NP: Adina, you did not have the type of childhood that most of us can relate to. You were born into a Communist country. If you don't mind me asking, what was that like?
Adina: This is a real challenge for me because, looking back, I feel like I've lived several lives. I was born in Bucharest in 1962. Even though my parents divorced when I was five, I had a wonderful childhood with my grandparents taking care of me. My mom never remarried, but I didn't mind not having a father. She has been a loving mom, sweet and gentle, who always cared about me although it was hard for her as a single parent.
Growing up during Communism, the only thing which made us children feel its ugly spirit was the pioneers thing, the first step to the glorious goal of becoming a Communist! It wasn't so bad, but it made us act like small Communists, with meetings, an agenda and a pioneer leader for every classroom. We had tasks as pioneers, not as colleagues, and that made us feel a bit uncomfortable …. the fear of acting inappropriately and someone up there finding out was starting to grow in our little souls. Living during Communism meant closed borders for the Romanian people, but I didn't miss foreign products or traveling abroad because I didn't know they existed. Very few people had any chance to travel abroad and those were very carefully checked and watched by our authorities back then. I grew up knowing that we could buy clothes and shoes when school started, for Easter or when school ended, when I always got a pair of sandals and sometimes a summer dress. But my mom made most of my dresses at her sewing machine. She was very good at it. She always had pretty fabrics from the fabrics factory where she worked as a technical designer.
NP: Your mother must have been pretty special. It must have been a challenge, raising young children in that harsh, angry society.
Adina: I remember her once sewing all night, the night before we were leaving on vacation to the beach on the Black Sea Coast. Our destination was Tekirghiol, a small resort on the salty Tekirghiol lake very close to the Black Sea. This is a treatment resort, where people come for the famous mud therapies, for healing rheumatism and other illnesses. Every summer we went there, for 10 days. This was the best my mom could afford, but it has always been a wonderful vacation! We always rented a room in one of the local houses, ate breakfast before going to the beach, had lunch at a self-serving restaurant and dinner in a pastry shop. I can still remember how good it felt to wake up to a garden full of flowers and I can still smell the morning salty air from Tekirghiol!
After having breakfast, consisting of fruits, rolls, cheese and tomatoes, we went to the lake for a mud therapy. We spread the black mud on us from feet to neck, including glands, forehead and nose. Then we waited for the mud to dry up in the sun and cleaned it off in the lake. It always amused me to see the small kids crying because they didn't want to “get dirty” and their moms “tricked” them into it, saying that they would only paint some boots on their feet or some gloves on their hands....same old story I was tricked with too! LOL! Those were such happy days of my childhood, when my only worry was to find new books to read or to play with the dolls.
The lake has a story which my mom told me and I told to my kids. I thought you'd like to read it too. They say Tekir was an old Turkish shepherd, who used to come along the lake with his sheep and donkey many years ago. One day his donkey went into the lake and he wouldn't come out, so Tekir had to go after him but he got stuck in the mud too. The place wasn't so populated at that time and no one else passed along the lake for three days. When finally someone came and rescued Tekir and his donkey, he came out of the lake, washed himself and realized he didn't have feet aches anymore like he used to. From that day on, the lake became famous for its healing properties and has been called Tekirghiol, meaning Tekir's lake (in Turkish).
NP: Lovely memories, Adina! I am wondering, did they teach you English in school?
Adina: In the 3rd grade I started to learn my first foreign language, English. My first English teacher inspired my passion for English. She was a great teacher and I can still remember our first lesson when she taught us how to say “book,” “pencil,” “copybook,” “window,” “blackboard.” I was so anxious to say those words that I kept my right hand raised with two fingers up, waving it so the teacher could see me better. I was so enthusiastic about learning English that I had my future planned. I was to become an English teacher. (And I can say this enthusiasm is still here, only I don't have to wave my hand anymore!) My first choice was the English teaching high school. Unfortunately, I failed the exam and had to go and search for another high school which still had vacancy classes. Since all the best high schools were full, I only found a place at the Industrial High School for Microtechnology. That changed my life, making me turn down a road which would lead me to my husband, the love of my life. I always like to say that this was my destiny and this is what I had to do, despite all of my goals.
NP: Ah! The love story! Two people, destined to meet and fall in love.
Adina: My best friend had a boyfriend who took her to a disco club for dancing. Like any other teenager, I loved dancing. So when she asked me to come with them to the disco club, I said yes. This was a simple club, with only teenagers allowed inside with their UTC permit or with the grade notebook from school. (UTC meant Young Communist Union and all children over 14 - if they weren't bad - had the “honor” to join the UTC. They were handed a permit, like an ID, which showed their political orientation...of which there was only one in our country back then, as you might know) This restriction at the entrance of a disco meant it was safe, no older boys or girls with sick habits could enter.
That period of my life was great. They organized activities for the teenagers coming there, like theater, chorus, dancing. I joined the dance training first and then the chorus, attending them both at one time. I wasn't so good at school anymore, but I didn't mind. My new world was too wonderful not to be a part of it! My husband Cici was singing in the chorus, as a bass while I was an alto. He had been a great rugby player in the national junior team, but due to a punch in his eye during a game, his sight deteriorated and he couldn't play anymore. We fell in love and married a year later, when we were 19, after finishing high school.
After a year or so, Cici started to have difficulties with his sight and had his first surgery in his right eye. He had developed a cataract on his pupil which seemed like a white butterfly. Eye surgery technology wasn't as advanced back then as it is today, so the only thing they could do for him was to take his lens and leave him with only one eye to see. And after a few years, he started to see stars in his left eye. He went for a check-up and they found he had a detached retina, besides an aggravation of his myopia and a cataract evolving on this eye too. He was declared a blind person and got an early retirement due to illness at the age of 25.
Our sweet children, the light of our lives, were born soon after our marriage, Andreea and Ionut. I had to leave them at a day care center ever since they were small babies and go back to work - Andreea at the age of six months and Ionut at eight months. I was always on the run, often leaving them crying at the day care, while I was crying too on my way to work. Ionut got very sick after a month of day care. He had bronchitis which turned into asthma. He turned one year old while in the hospital and it took a few months to get really well and a few years of treatment for that asthma. I had to give up my job and stay home with him for two years.
NP: So with Cici unemployed, and you unemployed, I'm sure raising two little children had to be very difficult.
Adina: In those years we had many restrictions in our country on heat, power and water, not to mention food. We had to use an extra heater for the children's room. I remember trying to wash them with the power off, and Andreea doing her homework for her first year of school by candle light. We had rations for all food products, oil, sugar, butter, meat, coffee, potatoes, flour etc. Only we couldn't even find any of those in the grocery stores, which were empty. The merchandise came rarely, not everyday and not everything together. The lines in which we had to stand for buying some type of groceries were huge. They used to sometimes have butter and we had to take the kids with us so we could get more. They would give one or two packages per person, not more. We had tickets for two liters of oil and four kg of sugar for each person per month. Eggs and meat were brought only once a week and people had to stay in line for a whole day, sometimes even all night, until the truck came with the groceries. It became a custom to write up a list of people standing in line, so they wouldn't have any discussions later. I'm sick when thinking about those days! I was lucky to take my old job back in 1989 after two years of babysitting. In that very year, later in December, the Revolution and Ceausescu's execution happened. That is when we defeated Communism and started a new era for Romania and the Romanian people. Unfortunately, it wasn't such a good period for our family because I lost my job, like many other people, when many of the factories closed and the Romanian industry collapsed.
NP: What seemed to be a good thing, turned into a bad thing. What did your family do?
Adina: In 1993, after Cici's mom died, we sold her apartment and started a family business. I took my drivers license, bought a car and we began working as employers. Cici had a part of an old house from his grandparents which was good for building a grocery store inside. Unfortunately, the business wasn't successful and after only one year we were broke. We had to sell the car and start all over again. This is when I first learned how to use a computer, when I realized I had no chance to find a job for my qualification as a microtechnology mechanic. We had no money to pay for the training, but Cici decided we can sell our jewels because it was important for me to do that training. Once again, I have to admit he was right.
God helped us again and a new opportunity came up for Cici. He found out he could apply to the Special Medical School, for a massage specialty. This was a school where only blind people or people with serious sight issues could apply. After finishing, he qualified as a registered nurse for physical therapy and massage. He started to work as a freelancer, doing massages at our home. We posted an ad in a newspaper and people started to call. He has a gift for this therapy and this helped him have more patients. We did well enough to survive with the money he earned from his work. Massages aren't so well paid here and, if he wanted to have patients, he had to keep a low price.
One day, God brought a new challenge for us. I bought some pencils for the kids. I saw this message written on them : “If you know a blind person who needs help, write or call the American National Organization of the Blind.” together with the phone number and the address of this organization. I told Cici and we decided to write a letter to them. He was asking for their help in finding a job in the US, telling them about how hard our life was with our two children, and he being a blind person without a job but qualified as a massage therapist. I wrote the letter in English, as well as I could. After a few months we received an answer from a blind man in the US.
He sent us the address of the Palmer College of Chiropractic where he learned this therapy and became qualified as a Chiropractor. He encouraged Cici to write to this college and ask for their help, which we did. They welcomed Cici and encouraged him to apply. He had enough grades to apply to Palmer College, but even if they had given him a scholarship, he would have needed more money for housing and the plane ticket. So this dream ended before it even started.
Then one of Cici's patients told him about a job as a massage therapist at the Romanian Radio Broadcasting Company's medical office. Cici applied for this job, and with good references from his patients, he got it. This was the end of our troubles and we finally started to live a better life, especially after I got a job at the same company, as a secretary at the recorded tapes office. At first, I was working part-time, but last year I got a full-time job which made me more confident and hopeful for our future.
NP: Finally, good news! I feel so happy for you. You both struggled and worked hard and did the right things, and your life is on the right track at last! I know that you had another reason to be happy also, Adina. I'm talking about your beloved pet, Boss.
Adina: In 1996, Cici received an invitation from a friend of ours in Germany to spend two weeks there at his house. Our friend had two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Canadian Shepherd, which Cici fell in love with. He had always loved dogs and wanted one of his own, but never had the chance. He found out that in Germany blind people had specially trained guide dogs who helped them when walking on the street. When he returned from his trip, he wanted a German Shepherd whom he thought he could train as his own guide dog. This is how Boss came into our family, to lighten up our lives with his cute face and his sharp mind. He was two months old when we got him and brought him home in a bag. The owner told us he will grow up so big as to reach the table while sitting. We thought he was joking or exaggerating. It was no joke. Boss really grew up that big! Cici searched for a school where they would train guide dogs, but there were no schools like that in Romania. So he decided to train Boss himself. We bought some books on elementary training. During the first four months it was easy because Boss wasn't allowed to go out and we just trained him inside. Then Cici started to go out with him, but soon had to give up. As a puppy, Boss wasn't too obedient and used to run away from him very often. On two occasions, Cici came back home without Boss, which scared me to death, saying that he didn't know where he ran. I went out to search for him in the park and there he was, also scared but happy that I found him! Since I lost my job and was at home all the time, Boss was my companion, my friend and my confidant. We had such fun on our walks in the park where he had many stray dog friends whom I was feeding every morning. We couldn't train him as a guide dog like Cici wanted, but he was a watch dog and we felt so safe with him, inside our apartment or on the street, even at night.
NP: And one more thing I want to ask you about is how you discovered us here on these websites.
Adina: While working part time at the office, I could access the internet and sometimes I had time to search for information about my plants. Since the children have grown I've had more time for myself, so I started to write articles about plants in one of our Romanian magazines. I was getting paid for it and that was great, not only for the extra money, but also for my morale.
One day at work I was searching for a plant and I found the Dave's Garden website. I was totally fascinated by it and could search for plants in the Plant Files for hours, but unfortunately I couldn't do that because I didn't have a subscription. I was restricted to ten searches per day. My first friend and also my benefactor on DG was Connie, aka Weeds. We met when I was searching information about poinsettia. I was amazed that her poinsettia was growing outside, so I posted a question on that thread. We started a conversation which continued on emails. One day, about this time of the year as I recall, I received an email from Dave's Garden Admin saying that I have a subscription paid for a whole year. I knew it was Connie, who else could it have been? She is my Angel from Heaven, sent to Earth to help my dream of learning English well, to come true.
My life has changed so much since I met her! I have so many friends on both sites now, DG and Cubits, who have been helping me a lot with my English. Every thread means an English lesson for me and my teachers are amazing!
Later, when Dave started the articles feature on DG, I was interested and became one of the writers . Since then, I've been writing many articles and gained both money and respect from my DG and Cubits friends. This is my dream come true and I owe it all to Connie. Thank you, dear friend!
NP: That is a very nice tribute to a very dear lady. I know she will be honored by your words. Adina, I see these current photos of your family and your house. How is life for you now, in 2010?
Adina: In 2006 we bought a piece of land in Balotesti, a small village 20 miles from Bucharest. And in 2008 we sold our apartment and started construction on the house where we are living now. It was hard and stressful, but it was worth it. We are enjoying our quiet and peaceful place outside the crowded city, with our small garden full of flowers and our beautiful lawn.
Unfortunately, Boss didn't have the chance to enjoy having a yard only for himself because he got very sick and we had to put him to sleep a month before we moved into the new house. He was only twelve, but in his short life he lightened our lives so much and made us so happy each day!
The house is perfect. We love it so much, but only one thing makes us sad. Our children aren't with us. They are living now in Switzerland, in the beautiful town of Campione d'Italia. My daughter lived for many years in Italy. She started to work there and made good money. She found a better paying job in Switzerland two years ago, where she met someone and moved in with him. Last year she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Nicholas. She found her brother a job there as well. We visited them in June and stayed there for a whole month. No need to say how painful it is for me and my husband to be so far from them, especially from our grandson!
As on so many occasions in our lives, God sent us another opportunity just when we needed it the most. We'd been hearing about many job opportunities for nurses all over Europe, so we decided to see if we can find a job for Cici in Italy or Switzerland, somewhere close to our children's town. I found a company which mediates job contracts for nurses in Italy. I wrote the online application for Cici and he received a call from them. Now we have to make the papers and wait again for the approval from the Italian Health Ministry. I will keep you posted with what happens. Until then we have our grandson's baptism to attend in two weeks. A great joy for me and my husband, but also for our children to be all together again, if only for a few days.
NP: Yes, we shall be waiting for the good news. We wish you all the very best. Thank you for sharing your life with us, Adina. I've truly enjoyed this visit with you.
Readers, feel free to chat with Adina in the comment area on this page. Don't forget to run your browser over the photos to read Adina's captions, and click on them to enlarge them. Thank you for joining us today!