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Transylvania

June 23, 2013

In the courtyard below me, a couple is smoking cigarettes down to the nubbins and arguing in heavily accented English. They seem to be in a relationship. They look Romanian–dark hair and light-olive skin–so I’m wondering why they’re choosing to have this argument in English. After a while, this guy tells the girl to stop talking, so she gets up and walks away. He regrets it. He puts his head down on his arm, on the table, and is motionless for a few minutes before sitting up, sparking another cigi, and rubbing his forehead in the thoughtful, melancholy way smokers have–another semi-romantic mystery to me, who doesn’t smoke.

I’m in a little hostel in Transylvania, wondering how I made it back here. Last summer I was taking buses and trains up and down this area on a crimped budget, camping and couchsurfing and collecting folklore with my friend, Nick Jones. This summer I’m by myself, trying to learn Romanian.

It’s called a FLAS grant and the government provides it to undergrads to study obscure European languages. Romanian is one of those obscure languages.

Why would you spend so much time and money trying to learn Romanian, Is it for your major, How will this help you make money, etc. etc. To which I respond: Maybe. Yes? Kind of. Meh. In no particular order. The truth is, I saw an incredible opportunity and pounced on it like a predatory cat. I let instinct take over. I once heard my mom say that when she’s not sure whether or not she should do a thing, she moves forward with it until she feels like she should stop or do something else. I thought a lot about going on this trip. There were reasons to stay and reasons to go. But I chose to go and moved forward with that plan–and I’m here, and I’m glad.

It seems intrusive to tell you all about this couple–neither of which is aware of that their private affairs are being mentioned on a public blog. But there are a couple reasons why this isn’t a problem for me. First, I’m not counting on more than six people reading my blog. Second, you six readers only know this couple in the  abstract. For anyone reading this post, they belong to the vast, foggy fiction of people you’ll never meet. And the same is true of the people you meet, that I never will. They’re like constellations: you can piece together a few points and get a vague image, but a lot of imagination is required. Unless it’s the BD or Orion’s Belt, in which cases I think we can agree on a certain unmistakable outline, which lends itself to a more or less uniform appearance in the mind, excepting occasional extravagances in imagined dipper or belt color. And of course, only Orion’s belt is being discussed here–Orion himself being so difficult to perceive that, if he exists at all, he lacks any recognizably humanoid proportions. But I’ve derailed.

There’s a certain kind of timidity, born of respect, that comes with only having a constellatory awareness of people. I like that. Sometimes it’s the people we know “perfectly” that we treat the worst. We stop letting them surprise us. We want them to “be themselves,” forgetting that their self is just the culmination of what they have done and are currently doing, and that they are free to depart from their past and remain themselves. I don’t travel all the time–I wish I had the time and resources to do it more often. I like being in a place where the selves–my self and others’ selves–are the culmination of a mere moment.

Not sure if and when and how often I’ll continue this blog, we’ll see. I don’t want to shove myself into people’s consciousness when they were perfectly content without me there. But I need to write, and this is as good a chance as any to do it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Conner permalink
    June 24, 2013 8:19 am

    Yes keep writing. It sounds like you could potentially have a really awesome time. I’m jealous.

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