Here is a short piece I just wrote about Romania, and my experiences there. Thanks for reading!
I knew that I wanted to do this job since my time in Romania. I loved teaching English, and I discovered my passion when I was in university. I went from London to Romania to escape a bad relationship and creditors. I was promised glamorous accommodation (as always in this industry) and a lovely time. The reality was somewhat different. I was in a room with 12 others for the first few days. There were suitcases everywhere, pants, beer cans, phones littered the floor. It was hot and sweaty. I quickly became good friends with a man called Lubov.
He was a big fan of all things Russian, was skilled at the language and had found himself a Baltic Big Papa. Lubov was a big fan of Russian iconography and his phone screen was Vladimir Putin riding a rainbow coloured bear. Lubov was chill, down to earth and just got me. We drank a lot, he chainsmoked , we went to clubs for dancing and cheap beers, the size of a wine bottle for the cost of one british pound.
When the organisation sent us away from Bucharest, we went to the sweaty Gara de Nord (North station) together and enjoyed a 14 hour train journey to Iasi. Accompanying us was a girl who was to be my roommate and a boy allocated to Lubov. This boy had a thick northern accent and insisted that he was the only northern male to attend oxford. He certainly had the arrogance to prove it. The girl, having been born into a good family, seemed prudent about the whole situation, and caused much pondering on my behalf as to why she was there. We arrived in Iasi and met our liason Donna. She had buxom curly hair, big brown eyes, which in Romanian lore would be described as “the eyes of a chick”. She could hold her drink and knew everyone in Iasi.
Donna took us to her place and chatted. We all collapsed. The next day we met her manager who ran the Romanian operation and some admin staff. The specifics of the job in Iasi were always, at best, hazy. During our time there we met engineers, students, teachers, lorry drivers. Some were eager, most were grumpy, some were bossy, we found the country captivating and beautiful. We went to monasteries and the mountains on our days off. We once had to walk through a dark forest at night heading to Donna’s countryside cabin, fearful of bears and wolves. During this stage we saw nuns passing looking cheerful and we skimmed stones in the river whilst talking to Romanians in broken English. The land was green, trees went on for miles and the night’s sky was the most beautiful you had ever seen.
People in the villages went everywhere on foot or by horse and cart. The bus was considered a luxury. Not a necessity as it had been during the communist era. Locals swore that Gypsies roamed at night sword fighting and then returned home to their gold houses. Luckily we never witnessed such fights or had any real trouble, save for attempted robbery and extortion of a few locals in Bucharest. A rare week off allowed us the chance to visit Brasov, and Constanta, a seaside destination made popular by being featured in many pop videos, and was the hometown of Inna. Brasov was, and is my favourite place on earth, sporting its own Hollywood style “Brasov” sign.
We visited the churches alba si negru. We feasted on watermelon and covrig, a type of salty pretzel. We regrouped and took the train down to Vama Veche where we stayed in a shack made of chipboard by the beach. We survived on tomatoes and egg sandwiches for three days. I was insanely happy and carefree during this time. After the week break, we returned to Iasi on the train (along with the rest of Romania). We found that a parade of dogs had congregated outside our rooms upon our return. Classes resumed, and as the end of the course approached, we began to say our goodbyes to the students. There was a farewell party one summer the evening before the final class. We had a picnic, played cards and drank delicious beer. Our friends walked back to the dorms with us.
When we left Iasi, we cried, not because we were sad, but because we knew it would never be the same. We would never be that carefree again, and our future visits were not quite the same, often rushed and lacking members of our friendship group. We hugged and kissed our friends goodbye, and Jedi sent us off with a bag of covrig for the journey. As we reached Bucharest, we made plans to take the bus. A few “official” looking men tried to scam us out of all our money, a popular trick in Romania. We had been sold the wrong bus tickets and they were attempting to fine us. Our broken Romanian and determination helped us argue our way out of it. Weary and dishevelled, we arrived at the airport and boarded the tiny plane. In subsequent years I have been back to Romania to visit, but it was never quite the same again.