As the days shorten, the temperatures take their annual dip, and the trees perform their magical color show, things are starting to finally fall into place for us here in Romania. Bucharest feels like home; I no longer feel like we’re on an extra-long vacation in a strange Airbnb. We’ve figured out the best places to go for walks and bike rides. We know the best places to buy our groceries and the best time of day to avoid traffic. We’re still learning the different customs and traditions, but all in all, I’d say that we’ve set up a pretty good routine. Things are less stressful now because things are becoming more ordinary and less variable. Less stress is always welcomed.
My Fulbright grant has officially commenced. We started off the month with an orientation welcoming all grantees: senior scholars, junior scholars, ETA’s (English Teaching Assistants). We’re scattered all over the country and with various assignments for the year. I really strongly encourage anyone how has an interest in living abroad for one year but doesn’t want to undertake a huge research project to consider applying as an ETA. Most countries do not have a language requirement because most of the population speaks English. It’s an amazing experience and a great way to learn a new culture.
Aside from our orientation which took us up to Sinai for the day, Carl, Isaac, Jethro and I have had a chance to travel a bit as well. We attempted to drive along The Transfăgărășan Highway. BBC’s Top Gear voted it the most scenic road in Europe due to its hairpin turns and jaw-dropping cliffs. The Highway is only open from June – October. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to this point in the drive. I copied this picture from Google Images. Photo Credit
You might be wondering why we didn’t make it all the way to this scenic portion of the trip? After all, it’s only 2.5 hours from our house. Well, unfortunately, we discovered that Isaac is unlikely to become an astronaut when he gets older. And that we have to plan car trips way better. Isaac got SUPER carsick just on the 30 minute drive to Curtea de Arges, the closest city that begins the highway. We also learned a few important lessons: (1) ALWAYS bring an extra change of clothes. Even if you’re only expecting to be out for a couple of hours. We had to buy more while we were out. Let me tell you, the old ladies at Lidl were not pleased when they saw me carrying Isaac in a sweatshirt and a diaper. (2) ALWAYS pack a towel in case of emergencies. (3) NEVER feed your kid cheese or any milk product prior to a road trip. For the love of God, just NEVER ever do this. You’ll thank me later.
Instead of taking our scenic drive, we pulled off the road and parked at a small pub so that we could clean up Isaac, the car, and the car seat. Isaac and I went inside while Carl took on the job that no man should ever have to do more than once in his life. However, since we had no extra clothes for Isaac, I walked inside with him only wearing a diaper. I explained what happened to the bartender – who was heavily pregnant herself. She took pity on us, and offered a place to sit and warm up until we figured out the best course of action. The only other patron in the bar was very concerned about Isaac wearing only a diaper, so he ran out to his car and brought Isaac an oversized sweatshirt to wear. I wrapped Isaac in the shirt and he immediately nestled in my arms and fell asleep. We sat in the bar for the next 45 minutes while Carl cleaned up the mess as best as possible. Yes, 45 minutes. It was B A D. In the mean time I watched a Mexican telenovela that was subtitled in Romanian and made small talk with my non-English speaking counterparts. They were very sweet to us and provided the Romanian hospitality that we’ve grown to love. Though, much to my dismay, there was an insistence that Isaac eat some cookies. I was hesitant at first, but since Isaac was claiming that he was hungry, I relented. And it turned out okay (phew!). Eventually, we found one of Isaac’s shirts that was okay enough for him to wear, so we gave the kind gentleman his sweatshirt back. And then, we did what you do in 2017…asked for a picture to document our experience 🙂
We made our way back to our Airbnb that night feeling jilted. We really wanted to take the scenic drive but couldn’t continue for obvious reasons. We scoured blogs about the best way to prevent toddler carsickness. We both rehashed our own stories as kids on long car trips to visit grandparents. Neither or us remembering much more than keeping the windows open and suffering for hours on end. Then we started researching baby Dramamine. Does it exist? More importantly, does it exist in Romania? (Baby Benadryl doesn’t, so it’s a real question we have to ask.) How can we handle this moving forward? Most of Romania’s roads are comprised of windy, curvy, hairpin turns. Are we relegated to flying? Should we scrap our the rest of our weekend trip? In the end, we decided on giving him baby Benadryl and riding with the windows WIDE open for the trip the following day as well as on the trip back to Bucharest the next day. We also stopped to take lots of pictures to give him less time in the moving car. We opted to stay in a remote village in the Carpathians, and when I say remote, I mean, it’s the last village before the forest starts. There was lots to see and do, so we made the best of it. In the end, we were able to travel The Transfagarasan as far as we felt comfortable (about halfway). Instead, we occupied our time by discovering the Transylvanian villages. We stopped by a medieval monastery, Vlad the Impaler’s real castle (and walked all 1480 steps, which was about 75 flights of stairs!) and took the time to soak in the countryside.
Moving to a new country is complex. Moving to a new country with a baby adds an extra layer of complexity since there are so many more unknowns and because we abandoned our support network. Despite the challenges, we remain enthusiastic as we acculturate to Romanian life.