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The Tzigania Experience

Tzigania Journal 2014

Find out what's happening in Tzigania as it's happening

- September 10

   “Treat guests as if they are your first and your last,” is our creed; “everyone is special”; it is, after all, the Roma way: “mishto beshtele” (most important are visitors to the home “feel well”) - and it shows because,
one satisfied guest - brings two more”…

   It’s proven its worth: Sebastian heard about us and stayed some days… He left and told Scott who shared the information with Ovi and they both came (a 6 hour bus ride from Bucharest – stayed with us – then returned 6 hours back to Bucharest. Wow. It’s humbling)… Somewhere along the way Scott met Niles, shared the information with him. Niles met Irini, told her about us they both came for an extended visit (6 days and still here)… Irini told David who later followed them up and that’s where we now stand… Meanwhile the chain continues to spread the good-news about us and the positive truths about Roma.

August 1 - August 20

Full House     Pleasantly busy at the Gabor Gypsy house these past 3 weeks with a steady flow of new guests quickly becoming new old friends…. We started off with French – Japanese group - then we connected with Elaine from Germany who planned coming alone but surprised us by bringing an additional four new friends from Israel and the house was filled and it was a happy house. A wonderful group. We hung out with Gabor and then made a side trip to the musicians (which is extremely rewarding to us because it offers our guests the experiences of another community and level of the Roma caste system, as well as bringing additional incomes into the impoverished community of musicians. This is what the Tzigania project is all about … They departed and through our gates came South American - Austrian couple with vast curiosity in Roma culture – society and what we are building. We love that kind of curiosity because it allows us to share our passions… Then followed a couple from France and from India which is always a great thrill for the Gabor to re-connect with their origins. In addition to the Gabor we had the chance to again visit the fun-loving musicians…

 at the Gypsy musician community              dancing with the gypsy musicians

    Then came Pauline and Mum (cute mother and daughter traveling team from France), Sebi, the animated filmmaker (a lot of fun), university student Chloe researching her thesis on Roma society, Paco from Portugal, Daniel from Malaysia who heard about us and next day was at our door – two happy vegans, Sophie and Liza, which continues to be a head-scratcher for the highly carnivorous Roma (yet very manageable in our village ofeating well at Gabor plenty fresh fruits and vegetables), a lovely French couple with Manouche ancestry (a big thrill for the Gabor) and finally Peter from Austria, curious about Roma culture and Albina from Romania (in four years this will be our second Romanian guest.  We are proud, happy and honored to have Albina come spend time with Gabor and meet the Roma)   … It had been a steady week and a half…And then “BOOM”, got an evening call from Julie and Nicolaus from France (super couple) and we had seven, our largest overnight group of 2014 (yet 2013 of 10 still holds the overnight record of single largest group)  - and that’s where we are at now...

sky at Valeniisky at Valenii... fresh village vegitablesFresh vegetables...

Festival-Taking guests to Village Festival (music and beauty pagent)- village festival  


Next step…. Opening up Forest Gypsy program… This week Chuck is on the road to Brasov

June 26 - July 31

We had a wonderful last week of July with a steady packed house with groups from France – China (Hong Kong) – more from France - plus an old friend Rowan from Netherlands (was here in 2011) back with friends and couple young musicians from Switzerland and Argentina. Special about this week was the opportunity to share with the guests the three main levels of the Romanian-Roma caste system (which the model of our program) visiting Traditional Roma Gabor – musicians – basket-makers – and the untouchable “Forest Gypsies”….


Here are some pictures of the fun and learning

         Dressing up Roma         at musicians               more at musicians               dressing up
mushroom collecting           basket-weaving                 tzigania house                           drinks all around
     learning the trade                Forest Gypsy community                          Forest Gypsy House              the mushrooms Full basket
                                                                                             a long day

June 24 - July 25

    July had been a strange mix of ups and downs for the Tzigania Project… Our steady progress was stymied by some attacks we received from the far-right anti-gypsy establishment. It knocked the wind out of us and blew us a little off course, but we rejuvenated. These struggles, combined with some internal conflict that often arise in our rather unconventional – controversial objectives of forming a balanced bridge across the divide between Roma/Gypsies and everyone else didn’t help much in what we are trying to achieve. Then the “shit hit the fan” and we had to deal with our own local “kanengo chor” (chicken thief).  It took us off stride and so the early part of July was spent too often repairing and defending.


    We – as always – persevered – and so we are now back on track welcoming a warm gust of guests that have been blowing into our hostel programs from Sweden – France – Belgium – Germany – England – Austria - Netherlands – Mexico – Texas - New York – with coming groups from China – Australia – Slovakia – UK - and a crowd of returnees from the Netherlands…  


On July 21st we had our “BOMBA-BOMBA” event: 26 Portuguese visiting our music community for a day of Gypsy music - dance - food and drinks


Bomba- Bomba 1

Bomba Bomba 2

Bomba Bomba 3

Big plans for Tzigania Project for the start of August. 
We are excited!!
Check-back and see the development.

June 23

Ghizi at coffee and cake

    Our good friend Colin from Roving Romania was back, this time with Clare and Ann, two lovely Scottish ladies. The sunny day started with a pleasant sit-down chat with Gabor with coffee (best coffee in Transylvania) and cake

the shatra

  Followed by a Shatra visit at Tunti’s where they were greeted by a dance performance by our Tzigania Dancers

Gypsy DanceGypsy After DanceGypsy after dance rest

June 22-23

  Arrived the much anticipated guest Ben from the UK, a student interested in documenting Roma at work for a school project. He stayed with us two days doing his work while having fun doing it before moving on to our sister community Basket-makers to continue his study

Tzigania Dancers Rehearsal

 Ben enjoying the show: Tzigania Dancers rehearsing

June 20

We received a call from Rebekah and Bisente driving across Romania. They had heard about our project from an old friend Simina (2012 visitor and also a first; Simina was the first Romanian visitor to our project). Could they come by… “Come! The gates are open”


They arrived late, after 10, and hungry.  Over the steaming dish of shak te mas they explained their tour from Spain - across Europe all the way to India meeting Roma along the way – a kind of reverse diaspora. We are happy to be part of the amazing journey: A Long Way to Justice: A Route to the Roma Grassroots

It was late, nevertheless, we went by Tuntsi’s place to just see if she was still awake – she was and happy to have us. Then came the other Gabor and we drank, we ate, we danced, shared stories and song: in Calo, tziganeste, and a couple American (Rebekah has a beautiful voice).

The next morning was busy with more family visits and then – they were off – back on the road….

June 17

Had an unexpected arrival of Adam from Poland joined by a couple from France (Robin and Sorina) that he met in the city, heard that he was going to the Gypsies and followed him along. Robin and Sorina had already booked rooms in the city but came for the Gypsy meal. For our vegetarian friends our Gypsy chef cooked up a non-meat version of the popular Gypsy dish “shak te mas” that instead of the mas (meat) was a blend of cabbage, pepper, rice and fresh eggs straight out of the chicken (the shells were still warm)…

The big bowl was completely devoured

After a couple glasses of beer we made our way for dessert to Tuntsi’s house  where it again turned into a Gypsy party. Pictures worth a 1000 words…

June 17

Carmen, swept up in the swing of the party and the “live and let live” gypsy lifestyle – gave in to her “tuica” urges… By morning she wasn’t feeling too well. After breakfast had been served she collapsed on the bed and decided then that life was over for her. She called Adam to her bedside, took his hand and in a faint voice, barely audible, said to him, “I am dying though I am so happy you came.  Please, please, I want you to come to my funeral… bring to me one red rose”

 The gypsy theater is open and performances are in session 24/7 here at tzigania …

June 9-10 

    Much anticipated Stephane and MaryAnn from Canada arrived.

    Carmen cooked up her first Gypsy goolash of the year.  A couple beers and we made a visit to Tsunti’s house dubbed the “shatra” (Gypsy camp) and she showed us why…

Shatra                        Shatra dancing


  Stephane and MaryAnn joined us for a day visit to the always fun and exciting Basket-maker community where there was plenty of dance – basket-making – good food and drink (Gypsy tocanitsa) - and then a wedding:

  Chuck and Carmen finally officialized it; here with the Gypsy priest

The wedding           Gypsy priest at the Wedding 

“Mazel Tov”

June 8 

   Our Netherland family departed - and the room was quickly filled by Roccio from Mexico and Iulia from Austria… Carmen served-up Gypsy sarmale (large – heavy on the meat )… you’ve never really had sarmale until you’ve had gypsy sarmale…

Gypsy Sarmale
Traditional Romanian dish: stuffed cabbage leaves

   Dancing with the girls

 A visit to Tsunti for dessert resulted in all kinds of dance
We worked off the calories…

The girls stayed late and the next morning everyone slept in.

June 6

Building Bridges: Bringing Outsider Inside the Roma-Gypsy Communities of Romania

The bridge gate has lifted as Gypsy-House Hostel opens its 2014 doors

   Hostel opened its doors this weekend to friendly Netherland couple Bob, Marijn, and sweet golden-blond child Lilly (2 years) – arousing the baby-stealing instincts of the Gypsies (that’s sarcasm)

   The guest enjoyed a visit to the Gabor family followed by a tour of the village with Pirty at the helm - till the rains came down chasing everyone back indoors and putting a temporary pause to the tour of the off-the-beaten-path village (its been a rainy couple months)– then to the Gypsy house for Carmen’s “shak te-mas” (cabbage and meat), some beer and chat on Roma issues of now and then

 Bed Room

  We culminated the day with dessert at another Roma- Gabor family (Tsunti)…Our “never know who or what is going to happen” expectations proved true as out came the Gypsies and the dancing carried on well past Lilly’s bedtime…


Baby Chic for Lilly

   Tsunti, in typical Gypsy fashion of giving (they’re always giving gifts regardless of the little or nothing they have) – presented little Lilly a baby chick from the brood warming themselves under the stove (the mama chicken wasn’t too happy). It was a welcoming shock to the guests and they left us with a new itsy-bitsy member of the family – certainly more than they had come expecting…

May 28

   Our old friend Colin Shaw of Roving Romania dropped by for a visit with Mike and Sheila Preece from New Zealand for a coffee and cake at Gabor and the chance to interact with the generally “off-limits” Roma Traditionalists. That was our “learning” portion of the day that concluded with some “fun” at the “shatra” (Gypsy camp) where guests can roll up their sleeves, enjoy a couple beers, chow down some freshly made, village “clatite” (Gypsy dessert) and then work it off with some Gypsy dance…

Dancing                                     viewing images at the shatra

    At Tzigania – you never know what to expect and quite unexpectedly we were joined by neighboring clan who heard the music and came out to enjoy.

Mike and Sheila got the Gypsy spirit

 We tell it like it is (we don’t exaggerate the reality and we don’t perform – we just tell it like it is… Mike and Sheila were impressed and so kind-hearted that they conclude the day with a gift to the organization which I suggested go directly to host Tsuntsi. We are careful where the money goes and see to it that it goes where it’s directed…. Widow Tsuntsi works day labor working in the un-sheltered fields (when its available) at $9 a day. It’s a hand-to-mouth existence and that hand is sometimes empty – and certainly empty when it comes to shopping beyond necessities like decent clothing or items for the home.

 Tsunti had been talking about needing a new Roma dress (the rag she has is over five years old – and it looks it). Mike and Sheila’s gift was a godsend….

Tzunti's new dress                                 Tsunti's new dress

A message from Tsuntsi….

    “Thank you very much for the gift. I went to the market with Carmen and I bought this dress.  I thank the guests and Mr. Colin. “Ferila tu o del” (God bless you with good health)

May 27

   Our new friend Alexandra Buruiana of Aldo Travel Agency (Bucharest) brought Cynthia and Harry of California to Gabor for Coffee and cake where we had a lively discussion on a variety of Gabor - Roma and “Gypsy” related topics….

   After a tour of neighboring Targu Mures city and hardy lunch – they came back our way for a visit of the musician community at Ceuas… It was a spontaneous visit but that’s sometimes the best kind….

Gypsy Musicians

   Unfortunately it was a wet, rainy day and full of village mud (the kind of mud that creeps up the side of your shoe and keeps going).  Cynthia and Harry were real troopers and joined us for a tour of the tzigania community for a glimpse of the surrounding culture that produces such soulful music.

May 21

   We opened 2014 with a “bang” – seventeen lively, inquisitive guests from Canada hosted by Atlantic Tour (Bucharest) for a coffee - cake, sit down and chat with the Gabor clan and absorb the do’s and do-not’s of orthodox Roma culture

Pirty Demonstrating                            Serving
                                       Pirty demonstrating                                                                                                                                                                     Serving

  The unique feature of “meeting the Gabor” offers outsiders a peek inside the generally closed doors of the Traditional Roma for an unfiltered Q and A from their own mouths. ChuckTodaro, our resident Gadjo Gypsiologist is at hand for filling in the background and all-around helping out with the understanding of this complex people.