The picture is of my young cousin, first name Tudor, quite pleased with the gift I brought. I had figured, correctly, that a track suit hoodie carrying one of those multinational brands might be a hit. That’s his grandmother, with whom I’m staying, looking on.
Young Tudor is lucky that after scoala is finished at noon, he is looked after by his grandparents. And his grandparents are lucky, frankly, in that looking after the young one gives them a purpose and a spring in their step.
I went with grandpa to pick up the young one, with the mothers and fathers and other grandparents, at noon after a walk in the neighbourhood.
It was a suprisingly eye-opening walk. My expectations were not high, given the apartment bloc gives off few positive impressions. A collection of four floor apartment blocks, Communist-era relics, in need of investment.
Behind the facade are tiny apartments that vary according to the tastes and preferences of the owner. I am staying with the grandparents, and their place is full of traditional pictures, some Orthodox iconography, along with the big flatscreen TV.
By contrast, their son’s apartment across the street has been reconstructed down to the studs, new floors, new windows, new furniture, new IKEA furniture and kitchen. The badge of a middle-class job with a multinational.
Or is it more telling that young Tudor is ushered after school to twice-weekly lessons in English, in swimming, and karate. On his shoulders rest the hopes of the family.
What surprised me more on our walk were the beautiful kids’ playgrounds around the school, an impressive swimming facility part of the lyceul (high school) but shared with the public, and then a large park nearby that is genuinely well-kept. I’m not going to jump to conclusions based on my n=1 survey, but there would seem to be some decent public sector investment at the municipal/school board level. Do we have facilities like that in Leafy Leaside? Nu!
As for the health sector, I’ve heard horror stories, but it might be fair to say that health systems are harder to get right. (And you won’t blame me if my plan is to stay as far away from the healthcare sector as possible.)
Otherwise, my research is just beginning.