Vlad and the YouTube School

A dove is whining and hopping 50 meters from you. You’re at Pietrișu, in the courtyard that lies by the L-shaped building. Vlad, one of the participants, can tell from this distance whether the dove has a partner or not, if it’s old or a squab, male or female: “I know from experience, but I also watched passionate pigeon keepers on YouTube. I saw what they do and I learnt from them.” Two years ago, he saw a bunch of white doves in Mr. Florian’s courtyard. They had long feathers and when they shook their wings they made a pleasant noise that he liked. “I came to appreciate them and went to take a pair from his bunch.” His passion also made him responsible, he thinks. Every morning, Vlad runs to their cage and opens it. He even built a larger house because the first one became too small for the seven doves he is now raising. “They live in a birdcage that I made, because dad is not very fond of me owning doves. A neighbor helped me built it. I had a cage this high, like only half a meter, how could I let them grow up in there? I made one of wooden boards and a net and a small cupboard where they could nest.”

Vlad is 14; he’s from Pietrișu and is now in the 9th grade at the “Tudor Vianu” theoretical high-school in Giurgiu. These days, his passion turned his attention to the attic of the kindergarten, where he thinks hundreds of doves live. He’s listening to the instructions of the organizers and doesn’t talk to the other participants, but at times he raises his eyes to the attic and for a while he stays still. Today the enthusiasm of the camp made him forget about his doves. His dad let them out of the cage. He was supposed to be at the kindergarten at 8 am. He woke up a bit late and when Răzvan, another participant and friend from the village called his name, he quickly got dressed and ran out. Vlad got to take part in the activities of the camp with his younger brother, Ștefan, thanks to his dad, who had come by to help: “Dad is a worker and when Mrs. Cornelia called him to install a light bulb and put a lock on a door, he asked what was happening. She said look, we’re organizing a youth camp. He asked whether I and my brother could attend and she was happy to have us.”

“It really is great here, we did a ton of activities,” he says. There’s not much going on in the village and at school, where he used to study. They didn’t have activities like these. He really liked a game they did with the football that helped them remember everyone’s name: “We threw the ball around, and had to say who gave us the ball, then say our name and to whom I was throwing the ball. First few days I didn’t know all their names, but after that, I did.” What he likes most about the camp is that everyone’s really nice. They don’t judge and they aren’t full of themselves, he says, like people from other NGOs or tourists coming to the village with older children who would pick on him as a pupil at the secondary school in Găujani, because he was smaller than the others: “They didn’t come here like the rest, who do how they feel like and don’t care about anyone else – strangers who get here and don’t mind anyone. They’re different, they’re all right. They come, talk with you, it’s nice.“

Despite the bullying, he liked school and his biggest dream is moving to an Adventist high-school in Bucharest before the start of his second semester. The cost of living in a dorm doesn’t even compare to that of the monthly bus pass from the village to Giurgiu, the nearest city. The cost for transportation is a reason why more and more children in Pietrișu graduate only eight grades. “That’s a good high-school that teaches you a lot and also provides accommodation. And it’s free. I’d like to go there because it’s in Bucharest and also the high-school is of my confession. If I were to stay in Giurgiu, I think it would be horrible to travel this long
every day. Not to mention the monthly bus pass that is really expensive.” It wouldn’t be the first time he sees the capital. His dad has five relatives there and he fell in love with the amusement park Divertiland, which he visited for the first time in 2016. Vlad’s Bucharest is “nicer, more populated, busier and has more things you could do.” He wants to leave because he can’t say the same thing about the village.

When he talks about the school and the camp, Vlad looks up and interrupts his story with a “Look, there go the doves.” This goes on throughout the interview, like in a soft melody about doves and the future. “In my class, there were three children who did well in school, two girls and me. One had highest grades, only As, the second, Bs and Cs, and I came in third with mostly Cs. Look, a pair just flew inside the attic. I want to take squabs because, if they grow up in my bird house, they stay. Adult pigeons leave.” Vlad wants to go to university in Bucharest and not come back afterwards. He knows the doves will be all right. His younger brother, Ștefan, will take care of them. “I think the camp will make village history, because there hasn’t ever been one like it.”

Story written by Oana Barbonie, seen by her and Tiberiu Mihail-Cimpoeru in the summer of 2017.

Check the  from camp last year:

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