We’ve been here a few weeks now, and have started to enjoy it here a lot more than those first sad days.
People still stare at me everywhere we go, and doubly so when we’re out as a family. At one point, a woman dressed in head to toe skintight cow print stared at me for a full twenty seconds. I thought to myself, “You look like you need to be milked, but I’m the weirdo here?” I don’t notice the public staring as much because I simply don’t make eye contact with anyone as I walk by, instead choosing to look straight ahead as if I’m on my own personal catwalk. There’s also some freedom knowing that no matter what I do, people will look at me as a freak so I may as well do whatever I want. This includes rapping Nelly lyrics out loud as I jog outside.
Why do they stare? I think this is due to a combination of several factors. First, is that I look vaguely Roma, or gypsy, so there are some who regard me poorly this way as the racism towards the Roma runs high here. Secondly, the impact that Communism and the repressive dictator state had on the national psyche can’t be underestimated. When you’ve lived most of your life not knowing who to trust and learning to be wary of others, it’s not a lesson easily unlearned. The regime only fell in 1989 so most people here have deep memories of that time. Third, is that Romania is not on the typical tourist beaten path so there aren’t as many outsiders here as there are in other cities. While I may joke above, I have to be honest that it still makes me uncomfortable. I never feel like I am in any personal danger, but it feels unwelcoming at the very least. I’ve been into some stores where I was clearly not welcome, and I felt like coming back waving wads of lei saying “Remember me? I was in here yesterday,, you wouldn’t wait on me? Big mistake! Big! Huge! I have to go shopping now.”
Onto nicer things – there are plenty restaurants and lovely open squares here, and why we were sent to the mall on our first day is beyond me, as there were delicious places just a block or two south of where we had happened upon. We’ve met up with friends ((who Eric met online before we arrived)who’ve given us some great pointers on living here, most importantly the word “sec” to be used when ordering wine of any type, else you will be served with something bordering on the syrupy taste of Manischevitz.
Timisoara started as a fortress town surrounded by a swampy moat, which has since been filled in. The area was still well watered, so they’ve replaced the moat with a ring of verdant parks that surround the city center.
There’s a rose garden (sad looking now given that it’s October, of course) a botanic garden, and many others. One is called Kids’ Park, seen above in the southeast corner, which has several play areas, unencumbered by the safety restrictions that exist in the US so are higher and more fun than anything you’ll find back home. Note the trampolines at the park below!
The language barrier makes it hard for any of us to make friends at the park though, so we’re happy that our friends Rob and Dana have a bright and active seven year old that the kids enjoy playing with. I’m hoping that as we spend more time here they’ll get to meet some other kids at the playgrounds, but I’m not sure this will happen.
The city center is the typical European center-cobblestone plazas, outdoor cafes and flanked by churches, with narrow sidestreets leading away.
We moved flats to one across town – across town being a mile away – this one a refurbished Communist era apartment now made modern. You can see the rows of Communist buildings from our window here, charmless cuboid structures planted in the name of efficiency. Inside though, they are undergoing a revival and quite nice.
Once inside, you have to close a second set of blue metal doors and then choose your floor.
Then all four of us squeezed into a tiny tiny space! Clearly, the communists wanted to encourage people to take the stairs. Realistically, electricity was so spotty that the elevators probably were useless most of the time anyway and no one in their right mind would risk them.
Inside though it is lovely. It’s a big upgrade from our first place, namely we can sit on the toilet without risking bodily injury from the seat unexpectedly sliding off and the shower allows us to choose the degree of warmth. You know, priorities. It’s also close to an outpost of the best bakery chain in town, Prospero, and every few days we stock up on fresh bread, croissants, apple strudel and cinnamon rolls. Just outside is a vending machine for eggs and milk and next to those is a little shack that sells wine in bulk, so we’ve got the basics covered without having to go into the madness that is the grocery store, which I’ll write about later.
So things are looking up overall!