Saturday, August 23, 2014

The measure of a man

There is a scene from Rabbit Proof Fence that I thought a lot about while in Romania. The film was about three Aboriginal girls as they escaped through the outback, surviving a nine week walk of 1,500 miles. The scene I remembered was how they found water where a city person would not even think to look. The film said a lot about what makes a person successful - that a person who might appear simple in one setting is quite the expert in another, While those skills are often viewed as less important than those of a person in a more sophisticated situation, they seem pretty impressive to a city slicker plopped down in a strange environment.

When we were in Romania, I saw a young man of very little means take control of a donkey and cart, back them up into a space they couldn't possibly fit into, at an angle they were not meant to travel. But they did, and this young man managed this feat with the same cool nonchalance that his American counterpart would show while mastering a skateboard jump in the driveway. The skills of a villager in Romania are necessary to put food on the table, but might not transfer too well after immigration. We see a lot of this in our friends from Moldova, especially the slightly older crowd. The younger a person comes here, the easier it is to modify the skills from the old country into rent-paying money-making abilities. 

The earlier situation was the case with our beloved friend Vasile. The man was amazing with all things useful in Moldova. He came over to our old house one day to help us in the yard. In a matter of minutes, he had our sadly tangled mess of grape vines staked and ready to produce. He didn't have to stand there with the Sunset Garden Book opened to "What Grapes Need". He just knew, and they got scared into shape and put in a bumper crop after his few minutes of expertise. With his young daughter Laura translating, he kindly chided me for planting flowers and not cucumbers against the fence. And the look on his face when he asked what kind of weird fruit tree we had just planted? After we told him it wasn't a tree that produced food, but one that merely produced shade? Pure and complete Eastern European disgust. He was very happy to see that at our new house, we have come around completely to his way of thinking and we have little fruit trees dotting the back yard. We are still much too American to plant them in the front yard, but I'm leaning toward letting some pumpkins go wild out there next summer. Vasile would be proud.

Vasile greeting guests at our convention in Sacramento

We look forward to seeing our good friend Vasile Clima again, where he can tend his grape vines, grow tomatoes on land that is his own, and make mamaliga for all his friends and family. We still have so much to learn from this giant of a man who left us much too soon.