My eyes are heavy like 5:30 a.m., and they get even heavier when I ask what time it is and I hear 4:30 a.m! At this point, my exhaustion of being awake for the past 24 hours nor the bitter cold of a Budapest morning in mid December could ruin this moment. I am drinking a bottle of wine, out of the bottle, with people who were complete strangers one hour ago on the banks of the Danube River. The city's morning commute is coming to a crawl and if not for the Gothic clouds above, the sun would be rising. What a way to spend my first 3 hours in Budapest! Budapest is an extraordinary city, with an abundance of culture and warm people. Even though the sun did not shine once the whole time I was there, the endless holiday decorations, hot spiced wine (red & white) and a visit to the natural hot springs made up for it. Going from village life to Budapest was a complete 180 degree turn, but Budapest was just the beginning...up next the 12 hour plane ride back to the States for the first time in 7 months!
A window seat has never felt so good. With sounds of the captain saying "blah, blah...Amsterdam direct to Detroit, MI...blah, blah" I got really excited thinking about heading back to the States for the holidays and what my life will be like over there while I am home. Then, I also got really excited about thinking back at my last 7 months in Romania and all that has happened, been accomplished and all that is my life over there. Finally, I just smiled...about life in general and how much I really love what I am doing and what I am doing with "my life." The old Scottish man seating next to me took his eyes from his novel and asked me what I was smiling about. I chuckled and replied, "where should I begin?" His interest grew even stronger and then asked, "Where are you from and where have you been?" Again, I laughed and replied with a proud smile, "Where should I begin?" After he closed his book and removed his glasses he simply said "how about you start at the beginning?" He was a bit confused at how I started the year 2007 living in downtown Detroit, working at a bar to now finishing the year 2007 teaching english in a tiny village in Northern Romania. But what really threw him for a loop was when I described him the village I live in with the wood burning stoves, fresh cows milk, the Clausius on my hands from chopping wood, my daily meals of pig fat back and being the one and only english speaker, all with a sparkle in my eye. He is mystified that one, I would volunteer to leave the United States for a tiny village in Romania and two, I actually enjoy it. I ask for a glass of sparkling water as he demands a lemon with his pepsi light (diet pepsi) and I continue on with my endless accounts of new experiences. It seems he is genuinely interested and inquires about my favorite part of living in Romania and I respond rather quickly without even having to think about it..."top 5 in no particular order, my village, the landscape (mountains etc.), the food, the culture and the horlinka." Obviously, he wants to know more about the horlinka, but I tell him words won't do it justice so I wont try, just know it is Delicious! The old man comments, I speak very passionately about my experiences and my new life in Romania, I agree and ask if he is going to eat his bag of peanuts because I am absolutely starving. The food on the plane was quite nice, luckily I went with the pasta and boy was I glad, I peaked at the lady's chicken in front of me on my way to the restroom and it looked a bit like a piece of cardboard, we even got ice cream for dessert, it was chocolate...but that is neither here nor there. So, just as I grab my headphones and my ipod the old scot asks me what I have learned from my time and experiences in Romania thus far. I put the Ryan Adams on pause and listed of few things that come to mind...patience, flexibility, open-mindness, love, perseverance, not being afraid to fail, confidence, how to dig up potatoes, to make hay, drive a horse and wagon, simplicity, serenity, make cement, self reflection, to chop wood, speak Romanian, trust strangers (but not just any stranger), adaptation and a new culture just to name a few. He nods approvingly and I begin to hum "La cienega just smiled" when I lean over and say "Oh ya, and I have found I'm much happier when I'm living my life with passion for what I am doing and with a smile on my face."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Detroit, Metro airport in the United States of America...local time is blah, blah and customs this and customs that..." It feels good to be home...
- Peace & Love in the New Year -