The Difference a Week Can Make

I am writing this from my new apartment (!)

After a week of many leads, many fallings-through, and much frustration, I found a place within my budget, 15 minutes on foot from school, and got an official lease. I thought this day would never come.

I still feel far from saying that Targu-Mures feels like home, but unpacking my suitcases has been a huge help.

My landlady brought me slippers and homemade honey with my lease while her husband puttered around fixing leaks and making sure I would have heat through the winter. Although he spoke only three words of English (“hello”, and “come see”), he spoke to me kindly and smiled rather than becoming frustrated with the language barrier.

There is a festival in Targu-Mures this weekend, and as I walked to the bank with my papers, I stopped to smell the flowers (and the sausages, and the mulled wines, and and and). I watched artisans paint and carve and taste their creations. I thought about where I was a week ago: tense and nervous, restless without a home and unsure about my place here. And I thought about all of the things that have happened since: new friends invited me out, called me at all hours to tell me about apartment leads they had, and gave me teaching advice. One new friend followed an apartment lead for days, and in the meantime made sure I had food and the Romanian cure for the cold I had come down with–țuică. That apartment didn’t work out, but c’est la vie.

Last night, before my move this afternoon, I couldn’t sleep at all. But I got up this morning and I taught four hours of presentation skills (well, more like three) and packed up all of my stuff and went through a Romanian lease and when I sat down and it was somehow evening already, I realized how much of a difference a week can make.

Now excuse me while I eat an entire pizza in my new home.

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Week One

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City Center

I’ve been in Targu-Mures for a week now.

Usually I settle in to a new place pretty quickly, but it has been a challenge for me to figure out my place here so far.

Firstly, I still don’t have an apartment. Although I’ll only be here five months, I’ve been longing for a place to come home to at the end of the day–my own kitchen, my own bed, a place to sit and relax. The university accommodations I’m staying in are very nice, close to school and the city center, but knowing I can’t stay here much longer adds another layer of pressure.

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My school

Secondly, I’m always exhausted. I remember this feeling from when I was 17 and studying abroad in France. Trying to keep up with my lessons in a foreign language, I would return home every night and collapse shortly after dinner, barely able to pry my eyes open when my alarm went off in the morning. This time, I’m sure the immense culture shock is taking its toll, along with the language barrier.

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The Medieval Citadel right outside of my school

Add in AT&T refusing to unlock my phone, trying to open a bank account, navigating a new city, and teaching courses to 70 (mostly) Romanian students with varying levels of English fluency. I don’t even want to think about applying for my long stay permit in a few weeks.

But with all of the stress, I am also taking in the beauty of this new place and taking time to be thankful for the lovely people who are helping to make my transition smoother.

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The park on a gloomy day

My fellow Fulbrighters have been a source of information and support. The professors in my department have also been very supportive: one ended our meeting with a warm kiss on the cheek, another, in a crisp accent, wished me “the best of British luck.” A librarian who lived for some time in Portland, Oregon helped me print course materials at 7:30 in the morning, and my faculty contact has helped me with nearly everything else.

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If I could say anything has gone better than expected, it’s teaching. While nearly everything else around me seems to be a source of chaos and stress, my students showed up to class (I was told they wouldn’t), participated (I was told they would be reluctant), and said some encouraging things in the self-evaluations I had them write. The university has given me a lot of freedom in designing my classes, and I think they’ll go well.

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My classroom

I’m optimistic about a lot of things in the following week. Each day has gotten a little bit easier than the last. I can find my way to school without a map, I know where to find coffee and groceries, and I’m getting a feel for the town–more than I could say last week. It’s tough going, but I’ll get there.

Ta-da! I’m here!

Dear friends and family,

I’m safe and have arrived in Targu-Mures, my home for the following semester.

The last week has been a whirlwind, so I’ll start with the main bullet points:

  • Spent a week in Helsinki. Managed two sauna trips with my AFS friend Sara, lots of coffee, and visits to museums.
  • Took a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia, with Sara and new friends Rachel and Shasha.
  • Woke up at 3:30 am in order to make my 6am flight to Bucharest, via Berlin.
  • Fulbright orientation in Bucharest: so many cool people, so much information. Reception dinner: so much food.
  • Fulbright adventure to Peles and Pelisor castles. Another meal.
  • Drive to Targu-Mures with my faculty contact, Corina.

And here I am. Exhausted. Happy. Excited. Still without Romanian SIM card. (Soon, friends. The freedom of cellular data will be mine!)

I want to write about everything that has happened in the past week, but honestly, it’s all gone by so quickly my mind hasn’t caught up yet. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by friends, old and new, to keep me sane.

The next adventures include:

  • Finding an apartment
  • Teaching (starting Wednesday!)
  • Getting my residency permit
  • Romanian lessons (starting in November)
  • And countless more I can’t imagine

I’ll check in again soon–lots is happening, and I’m excited to share.