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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, ...
Well, this is it. I have 4 days left in Romania. Reality struck when I realized I have to start packing 3 months worth of clothes starting tomorrow-a bittersweet task in every sense of the word. I am comfortable in Cluj. I have just started to become accustomed to the dawdling public buses, the aroma of freshly baked pretzels (covrigi) mixed with cigarette smoke, the constant shift from rain to sunshine every other day. Part of me is reluctant to leave it behind, if only because of the familiarity. But I am ready to move on. It definitely hasn't been a picture perfect experience, with many idle and sometimes lonely days. The trial period of 6 weeks was just the right amount of time here. I feel like I've explored enough-in archaeology, in living alone, in finding my independence-to understand what I do and don't want after my year is over. Still, I wouldn't trade this for the world. I am sure of that.
An update on the last 3 weeks: I am positive I have never checked the weather more times than I have here. Everything I do depends on it. Where I go, how long I stay there, what I will do the next day etc. etc. It is virtually impossible to excavate in rain, so there were many days spent in the office (sigh), drawing pottery (BIG sigh) and entering it into the database. I counted how many of them I've done-64. Believe me, that's 64 too many. The days actually on the site were far more interesting, depsite the bitter cold (correction from previous blog-winter isn't coming soon; it's here). My fourth/fifth weeks in Romania, Andreea and I traveled about an hour and a half outside of Cluj everyday to a Roman fortress called Porolissum. It is the largest fortress in all of Romania, and has an incredible view of the Transylvanian mountains and the local village once you ...
Lana Singer 147 days ago
It is impossible for me to exaggerate the drastic shift of environments from my first week in Romania to my second. I have never had to adjust so quickly to two extremes in such a short amount of time. It still amazes me that I have almost reached the halfway point in my Romanian adventures, when it seems only yesterday I was stress packing back home. I hope my attempt at explaining these past couple of weeks sheds some light on my life here, and maybe will help me take stock of what I've learned.
If you are going to a foreign country where you know nothing and/or no one, my suggestion is to bring a friend. I have never been lonelier than those first few days in Cluj, where I only had Andreea to turn to. And when she was gone, it was just my thoughts to keep me company, and nothing to distract me from the truth: I missed home. I missed my family and friends, Huey's burgers, even the mangled right side of poplar. I missed the familiarity. And I had no one to share these feelings with. Don't misunderstand me: I don't regret my decision. I never did. It was a risk I knew may be a reality, and it hit harder than I thought when it happened. But, this is an experience, and I learned early on that whatever I do next, I hope to do it surrounded by people I trust and care about.
On a brighter note, I was able to explore the beautiful city of Cluj during my first week here. I visited the famous Koloszvar Fotere (St. Michael's Church), with the statue of the revered Hungarian king Matthias displayed boldly in front. Andreea also showed me his birthplace, where she explained the influence the Hungarian people have had on this particular region of Romania. We toured around the city center, and Andreea pointed out the medieval ...
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 ...
When I announced to my friends I was going for two weeks in Romania, they all said me approximately the same things. “It’s a really poor country, you will be hangry all the time.” “We don’t really know the countries of the Eastern Europa; it’s not our society, you will be lost, maybe they won’t have good reactions when they’ll see that you’re from a richer country.” Although I did not believe a single word of their affirmations, I admit I was a little worried when my plane took off. During the flight from Paris to Bucharest, I imagined how this travel to a country I did not know will be.
I did not watch a lot of pictures about Romania, because I love to be surprised when I arrive in a new place. That is probably why I was so astonished when I discovered that the country looked absolutely not as we can imagine when we hear about the prejudices. If I taught about it before being come in, I thought about vampires, dark castles, tiny houses and big and steep mountains. I was wrong.
Barely arrived on the Romanian floor, a driver made me discover the beautiful landscapes and a lot of little towns during a journey of three hours. I was totally seduced by his smile and by his kindness; even if I did not understand him, because I do not speak Romanian, he made himself understandable. We cross several places where the houses where beautiful, and I saw a lot of churches. I was particularly interesting by the previous point, because I am absolutely passionate by the religions. Moreover, the mountains were not steep, but covered by the forest; consequently, I found them gorgeous.
As I arrived in Brasov, it was the night, so I was not able to see anything. However, I met my host family. The mother is really nice, she tried ...