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)

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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”)

My work is done here 

 “Respond- don’t react. Listen- don’t talk. Think- don’t assume.” ~Raji Lukkoor

Friday August 12, 2016

Day 85

Coopet, Switzerland. 
It is the end.  The end of camp. 

And finally I got to hang with my crew for real. After leaving every weekend to go on far off adventures and evenings chasing sunsets. I finally got to play with the people I’ve been living with for the past 6.5 weeks. 

And it was amazing. 

We ate malakoff. Deep fried cheese sticks. They were not for me. I am not a fan of fried foods. I instead ate heaps of salad and my share of white wine. 

I wrote cards for everyone. Little notes. Heartwarming quotes. Because everyone helped me in different ways. I wanted to thank them individually. 

And I felt close to them. I was full of love. Might have something to do with the wine, but I was overflowing with fuzzy feelings. As one should at the end of a summer camp experience. I have been through this before at so many summer camps. You meet as strangers. You work and live, sometimes 24/7, with these people. You get to know them. Sometimes you meet a whole different side of them that the rest of the world. Because summer camp is a special place. And it’s a beautiful thing. 

And I got pink hair dye. 

And my hair is now pink. 

And my heart is full. 

And my favorite part was late last night. After we got home. Midnight. Laying in the grass in the playground. The three of us. 2 of my favorite friends. Our heads together. Catching the Sternschnuppen. Talking about spirit animals. Spirit sandwiches. Life out there on other planets. And in one perfect moment, we all three saw one at the same time. The biggest one. Streaking across the sky. 

I will miss camp. Playing with the 4-6 year olds before and after camp. Getting hugs everywhere I go. Getting painted on by children. Seeing the excitement in their eyes as they swirled the paint around. 

Art is about process. Not product. It always hurt my heart when I heard people ask children, “What are you making?” Or “That’s not how a cat is supposed to look.” 

Sometimes it’s fun to just start with a paper and paint and see what the paintbrush creates… And I wanted to create that environment in my room. Semi structured freedom. Explore. See what you can make. And what wonderful things those kids created ❤️

And I will miss these beautiful people I’ve gotten to know over these weeks.  Skinny dipping with a couple of them in hidden bits of Lake Geneva. Laughing til it hurts with one while she taught me Georgian. All the talks in the art room and groups with my friends as their fearless leader trooped in and created beautiful messes and moved on. 

And now I leave my comfort zone. This boat leaves port. This rocket ship leaves earth. Set to jet. Hot to trot. In like Flynn.