As I write this, my heating system is chugging along, dispelling the cold and dark outside and I see that snow is once again falling on the streets of this little town I have come to call home. And so I am taking a little break from my normal activities to pause and reflect on what a strange and wonderful year this has been.
Some of my experiences have been very public – the publishing of Balada Supravietuitorului here in Romania (which yes, FYI is selling well), my 10 plus appearances on television and all of the many wonderful people I’ve had a chance to meet with and speak to over this past year. I’ve had to say goodbye to a few friends, lured away by better salaries or educational opportunities abroad, but on balance I’ve gained more than I’ve lost and my life has definitely become enriched by their presence.
But this year has been special in a very unique way as well. 2012 marks the very first time that I have remained entirely at home, never leaving Cluj even once. Sure, I technically crossed the city line a few times to shop at the local mall and in the week before Easter I went to the town of Gilau to record a TV special but when we roll into a new year with fireworks and merriment next week, I will have spent un an de zile entirely inside the boundaries of Judetul Cluj.
I wonder how many other people here in Unicorn City can say the same, for nearly everyone I know has been abroad, traveling to foreign countries during this past year. The rest have traveled domestically, whether on business or on vacation to one of the many beautiful places in Romania or have departed simply to visit their hometown, far from the bustling streets of Cluj-Napoca.
But I? I have remained. I haven’t rolled through the bucolic countryside on CFR. I have not swayed along the roadways in an inter-city bus. I have not hiked down rural trails or climbed the majestic mountain peaks of this land. This year I have stayed at home.
It didn’t start out as something I planned to do. I love to travel in Romania and have been all over, from tiny villages to the bustling streets of Bucharest. But as this year unfolded, I realized that I was content here, for now, just to stay, just to live and breathe and be, not seeking escape or change. I moved to Romania many years ago, a wandering seed blown in by the winds of social change in America and now it seems that my roots have taken greater purchase here in this wonderful and infuriating place that is now my home.
A lot of people dream of traveling and I respect this. But I’ve done my traveling, starting when I was just a baby and continuing ever onwards to include the first day I stepped off a TAROM aircraft into the confusing chaos of Otopeni Airport. I’ve ridden the rails and napped in cars and negotiated my way through the twisty streets of villages and small towns. I’ve eaten and gossiped in kitchens from Baia Mare to Botosani. I’ve been to funerals and baptisms and coming of age parties. I’ve hiked up mountains and down through valleys and splayed my toes on the warm sands of the Black Sea. Those were wonderful experiences and I cherish them all, the good and the “bad”, for they shaped who I am today.
But this year I decided to stay home. It’s given me a greater sense of purpose, of stability and a perspective on the lives of my friends and neighbors. I’ve seen Cluj in the days of fiery anger amidst subzero temperatures, days of warmer temperatures and life stirring and blossoming again, lengthy days of summer heat and indolence and now back to the cold, the snow and the darkness once again.
There are great joys in being a tourist, a temporary visitor. But there are deeper rewards for those who remain in a place, who give their time and energy across a vast span of time, who mark the stars in the sky as they wheel across the heavens. It’s good to see museums and squares and palaces but it’s also good to wander down hidden side roads, to sit and laugh at kitchen tables, to talk long into the night with good friends and good people. And for that, I am grateful.
What will the future hold? I do not know. For now I remain eternally busy and I expect to unveil Project Iceberg to you before we get to the new year. Other projects are in development and will have to wait their turn. But as the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, I’m afraid we’ll just have to see how 2013 ultimately turns out.
For now though, I wish you a very happy holidays and that you have much wonderful food to eat, many cheerful drinks on hand and that you are all nestled away somewhere warm and cozy.
My cat Noodles, pictured below, wishes you the same!