In the past three months I have traveled to seven different countries each with different languages, culture, and history. I can hardly believe I am down to the last ten days of my European adventure; it is definitely a bittersweet feeling to be waving goodbye to my life here and heading back to my family and friends. It is hard to remember the timid girl who walked off the plane in August, unsure and uncertain of what the semester will bring. From new friendships to discovering Eastern Europe, this has been the most challenging, surreal, and amazing experience.
My Trip to Romania:
Brasov, Romania is not a typical tourist destination; my journey to Romania is unforgettable and will always hold a special place in my heart. Brasov is about two hours north of Bucharest and lies in the beauty of the Carpathian Mountains. My brother, Brooks, lived in Brasov for a year with his host family, the Schiau’s and so I traveled solo to R.O. to understand a piece of his life he spent there. Upon my arrival in Romania, I was greeted with excitement from Ionutz (host father) and Ralu (host sister). Immediately I felt the comfort of family as we embraced in a hug as if we had known each other for a lifetime. My eyes lit up as we drove down the European highway past old villages and through the mountains. After a day of traveling, I was exhausted from struggling to carry my over-packed duffel and eating small tasteless sugar cookies on my flight. So I was practically in tears of joy when Carmen (host mother) greeted me with open arms and we went straight to the dinner table where she had prepared a feast of homemade Romanian dishes. We sat for hours laughing and indulging in delicious chicken and mushrooms, peppers, potato salad, zama (chicken soup), and deserts to top it off. Carmen kept saying, “Kaitlin, you must eat more” and of course I listened even if my overly full stomach was telling me otherwise. We joked that the first words one should learn in Romanian are “Eu nu pot” translation: “I cannot eat anymore.” If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that food is a universal language.The next day Carmen and I toured the sights of Brasov and absorbed the rich culture. I could continue to tell you the history of Brasov but what was most meaningful was the generosity of the people.
For the last few nights of my trip, I stayed with Ralu and her husband Tudor in Bucharest. Bucharest is worn down and stripped bare in some places and yet there are breathtaking historical monuments that left me speechless. It was far more intriguing than westernized cities in Europe and something draws me to the imperfections and ruggedness of the city. Ralu and I took a hop-on hop-off bus tour and braved the cold weather wrapped in hats and scarves. Ioana (host sister) was busy working for the National Theater, but we were able to visit with her a few times. Ioana took us to hear “Old Fish Jazz Band” who were a funky jazz band playing outside. Ioana is so much fun and we were close right from the start; no one could have guessed we just met. Romania has such a free-spirited atmosphere and I am positive that I will be back to visit my Romanian family in the near future. My emotions got the best of me as I hugged everyone goodbye and I wish that everyone could have the chance to experience Romania like I did.