I am sitting on the stoop, my feet taking the sun on the cobblestones of my little apartment at Casa Baciu, a pensione near the center of Sibiu, Romania. I have been on the road with my best friend, Megan, for ten days and as she went home to Ireland last night I found myself at a loss as to what to do with myself. Perhaps it was the rapid fire nature of our trip. Perhaps it was all the overwhelming sights, sounds, flavors and experiences I took in. Or maybe I just miss my friend and have watched too much CNN on the hotel TVs. All I know is I’m perfectly fine here on my stoop, drinking a glass of rosé and enjoying the birds chirping and the cats meowing from the rooftops.
Mr. Baciu, for this is what I call him as the whole name thing escaped me that first night, walks past in a slow but deliberate “chore managing” way, smiling at me, his eyes twinkling. He’s a formidable man. Well worn through the years of communism and wine drinking. Actually he makes his own rosé, with a vineyard just out of the city. On the first night he gifted me a bottle of said bootleg brew which was delicious and cut a rose from a vine, placed it in my hand and I felt like a visiting dignitary. Or better yet, a returning Romanian princess who had somehow was lost at birth….I don’t know. Some kind of Anastasia reference would work here, but I’m not sure bringing up Russia right now is a good thing.
Romania feels “right” to me. That’s the point. It’s been a decade since I was in England which was another place that felt like home. It’s different here however. I am understanding myself more. My peculiarities, eccentricities. Romanian people seem to have a kind spirit but are super grumpy. Just like me. They have an affinity to wine, cheese, meat, soup…pretty much the staples of my diet. And the LOOK like me. Even with my pink hair and weird clothes people have been mistaking me for a native. That doesn’t happen a lot. Even in the US. I once had a director who told me he didn’t cast me even though he thought I was the best actress because “you aren’t pretty and you don’t look like an American.” I never felt normal in the states again. And I was fucking 12 years old.
Now don’t get me wrong, Romanian women are beautiful. I just feel women here might possibly be more accepting of differences. In Japan there is such a status quo, a pressure to fit in. I never could, it is impossible. So I stay the gaijin. The foreigner. And I’m ok with that. I chose it after all. And I won’t even start a rant about the United States and Western Europe and the impossible expectations to fit in. I guess maybe it’s just seeing people who look like me, loads of them, for the first time in my life (except at family events) that brought tears to my eyes when I boarded the plane from Doha to Bucharest and have yet to clear the lump in my throat.
So today is about taking it in, letting the emotions, realizations, all that crazy head shit flow. Solo travel is very different.
Whilst Megs and I travel together all the time and are pretty damn culturally relative, we do insulate and sometimes revert to a world of inside jokes and the private city of Us. I love that. I miss it. But the point of travel, in my humble opinion, is to make yourself open your eyes and SEE. To be terrified or uncomfortable. To throw yourself into the unknown, perhaps at your own risk or perhaps at your own bliss.
So here I am.
The church bells are at full, intense, peaceful, rage right now and the sun has moved to the middle of the cobblestone courtyard. Some doves are having a conversation in the ivy across from me. In awhile I will venture to the city center for some polenta and stuffed cabbage. Or wild boar. Something interesting and fascinating. Something Romanian. Something delicious. But that’s all I’ll do today because sometimes you have to be quiet and still to take your travels in. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Nothing but watch the cats and doves and Mr Baciu and his awkward, lovely, Romanian staff watch you in plesaent acceptance and mild amusement.
I know I’m the weird girl. But I’m also a Romanian girl.