Din California la Curtea de Argeș și înapoi – From California to Curtea de Argeș and back

În ziarul Argeș Expres din 4 aprilie 2024 a apărut un frumos articol despre importanța prieteniei și a păstrării valorilor tradiționale în mediul academic și nu numai. Mulțumesc frumos, Cristina Mincu, pentru disponibilitate și generozitatea redării dialogului nostru plăcut și cu multe deschideri. Articolul a apărut și aici:

Iată în continuare traducerea în engleză a articolului.

The “Romanian dream”, lived by an American who came to Curtea de Argeș: Victoria Seitz, on the adventure of a lifetime, with her friends Mariana and Olesia

In the picturesque heart of Romania, in the town of Curtea de Argeș, I witnessed the celebration of a story of deep and delightful friendship between three women equally passionate about culture, new experiences and authentic human connections. Victoria Seitz, a former professor of marketing at California State University of San Bernardino, USA, fell hopelessly in love with our country and, especially, with the beauty and mediaeval history of the Bessarabian Citadel. Professor Victoria Seitz her title of Doctor of Science in 1987 from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, with the doctoral thesis: “The patronage behaviour of non-users, users and users-intensive catalogues for the purchase of clothing”. Alongside her, in this story, are Professor Mariana Nicolae (from Bucharest, but now living in Curtea de Argeș) and Dr. Olesia Mihai (from Iași), two friends whose devotion and affection have crossed years and distances.

Victoria Seitz first came to Romania in 2002 during an academic trip to Iași and Bucharest, on which occasion she met the Romanian women who would become her best friends. Since then, her connection to these lands has become deeper and more passionate. In love with the rural beauty of the country and the authenticity of the city of Curtea de Argeș, Victoria returned to these places several times over the years, observing with amazement and joy the evolution and growth of the local community.

In February this year she decided to spend a short vacation in the Royal City, to celebrate, together with Mariana Nicolae and Olesia Mihai, Olesia’s birthday marking a beautiful life milestone. Seven years apart from their last meeting, the three women revisited memories and created new experiences in a new occasion to explore friendship and places.

I met Victoria at Mariana Nicolae’s house – a timeless setting, with romantic and elegant furniture, emanating a lot of good taste and love for art, where the best occupation is that of telling stories and reviving memories. The way the interior of the house is arranged is eclectic and reflects influences from the many trips Mariana has taken throughout her life. We sat down to chat by a beautiful fire glowing in the fireplace and with a platter with alluring pieces of cake with sour-cherries. Becoming nostalgic, the marketing Professor from across the Ocean started her story confessing that she is still sincerely in love with Romania and, especially, with Curtea de Argeș. She visited our town for the first time in 2004, and although it didn’t have much to win you over then, Victoria’s heart stayed on in this place. Therefore, after 20 years, during which she has returned to our town several times, she can tell us exciting things.

With each visit to Romania, Victoria deepened her connection with the local culture and traditions. Fascinated by the beauty of the rural landscapes and the hospitality of the people, she traveled and explored these lands with her friends, discovering new aspects of our picturesque paradise and living the “Romanian dream”. In this context, the company of the two friends from old Dacia was invaluable to her.

“I love Curtea de Argeș! I came to Romania for the first time in 2002, in Iasi, as a Fulbright Professor. I was invited to the Al. Ioan Cuza University, for a semester, to give different lectures to the students. That’s how I met Olesia. Then, I moved to Bucharest, where I had the opportunity to meet Mariana. I returned to Romania in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2017, either as a Fulbright specialist or to participate in numerous conferences in my field of academic activity. The last time I came over was seven years ago, so it’s been a while since I stepped back on these beautiful lands. All these years kept me away from my favorite friends, Olesia and Mariana”, Victoria began to tell us.

She likes the countryside a lot for its authenticity and tranquility. Although she knows that it is a small town, she considers Curtea de Argeș to be an attractive place. And, in order to better understand the essence of the community, she asked questions and did her research on the history of the place, but also of the country, so that she can make comparisons and draw parallels between the Romanian society and the one from which she comes.

“I’m in love with nature and the countryside… It helps me relax. I had the opportunity to visit Timișoara as well, but my heart remained in Curtea de Argeș. As an American, coming from such a different society, everything seems so much easier here. Curtea de Argeș is a very courteous city. Over time, I also learned its history, I know that it was once the capital… In the more than 20 years since I have been coming to the area, I have seen this city evolve and its course has been amazing. It’s a good sign when you’re watching a community grow so much, so spectacularly… It means that its people really care about the future.

Everything here is gorgeous. You can’t help but admire the hills, the mountains, the fresh air. I don’t deny that I also liked Bucharest, but that is a metropolis, with agitation and noise, like in the big cities of America. Here, in the province, you can also listen to the voice of nature, contemplate the surroundings. And Mariana’s house is very welcoming and suitable for meditation. We have quality time together. I revisited, on this occasion of my return to Curtea de Argeș, the Vidraru Dam, where again the landscape impressed me a lot…”, Victoria shared with us.

Over the years, the friendship between her, Olesia and Mariana has been solid and full of fulfillment. These three remarkable women have combined their passions and experiences to create valuable projects together, including books and scholarly articles, offering unique solutions and insights in the field of marketing and personal image. Their story of friendship transcends borders and cultural differences, demonstrating the power of genuine human connections and mutual learning.

“Mariana was also a Fulbright scholar in America and spent 6 months at the university where I teach, California State University, and Olesia later came to the University of Santa Barbara, California, also as a Fulbright scholar. From our intersections resulted two books that I wrote together with Mariana. One of them is called Key to Success. The professional image, and appeared in 2008, at the Humanitas Publishing House, the other appeared at the ASE Publishing House. Mariana is very creative and deep. She helped me develop these two projects, wrote them, edited them, translated them and prepared them for printing… We also wrote numerous academic articles about business education and marketing. Our friendship helped us discover more about ourselves. She’s the one with the pen and the story, I come up with examples from the US, we talk about international trends, how things are done in various other areas and that’s how we complement each other. We have each benefited from our friendship, both professionally and personally. Between the three of us there is a special bond that I cherish. I’m very happy that I have such soulmates!”, Victoria pointed out.

In the book mentioned before, the two authors intertwine their totally different experiences – one Romanian, the other American – to offer simple solutions, available to anyone, to create a personal image to help people get promoted from the beginning of their careers: choosing the correct way to dress at work, improving their skills and art of oral and written communication, preparing a speech, etc.

For Victoria, Romania became more than a tourist destination, it is a place where she discovered new meanings and perspectives on the world.

“My story is about the Romanian experience and how staying here awakened in me a new level of sensitivity that I didn’t know I had before stepping on Romanian soil… The people I met helped me understand more about Eastern Europe and what lies beyond what we call the Iron Curtain. I learned about the struggles and hardships that this people went through, during the times of restrictions from the period of Ceaușescu, but also before the communist regime… And I also had a better understanding of the lives of Mariana and Olesia. That’s also how I realized how much propaganda is circulating in the United States regarding the world over here. In America we often quote the saying Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I know that this was what happened in Romania. But I learned that in Eastern Europe, although the countries were all under communist rule, they were governed differently. For example, the Czech Republic flourished, while in Romania there was a lot of oppression, people suffered shortages. There are still enough leaders, even today, who do not care about their people. I can say that America also had a leadership that didn’t care about the people and we don’t know what will happen even after the new elections. At a high level, everything is arranged, but we, the common people, suffer…”, observed the Professor from California.

Through her voice, Victoria Seitz shares a deep understanding and appreciation for Romania and its people, highlighting the cultural and human richness of this country and encouraging people to discover and appreciate the beauty and authenticity of the world in which they live. While, for many Romanians, the “American dream” is associated with economic opportunities and the Western lifestyle, in a country considered to be successful and prosperous, where personal achievement and the fulfillment of objectives can be achieved, this is how, for an American, the “Romanian dream” comes into being, associated with the deep awareness of the cultural wealth and human values that Romania offers. For Victoria and other foreign travelers, our country represents a place of understanding and inner fulfillment, offering perspectives and experiences that can change the worldview and one’s own life. Here’s what Victoria told us:

“I think that the Romanian experience made me a better person, from small things like the food and drinks over here, to the interaction with special people. When I think of all the places in the world I’ve visited, this is definitely my favorite, and I’m being honest. Before I came to Romania I was very naive, although I had traveled a lot. But, having the opportunity to penetrate deeply into the local culture, I saw that the Romanians have gone through hard experiences over time, which I did not have, so I learned from them that you have to be prepared for anything, that the world is constantly changing and that misfortunes and difficult trials may come upon us at any time. In American newspapers, you don’t read about the turmoil of the world over here, nor about what is happening in Moldova, as this information is insignificant for Americans. The pages of the newspapers are barely enough to write about us… Over here I learned what is not taught in school or anywhere else. Before I first arrived in Romania, after I accepted the Fulbright scholarship, I wondered where this country was like. I had no idea, because I didn’t know anything about it…”.

Now retired and with the mentality of an experienced person, who through her life reached a high level of wisdom, the guest from across the Ocean most appreciates the sincerity of the people and the human values that she finds here, in contrast to some aspects of American culture and society that she considers more superficial and devoid of genuine human connections:

“You come to a country considered backward, underdeveloped, poor, and you find that it has a huge volume of culture and traditions, history and substance. Although a simple people, the Romanians have much more than we Americans have, because they are close to each other. They are well connected with each other, have strong family relationships, have love. In America, the news of divorce dominates and people are cold, shallow, families are broken. You, the Romanians, have more than us, you have depth of soul, you have identity and the feeling of belonging, of heritage. All the people of this country should see that they have so much to offer and should stop letting foreigners do business for them and rule over them. This is what I always tell Romanian students. I try to instill in them the idea that they have a lot to offer, because I have often heard Romanians say that they are not good enough. Yes, they are good enough! They are really better, because they have their own things, they have what they need to get ahead!” concluded Victoria.

From those deep musings, I directed the discussion towards how the “Romanian dream feels” at the level of entertainment. An important part of Victoria’s experience was the discovery of Romanian wines, which she appreciated and promoted with enthusiasm:

“I spent New Year’s Eve in 2004 here, in Curtea de Argeș, with Mariana and Olesia. They had energy all night long. We got home at 3am and I was exhausted. It’s amazing how much vitality the Romanians have, being able to spend a whole night and not get drunk, even if they always taste the liquors in their glasses. They are warm people anyway, even the language sounds friendly. The hosts at the hotels and guesthouses are very kind and welcoming. The hot chocolate here is very tasty, like nowhere else I’ve been. Another good thing is the coffee: it has an intense taste that I can only find in Brazil, where I was born. As for the food, polenta is in power! Here I also ate sarmale, which I associate with important holidays. There are so many dishes, so many appetizers that, when you get to the main course, you’re already full… I remember that, during my visit to Iași in 2002, I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t find any souvenirs: no T-shirts, no magnets. I didn’t know what to buy as a souvenir… Now, they are everywhere and that makes me so happy! Of course, I don’t mean the ones that are made in China. I also took home traditional drinks. I got in touch with Romanian wines and, when I got back to the USA, to California, where I used to live, I tried to promote the Romanian wines and even created a link through which wine could be imported from Romania, to be sold over there. This association worked for a while…”.

Here we conclude the story of the friendship between Victoria Seitz, Olesia Mihai and Mariana Nicolae, which is a tribute to human connections and journeys that open new perspectives on life. Beyond the limits imposed by the paper sheet of the newspaper or the interface of a website, the beautiful relationship will continue until the One above allows it. It was fascinating to learn how, in a modest Romanian town, two Romanian women and an American one discover and share the joy of friendship and the beauty of travel… Despite cultural and social differences, human connections and personal discoveries transcend borders and give us the opportunity to enrich our souls and improve our understanding of the world around us.

There are more pictures in the Romanian version of the article that you can find here: