I noticed Zoli mostly because of the contrast of his voice and stature. He was on the smaller side, but his voice was rather based and sharp. He would be my first interview that set the tone for the depth and dynamism these kids were harboring behind their obsessions with smartphones, fidget spinners, and American early 2000s pop and rap music.
Anita, Zoli, and I settled out onto an outside wooden side porch and I tentatively started asking questions. Watching hopefully as Zoli sat fiddling with a phone that was not his. Its not long before the introductory formalities have been breached and Zoli starts opening up a bit with Anita’s help. I began by inquiring why it was rumored that he was a bit of a troublemaker.
“He’s as bad a sin, that’s what he said?” I asked Anita.
“Yes, it’s a saying we have here [in Romania].”
Of course I had to ask why. He answered that due to boredom and general amusement, being a troublemaker broke up the daily routine. He was like any kid. He enjoyed the camp for the games, the friends, and later bedtimes. He liked the freedom. That’s why I was surprised when he said that when he grew up he wanted to be a police officer.
“Others listen to them. They are the authority,” Anita translated, “He wants to be a proper soldier. Well-trained…” He went on to explain that a strong police force would align with a stronger country. He felt that Romania was very much behind, its police force was no exception.
I couldn’t help but ask what his individual vision of a good policeman looked like considering my understanding of the American police force. However, I found myself asking if I heard Anita correctly when she translated, “Muscular, well-built. Show respect…don’t die.”
“They don’t die?” I repeated. It was humorous to consider that the qualifications for a police officer in the eyes of a fourteen-year-old was to be immortal. In Zoli’s eyes policemen were the ultimate super hero.
He eventually revealed that besides traveling, one of his long-term plans was to move to the United Kingdom and join their military. He had no future desire to come back to Romania. Earlier in the interview I had attempted to tap into Zoli’s life before this English camp. I wanted to understand what home meant to him now, before his rise to an immortalized policeman. He had no concrete answer. He was still a wiry kid who’s favorite color was neon green and a kid that liked to spend his free time tinkering with bike mechanics.
When asked about home Anita translation was simple, “Wherever he finds his place.” Deep I know.