If Romania was a person, it would be a single mother in her 40s. Her husband left her not only with a little girl but also with a deep sadness that is well hidden behind her brown eyes. She is a fighter who doesn’t know what a break feels like, she doesn’t have time to stop and think about how suffocating it feel at times. She finds herself to be quite judgemental, but her heart can’t hold harvest any hateful feelings.  She is a lifetime friend if you gain her trust, and she will give you the warmest hug in the world.

Every summer I tend to go back to Romania because it’s the only place I call home, a place that gives me energy, helps me heal mentally and physically.

Afraid

Romania has become a country where the old generation is outnumbering the young one, the first one constantly living in fear that one day they won’t be able to pay their bills or that the politicians will cut down their pensions again. A tired generation that has to decide between buying their medicine or saving the money for food every month, a generation that couldn’t keep up with their children who slowly moved abroad.

The sadness of the past still reflects on their daily lives, as if the communism is hiding in every crack of the house like a bad omen, in every wrinkle on everyone’s faces, as a reminder of how hard it can get. Regardless of how warm and outgoing Romanians can be, the fear will repress them more than any regime could. This fear is somehow collectively transmitted to the new generation. Although I’ve never experienced any of the struggles my grandparents dealt with, I tend to have a conservative side, a more cautious Roxi that seems to focus on what could go wrong.

You see people walking down the street with their faces buried in worries and it seems that their lips forgot how to smile. It will annoy you at times, “Why didn’t the lady in the shop reply to my thanks?”. These people make sacrifices and work hard for a salary that isn’t always fair for the amount of effort that goes in. They wake up in the morning knowing they have to push forward because in this country that’s the only way. I don’t know many people who just “chill on benefits”. If you’re able to work, you do it because it’s in your blood to do better – to be better.

Romania is strong but sometimes even the strong ones get tired of having to fight each day.

Being a woman in Romania

As someone who doesn’t see marriage as a priority, it has been a challenge avoiding the classic “So when are you getting married?” question. Marriage is sold as security; it’s the next stage in a woman’s life after turning 20 and I can’t seem to get my mind around it, yet.

Moving onto a more pressing problem concerning women – sexism. This isn’t an issue only in Romania, but worldwide. What bothers me is that we grew accustomed to the catcalls, the unwanted “compliments” from the group of men waiting on the bench for their next victim. When it’s happening every day, we tend not to notice it anymore or at least we act like we don’t. It doesn’t make it any less worrying, especially when we subconsciously cross the street in order to avoid them.

I was at a wedding and I’ve noticed something that really bothered me. My friend, who I’m not going to name, has a 4-year-old boy, and she was there with her husband and the little guy. While the mom was away, the dad was teaching the child how to slap women’s asses, making it seem like a joke. I took offence and had to confront the father. His excuse was “He’s just a little boy, he doesn’t know. Just relax, it’s a joke.” It’s not fair to us women and on the child as he doesn’t understand yet, and this goes back to how girls are raised differently than boys. I’ve never seen a little girl being told to slap an adult’s bottom! Boys will NOT be boys if you teach them to respect people regardless of their gender, and the same goes for girls.

Pfuu, now that I got that out of the way…

The land of forests

Every time I travel to a new country I locate the closest forest and go hiking/cycling. I’ve yet to visit a forest that will be as empowering as the ones this country has to offer. With trees as tall as the sky, paths that take you to Narnia, mountains for every type of adventurer, the greenest green and a variety of wildlife, Romania is eye candy.

I remember when I was little, Sundays were reserved for the wild, or for “the 3rd meadow” how we called it back home. My mom used to gather a big group of people and we’d all go hiking – always coming back with wild salad, wild garlic (leurdă), mushrooms, alongside fresh flowers + a few scratches and bruises. And we did this weekly since I was 6. It was a treat for my soul. This summer I made sure I revisited some of these forgotten green treasures, to last me for an entire year.

PS. We found a 10Lei note on the ground while in the middle of nowhere and we kinda freaked out, remembering all the horror films where the serial killer leaves traps and slaughters the teens at the end.

 

Green hugs,

Roxi A.

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