THE Voyage

Well people, I have decided to enter a competition.  Not just any competition, but a real one, for bloggers. As a challenge. Just to see where this “new entry” blogger journey takes me.

It is a contest set up by a Romanian established blogger Cristian China a.k.a. Chinezu’ (who’s actually making money out of it after 6 years of blogging) inspired by Heineken’s campaign called “The Voyage, Legendary Travelers wanted.”

The stake of Heineken’s campaign? “A legendary, innovative, progressive journey” with a spe(a)cial price: a SPACE TRAINING (or Training for Space to be more exact). “The challenge set for bloggers aims to reach those on the look for once-in-a-lifetime, unique, extraordinary experiences.”

I thought it only referred to their other prize, namely to teach you how to find your way in this within reach environment. And given that I find looking at an A to Z driver’s map (or any other map for that reason) a challenge, I initially said to myself why not, count me in!

But to be honest the Heineken campaign sounds too ambitious for my adventurous (not) self. One of the requirements is “ bloggers to post on their blog and Facebook page at least one article on the most adventurous journey they have ever taken in the spirit of Dropped episodes” (where ordinary people are dropped in totally remote and unknown places and left to handle things by themselves, as per funniest episode so far http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA6tMFQuON8).

Therefore, considering that neither have I eaten anything more adventurous apart from my personal diaper production (as a baby being brought up in the country side by grandparents who left me in my cot as had to work the land) nor have I set foot in my dreamed of Australia, I don’t feel I fit the profile.
Plus, the winner gets the NASA space training, but is not sent to the Moon afterwards, not even close to the edges of the Earth for that matter.

So I said to myself that I fit better with the “earthly” profile of Mr. CC with a catch as he is currently looking for a blogging partner. And he accepts that we write about “the importance of an initiating journey that one must do at least once in a lifetime. It may be geographical or spiritual, just let the world know why you think it’s a massive learning experience that in the end changes you for the better.”

And since in my case the spiritual journey went parallel with a geographical one, especially when I was solo, I must describe them together, right?

My first (not the only one, ok) “adventurous” journey ever was when I first emigrated, of course. From Slatina, Olt, Romania (my birthplace in the South) to Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania (200kms up North from where I was born). 19 years old I was. During those hard times Oltenians (as nicely referred to by the Seebee-ans=people of Sibiu) as we nicely call them when they don’t call us “leekonians” for eating too much leek when we don’t sell it to them at high prices) were only allowed to enter Sibiu with highly skilled immigrant visa and resident’s stamp on the passport. Now that I am profanely married to one of these guys, I have been granted full rights of citizenship!

Sad thing not having had any fun in highschool due to living with Mrs Elena Ceausescu (yes, the dictator’s wife) under the same roof. But, man, the vida loca I lived during my first two years of Uni (that long it took me to deal with my frustrations) totally made up for the lost time: one could only find me clubbing, bailando, billiards giocando, cigarettes and alcohol consumando, my exams fail-ando, you know, young and restless home get-aways.
Sibiu, 2002-ish. I had no care in the world, I was wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts, flared jeans, wild red dye on my head, man, I was living the life!

Alongside with this, however, I was slowly learning to handle life myself. Mrs Ceausescu was no longer cleaning after me all the time with reasons such “you go learn, if not you will end up washing toilets in my school”. She was no longer cooking for me or leaving food on the table to be eaten at exact hours of the day. Managing things by myself I finally learned how to start depending on myself, too! This phase taught me to find resources to move forward within me, without immediately running to ask for help or living in a state of laziness knowing that someone else would have my back covered every time. Therefore new connexions started to interact in my brain, neurons from previously unexplored areas started to burn.

So I rolled my heart up in my sleeve and with an exulting positive energy within I emigrated to the UK at 24 years of age. On a visa again. Alone again. And I believe that the first two years of immigration in the U.K. (2004-2006) when I was alone made me grow stronger and become iron made a la Mrs Thatcher. As Anjelina Jolie’s clicheic tattoo wisely quotes: “what does not kill me, makes me stronger.”
London, 2004, With that very entrance ticket I visited the Houses of Parliament and I was ever so proud to be in the building whose pics of I had only seen in my English handbooks as I felt like having reinvented the wheel!

I survived my first plane flight (I being one of those people who close their eyes at take off, stick their nails in the seat handles, do praying crosses with their tongues in the mouth thinking “Dear God, what have these people invented!”, convinced that one enters a plane like the miners in a mine not knowing if they’d ever come out). I also survived home-sickness, too, (honest to God I cried my eyes out for 6 months every night because of the “dor” for home, yes, “dor” that unique Romanian word possibly originated from “durere”=pain to indicate one’s missing one/something ‘till it hurts). I survived bronchitis, asthma, the changing of 5 different U.K. families (I was an au-pair looking after children) for not having put up with being treated as some sort of inferior member of the society and even being thrown out in the street with all my earthly belongings with no money in my pocket or in the bank.

Ok, I may have not floated lost in a boat along the Thames somewhere, but I did hit the streets of London getting lost on purpose with no clear destination set in mind. And I attended English lessons taught by native English speaking teachers joining students from all over this big world. I got a feel of how it was like to boil in the “multicultural meting pot of London” and I then finally learned how to speak English fluently. And in order to find a job (to secure the “bear” necessities such as a roof over the top of my head and food on the table) I always adapted to the job market requirements and did many jobs to the best of my capacity, cleaning included. Yes, even in 8 bedroom, 5 bathroom, pool house, dog house, flea house, au-pair house houses.

I was now earning freedom and independence at the school of life. I bought my first rattletrap car ever and having had food and accommodation paid for there was lot of pocket money for me to spend on leisure and entertainment. I met and befriended people from all over the world. Some of them are friends for life even to this day even if they live to the other side of the world. I experienced living alongside different cultures with different food, different life styles.

With the travelling bug in me I then started seeing more of the world:  either backpacking in Italy in 2005 (I irremediably fell in love with Italy and decided that between Rome, Venice, Pisa and Florence the latter will be in my heart the first) or boating in Thassos in 2007 or train-ing the “underwater” train to Paris in 2008 or car-ing in Zakynthos in 2010 as follows:

ITALY, 2005

Thassos island, Greece, 2007

what did I tell you about the map? Especially the Greek language map. Yes, that language that made me miss the exit on the motorway while I was trying to read EXODOS on the marking
Paris, 2008
train station in Paris looking at the same old map. To be honest I think I could indeed safely register for Heineken’s competition as I really am Dropped! Well, not as dropped as my mother in law who duly provided my father in law – lost in Bulgaria – with a map of Romanian Apuseni Mountains instead...

La Tour Eiffel a trois cent metres, so I found it without the map!

Zakynthos, 2010

Blue Caves

Navaggio Beach

Navaggio beach, Heaven on Earth

Some time, along the way, I got hold of Donald Neale Walsch’s book called “Conversations with God” and I started my spiritual journey, too. I was no longer FEAR-ful of burning down in Hell if I didn’t confess my sins to a priest or did 1,000 compulsory crosses with my hand during a service. And I remembered the peace felt when experiencing THE light at the end of the tunnel while floating to greener pastures when I got run over by a car in my 18’s year of age. And I started to believe again, but this time in myself as a part of something bigger and more powerful surrounding us.

There wasn’t just a journey that changed me. There were more leading to a bigger one: the life journey. Has it changed me for the better so far? I’d say yes. True, I can no longer find my roots, I lost my sense of belonging (since I emigrated back to UK in 2008 and emigrated back to Romania in 2011), but I feel stronger, more resourceful. Am I also independent? Checked. Does my daughter have a role model of stubborness legacy (or of sneaking the way through as Oltenians do as her father talks about her mother) from her mother? Oh, yes she does. The journey of becoming a mother and raising a “man-cub” has been the most challenging of all so far. I was forced to learn patience under “optimum” work environment as a child manager.

Meanwhile, I warmly recommend that you find the guts to step out of your comfort zone you might find yourselves in at the moment: if you are high school graduates and want to go to Uni, do so in a different city to the one where your parents live. Live your mum’s house or you risk turning into a selfish lazy pep like I was in high school. If you’re in your 30+’s and still live with your mummy get out of there or else no bloody person in the world will partner up with you any more as my mum strongly advocates. If you’re in doubt of whether you should leave the country or not, go for it! Nothing compares to testing your personal limits in order to become stronger, more experienced, more knowledgeable, more confident.

And to put a long story in a nutshell at last, considering that I still make some money go round from here to there for UK and I stare at some financial graphs every day, I’d say that as per below graph, physically travelling from point A to point B (by horse, train, car, plane) is of no matter at all unless the spiritual journey that develops alongside doesn’t lift one to a higher spiritual vibrations.
I therefore, look forward to seeing where la vida loca carries me moving forward. There, I said it all now.

Later edit: since this posting I have actually changed my mind and entered Heineken’s The Voyage competition with the Space Training as the first prize.
Yellow line=geographical journeys, red line="sucky" journeys, green line=spiritual evolution
Age axis hopes for "sucky" journeys to end once you're technically no longer restless

Mukallita a Credit Controller

Ever since I got back from London to Sibiu a lot of people asked me about my job. I didn't quite want to answer. I kept avoiding it. And that's because my job is not a creative one, it doesn't leave anything behind in this world, I will not get down in history because of it. Hence my getting involved will all my resources in my campaign "Our children, our future! Get involved!" via http://asociatiapropediatria.ro/ to support the ONLY Paediatrics Hospital in Sibiu: to give something back. To society, to humankind, to this Universe!

I finally said what I did for a job: Credit Controller. Huh? What does that mean? Well, if you try going ad literam and tell me what you get by credit and what you mean by control, you pretty much get it yourself in the first place. Credit is when you take your ID, go in the big shop and come out 5 minutes later with your plasma TV, with your new PC, your new car, designer's clothes (made in China) without having physically paid a penny for any of these. Control is when the guy who allowed you to come out the shop with all that crap on credit, controls your account to check if you pay your monthly instalments in time, collects your money when you don't pay in time and reports you down on the bad debtor "black lists" when you act like a fool and don't pay up any more.

"Oh, you're like a debt collector, aren't you? You show up with a bat at our doors and pick up things to resell from our houses, right?" Yeah, sure, sure, it is a bat I use to collect stuff from your houses, as if I can resell your cheap cloth gum shoe soles snickers with Lacoste written on them.

When you think I even studied the ICM in London (Institute of Credit Management) for 2 years, just to be taught how to use the bat and smack people's heads with it.

I remember our ICM teacher teaching us that a credit controller does everything from credit risk assessment, credit limits, payment terms to tracking down payments in the bank, keeping an accurate database and of course collecting the money. In reality it is the credit analyst who handles the risk and the credit limits, the collector does the rest. But not just anyhow, he/she does it in style: through effective communication because "a sale is not a sale until the money's in the bank!" Word!

Well, in Uca (a.n. Ro pronounciation of UK) this effective communication job goes really well: I talk too much in English, too, just like I do in Romanian. And with a well established judicial system, it's not really that hard to recover debt in a timely manner:

Me: “Hello, hello. How do you do? Mukallita Leekie Li here. You know, you have an unpaid invoice on your account, raised 31 days ago while your payment term is 30 days from date of invoice. WTF were you thinking?”

The Englishman’: “I am terribly sorry, Mrs Machalita, could you please be ever so kind as to forgive me?” 

While I insert a "Hi, hi, sure, I understand, just make sure it doesn't happen again" in the conversation together with a "How can I help you?" the client gets to see you're a nice chap, you're polite, you smile on the phone (yes, you can actually hear when people smile on the phone, try it). And then the client pays up, money comes in the bank quicker (this is called cash flow), the boss is happy to be able to pay out salaries, the employees are happy to have money to spend, the shops and supermarkets rejoice in having to order more stuff from producers/manufacturers and this is how we all keep the credit cycle financial wheel spinning.

 Coz' when I wasn't there to collect money on time any more, the boss no longer paid out salaries, the employees panicked over losing their jobs, they stopped spending money and chose to save it hidden in their wool socks also hidden under their bed mattress (to make sure Mrs Merkel wouldn't tax the savings, too!), so the shops & supermarkets couldn't pay their suppliers, the suppliers couldn't pay the producers and so the wheel stopped spinning and the crisis came along. And the Americans were unable to print more money to get the wheel started again coz' they had run out of special ink and paper.

Ever since I started to lay it out in German, too, I've been occasionally collecting the Germany ledger, too, as follows:

My phone rings: “Guten Tag, ich bin Frau Schmerkel, ich will gleich zahlen (I want to pay asap)”.
Me: "Guten Tag, but what do you want to zahlen as there is no overdue invoice on your account?"
FS: "Well, ich muss (I MUST) die Fakturen (the invoices) that you are about to invoice today zahlen." Since these guys are zahlen-ing before the invoice being raised, their ledger is always clean.

Well, but the fun I had recovering Romanian debt for a London based company! The efficient communication of "The Romanian born to be a poet" (talks a lot, gets lost in long sentences) type went down really well:

Me: "Hello, I'm calling from a London based company to which you owe money."
Rb2bP (The Romanian born to be a poet): "What debt, m'aam, we're in 2009, I haven't paid my bills since 2004!"

Me: "Well, it's those invoices we're chasing payment for. In order to avoid transferring your file to our Legal Department I suggest we agree on a payment plan."
Rb2bP: "ha, ha, ha, what legal action m'aam, are you suing me from London, what have you been doing up to today? Why haven't you called me here in Piatra, Olt county 5 years ago? Why don't you nicely do a debt circumscription as I know that's what you do after 5 years if I haven't made any payments toward the debt."

Me: "Yes, the debt can be removed after 5 years, but it's called debt prescription, Sir."
Me again, trying to strike up a conversation and see where he was "coming from": "So, you're from Piatra, Olt county. I'm from Slatina, Olt County" (20-30 minute drive)

Rb2bP: “Awww, well, why didn't you say so, neighbour, drop by my office for a coffee next time you come to visit.”

Needless to say that my neighbour didn't pay anything. The man knew what he knew, plus he was also daringly bluffing. Who the Hell on Earth would have sued him based in Piatra, Olt County, Romania, all the way from London, for that debt amount below £500?

As far as the credit goes, so far the Universe helped me pay out my bank debt to up to 95% of the original amount. Compared to the initial sum, what I owe on my credit card now is as tiny as an ant's dick (my Romanian friend Romica taught me that the answer to the riddle "What's smaller than an ant's dick?" is "The bacteria's dick"). Just when I was so close to paying up my last 2 instalments, a financial adviser in the UK advised to actually keep the credit card open. Coz' if I ever intend to borrow money from the bank again I need to build up credit history, to show up as a good payer on the credit report.

So, as much as I want to get out of the vicious credit cycle (The Rat Race as Robert Kiyosaki calls it in his "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" book) I can't as consumerism won't let me to. I need to stay in the race as a small rat, keep my credit, pay the huge interest, just because one day I might fancy cheap cloth gum shoe soles snickers with Lacoste written on them...

Meanwhile, lest we should forget the credit cycle, we keep stirring the polenta in circles, as per instructions in the nursery rhyme tutorial below (we need to teach them young, don't we?). I surely hope that you all got what I do now: I use a bat to hit heads. On a nail, that is.

What came first: the egg or the hen? 

"In the beginning there was the Word"...Neither the egg. Nor the hen. After that Eve took a bite from the Apple of Wisdom. Or of Knowledge. Can't remember as it was a delicious Starkinson. Ever since then us, women, go to Hell and back, punished for daring not to follow a clear order to NOT bite the apple: we're joggling career, house-wife-ing, childcare (younger or older, even the over 30's, you know who they are...), pregnancy, labour, waxing, plucking, cooking (boiled polenta with cheese is my speciality).

But, one thing is definitely ours: the chitter-chatter-box. We do talk. A lot. 'Cause we're allowed to these days. And we have stances on matters, too. And opinions. And Joan of Arc died so we could talk. Or perhaps the Bronte sisters, can't remember again as ever since I gave birth I suffer from senile amnesia.   Regardless of the leekonian origin (n.a. derived from leek, attributed by people from Transylvania in regards to people from the South, especially the Olt county, where sun allows growing lots of vegetables -which would turn Transylvanians  vitamins free if we didn't sell these to them-including the ever so popular leek) us, women, do talk a lot.

So I talk, too. And my husband from Sibiu did warn me that a lot of Transylvanian macho men would  swear at me. 'Cause they're not as tolerant (IGNORE-ants, please God, let the ones without the sense of irony or humour to understand this pun) as he is. But, any form of publicity, good or bad, is publicity, right? I'm not an ostrich to bury my head in sand if I hear something negative, but when the ostrich sits like this one can easily reach its bum to kiss it. So hit me. I will talk. 

I have no idea what we'll talk about as I can see the writing mood hits me at 3AM at night depending on annoys me during the day. From mums who wish to breastfeed their children up to 6-7 years of age, whom I encourage to extend this to 18-30 years of their children's age to social events. I'm not good at politics, last time my husband paid me to vote some piece of rubbish with YES or NO... (n.a. smth to do with our president)

Well, good night. Or Good morning as it is 4:55AM and my daughter is sighing in bed next to me as she can't sleep over a blocked nose. 

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