Monday, March 7, 2011

ten crazy things you might do or say when coming to live in romania for the first time

Finally have internet, and while I am quite out of practice when it comes to blogging, and in the hopes that this will lure you into skyping with me, instead of telling nearly a month's worth of stories, here are ten crazy things you might do or say when coming to live in Romania for the first time:

1. You'll eat this wonderful bread (actually all the bread is wonderful...) called paine de cartofi which means potato bread. What you'll call it instead in front of about eight Romanians is: paine de pantofi. Shoes bread! **Also, when I typed this last night, I managed to translate pantofi as pants instead of shoes. It gets crazier and crazier.

2. You'll also say ce ciorba (how sour soup!) instead of ce ciudat (how strange). Hopa!

3. And speaking of being confused, if your name is Sara you will have the unexpected advantage of being the only one. However, instead of having to determine which of the four Sara's is being addressed in a group, you will find yourself saying poftim? (pardon?) every time you hear these words: seara, tara, sare, sarea, and so forth. They're close, too, particularly when your name's being spoken by a non-native speaker, so about ten times a night you'll be greeted by good evening and asked to pass the salt and you start to tune out your name. AND THEN when they put your name in the dative (Sarei), you'll be so used to ignoring it you won't even know they were addressing you.

4. You, along with about thirty other eager students, will be tied to the back of a van well after midnight in the middle of the countryside and you'll be dragged down a long, icy road. There will be sledges involved, and also loss of feeling in the fingers, and you'll probably fall off and then accidentally get dragged or have to run alongside them so you don't get left to get eaten by wolves. It will be glorious. You will bond with students in all kinds of new ways.

5. You will nearly burn down the bloc (apartment building) when attempting to make microwave popcorn on the stove because you don't have a microwave. You'll be unaware of the need for oil and will accidentally start a small fire, which of course will be put out quickly enough, but then there's the waving of a white towel out the window in order to get the smoke out. And hey, you're not frantic, you're not panicking, but you figure there are only so many ways waving a white towel out a smoking window can translate and then you'll hear sirens. Turns out they're not for you, but oh man.

6. And surprise! They use real wine with communion at your church here. I don't think this is terribly uncommon in the States, but as you have never had it with communion before, it will catch you quite off guard. Imagine accidentally spitting out the blood of Christ. Buuh.

7. If you come sometime around the beginning of March and you're a girl, you'll feel pretty special! It's pretty much a week for women sandwiched between Martisor and Women's Day. And you will receive lovely flowers.

8. Also, if you blend in well, you will be asked four times (already) for directions in the metro. The first two times will be early on and you won't be able to say much except nu stiu (I don't know). The third time you'll not only understand what you're being asked, you'll know about where you're being asked and you'll give them directions. Only later will you realize you confused Sun Plaza (a mall) with City Mall and gave a fourteen-year-old bad directions.

9. You will realize that, as of now, this blending in will be both to your advantage and terribly problematic. It helps because everyone speaks to you in Romanian because they think you are and therefore assume you understand. This helps your language learning a whole ton. However, sometimes they think you understand a lot more than you do and you end up with one of two problems. The first is that when you don't understand, people don't think, oh you're foreign, they think, oh you are really stupid. The second is you wind up not knowing things you should know. The question now is: will you be stubborn and continue to insist on Romanian, or will you get over it and ask that it be said in English?

As a quick addendum, the problem with stubbornness and wanting to say so many things in a language you just can't yet is that you really want to know people better, you want to ask them about their lives and what they love and why so many things, but you're stuck behind a language wall you can only half-climb at the moment. So again, resigning to English with the benefit of having real conversations? Or holding out a few more months, shouldering through, and then all those good things?

10. Yes, you will say lots of really whack things. You will watch a lot, listen a lot, want to engage more and pray for people so much more than you have before. You'll miss your friends dearly but also feel at home here, will think lots of things about how life works in new places, where it all is leading, and you'll want to understand it the way a Romanian does. With lots of appreciation for how Americans do. You'll have to be very patient, and while that will not be easy, it will help that your friends here are so patient with you. And then, bam! You'll realize that all those years back home you spent learning about grace are coming in handy, and surprise, it's not so much that you have to be graceful, although you do, but instead you are given grace daily and abundantly.

The funny surprise is it always seems to be turned back on you like this. What a surprising place.


  1. in regard to the sentence 'With lots of appreciation for how Americans do': i'm sure we've talked about this together before, but i believe it takes going to another country & living there a while before you start to understand & appreciate your own nationality, especially as it relates to other nationalities -- even if it's just somewhere pretty similar to your own, like the UK in my case ;] it generates a healthy, aware sort of 'national pride,' although i hesitate to use that term. i'm sure the longer you're in Romania, the more you'll understand not only its culture, but American culture as well :] so happy you'll be able to blog a little more regularly to tell us all about it.

    also, i already told you about this on facebook, but i'm sending you a letter today! i wonder how long it will take?

  2. Hey Sara! Thank you so much for sharing! It sounds so wonderful and exciting! I'm sorry for your language predicament! It is so frustrating to not be able to connect with people because of language! I'm sure you'll be perfectly fluent in no time! I pray God continues to bless you abundantly and teach you many new things as he already has! We love you and miss you!!!!!!

  3. hey sara, just for the sake of correctness "paine de pantofi" is "shoes bread" as pantofi means shoes. anyhow pants or shoes the effect is hilarious!

  4. @cosu aaah, yes yes yes! that's another i keep switching up, pantalones/pants sounding like pantofi. thanks for pointing it out for me :)

  5. @jamie you are more right every day. and it's good. also, i'm really excited about your letter! it's quicker coming to romania than from--i think a week maybe?

    @marli but see, this is a good problem to have :) and it's coming along quickly enough, i'm just impatient. thanks so much for commenting! i miss y'all so much!

  6. #3 and #5 made me smile, as nothing else could be quite more 'Sara' than that.

    and i feel you on the being asked things and spoken to in a language you don't entirely grasp yet because, well, as you saw in Wag sometimes, people constantly spoke to me in Spanish surprised to find i often had only a minimal idea of what they were saying, and then when I got to Texas? Psshhh. all the kitchen dudes and ladies at the bar kept speaking it to me anyway even after they found out i could only semi-converse. this is not boding well in my constant protest to you that i am less ethnic than you. girl, if you had seen me in August when I had a bit of color on my face... but i guarantee you'd out-ethnic me in Europe! (regardless of my many ancestors from various lands there) :)

  7. p.s. you're on my Skype list.. let's set a chat date!! :)

  8. so #4 totally reminds me of a certain blanket-person-tossing incident. and it does indeed sound glorious. See, you've already discovered great ways to bond and build relationships, even without being able to ask/understand everything! :)