Farewell, Romania

May 16th, 2014

It couldn't honestly be said that it wasn't a good run. Some things I'll miss:

*Architecture. Or more precisely, architectural decoration. Superfluous facades that evoke sandcastles dripped through a wet palm, ostentatious tin finials on gutters.
*Good mineral water. It's inexpensive, it's unpretentious, it's miles better than any other I've had.
*Roses everywhere. Even people living in crumbling concrete apartment blocks trade their time and effort for spring and summer batches of big, fragrant, luscious roses around doorways and climbing walls.

Some things I won't miss:

*A complete and utter misunderstanding of how to have sidewalks and stairs. It's not just that they're uneven and built thinly over gnarly tree roots. It's not just that most sidewalks are narrow enough to admit slightly less than a person and still less than that once people've parked their cars on them. It's not even the more or less constant littering of broken glass and dog shit (despite ocd-level sweeping of leaves from the same spaces). It's all these things together, which've sprinkled plenty of annoyance over otherwise very pleasant walks.

*Obsessive cloistering. I first noticed it in people's gardens; there are little fences and gates within them to separate different sorts of plants. Why? Because it's what people do. Shopping around for apartments, I saw it in people's homes, too. A place with seven tiny rooms (with monstrous, showy cabinets sporting multiple compartments for extra cloistering) was the standard; the same space with two or three was exotic. Then there's the bit with the towels. Separate towels for drying off different parts of the body (a habit I thought was idiosyncratic the first time I saw a girl's collection, but this proved false; it's the standard, too). Topping it off, there's the traditional dancing. Have you ever seen Romanian traditional dancing? It consists of standing stick-straight with your arms fastened to your sides while you faintly lift one foot, then the other. A mechanical sort of holding-in-the-pee dance, which keeps participants nicely cloistered in tiny boxes of space. All this is an amusing curiosity at first, but after a while one gets the impression of living among oblivious prisoners, people who look oppressed by their unexamined propriety.

*Churchly hours. In a drive-through town in rural Oklahoma, I'd expect most things to be closed on Sundays and to shut down 'round dinner time the rest of the week. In a country's largest cities, however, such practices grate. Even bars and coffee shops have a strict no night owls policy. If you favor the night, you're on your own (which is admittedly nice, until you remember you're supposed to be living in a metropolitan place --a place very eager, even, to boast of its large size and "entertaining" "options").

I wonder what things I'll only realize I miss once I've left, and what things I'll realize have been solved before they made the "not miss" list. I wonder what, if anything, I'll take with me. In any case, the time seems right for packing suitcases and shoving off from this unlikely home and checking out another.

La revedere.

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