Romanians come to Roseville

A group of visiting Romanians and a few Roseville Rotary friends toured Central Park’s boardwalks. The European visitors commented that they enjoyed Roseville’s wide open spaces. (courtesy of Gayland Bender)
A group of visiting Romanians and a few Roseville Rotary friends toured Central Park’s boardwalks. The European visitors commented that they enjoyed Roseville’s wide open spaces. (courtesy of Gayland Bender)
Appropriately, the Rotary Club’s Romanian visitors ended up in the Roseville Rotary Reading Room at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville. (courtesy of Gayland Bender)
Appropriately, the Rotary Club’s Romanian visitors ended up in the Roseville Rotary Reading Room at the Ramsey County Library in Roseville. (courtesy of Gayland Bender)

Making friends from other countries makes the world a smaller, friendlier place. The goal of Rotary International’s Friendship Exchange program is to learn about similarities and differences between cultures to gain a better understanding of others.

This year the Roseville Rotary Club was involved in an exchange with business people from Romania, an Eastern European country surrounded by the Ukraine, Serbia, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Red Sea. Once a communist country, it is now a democracy and member of NATO and the European Union.

From Sept. 12 to 25, six Romanian Rotarians and their spouses lived with local families, seeing firsthand how Minnesotans live while making new friends. Their first three days were in Roseville, and they said they learned so much more than if they stayed in hotels and just took bus tours, and the good will among them was palpable on the third day of their visit.

First observations

"Roseville is a beautiful city," said Alina Balan, who was here with her husband, Octavia. She said people seemed happy and she liked the fact that the city responds to the needs of the community with activities such as ice skating and rollerblading, parks with walking trails and warming shelters for winter activities.

Several mentioned the wide-open spaces and how quiet it is — especially after stops in New York City and Washington D.C. along the way — along with the friendly people they were meeting. Wide-ranging topics of conversation included food, housing, schools, the European refugee problem, history, business, culture and customs, children and the fact more Roseville residents live in houses than apartments.

"Twenty-five years ago, the communists forced people from their homes into small flats," said Delia Guirgea, who is fluent in several languages. Most people still live in flats, though she and her husband, Daniel, live in a house. She also said she found it interesting that most yards are not fenced in, suggesting people are comfortable with their neighbors.

Daniel, a hydraulic engineer who does a lot of traveling, added that his generation is making the transition from communism to the values of the free market, and they have a lot to learn and to teach their children about having an open society.

Roseville resident George Krienke hosted the group for dinner at his lake home.

"They were very enjoyable and enthusiastic, talking about the many places they visited here," Krienke said. "Their visit was as much fun for me, as it seemed to be for them, on the pontoon, conversing and eating.

"At one point Daniel raised his glass of wine to me and said 'noroc,'" Krienke said, explaining that the Romanian word means "here's to you," or "cheers."

Krienke continued, "Cosmin Dinulescu said that if you go to Romania, the only word that you have to know is 'noroc,' as that will get you in anywhere.” A lot of laughter ensued as they toasted each other.

A few said the waves of refugees streaming toward Germany and Austria at the time are a big problem, even though right now they are bypassing Romania, "Our country doesn’t have the resources to help too many immigrants but personally, I would help," Alina said. Others commented the media wasn’t accurately portraying the situation.

After touring the non-profit Bridging, where furniture and other household goods are recycled to the needy, one person commented there's nothing like it at home — the poor burn old furniture to provide heat and the rich just throw it away. They thought Bridging was a good idea.

The exchange

Through Friendship Exchange, each couple spent three days with families from four different Rotary Clubs — Roseville, Stillwater, Rice Lake/Barron County and Lakeville. The goal was to see how American families live and work and to see the highlights of the Twin Cities, as well as farm life and a north country tour that included Duluth and Bayfield.

"Several of the Romanians commented on how Minnesota reminded them of home, but I wonder if they would say the same if they were with us in January,” chuckled Ted Johnson, who hosted a pizza party.

The family visits and tours work both ways. This past spring, six Roseville Rotarians plus their spouses or guests went to Romania and upon their return, gave a slide show about their visit to familiarize the club with Romania.

"Meeting people from across the globe, sharing time together and becoming good friends is what I like most about the Rotary Friendship Exchange Program," Johnson said.

Roseville Rotary President Terry Carlson and her husband hosted Daniel and Delia. Said Carlson, "Any time I have an opportunity to get to know people from different parts of the world and make new friends, I find that we share so many of the same goals and values — for our families, our communities, the world in which we live —  even when our cultures, social atmospheres, language, food, etc. are very different.

"By hosting folks on a Rotary Friendship Exchange I have been blessed with rich experiences — people who may have been called ‘foreigners’ become friends and extended family members. This bond makes that far off location seem so much closer,” she said.

Pam O’Meara can be reached at pomeara@lillienews.com or 651-748-7818.

 

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