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With war on their doorstep, Romanians are rushing to help their Ukrainian neighbors

With war on their doorstep, Romanians are rushing to help their Ukrainian neighbors
All photos courtesy Balu Gaspar

On the eastern Romania-Ukraine border, volunteers help refugees find their way.

We slam the trunk of our van and hit the road toward Bucharest. We’ll spend the night and continue east toward the border with Ukraine tomorrow morning. I’m lucky to have friends who are up for most anything at a moment’s notice. It was just yesterday we started discussing a trip to one of the refugee camps on the Romania-Ukraine border. Now we’re on our way.

Only a few weeks earlier, I’d been on a bus heading toward our region’s immigration office when I learned that the war had started. As an American expat, I needed to renew my Romanian visa, and now, the unimaginable has happened. On the TVs in the office, the bombarded apartment blocks look just like where I’ve been living the past four years.


Since the war in Ukraine began, it’s been unsettling trying to go about life as normal.

While day-to-day activities continue relatively undisturbed by the chaos unfolding over the border, when I see footage of bombed neighborhoods or families crossing the borders into countries foreign to them, or civilians suddenly turning into soldiers, I am overwhelmed by this unshakeable awareness: It could be us.

The day before my friends and I leave for the border, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered this grave encouragement to protesters in Europe: “Do not be silent. Support Ukraine. Because if Ukraine does not survive, the whole of Europe will not survive. If Ukraine falls, the whole of Europe will fall.”

The place and circumstances into which you are born can make all the difference in the world in times like these. While Romanian officials reassure the public that Romania is not likely to be under direct attack anytime soon, there is still an overwhelming sense among the population that anything is possible.

Many people start to prepare in case of power outages or food shortages. We fill empty bottles with tap water and pack bags we can grab and go if the need arises. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who pulled open the door to my apartment block’s basement to make sure that it was unlocked and accessible.

Romanians are risking their own safety to help their neighbors in Ukraine.

Ukraine is big enough that it wraps around Moldova, our Romanian-speaking neighbors, and thus shares two separate borders with Romania: a sizable one to the north and a smaller, nearly forgotten one to the east, 300 kilometers away from Odessa. It is toward this smaller border that we are heading.

Our contact in Tulcea is the pastor of a Baptist church who has become heavily involved in working with refugees at the border crossing in Isaccea. We drop off some money to him that was raised by one of the churches in our valley, and he directs us toward the biggest needs that we might work toward fulfilling.

Pastor Adrian Dordea and his wife Lidia explain the situation at the border. The vast majority of refugees are in transit toward other countries and some toward other regions of Romania, so there is a constant flow of people that need housing, transportation and basic provisions. They tell us that hundreds of people arrive on a single ferry—sometimes upwards of 700 refugees arriving at one time. The majority come on foot, either abandoning their cars on the side of the road before reaching the border, or not having one to begin with.

When the refugees arrive, many are quite nervous or afraid of what awaits them in this foreign country. Many do not speak English, let alone Romanian. Many are women who are traveling alone or with their children. And, as Dordea explains, unfortunately their fears are not unfounded. Human trafficking is a major issue in wartime, and there have already been reports of people disappearing. For this reason, all the organizations involved at the border are striving for complete transparency. Nothing is done without the knowledge of the local authorities, and personal data of both refugees and volunteers is meticulously recorded.

The church is housing refugees in transit at several locations, offering them a warm place to stay, a hot meal and money for the road. They help coordinate the refugees’ journeys onward and they send volunteers to man tents at the border. They are starting to send missions across the border, bringing blankets and food to the hundreds waiting in line to cross into Romania, or even rescuing people from Odessa who are unable to make the journey alone. It is apparent that they are exhausted by the sheer amount of work to be done. The pastor shrugs modestly, explaining in the simplest possible terms, “We help with what we can.”

Romanians are using social media platforms like Facebook to organize relief efforts.

And they’re not the only ones. When we get to the border, we’re handed bright vests by the previous shift of volunteers and they show us how to manage the provisions tents. They are eager to leave to get some rest, as several of them only got three hours of sleep the night before. Most of them have travelled here from Bucharest. Nearly all of them were strangers before they got connected online, united by the simple desire to do something to help.

“Facebook mobilizes,” one of them tells me. There is a Romanian/Ukrainian Facebook group called Uniti Pentru Ucraina (United for Ukraine) that has burgeoned into more than 250,000 members in less than two weeks. Every day, hundreds of people share resources and information, ask for advice and for help, or offer up empty apartments or rooms to anyone in need. Some posts are merely congratulatory: Ukrainians thanking the Romanians that opened their hearts and homes, or Romanians expressing a regained sense of pride in their own country and the ways their fellow citizens have stepped up to the present situation. In the words of one Romanian poster: “We may not be rich, we may not even be the most civilized, but we share our bread with those in need, and that is more noble than anything.” Motivated by a collective weight of responsibility, as Ukrainians rush to the borders of Romania, Romanians are rushing there too.

My friends and I get to work, giving people tea, coffee, sandwiches, snacks and sweets; toiletries and baby formula; pet carriers and collars; blankets, scarves, gloves and socks; SIM cards and stuffed animals. We are told to encourage people to take as much of whatever they want and to reassure them that it’s all free. Translators bring the refugees to the large, enclosed tents where they can sit down and warm up and talk to someone about their plan, if they have one.

As simple as my job is, it’s overwhelmingly emotional in the first several minutes. It feels surreal and absurd to be handing bags full of cookies, fruit and canned meats to children who have just fled a war zone. How can this be real? But I do my best to smile with them, and soon my mind begins to come to terms with this new reality.

I don’t know at first how to speak with the women. I’m almost embarrassed to ask “how are you?” but I start to realize they are glad for an opportunity to share at least a small part of their stories. Two young women tell me that they waited 30 hours to cross the border. A mother shares that she is here with her 4-year-old daughter who will turn 5 very soon. She had been planning a big party for her, but now here they are. She doesn’t know where she will go. “Most people are wanting to go on to other countries, to Germany or to Poland,” she told me, “but I just want to go home to Ukraine. Every few hours we call our men. We are worried for them, and they are worried for us.” We both shake our heads in disbelief of the life that she is now living.

It’s getting dark when another woman comes to get a sandwich and a tea. Even with limited English, she is anxious to tell us something. “I have a son who is…” she pauses, smiling apologetically as she reviews the numbers in English in her head, counting up from one to… “fourteen. Fourteen years old. I tried to tell him to come with me, but he said ‘no, I am a patriot. I will not leave my country.’” She nods her head with a melancholy sort of pride. “He is a patriot.”

Even when I cannot talk to the people who come for provisions, I feel an overwhelming sense of camaraderie with them all. Oftentimes the only words exchanged are “спасибі” (thank you) and “you’re welcome,” or sometimes we just both place our hands on our hearts and look briefly into each other’s eyes; we know everything that the other wants to say.

When my friends and I leave the camp in the middle of the night, we are no longer thinking “It could be us,” but rather, “It is us.” The borders are dissolving. We are standing side by side and we are connected in more ways than we know.

These hundreds and thousands of souls who have left their homes and crossed borders into unknown places are not engaging in an act of retreat. They are advancing into the rest of Europe, carrying their stories, their resilience and a deep love for their country into the hearts and homes of their neighbors. And around them, all of Europe, and indeed the entire world, unites for their cause.

It is a different kind of front line, but one just as necessary. Ukraine will not fall—it is being fortified in this collision of humanity, and we can be sure that if Ukraine rises, the whole of Europe will rise too.

A woman is shocked to learn that her name means something totally different in Australia.

Devyn Hales, 22, from California, recently moved to Sydney, Australia, on a one-year working visa and quickly learned that her name wouldn’t work Down Under. It all started when a group of men made fun of her on St. Patrick’s Day.

After she introduced herself as Devyn, the men laughed at her. "They burst out laughing, and when I asked them why, they told me devon is processed lunch meat,” she told The Daily Mail. It's similar to baloney, so I introduce myself as Dev now,” she said in a viral TikTok video with over 1.7 million views.

For those who have never been to Australia, Devon is a processed meat product usually cut into slices and served on sandwiches. It is usually made up of pork, basic spices and a binder. Devon is affordable because people buy it in bulk and it’s often fed to children. Australians also enjoy eating it fried, like spam. It is also known by other names such as fritz, circle meat, Berlina and polony, depending on where one lives on the continent. It's like in America, where people refer to cola as pop, soda, or Coke, depending on where they live in the country.


So, one can easily see why a young woman wouldn’t want to refer to herself as a processed meat product that can be likened to boloney or spam. "Wow, love that for us," another woman named Devyn wrote in the comments. “Tell me the name thing isn't true,” a woman called Devon added.

@dhalesss

#fypシ #australia #americaninaustralia #sydney #aussie

Besides changing her name, Dev shared some other differences between living in Australia and her home country.

“So everyone wears slides. I feel like I'm the only one with 'thongs'—flip-flops—that have the little thing in the middle of your big toe. Everyone wears slides,” she said. Everyone wears shorts that go down to your knees and that's a big thing here.”

Dev also noted that there are a lot of guys in Australia named Lachlan, Felix and Jack.

She was also thrown off by the sound of the plentiful magpies in Australia. According to Dev, they sound a lot like crying children with throat infections. “The birds threw me off,” she said before making an impression that many people in the comments thought was close to perfect. "The birds is so spot on," Jess wrote. "The birds, I will truly never get used to it," Marissa added.

One issue that many Americans face when moving to Australia is that it is more expensive than the United States. However, many Americans who move to Australia love the work-life balance. Brooke Laven, a brand strategist in the fitness industry who moved there from the U.S., says that Aussies have the “perfect work-life balance” and that they are “hard-working” but “know where to draw the line.”

Despite the initial cultural shocks, Devyn is embracing her new life in Australia with a positive outlook. “The coffee is a lot better in Australia, too,” she added with a smile, inspiring others to see the bright side of cultural differences.

@tallulah.roseb/TikTok

Maybe she's born with it. But maybe it just modern day cosmetics.

A woman named Tallulah Rose recently went viral after sharing a well-intentioned, but oh-so misinformed compliment men tend to give her. It left a lot of other women nodding in agreement, because it revealed what still seems to be a common beauty myth.

"I actually just, like, don't understand men and how their brain works sometimes because today I was just minding my own business when this guy comes up to me and is like ‘you are so elegant, you are such a natural beauty,'" she said in the clip.

Of course, Rose is positive any other woman would instantly know that the beauty men are responding to is anything but natural.


“I think a woman can take one look at me and be like … this is fake,” she said before breaking down the costs of enhancements she’s made.

“My jawline cost $10,000, okay? My lips are clearly done. My hair is $2000, my lashes are $200 every two weeks.”

jawline cosmetic surgery, natural cosmetic procedures

"My jawline costs $10,000, okay?"

@tallulah.roseb/TikTok

She then lifted her bangs to show a wrinkle-less forehead and immovable eyebrows, thanks to Botox or some other kind of anti-wrinkle injection. Plus, she has “enough makeup on to season a f***ing wok.”

Still, men will wistfully tell her “ 'they don't make them like you do these days.” to which Rose quipped, “yes they do with a needle and a scalpel!”

plastic surgery, cosmetic procedures

"They don't make 'em like you these days…yes they do! With a needle and a scalpel!"

@tallulah.roseb/TikTok

Since sharing this hot take, Rose’s video has garnered over 12 million views on TikTok and has been shared across several platforms. Most of the comments came from women who have had their own fair share of this experience.

Some were just as hilarious as the original video.

"My husband was like 'please never get Botox' If I could raise my eyebrows at him I would have,” one person wrote.

Another added, ““I’ve had male friends remark how I don’t wear heavy makeup like other girls. I spend at least 30 mins a day putting my face on.”

Over on X, people were just refreshed by Rose’s honesty.

Rose told news.com.au that many men “genuinely can’t tell the difference between a natural woman and a woman that has had cosmetic surgery,” primarily due to seeing celebrities who have had work done and assuming that’s the standard. She’ll often ask male friends to name a celebrity crush, and “they’ll name someone that has clearly had work done but they are just quite clueless to it.”

And that is really where the important conversation comes in. Unrealistic beauty standards aren’t necessarily a new issue. But now the paradox of cosmetic procedures being stigmatized while at the same time not even acknowledged in much of what is touted as natural beauty puts women in an impossible position. They can’t naturally live up to these expectations, and then are labeled as fake if they do make efforts to look enhanced (which is the new normal…make it make sense).

Point is: Praising a woman for her “natural beauty” might be intended as a compliment. But for many, it’s neither true, nor a compliment.

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.

Watch:

All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”


There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.


This article originally appeared on 10.30.23

Family

Dad and son had no idea their pet octopus would soon hatch 50 eggs. Cue wholesome chaos.

It's an epic saga that's wholesome, captivating and heartfelt all at once.

Representative Image from Canva

Their journey became the best nature show on social media.

What started as a wholesome father-son bonding activity quickly became a full blown TikTok sensation, all thanks to one octopus. Actually…make that fifty octopuses.

Cameron Clifford of Edmond, Oklahoma, had promised to get his cephalopod-obsessed 9-year old Cal their very own pet octopus. After making a call to a local aquarium, Clifford made good on that promise, and a California two-spot (or bimac) octopus, which they would name Terrance, arrived via mail order. Cue Cal’s instant tears of joy.

Only, in hindsight, they might have wanted to name him Teresa instead, because only two months later, Terrance’s already too-small tank was filled with dozens of eggs.



"We kind of estimate there was about between 40 and 70 eggs but every one that hatched, that I saw, I was able to catch and contain. It was exactly 50," Clifford told Good Morning America.

As Clifford explains in one TikTok video (using a posh british voice for the narration, making it even more National Geographic-esque), once female bimac octopuses lay eggs, that usually signals the end of their life cycle, and they stop taking care of themselves in order to protect their young.

@doctoktopus Terrance signals the end of her life-cyxle, but we have no idea how mich time we have left wirh her. #octopus #marinebiology #shrimpdaddy #saltwateraquarium #fyp #cephalopod #petoctopus #aquarium #octomom #biology #mom ♬ Heartbeats - Remastered 2023 - José González

So, even though Terrance (who was eventually renamed Terry) could recognize Clifford and Cal, nothing could coax her out of her cave after the eggs were laid. However, latching onto their arms remained one of her favorite pastimes.

Terrance’s eggs were at first deemed infertile by several experts that Clifford talked to, which made her upcoming demise all the more tragic. When the unexpected miracle finally did happen, Clifford begged for other aquariums in his area to take the hatchlings. They all declined.

So naturally, he reached out to TikTok. He shared the previously private videos documenting their journey, including the insane saga of capturing each newly hatched octopus and putting it in its own incubated container, so that they wouldn’t eat each other. The Clifford home honestly became a bona fide marine biologist training center. Only with exponentially more puns.

Behold, "Clamsterdam":

@doctoktopus SOONERS DEFEAT DARWIN IN BIG 12 CONF. CHAMPIONSHIP 🏈 🐙 #octopus #marinebiology #shrimpdaddy #saltwateraquarium #fyp #cephalopod #saltwatertank #aquarium #octomom #mom #clambake #poseidon #tank ♬ original sound - Shoptopus

Speaking of puns, viewers also helped give each of the octo-babies. Some examples include InverteBrett, Swim Shady, Bill Nye the Octopi, Sea-yonce and Jay-Sea…you get the picture.

Luckily, after Clifford’s account went mega viral, other aquariums, universities and research facilities agreed to give them homes, per USA Today.

Clifford might be out thousands of dollars—and hours—on his impromptu project, but he wouldn't trade it for the world.

@doctoktopus 😳 #octopus #marinebiology #shrimpdaddy #saltwateraquarium #fyp #cephalopod #petoctopus #octomom #biology #saltwatertank #mom ♬ original sound - Shoptopus

"As far as regrets, there's so many," he told USA Today. "I wish I wouldn't have opened that valve that way and dumped all that dirty seawater onto my kids' white carpet. That's certainly a regret. But overall, no, it's been an absolutely fun experience, not just for me, but also for my kids."

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, Terrence is still, miraculously, alive. Though she is expected to die in the next several weeks, the Cliffords are more than prepared to be surprised. Again.

Though Clifford attests that one should probably refrain from have an octopus for a pet, he tells his followers that “you will learn a lot about yourself” by taking care of one.

“There’s always some valve or seal that’s not completely closed, and your storm resistant carpet isn’t rated for gallons and gallons of seawater. You’ll learn that seawater and electricity don’t always get along. You will learn new things and meet incredible people and will learn that wildlife is magnificent. But most of all, you’ll learn to love a not-so-tiny octopus like Terrance.”

Follow along on more of Clifford and Cal's octopus adventures on TikTok.

Image created from @maymaybarclay Twitter page.

The courage to speak up to join in the fun.

Meet Mason Brian Barclay, a teen and self-described "very homosexual male." He recently wanted to attend a sleepover at his "new best friend" Houston's house, because teens are gonna teen. But he's a boy, and everyone knows boys aren't allowed to attend girls' sleepovers, because of cooties/patriarchal norms.

So he behaved more maturely than most adults, and crafted a long text message to Houston's mom, Mrs. Shelton, in which he politely asked for permission to attend Houston's sleepover.


"I think the common meaning behind only allowing the same sex to share sleepovers is due to the typical interest in the opposite sex, when, in this case, I do not like the opposite sex," he explained in the text.


Mrs. Shelton's response was so good that Mason tweeted it out and it went viral:

"Hmm. Well my husband is hot. Should I worry?" she responded.

via GIPHY

Evidently Mason found Mrs. Shelton's text hilarious. So does Twitter.

And others are just wondering if the sleepover is on, or not??

Others need to know if Houston's dad lives up to the hype:

This article originally appeared on 11.26.18