She and He. They were not “supposed” to ever meet. It should have not happened… Yeah but there it is : back in 1989 the Eastern European countries decided to tear apart from their communist past and set free, so their trajectories finally met…
Maybe it is because she grew up behind the “iron curtain” until the 1989 Revolution, because she “devoured” every book hidden from the communist police, because she dreamt of becoming a stewardess to flee out of her country where they were all held prisoners, that she has this unquenchable thirst for traveling, for making her dreams come true, this strength that, in the end, leads her whole life…
He should have made his way through a rather predictable life. Son of a civil servant in education, good pupil, his trajectory was all set up from the start… But shattered by the fate of Romania in 1989, amazed by the french speaking ability of the people out there as seen on television, his dad decides to go there and help somehow at the end of 1990, with all his family…
So the unthinkable actually happened !!
… November 3, 1990
Romania, Bucharest :
She finds out that some French people are coming to visit the capital city. She struggles a lot in order to meet them because back at this time very few foreigners are coming to Romania. She sees him, hears him talking and knew after a while that He would be the man of her life. He was very far away from thinking about that anyway ! After some magical hours hanging out in english, she succeeds in obtaining his mail address and promisses to herself she will shortly begin to write to Him…
He did not want to go out on that night: exhausted after an entire day visiting, he was dreaming of resting a bit at his hosts’ place. But, there it is, his mother cheered him and encouraged him to hang out for a while with teenagers of his age but of a slightly different History… He says to himself that all that is happening must be a dream, that he will never see again this beautiful girl he transported in his arms for a few steps over a puddle in front of a building. He was so shy and full of complexes…
They were only 17… At this age, everything seems possible, but there are many obstacles to overcome and so many unknown things ! …
December 1990 – June 1991
Each in her (his) country :
He goes back to France after these several days in Romania that will completely change his vision of things. He thinks he will never see this beautiful youg girl again.
And then, unbelievable ! He gets a letter his parents decided not to intercept. Her name is Cristina…
She is a brilliant pupil. She finishes her terminal class in a prestigious high school of the romanian capital. With her “plan” well prepared, but without knowing if she will ever succeed, she writes to him long letters she decorates beautifully. Then she decides to break all the rules by inviting Olivier for a month in Romania. Come what may !
Thanks to Cristina’s tenacity, Olivier lands in Constanta, the main port on the Black Sea. They will spend four weeks getting to know each other and fall in love…
But this story seems impossible to push further… Cristina paid for everything during his stay in Romania, so Olivier could not spend the money he saved in order to cover his expenses. He decides to leave it secretly behind, so Cristina can find it after his leaving…
… August 1991 – August 1992
Bucharest / Poitiers:
The first year at the Economic Science Acadmy in Bucharest is like a dream to her : she excels in all the fields and ends up first of the class. Nevertheless, her objective is to come to France to join Olivier and give their love story a chance. So she socializes a lot, meets journalists and in the end manages to obtain a grant for a year of study in… Belfort, a small french town. Once again, she breaks up the rules, suspends her studies and buys a train ticket with the money Olivier left behind. It is her first long travel outside Romania.
His life is a true nightmare. The superior mathematics class is obviously not for him. Another wrong study option. He succeeds to be the only student to have the average mark in french class but he will be a poor engineer if he keeps going like that. He is depressed and his family has heavy problems anyway. He realizes he can not help Cristina coming to study in France. In the end Cristina lets him know she is coming in Belfort. What to do ? He decides to give up his studies and searches a map of France: where is Belfort ?
They meet again at the Eastern Railway station in Paris. She is exhausted after crossing all Europe during two long days. Olivier was not able to come on schedule : he still does not know how to drive in the streets of the french capital !
So this was not their best day, but they sticked together ever since 🙂
… September 1992 – August 1994
France, Belfort :
Cristina and Olivier are alone to confront life challenges. Scarce money, interrupted studies and parents disapproval. It is not easy to survive in the Belfort campsite before the beginning of the academic year with short pocket money ; it is getting cold in Eastern France in october. But with lots of will and love, they succeed to pass their exams, find jobs at a “Quick” fast-food restaurant in order to finance their studies, and meanwhile :
… May 15, 1993
France, Belfort :
We got married !
I can not even tell I was ready to get married : I needed many years after my marriage before I actually felt that I was indeed her “husband”. But I can surely say that it was the best decision of my life ! We were only 6 persons during the ceremony : my best friend and his fiancee, my godfather and his wife. And the two of us, of course !
… September 1994 – August 1996
France, Strasburg :
After our first academic degree in Belfort, we decide to head for Strasburg for a change of “air” and perspective. We manage to get a transfer to the “Quick” fast-food restaurant of the Kleber place where we work weekly on a part-time basis. We manage to visit some places in France and Europe…
We pass our “Licence” and our Master in Economic and Social Administration. Tough years, full of beautiful memories also.
… September 1996 – December 1997
Germany, Freiburg im Brisgau :
After Strasburg and the “Quick” fast-food restaurant I managed to do the civil form of the military service at the French Institute of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, not far from France. We worked there with Cristina. Of course she planned some travels for us to discover and relax, most of them by car (Ireland, Northern Italy, Palma de Majorca, Austria…).
We learned to like Germany and the beautiful landscapes of the Black Forest.
… January 1998 – August 1998
Belgium, Brussels :
Cristina succeeds in getting a job at the Technical Assistance Office of the European Commission. She quickly climbs the professionnal steps and was beginning a brilliant career as a good job opportunity appeared to me so we both decided to leave Belgium and go together in Romania, not without visiting Britain and England…
So after working as an administrative officer at the Jules Bordet Institute of Cancerology, we started again to cross Europe with our small car full of luggage !
… September 1998 – August 2000
Romania, Bucharest :
As general secretary at the French Institute of Bucharest for a few months, my superiors asked me to become g.s. of the cultural service of the Embassy. Meanwhile, Cristina has many professionnal experiences : management controller at “l’Oréal”, executive director for a publishing company, european expert at the European Institute of Romania. We visit Guadeloupe, Turkey, Greece, Burma (first cultural positive shock with Asia !).
A bus crushes our car and happily fails to kill Cristina and her passenger. We decide to review our priorities in life. Cristina decides to go for a while in Brazil where she found a “lost” cousin whose dad fled Romania and nazi Germany. She works there with her psychiatrist cousin and takes care of patients.
My two-year contract with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is renewed and I slowly begin to change, away from my wife. There were no videochat at that time and email was not working so well.
… September 2000 – August 2002
Cristina and I do realize that I am changing too much and she comes back from Brazil. We finally decide that the time has come to become parents. I am ready to be a dad after eight years of marriage.
Marc was born on July 4, 2001. That was the third most beautiful day of my life, after meeting my future wife on November 3, 1990 and our wedding on May 15, 1993. Cristina keeps on working on a part-time job as a french teacher at the “Anna de Noailles” French School of Bucharest. My contract with the French Ministry ends on august 2002.
… September 2002 – November 2002
France, Périgueux :
We did not prepare well to deal with the end of my contract. Back in France we were not able to find any job in spite of dozens of motivation letters sent everywhere. It was a major disappointment. Maybe we do not belong there after all. I keep contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by phone and some posts are likely to be available shortly. In the end it will be…
… December 2002 – May 2003
Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran :
A key moment in our life, from every point of view. As general secretary of the cultural service, I have to establish an inventory of the former French Institute of Tehran, looted during the Islamic Revolution. I uncover some problems.
There is tension in the air. Difficulties to find food for Marc. Difficulties to simply live for Cristina but she does not complain (she constantly wears a veil on her head and long clothes, we encounter strange looks from people, notably in Isfahan and other fundamentalist places).
We decide to buy a flat in Bucharest, Romania, as a backup plan in case of any problem, as the US are preparing the invasion in Irak. I finally realize that our family well-being is doomed on the short term. I decide, after a few weeks, to quit : I let no place for a possible return. I leave Iran with Cristina and Marc, let them in Bucharest in order to renovate the appartment we bought and come back to Tehran to comply with my one-month notice periode. The war begins and Irak is invaded. I almost missed my plane when I finally managed to take off from this country. I never loved Istanbul and Turkey so much than the moment we just landed there !
… June 2002 – June 2006
Romania, Bucharest :
So we come back for the second time in Romania, and our vision has completely changed after this period in the Islamic Republic : we do recognize the chance we enjoy as occidental people to dress as we please, to have opinions. Nevertheless I begin to get fat and depressed because I do not know what to do on a professionnal point of view. In the end, as Cristina’s brother is on a life-changing moment as well, we decide to found all three a team building company. This is the beginning of our “entrepreneur” life. We start to have some events and “conquer” customers. It is a great time because we visit Romania extensively and discover beautiful hotels.
We have disagreements with Cristina’s parents who do not understand my quitting from the Ministry. Our flat being close to theirs, the tension rises and we decide to move and buy a small house in another area (it was cheap, back at this time). It was not long afterwards that we decided to completely renovate this “shack” and move in during october 2005. We sell the flat a few months afterwards in order to partly finance our second company. I will shortly talk about it…
In the same time with Cristina we look for a small forest in order to make one of our “Tehran-made business plans” come true (as we had more than enough time to make them in Iran). Found the forest in 2005. Purchased in a couple of days. With Cristina we create our second company and prepare the building site in order to open the first adventure park ever created in this country. We will finally be able to offer a true “playground” to our little boy, and the other children will get used to sport and nature. We have some disagreements with my brother-in-law concerning the future of the team building company : our little family has needs and we have to grow our business in order to increase our income.
… July 2006 – July 2013
Romania, Bucharest :
We open the first adventure park in Romania (not member of the European Union yet at that time), “Aventura Parc”, on July 14 2006. The grand opening is rather a failure because we are weak in marketing :-(. Anyway, in spite of all difficulties (I could write two novels about this) we succed in developping the business and attract schools and corporate companies.
We use the opportunity to implement a rather participative management as well as a life philosophy. We build a super team after many “waves” of teammates. Our disagreements result in our simultaneous quitting from our first company in septembre 2007 : we leave the sole partner with all the assets and sell our shares for a small amount of money (we did not want to create unnecessary tensions within the family). That bold freeing move leaves us without essentials means as our park did not “take off” at this time. Very difficult moment, but we move on.
Every year we add attractions according to our resources, strenghten security, build an adventure park for a customer in romanian Moldova. Cristina manages to organize travels and we succeed in a few years to visit more than fourty countries. Among them : Sri Lanka, Martinique, Egypt, China, Scotland, Thailand, South Corea, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Ireland, Mexico city, Poland, Bali island, Berlin, South Africa…
We make a good living even if the job is hard, seasonal, and you have to pay wages even when the park is closed : “philosophy of the ant”. We have to sue another park opened on 2008 as we have a trademark since 2006, which is used against our will and generates confusion among customers. Despite the obviousness of our case, romanian justice dismisses it on the first instance and on appeal. We are condemned to pay thousands of euros and this decision put our financial health at stake. We try to move on once again and decide to add a medieval dimension to our park : costumes, small castle, activities.
Several months later, a romanian government cultural agency shows up and claims taxes retroactively. We are stunned and dismayed after this second blow of the romanian “system” as we survive without any grant, european funds in a country where corruption scandals are looming… In the end this last turpitude affects us more than we thought. Back on February 2013 we begin to realize we are fed up with everything. Marc made us clear that he would not be interested in going on with the park business and we are mentally exhausted after a decade of struggle.
We seriously consider leaving the country and terminate the business because Romania did not keep its promises and obviously missed the “european funds’ train” which could have pushed the country much further…
Meanwhile one our employees feels she is ready to “take up the torch” and lead the park, so Cristina begins to intensively teach her management and accounting operations. She becomes sole manager and is in charge, we both give up our managing responsibilities. With Cristina we settle a plan and draw life changing perspectives on many continents. We retain the possibility to “come back to France” : we agree to go with Marc for six weeks in Martinique as tourists, and see if we could stay there… It seems it is the case, for now 😉
… August 2013 – present
Schœlcher, Martinique :
The beginning of a new life !