I am just back from this year’s (long due) holiday.
And what a holiday it was!
I took 4 weeks - most of them internet-less, - to be with myself and my son - and with Romania and my parents.
Romania - the land I was born in, it feels like a mother. A “mother” land that I HAD TO love and respect. One that I feel that I am finally letting go of.
It is a process, like most things are. I did not wake up one morning and said, here, I let you go, Romania. I am separate from you. I am me and I am free. I am independent of you and all your stuff. I am a human and an international citizen, I am not a "Romanian" anymore.
But while being there this past month, I finally felt it: it does not matter, Romania has no real grip on me anymore.
I can enjoy what I love about this land and I do not feel attached to the shit.
Yay for that.
For example, the level of noise.
Even at the seaside, (my favorite place on Earth, 2 Mai), the level of noise is maddening.
We rented a poetic room with a beautiful garden but even at night there were tumbling rumbling sounds around: from the naval building site behind the village, from the (night) freight train that occasionally came along 50m(!!!) distance from our bed, from the fridge that was not properly working, from the cars and motorcycles on the dust street behind our house.
In the morning at 6:30 I would surrealistically be woken up by the Romanian hymn which (I guess??) started the work day on the building site.
Followed by LOUD tunes from the 80s and 90s - like Candy Dulfer’s saxophone.
During the day there were commercial planes flying very low and doing tricks (one of the guys flying the planes was obviously bored), the relentless cars and busses and their horns, the deafening ambulances and police cars - and an enormously loud cacophony of music on most of the beaches. Even on my favorite beach - the nudist one - where I expected people to be more decent (totally naked people are usually more decent, I noticed, it’s quite weird), some people would have a (loud) radio with them or talk so loudly that someone in Paris could easily catch a glimpse of their conversations.
In Bucharest, at my parents’ house, the level of noise is incredible. The zoom of the cars on the street under their windows is relentless, even late at night. There are also two hospitals nearby.. Every five minutes there's an ambulance screaming along.
Let me tell you, in Romania they must have the louldest ambulances in the whole world.
In front of my parents' flat, there is a river, Dambovita. It's quite close by, we can see the water from the windows.
Ceausescu had the “brilliant" idea to make this "river" run through a concrete basin. Thus there's no plant growing on the sides of this “river” (with the exception of the occasional bush or protected tree) and they also destroyed the park nearby.. The sounds are going around free and with a huge hard echo on many hard walls.
Due to how the traffic is set, when an ambulance comes with screaming sirens from the center of the town, they have to first come from the right for a 15 minutes ride on the other side of the water (provided not blocked in the traffic), turn left on the bridge across my parents’ flat and then ride another 5-10 minutes on “our side” of the river to enter the Municipal Hospital. There is always traffic on both sides of the river and a few occasional drivers who pretend to not hear the deafening sirens which would make a New Yorker proud - so the wailing keeps at it until they arrive at the gates of the hospital - sometimes for as long as half an hour per ambulance.. Mostly there is not only one coming in. Even in the night when there’s virtually no car on the street, the ambulances come screaming.
The thing is, I felt I had a choice. A choice that the people living there do not feel they have.
I chose to ignore the sounds and embrace them. V loves them so I chose to love them, too. V could sleep through everything, I chose to feel his peace at night.. Or listen to something else..
But when one lives there all the time I think that this choice is more difficult to make.
At one point it becomes too much..
I am grateful to be back home where the silence is soothing and constant, even in the center of The Hague,
Yes, there are ambulances here, too, and I suppose different places with different sound levels, but one can choose, one can hide, one can go to the park and hear the wind, one can go to the beach and hear the sea.
Here I can hear myself thinking, especially in the early morning hours.
And I feel grateful to feel that I have a choice. The more conscious I become, the more I cherish the freedom to be able to feel I can choose and I should choose.
I can choose my reactions to stuff - to stuff from Romania, to noise, to family issues.
I am a free person. I am a free human and it is my right to be free.
But for many many years I did not think that I was free - or that I had any choice whatsoever.
I lived in Romania for 26 years. Then I worked in Russia for one year (on a building site that was run as a labor camp). I worked after that in the NL for 3 years while I did post-Uni studies.
I was" forced" by circumstances to go back in Romania for the next 3 years after that.
It felt horrible at the time, it felt like I was totally defeated, At that time, “remaining” in a "civilized" country was seen as something that anyone can and should do. Most people were ready to swallow any shit possible only to “get away” from Romania. Around that time more than a million Romanians emigrated to any other part of the world, even to Russia.
Here I was, coming back - “they” did not want me. I felt like a failure and I thought my life was over when I “came back” to Romania.
I felt oppressed to be back, I felt trapped.
Back in RO I went on to have a few exciting jobs - those doors were open after i worked as an architect in the NL.
I worked sometimes 17 hours a day, 120 hours a week.. I have had some shitty bosses, too. But it was not at all as bad as I thought it would be.
I was really well paid for Romanian standards.
I was highly respected and I LOVED what I did.
I was also beginning to discover a few big truths about myself and why I worked so hard.
And the best thing of all, I started understanding that I had a choice. That I always had a choice.
You see, when I left the NL after my first 3 years here, I was working as an architect with a full working permit (as it was in those times). Only, in my third year in the NL, my working permit was the "wrong kind" as the officials put it.
The architecture office where I worked at the time had offered me a new 2-year contract. but I was told by the authorities that, because they issued the wrong working permit the year before, and that was not possible anymore, they could not issue a “good one”.. Because, they said, their fault would be visible.
My boss sent me to a lawyer so that we would start a procedure to sue “them”, the working permit authorities.
After listening to my story this lawyer said the magic words:
" You have a choice to make..."
He said I could choose to sue “them” (to me it felt like I would sue the whole NL) - but it could take more than 6 months, possibly 2 years - until we would have a result.
It would take a lot of money and energy and I would not have a working permit or legal status all this time in the NL.
If I won (which was likely but not 100% sure), I would create a great precedent for some other people who were maybe in the same situation….
Or, he said, I could drop everything, finish my contract, give up everything I'd built in the past 3 years in NL and go back to RO.
That would be easier, he said.
I could not even start to explain to him why going back to RO was - for me - not the easiest of the two choices. Our (heavily paid by my boss) half hour was up and I stepped out of his office.
I remember it was raining, this soft autumn rain I love so much in the NL. I was standing there with my face up, soaking up this caressing rain and crying.
It was a hard process; leaving NL,
I had so many dear friends I was leaving behind - and a man I was desperately in love with.
I felt most free here,
I felt abundant and respected,
I was not once sexually assaulted in those 3 years, something that unfortunately happened regularly in RO. I felt I had space and I had a place I loved to live in.
I had two jobs I loved (was also working in a wonderful cafe in Alkmaar in the weekends) and a new language I spoke better and better.
I had the dunes and the immense Nl beaches.
I had an immense sea of possibilities that I felt I had to let go of.
I cried rivers and rivers of tears.
But still, the choice to “stand up and fight the system" was not the one I wanted to make, although everybody around me was telling me that it was my right to do so.
The girls at the cafe I was working at (a wonderful team of 20 amazing goddesses) even wrote a letter to the queen that I had to stay. They asked all our clients to sign up this letter. They were looking for husbands for me, they had a comprehensive list where number one was the most notorious gay guy in Alkmaar. At my goodbye party, he came and proposed on one knee and everything - and was planning that we both would wear wonderful white gowns. He thought he could convince me to become his bride because he even had a cat. :-)
As sweet as it all sounded and as much as I loved my life in Alkmaar, I chose to go back to RO.
One of those choices that one can never really revisit.
It was a deep cut.
I was not RO proof anymore, I felt like I died and went to hell. I could not understand anything from there anymore and I felt so much resistance at being there.
But the most wonderful part of that process was a moment in which, after a few days of mourning in Bucharest, I felt all of a sudden light.
I felt, this is not the end.
I felt this was an empowered choice, to not be dependent on anything and anyone besides myself.
I felt the sky IS the limit, even in RO.
We always have a choice.
Make your own based on what you feel is right for you.
I know I always will.
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