Subjective ruminations on being home

I returned home to Romania three weeks ago today and I would be lying if I said I’ve fallen into place. It more or less looks like everything is falling around me (the government and president in tow). I didn’t expect clarity of purpose or vision when I stepped of the plane, but I did hope for a routine of settling in. If I am living a routine, it’s one that is making me uneasy, antsy and permanently susceptible to over-analyzing all facets of daily life.

In the past six months, my struggle to determine an immediate future (or more likely a setting in which to live it), has made me even more self-aware of my decisions and the process I underwent to reach them. I remember reading an article in the New York Times science section recently that talked about free will and how we humans are so willing to believe we have it, when we actually have very little control over our urges. The article, if I’m not mistaken, enforced an idea I had picked up before from my spell of reading about nostalgia: we don’t really make decision, we just witness them bubbling up to the surface.

My return home had little to do with Romania and almost everything to do with being close to my family in some trying times. All the other reasons involved considerable self-deception, but the kind of self-deception tainted by optimism. I have told numerous friends over the past couple of years that at this moment, professionally speaking, I could probably hold a more important position in Romanian journalism than I would in American journalism. While peppered with truth, the statement rationalized away issues of quality–Romanian media is largely awful, confused, vengeful and arrogant. The optimism of it all tells me that in the clusterfuck of any potential job, I could be overlooked and left alone to produce according to my own standards. I still cling to this optimism.

Optimism is not an easy state of mind to live by in Romania. Day after day, politicians of all stripes play around with laws, statutes and pillage the self-worth of any citizen dumb enough to pay attention. As the president was suspended yesterday, my friend Lu told me she had to hold back tears to get through the work day. My father, who has never really entertained the thought of leaving, told me last night he’d be willing to give it all up. What’s striking–and saddening–is that they weren’t protesting the decision to suspend this particular president, but the string of events and the circus around it. They weren’t going to bat for the president (I’ve heard them both cuss at both sides) but they felt betrayed and trampled on by a few hundred well-dressed politicos who have made Romania their war-zone.

The people I’ve met with since I’ve been home keep asking me this question: “Te-ai intors de tot?” This translates as: “Are you back for good?” “Tot” doesn’t mean “good” though. “Tot” means “everything.” So the word itself is much stronger and the question much more leading as the tone often implies judgment. I know the mantra: don’t listen to what every other person has to say. But there is one thing I don’t want anyone to conclude: that I have returned to Romania because America was disappointing. That I have returned home because I have become disgusted by America. So I answer the question with a twist: “M-am intors cu tot.” This means “I have returned with everything.”

The meaning is simple: I am not willing to say I will live out my life in Romania. But I am willing to allow that I have packed all I’ve had and returned home, willing to make a strong commitment to everything and everyone for as long as I feel my presence is necessary.

For now, as confused as it all seems, I believe my presence is necessary.

Today, out of the list of minor social improvements I’d like to see, I’ll pick this one: I wish salespeople would stop asking me for change. I wish salespeople would stop telling me: “I can’t make change, can I give you a chewing gum instead?” I wish salespeople would stop putting the burden of exact change on me, especially in supermarkets, train stations, and convenience stores. I am not responsible to have change. It’s not my fault you don’t have enough bills or coins of one kind or another. I don’t give a damn. I don’t want a piece of gum, extra bread, or a shrug. I want my change back and I want you to stop being an asshole about it.

2 Responses to “Subjective ruminations on being home”

  1. Oh, boy, I’ve been waiting for this post for a while now. Here, too, the world is falling to pieces, and I feel selfish that I worry about a bunch of bloodsuckers who have absolutely no shame or principles back home. I find myself more media dependent than ever, yet it’s so hard to find reliable information. Please write more as you make sense of what’s going on.

  2. Thank god. I couldn’t agree more about the issue of getting (or not rather) change EVERYWHERE. Why can’t shopkeepers or managers (if there are any) just make a bank run in the morning like every other freaking mom and pop in the rest of the world? I almost always cause a fuss over not wanting to receive an extra book of matches, a cherry flavored cough drop or a chicklet. Stores that don’t offer change are forcing customers to buy things they don’t want. Its kinda like if your bank were to round down to the nearest nickel and then pocket the change of every transaction. After repeating this action all day you could come out a couple hundred bucks on top. No thanks. I’m with Christian, just shut it and give me my money back.

Leave a Reply