Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Back from where we started


I doubt that!

We’ve been home for quite some time now. But you already know that.

The doors of the airport open and we stumble with our too many bags (our stay in Romania tripled or quadrupled our belongings). The first thing that I see is a big panel on which is written “Bun Venit” (Welcome in Romanian). My heart skips a beat as my adoptive country greets me with my own language. And then I notice the other ones: Malaysian, Russian, German… hey, we’ve been there too.

We take turns driving the rented car: instinctively the foot is searching for an inexistent
clutch and we’re searching for a stick to change speeds. We have to think on which side of the car is the wheel, imagine it closer to the middle of the road, to figure the answer to the question: on which side of the road should we be?

We’re getting closer to home. We listen to music on shuffle. We’re on the last mile and the first sounds bring tears in my eyes:

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin', "How do you do?"
They're really sayin', "I love you."

And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.

We settled down in our house, overfilled with too many and sometimes impractical, comfortable, useless objects. We rediscovered them (“I forgot that we had that!”), sorted them (to give, to keep, to deal with it some other time). After a while we abandoned them in order to deal with our feelings: a personalized mixture of glad to be home, to have a personal space, more clothes, same clothes, school again, back to work, “I don’t want to go anywhere!” to “When do we leave?”. 

We did go to Romania and tried to enroll Maria in the school system, but due to different bureaucracies we failed. We are happy with the result, seeing that we didn’t pass up the opportunity and from the cross-examination of our families “Are you sure you want to be a doctor?” “Is it yours or your parents’ wish?” Maria emerged stronger and more confident. She is now a student at Colgate University. 

Ileana is taking two courses for drawing comics and suddenly, her school life has a meaning. Ioan is partnering with his father to play table tennis right in the middle of our house (I can use the table for cutting patterns when sewing and if we’re not planning on using it, we fold it). Mihai is Somebody! He is working at a hospital as a child psychiatrist and has several part time jobs (somebody has to work to pay those debts.) I have returned to my numerous hats: cook, driver, fashion designer, teacher, gardner, handy-woman, modifying them as they should fit now. I try to live in the present. I am happy where I am.

Wow! Fifteen months! We’re the same people, but different, like an essence of ourselves. Though not totally greenhorns, we were new to long-term traveling. We will have to go again to Japan, where taking care of nature and gardening are arts. We took so few pictures! And we didn’t have enough time to sample its culture. China fascinated and engrossed us, a country where many work as one and are influenced by a few “chosen” ones. Tibet, so different, resisting in so many ways to the wave of the Han invasion, and yet not making progress. Nepal, trekking the jungle in search of birds and finding rhinoceros. A different religion, another form of respect. India, the beginning of enjoying ourselves, opening to the unexpected, savoring every happening. Cambodia, where people smiled with their entire body and chose not to teach their children about Khmer Rouge. A country where we learned not to rely on western body language, but to read the local one. Thailand, a mix of touristic heaven and almost religious love of their monarch. The South Island of New Zealand, driving an RV and getting tired of the breathtaking views. Hawaii, volcano and coffee, a state where putting solar energy into the grid is not permitted. Australia, vibrant coast and deserted beauty, such a young country, still carrying the dead weights of false white superiority. Indonesia, Borobudur Temple and the Hindu island of Bali in a sea of Muslims. Singapore, a miracle of four equally-treated nationalities. Malaysia, with the mix of different heritages and cuisines. Saudi Arabia, as a woman feeling exposed and helpless. South Africa, where optimism and willingness for better still abounds. Lesotho, beautiful and poor. Madagascar, unique animals and habitats, mismanaged by political interest, where some people are so poor that there is no beauty in their life, only survival. United Arab Emirates, where money build cities in the middle of the desert, but can’t buy a meal during Ramadan’s day time. Scotland, stating their heritage. London, treasures of the world. Vienna, an austere beauty. Berlin, reinventing itself, a polyglot society. Prague, a medieval city flooded with tourists. Barcelona and Gaudi. Greece, seaside vacation, ancient culture, friends and family. Italy, a marathon of museums, churches, cultural sites. Egypt, welcoming and severe at the same time. Istanbul, a key piece in the history puzzle. Romania, the same old known, and yet changed country.

We changed...

Almost five years ago (wow, time flies!) the idea took shape in our minds. We wrestled with it back and forth, found pros and cons and eventually went with it. We made it happen! We changed our subscription from what society values to what is important for us, our family. Cocooned in the safety net provided by Mihai’s planning (transportation, lodging) we absorbed what was new or different. We developed a new family dynamic, the 24 hours togetherness gave us opportunities of being not only parents, but confidantes, friends, playmates. Freed from everyday responsibilities, we faced ourselves and found more. After so much planning and working toward our goal, we just had to enjoy every day. Inklings of what we would like to do in the future, what to repeat and what not, were stored in our memories.  Having each other helped us feel less alone (internet also helped with connecting). While away we had only what we took with us, our knowledge and gut feeling. Need was the best teacher and we learned to do with less (water, clothes, food, energy, technology, etc.)

We’ve returned to the same place where we started as different people: more confident in what we can do, more generous toward our fellows, less judgmental, paying attention to our consumer habits (that long, hot shower comes with guilty reminders of yellow, dirty, plastic tanks in which water was transported on the head or shoulders for a long and dusty way), thankful for everything (even for a day of driving around in rain trying and not finding our future car).

Just writing these things takes a long time, and a longer one to pull myself from the reverie. I had no clear idea when I started writing, it was more like reporting, what we did, what we saw, selecting pictures. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I started writing for myself, the things that impressed me and couldn’t capture on camera. I showed you how I see the world; you can, better than me, see my flaws. I think this one, (more than traveling for 15 months, eating different food that I didn’t know, facing my shortcomings) more than anything else, took courage. I wrote about my doubts, concerns, prejudices, fears, lies, breaking rules and everything else, It is not easy to put yourself on the line; bad things could happen. But I did it any way for one reason: to help inspire somebody else. 

I am sure there are people who have a dream or a wish or a whim or a what-you-might-call-it and they have different reasons for not seeking them, yet. This blog was my nudge, my droplet of water in helping them fill their glasses, my straw to break their camel’s back, my example that it is possible. 

Some people are fortunate to know what they want and work slowly toward their goal. 

Others have a hint and need just a little help in clarifying their image. Or they are afraid of what might happen, of failing. 

To these I tell: there is no judge out there to give you marks, only yourself. 

And the reward is custom-made and priceless! 

When you want something badly enough, you make things happen. 

Yet others are so paralyzed by fear of even finding their dreams, that they don’t recognize it. They feel chastised by our choice of leaving our home, the security of a job, spending the little money that we had and mortgaging the house, to travel countries where we could get sick or find our doom, when we could have done as they are doing, read about the same things or watch them on TV. To these I say: live your life and let us live ours.

I had the chance of visiting yet another country, but in a touristic group. I was part of everything that I loathed while traveling around the world: touristic bus, crowding around the guide, fighting our way to see, making the most of those 15 min stops, and yes, shopping. My camera was on auto most of the time, there was no time for framing, for searching for a better picture. While I loved the food and had no complaints, my fellow travelers found the hotel miserable, the traditional food not up to the standard, and nice clean bathrooms with a hint of smell barely acceptable. This experience showed me that my family and I have a different threshold from the vast majority, and because of this we enjoyed most of our stays in different parts of the world. No matter how easy it seems to me, for somebody else it’s an unconquerable mountain! I am not asking you to repeat my experience, but to find your own and make it happen. I’ll be honored to be part of your experience, if you choose to share it with me, and if not, I’ll be just as happy living my life.

Sometime in the future we will close this blog, maybe we will find the energy for writing a book, or making a movie...if such things will happen we will let you know. Until then, thank you for being part of our adventure.

Our minutes in the lime light are finished, it’s your turn now...

Go, find your dream!

If you have it, transform it into reality!

If you already did that, help somebody else with their dream!

Celebrating Romanian National Day in our church, 2014

Why are you still here?

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