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Teo and the Gypsies 11/11/2012

Posted by allthingsro in quirks.
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Teo was a teacher I met while I was a teaching assistant in Onesti. On a school trip to Iasi, we saw a Gypsy girl with her mother and father. “Doesn’t she look pretty?” we exclaimed, as she hopped after her parents, the tiers on her white and pink spotted dress bouncing.
Another time, Teo arrived prior to a Sunday morning shopping trip much worse for wear. “The Gypsies playing at the bar wouldn’t let me leave! They just kept playing and telling me to dance,” she explained as she sipped coffee.
We filled in together for another teacher with the seventh grade. After class I remarked, “Why is that boy so much taller than the others?” “The Gypsy boy? He re-sat the first year of school three times. But then he was in my class, and I was so good with him, he made it.” Teo wasn’t like the other teachers: “Doing nothing in class and then full power in private lessons.”
One day a Gypsy woman came to her after class. She wanted Teo’s help to fill in an application for social security. “You know better than me.” Teo was bemused.
It’s hard not to pick up negative attitudes towards Gypsies. I already know what I’ll tell Delphi about my flight to Bucharest this year: “At passport control in Bucharest, we were behind these Roma women. And of course one of them didn’t have her passport or her identity card, she just pulled this photocopy out of her bag…” But Teo gave me hope. She saw Roma as different, but she wasn’t hostile towards them.
Teo taught private lessons and, like so many young teachers, she wanted to get out of teaching, so she was studying finance part-time. “My salary is the same as the woman who sweeps the street.” She wanted a job in a bank and a VW Tiguan. I wonder if she made it.


A close Roma encounter 26/02/2012

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Autumn 2010. Flatmate and I are watching a documentary about Roma in the UK. Or benefit scroungers, in Daily Mail parlance. The documentary is incredibly narrow in focus: you would believe that Roma subsist purely on UK and begging, with passing  for Muslims being the scheme du jour.

It gives no mention of copper wire. Or manele. It doesn’t mention the King of the Gypsies and all his finery.

A few days later, I’m opposite a Roma at the self-checkout at Sainsbury’s Ealing Broadway. She sells the Big Issue outside Marks & Spencer’s. She’s always alone, no begging kids in tow.

Roma woman is trying to scan a Cheese Straw. It has no bar code, no sticker, nothing remotely approaching anything scanable. I step in and help her complete the transaction. She thanks me and leaves the store. I wish I had bought her some fruit.