Back home I was interviewed by DIGI 24 TV station. If you understand Romanian here’s a video. You can also Google Translate the interview after the link if interested 🙂
Back home I was interviewed by DIGI 24 TV station. If you understand Romanian here’s a video. You can also Google Translate the interview after the link if interested 🙂
After 55 days of traveling I was finally going home. I traveled for 3000 kilometers without ever touching a coin. I finally got to use my credit card for the ride to the airport and for the plane ticket back to Romania. I was going back to the world of money, the world of daily financial worries and plans. I felt this step as a hard one. Not because money is hard to make, even if it is, but because thinking about it can take your mind away from other important things. During my trip I was always focused on people, on photography or acting, and on receiving and offering without any financial implications. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always from the heart. The people I met were not there because they had to, even if for a lot of them my photos were useful. It was more than that. Removing money from the equation made all interactions more human and eventually more intense.
I never knew I could do this trip more than a few days, but I had a hidden trust in people. There was always a secret hope that there are a lot of people who will appreciate my attempt and who will understand that behind the adventure side of my trip there is also a deeper meaning. That life is not all about money and not only friendships are outside the money system. Exchanges between people can be, too. It can work even for material things that you need. You can choose to trade and you can choose to be friendly. I think the people that I met changed the meaning of the word offer from the economical understanding of the term back to the soulful meaning of it. I was offered stuff, I offered back stuff. But more than that I appreciated more the beauty of receiving. I’m thankful to all the people that I’ve met and that wanted to be part of my journey and to all of them I have a promise: we will meet again and again. And I also have a promise to myself: I will do this again!
Sunday I was supposed to leave to Florence and continue My Trade Trip. I still had no place to stay in Florence. It happened to me before during the trip not to have a place to sleep but I would always confidently move on with the trip and somehow somebody kind appeared out of nowhere to support my project and host me. But this time I felt for the first time that I don’t want to continue. I’ve been having back pain for a few days from all the carrying around of my heavy backpack. I didn’t feel something pulling me forward towards Florence, I was tired and I decided to stop. I met so many people, I did so many shootings, I visited so many cities and I felt that this was the end of my trip. I checked what flights I had from Bologna to Bucharest and I made a flight reservation for Monday.
As it constantly happened throughout my trip, whenever I left a city it started raining. This time it was even faster. Five minutes after I made the reservation rain came pouring from the sky on the old city of Bologna. But my trip and my coincidences were not over yet. Marie, the stylist I worked with in Paris more than a month ago was also in Bologna. She is one of the many people that I met more than once, in different cities and countries. I went out with her and her friend Laura, another French girl who has been studying Law in Bologna. They took me out for some coffee, then some aperitifs and at the end of the evening they got me ice cream. We talked a lot about the fashion industry, how it exploits models and how it builds an ideal type of beauty that is impossible to achieve in real life. We also talked about law, politics and human rights. Just like at a typical French dinner. I was happy to meet these nice smart and funny girls on my last day of the trip.
When the night came the rain was once again hitting Bologna. The next morning my trip was over.
Friday was a lazy day. Around 3 or 4 in the morning Bianca, a good friend of Lina’s, came to the apartment after a party with her relatives. It’s funny that after shooting Elis who was half Albanian half Greek I met Bianca in the middle of the night with the same powerful eyes that Elis has and I found out that she’s also half Albanian half Greek. Coincidences kept coming and I’m sure they will never stop during this trip. I woke up at 10 Friday morning and started writing for the blog while the girls were still sleeping. When they woke up we planned a little shooting with them but not until Fabrice arrived. He’s a computer guy just like I was before starting acting. He’s French, from Paris, and he’s hosted around 250 couchsurfers in Paris. Lina, Bianca and Rebecca are one of his favorite couchsurfers so he came to see them in Bologna. We had some chitchats and it was already noon, so they cooked some pasta and we had lunch. Another friend of the girls, Matilde, arrived and then later Lina’s roommate, Rebecca. Time was passing and I was just hanging out with the new people that were coming or from time to time taking portraits of Bianca. In the evening we went out for some aperitifs and then to drink some beer and wine sitting on the ground in Piazza San Francesco where we were joined by Be, who was also in Bologna. We talked about life, the effects of Tinder on our society and how it transforms romantic/sexual relationships into a market, different views on relationships in each of our countries and of course the meaning of life. We of course agreed to the simple answer that everyone wants to be happy, but we got stuck when we asked ourselves what we call home. We were all travelers or people studying in a different city so all of us had at least two homes in their lives. And as we kept wondering about it we slowly got back to our recent home to get back to sleep after a relaxing day.
Saturday I saw Be again to shoot something around the city. In Rimini we were always at the workshop or filming the short movie and we never had time to take some photos. I could feel that I was starting to get tired. Always changing the bed I sleep in, always packing up, carrying my heavy backpack and moving from one place to another, shooting almost everyday, never having the same type of food, all of these were starting to get to me. We had lunch and just enjoyed the nice weather but I had no energy for shooting. Towards the end of the afternoon we started taking pictures and thanks to her good energy I slowly started to be creative, too. I knew that the next day I had a train ticket to Florence but I didn’t find a place to sleep there yet. It was for the first time during my trip when it came to my mind that I could head back home and end my trip after more than 50 days on the road.
Tuesday I arrived in Bologna after a short train ride from Rimini where Niamh was already waiting for me at the station. Niamh is an Irish girl, a friend of Roxana who is the sister of Radu, a close friend of mine from Romania. That’s how the stars aligned and I got to stay at her place for two nights and spend some amazing time with her. I think I never talked so much with someone during my trip as I did with her. Mythology, nutrition, life, death, science, the Universe, Irish and Romanian humor and lots and lots of other things. She also did something similar to my trip, but for charity. She and a friend raised money for charity by traveling from Ireland as far as they could without using any money. I felt that no one could understand my concept better than her. She’s also a Virgo, she also teaches acting, she also loves to travel, she always questions authority and has this relaxed view about life. I had my most intense introspective moments during this trip thanks to the discussions we had together.
On Tuesday evening we got together with Roxana and her boyfriend and went up on a hill from where you can see the beautiful city of Bologna. It was great to see Roxana again and to talk a little bit of Romanian after more than a week of not meeting anybody from Romania. On Wednesday I just hung out with Niamh, had some walks around Bologna and discovered some of its famous and cool places. We went to the whispering walls, where you can talk with someone from more than 5 meters away by whispering into the wall. She told me that they built those walls so that a patient who was suffering from the plague could talk with a doctor without getting too close. While we were just chilling out in the sun I discovered my eyesight is getting worse, as I couldn’t read some of the letters from the distance that she could easily distinguish. Maybe my eyes are tired from all the shootings that I had in the last month, maybe it’s the constant staring into my phone and computer or maybe it’s just age. My birthday is coming soon so maybe this year I’m going to buy myself some glasses for my 33rd birthday.
Thursday at noon I left Niamh’s place and went to shoot with Elis. Elis is a young girl from Rimini who works as a model from time to time and who participates in beauty contests. She found out about my trip when I was already leaving Rimini, so she came to Bologna to support my project and shoot with me. We met at the station and started walking around the city, looking for cool places to shoot. Bologna is so amazing that every 10 meters we found a cool spot with beautiful colors, beautiful architecture and amazing light. Her half Albanian half Greek green eyes where shining no matter where we decided to stop and shoot. We took picture after picture from noon till almost 8 PM with just a little break for lunch. After that I accompanied her to the station where she offered me a train ticket to Florence for Sunday. Then I went to meet Lina, a Colombian girl who studies Economics in Bologna. I found her via couchsurfing.com and I will sleep at her place until I leave to Florence. We had a beer when I arrived and we laughed for more than an hour about stereotypes and human behavior, especially about men not being men anymore, that emotionally unstable type that are always complaining and never knowing what they want from a girl.
While we were staying on Lina’s balcony looking at the sky I saw my first falling star. I’ve never seen one before and I knew that this can only be because of Niamh. Her mythological stories, her belief that we are all made of stars and our talks about how we are all connected had a powerful resonation on the night sky and showed me that she was right. My first falling star was telling me to move on with the trip. Or maybe I’m just interpreting it the way I want to. In any case, Florence, get ready on Sunday cause I will be there!
Monday was my last day in Rimini and one of the busiest so far in this little town. I woke up at 5 in the morning to film with Be something for our short movie. I only slept for two hours because I was thinking all night about this shot that I wanted to take with her for the ending of the movie and I didn’t know what would work best. At almost 3 AM I had the best idea that was good enough to calm me down, put me to sleep and let my mind and body rest. In the morning we went to the beach hoping to catch the sunrise and that magic light. It was cloudy but still there was a beautiful light. We went on this bridge that goes for 20 meters into the sea and shot the ending of the movie on the edge of it. I was really impressed by Be’s talent and after two takes we stopped. She had done her job perfectly, with the right amount of emotion and very precise in her actions like a true actress. After the ending we filmed some additional footage and went back home.
It was already 9 AM. At 10 I was meeting Greta and Greta. Yes, not one, but two Gretas. One of them is a 18 year old photographer (you can check out her work here) and the other one is a 17 year old model. Both of them live near Rimini and are very charming. We met in this big park where I hosted the acting workshop and we started shooting. The Gretas, as I called them, were young but really professional. I think they are the only ones during My Trade Trip who sent me photos of their clothes before shooting. So I knew exactly what mood we would have and what to shoot and everything went on pretty fast. Especially because they are good friends and they would be helping each other out for each picture. It was funny having a photographer and a model in the same shot because the way they behave was totally different. The model Greta was focusing on her poses, while the photographer Greta was being creative with ideas that usually a photographer has. My job was in the end very simple. I just concentrated on how good they felt with each other and tried to capture that in pictures.
After the shoot we went to eat something together and then I went back home to shoot some more with Be for the short movie. It was a haircut scene, where she cuts my hair. We probably filmed for 5 hours, as I constantly had to go from behind the camera to in front of the camera. Yes, I’m also in the movie, and it’s a crazy experience. I had to focus on so many things that for a perfectionist Virgo it was a weird pleasure and a nightmare at the same time. I transferred the material on my laptop when we finished and I saw so many mistakes that I just closed the laptop and wanted to forget all about the movie. At least I had a new haircut, I said to myself. In my opinion it’s the best I’ve had in years.
Tuesday I was leaving Rimini and going to Bologna. This week with Be and Francesco was amazing! I felt like a brother, like I was part of their family and everything they offered me was always warm and coming from the heart. It was hard to imagine that I would have to say goodbye to this new home the next morning. But I also felt that I would see them again really soon, that I’m not leaving, but just going away for a little while.
From Thursday until tonight (Sunday) I was at the workshop everyday with Be, Livia, Fra and Filippo. Four days of intensive work, playing with paying attention, being imaginative and reacting truthfully in a given situation.
On Thursday I started my favorite exercise, called Beauty Corner. It’s an exercise in which participants have to create a space with objects they own (intimate or not), a space that represents them and their inner world. Be and Fra were the first ones to create these places and we all discovered new things about their passions and their personality through the objects that they brought. We had a look into Be’s past and at the things that inspire her and we looked at a lot of photos that Fra took with his analog cameras. We were the first people outside his family to see all his photos. It was hard for them to have other people look through their intimate things and very interesting for the others to discover their universes. My opinion was that in theater you have to always put an intimate part of yourself on stage, however hard it is, so that what you do becomes valuable. It’s hard to let some strangers see you into your most intimate moments, but if you don’t what’s the use of pretending? We also did some exercises that made them understand that at the core of theater you will always find something fake, something not real that we as actors have to make real through believing. We worked on the ways to make something unreal become real, by first understanding all the circumstances of a scene (where, when, purpose, stakes, actions) and then imagining biographies and contexts.
On Friday we worked a lot on relationships between characters. We started from simple relationships like statutes (boss-employee for example) and then we went on to work on more complex types of relationships. We also took the first steps into character observation by asking them to pretend they are someone that they know and to “bring” that person to the workshop. That way I met a shy Italian guy, an extrovert grandmother and a very religious piano teacher. With the piano teacher everybody got so caught up in the dialogue that they were trying to convince an unreal character to change her views about religion, forgetting that it’s only an exercise and that the person they were talking to was not who she pretended to be. But again, they experienced how something that starts as being false can become real and even bring out real emotions. It’s all about constructing a character and situation down to the smallest detail and believing in the premises of your character and situation.
On Saturday we looked at Livia and Filippo’s Beauty Corners and we found a very curious girl and a boy that grew up but still believes in magic. After that we worked on dialogue lines and how and why words come out of actors/characters’ mouths. We learned that there’s a reason, a context and a purpose for each word or sentence that we say, in life as well as on stage. We worked on justification, something that usually the actor has to find for his actions or lines if the director doesn’t provide it. While trying to interact with what happens in front of them and not bringing their own stories to the scene, they understood the importance of always doing an action truthfully. They started showing and pretending less and less and started thinking and feeling more and more. At some point I was really happy when I saw that they didn’t even care if the goal of an exercise is reached as long as they tried to be real and interact honestly with each other.
Today (Sunday) was the last and most important day of the workshop. Today I was going to gather everything they learned this week into one big exercise. I asked them to write a monologue addressed to someone that can help them achieve something that they really want. Then I switched the monologues between them so that everybody got someone else’s monologue and learned it by heart. They thought that they would just have to recite the monologues, but I offered them real partners to speak to. I even changed the context and the characters that they were addressing so that the purpose was always different and the relationships between them and their partners was changing all the time. In this last lesson everybody learned through practice that a text gets is value from the context (situation, who i’m talking to, why, what do i want to obtain) and so the same text can have different interpretations based on that context. We also played with emotion and how to build it, but to get better at that it would have taken another week of exercises.
So the workshop ended. We had some burgers tonight and we were both happy and sad. Happy for this week and sad that it was ending. Me and Be are shooting a short movie tomorrow and Filippo helped us today with a microphone. We recorded a monologue that I wrote for the movie and that Be was acting out. Filippo and Livia will also be helping us with the soundtrack, so this group will probably not dissolve as soon as our melancholy was suggesting.
Tuesday I’m leaving to Florence, so tomorrow is my last day in Rimini, a city by the beach were I never swam in the sea during 8 days. In Barcelona I only had one swim on my last day. Now that I think about it, my trip is not about the attractions of a city, but about the people that I meet there. And I could have never done this if I were on holiday!
Wednesday a new participant was coming to the acting workshop, Margherita, a model from Monsano that also works as a make-up artist. Unfortunately for the workshop, Filippo and Livia could not come so we didn’t hold the classes anymore. Having a free day, Margherita, Be and me went to a park and had fun taking some pictures. We had no concept in mind, just a dress that Margherita had with her, a park and a lot of mosquitoes. You cannot see the mosquitoes in the photos, but they were there by the hundreds, biting us almost every second. Every country has its problems as I could see during my trip and, funny enough, the most visible problem of Italy is mosquitoes.
Talking with Be about acting and movies we came up with a nice story that we could film, so I started writing a short movie that we will shoot in Rimini in the following days. This city has so many amazing places. Some are 2000 years old and some are brand new, but all of them have a certain poetry that is beautiful to capture in images. I’ll post more about the story I’m writing and the filming during the next days because today an acting workshop awaits.
Sunday I was already feeling better thanks to Larisa’s teas, onion soup and evening ice cream. After a nice breakfast at Larisa’s place I left Milano for Rimini. Beatrice got me a ride on blablacar.com and in less than 3 hours I was in this beautiful town by the sea on the Eastern coast of Italy. Beatrice is a 20 year old model who wants to start an acting career. She posed for artsy photographers in Italy, did commercial jobs as a model and starred in a music video as the main actress. She helped me organize an acting workshop in Rimini that will be held there for a week. We will do exercises that let imagination grow, focus on creativity and freedom of expressing emotions. She welcomed me with the warmest and happiest smile someone can receive. And every minute in Rimini so far was like that smile, warm and full of happiness. I was offered my own room at her place, we had a nice evening meal and then we had a nice walk on the beach with Chris, one of her best friends who helped her pick me up with his car from the highway and bring me to Rimini. Meeting Chris was like meeting one of my early struggles, choosing between being a programmer or an actor. I told him that when I had to make a decision I removed money from the equation and chose with my heart. But look where it got me, travelling across Europe without any money in my pocket. Not really a programmer’s midsummer night dream.
Monday was the first day of workshop. Three of the six participants could not come, so it was just me, Beatrice, Livia and Filippo. It was a rainy day so instead of staying in park we went to hide in the perfect place for our workshop, Caffe Teatro. We talked about different methods of teaching acting, what they focus on and what instruments they develop for an actor. We discussed Meisner’s ping-pong, Adler’s focus on imagination and Strasberg’s affective memory. Livia and Filippo are both musicians and their experience in music is making our discussions about acting simpler and more interesting. We did a couple of exercises based on image memory and another one that develops attention that were fun and did not attract too much attention from the other customers.
Tuesday we were joined at the workshop by Beatrice’s brother, Francesco, a very funny and smart guy who is studying to get his PhD in economy. We were still missing two participants, but we had a big beautiful park to ourselves and we started having fun. We moved, we improvised, we talked, we sang. We did exercises that brought them closer as a team and I was happy to see them starting to communicate better between them. It’s a beautiful feeling to see people trusting each other and opening themselves without fear in front of the others. I was surprised by their way of dealing with ideas and concepts in improvisation exercises. Instead of opting to do a truthful or lifelike action, they sometimes chose to do a symbolic one, that was so precise that everyone could understand its meaning. It’s a thing that misses from Romanian theater. Obsessed with the truth on stage, we rarely have any space for other types of creativity. Maybe working with concepts and ideas can harm the truthfulness of an interpretation or the emotional transfer between actor and audience, but I was surprised to see that on an intellectual level the message is sent clearly and concisely. Probably the magic is in sending a message that can also trigger emotion after being received.
As the day was ending and a pizza was being digested in my stomach, I felt thankful to Beatrice for organizing this workshop. I was with nice and creative people, I was learning new things and I could feel that my workshop was making them feel free and playful.
Friday and Saturday were my last 2 days in Milano. I had 2 shootings planned but I had to cancel them because of the damn cold that was not going away. Consuelo had to leave on Friday to visit her parents so I moved to Larisa’s place. Larisa is a Romanian girl who studied History of Arts and Anthropology and now she works for the Milano Triennale. When I got to her huge apartment near the Navigli area, I was sweating and dizzy. She cooked some pasta for me and then she began taking care of the sick Romanian guy. For almost two days I did nothing but stay in bed, sweat from the cold and the numerous teas that Larisa was doing for me and sleep from time to time. On Saturday she also prepared what she said would be the most powerful cure for my flu: a garlic and onion soup. Tasting it I said I wished I was sick more often so I could get tasty soups like that.
Besides being my savior, Larisa was also a great company for talks about art of any form. We talked about modern artists, photography, installations and exhibitions, actors and theatre. I promised to myself that I have to come back to Milano and let her show me the art world of the city. She got a ticket to Robert Wilson’s new project, Letter to a Man, inspired by the diary of Vaslav Nijinski, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and I was so excited to hear about this project that I told her I’ll be back for sure in September so we could go together and see it.
On Sunday I was leaving to Rimini where I start my acting workshop with some people that want to learn more about acting, theatre and cinema. I was almost recovered and on Saturday night I wanted to go out and have a walk with Larisa. I was tired of just staying in bed and not having the pleasure of hanging out with her. She offered me the prize of the day for feeling better: a delicious house-made 100% natural gelato. Yes, a Milanese ice cream. After all the sweating and dizziness, the ice cream was the best thing that could happen to me that evening. I was ready to forget about the cold and move on with my trip, leaving the caring Larisa just to meet her again soon in a better state.