Guest writer Yvette Larsson shares a third passage from her upcoming book, A Window to My Soul, which highlights her Romania story. The book is currently in in its final phase and Yvette hopes it will be published in 2013. This third passage describes the moment when she met Mike in communist Romania. Mike became her pen-friend from Romania to whom she wrote for nearly 20 years.
It was 1985. Summer. I was 13 years old. I had no problems in the world. I was an easy-going 13-year-old on summer holiday with my parents and grandparents by the Black Sea. I was on a big adventure. I was hoping to meet and talk to young people from Romania, but soon discovered that it was not so easy, as the Romanians were not allowed to speak to foreigners.
On that very special evening I was wearing a mint green jogging dress, that was fashionable at the time, and I had a neon-pink hairband in my hair that was permed- the rule in the mid-eighties. I had glasses and I thought I looked quite goofy in glasses, to be honest. It was warm, about 30 degrees, and my skin was warm after a day at the beach.
Little did my family and I know about Romania at that time. Except for being Eastern Europe and behind the iron curtain. We felt like travel pioneers when we were there. It was interesting to see what life was like in a country so different from Sweden.
There were special shops for tourists with foreign currencies, where we could buy whatever we needed. Those shops had black curtains and Romanians couldn’t enter, unless they knew the shop clerk. They were called ”Shop”. Romanians would say : “I am going to the shop”.
Romanians were, as mentioned earlier, not allowed to even speak to foreigners at that time. If seen by the Militia (the communist police) the Romanians risked being beaten up and taken to prison. Hence, the staff at our hotel were humble and quiet when they worked and talkative and secretly open after work hours.
Everyone we got in contact with, who dared to speak to us, was curious about the world outside Romania. They wanted cigarettes from my grandfather and they wanted to exchange western money with my dad, in order to buy things at the international shops.
My parents bought the cleaning lady and the waitress at our table chocolates and cigarettes. I remember the waitress’ name: Marina. She got my neon-pink hairband when we left. I think my mum still has her address. She wanted my mum to send clothes-catalogues from Sweden. When my mum gave her the chocolates and cigarettes she swiftly ran to the back of the restaurant and hid the gifts.
On that special evening I met a group of Romanian teenage boys at the terrace at my hotel Dacia in Mamaia. Mamaia was (and still is) a touristic place with all that you would need as a tourist, but little or nothing to buy in the shops for the Romanians.
Among the group of boys, there was one who could speak English. He called himself Mike and he was the most out – going and curious of the group. He was, with his body-language, always leaning into the conversation when he spoke. He had an amazing humour and an upbeat tempo. His eagerness to know about the world outside the borders of Romania was never-ending. His questions just streamed out like a river. No doubt, I was so happy to be able to answer back in English. I was 13 years old. Mike was 14. He was happy to get in contact with somebody abroad.
By Yvette Larsson, Guest Writer
Yvette Larsson is Swedish, born 1972 in Gällivare, Lapland. Between the years 1991- 1998 she studied English, Swedish, Education, Media & Communication and Science Journalism at the University of Umeå.
The University studies followed by one year in Stockholm and 13 years abroad. First overseas move was to French Reunion Island, followed by Stavanger/Bergen:Norway, Cassis/ Aix-en-Provence: France, London: UK, and now Copenhagen: Denmark.
Her continuous education constitutes of numerous courses within the field of Sports and Health and she dedicated ten years to Sports Management. When the children came she trained to become a Coach and Leadership Trainer, passionate about making individuals and organisations the best they can be, and she had her own practice for four years.
(photo: Yvette Larsson)