Romania and Moldova are jigsaws of economics and attitude as much as of ethnicity. This has given rise to tension between minority groups, but most people today are united in their struggle to make a decent living. While pensioners are often the ones to have had the hardest time adapting to recent social changes, the younger generation is full of beans. In the cities, a sizable chunk of it drives fast cars and sports mobile phones; another chunk is driven by the dream of doing the same. Still others have embarked on a more difficult route: questioning where their country is headed and defining values and priorities. Sometimes it's easier to just head off into the mountains where no social issue matters much!

Romania wasted time in the 1990s stumbling through often ineffectual economic reforms and has only relatively recently found its footing and a sense of direction. This has led to. optimism, but hasi left the country with a host of lingering social issues to contend with. The problem of its high number of orphanages was complicated by a ban on foreign adoptions in 2001 in an effort to stem a system of auctioning babies to


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the highest bidder and to please EU directives. Only in the last days of 2001 did Romania finally repeal the criminalisation of homosexuality, becoming one of the last European countries to do so; any women's or feminist movement is barely nascent. There's also the question of what to do with all those forlorn stray dogs!

You are likely to see homeless or destitute children, perhaps begging for money or food, perhaps just trying to eke out a living on the streets. The Information and Cooperation Centre for Homeless Children (http://members .tripod .com/cicfa; %21 2126176) in Bucharest works in association with the Save the Children association ( and City Hall to disseminate information and regroup related charities to combat this sad social issue. Interested parties are welcome to contact them for more information.

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