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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hunger and Hard Times I

Johan, at Berkley Bob's


Do you want to hear about hunger and hard times in the not-so-distant past? Johan (Ioan) is from Romania. I met him and his mother when he moved here from Canada.  She is a delightful woman, a writer of original fairy tales. Johan is on his way back to Romania today because Florica is ill. She no longer writes stories. I asked Johan to write about the hunger he experienced. The piece following is the first portion of what her wrote. I will correct his work and publish it in three parts. His writing needs very little corrections. Johan is 60. His mother is 81.

.Johan speaks:

I got up around 9 am on another beautiful Florida morning. I have been here for two months in a winter escape from Romania, a little insane thing to do given my available finances and my precarious business situation back in Romania. Then again, what is sane or insane. We are all relating the definitions of society norms from educated psychologists, psychiatrists, communication specialists. They are the ones that define the sanity, what the surrounding community allows. Once in awhile they try to push those boundaries, finding sane excuses for insane behaviors.

I am curious if they had been born in an Amazonian- or Borneo-man-eating tribe how would they define hunger. For most of the Western world this is limited to “Oh, shit! My fridge is half empty. I must go to the store to get eggs, milk, butter, ham, bacon and another two-dozen necessary items that will make me feel happy and secure the next three days or so.”

Come on, you educated readers of this insane dissertation, how often were you really hungry? How often have you gotten up and your first and only thought was, “How, where, and what am I going to eat today?”

That strange sensation tickling my stomach makes me go the fridge, and after a quick inspection, I am reassured that for at least one more day I have enough to eat, so no reason to panic. I can keep putting on paper those thoughts and childhood memories of hunger.

When I was twelve- or thirteen-years-old, I was living with my mom in Bucharest, Romania, and going to junior high. Things were simple and easy. Mom was divorced from dad for five-years already. She worked hard on her career as a folklorist, ethnographer, and great mom. (Florica, his mother, has a PhD in Linguistic Anthropology.)  She worked six days each week. The communist party was making sure that Sunday, one rest day per week, was more than enough for everybody. They also told and directed everyone where they could work, how much bread, butter or meat they were allowed and issued each family coupons for rations.

Don’t you love it when some Big Brother looks after you?  Did it matter that it was almost impossible to travel outside the country or that you could not speak your mind freely for fear of ending up hungry and beaten up in a dark prison cell. After all, they gave anyone who stayed in line the right to work, inexpensive apartment rentals and survival food coupons.

More tomorrow on the abject hunger he endured under Communist rule. I wonder if you could do the things he had to do to eat. I wonder if I could!

If you are enjoying this so far, it gets better. If you are enjoying this, please leave encouraging words for Johan. He doubts if this would be interesting or relevant. Is there anything about hard times you would like for him to write about in the future?

12 comments:

  1. Hi, Linda! Long time lurker here, commenting for the first time. I greatly enjoy your blog, and I find Johan's words very interesting and relevant! Then again, I read ethnographies for fun. Most Americans about my age (I'm 35) have never known true hunger. There is so much cheap food available here, even if it's terribly unhealthy.

    (P.S. You have a beautiful name--my mom's name is Linda, also.)

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  2. Jessica,
    I am glad you commented. Thank you; I try. Johan has so many interesting stories. You will really like his stories of hunger and hard times, if you read the next part--maybe not tomorrow!

    Believe me, I have known true hunger, but not for long and not like he has.

    Thanks! I do like my name and your mother's name. lol

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  3. Very interesting post and the hard time topic is very relevant. I am looking forward to the next part!
    Leslie

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    1. Anon/Leslie,
      After he gave me this, he told me even more. I am just going to have him write that, too. I could listen to his stories all day. He has seen some really hungry, hard times. It is scary.

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  4. It must be hard for Johan to relive those times, when he shares his stories. I am very grateful to him for doing this because his story is the story of a survivor, and it will give hope to others who are in a bad way right now. I remember my father's stories of extreme hardship, and when things got a little tough, I would tell myself that at least it was never as bad as that. And thanks to you, Linda, for recognizing the value in Johan's story.

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    1. He was surprised anyone would want to har about all this. He said that when he starts to write, more things come to mind. I hope this will be a book. He told me he had wanted to write the story of his life, but did not know if anyone would be interested. Yes, people will be interested.

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  5. I'm curious about mushrooms- some of my associates in a mushroom class who were from eastern Europe scrounged for mushrooms. I'm also curious how it compares to Hungary as described in Bridge at Andau by Michener.

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  6. Years ago I was attending a potluck dinner to celebrate the end of some craft class that a friend, along with her mother,had been attending. We had fed the husbands and children before we went out to our get together. It was getting late. I announced that I hoped that the meal would start soon because I was absolutely starving! My friend's mother said NO Janet you are not hungry! and you have never known real hunger! This woman was a child in Germany during the war and she had come to the United as a war bride. That evening she told me about the life she led and the actual starvation she had experienced. I have never forgotten that conversation. She was so right. I have been ready to eat but I have never known hunger. I would be very interested in hearing your friend's story, Please continue to post his story. Please thank him for being willing to share his experiences. aaai am looking forward to the next installment.

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    1. We all think we are starving until someone points out we are not! Good point.

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  7. Fantastic post! I have always enjoyed reading about how people live and survive, especially in other parts of the world.

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    1. He has some stories you won't forget. If I am ever so hungry, I will remember how he got food.

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