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TEM Lab - Fall, 2017
Romania, Taparo
Written by Jeff Webb & Amy Titus

During our time in Romania, we have had many discussions with locals about culture, history, and business. However, the topic that comes up more often than not is communism and its history in Romania. This is mostly because of one our team members, Hairold Lopez. Every time people ask us where we are from, Hairold replies, that he is from Cuba; this simple sentence opens the door to a whole new discussion.

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Many of the buildings around the country are in disrepair

When people talk about time, they separate their lives "before 1989" or "after 1989". 1989 was the year of the revolution, when the communist government was overthrown and the republic was formed. Life before 1989 is almost exclusively referred to as difficult. Life after 1989 isn’t without its challenges but they see the positive and hope for a better future. The people here have had to learn how to rapidly embrace the changing world that was progressing without them during the communist regime. While they still have a long road ahead of them this task seems easier to bear.

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” - Winston Churchill

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An old woman knitting in the street

Though Communism is a thing of the past, many aspects are still lingering from the era. One of the most economically hindering is the poor infrastructure. What would be an hour-long drive in any developed nation, becomes a 2-3 hour journey. Roads are in desperate need of repair, with most only large enough for one car to fit on. Major highways have been planned around the country, but politicians who promise to have them constructed frequently reverse those promises, and the roads remain as they are. While European Union funding is possible, corruption is a dominant force preventing progress forward. For a country the size of Arizona, there are only 2 major highways (2 lanes each direction) that connect limited parts of the country to each other.

Another lasting connection is the horse and buggy. In the fertile agrarian communities horse and buggy are the most common vehicle to be seen, especially early in the morning as the sun rises and as the sun begins to set over the continuous rolling hills of the country. Many farmers walk their herd of cows and buffalos along the asphalt paved roads each day to grazing pastures ensuring that a journey by car is always an interesting adventure.

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Livestock using the highway to access greener pastures

Farming is a way of life, and means of survival for most living in the more remote regions of Romania. The Roma people who are referred to as gypsies seem to be the most poverty ridden throughout the country. Hitch hiking is common practice and expected since there are a limited amount of people that own cars here. Bike riding is another means of transportation; If you see someone riding a bike, it is 999 out of 1000 never for exercise or fun. Physical exercise is done in the fields while working, not running down the street. As Logan discovered during his time here, the kind-hearted Romanians will stop and offer you a ride to wherever you are running, because they just don’t understand the desire to run for pleasure.

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A Sunday evening tradition in the small Romanian villages. Sitting and mingling on the benches in front of neighbor's homes.

Often we've been told that corruption has decreased greatly since Romania became part of EU. However, they then continue to tell us this is only because the money Romania receives from the EU is highly monitored and almost impossible for politicians to pocket; because of this they choose to not even bother with using those funds as a result. Further prolonging the infrastructure improvements that the money could go towards. Corruption has decreased only to the extent that foreign investment money has become more difficult to pocket away.

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Playing chess on a Saturday afternoon in the park.

Though Romania is part of the EU, they still are behind in their schedule of policies and programs that need to be followed and implemented. Within the last 11 years (October 2006) compulsory military enlistment was finally ended, this largely due to Romania joining NATO. University enrollment is higher nationwide than during the communist regime, especially because young men aren't obligated to join the military service. Although positive this has led to a serious "brain drain" within the country. The  educated young-adults take what they've learned at University and move to other parts of Europe where they can make more money, in turn hurting Romania's growth opportunities because all the educated leaders of tomorrow moved away.

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An old woman feeding birds in the park on a Saturday afternoon.

One of the positive things that the government has been working on since 1989 is returning building ownership back to the original owners. During communism most buildings, especially in the larger cities, became state owned. Now the building ownership is caught up in litigation and research all over the country. Most of the original owners have passed away, making the process of return much harder have In other cases this process is complicated by the current tenants that are living in the building and the return to the original owners. As buildings experience multi-tenant ownership  the outside in some cases begins to transform. One building can be painted in 6 different colors in specific sections as a way for people to distinguish their part of the building.

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One building can be painted in 6 different colors in specific sections as a way for people to distinguish their part of the building.

Despite the communist control that has occurred here, things overall have gotten much better since 1989. Romanians look forward to a prosperous future, and have truly embraced capitalism. Private property is an improvement that has been welcomed by the people. The people recognize the importance of law and embrace a system where they are able to voice change and improvement without fear of the government retaliation.

Perhaps the greatest improvement  since 1989 is the ability for Romanians to become entrepreneurs. Opportunities are everywhere and citizens are jumping at the chance to grow the economic condition of their villages.  Thanks to the advances the country has made in joining the EU, people like our pension (hotel) hostess Maria have been able start their own businesses.

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Thanks to the advances the country has made in joining the EU, people like our pension (hotel) hostess Maria have been able start their own businesses.

Romania still has a ways to go but, things are looking up for Romania.