Here and There

July 7, 2013 at 10:03 am | Posted in Transylvania | 7 Comments
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Exactly 377 days ago, we flew over an ocean, over highways and skyscrapers, over cookie-cutter subdivisions with manicured lawns and pH-balanced pools, and landed on American soil. We put our driver’s licenses back in the slightly-too-small front slots of our wallets and relegated our Romanian identity cards to a souvenir box in the closet.

We were home. No longer expats. No longer foreigners in a foreign land.

Red, White, and Blue.

But, strangely, we found ourselves on unfamiliar ground: wide swaths of glorious, sole-burning asphalt offering up more parking spots than could ever be filled, except on the Biggest One-Day Shopping Event of the Year! Places (plural) to buy milk or batteries or pipe cleaners or whatever else we might need at 1:30 in the morning. Air conditioning. Clothes dryers. Cheetos.

Welcome home indeed.

Now, just over a year later, we’re repatriated. Completely.

I haven’t eaten cabbage in a year. Or smelled it. I lie awake at night willing dusty synapses to re-engage so that I can remember the Romanian words for “snow” and “strawberry” and “cable package.” I bake without rationing my chocolate chips. And it no longer feels right to kiss a friend’s cheek when I see her in the grocery store.

But I also keep a 10-bani coin in my wallet. I automatically say “Opa!” when Bun trips over his shoe and face-plants on the sidewalk. I prefer fizzy water, slightly warm with no ice, to the ice-cold still variety. And I tuck my children into bed with a whispered noapte bună.

Red, Yellow, and Blue.

All of it — the memories that have long since been deleted from my mental hard-drive alongside the ones indelibly imprinted there — makes my heart seize up as if I were navigating the roundabout in Mănăştur on my way to Cora.

Did we really live abroad for a year? In Romania? Did we really call taxis, order pizza (with corn and ketchup), and get used to frozen hair? Did we really break two bones, have two surgeries, and navigate health-care systems in four different languages? Did we really pick cherries and apples and blackberries and eat them, right then and there? And when did we stop noticing our perpetually vermilion thumbs?

If we really, truly did all of that — and I know we did; I’m still sorting through the 6,000 photos that document it — why has it been so easy to come home? To fall back into this land of the free public bathrooms and home of the brave parents who trudge to Walmart in the middle of the night for baby Tylenol, animal crackers, and a Red Bull?

A year there, a year back here. I wanted it to be hard. I needed it to be. Because if it wasn’t, how could our year abroad have meant anything?

I’m secretly and desperately afraid all I really have to show for it is some lovely handcrafted pottery. And an immense appreciation for Mark Zuckerberg, who makes it possible for me to stay in touch with friends from places like Sibiu and Alba Iulia.

But shouldn’t there be more?

Does home ever feel too “easy”? Where is your farthest-away Facebook friend? And do you know that smell I’m talking about, that cooked-cabbage-or-possibly-a-child-with-gas smell??



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  1. Loved this post. Ive never lived abroad for more than three months, every time I have come home – I ask myself the same thing, was I really gone? While being home is easy, coming home is never easy for me. Ah to travel! 🙂

  2. I can relate, Stacia. It was VERY easy for me to come home, and I was abroad for almost 10 years! In my case I was just very ready to come home, and the new home we returned to was an easy transition – you could say it had all the good of both cultures. We just made a 3 week trip back and returned this week, and oddly THIS return home was much harder. We landed in NJ and were stuck there due to a flight cancellation, and it was huge culture shock because we ran into such horrible service and rude attitudes. There is no predicting culture shock, I guess.

    I am sure the year abroad has impacted you much more deeply than you know. It’s probably colored the way you see things around you and it has strengthened you, and perhaps you will only find out a little here and there in the years to come just how much you have been impacted.

    Btw, I hope your leg is doing well!

  3. I think it’s always easy to come home. What you gave your children with a world view rather than most American’s small picture thinking is invaluable. I know I learned a lot from your year abroad. You certainly have helped expand my knowledge of the world and appreciation for my home.

  4. Great post, Stacia. Hold onto those memories!

  5. I am SO not even trying to compare here, but we just came back from a road trip in our RV which took us 3 weeks. I was so sad when it was over, but it felt so good to be home. And my boys, who are growing up in Miami, where almost everything is VERY culturally identical (if that makes any sense), it was so cool to see them meet and interact with: a 9 year old girl who regularly hunts and cooks and eats gator; a pre-teen from Rome who barely knew English and wanted to learn to use my son’s skimboard; and kids from Ohio who had never heard someone speak Spanish. And we drove through areas in Alabama and Georgia where homes were dilapidated shacks with no windows, and we talked about it. It was so good to expose them to that, and so easy to come home.

  6. Creative post for I ~ Glad you are ‘making memories’ ~ Enjoy.

  7. The memories will always be there and will surface at the oddest times. Sometimes smells take me back to places from the past. Glad you got to go; glad you are home!

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