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CITY MOUSE/COUNTRY MOUSE

de (1-8-2010)

Chindia Tower in Targoviste

I’ve never considered myself a country girl, although for a time, during high school, we lived in what were affectionately called “the sticks” back in the early 70’s in the U.S.  Then, it wasn’t something that I appreciated and so I chose to move back to the city life right after graduation and continue the cosmopolitan existence—green space walks, easy trips to the corner store, neighborhood window chats, and all that comprises what one is able to see and do when every amenity is just a stone’s throw away. The rural areas were not such a bad life, but I couldn’t see the charm or feel the appreciation that the proximity to nature’s world had to offer.  And so, for years and years, here I was making that daily trip for the newspaper down the block, taking in the afternoon window shopping on my lunch hour, and savoring the theatre and the glow of the city lights from a coveted spot on a restaurant patio in the evenings.

That all changed when I came to Romania Peace Corps.  Many times I looked outside the window and thought that I was in some sort of dreamlike state, under the mountains, by the expressive sounds riverside, the wind in the towering trees and nothing more than the summer balm or winter chill to entertain me.  I grew to savor the moments that I could trudge in the mud, sled down the hillside, listen to the birds, fish by the banks, and merge into this way of life that had eluded me in youth.  It has been wonderful, mesmerizing, captivating, enlightening and never to be forgotten.  The indescribable feelings that have come over me during my stay in this Moldavian village of mine, well, they are just that-indescribable.

Imposing View of the Castelul Bran

Now, having the luxury of some time off from teaching English and other things, I’ve ventured out once again into the old world of the “concrete jungle”.  It’s not the same as it used to be.  I am, after all, in another country, living another unexpected lifetime, in the short span of a two year volunteer stint in the Peace Corps.  I’ve taken to calling it an “artificial life” of sorts—if only because of the fact that it is something which I will never be able to repeat, never be able to fully explain, or never be able to bottle for future use.  But having the occasion to visit my share of historic and cultural landmarks here, has been a bit of a trip back down the citified memory lane.  I’ve gone to see much of the history and artisan work in various museums, taken photos of the diverse and spectacular architecture, walked city streets with contrasts aplenty, admired ponds, bridges, and parks, taken advantage of grand views, dined on some of the best foods I’ve ever tasted, and been both awed and humbled by the opulence and detail of the many churches and monasteries along the way.  Some of the places I’ve really liked are the Bruckenthal and ASTRA Museums in Sibiu, the Firefighter’s Tower Museum, Museum Taranului and Museum Satului, all in Bucharest, and the Biserica Neagra and Castelul Bran in Brasov.  By no means does this even begin to touch what I’ve enjoyed visiting in the cities. But just so I can share, I will be bringing back photos, postcards, and a sampling of souvenirs from each and every one of the stops I’ve made here.  You can see some of the places I’d recommend by visiting www.ireport.com/people/RomaniaScene.  I’ve posted stories, albums and views of both country and city life there for the rest of the world to see.

It’s been so nice to be back in my element, in the “land of urban”, and yet, I still feel that the countryside, which has since become such a part of me, is still hinting toward a swift return.  It speaks to me in whispers as the sun rises and sets each day during this generously long hiatus until September school days when I will begin a second year of service to my country and the Romanian people.

Muzeul Satului

There was a time in my early life when I used to intently read a children’s book called Stuart Little by E.B. White (the very same author of the famous tale Charlotte’s Web).  For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s about an inquisitive and stylish little mouse who searches for a place to go to make sense of his tiny world.  He leaves his long-time, happy hometown for the mysteries of the unknown and goes on out to the country where some of his best laid plans go awry (i.e. his tiny boat made with matchsticks which he built to share special time in along with a new friend fills with water and sinks despite all the love that he put into its construction).  In the end though, Stuart Little goes on and takes yet another path, moving forward, reflecting on the past as a necessary part of his journey and reaching out toward the future, although highly unpredictable, with a sense of trust and blind expectation of more curious adventures to come.

This Peace Corps life has been like that.  Leaving behind people who I love and losing things that I’ve nurtured (like the first garden I planted in years to the floods in June), has made days of tears and questions seem like eternities.  But gaining the best of both worlds, and experiencing the joys that living in another country like Romania can bring, has put it all into perspective.  I’ve had plenty of adventures, moments, and certainly times to never forget.  And on a lighter note, I know now, after seeing a good part of Romania traversing the country by rail and other means of transportation, that this country can offer some of the best things to see and do for any city mouse or country mouse around.  So pack your bags and come on over.  See what this beautiful, spectacular, interesting, inviting and friendly “Land of Choice” has in store for you.

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