Humans of Clevedon – Aurel Paduraru.

Let me introduce you to Aurel and Elena Paduraru and their lovely son Octavian, normally known as Tavi, unless he has been misbehaving which he doesn’t very often. Aurel described Tavi as a sweet, responsible boy with a very loving nature.

Tavi has just turned six and is a pupil in Year 1 at St Nicholas Chantry School in Clevedon where he is very happily integrated. Elena and Aurel spoke very highly of the children and staff at the school who have made them all feel so welcome. They are delighted with the way Tavi has picked up English and felt that his Bristolian accent is coming on nicely! I wasn’t surprised to hear this because Tavi fits the age profile of one of  Dr Kuhl’s ‘linguistic geniuses’  that I wrote about in the blog post promoting pre-school language learning. Check it out here:

Elena is also making good progress with the language but Aurel describes himself as the black sheep of the family in terms of language learning. Having received numerous e mails and texts from Aurel, I would have to say that I think he is being very modest!

The family come from Bucharest and Aurel studied at the University of Bucharest, the second oldest modern university in Romania, where he obtained a first degree in Agricultural Science and went on to do a Masters in Expertise and Management of Land Fund.

Bucharest is the largest and most prosperous city in Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial centre. The city has a number of large convention facilities, educational institutes, cultural venues, traditional shopping arcades and recreational areas. According to Aurel it also has some of the best night club scenes  in Europe.

Aurel describes it as a city of contrasts, a reference to its architectural diversity which ranges from the medieval, neoclassical, and art nouveau to President Ceausescu’s 1970s, communist-era housing blocks.

Aurel also felt it was very crowded and with a  population density of  9,200 people per square kilometre, making it double or even triple compared to other capital cities in the region, it must certainly feel so. He did however say that there were lots of delightful cosy cafes, restaurants and parks hidden away in quiet corners.

Sadly traffic is also a  problem, with Bucharest having been named as  the most congested city in emerging Europe.

I was interested to see what some of my favourite travel bloggers had to say about Bucharest.

Bucharest is historical, delightful, vibrant, and more – it  is one of the most interesting cities in East Europe. The city is so pretty that it will turn literally everyone into a photographer. Bucharest has something for everyone. History fans will be spoilt for choice when it comes to museums, architecture lovers will not stop ogling at the communist buildings and orthodox churches. It doesn’t end there – party lovers will absolutely love the lively scene and artsy ones will totally dig the art festivals and more.

‘Romania’s beautiful capital city, is one of the best social travel destinations to visit.  Full of stunning rooftop bars, secret garden bars and street dance parties, Bucharest will have you living your best social butterfly life!’

‘As the shining capital of Romania, Bucharest’s Old Town looks like something straight from the pages of a storybook. With architecture that dates back centuries, the Old Town streets are bursting with the pride of its fascinating past.’

Bucharest is covered with parks — something that I didn’t expect in an Eastern European city. But Bucharest is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe.

The Paduraru family have been in the UK since March 2019. They had no intention of settling here but following a trip in 2018, they made the decision to relocate. They left two houses in Bucharest, one of them was already rented and when they came to the UK they rented out the second. They also left behind their cat Samy who now resides with Aurel’s parents and is being thoroughly spoilt, and their car! Although they have cars now, when they did their UK  tour they traveled by trains and buses being anxious about driving on the opposite side of the road. I know that feeling!

They were keen to settle in a small seaside town with a strong community and a more measured lifestyle than they were experiencing in Bucharest. They wanted somewhere safe to bring up Tavi. Clevedon sounded exactly right for their needs and they have not been disappointed.  Aurel has been particularly impressed with the community support during the current Covid 19 crisis.

Both Elena and Aurel are very happy in the UK, they love the pace of life, the calm, the quiet and the huge variety of beautiful landscapes particularly the lush green expanses.

I wondered how Clevedon compared to the seaside resorts  on Romania’s Black Sea coast. Aurel said that they didn’t, being far more crowded and noisy, he did however speak very fondly of Vama Veche which is situated in the southeast of Romania – right on the Black Sea coast, near the border with Bulgaria.

The profile of Vama Veche has changed over the years, under the communist regime of  Ceausescu, it was a hangout for intellectuals who were surprisingly tolerated as long as they had their identity papers with them. This reputation increased after the Revolution of 1989.

Although today Vama Veche still enjoys a reputation for being quite bohemian and non-conformist, a place for free spirits, it also attracts a very eclectic mix which includes  scores of young people who will dance all night and sleep it off on the beach the following day.

When Aurel asked Tavi what he missed most about life in Romania he mentioned Vama Veche, probably because his parents love it so much and when they are on holiday there they are the most relaxed.

Tavi also loves the lake and the beach in Clevedon perhaps the beautiful sunsets remind him a little of Vama Veche.

I asked Aurel to identify his three favourite places in Clevedon. He also mentioned the beach…..

….the Highdale Woods behind St Nicholas Chantry where Aurel took this fabulous photo of Tavi in what he calls ‘The Tree of Life’. I love this photo, it has a certain magical, fairy tale quality about it which is crying out for a poem, a ballad or a story.

And a small house on Old Street which he saw when he first arrived in Clevedon and which brings him great joy every time he passes it. Aurel has a photo of the house with the owner in front of it but as he didn’t specifically ask for permission to share it, we haven’t included it here.

Moving abroad is a major life event for anyone who is brave enough to take the plunge and yes it can be exciting and fun but it can also be stressful and challenging with problems that can seem insurmountable at times. But not so for Aurel and Elena who epitomise the term ‘wanderlust’.

These two seasoned travelers who met at high school in Bucharest and have been married for ten years, started their journey aged eighteen and have not stopped.

They have coped well with what could be seen as potential difficulties, they found accommodation they were happy with very quickly, finding jobs was equally easy, Aurel secured a post with  Smart Systems, in Yatton and Elena has found a job in her field which is logistics.

Language has not been a barrier and their language skills are developing all the time. Dealing with homesickness in a technological age is far less of an issue and they keep in touch with families through regular video calls, Facebook and Instagram.  Friends and family came over last year and they had planned to make a return visit home this October although this is of course very much dependent on progress with Covid19.

Of course Aurel misses his family and friends as does Elena.  He also misses the times he used to spend taking photos on the Danube Delta and Transylvania and his favourite bar in Bucharest, J’ai Bistrot, with its friendly staff, lovely garden and delicious food. He described as ‘oasis of peace in the centre of Bucharest’.

He also misses the beautiful woods in Snagov, a small village, full of wildlife, twenty kilometres away, where he would go to think and collect his thoughts.

Listening to him, the very famous quote from Henry David Thoreau came to mind:

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.”

Aurel first came to my attention through a photo journal of his travels in the UK, (specifically the South West and North Wales) in a national daily newspaper.

Said paper commented that:

“Britons may just see their country in a new light after gazing upon these incredible images, which show it at its most enchanting and ethereal.”

Aurel, Elena and Tavi remain tremendously excited about exploring other areas of the UK. Aurel said:

“I knew that I would be able to take good pictures here as the places are amazing. Every part of the UK is fascinating and I have some great memories of the places we have visited so far.”

Aurel and his family have traveled all over the world and I was intrigued to know which countries he had preferred. He found it very difficult to pick a favourite but aside from the UK they had returned more than once to Italy, Turkey, Ireland and Greece.

Back to the photography! Photography and family are Aurel’s two passions in life and if he’s not at work, you’ll often see him out and about with his trusty Canon! He started taking photographs aged about twenty-five but didn’t start to take it seriously until his thirties. He prefers photographing people, wildlife, landscape and creating documentary style photo journals or photo essays. Elena is his harshest critic, he can always tell from her reaction whether or not his photograph is a success.

Aurel also has a drone, in fact it’s his second drone, he lost the first in the Carpathian mountains. He loves flying the drone and has registered with the CAA, completed the online safety test and obtained his Flyer and Operator ID. What appeals to him most  is the different perspective that you get from the drone photos.

Aurel and his family have traveled all over the world and he found it difficult to pick a favourite country, however the family have  returned more than once to Italy, Turkey, Ireland and Greece.

He is also a perfectionist so when I asked him to identify his three best photos he wasn’t able to, rarely being satisfied with any of them. He did however think that the photos he took on his trips to Bangladesh, Morocco, Cuba, Chernobyl in the Ukraine, Cuba and Iceland were some of his best. So lets have a look at some of these!

I’ve chosen the ones that I prefer from each of these country catalogues.

These first photos are from Aurel’s only trip to Bangladesh and show the back-breaking conditions for workers in a brick-making factory. The bricks are made almost entirely by hand, using a 150-year-old technology. The work is tough and accidents are commonplace. The look of anguish on the face of the young woman, balancing the bricks on her head says it all.

Aurel would very much like to return to Bangladesh and spend some time there to complete this work which sadly I am sure he will be able to do because despite the government’s commitment of switching to the use of alternative bricks in public sector construction projects by 2025, alternative bricks currently account for less than one percent of the country’s total brick production.

Secondly Morocco! It’s not often, I return  to a place I have visited on holiday but I made an exception with Morocco. Aurel described it as a land of contrasts and I couldn’t agree more – it has such a rich culture – a mixture of Arab, Berber and other African and European influences and such a varied geography – beaches, agricultural plains and mountains.

Although it felt overwhelming at first, Marrakesh was one of the most exciting places that I have ever visited. I loved everything about it – exploring the legendary Place Jemaa el-Fna with its snake charmers, peddlers, story tellers, dancing boys and magicians, to say nothing of its wondrous food stalls; watching the artisans at work in the drogueries, tanneries and potteries; getting lost in the labyrinth of souks; relaxing in the Majorelle Gardens and discovering the beauty and diversity of the Saharan desert.

Aurel’s photos took me back to some very happy times in this wonderful holiday destination.

Thirdly Cuba! I have never visited Cuba and my only real knowledge of it comes from watching the Buena Vista Social Club which tells the tale of  a group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties, who were brought together by Ry Cooder to record a CD. In the film, we see and hear some of the songs being recorded in Havana. There is also footage from concerts in Amsterdam and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Many of the individual musicians talk about their lives in Cuba and about how they got started in music.

Aurel’s photos definitely have a feel of the Cuba that is portrayed in the film.

The penultimate set of travel photos I’m going to share with you are from Chernobyl in the Ukraine. Aurel was just one year’s old when the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the then Soviet-controlled Ukraine exploded, sending a radioactive plume across Europe. I remember the day clearly and I remember that some of the children from Chernobyl came for a holiday in the town were I was living. We  talked about it for months afterwards  but living in such close proximity, just five hundred miles away, it was very much a topic of conversation in the early years of Aurel’s childhood. His photos are a haunting reminder of the horror and devastation of that time.

And finally Iceland, ‘The land of Fire and Ice’  – a  favourite destination of Aurel and his family who went for the first time in October and then again at Christmas. Aurel said that if  they were to return, they would go in October because the weather is more temperate and there is a greater chance of being able to see the Northern Lights.

They were all entranced with the unique landscapes characterised by a huge number of waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, and steaming lava fields. They had seen nothing similar on their travels.

Tavi loved the glaciers and was mesmerised by the cave on the very famous Black Beach. Aurel explained that black sand beaches are black because many volcanic minerals and rocks are dark-coloured. … Iron gives black colour to most minerals because it absorbs light very well and it is also heavy.

The other beach they loved was Diamond Beach which takes its name from the glittering icebergs scattered across its shore like a field of diamonds. Rumour has it that the big ice block which hit the Titanic came from here.

This blog post gives you a snapshot of Aurel, Elena, Tavi, their life here in Clevedon and the life they have left in Bucharest. It’s been so interesting talking to them and reading about it, so much so that I’d be very interested in going there. I asked Aurel which areas he’d recommend aside from Bucharest and he mentioned Transylvania, the Danube Delta, Maramures county, Bucovina County and Carpathian Mountains.

To finish off! I’m a former language teacher and from the outset was always convinced of the need to understand the cultural context in which the language I was teaching  evolved and continued to evolve. The ability to use language appropriately as is demanded by specific situations is informed by cultural knowledge. I still find it fascinating how much cultural information is embedded in each word or the idioms of each language!

Exploring other cultures is something that remains with me and is one of the reasons I love travelling, something which sadly I don’t think I’ll be doing for a long time to come. Given this, I was not going to miss the opportunity to explore the culture of such an interesting, recently arrived Eastern European living in my own town.

Added to this, I have also lived abroad and experienced the most fabulous hospitality, so when I heard that Aurel and his family had not got to know many people, I was a little sad but not surprised given that they have not been here very long, they both work and of course we have been in lockdown for the last couple of months.

For all those acts of kindness that I experienced whilst living abroad, I’d like ‘to pay it forward’ to the Paduraru family with a ‘rain check’ for dinner or Sunday lunch as soon as we are out of lockdown and it is totally safe to socialise once again.

I loved interviewing Aurel for Human’s of Clevedon. It was so interesting and has lead me on to much further reading and research.

Mulțumesc Aurel. Abia așteptăm să vă întâlnim

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