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Emotional Liberty: My First Impressions of Central Romania (written by Lucy Betz, USA)   (published in Romania)

November 2, 2016 by   Comments(0)

After being warned of the gloomy weather I might expect from Romania in the rainy season, I was surprised, upon leaving the airport, at how hot it was. I’d arrived on a humid afternoon in early September; in my velvet blazer and pants, I was completely overdressed. Once on the road to Brasov I threw off my coat and rolled down the car window, letting the cool air run soft across my face. From here I was able to take in the scenery - intricately decorated houses, vast farmland scooped out of the Carpathian mountains that cut through the sky like kitchen blades.


The beauty of the landscape would have been enough to keep me interested for the next three hours, but it was also offset by many odd glimpses of daily life that flashed past: young girls stood solitary in high heels and sunglasses at curbside bus stations, stray dogs sunned themselves on train tracks, dilapidated signs advertised theme parks in the language I did not yet understand. When we stopped at a traffic light, I heard an unfamiliar wailing noise, and saw a procession of men and women in dark clothes walking down a dirt road parallel to the highway. Rasvan, my driver, took one glance at my look of confusion and then at the group of people beside us. “It’s a funeral,” he said, and before I could process this, the light had changed and we were off again.


I have spent the last 19 years of my life in Westchester, New York, an area known for the guardedness of its people. Appearances are everything, from the upkeep of your lawn to the make of your shoes, and expressions of real emotion and struggle are almost taboo. Connecting with others on a deeper level is rare, and a warm welcome is hard to come by. So you can imagine how surprised I was when, upon arriving in Brasov, I was welcomed with open arms by everyone I met! Within the first few days I’d made close friends with students my age, and felt completely at home with my host family. Whenever I met someone for coffee or lunch, I was greeted by a huge hug and exclamations of excitement. I was so not used to this!


One night, when I came home to a delicious dinner prepared by my host mother, I began to think back on the expressions of humanity I’d seen from the car on my first day. I found myself drawing a connection between the public grief of the mourning procession, and the ardent joy my new friends expressed upon seeing me each time we met. It dawned on me that maybe this place wasn’t so strange after all, that maybe what was strange was the emotional reticence I’d grown accustomed to at home. The people I’d encountered seemed to share the same knowledge: that life is hard for everyone involved, and therefore emotional shame is useless, because it only prevents you from getting through it.


The only way to bear the struggles in life is to connect with others, to seek people out, and to feel things to their fullest. I’m beginning to believe that this is the way life should be!


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Emotional Liberty: My First Impressions of Central Romania (written by Lucy Betz, USA)
Emotional Liberty: My First Impressions of Central Romania (written by Lucy Betz, USA)