Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Repost || Coffee in Romania || Travel Tuesday


I often meet interesting people while traveling.  I find that if you are friendly, people will open up to you.  They often relish a chance to practice their English.  There was the Chinese girl who was studying abroad in Korea, the Israeli backpackers, the French girl who was flying to Romania to get a divorce… 

She was young, blonde, very beautiful, and spoke perfect English with a British accent.  We shared a row on a small connector flight from London to Bucarest.  I assumed she was British because of her accent.  I asked her why she was flying to Romania.  

“To get divorced,” she replied.  I was surprised at her bluntness.  

I replied that I was sorry to hear it.  

She told me that she had gone to Romania during a long Spring Break, met a charming man, and promptly married him.  They moved back to her native France, only to have him cheat on her.  She told him to quit his shenanigans and they could stay together, but he chose to continue with the cheating, thus prompting her to move to London.  She – luckily - found a job in retail, saved up some money, and was now flying to Romania to make the divorce official.  She told me that the divorce made her sad because she truly loved her in-laws, who were, in fact, meeting her at the airport, driving her three hours to their hometown, and letting her stay in their home while she settled the legal matters… 

"Don't trust Romanian men," she warned me as we descended into Bucarest.  


view from our bus passing a horse and buggy

Romania is an interesting country.  They are still recovering from a long bout of communism... You will often see horse and buggy sharing the road with automobiles.  Tall, pointy hay stacks dot the fields.  The country side is massive, with large fields of sunflowers framed by puffy, white clouds.  Traveling with a ministry choir is a unique experience in that we stayed each night in the homes of Romanian locals.  They were extremely friendly and generous.  My friend, Lauren, and I spent the first night in an apartment with three Romanian girls.  They were in their late twenties, all business women who worked in various offices.  

Their English was quite good, though they took advantage of the opportunity to practice with a native speaker.  We took a taxi to their apartment (“flat”), which was located about five or six stories up a skinny gray building.  The hallways were narrow, dim, and the walls were green.  They insisted we take the elevator (“lift”), even though Lauren and I had to ride up one at a time because we could not fit with our luggage.  It was rickety and most likely contributed to my subconscious fear, and recurring nightmares, of elevators.

a dandelion fountain in Romania

the apartment complex where we stayed our first night in Romania
Lauren and I spent the first night sharing a small futon clearly meant for one.  I am a light sleeper and wake at the slightest sound or movement, even when suffering from jet lag.  Needless to say, I did not get many hours of sleep that night.  We awoke the next morning with plenty of time to shower and prepare ourselves for the day.  Our hosts had laid out a breakfast spread of bread, cheese, deli meat, and raw veggies.  I particularly enjoyed the healthy start to the day.  We were offered coffee and Lauren and I immediately accepted.  We were anticipating two concerts that day and needed as much energy as possible.  Our host served the coffee, laid out the milk and sugar, and left to take her shower.  I am not a fan of the natural flavor of coffee, so I made sure to add plenty of milk and sugar.  So did Lauren. 

where we had our first morning in Romania
I took a sip, but it was still too bitter.  So I added more sugar.  I took another sip.  Still bitter.  I wondered if the taste was affected by the European style of milk.  The milk is so heavily pasteurized that it lasts for months.  They don’t keep it in the refrigerator, either.  I added one more spoonful of sugar, stirred it up, and took another sip.  Lauren looked at me. 

“This coffee is gross,” she said.  I agreed.  It was nasty.  

“What do we do?” she asked.  

“We have to drink it,” I replied.  I was accustomed to home-stay experiences.  It is very important that you accept whatever is given to you, without complaining.  It is rude to insult your hosts who are generously providing food and lodging, especially in a third-world country! 

We each took a few more sips, grimacing.  I set my cup down.  Lauren set her cup down.  I had a feeling she was not going to finish it either.  Our host returned to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee.  She scooped in some sugar and a splash of milk before taking a sip.  

“Oh no!” she exclaimed while coffee spurted from her mouth back into the cup.  “That is disgusting!”  She set her cup down, looking perplexed.  “What in the world?!”  

She looked at us and at our half-full coffee cups.  She looked at the table and slapped her forehead.  

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed.  “I gave you the salt, not the sugar!”  She was visibly concerned.  “How could you drink that?” she gasped.  

“We didn’t know what to do!” we replied.  Needless to say, no one was offended that we poured out the rest of our coffee…

countryside in Romania

So that was my first experience in Romania...  I'm not very good at ending my stories.  Of course I could go on and on about the continuing events of that trip:  how we randomly found a Chinese church that invited us to sing for their service, how we visited an orphanage and found a stray dog with puppies, how I sang a solo in the Romanian Parliament building (which is the third largest building in the world, behind the Beijing Bird’s Nest and the Pentagon), how we visited a castle that could have inspired Dracula, how we sang for the Franklin Graham crusade, etc… but I think I will save all that for another time. 


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