People in Romania, in this way, are the like Japanese. They are all worried about what other people will say. I had a Romanian friend who was always saying she wanted to do this or that, but she would never do it because all her neighbors would see her and talk about her. In Japan, they keep keep one another in check too. If they leave Japan, they could have a completely different personality than when they are in Japan because the people keep one another walking the straight and narrow like the Romanians do. As for my neighborhood, everyone always knew everything that was happening. My next door neighbor was one of my very good friends, and she spent her time standing at the front window of the house with an ironing board and iron ironing all day and watching everything in the village. We lived on main street, so there wasn’t much she didn’t see. If she saw it, next I would see her sitting on a bench in front of her house talking to one of the other neighbors. They were sharing everything each of them had seen happen in the village. There were no secrets in that village. I heard a lot of it. The idea of a joke came up because of a visitor we had from America.
We were a family of Americans living in a Romanian village which is unusual to begin with. On top of that, we had a friend from America who came to visit. Our friend happened to be black. We were Americans and hadn’t thought about a black person looking strange in Romania. Having blacks around is normal in America, but the whole time we lived in Romania, the only blacks we ever saw were our black American friend who came to visit and a black guy from Africa who had come to study, and we were there for eight years. The black guy from Africa said he never saw any more blacks. That is just how scarce black people are in Romania.
When our American black friend showed up at our house, all the neighbors were looking out the window! They were all so completely obvious. No one was hiding their shock to see a black guy. As he went by, they were even craning their necks to watch him as long as they could. He was an anomaly and really caused a stir in that village! There was chatter, and chatter, and more chatter! We saw and heard what they were doing, and my whole family as well as our American visitor were laughing. We were all saying things like, “What would they do if an oriental showed up?” or “What would they do if an American Indian showed up?” etc. We were all completely amused by their reaction to our friend.
It just so happened that I had a student in one of my classes at the university who was Romanian, but he looked like an American Indian. He had slightly tanned skin. He had dark eyes and high cheek bones. He had long straight black hair down his back. I told him what my neighbors did when the American black guy came to visit us. We ended up hatching a plot because he knew he looked like an American Indian.
He put a hat on so no one could see his hair or really what he looked like and came to my house. My teenage son took him into his bedroom, put his hair in braids, and dressed him in Indian clothing. They even painted his face. They were really having fun! He looked even more like an American Indian dressed as one. There was no big head dress or anything like that, but they did put a head band on him. The guy first walked around in my yard dressed like that with my son. After that, they decided to take a walk down the street to the store together. All the neighbors were true to form. They did it again! Everyone was at their windows! They were craning their necks to watch the two as they walked down the street. Their eyes were just as big as when the American black guy came to our house. The chatter began again! Again, they were sitting on the benches in front of the houses talking about the American Indian who had come to my house.
We laughed the first time, and we laughed the second time. Our neighbors were so predictable and so funny! They never had an inkling that the second guy was actually Romanian and not American Indian. We loved their funniness! We also understood that Romanians hardly ever saw people who were very different from them. My next door neighbor was number one on the list again of someone who was spreading the story about what had happened at my house! We never told them it was all a joke!