Rules of Three

September 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Transylvania | 12 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday marked an anniversary of sorts. But between the college football on ESPN–Romania, the expat friends who came over for dinner, and the sweet puppy and chocolate cake they brought with them, we kind of forgot about it.

Three months. We’ve been in Romania for exactly three months.

It feels like we’ve been here forever. (And I mean that in a good way.)

As I stacked and unstacked pillows and tucked blankets around this limb and that one last night, desperately trying anything and everything to get comfortable, I thought about all the things I’ve learned on our adventure so far. Here’s a sampling.

1. Buying something made in Romanian is like rolling the dice. It might work. It might not. We are the proud owners of a timer that doesn’t ding, a fan with a blade cover that falls off eight times a day, a power strip with three out of five working plugs, and queen-sized sheets that do not, in fact, fit a queen-size bed.

2. Driving rules are mere suggestions. The sidewalk totally counts as a parking spot. And if no one saw you hit the fence or the bushes or the trash cans, it doesn’t count.

3. Sliced, smoked pork fat looks a lot like french fries. Don’t be fooled.

4. Social services are like high school. Health care, visas, customs — if you’re in the “cool clique,” you’re totally set. Otherwise, get ready for a slushie facial.

5. Romanians may not have a lot, but these things you can count on: a cell phone, a satellite dish, and really, really uncomfortable (but stylish) shoes.

6. Whatever you do, don’t touch the cashier’s hand when exchanging money. And don’t try to pay with a bunch of coins. And bring your own bag or be prepared to buy one. And the store where you found your kids’ favorite cookies? Will not have them next week (or the next or the next) so stock up.

7. Having a baby is better than having a key to the city. Romanians will go out of their way to talk to you, help you, answer your questions, or give you directions if there’s baby cooing on your hip. They will also remind you that the baby needs to wear socks, shoes, a sweater, and a hat at all times to stay healthy. All times. Even when it’s pushing 32 degrees.

8. They measure things in Celsius. (See #7.) And liters. And kilograms. Bookmark Google for fast conversion.

9. You can’t buy gas at the pump. You just can’t. You have to go inside and buy it from the clerk. Trust me on this. (You can, however, also give the clerk money for your cable bill.)

10. M&Ms do not taste the same. Skittles do not taste the same. Dr. Pepper does not taste the same. And the closest thing to Cheetos are peanut-flavored. But the sarmale, zacuscă, clătite, and mămăligă more than make up for it. Poftă bună!

Has somewhere that’s not home ever felt like home to you? When’s the last time you paid inside the gas station? And have you ever confused pork fat for french fries?



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  1. I cannot say I have ever mistaken pork fat for french fries…and I’m happy about that!

    Catching up on all your adventures – and your leg!!! – Oh my goodness, you have been having quite a time. Your pictures are stunning as always and I’m happy to hear that, overall, things are going well. No more Vespas, mmmkay?

  2. Oh Stacia! The adventure you’re on!!!

    I would love to visit after all the quirks you talked about… especially the driving stuff. I could totally live there! It sounds like my sort of place.

    Sending you prayer and cyber hugs for a speedy recovery.

  3. OMG I had to laugh at the socks and sweater…my mom would always tell us to do that (she was Romanian)….thanks for making me smile. Nice post, Stacia.

  4. Thanks for the slice of life in Romania!

  5. THREE months? That time seems to really have flown. YOu are all doing brilliantly and I daresay this adventure is every bit and more of what you thought it might be. x

  6. I would definitely be in trouble with #3. I love french fries. Romanian fries would be a wake up call for this vegetarian!

    • The first time I saw them, I thought they were raw potatoes slices because they were on a platter with cucumbers and onions and cheese and sedate things like that. I tasted it and thought it was a little off … and then my husband told me what it really was. (He hadn’t seen me pick it up and put it in my mouth until it was too late.) My vegetarian sensitivities were extremely compromised, and I’m pretty sure I needed three or four bottles of water to recover. I’ve tried to block it out!

  7. Celsius! Now you’re speaking my language! Glad you’re feeling settled despite the weird tasting Skittles and M&Ms (blasphemy).


  8. Every time I have visited abroad, I have been struck by how much differently common American things taste there. Knowing this, it is still extremely disturbing to me that Dr. Pepper tastes differently in Romania. Extremely.

  9. I think you would relate to this blog:

    She’s living in Turkey with her husband, 3 kids, and dog. She had her appendix removed there, and just had a baby. She’s posted the Turkish version of things she’s learned.

  10. You haven’t mentioned STRAY DOGS.. At least I haven’t got into that part. This is what I remember most from my trip to Romania. Hoards of them, and all hungry. Don’t remember though if cities suffered from that problem too or was it just that we travelled through the rural parts mostly. I was preggy then, and took it really emotionally.. gave up all my breakfast (and my husband’s for that matter) to dogs. Husband gone mental :)) Good luck to you, Stacia. Heal fast. And visit Poland with Bunnies, a stone throw.. xx

    • The dogs aren’t nearly as big of a problem as they once were. In the cities, especially, nonprofits have come in to help rescue the strays or neuter/spay them. The government has a few programs in place, too. I know there are some areas where the dogs are still a problem, especially in the country, but they’re slowly making progress. Even still, when I see one, my heart nearly breaks. I can’t imagine what it was like when you were here!

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