Taheri, an Iranian who sees Romania as the land of endless possibilities

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An Iranian that has seen Romania as the land of endless possibilities is teaching Romanians a lesson in patriotism. He wants the country as well as its values to be better promoted, because he says Romania deserves it and it has what to be proud of. Reza Taheri, affectionately called Sebi by his familiars, is living at Floresti, Prahova County, where he opened a small farm of exotic animals to raise all sorts of animals, from hens to serpents and monkeys, some of which have been used in videos of local pop singer stars such as Delia and Deepcentral.

Photo credit: (c) CRISTIAN NISTOR/AGERPRES STREAM

Sebi came to Romania in the early 1990s to study, contemplating a master's degree programme at the Polytechnics University of Bucharest, but because he was young he swam with the tide and started up in business, especially because at the time everything would go on smoothly, according to him. He had chosen Romania because of the high quality of the local education system and also because at the time life was cheap in Romania. In short, Romania was a land of endless possibilities.

Photo credit: (c) Anamaria TOMA/AGERPRES ARCHIVE

'Like any other foreigner, I started with all that I could lay my hand on — footwear, clothing, bars, restaurants, everything. Everything you would do would work. It is true in principle that educational attainment in Romania was and is still high, but the financial side of things also drew me here. Compared with the rest of world, Romania at the time was a place where things were inexpensive: educational fees, rent, everything. Back then it was indeed a land of endless possibilities. With very few money, say 300-500 US dollars, you could start your own business. You could open a vendor's stand, anything. Everything at the time was at the beginning in Romania. Life would be very easy for a student that came here with 1,000-2,000 US dollars,' Sebi explains, adding that his beginnings in Romania were 'rosy and very beautiful.'

It was not just the financial side of living in Romania that attracted the Iranian man to the country and made him stay, but also the Romanians' way of being, their warmth and magnetism toward the people around them. From his point of view, Romanians could not be placed in the category of Europeans, but rather in the category of Asians.

'You cannot place Romanians in the category of Europeans. I have travelled a lot in Europe but Romanians are more Asians than Europeans. They are warmer, more welcoming, calmer, a people that gets close to you to hear you talk about your world, about where you come from and about your comings and goings. Such warmth is attractive,' says Sebi.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR/AGERPRES STREAM

Little by little, he decided to stay in Romania and in late 1990s he met Marilena, a beautiful green-eyed tall Bucharest girl who brought him under her spell and whom he married. They now have together a 10-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter who, along with farming, fill his time full. The entire family has caught 'the microbe' that Sebi has carried with him ever since he was a kid, a time when he would bring home various animals, much to his father's chagrin, which he remembers with a smile in the corners of his mouth.

'My passion for animals goes back to my childhood. Dad would batter me quite often for walking from one fair to another to buy doves, hens, cats, dogs, everything that would move. This microbe was easily transmissible from me to my wife, from her to our kids and we are all crazy about the animals, like being on high: we feel like we miss something unless we stay with them. Those who have a heart for animals also have a heart for their fellows. When I talk about heart I talk about love. When there is love in you, you do things unconditionally like a mother does for her kid; this way you feel boosted and go one,' the Iranian confesses.

Her wife, a dental technician by trade, has given up her trade to support his husband's hobby and raise their two kids. Many ask him whether or not he is afraid to be close to the exotic animals he farms, and his answer is always an emphatic no. He explains that animals can feel their handlers and since they are raised from the time the get born a strong bond creates between the animals and their human handlers.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR/AGERPRES STREAM

'If I go out for several days, say for an exhibition, this parrot, which is shrieking out so loud now that it spoils our conversation, stops talking while I am missing, but as soon as I open the door it starts shouting out 'baba, baba' [Daddy]. I do not know how he does it — it may feel or smell something — but it immediately shouts at me. This is a bond between you and the animal,' says Sebi.

He is not living on the small farm, which is rather a hobby, but on his business. And yet, he cannot imagine his life without animals in the house. He raised animals also when he was living in Bucharest and in the years he lived at Snagov. Life led him to Ploiesti and because at the time he had no place where to keep the animals in the city, he decided to move out to Floresti, 20 km away from the city of Ploiesti.

If some local star wants to use exotic animals in their videos they know who to call: Sebi! Female singer Delia and the boys of the Deepcentral band have so far been among the customers of the Iranian's small farm. Sebi claims that he could have not achieved what he did in Romania anywhere else, because he would have not found the soil and climate of Romania anywhere else.

Photo credit: (c) Anamaria TOMA/AGERPRES ARCHIVE

'What I have achieved in Romania I could have not done anywhere else. That is why foreigners come to Romania because they would find nowhere else the Romanian soil, nature and many other wonderful things. For instance you may not do such a thing in England. Here, land is aplenty, climate is good and you can do anything here. I believe that those who complain they cannot live on animal farming or agriculture in Romania are neither gardeners, nor farmers. Such is impossible!' he says.

It pains the Iranian, who feels here like any other Romanian after spending more than half of his life in Romania, to see that foreigners no longer come to Romania as they used to, and also to see that Romanians no longer promote their country and values as they should do.

'Each of us should wake up from this luxury dream and be realistic. Each should work for his or her kids, his or her family and stop being a consumer of hormones. They should eat and drink Romanian from their yards as their grandparents would do one hundred years ago. Let the cured ham be from your hog and the onion from your garden! That is living in a Romanian manner.

Photo credit: (c) Anamaria TOMA/AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Let us not imitate the Italians and French people. They say the crow wanted to walk like a peacock but it stumbled. Walk your walk, the Romanian walk, and promote Romania instead of Spain, England or Italy! Everybody comes to Romania because they are sick of luxury. They go to Maramures because the woolen blanket there is as it used to be one hundred years ago and the air is pure. After two years in Spain some Romanians would ask you what is this when pointing to polenta. What is this? Why, it is polenta, the thing you have eaten your entire life! Have you already forgotten?' adds the Iranian, who is now declaring himself a Romanian.

If he were to start all over again, Sebi would not change a thing in his life: he would walk down the same path because he says he has not regretted a thing of what he has already done. AGERPRES

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