Saturday, July 27, 2013

Romanian Ruminations

Travel is wonderful, traveling is exhausting. 

Who would have thought we needed 3 hours to just make our plane in Dublin? Three official passport checks, two take off the shoes security checks and the longest check-in line I've ever seen. Then a temporary shut down of all flights after we were in the plane. Chicago was terrific, we avoided the anticipated 8 hour layover by getting on an earlier flight. Another delay on the plane because some United employees were trying to fly free and there were not enough seats for them. Finally, a gorgeous descent into San Francisco - a pink shining sky on the white puffy clouds over the Sierras. Home to a happy dog and a clean house.

Now it's time to do the laundry, sort out the luggage and file away the memories. We are anxious to know how the rest of the trip will go for our Sacramento friends there now- Dennis, Julie, Jesse and Jeron. Jesse knows the ropes now and will be able to smooth out the way for his family. But we just read the forecast for next week, close to 100. Oh, I am feeling for them in that rental car and KH with no AC.

Green grass, shade, animal grazing, quaintly dilapidating house-
Why does it look so easy from where I sit now?

Romania was Romania and although parts of it seemed like other countries we have been to, it was a country unto itself.

Health and Safety

My feet are tan and tired, my legs have some lingering bug bites and I got more sun on my arms than I would have liked. I also gained weight, but that was not the fault of the food. I'm blaming it on the three Cs - cola, chocolate and Ciuc.

That's me, but without the skinny legs.

Sexy type? Not so much.

This was seriously good stuff after a hot day in the village. BevMo - please import.
The medical concerns we worried about never were an issue. After forgetting several times to brush my teeth with bottled water with no ill results, I just stopped being nervous of the tap water. Coming home with an unopened package of Immodium? Priceless.

The driving was another issue. I've driven in other countries and managed the pot holes and crazy drivers. But when there are pot holes and crazy drivers and passing trucks and dogs and trolleys and horse driven gypsy caravans and pedestrians with death wishes - that was a bit much for me. Ernst and Jesse did the driving, and I just tried not to scream too much from the back seat.

Part of the vast Roma community, always on the move.

The horror stories we heard of being surrounded by street urchins begging for money didn't happen either. I was all prepared with what to say in Romanian and had a mugger wallet to give away. The only thing we saw were people coming up to the cars in the intersections of Bucharest asking for money. We were asked a few times for money by people in the villages, usually by a father asking for donations for his hungry children. It was very hard to not say, Hmm, you seem to have a large belly on you and yet your children are hungry? What's up with that? There was one family we met that we did give food to, despite the father's girth. How can you say no to a little girl named Princess? I laid in bed that night during a big rain storm, hoping that little Princess was dry and safe. Romania can break your heart.

The Language

Cutting out the travel days on each side, we were only there for eleven days. It is amazing what only eleven days in a country did for my language skills. The learning curve had nowhere to go but up, and up it went. Unfortunately Bucharest is a city of fast talkers, the speed reminded me of those disclaimers at the end of radio announcement. But despite the rapid fire delivery, being forced to communicate, listen and read everything in Romanian did wonders for me. I'm sure I agreed to way too many things by nodding Da Da when I didn't understand, but my confidence improved. I did the best when I had no bail out option, when I went in a store all by myself and there was no English speaker to help me out.

Bulk frozen food, what a concept.

We had a conversation with a man in the village, and he kept saying Romania is all mixed up. Hey, I thought, that's the word my Moldovan friends back home use when they are telling me a recipe. Mix - I remembered the word for mix! Then in the Romanian version of Walmart they had these big bins of frozen veggies in bulk. There was a sign on them that I could read: Please don't mix up the vegetables from one bin to another. There's that mix word again. My brain is still there, there are language synapses still working. I am all set to use the word mix.

The Beauty

All wires lead to Romania?

In some countries, the beauty hits you immediately. The scenery, the gorgeous architecture, the historical places to tour. Where we were in southern Romania, you had to look for it. Mostly it was in the kind and generous people we met. Our hotel staff asked us after a week if Jesse was a relative of ours. No, just a friend. They were amazed and said they could see something different in us, that in Romania the only people you can trust are your family members. If that's the case, there were many people who went out of their way to be kind to us strangers.

Jump starting a car with no jumper cables, it can be done.
The Danube with Bulgaria in the distance.
Our one excursion to Georgiu. It photographed well.

Not an abandoned building, a working train station in Draganeste.

Horses as lawn mowers.

He wanted to show Ernst his pigeons and made sure we knew he never ate them, they were pets.

Ernst and Jesse trekking through a village.

The people can make up for a lot.
My Romanian has leap years of work ahead of it, our garden is crying out for some attention, there is Pioneer School the last two weeks in August and the bar exam proctoring next week. But right now I'm still trying to figure out how to get on track, get over my caffeine addiction and wake up in the night and know where I am.

Ceea ce se întâmplă la clubul Las Vegas, rămâne la clubul Las Vegas!

I want my own hotel staff, is it too much to ask?
Southern Romania. What more can I say?