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Road to Romania: My First Thoughts   (published in Romania)

September 20, 2016 by   Comments(1)

I have a natural state before I am about to experience something new: anxiety. The day before a new school year starts, the night before a big presentation is made, or even on the cusp of branching away from home, I always feel a churning in the pit of my stomach that will not ease. I felt it when I decided not to go to college right after graduation. I felt it when my friends started to leave me behind, and I was wondering if I had made a mistake. I felt it whenever any of my family members inquired about my plans for the next year, why I chose Romania, how I was going to live in a country where I knew no one and could not speak the language, etc. etc. And I especially felt it when I realized that I bargained for more independence than I have ever had in my life. And then I got here. 

I have been in Romania for a grand total of 38 hours now, and to my surprise, I am as relaxed as if I were at home in my own room. I'm not sure when the churning stopped, but I believe it must have been somewhere between brisk walk around the gargantuan Frankfurt airport and my victorious pass through customs in Bucharest. It is still surreal to me, how easy it was to feel at home in a place I had never been before. Then I started to notice things about the country. Driving from the airport to my home stay in Brasov (about 3 hours), I saw how abruptly areas of agriculture and modesty evolved into quaint, thriving towns. The only dynamic that is comparable in my experience is traveling from midtown Memphis to the run-down areas in the south of the city. My driver Alex and I hit it off right away, which was a relief because (a) he spoke English and (b) I hadn't had a conversation with anyone who wasn't an airport official. We talked about music (he had classic rock blaring, so I couldn't help but have my interest picqued-shoutout to dad!), America (I was the first American he's ever met) vs. Romania, the places we've been, his life as a driver, and countless other things. I was so amazed at the flow of our conversation, with the Transylvanian mountains looming in the distance and the countryside zooming by, that I had no idea how quickly the journey would end. We finally reached Brasov, and I said goodbye to the first Romanian I had ever met. 

Brasov is something of an enigma. It's as though an artist decided to craft a village in the side of a mountain, but halfway through he changed it to a bustling metropolis. My stop was in a beautiful, almost villa-like home in the center of the city. My host family was a gracious elderly couple, who didn't speak English, but who were welcoming in every way (lots of hand gestures). I wish I could remember their names, but in all honesty, I had been awake for over a day and the only thoughts on my mind were a hot shower and a warm bed. I was offered both, fortunately, but not until I had a meal of soup, chicken tenders, tomato and cucumber saiad, and fries. I mean a lot of fries. Way too many fries for one person. But, I was grateful all the same. I finally dropped off to sleep, after a long day of travel, and prepared to set off in the morning for my final destination: Cluj-Napoca.

I awoke to a chilly, early morning (I'm learning that it will be winter sooner rather than later here) and some toast. My taxi for the train station arrived, and my host "mother" kindly gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek farewell.  I met Damian, a member of the Projects Abroad team, who was a little flustered because we were running a little behind schedule, but still very warm and accepting to me. We raced to my station and arrived just in time, with a lot of speed and I suspect foul-mouthedness on Damian's part (I don't speak Romanian, but I know frustration when I see it) and I set off on an 8 hour train to get to Cluj.

I was a little put off by the amount of traveling in such a small period of time (you can only take so much motion sickness), but Cluj is definitely worth the wait. It is the most gorgeous place I have seen so far, and is quite vibrant with shops, museums, and restaurants. I was told it is the center of student life, as the universities are most densely populated here. As soon as I got off the train, i was greeted by a friendly woman named Andreea, who immediately led me to a car where her sister and mother were parked waiting. Andreea and I got to know each other a bit, and I learned she had just finsihed her PhD in archaeology and had started with Projects Abroad a few months ago. She told me she had met students from all over the world-from Singapore to Yemen to Canada, but I am only the second American she's worked with. After some traffic (rush hour), we reached the apartment where I will be staying by myself for the duration of my 6 weeks here. Andreea showed me all of the necessities (outlets, bed, washing machine, kitchen, bathroom, etc.), and we headed straight back out to purchase international adapters (good thing I realized mine were wrong early) and exchange my U.S. dollars for lei, the Romanian currency. We grabbed dinner at a nearby open-area restaurant (pizza for me, ironically), and her friend Olympia joined us later on. The portions here are ridiculously large, so we sat there for quite some time, becoming acquainted with each other (Andreea and Olympia went to college together). At one point, I said thank you to the waitress in Romanian (multsemesc is the word) and Olympia said my pronunciation was so spot on she almost started speaking in her native language because she forgot I was American for a moment! So if that's not a confidence boost, I don't know what is! We said la revedere (reh-veh-deh-ray) to Olympia, and headed back to the apartment around 9:30 PM. Andreea and I established a work schedule starting the next day, and after she left, I emptied my suitcase and tried to tell my body that it was nighttime in another country. 

It has been a long past few days, but I am excited for what lies ahead! I can't wait to explore this city, and to finally get to become a mock archaeologist! 

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Road to Romania: My First Thoughts
Road to Romania: My First Thoughts

Go Lana!! Great to read that you're settled in. Keep writing about your journey!
Love, Aunt Kim

Anonymous 610 days ago