Looking Back

  So I wanted to go back, since, well, I've never given my first impressions of Romania.  And yes, even though it's been nearly 3 years since my arrival here, I still remember very vividly my initial thoughts and feelings.  So let's go back to January 20, 2009, the day we arrived, the same day that Obama was sworn in too, oddly enough.

  So we arrived in Bucuresti with our 3 kids in tow.  Kelly was 6, Isabel was 4, and Paul was 18 months old. We'd been traveling for about 17 hours total.  Paul developed air sickness in the form of diarrhea - FUN, and I'm sure the flight attendants just LOVED me when it was time to clean out the trash bins.  :/

  Anyway, so there we were with 2 carts FULL of all our luggage.  My hubby had lost his passport and was traveling with a Embassy Travel Document.  He'd not had a visa to be in the U.S., and the border agent asked him if he'd had one, he was honest and said no, we were told to wait a minute.  The agent came out from the booth and as he passed Marius, he told him quietly:  "your lucky.  my boss left early today."  He went into a little office, and a few minutes later came out and gave us all our documents back.  He told Marius, look I fixed it in the computer that you DID have a visa.  They'll stop you again before you get to the lobby, if they ask if you had a visa say yes.  *whew*

  We weren't stopped again.  There were military guards by the doors to exit the airport, they looked straight at us, Marius was sweating bullets, I wasn't worried, I think it was a mixture of exhaustion, and over-wrought emotions.  The guards, instead of stopping us, sent an airport worker to help us get our bags to the car.  Marius' 2 brothers and his sister were there waiting for us.  Marius hadn't seen his family in over 12 years.  It was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster ride standing there in the airport.

  So off to the rental van we went.  We arrived at 4:45 p.m. - can we say RUSH HOUR?!?  It took us 4 hours just to get out of Bucuresti.  What should have been a 4-5 hour drive took 7.  We didn't arrive at my mother in laws house till 2 a.m.  By this time we'd been travelling well over 24 hours.  There waiting for us was of course my mother in law, one of my other sister in laws, and her nephew who lives with MIL in a TINY 2 room apartment.  So there we were, 11 people crammed into a 300 sq.ft. apartment.  Yeah.  Claudiu, the baby, left to go back to Bucuresti, where he lives with his wife, their son and his in-laws.  Vali the brother under Marius and his wife, went back to their house there in Tulcea.  All that was left, were me, Marius, our 3 kids, Elena, Marius' sister, and Vali's son, Cristi.  So we crammed ourselves into the beds and sofa beds to sleep.  The next day I felt like I was in a dream.  It was the dead middle of winter. Everything was stark and grey.  I could see the beauty beneath the harsh veneer of Soviet style architecture.  Old cobblestone roads.  It was quite an experience.

  Marius took me to Piata Noua, the farmer's market. we were besieged by dirty little kids begging for money.  Marius ignored them, I started digging in mine and his pockets to give them some change.  One night, Me, Marius his brother Vali and his wife Cati (Cathy), went to a local restaraunt to have a coffee.  While we were sitting there, a little ran up to the table, my sister in law yelled at her, then one of the men who worked there, came out yelling at her, chasing her out, and kicked her in the behind as she ran for the door.  I was shocked.  I put my head down and tried not to cry, but I couldn't help it, the tears welled up in my eyes.  Evidently Marius or one of my in-laws noticed the change in my composure, and Marius looked at me and asked what it was, and I said, what was that?  Why did he kick that little girl.  It was a gypsy kid.  I knew that.  Marius explained they have a bad habit of running up to your table and grabbing whatever is on the table, or a purse, jacket, whatever.  I was near the window, and none of my stuff was accessible, which was good, since I had mine and the kids passports in my purse.  I told Marius I understood the concern, but it was still no reason to kick a CHILD, gypsy or not.  My in-laws at first didn't understand why I was so upset, but when Marius explained to them, that a child is still a child regardless of whether it's a gypsy or not.  They told me to wait till I'd been here a few years, stuff like that wouldn't phase me anymore.  Say sorry sai, but they were right.  After having my kids picked on by gyspy kids who live in our bloc, or CONSTANTLY come to my door begging, it doesn't phase me.  I've even had to yell at them.  They would come to our door, I would give them some money, or some bread, or fruit, well then they started coming EVERYDAY, sometimes 2-3 times a day.  Enough was enough.  I would tell them I didn't have anything, and really I didn't; and would close the door, they would knock again, again I would say "N-am nimic.  Imi pare rau." (I don't have anything.  I'm sorry).  Close the door, yet AGAIN they would ring the bell.  That was enough, I was being taken for a fool, so I opened the door, and said loudly "N-am!  PLECA DE AICI!"  (I don't have anything, GET OUT OF HERE!)  They don't come to my door everyday anymore.  Maybe once a month.  Usually when the seasons change and I clean out the kids clothes for things they've outgrown or messed up, I bag it up, and when they come to the door, I give them the clothes.

  Gypsies aside.  I noticed a difference in people's attitude here as well.  People here are very guarded, for good reason 40+ years of Communism makes you guarded.  I would smile at people we passed on the street, and I kept noticing that they would look at me strangely, especially the men, older ones in particular.  I mentioned this to Marius; "Do people not smile here?  I mean I smile at people when we pass them, and they look at me like I'm crazy or something."  Marius asked what I meant, and we had just passed an older man.  I told him, well, when we passed that man I smiled at him, and he looked at me funny.  Marius laughed and said that usually when a woman smiles at a man, she's telling him that she's available.  I stopped smiling.

  Life moves slower here.  At least in Tulcea.  In the larger cities like Bucuresti, maybe it moves at a faster pace like in the U.S., I don't know.  But I like it here.  In the spring and summer the landscape is lush with green and flowers.  Lots of birds, especially here in the delta area.  Winter is dismal and harsh, but there's still beauty to be found, even in the bleakness, especially when the city is laying under a blanket of white!

  Like I said, those first few days felt like some sort of waking dream.  I'd just left everything and everyone I'd ever known and moved halfway around the world, where everything was different. And I didn't understand a word being said.  But it was cool, I noticed things that people here didn't notice anymore.  Things Marius had never noticed the whole time he was growing up here.  He got to see his hometown with new eyes too.