“Îți place România?”
“Do you like Romania?”
I think this is the question I have been asked the most ever since I moved to Romania a little over a month ago. The questions that almost always follow are “Is it different?” and “Is it hard?”
My answer to all three questions, simply, is yes. It is definitely different and it is hard, but I am so happy to be here.
Is it different?
Most of the differences I’ve encountered so far have not been an issue at all. By now most of these differences seem normal, and it is somewhat amusing when sometimes I stop and realize how accustomed I am to something that was once quite strange.
We do not have a car here in Romania, so we walk everywhere. But everyone around us walks everywhere. Luckily we live in the center of the city and everything is within a very reasonable walking distance. Unless it is raining, it is lovely to get out every day, or maybe several times a day, and walk in the fresh air to run whatever errands we need to do. I am not yet at the point where I will go anywhere by myself, so it is also a nice time to have with Sam. Sometimes we will walk together, hand in hand, in silence, thinking to ourselves and enjoying the walk, but many other times we will spend the time in conversation about whatever is on our minds.
Growing up, I was used to one huge grocery trip per week. We had all our meals planned out and each week we would buy a large amount of food to last the whole week. Here we find ourselves going to the market or the grocery store nearly every other day, which is partly due to the fact that we have a very small refrigerator, and partly due to the fact that we have to carry everything we buy back to our apartment. Some things, such as dry rice, oatmeal, or beans, we stock up on and keep in our cabinet, so our shopping trips are usually to buy something particular to cook when we have company for supper, or fresh fruits and vegetables that we tend to go through quite quickly.
There are several little things in our apartment that are different from what I am used to. When I first learned how certain things were done I would sometimes smile in amusement, but nothing has been any great hardship. Now it is all very normal to me, so it amuses me when my family or friends back home first hear about how our washer works or how I cook things in the oven. Our washer is nice, small, and perfect for me to do a small load every day or every other day, and it fits nicely in the corner of our bathroom. Our proprietor (landlord) kindly brought it in for us when we moved in because there was not a washing machine there previously. Since the apartment was not built for a washing machine there was not a drain in our bathroom to hook it up to. Instead we have a plastic tube that I place in the toilet every time I turn it on, and the water drains in there. It is very important to remember to move the tube whenever I start a load, but forgetting it once made it to where I will never forget again, I hope. Although I had an adrenaline rush and a fear of Romanian neighbors with water coming through their ceiling, all ended well and no damage was caused.
I am so excited to have a gas stove in our kitchen, it is just a little different from the one I was used to back home. There is a cabinet right next to the stove with a large propane tank. Every time I want to cook I twist the knob to turn on the gas, then I light the stove with a lighter. Our oven is also gas, so in order to bake something I turn on the gas, lift up a little door in the bottom of the oven and start the fire. I have not attempted much baking so far, but it is good that I am not a perfectionist in the kitchen because our oven has no temperature settings and adjusting the fire is quite interesting.
All these differences took some adjusting initially, but overall, these differences and others seem very normal to me now, and I enjoy living here very much, even with the differences.
Is it hard?
I’m often unsure how to answer this question. Yes, it is hard. But it is okay. I am okay with it being hard, and it is not too hard.
It is difficult to be in another country with a different culture and different language and not know many people. I desire to meet people and have relationships with them, but that can be difficult for me even we speak the same language. Here it is even more difficult because of the language barrier. However, I am slowly learning, and many people speak at least a little English. I have learned enough to understand most of what people say, but responding is still hard. Despite the difficulties, I have still been able to meet several people and begin to form relationships, and I am so thankful for this. I am also so thankful for Sam, for his parents, and for the internet, through which I can call my Mama “anytime I want to talk in southern English!”
It is difficult not knowing the culture very well, especially when we have guests over for a meal. I am constantly trying to listen, observe, and learn the Romanian way to prepare and serve food, how to set the table, and the way and order to present certain things. Every time we have guests over we tell them we are trying to learn Romanian customs, and ask them to help and teach us what we should do differently. Sometimes I get nervous about doing something wrong, but I just think to myself that if I do something terribly wrong or different from Romanian traditions they will just think it is the “interesting American” way of doing things.
It is hard to be away from my family and friends back home and at FC. Last week my family helped Clay move into college (he is attending FC) and it was difficult, because I would love to be in two places at once and be there with him as well.
Although it is sometimes hard to be here, I feel incredibly blessed with this opportunity. Recently on one of our walks through the city Sam and I were reflecting on what a unique opportunity we have been blessed with to be able to get married, and then move to Romania to work, encourage, and evangelize. After being apart for what seemed like so long, we feel blessed to be together, no matter where we are or what difficulties we face. While I definitely miss my family and friends from back home, I am still excited every day to live with my best friend and see him every day, and I am so blessed to have the love and support from my family and so many others back home.
As I go through minor difficulties as I transition to living here in Romania I pray that I will learn from them. I pray that Sam and I will grow closer, we will both grow closer to God, and that others will benefit from our time here.
So overall, yes. Yes, it is different. Yes, it is hard. And yes, I like Romania.
Da, îmi place România