Places, like people, can surprise you. Some you get used to. Some you don’t.
Yet, I can’t get enough of seeing other people's reaction to Romania.
I’ve been working in this beautiful country for the past three years.
And I simply can’t get enough of it. It's complicated.
This doesn't diminish my feelings for Hungary (or even home).
However, just as I found myself in Budapest at one point - I lost my heart to Romania.
It’s a landscape that a camera can’t capture. It’s the light in the morning, the early fog that moves through the village streets. It’s the ritual of churches, the crosses, the paintings, the stillness. It’s the shepherds moving cross the lands and their sheep grazing. The close relationship to something long gone from most of us. It’s the fabrics, the lightness, the threads, the meaning of embroidery.
It’s the sound of folklore, the high pitched female voices and the booming depth of the men.
It’s the language that makes me swoon. It’s melody.
Then I turn my head and suddenly I’m back in the north.
Coffee-shop. Students. The sound of conversations.
A chill wind that I’m not sure where is comes from. Possibly the western sea, the icy northern mountains or the Russian plains.
And just like that, Romania is gone.
You see, if I would research you from here, what would I find?
Articles upon articles upon articles, of corruption, poverty, and exclusion of minorities. The EU-funds, the scandals, judgement and prejudice. A discussion that never ends.
“How do we help those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born here?”
“....because we’re always at an advantage - aren’t we?”
“....and a place like Romania can’t carry itself, right?”
“A case for the righteous from the West right? Because we’re better than that.”
Or are we?
And so I look for my Romania, but honestly, it’s hard to find.
Someone mentions Ceausescu and I have to remind them that was years ago.
Someone mentions street corners and I have to tell them there’s more to every story.
Someone mentions the EU and I say, you need more information.
Someone says the word racism and I raise an eyebrow. What makes you think we’re better here? What makes you think it’s different there?
If we’re so open, to seeing people for who they are and what they'd like to be:
We claim we see more than one side, more than the wrongs we do, more than the rights we say, we can see more than what we’ve been.
If we can view people like this, maybe we can apply this to countries too?
Romania is so much more than communism, corrupted politicians, poverty and ethnic conflicts.
And I’ve yet to meet one person who hasn’t been surprised by everything Romania actually is.
The beauty of the country.
The history (dacians, romans, royals, well Prince Charles).
The richness of the land (beaches, mountains, fields, vineyards and gold).
To clear up any misconception you might have:
There’s no racism on paper in Romania. Which doesn’t mean it doesn't exists (of course).
Yes, there’s EU funds but there’s also EU limitations.
Don’t think we’re losing on the deal, because we (as Westerners, as Northerners, as Scandinavians) are not.
Poverty exists, but it's not limited to one ethnic group.
Corruption used to be a big deal but things change. Courts are getting stricter.
(As a side note: I accidentally gave bribing a try and it didn’t work).
Relations between minorities are complicated, yet it’s mostly politics that stand in the way.
People get married and have children no matter their background, history or multi-ethnic compositions. As they do everywhere else.
There’s the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Just like there is everywhere else.
To quote the song Imperfect (by Carla’s Dreams):
“Eu am gasit pe altcineva ca mine, imperfect.
Daca minus cu minus fac plus.
Legea dragostei mele este defect + defect.”
I have found someone else like me, imperfect.
If minus plus minus equals plus,
The law of my love is defect plus defect.
Since finishing my latest tour in the country, I’ve become familiar with a sort of longing. One that is stronger than usual.
So until next time, my lovely Romania. Hope to see you soon.
Recommended Listening: Anything by Carla’s Dreams. Like the nature of their language, everything they touch turns to gold.