The clues of a Bucharest diversified from a cultural point of view are everywhere, from Pantelimon to the Centrul Vechi (Old Town) and from Gemeni Square to Voluntari. The project research team “The new minorities in Bucharest municipality” formed of anthropology MA students within the SNSPA and under the coordination of the anthropologists Monica Stroe, Bogdan Iancu and Vintilă Mihăilescu went in the field in search of places where new minorities have left their imprint on. On this page you will find a series of detailed stories on there incursions amongst Chinese, Moldavian, Turk, Indian, Lebanese, British, French and Italian communities.
Cezara Gheorghe is research assistant of the British community in Bucharest. The exploring of the community entailed a participation in the Mojo Quiz Night, one of the well-known clubs for British presence.
This is the second time I am coming to Mojo Quiz Night and I am a little late. I pay the entry fee, Ron 10 lei that will go to charitable foundations, and I hastily descend into the vault. I am trying to find the table where a few friends are already seated. A nice guy approaches with a paper sheet in hand and asks me what name the reservation is under. I give him three name, for I do not know who made the reservation. Out of the three names, Sergiu, Sînziana and Filip, I get lucky with the one of Filip. He points me to the right direction and smiles at me.
If last time we were seated at a table where one could not see the stage, this time we are right in front of the speaker. It seems there is more hustle than last time, but it’s great they’ve installed the new air ventilation system, and so the is not as closed as before.
People talk, laugh, and greet one another. Conversations are in both Romanian and English. It seems to me as if „Hi! How are you?” is an expression that comes in hand with the strangers present. Can’t you simply say „Hi”? I sit and wonder.
After greeting my fellow members I must get to work. This time, I brought my camera and I will try to capture a little the atmosphere. But, before I get on with it, I glance at Michael, the owner of Mojo, whom I interviewed two days ago. I told him I will be present at Quiz Night and I want to say hi.
I found him quickly, somewhere in the back. I asked him if I can take pictures and he said yes. Then he asked me at which table I was seated and wished me good luck. From what I’ve seen last time and from what the colleagues accompanying me have told me and who come every Quiz Night since January, all the participants are competitive enough, even though the prizes are not too great. It is all about the prestige of your team.
I begin taking pictures around me. People notice me, I have a camera that stands out. I try to capture all the activity surrounding me, the interactions between people, and the exchange of paper sheets on which the answers for the first Quiz tests must be written on.
A British guy, Dean, whom I interacted very little with, stops with the beer in his hand, and looks at me. I take a snapshot of him. When I lower my camera he raises the beer at me as a cheer or rather as „Cheers” and leaves.
I don’t feel comfortable in taking snapshots of the strangers in the pub, especially when all of them glance quickly at me, notice me, and become aware of my presence there. I return to my table and, on my way over there, I encounter Michael who is carrying two chairs. He is, after all, during working hours, even if he is the boss. I sit and order water. The music stops and Marc, who presents the Quiz, creates the atmosphere, and asks the questions, sits at his desk. His colleagues, whose name I do not know, is the one keeping score for each of the 40 teams.
First round entails image recognition (for which I received one paper sheet), so Mark begins to read the questions for round 2. Each round has 10 questions, on miscellaneous subjects. The team holding the fewest points decides the subject area for one of the following round, and today the subject area was decided on physics. Usually, as I’ve seen and been told by Sînziana and Sergiu, round two is on the newest events and news of the past two weeks. So as to get ready for this round, my colleagues are watching „Last Week Tonight”, a TV show approaching these things.
Marc seems to be the type of guy who knows how to entertain a crowd. He speaks nicely, with a less emphatic British accent, is cheery and pronounces every question as if it were the most interesting and compelling question in the world. He interacts with those present in the pub – „Why are you two laughing? Do you think you are too smart for this question? Just wait and see what is coming!”. Or tells us his colleague’s messages informing us not to abbreviate the name of the team, for it is harder to calculate the final score for all rounds.
At the end of the 10 questions of the round, he asks „Okay, which questions do you want me to repeat?” From the room one can hear „Three!”, „Seven!”, „Nine!”. He then repeats them more slowly, so as to be sure that everyone understood the question. After four rounds, break is taken. The DJ sits in his place, the music begins to beat, and Marc and his colleague leave the desk. I take advantage of the occasion to take a few more snapshots. The volunteers (of all ages) gather from the tables the papers sheets with the answers.
I find it interesting that there are no conversations between the tables. Each team member communicates with its own fellow members. I don’t know if it is just me, but I think there is a level of competitiveness a little too extreme. For example, the use of phones during tests is strictly forbidden. Those who want to use them, better leave the room. And those who see someone using their phone are encouraged to send the information to the organizers for the “necessary measures to be taken”, which entails decreasing the score or even the elimination from competition of the respective team. From what my colleagues have told me, this has happened a few times.
After the break, Marc tells the answers to the previous questions before the beginning of a new round. The room is filled with applause, people are cheering, whistling, high-fiving their team colleagues. I feel like in a televised contest with stakes higher than a detergent bag, tickets to a concert and a six-pack of beer. Not necessarily in this order.
The evening goes on in the same cheerful atmosphere, more and more immersed in smoke. At the end, the entire classification is read. Those on the stage go to receive their awards. Marc wishes us „Farewell!” and, as at a sign already known by all of us, almost everyone stands and leaves. The employees of the pub are not shy in beginning the cleaning whilst the clients are still at the tables.