Wow! Life has changed a lot in the past few months. Last spring I was busy finishing my master’s thesis and job hunting. It was a tough hiring season for me– like it was for so many others. Through it all, I was trying not to think much about my Fulbright grant application which I had submitted the previous fall. It was, after all, a “long-shot.” But, sometimes the opportunity or job that seems just out of reach is exactly where we end up. So, here I am embarking on this great adventure. I’m teaching classes in the American Studies department at the University of Transylvania in Brașov, learning another language, and researching rural education in Romania.
After spending two weeks with family in France, my wife Anne Elise and I arrived at the Hotel Triumf in Bucharest bleary-eyed and bushwhacked at around 2:00am October 1st 2012. It was a delightful hotel with an atmosphere that reminded me of something out of a Sean Connery era James Bond movie.
After sleeping until the early afternoon, we decided to go out and explore a bit. We passed cars parked on the sidewalk, some kind of demonstration in front of some government offices, and a monument to what looked like pilots. Dodging the drivers who made Parisian traffic seem like a drive in the country, we found the Fulbright office and introduced ourselves.
After returning to our hotel, we got a call from the front desk that a friend of a friend of ours from the states had come to meet us. My godfather had contacted a friend of his who is at the theological seminary in Bucharest to show us around the city a little bit. We took the metro to the Patriarchal Cathedral where we were able to catch the end of an Akathist service and venerate the relics of St Dimitry of Bassarbovo. We went to several other churches. It seemed like there was a beautiful church on every block that was open with services constantly going on. The show of piety was juxtaposed against the sight of consumer goods from all over the western world. As we made our way back to the hotel through the students, homeless, churchgoers and shoppers I felt as though I was walking between worlds. One minute I’m in ancient Byzantium where even the Latin sound of the Romanian language hearkens to antiquity, and the next minute I’m in another modern consumer-driven nation. Standing in Bucharest was like standing in a moment of transition where there is a rare, uncanny picture of what was and what is coming.
Thus begins our year in Romania!