The “other” San Francisco

“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a fucking tourist.” Guillermo del Toro

Monday, August 7, 2017
Lisbon, Portugal

I had a chunk of days break between visiting the far reaches of my beautiful Romania and decided to take a last minute, solo trip to Portugal.
I had been in a bit of a slump and was on the verge of wallowing in self-pity and loneliness.
I felt not quite like myself.
I missed last summer when I was on the go. Meeting new people everyday. No set plans for where to go or what to do the next day. Couchsurfing with beautiful strangers and making the most treasured of memories…
I wanted to prove to myself I still had it in me.
And by golly I did just that.
Portugal had always appealed to me… It seemed always so out of the way in my travels last summer. But I heard tales of it’s coastline… the people.. the culture.. the food.. the wine.. Porto… Lisbon.. Sintra.. the Algarve coast…
I decided to book the cheapest (Yet still considerably expensive considering how Malta was $100 round trip.. and Berlin was $80 round trip) city to fly into from Bucharest and go from there…
Lisbon it was.
I knew next to nothing about Portugal except that everyone who had been there had nothing but wonderful things to say about it.
Why not!?
And why not start in Lisbon…
The San Francisco of Portugal.. it has trams… it has hills… it has their version of the Bay Bridge… its on the West Coast of Europe… plenty of beaches… laid back attitudes…
And it lived up to its name. I was exhilarated coming out of the metro and finding many Palm Trees.. .ohhh how I had missed them living over in Eastern Europe…
And it was warm… but not overly uncomfortable… like Bucharest… When I left Bucharest, it was 39 degrees C and the humidity was sweltering.
Portugal had a lively breeze.. a nice dry heat…
The ground beneath my feet was cobblestone… but unique to other cobblestone walkways of other European countries… They were tiny blocks of stone cut out in a precise shape and size and placed together, more often than not, to create a mosaic-like effect… Rossio Square, my first real introduction to Lisbon had them lined out in a pattern that was reminiscent of waves… If I stared at it too long it had a bit of a trippy effect…  I learned later that each of the little stones were carved by hand and they first started hundreds of years ago.

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The wave effect in Rossio Square hold a deeper meaning too.. Back on November 1st, 1755 the city was ravaged by a series of massive earthquakes, the largest being 8.5. They destroyed the majority of the city. Everything was shattered… crumbled. November 1st was also the Catholic holy All Saints day.  As a result, all of the cathedrals were packed with civilians celebrating this feast. Needless to say, the crumbling of the cathedrals caused a great number of people to perish. In addition, since All Saints day was a holy day, people lit candles and flowers were put up in celebration. The earthquakes caused the buildings to tumble and the candles fell upon the flammable flowers and other religious decor. Fires soon sprung up all over the city. As if that weren’t bad enough, the earthquakes triggered a tsunami that reached 9 meters high by the time it reached the city. The higher parts of the city remained burning for nearly 5 days. It is said that a week after these three events, nearly 90% of the buildings were either crumbled, burned or flooded and nearly 600,000 people had perished.
This was all carefully retold by my tour guide and she ended the awful tale, saying that the wave pattern created by the stones on the ground were to look like a tsunami and to commemorate that fateful day back in 1755.

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I spent the majority of my time in the Alfama district. As soon as I stumbled upon its beautiful narrow streets I knew this was where I needed to be. Other areas of Lisbon are spread out with large streets. The Alfama district actually survived that day in 1755 and still portrays days of the old where everyone knew each other and old ladies would lean out their windows to chat with their friends across the alley (literally if they reached their hands out they would easily be able to hold onto one another). Laundry was often strung out below windows, along with flowers. I spent two days getting lost, wandering in and out of the streets. Going up and down soOoo many staircases. Working my calves on the steep slopes. It was much less touristy and much more quiet than the other areas of Lisbon… It gave you the feel of authenticity… real people went about their daily lives… no commercial shops.. only a small number of cafes… a few local grocery stores.. the smell of sardines flowing through the air (they do love their sardines there, I noticed)… I certainly did not get the feel that I was in a big city while wandering these quiet streets. You can find so many brightly colored buildings and the doors of their houses are quite close to each other, so it is easy to see how narrow the residences are. It hurt my calves to imagine the stairs they have to climb every day to get from the door to the top floor, not to mention walking about their normal day on the steep streets! If you keep an eye out, you can find little black and white portraits painted onto the walls of the local residents…

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It is here that I also found my San Fransisco tram! Tram 28! The most famous tram in all of Lisbon… I never got in the long queue (some people waited up to three hours to ride it).. but people who do get to ride it never regret the long line.. it winds up and down and round the hills and you can easily hop on (after the line of course) and it will take you all around the highlights of the city…

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Another thing I fell in love with was all of the ceramic tiles about the city. Many of the buildings were covered in them on the outside. Some had just a few remaining ones… They are called Azulejos tiles (usually they were a combination of beautiful blue and creamy white) and usually were laid out in some sort of geometric, lacey or flowery pattern. Sometimes they just adorned the facades of buildings, the same repeating tile over and over again. Other times, the tiles were put together to create a mural or a depiction of a historic scene.  Lazily sauntering about the city, as opposed to rushed sightseeing on your way to the next big sight to see, allows you to find all kinds of fun little hidden tiles. You are able to pick one up of your own in any tourist shop…

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My personal favorite was the street art. Discovering the street art is one of my favorite things about wandering through a new city. One particular area that caught my eye and had me going back to time and time again. On one of the steep paths down to the Alfama area from the Barrio do Castelo neighborhood, you pass through a little tunnel of sorts. It has the words “Don’t Be Mean” spelled out with stretched wire. Just beyond it, outside of the tunnel, just to the left is a flat open area. When I first walked back out into the sunshine, I was not expecting such a sight. Instead of more buildings and streetways, there was the wreckage of an abandoned building.  The remains of the Cerca Velha Wall…… and wow… a little outdoor art area looked after by a sweet old man… Take the time to explore and you’ll find some delightful things :))

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Fado music is another Lisbon favorite… I was stumbling around Alfama one night with some couchsurfers just after we witnessed the most beautiful sunset from the highest hill in Lisbon and heard the soulful sounds echoing through the alleyways… Fado… which means “fate” or “destiny” in Portuguese is a type of music that has been heard throughout the streets of Lisbon for centuries. Typically, it involves a lady singing a yearning, soulful, haunting song that comes to life and makes your heart ache to hear. Though they are quite sad songs, causing the people in the cafes nearby to hush to a silence as they are slowly transfixed by the mournful melody Definitely worth a listen… perhaps with a glass of sangria or their vinho verde OR (my personal favorite) Ginjinha (a Portuguese liqueur made of sour cherries (“ginja berries”) with a delightful hint of cinnamon.

PS> Just so you know.. the information about all of the things I have written about was straight from locals, whether it be the Free Tour guide or couchsurfers I met up with that were born and bred in the city or random strangers who happened to be as curious about life as I am

 

Ramblings of loneliness

Sunday, May 4, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”— Confucius

Every master was once a disaster.” — David T.S. Wolf

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden

Don’t overthink yourself out of something good! – Akosua Dardaine Edwards

Don’t overthink things. Sometimes you can convince your head not to listen to your heart. Those are the decisions you regret for the rest of your life. –Leah Braemel

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

 

I’m in a bit of a funk lately.
Too many things are going on and it is a little overwhelming and hard to keep my head up.
I have been in Romania quite awhile off and on.
I still do not have a grasp on the language
People keep telling me that they know of others who learned it in one month.
That just makes me feel worse
Unable
Stupid
And we go to meet people
And they are courteous
polite
“Hello! Buna! How are you?”
And that is about the extend of the conversation most of the time
I say I can understand some of it.
I say I am trying to learn.
I say “No problem, go ahead and talk in Romanian, I can kinda follow along”
But I can’t
I do for awhile
I get the gist of the conversation
But then my mind focuses on one word or phrase
forgetting what it is
and my mind searches for what it means
and I lose track of the conversation
And I stare at the sky.
at the people walking by
Trying to not look bored
Trying not to look as alone as I feel
Left out
Isolated
I don’t want them to speak entirely in English
That would be an inconvenience for them
I am in their home country
They are speaking their mother tongue
I take lessons
I do the apps
Answer the questions right
And then when it comes to conversation in real life
My mind blanks.
What did they just say?
What am I supposed to say back?
And the visa
I finally turned in the visa this past week
And now I wait one month to see if they accept or reject it
If I have to leave or if I get to stay
If I get rejected should I to hire a lawyer and fight to stay?
After waiting in the lines for hours
With impatient, rude people
standing
forever
talking to the people behind the desk 9 times
My translator talked to the officer for what seemed like an eternity
And when we left the counter
I got a one sentence summary of the 20 minute conversation.
i need another document
another document
each time
waiting in traffic
stressing out my boss
Creating tension at work
i am scared I am too much work
Wishing she never hired me
due to all the headaches of this visa
leaving my classroom and coming back mentally vapid
not able to concentrate on what was going on
going home to cry
And am so exhausted I nearly pass out at 9
because I messed up
I didn’t know the new rules
Count backwards 180 days.
it doesn’t start over.
It was my fault
I could feel the heaviness
Disappointment from others
And I revert back to the days of pasT
When I was truly believed I was a burden
Unwanted, but invited out of obligation
It is my fault I am slow at learning
that’s just how I am
All the people I meet here
Must think I am so boring
i hope they don’t think I’m a bitch
Or stuck up
because I barely talk
I have so much I want to say.
I want to show them me
but they just turn to other friends and share stories
and laugh
in Romaninan
And I am left
Alone
Though sometimes they remember I am there
and translate a story
or respond in English to what someone asked in Romanian
and I jolt back to reality
they are talking to me
my heart soars with happy
I feel like I am pulling away
Regressing
Not putting as much effort as I should at work
the gym seems overwhelming
getting out of bed to go to meet people is difficult
No amount of sleep could cure the tiredness I feel
I love people
I hate inconveniencing people
I hate being a burden
And I noticed that I have been backsliding
Focusing on the negatives when I look in the mirror
As they talk and talk
I notice more and more wrong with me
My white thighs glowing in the sun
flattened out and huge as I sit in the chair
The scars on my arms from days long ago
The bags under my eyes that won’t go away
My hair, frizzy beyond belief
My silhouette makes me cringe
My stomach.
The liver transplant scar
a big indent in my belly
creating a soft roundness above and below
fat
no bikinis for me
I tried
I got down to 86 pounds long ago
I still had a soft round belly
I get more and more disgusted every time I look in the mirror
why did I decide to wear this tonight?
no wonder people don’t want to talk to me
I feel boring
all that time of listening to them talk
and sitting there
feeling awkward
not sure if I should intervene,
“Ce faci!”
“Nu înțeleg”
But I don’t
I don’t want to be a bother
I try to follow
then space out
lost in my head
all the thoughts
monsters don’t live under the bed
They scream inside your head
but not all the time
don’t worry too much
things still make me happy
the soft rain before the downpour
as it gently lands on my skin
a slight tickle from mother earth
laying in the grass with the sun shining on me
warming my body
Bubbles
and many other things
it is easy to spiral and forget
but there are many things that keep me here
But I have been longing more and more for going back
To Portland
To Santa Cruz
where I can understand people
Where I don’t feel detached
But would that be giving up?
Running away?
Should I power through and take 2 lessons a week?
Could I fit in here?
Your vibe attracts your tribe.
I feel part of a tribe sometimes
but then they slowly revert back to Romanian
laughing
talking
reminiscing
and I have no idea what they are talking anymore
because at one point I space out
too much in my own head
I need more things here
I need to change
I need motivation
But do I belong here?
Is this the life I want?
Do I want to go back to what’s comfortable?
Or do I want to step out of my comfort zone and zoom forth
I have always felt a little ostracized
all my life
On the fringes of groups
Along for the ride
A little odd
I’m used to being the me that they know
silly, bright and sunshiny
but I also come off as flighty
as dumb
and I am not
not many people know the real me
all the things I went through
The people I lost
the people that hurt me
the people I hurt
My stories that made me who I am
the good and the bad
No one asks anymore
and then there are some people I connect with on another level
and I adore them
and I feel wanted when I am with them
and I laugh
and feel warm inside
happy
But I can’t remember the last time I laughed
genuine laughter
where your eyes well up with happiness and silliness
I miss that
I need nature
I need a friend
I need the beach
I need to stop thinking that everyone is thinking negatively of me
I hate it
because that’s what teenagers do
I’m 31
I should be over that by now
Strong
Independant
Etc
But no
Because right now I feel deflated
discouraged
empty
lost
alone
But i still have the flame of hope
Deep inside
still burning
waiting for more fuel
for me to believe wholly
that I can do this
that things will get better
I just need to get out of my head
because life is beautiful
I’m living in Romania.
I am in charge of 17 of the most beautiful, sweet little 2-3 year olds
I have a good job that pays quite well
Someone who believes in me
and keeps me going
i have plans to travel in the summer
music festivals
summer is coming
i need to get back to that me
that me that said “yes” to everything
That had no problem talking to strangers
I have people that say I am beautiful
And check up on me
I’ve been here before
i know my mind is just messing with me
i’ve been here before
i can get out
get out of my head
and into my heart
And in these next week Is will start the process
of becoming a butterfly
starting by smiling from my heart
because I am strong
and I am worth it
I just need to work on believing it
mantras on the mirror
mantras by the bedside
little reminder that life is beautiful
of who I am
I will find my way

The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Unknown

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. ― Abraham Lincoln

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Legally Illegal… again

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”
~Jiddu Krishnamurti

April 29, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

 

So… It turns out that the 90 out of 180 days thing isn’t so simple… I left Romania December 20.. had to wait 90 days to come back and was 100% sure that it had restarted and had another 90 out of 180 days.

Not true
Not at all.

I am still waiting for the paperwork from home to come through to get the volunteer visa. My dad paid (and I am slowly paying him back) $131 to have it shipped within a week but it never came to the school. It was addressed to me and then underneath had the housing complex where the school was.  The post office sent us updates… it flew from JFK… it arrived at the Bucharest airport… it was cleared through security.. it was ready to deliver.. and then nothing.
The school headmaster called and called and argued that it is there and that we have proof and gave them the tracking number but they claimed there was nothing there. By the end of the next week it arrived back at my parents house.
So we tried again.. and since I had a 2 week break during the last two weeks of April we agreed to not pay the absurd amount of money and have it delivered when we got back from break, May 3. We all were gonna be enjoying our vacation anyway.

No problem…. or so we thought.

I went back to Budapest for 3 days to visit my old hostel and my volunteer friends…. more on that later…

I arrived back to Bucharest April 26. I always get a little nervous at the any border, just because,… and last time I was at the Romanian border they claimed I had to leave the country for 5 days cuz my 90 days wasn’t up until then.
Of course, I started crying. I was SURE I was allowed back. I had plans to go to work. To see my friends. I didn’t have the money to go anywhere else.. after not getting paid since the beginning of January and on the move… paying for gas, meals, hostels, drinks, airplane tickets.. my money dwindled quickly.. along with that one time I got fined on the tram in Budapest (I had the ticket with me, I just hadn’t validated it and they made me pay an absurd amount of Forints all the money I had left,.. and I still had a week there.. but thankfully friends pitched in to help me get through)… I had pretty much negative money. Luckily, I had done my research before and emailed the Romanian Border police first and had it in an email… in writing.. from their boss… that I was allowed in on that day…. after about an hour of waiting and trying to calm myself down, they let me wait in the international terminal for 6 hours until I finally could go home at midnight.

Anyway, here I was, April 26, weak, sick, tired (I had just had a bought of 24 hour food poisoning and hadn’t been able to sleep or keep anything down since 2 nights before) and ready to go home to my bed.
I stepped up to the booth and handed over my passport. I never know what to do at this point. They take the passport, click on their computer or scan or whatever it is they do… but it was taking too long.. fear gripped my heart… I scanned my brain to think of why it was taking so long… was it cuz I stayed late in December? over the 90 days? I paid the fine.. I was let back in last time..
Finally, he looked at me and asked how long I planned to stay… (at least a month to figure things out, I said…cuz I thought that of the 90 days I had left that started on the 20 of March I knew I had at least a month left and it was a safe number to stay)
His eyes squinted a bit and his face tensed and asked what I was doing and who I was staying with (I am visiting friends, traveling and working on getting a visa)
He sighed.. no response.. got up from his chair and walked out through the back of the booth, I assumed to talk to a higher up.
I was used to this by now. Being left at the customs booth… its not a fun feeling.. everyone knows there’s some problem with you.. they stare.. “What did she do?”   smirks.. some looks of pity..
After about 5 agonizing minutes that seemed like an eternity he told me to come follow him to the back of the booth.
“You have to leave in 3 days” he said.
WHAT???
“No, no, that’s not true. I started here in September.. I stayed 90 days then left for 90 days and came back March 20 and have 90 more days! Check again!” I said, I could feel the tears filling up and slowly trickling down my face. My voice quivering. This couldn’t be happening again!
He took me into the booth and showed me on his computer and it said it,…. that I had been here 88 days and had 3 days left.
“How can that be? I just got back!? I have 90 days of 180 starting March 20!”
“No, not anymore. Go to immigration. Go to the immigration office.”
I tried to comprehend what was going on. I slowly walked to the arrivals room where my friend was waiting for me.  Partway down the longest hallway in the world I leaned against the wall and and tried to regain my composure. Wiped my face clean of tears. Settle my ragged breathing. And I walked on.
He couldn’t believe it either. We looked up everything we could and everything we read said 180 out of 90 days.
We went to the immigration office. I was weak. I was tired. My stomach was once again in knots and swirling around. 3 days! No. I have to go back to my school. I have to all those music festivals this summer. I have to go to the hippie beach at Vama Veche. I have to see the Merry Cemetery in Maramureş. Hike the mountains.. see the mud volcanoes… kayak the Danube delta…  I’m just learning Romanian.
Of course there was crazy traffic due to the taxis going on strike against Uber. So we took the metro. Once we finally got there we learned it didn’t open for another 2 hours. I couldn’t wait downtown for that long. I knew I needed to. But my body was breaking down. I was falling asleep. I had no energy. I was zapped. My head was spinning.
So went home and slept. and slept some more. and woke up the next morning to make the long journey back.
Where we explained the situation. Handed over my passport. And waited. and waited. In a tiny room. People kept going through the doors, but no one stopped to pay attention to us. As the time went on, my fear grew and grew.
Finally a man in full Romanian Police uniform came out with my passport and a white sheet of paper with all kinds of calculations and confirmed my worst fear.
Yes I now had 2 days left.
He tried to explain that rules changed a bit ago and there are a lot of calculations involved. About counting BACKWARDS 180 days to count the 90 days… My mind went blank. I spaced out. I froze.  I was in shock.
So he turned to my friend and explained it to him in Romanian.
After we left that awful place, I called my boss and we decided to try to get what we had of the paperwork and bring it in. A long, slow blur of a day of collecting the paperwork, waiting for an email of an updated document we needed, driving to a different immigration office only to find they closed 3 hours before. And the next day they were closed.

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I tried hard to hold the tears back. What do I do now? Do I leave the country tonight and come back when the documents arrive from the US and hope I am allowed back into the country? Where would I go? It was already 3:45… I doubt there would be any affordable flights out of the county this late. Maybe I could get a ride to Bulgaria and chill there for a week… they have a beautiful seaside I hear.. and I’ve heard rave reviews about Sofia.. and what if they don’t let me back in?

My boss talked to the one lady left behind the desk who was in charge of a different area of immigration. She assured us that all I needed to do was stay in the country, come back when the paperwork was ready, pay a fine for staying over the limit and turn the papers in.

So we deiced to do that.

But I can’t help but be anxious… I already stayed late once… would they let me again? Since I did stay over and was illegally here (its a 3 day weekend and the last day for me is Saturday and I can’t pay the fine before and I can’t go in Sunday or Monday) would they still let me turn in my paperwork? Would they make me leave the country immediately that day? Would I have to leave until the paperwork was done? Usually you are supposed to turn in the paperwork 30 days before your last day.. but I had no Idea of the new rules! I thought I had 90 days!

So my friends took me to the beach for the day to help me get this off my mind.. for some sun.. some sand.. some salt water (much too cold to swim but I definitely put my feet in. And because maybe that would be my only chance to see my beautiful Vama Veche and the Black Sea.

 

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Constanța, Romania is quite an interesting town… lots of abandoned looking buildings and some interesting street art.. It was the first time I saw the seaside since summer (though I was at the ocean in Cali…) so I was super excited..

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Constanța. Even though it was the last weekend in April… a 3 day weekend… the weekend most people come to party at the seaside.. the “beginning of summer”,, it was pretty chilly and empty… though it was only Friday when we went…

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An abandoned Casino right there on the sea in Constanța.. there are guards there and ropes strung up to keep people out… though all my friends have snuck in there at one point.. and I plan to as well… all in good time… its absolutely majestic in there… and the chandeliers and everything are still in place from its heyday.. built by King Carol back in 1900… and if those walls could talk… all the fancy parties with Europe’s elite…

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Constanța… I had to climb over the rocks to get closer to the sea :)))

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Vama Veche, Romania. 🙂 A little hippie-ish village down near the border of Bulgaria. Of course the day we got there there was a thick shroud of mist engulfing the whole area.. leaving it looking a tad bit creepy… intriguing…  empty…

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The waters here are absolutely stunning! A beautiful icy blue nearest the shore and then fades into deeper shades of blue… though I couldn’t see too far out because of the crazy weather..

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Vama Veche… Black Sea… beautiful 🙂

IMG_9761Vama Veche. I had to dip my toes in the water even though it was 10 degrees C and the wind was whipping. (When we first drove over the weather said 17 and so I put shorts on… not the brightest move.. but thanks to living in Canada, it takes a lot to get me cold so I was fine)

Zoo Cafe = Best Cafe in Budapest :))

In other news….
THERE IS A ZOO CAFE HERE IN BUDAPEST!!!
You can eat with cats and lizards and hedgehogs!!
When my friend and I went, they sat us right next to the toucan and gave us some big ol lizard guy…. we had to hold it.. couldn’t set it on the table… which made it difficult to sip the cappuccino… but later on the waiter dude came by and set a gecko on our table…. and the cat came and eyed it hungrily..
But WOW!!!
Other tables had guinea pigs and hedgehogs… when we walked in one dude was wearing a snake.. .there were little logs on the walls and up near the ceiling for the free roaming cats to play around in!!! And they are sooo soft and fluffy and ohhhhhhhh :))))
IF YOU GO TO BUDAPEST, GO TO THE ZOO CAFE!! !
It is guaranteed to be the best coffee experience you’ll ever have!!

Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly
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What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

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I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…

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Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…

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I love this little portly police guy :))

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..

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The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.

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Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))

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And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!

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And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))

California Dreaming

February 2, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

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So…. here I am… back in Europe… Working at another hostel.. In beautiful Budapest…
48 hours ago I was slashing around in the Pacific Ocean on the shores of Ocean Beach in California. Going from 24 degrees, sun, sand, salty ocean breeze, tacos, friends and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world to 0 degrees, flooded streets, rain, slush, cold breezes and strangers (3 of whom I went out with last night and now they are no longer strangers but dear friends).
Anyway, I wanted to share some of my photos from California. I swear someday I will move there… to San Diego… Carlsbad… Oceanside.. anywhere on the coast of SoCal.
My first stop was Los Angeles where I had the pleasure and honor of attending the NAMM show. I ran around Anaheim taking pictures of Disneyland and dreaming of heading in to ride all the rides and relive my childhood memories.
That is, until I received my name badge and saw the giant NAMM show sign and the ginormous stage set up…. my excitement to step inside flew through the roof!!
There were SOOoooo many people wandering around on a mission. They knew where they were going and what they needed to do.. meanwhile I aimlessly wandered around taking in al the signs, oohing and ahhing over all of the guitars and testing them out, ‘slappin da bass man’ (I hope you guys love that movie too…), collecting free things, and people watching… So many people that looked like rock stars!! And then.. I saw lines…
Lines? At a convention? The light went off in my head… I remembered people saying that there were signings and meetings with different rock legends at different booths.
PERFECT!
So I added that to my list of things to do. I got in lines and waited and chatted with the people next to me. I never knew who was waiting for me at the end and I refused to ask. Honestly, I did not recognize any of them.. but when I showed friends the pictures their eyes bugged out with wow.

Anyway, it was a joyful three days.. and we even got to sleep in the beautiful and fancy Mariott where all the stars slept!!! (I’m sure of it) except we fell asleep early both nights..
We then got to visit Santa Monica and Venice beach and the Griffith Observatory on a terribly rainy day… the sun broke out a few times, but I honestly had to wear a jacket! In LA!! And I kept getting frustrated because my camera sucked and he had this superbly beautiful camera that made everything look phenomenal… and even made me look pretty ok too!!

Sadly, he left  :((( and it will be so long until I see him or anything Romanian again.. so after crying a bit in the car, I was swept away in an Uber to go to my friend in north east LA area. I worked with him back in Alabama and he offered to host me for a night.. we went to Korean food and were quickly back to our old banter and silliness… The next day I got a grand tour of Little Tokyo and China Town before my train south to Oceanside to my friend from Mammoth Mountain.
Oceanside is one of the most beautiful towns that I have ever seen in my life.. beautiful palm trees… the ocean… fresh kombucha… breweries.. blue sky.. tasty tacos.. long pier… fresh fish… surfers everywhere… stunning sunshine.. I spent the next two days with him and his family (he has a pretty groovy southern california family.. the dad surfs and his two sisters are into rock climbing and raki and doing all kinds of artsy things) We caught up on all the things and drank real DELICIOUS IPA’s and biked around town in this little blue bike that reminded me of the one from ET.. just cruising around in the Southern California sunshine with my feet wet and sandy from dancing in the ocean.
THEN
Back to my hostel.
ITH Adventure Hostel.
My life for some of the best 4.5 months of my life. It changed so much! The staff room was now another chill area… they no longer cook fresh breakfast and dinner… it changed so much… yet felt the same… all the people that worked there were not there anymore, except for 2.
In fact, Alex, one of my favorites, was the one that hosted the tour to Tijuana!! Him and his gf work at the other hostel that is managed by the owners and him and his lady would come over to visit us at the ITH Adventure Hostel often and she even dressed up as me for Halloween in 2015 with pink hair and screaming “BEST DAY EVEEEEERRRRR!!”
Tijuana… mannn… Totally the best day ever… We took the trolley… walked across the border (It didn’t look a whole lot different… maybe a bit more barbed wire… and before there were dudes in with guns on the Mexico side, but not on Saturday) and ate some of the best street tacos I have ever had in my life.
We went to get margaritas and I kept trying to psych everyone up and bring them to my level of excitement.. My favorite thing was sometimes the waiters/bartenders at the Mexican bars that we go to… they would pick 3 or 4 of us in a big group and do this big shenanigan where they blew their whistles over and over and made a huge deal and sat one of us down in a chair, tilting the head back and pouring tequila straight into the mouth.. this particular place we went to this night did that AND then gave you a short amount of time to catch your breath before pouring beer in as well and then they took you to the dance floor, flung you over their shoulder and spun you around…. THAT was what kicked off the night,.. after that we ALL got up on the dance floor and continued to go to a few different bars and danced the night away… one of them had a beautiful Cadillac in the back that we sat in and drank in… I was in awe… moreso of the swings they had to lounge on while sipping my margarita than the Cadillac.. but anyway, everyone made it across the border into to the USA…  my friend with long blond surfer hair and me (with pink hair) both got pulled to the back room at the border to be detained and asked a series of questions. They brought out the drug dogs. I was a little tipsy and of course my first reaction upon seeing a dog was to pet it… They were not amused. Needless to say they found nothing on either of us, but made us sit there 10 more minutes before we finally got released.. and just barely made the last trolley home.
I love that hostel. So much. Nothing can compare to the ITH Adventure Hostel. No other hostel that I have visited has ever been that much fun, that beautiful, offering all the activities as well as breakfast and dinner. And it will always be my 2nd home, even though times change and the vibe of the workers change, I still made friends with a couple of them and told them stories of the good old days when the dream team was working.

And now I spend the next month and a half counting down the days until I can go home to Bucharest again.. to my home.. my job.. and some of my favorite humans ever..

I came here to escape

Back when I was 23 during spring break of my last year at University, shortly after my older brother died, my mind was a mess.
I had had an eating disorder for the past 7 years. I flip flopped between trying to interact with people and hiding in my bedroom doing as many sit ups as I could and running in place.
When my brother died, it shocked me to the core, Granted, he was never that nice to me, in fact he was downright horrible most of the time. I was terrified of him. And when he was going through the motions of cancer, he started trying to make up for those years of torture. He died before I could say I love you.
But shortly after he died, I started living. I finally allowed myself to start drinking… I had my first boyfriend.. went to concerts.. etc.
Spring break was coming up. I knew I needed to do something spectacular.
I booked a trip to Ecuador. I paid money to volunteer at an animal refuge center in Ecuador right in the Amazon jungle.
I knew very little Spanish.. I had never left the country before (except when I lived in Canada).. I wasn’t too experienced in partying or making friends due to the ED.
But I went.. I had many struggles but also had the time of my life.. I got to feed a beautiful big-eyed Margay a chicken… I got to have monkeys play in my hair… I got to walk in the Peccary enclosure with mud up to my knees (GLORIOUS!!).. I hung out in hammocks with Australians and British and Spanish and Ecuadorian.. I nearly slept with a Hobbit-like British boy in the jungle as he took me to see the nocturnal Kinkajous-except everyone back at the camp sent out a search party for me… I helped to hike a tortoise out into the middle of the Amazon jungle for 3 nights to let him loose… My smiles were genuine.. My laugh was pure.. I was realizing what happy was
But
I happened upon this poem I wrote alone in my hammock under the Amazonian stars the night before I left the camp after a week and a half of learning to live and feel again..

I came here to escape
To leave my life behind
But now that I am here
I am beginning to find
You cannot fun from
What you wanted to
Those thoughts inside of you
No matter where you go
Where you sleep at night
The downward spiraling
thoughts-those you cannot fight
I thought I was so sad at home
Now its frustrating to see 
Escaping from the life I know
Cannot set me free
Now its time to head on home
To the place I left behind
Bring with me the tales of adventure 
That flow on through my mind
No matter where you go
Nor how hard you try 
There are that follow
That won’t pass you by
Your mind, your thoughts, 
Your body, your soul
I found out what it was 
I came here for
I tried to run away
To escape
Away from my cares
Away from these thoughts 
Away from my mind
Run far away from here
Leave it all behind
I learned the hard way
You cannot run
from all that you are

The writings on the wall…

“Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” ~Jean-Luc Godard

January 5, 2017

One thing I adored in my travels was wandering the streets of the big foreign cities. Meandering down the uneven cobblestone streets. The family run stores. The unique range of items in each. The attempts to speak their language and being met with smiles of encouragement as I tried to charm them anyway with my attempts, yet butchering of their language. The air was so much fresher without all the skyscrapers and bland buildings. The  smells of all the foods wafting in the air. The pureness of the coffee….
And the street art.
I LOVED the street art.
I was FASCINATED with finding the scrawling in English in all of the countries. Little words and quotes amongst the sometimes beautiful, sometimes hectic murals and foreign writings on the walls…

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Florence, Italy – One of my very favorite cities… such narrow streets.. such beautiful sunsets.. such hidden little treasures like these…Bubbles were blown on the streets.. I forgot my money but the man who heated up my pizza slice (one of the best pizza slices in THE WORLD) made me sit and eat my pizza before he allowed me to leave to go back to the place I was staying to get my money.. there was a certain romantic, haunting, old-timey beauty about this city…

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Rome, Italy – a city overflowing with history and culture and food and wine and vines and vespas… Unfortunately, I only got to spend 2 days there.. but I will most certainly be back.. But this little sight made me smile 🙂

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Venice, Italy – I have found the word “Love” in every single city that i explored. It was such a fun treasure hunt.. I loved finding it in the language of the countries I was at too.. but theres something fun about looking for “Love” in unexpected places ;))

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Naples, Italy – Both of the above were on the same door covering of a closed store… The words were quite hard to see in the dim streetlights and I was rather tipsy on wine but I was waiting for my friend to buy our 2nd bottle and stared at these words for a good 5 minutes.. taking it all in… running my hand over the metal door, taking in the energy behind the words… letting it speak to my soul.. and feeling the feels of “How Can An Angel Broke My Heart”.. the incorrect English.. it just filled me with an infinite sadness for whoever wrote it.. and the other, “Am I In Love With You Or Am I In Love With The Feeling” resonated in particular about various people and places and events on this trip…

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Naples, Italy – The moon is another one of my very favorite things in the world. I saw the word “Moon” hidden all throughout Naples, one of the dirtiest cities with very strange, unique people, cheap wine and walls covered in the most random and chaotic street art, scrawlings and scribbles.. So it was even more exciting to find treasures like these…

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Basel, Switzerland – My friend had just taken me on a swim down the Rhine river.. We each had little “fish” that were waterproof bags in the shape of fish and acted as a flotation device as well… Our group was one fish short, so instead of desperately clinging to a fish the entire time the water took us gently down the river in its current, I was free swimming.. and it was the most beautiful feeling.. and at the end we grabbed beer in this funky little nomadic, artistic area and I was filled with warm fuzzies and happy and sunshine… As we were walking back I happened upon this beauty 🙂

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Barcelona, Spain – I was wandering the city and decided to go to the beautiful Park Güell that was filled with all kinds of stone statues and covered in tiles… I quickly felll in love with Gaudi’s work and style.. the shimmery tiles.. the quirky architecture.. it was all so magical… Anyway, I found a tiny exit out of the bigger park (the free area of the park) that looked like it would provide the most gorgeous view of the city.. and it did.. but it did also have this (and many more of the same) message to tourists..

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Brasov, Romania – one of my favorites EVER. It says it all. “I miss you’re stupid face”

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Brasov, Romania – What’s meant to be will always find its way. Very true. Everything happens for a reason.

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Brasov, Romania – this one made me smile… and made me wish I had someone to send this to and mean it with all my heart…

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Bucharest, Romania – Not exactly sure what this one is about… but I was wandering a nearly empty park in late fall and found this little fountain.. it seemed as though it hadn’t had water in it for forever.. the tiles were broken on the inside.. there was a thick layer of dirt coating the broken tiles… the outside around it, where people would normally sit was nearly all taken apart… and “Madonna with coat was h” was all that was left of who knows what kind of message :)) I love it.

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Bucharest, Romania – #PeopleLikeUndMe.  I found these all over in Bucharest. They intrude me… #PeopleLikeUndMe apparently do all kinds of things… Dance in the rain… Hold Hands.. Don’t need Sleep.. Run free.. Dance together.. Are meant to be… Get lucky…
Finding them hidden around the city still make me smile 🙂

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Bucharest, Romania – “Stop the violence” scrawled on a building that was falling apart in thimble of a park…

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Bucharest, Romania – Ohhhhh Romania :)))..

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Naples, Italy – Across the street from this was “You Belong To Me”  I adored these little sweet declarations of love…

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Seattle, WA – My first full day back in the states, I found a sign of hope and acceptance and love from the Universe that made my heart smile 🙂

Home Sweet Home…

“I’m homesick all the time,” she said, still not looking at him “I just don’t know where home is. There’s this promise of happiness out there. I know it. I even feel it sometimes. But it’s like chasing the moon – just when I think I have it, it disappears into the horizon. I grieve and try to move on, but then the damn thing comes back the next night, giving me hope of catching it all over again.”
— Sarah Addison Allen (The Girl Who Chased the Moon)

January 4, 2017

I have been in the USA since the 20th of December… It is currently the 3rd of January… and I cannot quench the desire to go back to Romania… to go back to Europe…
I never really had a home here to begin with… hopping all over the country… from one seasonal job to another… making friends that I still keep in contact with, but they are spread all over the country…
I made connections in Romania.. I felt stable for one of the first times in a looming while… stable like I could remain there for quite an extended period of time.. I was comfortable there.. my job.. the gym.. my friends.. the occasional weekend outing to Transylvania..
And now I am here.. the first week and a half were rather rough… full frontal barrage of family visits.. old family friends.. one after the other… day after day.. being bombarded with questions of my life.. inquiring about whether I ever planned to settle down.. to have kids.. what was I doing with my life… “When I was your age…” etc etc.
And then to my parents house.. way out in the middle of eastern Washington.. a town full of Washingtonian rednecks complete with deer antlers in restaurants and cameo as the standard gear and plenty of Hunting and other “outdoor activity” magazines (though none of them included rock climbing or hiking or kayaking or any of the outdoor activities I take pleasure in..)
So I ran away.. first to my aunt and uncle in my birth town, Walla Walla, WA. A Beautiful little town.. their kids.. I used to babysit them many years back.. now they are all grown up and in high school or college.. they taught me about their 30+ chickens and guinea fowls and ducks and we went on a beautiful little hike around a dried up/iced over lake 🙂
Then to Portland… my favorite little town..
Visiting friends here and there… but I still feel so disconnected from everything.. everyone..
I thought I would have a blast visiting people.. my friends… visiting my heart homes.. the PNW…
But my heart and my head are distracted with Romania.
With a yearning to go back to to where I felt wanted..
I do not enjoy American coffee anymore…
IPAs, yes.
Tacos, yes.
Siracha, yes.
My car, yes.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier and Seattle and all the vast and varying nature this area provides… yes.
But many of the things I used to LOVE… kinda lost their luster after being in Europe… People seem so distant…
I hate this feeling because I feel like I am being a snob, talking about my adventures in Europe and the differences I encountered between this place and that place and USA..
Don’t get me wrong.. I still love my friends here.. love being here.. Portland.. All of Oregon and Washington and California…
Just something in my heart feels slightly off…
I even ran south to Northern California to visit an old friend who always used to give me comfort.. We spent an afternoon wandering the hills near the Klamath River and finding quite a spread of bones.. a place where coyotes go to feast and leave only the bones.. as well as lots of beautiful quarts and what seems to be opal…
It was a beautiful couple days.. but cut short due to a crazy snowstorm that was coming and I had to leave before I got stuck… Though now that I am here, the thought of building a snowman and having a snowball fight sounds like a winning situation 🙂
And yes, visiting did make me feel warm and happy ,… but at the same time even more restless and confused and lost.. they had their shit together… I am still floating..
I have yet to visit a few more friends here… constantly searching for that comfortable feeling I used to feel with them…
But I find more comfort in hiking in the woods or wandering the nature alone.
What is wrong with me.
I want to go back.
And I talk to these people… with houses… with some form of a “real job”.. with families.. deep friendships… stability.. trust in each other.. plans for the next week or the next month or the next year.. the way they look at each other… connected through laughter… connected through touch… and I feel slightly broken and quite alone.
I am not part of the lives of my friends here… and I am no longer a part of the lives of my friends in Romania…
I seem to be stuck with the infinite unknown
And that is terrifying
Will I ever be able to do that too? Will I constantly wander? Will my racing thoughts.. fear of the future.. the unknown ever slow down?
When I was in Romania… I thought I had things down pat. It was slow to come at first.. a day at a time.. a week.. a month.. by December I had things planned at least through September.. with possibility for longer..
Now that I am so far away… it is so far away.. it is so long until I can go back…  And the time difference and time between me being there and now makes communication difficult… And the mind can be a terrible place in those hours where theres nothing to distract it…
Will they all still remember me and like me when I come back?
Where should I go in February?  What should I do tomorrow?
Do I belong here or there?  Will I ever be able to learn Romanian so I can actually talk with people there in their own language? Will I ever be able to have kids… a family.like all these people back here?
Infinite Unknown.
Terrifying.

 

Romania, My Love

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.” – Bill Bryson

December 20, 2016

Long time, no write…
Soooo…
My life has taken an interesting turn since I last posted…
I ended up getting a job… making some good friends.. and getting invested and involved with some people and things dear to my heart…
What a beautiful life this is….
Romania..
Who would’ve ever thought that would be the place that I would find my people.. my job.. my heart.. Fall in love with such a foreign, quaint and quirky yet beautiful country…
I honestly went there on a whim… the hostel in Bucharest was one of the first ones that messaged me back saying they wanted me to help them for the month… and it was out of the Shengen area so that meant that I could stay in Europe beyond the 3 months I had in the Shengen… And I knew nothing much about Romania… why not check it out.. I tried asking people about it.. no one had anything good to say… not necessarily bad.. but lots of warnings.. of stray dogs and thieves and conniving gypsies and left over communist attitudes and cold people and ugliness..
But I found no stray dogs… not once was I stolen from, in fact, people went out of their way to help me on multiple occasions.. I stayed at a gypsy camp and was greeted with nothing but curiosity, interest and the need for them to share their ways so I could share with others,.. beautiful people.. beautiful souls.. sure the sides of the roads are littered with trash and cigarette butts and empty cans.. its got its charm… beautiful architecture… one of my favorite jobs, teaching little ones and playing with them in the woods.. love…
Romania is in the EU, but not the Shengen..
What a fascinating country… what fascinating people..
How different they grew up…
I love learning about the culture.. the food.. the music.. how they grew up.. their thoughts on USA and everything else…
And everyone I have met pretty much knows a good amount of English.. much mores than any other country that I have visited…
I could pour out my heart… all of the people that have helped me through and opened their arms and their hearts to a crazy American girl… one in particular.. and my job… at an International Forest School/Kindergarten.. the most beautiful 2 year old classroom I have ever encountered.. Playing in the woods.. the snow.. the leaves.. the water..
Just wow..
And visiting Transylvania.. hiking in the mountains..
Getting more and more involved in people and things in Bucharest and beyond…
So when December came.. I realized my 90 days were almost up (as an American citizen, with my passport, I have the same deal as with the Shengen area… 90 days in a 180 day period). I reached out to my job.. my friend(s)…  Everyone did what they could to try to help me stay there/come back sooner… but due to miscommunication and misunderstanding, when I came back to the USA for the holidays…. I have to wait out the rest of the 180 days before I can return. I emailed and called the Romanian embassies all throughout the USA and all of them said the same thing… there was nothing I could do. I could’ve easily dealt with it when I was in Romania.. If I would have known…
But I am not the best at details… I am pretty good at putting things off until the last minute (“hmmm… I came here in September… I should probably look into how long I am allowed to stay in Romania and what I should do to stay longer… maybe tomorrow…”) So I take full blame…
But, here are some pictures of some of my favorite times and favorite people and most beautiful places I have encountered during my 3+ months in Romania (yes, I did stay past the 3 months, but went in and paid the fine so that I could officially be a “legal illegal alien”)