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Working in Romania March 19, 2008

Posted by oblia in Peregrinatio 1.
Tags: ,

So I’m translating stuff for this magazine. A bit of casual extra work. First they send me about 6 articles. They’re burning, crying and screamingly urgent. No budget limits on these, I’m told, just do them yesterday!

So I’m burning the candle at both ends and beyond, working from 1 pm today right through till 8 am the next day, when I finish and email them off. Ah, the divine contentment of jobs well done! Does it matter that I feel in shambles, my whole life a pile of debris? (Yes, this is the 5000th time I’ve worked nights in my life.) No, it doesn’t. Because I know it’s just a banal altered state of mind caused by exhaustion.

So I’m going to bed at 10 am (I might’ve just as well stayed on in Oz, I seem to be functioning within that time zone anyway) and out of bed at 5.30 pm. To check my email for the glossy magazine’s response. Fantastic job, really well done! But, hey, no one in this world is going to pay you as much as you asked, I’m told (which is about one third or fourth what you’d be paid in “the West”, anyway). We don’t have a budget for that. (Huh? But the other day you said…) However, it is worth trying a bit of bargaining with the director, why don’t you drop in for a chat one of these days? Anyway, meanwhile, please translate this, too (message 1). And this (message 2). And this, too, by all means (message 3). About 15 pages. They’re top priority, the next issue is right about to come out, plus you might have a chance to get paid as much as you wanted for these (eh? but you’ve just said…), so please do them asap, thanks!

So I’m setting out for the second overnight work trip at about 10 pm. (Yeah well I had to have some breakfast-cum-lunch-cum-dinner and a shower, go buy some stuff and talk to my family to get a “have a life” feeling.) As I’m still a bit shaky because of last night’s marathon, I’m plodding through these interviews with top entrepreneurs on how to make supermegabucks. They all say it’s all about bloody hard work.

So I’m thoroughly translating this into Romanian and, at one point, the situation becoming strikingly ironical, I twig: wtf am I doing here and now, ruining my health for some chimerical (under)payment and pouring ultrashort-notice extra demands? I should’ve known better by now, since I have experienced time and over again the unique work style of Romanian employers. We even invented a representative word for that: “ţapă” (pronounced /tsahper/), meaning “spike”. It developed a verb and two idioms (literally translated as “to give someone spike” and “to get spiked by somebody”). It must have to do with Vlad the Impaler, the alleged base character for Dracula…

So I’m finishing the megabucks piece, as I’ve given my word to do so, and email it around 6.30 am. Along with these lines: “I’m sorry I won’t be able to continue working with you,” etc. If they do pay me in the end, I swear I’ll give that money away to beggars.

So my advice is, if you sniff a spiking job that you, however, pledged to complete, be a pro: do it properly but be proactive, too – that is, precipitate the spiking (it’s bound to happen anyway) and extract yourself from the whole thing. The faster the better.



1. TheArrow - March 19, 2008

That really sucks. I agree with you that one should try to be as professional as possible and do the job well but cut one’s losses. Still, it sucks…

2. k - March 19, 2008

Ugly. That’t one of the main reasons why I left ro, the constant fear of ‘tzepe’. I didn’t mind the amount of work…

3. oblia - March 19, 2008

Yeah… The point is, with so many “spikes” I’m becoming hugely disgusted by default: when somebody says, “ok, I’ll call you tomorrow to let you know” (whatever), I can’t help saying “ok, great” and thinking “yeah, right!..” And when they indeed do not call the next day, as they said they would, I get this weird kind of joy because my suspicion has been confirmed yet again… People just don’t stick to their word anymore. I find that really depressing, at times.

As for myself, I almost always say “maybe”, “hopefully” and the like, but never make myself sound reliable when I KNOW I’m not reliable (in that situation). And when I do sound reliable I do my very best to actually BE reliable and deliver what I promised.

4. maxigorwagner - March 20, 2008

so true!

5. Irina Gheorghe - March 20, 2008

Here is another spike. I was translating some stuff for a true lady, ahem, whose business is situated in the very centre of Bucharest. Her opening was coming and she needed someone to translate her site into Romanian. Paid amount per page: minimum minimorum. I tried to negotiate, but I could not get a higher amount. So I translate this site and fill 30 pages with product and ingredients description and learn the English names of all the plants by heart. I deliver the work, she meets her deadline, the business kicks off… Then she asks me to translate something into French. She tells me this at 5 pm and mentions that she needs it by 10 am, because she needs to send the materials to Paris. Ok. I translate it, stay up until 2 or am, miss my Law class, which in the end is not such a tragedy. The whole document was of about 7 pages (6 pages + 3/4). I talk to her a couple of days after that to discuss payment. She goes: “How long was the document?” “7 pages”. “Are you sure it really was 7 pages long? I think it was less”. I wrote her an e-mail forwarding the document to her and congratulating her on being right about the size of the document: it wasn’t 7 pages long, it was 6 and 3/4. I said: “It’s up to you if you want to pay me for the 7 pages or just for the 6 and 3/4”.

Sometimes I think I should take classes in the Romanian habit called “nesimtire”, although I fear I will fail the course.

6. Oblia - March 20, 2008

pt. maxigorwagner: din pacate, inca da…

pt. irina: arrrrrgh! ma intrebai ziele trecute daca mi-au trecut dracii. ei bine, thanks for the story, tocmai m-au reapucat. CE vaca acea lady!!…

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