We left Japan last Wednesday at midnight, took a nine hour flight to Dubai, where we laid over for four hours and then boarded a five-hour flight to Budapest. We stayed two nights in Budapest (lovely city) and then rented a car and drove the five-hours south to Timisoara where we arrived Saturday afternoon, haggard and jet lagged.
Needless to say, it was a bumpy arrival to this place where we’ll be based for nearly three months. Part of that is the really extreme differences between Japan and a middle-sized eastern European city. I was sort of prepared for it, but not really and that combined with the fatigue made Saturday a rough, rough day. Where Japan is clean, efficient, friendly, Romania, at first, with the veil of jet lag, felt dirty, cluttered, disorganized and a rough around the edges. I didn’t sleep much that night.
Things brightened up on Sunday, though. We woke up to warm temperatures and sunny skies, hung out in our flat for a bit and then ambled to the city center where we met up with Rob Manning, his wife Dana and their son, Sebastian. Rob is a former Fulbrighter to Timisoara who fell in love (with Dana) while he was here and has pretty much stayed here in Timisoara. Dana teaches at West University where I’ll be teaching and Rob teaches there too–he still holds his faculty position in the Philosophy department at Quincy University in Illinois.
I’m forever grateful to Rob and Dana and Sebastian. They were kind and gracious–they showed us around the city–the nice parts!–and they were just fun to be with for the afternoon. We met at the plaza in city center and then walked over to an outdoor cafe where we ate lunch and talked for almost two hours. After that, we walked through the streets of the old city, through a series of connected plazas that dumped us out onto what Atticus calls “the best playground I’ve ever seen.” We have been on the move for so long, huddled into our own family unit that I sort of forgot how nice it is to talk to other adults (besides Sujata) in full sentences. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with them and I hope that we remain friends long after we leave Romania.
Right now, I’m sitting in the Timisoara airport, waiting for a flight to Bucharest where I will attend Fulbright meetings on Thursday and Friday. It was hard to leave Sujata and the kids–not because I’m worried about them, mostly because I’ll just miss them. Our day-to-day life is so different than anything we’ve ever experienced except perhaps when the children were infants and we were both home with them. Here, we wake up, eat a leisurely breakfast and then we all sit around the table and do the kids homeschooling. The kids do their math work online while Sujata and I prepare their history and literature lessons and then when they are done with math, we all come together and talk and write about the books that we are reading. After we discuss for an hour or so, the we give the kids a writing prompt. As they are writing, we prepare lunch, and then we go out and explore the city. When we get back the kids do more math and some science work, we eat dinner and by then we are exhausted.
I’m not sure about the Fulbright part of the experience. I haven’t met anyone from the University yet and I’ll miss my first classes because I have to be in Bucharest. I am, though, looking forward to meeting my Fulbright colleagues in Bucharest.