Barni was my last interview. I had seen him around and he seemed to give the air of a senior member of the camp. He was the big brother helping out teachers and stepping in to reign in the younger kids when needed.
“Is it always like this?” I asked, “This busy with the children…[I assume] you’ve been doing this for a while?”
Contrary to my expectations, Barni had only been working summer camps like this for a year, however he had racked up six year of experience working at another children’s center that had a focus on special needs. He was only seventeen. Besides working with children, he had educational goals in sight. He would soon be finishing up his final year of high school and was deeply considering university. He didn’t have an exact career path in mind, but he was certain he wanted to work outside the political sector, specifically with children. In his free time he was working on learning a fifth language.
As a person who also tended to take on a lot of goals and tasks, I was interested to know where Barni’s drive came from. At first appearance one would be able to tell that Barni had some Roma heritage. I wanted to get an idea of what it was like for Barni, although being socially coded as gypsy, to surpass any initial, negative expectations. Did he feel pressured to overcompensate? Given the complex nature of the topic, we sought out someone to translate Barni’s thoughts. Luckily for us, Andi was available.
“Because of his personality, he is a guy that will always wanna [move] forward in life…everything better and better–”
“For my life and for the world, ” Barni added, “But I don’t have interest in my nation [Romania] because I am half gypsy so it is not interested in me. It [Romania] is not a problem for me/ [not my problem].”
Andi added, “He sees only the personality…behavior.”
It was a lot of information, and I felt the need to condense and clarify.
“So I guess what I got from that is you feel the pressure–not to overcompensate–but you are constantly wanting to do better…to do better for yourself, to do better for other people. And rather get caught up in the whole gypsy-Hungarian dispute you would rather see people as people and not necessarily as gypsy and Hungarian.”
“Every person has [a] chance for life,” Barni went on to say that there would always be problems between people and there was no reason to get caught up in at all. It was not something he deemed important.
“Do you see your future here, staying in Romania?”
He expressed his specific intentions of going to Los Angeles California for the diversity, “I think— I think that America does not have problems with [different] nations.” I tried to give the general push that America was no different than Romania in its issues with races and nationalities–that the station of gypsies in Romania and black people in the United States were somewhat comparable. The conversation then took an unexpected turn.
“I love the black peoples! And–”
I couldn’t help but giggle with glee.
“It’s a little bit funny…”
“No, no, I understand…” Yeah, I get it, we’re freaking awesome. What else is new?
Barni experessed is admiration for the black culture–the music, the style, and the women. He tied the vibrancy of black people to the greater attraction of America with its holidays, patriotism, and its myriad of job opportunities (something growing scarce in Romania). He also saw America as the ideal place to find love.
“You want to get married in America to an American?”
“I want to be an American. It’s like a dream.”
I was even more elated to learn that Barnie had specific intentions of marrying a black woman. I practically knocked over my phone when I heard his enthusiasm on the matter. I even suggested ringing up some of friends and letting them know that they had international options.
After a few more chuckles and laughs the conversation started winding down and I asked the question I always asked at the end of my interviews.
“If you could let the world know one thing about yourself what would that be?”
“It’s a big secret.” No matter my pleas and insistence that secrets were the safest with me, Barni held fast and wouldn’t tell me the answer.
He said if we met again one day, he would tell me. I hope, if that day comes, he has accomplished all he said he would. I hope to see him standing proud in Los Angeles, with a steady job, and a black wife by his side. I wish you the best of luck on your American dream, Barni.