Free Falling

In 1994 I was an exchange student in Seattle and someone thought they would pleasantly surprise me if they took me to a meeting of Romanians who had immigrated to the US. I was so excited. We got there and I had one of the worst times – everyone was busy disparaging the country they were born into and encouraging me to never go back, to find any way I can to stay in Seattle, even if it meant marrying someone at 18. I was appalled, judgmental of them and promised never to meet the diaspora again.

This week I understood them and their feelings. I guess they were better readers into the Romanian mindset than I was and managed to get out early so as not be truly tainted.

I cannot call myself a patriot, that would make me a hypocrite. As a gay woman in a middle management position I don’t feel exactly at home here in Bucharest and am living in a bubble choosing not to truly be me outside of it most times. But never until this week have I felt the burden of a mistake to be this heavy: I should have left this country when I had a chance. This country is free falling and several generations from now won’t be able to stop it. I am not sure anyone will … ever. There is a bitter joke I heard a while back but applies – that if Romania ever wants to get better, it should declare war on Germany and surrender. Well … . I think the name of the country to take us over is interchangeable but still … valid joke.

This week was a break from work and therefore I had a bit more time to read and watch the news, to look around and to reflect. In the middle of the pandemic, Romania is the only country in Europe that is coded as black – meaning that the number of COVID related deaths are sky rocketing. Around this planet, billions of people have taken a vaccine that is helping them live in more ways than one, but Romanians, from the hospital bed, with the oxygen masks on their face or barely recovering from the disease, killing a medical system that was in agony anyway, are fist in the air against this “devil’s instrument.” They know from Facebook and several TV channels, from fashion experts and ex tv anchors turned health specialists that everything about this pandemic is a huge conspiracy. If there even is a pandemic at all … .

I was struck last night at the image of countries in Europe scrambling to support a dying health system in Romania while its own citizens prefer to line up to kiss icons and saint “remains”, have no problem strolling maskless around malls or a crowded marketplaces, listen to the medical specialists of the orthodox church or social media and decide that this virus is a hoax, that the numbers of the dead are not real and that everyone is out to get us. Surely they are, because Romanians are so smart, because we hold the secret of the universe and living well, you can see it all around, because this country has so much to offer! It is beyond ridiculous! It is now criminal! But … nobody cares.

It really sunk in this week that I should have pushed more to leave this country, not for my own comfort but for it to stop perverting my son’s young mind. This is a country with no future, unfortunately I am now convinced. Taking a step outside my bubble this week, taking a look around, the image was bleak: in the middle of the pandemic the authorities have no idea what to do and contradict each other, politicians are fighting like animals for a bone that barely has any meat left on it, people are poorer and poorer and less and less educated and the church, a true power in the state, capitalizes on this country’s lack of order and education and steals from the people it supposedly shepherds and protects like nobody’s looking. Because … nobody’s looking. And if they do look once, it is just to get their share and … walk away.

And probably the most painful thing is that I can hear my countrymen’s response to the above – well go, nobody’s keeping you. A while ago my son was working on a project about demographics and was telling us just how many people Romania has lost to immigration and a decreased birth rate. It sounded huge. But nobody cares.

Why did we stay? Because this is where family was … . And that was important to our son. But these days … the exceptions have stopped making a difference and I wonder more and more if I want to join the free falling that this country led by and almost entirely populated by uneducated know-it-alls is already in the middle of. Sure, there is no land of milk and honey but I will settle for a place where at least one thing, ONE, is going right. That should not be hard to find …

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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