Even though the price of a train ride has just gone up, I think one of the strangest things to me has been just how little Romanians explore and travel within their own country. After all, dialects and accents from Severin to Botosani are mutually intelligible, no passport or documents are necessary, and no location is more than a day’s travel away.
But exploring one’s country entails more than just visiting other cities or national parks. Most Romanians I know rarely venture outside of their well-traveled circles of the same friends, the same shops, the same neighborhoods and the same “kinds” of people that they’ve always known.
Me, I’m the “outsider” so I have no built-in niche to hide in. I mingle equally well with tennis-playing, BMW-driving Romanians as I do with elderly Hungarians, foreign exchange university students or gypsies. I don’t just explore the various museums and designated “tourist” spots around this country, but wander (usually on foot, as is my wont) throughout different social milieus as well. I’ve drank coffee inside homes belonging to villagers, the ultra-rich, “ordinary” people’s homes and even the occasional shack or two.
I explore all parts of Romania because these adventures are rewarding for me. It is something I do for myself. And yet many Romanians get offended or even downright hostile at times. “Why are you spending time with those people?” is a question I am often asked.
This question makes sense to Romanians, because one of the chief ambitions in life here is akin to a 19th century English novel – to improve one’s “station” in life. Take the job with the most money. Associate with the “good” people. Go to the “nice” conferences (and keep the dirty people out), wear the best clothes and shop at the best stores. And stay with your own kind and aspire to hang out with “better” people, wherever they may be.
Me, I have no “station”. I am the outsider, looking in. My “home” culture is increasingly alien to me and I have zero desire to return to the rat race of Western materialism and ensconcing myself in a comforting web of high-tech entertainment. I live in Romania because I am free to be myself, and to live freely, neither trapped under the juggernaut of “western” society nor shackled to Romanian expectations on how to live, think and conduct my life.
The following clip is a small slice of what my daily life is like, going to places where most Romanians would never want to go, and going there simply because it is there and exists and I want to see it. Now that filming continues apace, there is starting to be a record of my journeys but my adventures began on my very first day here in Romania, some of them chronicled on this blog in my little vignettes and stories.
We are filming as fast as we can but obviously it’s going to be a while before all of these segments are pulled together and edited into a cohesive whole. My goal remains exactly the same – to show ALL of Romania, in both a comprehensive and yet light-hearted way, showing just why I (and so many other people!) love living here.
If you feel the urge to start shouting or sending me angry emails, take a moment to breathe and read about 100 more articles on this blog. Trust me a little, eh? I promise it’ll all come out well.