“A Road Less Traveled”: The Country that Impressed Me the Most

Today I would like to put words to the following concept:




The prompt is “Which country impressed you the most?” I won’t say “the most, the most”, but this one above many moves me to move there. To provide the post with a sense of focus, and fun, the following flow will trace three levels of time: the Romania of my past, the Romania of right now, and the Romania of my future.


The past, a memory, full of dreaming.


A few months ago, Ela’s brother asked me what I thought of their country, based on my experience there in 2015. He seemed surprised that I had traveled there at all. So many folks share the same reaction, Romanian and non-Romanian alike. That country beyond the woods. It is with no surprise, however, that I venture back, to forge a bond with the woman I love.


I remember Dostoevsky, who said he would marry for love when he met Anna, before traveling up and down central Europe. I remember my grandmother, who traveled to India to marry my grandfather. As if it were possible, a future-me recalls the idle transparent mornings spent in Brooklyn typing into WordPress forms with Irish tea at hand, proud for having taken the right step, at peace for having followed his instinct and better nature.


Window open, sun rising, a breeze and light come in. This morning, I look out the window and see that country beyond the woods, the one Roman by nature, with citizens of many tongues, a country of flat and unflat land and crossroads. Romania, that coastal place, wooded too, full of mountainous, airy, distant, an ingrown territory. Romania, Romania, your somber summer blue, sandpaper yellow, and grapefruit red.


What do I remember of Romania?


The person I was traveling with, by far. Is it possible to write about a place ignoring who you traveled with while there? Hardly. But . . .


We entered Romania through Hungary, on the Oradea side of the Carpathian mountains. We would camp on the border behind a field for the night. In a tent, a broad starry sky above, trees as tall as skyscrapers, the feeling was enchanting. Water. I went looking for water along the main highway, the same night, pitch black. Stepping lightly past the field I came to the main highway we had entered from (we were thumbing it, if that wasn’t clear). The light inside a convenience store shone brightly and, inside, a man was watching a soccer match. When he saw the baby blue jersey I had on, he cheered. This meant that the very first Romanian, on my very first night, welcomed me warmly, and set a precedent for the rest of the time abroad.


I don’t care to open the journals I wrote at the time, so going off memory, I remember dreaming a lot while in Romania, dreaming more, intensely more, than I had ever dreamed in my life. It was the air. (Also, that year, my 23rd, every morning I logged my dreams in a journal, so I suppose that had more than a little something to do with it.) The next morning an 18-wheeler picked us up and drove into the heart of the thumb-print shaped country.


The impression of its countryside wasn’t that it was terribly big, since we crossed it in less than a week. But the images haven’t left me. From small town to big town, it felt clean overall, like a veil had been placed there over my eyes yet suddenly, by zigzagging into the country’s capital city, some of my prejudice and misunderstanding were stripped away by truth and beauty. In other words, before visiting Romania in 2015, I was completely ignorant of its place or significance. Even now, when I tell people about moving there the look on their face is priceless. But yes I have been there before.


The present, full of imagining, and planning.


(Tomorrow I go back to New York. Did you guess I am here now? I helped Ela move from Naples to Bucharest.)


No need to imagine the Romania of today. I am carrying my fiancee up the stairs to her apartment between the center of town and Herăstrău Park. On Friday we packed her car in Naples, and drove for three days through central Europe to her apartment. I had gotten an international driving permit, made gifts for the family, meanwhile my beating and excited heart beat with excitement inside my chest.


My moving-out process begins after this trip, in April.


(Note, the following is not the order in which the errands will get done, just the order in which they occur to me.)


First, I’ll need to let my school know that I plan to leave. Biggie. Second, I’ll need to mail boxes to my parent’s house in Houston with my books (my preciouses!) and extraneous clothes (if I don’t give those away, you know what I mean?). Third, I’ll need to secure a chill roommate to sublet my room in June and July.


Fourth, depending on whether or not the subletter wants it or not, I’ll need to sell the big furniture: bed, elfa shelves, drawer, wooden desk. There was a rumor among the Texan crowd that a new sheriff would be moving in, so ideally he takes my place and it saves my having to look for a rando.


(I can’t remember the last time I listed so many things in an essay!) Fifth, figure out what is cheaper /slash/ more fun. The week before my international flight to Bucharest: should I fly to Houston with a suitcase; or should I rent a car, see my best friend in North Carolina and drive to Houston? Either way, I’ll want to be in Houston for a week, because many of my cousins are graduating this year. Shout out to Sofia in Houston, Sofia in Colorado, Marcos her brother, and Kolby in Houston. Given the time frame, it swells me to say I will only make it to the youngest counsin’s high school graduation. Too-much-to-do-too-little-time syndrome.


Sixth — now we’re getting to the things that affect Ela and thus she’s been keen to remind me about these points (love you too, babe) — I need to secure a job in Bucharest. That’s because my visa as a tourist only lasts three months (June, July, August.) But since the wedding is in October, I need to extend the visa some feasible way so that I can stay in Romania in September as well, which happens to be an important month to be there (I couldn’t just fly to, say, Barcelona for a few weeks) given that the marriage paperwork with the city needs to be done that month. So, the top option would be to land a work-visa. Options include, from most random to most ideal: marketing firm, a language school, an international school, a university.


Seventh, in addition to landing a job that I could perform well, that would bring value to the organization, that would make students happy, and allow me to stay in Romania, I will also want to set up my writing career. Seriously. Don’t you see me writing? Writing is a total passion, but also pretty useful to companies looking to promote their product. Moreover, it is useful to readers who want a nice yet silly bedtime story. So, thus, plus, mhm, I want to supplement the job (let’s put it that way) with a revenue source that exercises the daemon within. Reaching my hands out to the universe, I ask, in fervent pray, could my freelance career take off, pretty please with pomegranate seeds on top? I want my books in bookstores. I want online tutoring, too. Hip-hip!


To quote a line I heard on my brother’s podcast this week, what all entrepreneurs want is to put great products in the hands of more people. I couldn’t think of a glossier way of saying it myself. More good books, take one. Hooray!


The future, a fantasy, a vision.


Let me pretend that the swirl of errands got done one by one, and it’s May 31st. I land in Bucharest. This is the Romania of the future. There are the summer months, June, July, August, and fall month of September, before our wedding in October. We plan to stay here for a while.


Like a student of mine put it, since we are both in a “new” city, it feels like a honeymoon being here.


Work picks up, teaching begins. I start the rewrites of my master’s thesis for publication. Although it’s about Russian characters, the best friend will be Romanian. And the growing inspiration from this new country will allow me the distance to write about it. Ela begins a new job. She catches up with old friends she’s been apart from for seven years, ever since she had moved to Italy. She continues designing and making clothes, but for fun, for passion. Meanwhile she helps me in her indispensable way, as my inspiration, my muse, and unstoppable marketer.


Twice a week, once her, once me, we cook: a hardy Romanian dish or a savory Argentine one. We read in bed at night, stories of course. We watch one Romanian film and one Spanish film a week, to improve ourselves. If there is time — and believe me, boys and girls, there will be time — then we will travel, travel, travel.


If you will allow me to drop one here, to the curious minded, here is a list of pretty things to do. Notice the Tunnel of Love, from which the post picture is from, where Ela and I walked along. Where only 3 days ago, I showed her the ring. And put it on her.


What a life;)

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