such an unimportant thing? Luckily, a guy next to me got on the phone as well and I overheard him telling someone the whole story. How sad.

It reminded me a lesson I learnt long ago when I first came to Bucharest. How lonely one can get in a city so big and full of people. No one really has the time to stop and help with whatever, less take the time and notice that you are sick, or sad and pop a question and make a difference. I almost was hit with a stick by an old lady one time when I tried helping her because she thought I was going to steal her bag. I saw a guy, drunk and half naked, lying unconscious on a sidewalk at the corner of a 5 star hotel in downtown Bucharest. In mid July when the temperatures would have melted even concrete. It’s not in our hands to judge, but we shouldn’t let people die just because we know it’s wrong to drown your mind into alcohol. The lady at the reception did not react to my plea to do something about the man until I enhanced the idea of their image being affected by a drunken lying feet away from their fancy door and expensive guest cars. Next moment, the police and the ambulance were there to help the man away.

The examples are countless. Unfortunately. Still, every now and then I still see someone giving their seat to an elderly person or a pregnant momma. Someone returning a lost scarf or a smile when they hear apologies for having being stepped on their toes in the sub. Every now and then I see someone watching over children as they cross the street playing and every now and then I see people saluting each other as if they wake up to life, even if it lasts for a brief moment.

There is still life and humanity in us and we shouldn’t let traffic and stress take it away. It would be a pity if that happened. So please make an effort to be more aware of your surroundings and have the courage to make others see that you care and are simply trying to help. As a last example – and I’m only mentioning it because it taught me I wasn’t as crazy as I thought I was – on my birthday last year, I had a bunch of flowers in my hands and just as many gifts. I could barely keep straight but no one even offered a seat on the sub. So I bounced on my feet to keep from falling whenever the conductor hit the breaks. Eventually as I was passing from one sub to another a young man came forward, placed himself before me with hands up in the air as if I had a gun and was about to use it. He said “I’m sorry. May I help you with that?” I did not expect that so he immediately felt the need to explain further. “I don’t plan on running away with any of that, really. But you look like you could need the help.” I was so friggin happy I wasn’t the only one who had gone through such experiences when you feel the need to explain people you’re not there to harm them! I smiled my widest brightest smile and I said “Yes, please, thank you.” He carried some of the load to his stop and then I took it from there. I remember I called mom to come meet me at the subway because I knew I wouldn’t get lucky a second time during the same day. I mean it only happened once in seven years haha. I can’t ask for more than that!

As for the other small things. I saw a very dear colleague of mine from primary school. That means we were colleagues in school from 1st to 8th grade and after that, we haven’t seen each other for 15 years. We were among the tallest kids in the class and we got along so fine back then. We found each other on FB a year or two ago and learnt that he’s now married and has a wonderful son who takes a lot after him. He was in Bucharest for the past days for some training program and we finally met after all this time. We met at Starbucks and the moment I walked through that door and saw him stand up, it was as if I had never left the classroom 15 years ago. I forgot he was really that tall, and he seemed to have forgotten I was really that small. Haha. We were kicked out of two places that night because they wanted to close shops but we still weren’t done with all we had to say. I had so much fun, beyond expectations. It’s just another reminder that some things change, but some never do. No matter the time and the lack of communication, the emotions and the thrill of a beautiful friendship don’t go away because of distance and growing up. It’s so lovely to see that happen. I felt like a kid again in the middle of adulthood, work and a life of responsibilities. I wish I experienced that more often.

Another small thing. Emily. Haha. A small thing making a big difference all the time. Every now and then we set dates on Skype and we spend at least 3 hours chatting away. God knows what! Everything and nothing. Sometime we just eat together, or do research together, or read and comment as we read, without even looking at each other. Sometimes we say nothing as we are focusing on other things. It’s the kind of friendship were we don’t feel the need to fill every minute with words. She’s the only person I could have at my side and still be able to write or read and not be bothered by it. Then again we have the kind of humor and retardness we alone can understand, even though I do believe that if we ever came up with a book written by the two of us, it would be a major hit with a lot of people. Because we allow ourselves to think idiot childish things and not feel guilty about it. Without feeling less responsible with our daily lives and jobs. These kind of dates are the little things that charge my batteries. Sometimes it’s to release the pressure, sometimes it’s to find comfort, sometimes it’s to chase away boredom. And sometimes we just miss each other and want to nag at our busy schedule keeping us apart. But whatever it is, no matter how little we share during the day, it’s important to know that she is there to share with in the first place.

One other small thing. We lost so many incredible people during the past weeks. We, the world. Paul Walker, Nelson Mandela and now Peter O'Toole. My heart goes to their families and friends and to all those, who just like me, have appreciated and admired from afar their work and dedication. You say perhaps, we don't know much about them, other than what we read in magazines. How can you be attached to someone who sometimes, especially with actors, are nothing but a PR image. Well, I say, like in every day life, you have a gut feeling that tells you differently than what you read in tabloids or see in movies. If you like someone, you just do. Maybe they never won an Oscar and their movies are not the best. But you just do. I was not a no. 1 fan of Paul Walker even though I did not miss most of his movies. But his death was tragic and so unexpected that I would've felt the same if it had happened to my next door neighbor. As for Peter O'Toole and Nelson Mandela, I guess I shouldn't even mention the talent, the cause, the many years of their lives dedicated to their believes and jobs. So here is a little thing that even though has no direct connection to my life, still marks me. 

I’ll conclude this short list with Grasu. He’s a small round 7 kg thing (HA!) who literally makes a difference every day. He has my personality, but also is a very independent guy who knows no weekends and official holidays and feels the need to wake me up at 7:00AM, every day. Every day. But I love him. I love his unconditional love, his understanding of my needs and his devotion to me. His lack of blame over my work schedule and coming home late, his patience when I need to work even at home and not play with him as much as he’d want me to. But most of all, I love his humanity. I haven’t taught him tricks, I have just treated him as my equal. I sit at the table, he’s invited to sit with me. I nibble on something, I also give him some as I would with any of you. Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he doesn’t. He is just very intelligent, caring and communicative. I believe I could leave him with plenty of food and water for two days and still the thing he would suffer from most would be loneliness. He’s my kind of cat.

I know I can come up with more of these precious little things, but I don’t want to make this longer than necessary. You got the point. So take a minute at least once a week, look back and dwell on the little things that made a difference for you. Even the bad things can empower you and teach you something, if not about yourself, then about the world we live in.

Maybe that won’t change anything, but it will make you aware of the observant spirit lying in you, living, breathing and feeding off all these little things. And trust me. It’s this spirit that keeps us going.


MUAH
Mela

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013. Counting my Deeds


Good morning. Ok, so I’ve been thinking. And now I hear Jim in my head saying “No, you do that? I’m scared now!” Adorable as always. Anyway. I’ve been thinking I have to give you all a name. I like how Anne Rice calls all of us, her fans commenting and posting on her FB page. She calls us People of the Page. Well, this is not a page, is a blog, so how about I call you People of the Blog?... No. Sounds like crap. I know! How about People of the Journal? Yeah, much better. I am sure I’ll polish it a bit here and there in the days to come BUT, I think we’re on the right track.

So my dearest People of the Journal, I’ve been thinking to draw the line before End of December and count my deeds for the past year. What I had planned for, what I had done to make it happen and what I have actually succeeded in.

Personally, when I did the counting I concluded I was a major failure in pretty much everything I’ve chased after. Emily on the other hand bitches at me that there is so much more to my “failure” than I want to see. She’s right in a way. But I’ll let you be the judges of my destiny. For once hehe

SUBJECT 1: SCHOOL

   Applying to Boston University

That wasn’t actually a plan. Sometime November last year I ran into this program at Boston University and I decided out of the blue to apply. Two years ago my good friend Adinut put this virus into my blood stream, about screenwriting and all and I welcomed it because it was a different approach to my already established passion for writing. But from being infected to a professional “disease carrier” so to speak – as to consider myself good enough to be accepted into a specialized 2 year program abroad in screenwriting – there was still a long way to go. Or so I thought. I applied literally on a hunch, to try out my luck. I had very little time to prepare a huge file, pass the GRE again (mathematics is a frigin’ nightmare!!!!!), get recommendation letters, send my portfolio and film the video. By the time I sent the application I was so wrapped into it that I actually wanted to believe I was going to get in. By mid of March I received my positive answer. I had got in a class of only 12 students and received the Dean’s Scholarship of USD 10,000. I remember I received the email at about 4:00AM and I SMSed Emily to get her ass on Skype pronto! I was crying and I was crying so bitterly. Ten years ago I had gone through the same thing. Also was accepted, also received partial scholarship. Also couldn’t go because I couldn’t raise the entire amount. I had it in my heart, that this time too it would be almost impossible to raise USD 42,000. Not in Romania anyway.

2    Fulbright.

A month before Fulbright application deadline, I managed to find all the details about how and what and when. I was still uncertain on how the process works, but I was willing to try anything. I have found another scholarship that paid less but the deadline was gone so I could only keep that in mind for the following year. I raced against time to have it all ready, but deep down in the pit of my chest I knew something wasn’t there. I’m a pretty good judge of myself. I could always predict the grades I’d take in school. So when I sent the application out I wasn’t sure I would do so well. Waiting for the answer was one of the most painstaking times of this year. Especially, when nothing else paid off in terms of my efforts to gain more funds and pay at least for the first year. In mid August I got word I had got through the first phase and I was up for the interview in September. I’m not good with interviews. I am impulsive and uncontrollable at times when emotions rush over me. In a way, it’s what makes me who I am; it’s what distinguishes me among others. I always had this thing of being different, of breaking the rules, of thinking people before me are my equals and that being honest and speaking my mind freely, but politely is the way to go about things. Of course, this is a good thing and I stand by it still. Unfortunately, in interviews such as this I guess, it’s not always a good approach. Two things made me fail that interview: first, I believe they were looking for someone with more experience in the field, while I was only at a beginner’s level with no real portfolio in screenwriting to back me up. Second, I believe I struggled just a little too much to explain that filmmaking or documentary production – which is what I am mainly aiming for – is not simple at all. That without the necessary funding, one cannot take a cheap free download movie maker program, film something with their camera, use bad image ad poor sound, or even worse, use music they don’t own the rights for and come up with something that indeed can make a difference. I strongly believe that. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I do not regret my Fulbright experience. I have no reason why. The only thing that pained me most was that now I was left without any chance to fund my education in Boston.


SUBJECT 1:  SCHOOL – FAILED.

But so not to get a good smacking from Emily, I will also say SUCCEEDED.

Succeeded in proving that I have what it takes to get into one of the best schools in screenwriting in US. Proving that they appreciated my efforts so much that they awarded me an extra USD 5,000 paying for almost half of the tuition for a year. Proving that they were so keen on having me there that they organized private Skype chats with me to know the professors and even got me two jobs on campus: Assistant Professor to Screenwriting Undergraduates and a job at the Career Services Center to help other students in getting a job. They were so nice they even wrote a personalized letter for me to show to possible financers that they really appreciated their help in sponsoring me to go study there. I guess, once you think of it, it’s not all that bad.

And there is one more success in this. I made so many new friends, from all over the world, who have kept in touch even after I withdrew from the program due to lack of finance. And not only that I made new friends but it helped me reinforce old friendships and solidify my relationship with dear people in my life who were at my side every single step. From my family, to Jim and Eileen, to Adinut who I can see right now, driving and bitching at me in a supportive way to make me snap out of my “end of the world” attitude to Emily, my baby sister who hugged me half way through the night in Brussels, when I found out I did not pass the Fulbright interview. People who inspire me and who find a way to give me one little reason to hang on to just when I think there is nothing else for me to grab onto and go on.

SUBJECT 2: MY WRITING

1     My books

Again. I am pushing and bitching at my friends to publish and come into the open with their work, but it took me a while to get mine out there. Yet this year, was a good year for writing. Nevertheless, I had planned to finish my second book and be able to edit both and have them published on Amazon Kindle. Unfortunately, applications stole all my time away and more so, my mind was blocked only on waiting, therefore even my imagination faded out. After I realized I wasn’t going to Boston, I failed to write because somehow, my brain considered my writing would be useless now that I’m not going out there to make the best of it. I felt there was no purpose to my writing anymore. So nothing happened on that front anymore either.

2    The Blog

This blog was my way to release the pressure. Writing it came much easier than my usual writing. It’s about my life, my everyday struggle and happy times. I could write 10 pages in two hours without even blinking. Plus, it felt like the right thing to do. People say I’m highly active on FB. Sadly, I have so little time to do anything in life that keeping in touch with my friends has become a constant fight. I organize charity events through FB, I speak with very old school mates of mine whom otherwise I haven’t seen in person in years and I can rejoice their accomplishments from family, to their unchanged personalities, to the places they travel to making me part of it all. Sometimes I feel like I live in a different country all together. Seeing anyone for a coffee takes minute planning and weeks to happen. What a waste! More so, this year, due to everything that happened with school, my grandfather, then again my divorce last year, I feel I have changed a bit. My nerves have worn down more than they had for the past years and my patience is thinner. My smiles perhaps a bit shaky, my attention also a bit scattered with the new work volume. And I felt this would be a good way for people to understand there is more to Mela than her work face and giggles. Believe it or not, there was a time many years ago when people dear to me did not believe I could cry. When they remained in shock to my tears. Yep. I can cry and I can bitch and I can be bitter and I can be horrible and all that. Probably more so lately than I have ever been before. And I apologize for the confusion I have caused to people knowing me happy all the time. For the past two years almost, I have only operated on enough energy to keep me going, get my ass up in the morning, help it survive through the day to then collapse in the evening. Not enough left to feed happy Mela, but only to keep her afloat. So I’m sorry if I’ve changed a bit. It’s not change, it’s survival mode. But stay assured. You can still count on me; just get over my bitchy face and moodiness sometimes. Because if you care to ask or dig a little deeper, you’ll find Mela in there sweating her ass off to keep the wheels spinning.


SUBJECT 2: MY WRITING – PARTIAL FAILURE

I promise I will finish the books. Slowly but surely, I find my pleasure in writing again. I find my lost excitement and my selfless adoration for my own characters. I start to remember I used to write for myself, because it relaxes me, because I believe in my own creation and that even if it stays hidden in a drawer, somewhere, my work is still valuable. Very valuable to me, as it is part of who I am. As David once said: “You’re a writer. You wake up in the morning thinking about writing. Writing comes easy to you. Others write because they have to. You write because you like it.” There’s another friend right there, who is on my Good Guys list. Thanks David.

As for the Blog, I think we’re doing pretty good hehe. I was a bit surprised to see people actually took interest in my posts. Some of them should be read as they concern my NGO work and as a team, we’d love people to be aware of our efforts and assist in as much as they can, as many as they can. Other posts, are obviously my random thoughts and idiocies so… haha I can only imagine what crosses people’s minds when they read all that!

SUBJECT 3: VACTION

1     Vacation with mom.

Yes, I’ll say no more on the subject. We’ve done it this year as well and I’m already thinking what we can do next year. Some things will always have priority in life and this is definitely one of them. So stay tuned for 2014 because I’m scheming already in my little head… mmmwwwuuahaha!!!

2     My vacation with Emily

It’ll be three years in April I believe since I met my baby sister. Well, I re-met her. I’m sure we were sisters some other time. Or some other life. We’ve met through our passion for writing and we’ve been best friends ever since. A few months after speaking to her online for the first time I decided to drop by for a visit. Following year she came to see me. Now I went to see her and it was one of the most relaxing vacations ever. We think alike, feel alike and we’ve grown into stronger people since we’ve met each other. It feels like a long time ago. So this is definitely a success right here!

SUBJECT 3: VACATION – SUCCESS

Yes, I know I only spoke of failure. Unfortunately, even though I had a great time in vacation, I was pretty much split with my sorrow about Boston. Vacation mended some, I have to admit, but coming back home, to face the same reality made me continue to see everything as a failure.

SUBJECT 4: RANDOM

1    My grandfather and his endless survival trials

My grandfather is a soldier. A fighter. A friggin’ stubborn little man who will only know peace in his grave. Seriously! He can’t stand still for a minute. He needs to do something at all times. So he fell of a tree a couple of times. A few years back he fell from an apple tree, 2 meters high, on soft land in the garden. Broke his left arm, collar bone and fingers. I have never seen someone more purple and bruised then him back then. And he looked like a naughty kid eating his chocolate on the side of the hospital bed.

Three years ago, he fell again. Linden tree, 5 meters high on cement in the front yard. Two weeks before my wedding. Broke his arm, hurt his head, broke his pelvis in two locations, broke his femur and some toes. They gave him 15% chances of survival when going into surgery. His Alzheimer took a turn for the worse and for a few days he didn’t know where he was. God literally added days to his life that time, there is no other explanation to his survival and to his incredible comeback. He’s walking now, sometimes using a cane, he’s coherent and the Alzheimer is under control.

But this year one of his kidneys decided it was time to retire. So he went through a 5 hour long surgery to have it removed. He was the only patient of 87 years old admitted into surgery in the entire Urology block. I spent those five hours with mom, at the door, watching as patients were brought in and out. As doctors came in with news. As some patients past away as we were waiting and we shared hugs and held hands with the mothers, daughters and sisters receiving the awful news. And we did not know whether we would be next on the black list. Back in 2010 when he had fallen, it was raining and storming when I arrived at the hospital. He was laying half naked on a stretch with weights on his chest to keep his spine straight. He looked at me, took me hand and asked me where we were going. I spoke to him and then as they were getting him into an ambulance to transfer him to Bucharest, I cried so bitterly, I couldn’t get off the hospital floor.

Now, they finally let us into ER where they had taken him after the surgery. We weren’t allowed, but we literally stole some white robes and sneaked inside. Both mom and I were crying and kissing him, and holding his hands as he was trying to wake up from the anesthetic. Until the surgeon came in and kicked us out. We looked haunted. We left only after we took the phone numbers from all the staff to make sure someone would call us if anything went wrong.

So I say – SUCCESS. Thank you Lord for letting him with us just a little longer. For giving him back his reason and enough strength to be independent and on his own. It’s not easy and he’s in pain most of the time. But he still gets up to hug me and kiss me. Thank you.

2     My father

Well, my parents have been divorced since I was 1 year old. My father didn’t know me even though I take after him like two drops of water. He cheated on mom and then remarried the respective woman with whom he had another girl and boy, my half-siblings whom I don’t know either. I think I’ve spotted them all one time. He divorced his second wife a few years after.

My father was a beautiful slender man. Very tall, with curly chestnut hair and green eyes. I have his smile. I smile with my eyes like he did and I have these wrinkles everywhere just like he did. I have his passion for things, his stubbornness and his audacity. I have his energy and his positive glow.

My father was essentially a good man, I believe. But a stupid man, made weak by his family and by his own lack of strength. What a pity! I believe he could’ve become the great man he had the potential to become if he had just cut loose from the restraints holding him back. Still, I do not think he had an excuse to not be a part of my life even if not married to mom anymore.

But enough talking bad about the dead. He passed away August 24, this year. And even though he’s always been present in my life through his absence; and even though I was angry with him for not recognizing me when he past me by on the street; and even though I made peace with myself in what concerns him when I was about 20 – the child in me, running around in the park at the age of 4 calling every men “daddy” looking to hold their hands – missed him. Missed him so much, that the day mom called me to say he is gone, I stopped in my tracks and burst into crying. Crying for a man who never really addressed me a word, for a man who I couldn’t even call “dad” because I have never used the word in my life. For a man whose name I rejected from the moment I was conscious of it until the day he passed away. When I was in primary school I signed all my test papers just Melania. I did not want to say Radutoiu (his name) as I considered only my mom deserved that from me. When I was 14 and did my ID I pleaded with mom to give me her name. When I lost my ID at about 19, I again wanted to take mom’s name. When I enrolled to college I made a huge scandal of why do I always have to put down the name of the father in the forms, because he doesn’t deserve it. He doesn’t even know where I’m applying, less of anything else! A week after his death, I had to fill out a form for some household issues. The name of the father came up again and I filled it out without a moment’s hesitation.

The human mind is an open book where not all the letters are clearly visible. Mine at least has yet many blank pages to be filled and from the looks of it, many of my childhood pages have been stuck together, and where I thought there was just a story of anger, I find a story of loss mixed with a kind of love I did not know I have.

I refused to go to his funeral. I only remember him from their marriage photos. A handsome young man with an incredible smile on his face! I did not want to see him dead. I did not want to ruin that image of him. But I did go to his grave, with mom, a few weeks after. Never had I had a feeling more dreadful than stepping inside this old country like cemetery looking for his grave. Row after row, reading each cross with my heart skipping a beat with every letter my eyes rolled over. Eventually we found it. The dirt still fresh, flowers everywhere, candles melted onto the dirt. I saw mom crying. Mom, who has suffered and carried that sufferance with her for all these years. Mom, who I’ve made suffer unconsciously through my innocent father search in all other men when there was nothing she could do to help me find him. Because he wasn’t there out of his own will.  

We cleaned the grave and planted some flowers, watered them then rested for a moment. This is the most time I’ve spent with my dad. And for once in my 31 years of life I took pleasure in saying dad. I’ve rehearsed it for two weeks since I’ve learnt of his passing away. Because the day I found out, I wanted to text Adinut and tell her “my dad is dead”. But I kept looking at the word and it felt so unnatural that I deleted the message and never sent it out.

Well, I’ve never had a better relationship with my father than I have now. And to top it all off, there is one more thing. Like the cherry on the cake. My grandmother on his side passed away this April and was buried on April 24. He died on August 24 and then my grandfather from his side past away two weeks ago. On November 24. My mom’s birthday. The three people that have constantly nagged and bruised my mom’s spirit all were connected in their death with her birthday date. I’m not a church going person and my relationship with God is not the classic one. But I do not believe in coincidences. I believe in God having a sense of irony of the most delicate kind and even though I don’t agree with Him sending such signs almost a life spent later, I do appreciate His weird way of comfort. If it’s meant to be a comfort as that they all went away on such a day. It’s like telling mom, “I have not forgotten about you. What goes around, comes around.” We mourn them all. I mourned them all even though I didn’t know them. At least my grandparents. As for my father, his blood in my veins makes me know him a little more.

I wish he is reborn a better father next time. I have learnt my lesson from his mistakes and will do my best to be a good parent because I know, that in this world, one thing alone never dies: the love between parents and children. At least from where I stand.

So I say this is a SUCCESS. I got my dad back. In a way. Upon his death bed he told the medical staff I was to be notified as well if anything happened to him. Because he had another daughter. He did not recall my name, but he knew I bore his surname. Maybe there is a reason his name stuck with me after all these years and failed attempts to get rid of it. I know he missed me. I know he wished he knew more of me. I wish he had the courage to act upon these wishes. But for now rest in peace.

Well, in general lines, this was it. Of course, there are the little things of everyday life. Grasu, my incredible animal soul mate who has been there for me in ways I can’t explain and only animal lovers understand. My team in Light into Europe who has supported me in coming up with my first filmed project and I’m still not getting over the success of our endeavor. All my colleagues who are putting up with me every day at work. You guys are included in the category of people that I was apologizing to earlier for any unexpected/moody behavior changes I might’ve gone through.

It’s been a very, very difficult year for me. And yes, I do feel I have exhausted all my options and yes, I do feel I don’t know where to turn next. But I also know giving up is not the solution. Right now, I’m trying to find a new way to see my dream come true: to study abroad, to make something out of my talent to write and help as much as I can. It’s what really makes a difference for me.

I wanted to write this list so that when I draw the line, I am able to take each conclusion and give it a solution for 2014. I may not be able to make it all happen and the way I see it, it will probably not be easy. I’ll try not to falter. I will try my best.

As usual, this post is not written in the purpose of boring everyone. There are people out there with problems bigger than mine. But we all have to find a way to deal with them, especially when they take over our lives and we seem to drown in them. This is part of my way of dealing with what’s happening. So, what can I say. My big dreams for 2013 are like a sunken ship. They’ve stayed on the ocean floor for almost ten years and this year I’ve managed to bring them to the surface enough to see the light again. My strings broke, my backup plan malfunctioned and I had to let go again. Now they’re back on the bottom of the ocean, waiting for me to come back for them. One thing though. They seem to be rust proof. At least so far they’ve shown a great amount of endurance. I pray they continue to stay that way and have enough faith in me that I’ll submerge for them; even though, as I grow older, it is harder and harder and I get more scared to dive so deep. I need better lung capacity, therefore I’ll start shouting and creaming at people for exercise. Hahaha JUST KIDDING!

Ok, well I’ve made this post long enough. I’m satisfied. Hahaha! You guys have a great Monday – if there is any such thing! – and keep warm for the rest of the week. MUAH and hope you had a good year!

Yours, as always,

Mela

Monday, November 25, 2013

Caledonian Ball 2013 - The "Light into Europe. One Team. One Mission" Premiere

Well, I guess it’s been a while. Honestly right now, I feel this horrible need to take a long bath, with candles and some soothing music, because I am exhausted. Ok, lemme say that again. E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D. Is it big enough? I should also probably mention that I think I spread a toe. Hahaha It’ swollen and it hurts. Will see what changes occur until tomorrow morning, then will decide whether to see a doctor or not.

By the way this is Sunday evening. Even though I’ll post this on Monday. Unfortunately Monday means work so not enough brain left to handle blog and work at the same time. So... The Caledonian Ball and the big evening. And Mom’s birthday! Yeah... And to top it all off, somehow, the Caly Ball this year was one of the best, most crowded and rich I’ve seen in the past years.

Anyway. Thursday, Cristi and I had completed (almost) the first video. As in we had it all together, the image, the music but we were missing the text. A few key words and sentences here and there to emphasize on the filmed message. But we were happy with it. So I sent it the way it was to Camelia at the charity and midnight that night I got word she loved it. Next morning I heard from her son that in England they loved it as well. More so, they adored it. So I’m feeling positive enough to show it to some more of my trusty people. I mean I only had a day and a half before the ball where the video had to go on. Obviously a 40 minutes long documentary cannot play before 250 something people or they would die of boredom.

The videos are meant for bigger crowds, the documentaries for smaller ones. So I go to work and present my achievement and I get positive feedback on how the video looks but negative feedback on the message and length. Not that the message was unclear, but the video was pointing at the wrong audience. Indeed, my target wasn’t the audience at the Ball, it was the prospective volunteers, parents, teachers who need to be reminded the differences between us and the sight and hearing impaired children and attract them into our projects. It was supposed to be a touchy yet up-lifting and encouraging video. Something that shows you what’s wrong but that there is also a solution, a bridge to help overcome all these differences.  

So now they say – and they are right! – „Mela this is a good chance to make people understand the situation better from a statistically point of view. People need to know that their contributions, especially financially, help indeed and that things are done and bought and so on and so forth”. So, at first, I have to admit, I did not agree to the idea. I, and a dozen more of the people involved in this – have done this job for free. Because we believe in Light into Europe. Because I am in awe to these people’s constant efforts to make a difference. Maybe they can’t change the lives of all the impaired children but sure enough even if 300 of them get better living conditions, I think we’re on to something.

I am thinking everyone thinks like me. That just by witnessing the team’s efforts to change lives for the better is a good and strong enough motivation to make people contribute, from money to their time and attention and involvment into the projects. And I know this is a very idealistic way to look at the world, but it’s the way I’m built to think and it takes a little while for me to process that other people are not on the same page with me. And it’s only normal for that to happen; but Mela had not considered that, as Mela is functioning on a heart – mind mental set not the other way around.

Ok, I say. I’ll come up with a video that shows not only the problems these kids face but also that there is our charity to help them and what the charity has actually accomplished. At least for 2013. My only problem is, I have a day and a half to do it. And the clock is ticking. That afternoon I let Cristi know we have to come up with something totally new by Saturday. I am so agitated and so anxious about it that he felt the need to calm me down, pour soul, bless him – he’s beenh wonderful and extremely patient with me. He knows I am terrible (to not say a bitch!) when it comes to doing things, and doing things as well as I can.

To make a small note here: Cristi and I first met when I had my wedding. He was supposed to do the wedding movie. And for that i sent him two pages of pricise instructions of what and how and when I want everything filmed. That was in 2010. Two weeks after getting my email, he didn’t reply so I figured our colaboration had ended before beginning. Eventually he answered and said he was taken aback by the screenplay I had put together, because no bride had ever asked him that. Nonetheless, he took the challenge, probably thinking that during the actual wedding I will realize my scenario was futile and unrealistic as I would be too busy getting pretty and looking after our guests, that I won’t have the time to stick to the plan. He had witnessed many other weddings and he knew how things went down.

Boy, was he in for a surprise! Haha We filmed absolutely everything, except for one or two scenes. And I’m still in love with that video to the day. So I guess now, that I owe him some of the grey hair he’s grown, he knew what to expect. I have no words to thank this man, seriously. I should stop right here, otherwise I could say thank you for the rest of the blog.

So coming back to the video, I manage to find the music really fast by a pure struck of luck. It’s also cheap so I am able to buy it online. I am BLESSED! It sounds kind of dramatic, but I like it. Makes my hair stand up my arms. Makes me want to get up and do something. I get home from work and from about 8:00PM till 2:00AM the following morning we spend time putting images together, getting the beat right. I’m desperate to get the right words to go with the images. Everything has to connect. Every image and every text has to send out a message, on its own or together. Writing doesn’t come easy. Even if it’s just a few lines. Especially, when it’s just a few lines that you have to make a huge impact. I had to go the doctor that evening as well. And I felt like I was wasting precious time so I took my phone out and plugged my earphones to listen to the music I had chosen. I listen, I visualize, I feel, I write. It’s how it works. So ideas start pouring in and I grab a pen and some stickers from the reception to use as note pads and put the text down. Later on, as I am on the subway on my way home, I continue writing on my IPhone notes. I am so absorbed with the music and the writing that I miss my station and I have to go back a little. Haha. I don’t regret anything!!!

At 2:00PM that night, my eyes gave in and I left Cristi to continue working on his own until like 5:00AM. Next morning I wake up to see the first part of the video, 1:25 minutes. I love what he’s done with the images, the colors, the beat. The text is a bit messed up. But that’s not the main problem. The first part is way too long. Cristi loves it, I love it too. But with a second part waiting to be edited, the video would take too long and the rhythm would be lost. Cristi and I have a back and forth discussion over how much of how little we should keep. I simplify the text to the point where we risk losing the meaing of it all. Eventually I think I won only because I was the director and Cristi accepted my vision of things. But we are keeping his version as well. They are both good, only that for an event such as this, we had to think time-wise. If the first video, which was 3.50 seconds was too long, than this one had to be shorter.

We spend Friday cutting, trimming, adding, modifying images and text. Mom arrives as she’s going to join me for the ball but she has to wait for me to come from work. Then as I go home, Cristi and I are back on Skype sharing screens to work together. And we do so until 3:00AM. By that time, the video is put together, the music stays unchanged, the text is minimized to the last letters and words. Cristi is left to edit the images and the thing all together.

I wake up the next day, confused and agitated, knowing that if something goes wrong there is not enough time left to change things. We have to leave at 4:30PM in order to get to the Intercontinental before everyone else and try to the video on the equipment there, check on the sound, check how it’s heard in the room. Both videos will be played in three different locations: the lobby and two ball rooms upstairs. But only this video will be shown with sound at the beginning of the evening. With everyone’s undivided attention. AH!

At 4:30 Cristi tells me he is exporting the video and we have ten more minutes to wait.  I spend my time putting make up on mom even though she hates it just because I’m too anxious to sit or do nothing. And it’s done. Uploaded to be transferred. Downloading. I sit on the edge of the bed, all dressed up, make up on, my hands literally shaking and I press PLAY, knowing that if I discover something wrong, nothing could be done anymore.

2 minutes and 2 seconds. Longest two minutes EVER! My eyes roll over the images I’ve seen a hundred times, over the text I’ve changed a hundred times. I listen to the song I’ve learnt by heart, note by note. I literally pray with ever frame that nothing is out of place. Nothing ELSE is out of place, because Cristi did worn me that during export one image got deleted for some reason so now two texts come one after another. At the fast pace the song is going no one would even notice that. But I WILL. And I DID. Of course, Cristi is the marvelous professional I know him to be and he immediately finds the fault in the system and corrects the error.

I save both videos on two memory sticks; we jump in a taxi as we are running late. A few more phone calls on various other subjects with Camelia then I finally settle down for 10 minutes while holding the bag to my chest as if all my savings are in there. I look at the memory sticks in my hand. Our entire work, effort and struggle lies hidden in these two small items. It’s absolutely incredible the amount of pain stacking work one could to deliver two minutes of film. I am so afraid I’m going to misplace them or lose them that I cannot trust my inner zipped pocket of my purse to hold them, I have to hold them.

We get there and I literally throw my coat to the side, and plug in the stick in the laptop in the lobby. All goes well. I just have to find one player that can repeat the video continuously. Easy job. Done. Next I run upstairs and there I die. I realize form the number of tables that this year we’re going to have more guests than the usual. I see a stage and a big screen with huge speakers to the side. That wasn’t there last year!!!!! I see people with heavy equipment to the side of the stage: sound, lights. Damn it Mela! You’re screwed now! I thought my hands were shaking but I was wrong. Now I felt crippled with emotions. I am so grateful for that guy copying the video off the stick and onto his laptop because I couldn’t find the damn USB whole with my numb fingers, not in a million years. I go in the back of the room to listen to the sound and see what’s the „burning” point of the son so we don’t overdo it with the volume. The light is dim in the room and the place is crawling with waiters and hotel managers but I do not care. The black screen comes on. The text starts revealing before my eyes. No sound yet. And then, the song comes on. And that first note that convinced me to use this song in the first place, literally swipes me off my feet. It’s so strong it almost makes me take a step back and a new wave of emotion strikes me that I need to fold my arms around my chest to keep steady. It’s the first time I see it on such a big screen with this level of sound and it’s more than I had bargained for. I am marveled and pretty much petrified with a heart racing faster than a wild rabbit. I wish all the people seeing this video actually experienced things this way when they watch it. That kind of „hair raising” feeling. Well, I for one, am grateful to myself for being so in love with my own work. I don’t think it’s self esteem. It’s simply that gut feeling that tells you, you did a good job and you like it, so it’s ok.

Half way through the thing, someone gives me a huge unexpected hug. „You are my hero!” I glimpse back, uprooted from my day dreaming. It’s Mark Platt, the Light into Europe representative in England. I manage to mumble something I don’t remember. I feel stupid and shy when people say things like this to me. I feel people should appreciate my work, not me. That’s also stupid to say, considering I’ve done it, but hahaha... you get my point.

Cristi calls and says he’s fixed the bug and now we have the missing image back in the video. He transfers it again and I download the new version, verify it and give it to the people in charge with the technical part. Now I can relax. Right! I keep busy with greeting people and spending some time with mom, but secretly I watch the clock every 5 minutes knowing the time is coming for me to hit PLAY again and this time it won’t be just me. It will be me and 260 people. Out of which many whom I know, many whom I work with. Many who don’t know I do this kind of work. Usually I don’t care for that, but then again – usually – I don’t go public with stuff I do. I mean it took me many years before I came out with my writing. This entire screenwriting and directing deal is obviously new in my life as it is. So yeah...

6:30PM. People start gathering in the lobby. Eventually 45 minutes later they are coming upstairs. We are running a little late which only contributes to my high level of adrenaline and heart rate. My doctor would be proud of my blood pressure now, coming from a family history where we are a bit above being considered clinically dead!!!

Ok. It’s happening. Mark asks for feedback on how to introduce the video and I do not want him to say my name in there. He gets on stage and I literally lean against the pylon in the middle of the room because my left knee is acting like jelly pudding all of a sudden. I feel stupid twice. Silence falls in the room as Mark steps off the stage and everyone turns to the screen. Lights go off. Only the candles are burning. The black screen comes on. The writing starts to appear and I watch every word unfold as if I see it for the first time. And I swear, my hands are growing cold as I know that first note will come again and I’ll die again, like the total idiot that I am, because it does this thing in my head that I can’t control. And here we go. The song comes on with the same strength but somehow my brain manages to perceive a change in the sound and I realize the volume is lower. My hand automatically goes up and the technical crew sees my signal. Volume is up. Mela is up as well.

Mark comes at my side and hugs me again but I barely pay attention to the man. Such a sweet supportive guy and I’m so distracted right now. These 2 minutes are even longer than the two minutes I spent at home watching it. And then the 2 minutes are done. Black screen again. Lights on. But people keep staring at the screen. My God, it’s like their mesmerized, caught in it. Mark starts applauding behind me. I think I wanted to applaud as well but all I could do was raise my brow in an Ice Age squirrel kind of look: „hehe” right before the nut cracked the ice.

I can eat now. I can breathe now. I can do the raffle tickets now. And as I do, I gather feedback from people. They think it’s amazing. That it’s catchy. One tells me that except for 3 people at her table, the rest had remained staring even after the lights were back on. Other people ask me whether I do PR or something for a living because they thought it was exquisite. I blush as I write this now; imagine how I looked then.

I believe I could’ve done better. I always think there is room for improvement, especially when I have no training in directing and I continue to feel lucky and blessed to have worked with people like Cristi who helped immensely with the technical part. With our Light into Europe team who were on spot, on time, beautiful and warm and patient and understanding and made our work easy.

I know I sound like a kid, talking about exceptional feelings, too strong emotions and an almost breaking into crying kind of attitude. But it’s how I felt. And every time I watch this video, I get the same feeling. Perhaps it’s because I know the struggle behind it, but even more so, because I’ve been with all these people you see in there and know their story, their passion, their problems and can look at the images differently than you can. So I’m left to believe that I have transferred some of this emotion into the video so it rubs off on you. Because this is all that matters at the end of the day.

Before naming all the people who’ve participated in the making of both videos and the documentary, I will just say that in England, people watching the video have started making donations. WOHOO!!! It’s what this effort is all about.

So here are my heroes:

CAST

Stan Platt
Camelia Platt
Light into Europe founders

Andra Stan
 - suffering from progressive sight loss due to neurologic disease -

Anna Kingley
- Guide Dog Program volunteer from Australia -

Professor Florin Barbu
- hearing impaired -

Vali Costiuc
- severe hearing loss due to improper antibiotic treatment -

David Costiuc

Oana Uilacan
- double sight and hearing deficiency -

Andreea Vlad

Claudia Sandu
- sight loss due to deficient treatment in maternity -  

Petruta Constatinescu

Viorel Solomon

Anca Panait

Dan Antim

Lacramioara Pintelei

Petra Pintelei
- severe sight loss -

Camelia Horiceanu
- severe hearing loss -

Sandica Stoicescu
- severe hearing loss -

Razvan Mireuta
- total sight loss -

Stefan Ilioaica
- total sight loss –

Liviu Harasim
- deaf -

Metea Alexandra
- hearing impaired –

Klint and Max
- guide dogs for the blind –

Our two volunteers from Jerusalem and
the “evil gang” from the School for the Hearing Impaired shooting




CAMERA
Cristi Stan

Assistant to Cameraman
Denisa Velicu

Photography
Silviu Pal

Written and Directed
Melania Radutoiu

THANK YOU!

Give yourself a big round of applause ladies and gents. 
You have mine, until my palms go sore.
Because you deserve it!


Link to the video: