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Live it, Love it: Romania has charms all its own

de (8-4-2012)
2 ecouri

I often get asked the question here, “Do you like Romania?”  As a third-year Peace Corps volunteer, this surprises me now as the folks who I meet know that I’ve lived as part of their communities and taught school here to hundreds of children for many a day now.  The weeks and months have passed by like decades of their own and I wonder still at what others don’t see.


Yes, each country has its own share of problems.  And although many of our concerns in the US are different, they are similar on a personal level in that it affects our choices, our futures, and the things we care about the most like our families, our environment and our livelihoods.


So despite the fact that our two countries are specific and unique in their own right, I’d like to express to you some of the ways in which I’ve found the charm of your country to be one in a million.


First of all,

Never have I been so enamored by nature in its unspoiled beauty.  In America, much of our undeveloped land is allotted for development and there are less and less spaces which are just free spaces of rolling farmlands (not owned by large companies) and forests that go on forever.  I feel real peace here when I walk along a river or climb up to see the view of the village below.  There are still so many places in Romania that are quiet, serene and naturally beautiful.

Me in Maramures



Religion is not a taboo subject here and one is able to worship freely in church, in school and anywhere else they may like to thank God for their good fortunes.  Although the country’s population is more than 90% Romanian Orthodox, there are denominations of Baptists, Reformed, Catholic and other theological entities also accepted as part of a community where religion is a part of daily life.




In school, the children have art, music, culture, technology and other subjects which made our childhoods fun and set the stage for adulthood with a sense of freedom to explore studies which nurture poets, writers, singers, dancers, scientists, inventors and leaders.  It’s not all about math and science-as my country has become oriented to in general school these days- although they are valid subjects and necessary to growth.  Also in school, instead of having unhealthy cafeteria lunches loaded with cholesterol, sugar and salt, the kids have milk, apples and fresh bread.  Jamie Oliver would be happy about that kind of a snack in the schools back in Huntington, West Virginia—see Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution to understand how the eating habits encouraged by the school’s themselves have brought childhood obesity to a whole new level.

It's Dinnertime with Natalie


About the traditions,

I have experienced many of them over the past several years and some of the best involve the special days which we don’t have in the US like Martisor, Children’s Day, the winter parades and spring festivals and the endless sea of costumed performers, marchers, and dancers who recite poetry, sing and play music at cultural events which are frequent here. We have great holidays, too, but these were new for me and I know that others from outside of Romania would love them as much.




Travel is one interesting experience after another.  Not only do I love that the trains go everywhere, but being able to spend the time looking out a window on the landscapes and having a conversation with a local is priceless. When I get to where I’m going, the hotel, hostel or home of a new friend is as comfortable and inviting as ever.  Not to mention the museums, landmarks, castles, churches, and other wonderful treats which lie in store in the cities and towns which traverse this country.  From Arad to Alba Iulia, Sinaia to Sighisoara, and Brasov to Bucharest, nothing has ever disappointed me and there are so many things to learn about the culture that it’s always a great vacation everywhere I go.



Last but not least, family,

That’s what’s the most important to me.  How can I deny that in Romania, although there are disconnected families and one-parent families and divorced families and extended families, I see that everyone I meet in Romania has a way of being a part of a bigger family outside of their own.  No one acts as if they are an island.  It’s not my family, it’s their family, but they are generous and curious and helpful and kind on many occasions where they could just ignore the Peace Corps volunteer living right next door.  Like how they welcome me to their dinner table or to a gathering of friends, or how they invite me to participate in holidays and baptisms and children’s events.  And how I’m always asked if I’d like to see a play or go for a ride to have a picnic or do some shopping in the city. Without a car, without my own friends and family back home, and being single, these are the most appreciated gestures of all.

Campia parade

Campia parade


Last night, I went to the grocery store again with a neighbor to buy some butter for baking with the kids on Saturday and stock up on some other items for my week’s dinner menus.  I heard the cashier say something to my friend as I was loading up the recycled bag I brought with me so I asked what she’d said.  She had whispered to my friend, “I guess she still likes it here?”  And to that my friend, Laura, replied, “Of course!”


Another confounded Romanian in the midst of my own special life who will probably never understand why a person from another country, specifically the United States, can find charm and enjoy the every day pleasures of the experiences here.  Good, bad, not so good, not so bad – it’s all about how you view your surroundings.  Can you find the bright spot in all that you see?  Can you remain open to change?  Can you see the ways in which you yourself can make a difference?  Can you remember that each of us has something to give to others?  Can you be grateful for what you have, instead of what you don’t?


feeding the ducks in Cluj

If so, Romania, you’ve got a world of treasures here: Treasures in the people, in the places, in the traditions, in the children who are your future.  I may not be able to buy my favorite foods as easily here, and I may not be able to always have electricity or hot water when construction gets in the way, and I may not always be able to get from here to there on a road that isn’t excruciatingly long, hot, crowded and bumpy as microbus rides are, but I do look at what I do have and that’s the friendship of the people here, their talents, insights, exchanges and routines that cause me to ask questions and to partake more actively in a lifestyle which was heretofore foreign and now not so.


The charms that I will tell about in conversations yet to be have a long list, longer than this article alludes to.  Those charms will always stay with me.  Therefore, when I return to the US, whenever I go into the supermarket and buy myself something which I can’t get here in Romania, I’ll always wonder why it doesn’t have the same flavor as before.  Maybe, just maybe, I like different things and maybe, just maybe, I can appreciate all of it.


  • Paulina Eliza Duta: (12-4-2012 la 10:55)

    Superb scris, Natalie!
    „Can you find the bright spot in all that you see?” Am preluat intrebarea ca pe un exercitiu de suflet pe care il voi asimila amintindu-mi de tine si de lucrurile frumoase cu care ai delectat in articolele tale. Esti o persoana minunata, un izvor de optimism si de forta interioara care daruieste enorm celor din jurul ei. Toate gandurile bune, draga Natalie !

  • Natalie: (18-4-2012 la 02:41)

    Dear Paulina,

    I wish you all the bright spots in the world! And I try to find my own everyday, too. It is so necessary when there is so much negativity out there on the news, in people, etc. So I am glad that you were pleased with the article. I thought that it was something that needed to be said. And..Hristos Inviat!


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