After a very rough flight from Tulsa, OK to Timişoara, Romania in the summer of 1992, I was not thinking too clearly. My very first flight ever and I had decided to fly 5,673.67 miles with a sinus infection. When the tiny plane from Bucharest finally landed on ground in the post war-zone city of Timişoara, I was a mess. I could not hear anything. All I could see were the movements of lips with no sound. “Chew some gum!” “Hold your nose and blow!” Thanks for the advice but I was beyond repair. And… I was terrified.
We weren’t exactly “in Kansas anymore.” We had just arrived on the town square where the revolution and the fall of the communist dictator Ceauşescu had taken place 2 years prior. The communist ideals still clung heavily in the air. While it was freedom for the Romanians, the after-effects still appeared to be bondage to me. Poverty, hunger, and countless orphans remained prevalent. Uniformed officers still lingered around every corner, and bullet holes and graffiti remained on the square. I remember asking our guide what the words “Jos Ceauşescu” meant. “DOWN Ceauşescu!” was the answer. The people had spoken and I was witnessing the remains.
A day or so later, I had regained my hearing. There were seven of us on the missions team and looking back now, we were very young and we probably had no business being there. But we had six weeks ahead of us and I was determined to soak in every morsel of culture I could handle. Being a country girl from Arkansas, I already stood out amongst my group of peers, all of whom I considered to be “Yankees.”
A day or so after our arrival, we got up early to hit the streets after our breakfast of tomatoes and goat cheese. Along the way I spotted a kitty cat. It was not a baby, yet not fully grown. A “twitten” perhaps…. The cat was ugly. In fact, it was brown drab and it carried the markings of communism on its coat. I wish I had taken a picture to share but at least I have it permanently branded in my brain.
Being the cat person that I am, I was naturally drawn towards it. I noticed no one else in the group cared or even paid attention. However, I felt immediate sorrow for this pitiful, ugly, socialistic, subjected cat. And so I hollered out to it. For my “Yankee” friends (and I do have A LOT of them) “holler” means to “yell” here in the South. :)
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!” Kitty was not answering. Communist cat was busy sniffing for prey. “Kitty!….here Kitty!!!” …. again…nothing. “KITTY?” Well..What in the cat-hair?? I had never in my life-time hollered at a furry feline where it did not come bounding towards me with love and affection!
And then it dawned on me. I was in Romania. CATS DO NOT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH!! duh!!!! By this time.. my group had carried on ahead of me but I was determined. Luckily, I had my handy-dandy “English to Romanian” dictionary with me. And so I took it out and looked up the word… “here” & ….. “Cat.” Since “kitty” was slang I was out of luck. Oh good, I had found it! Now, let’s see if this works!!!
“Aici Pisica!” I only had to say it once. The drab, communist twitten was at my mercy. He stopped dead in his tracks, discarded his hunting excursion and had come straight to me. I was delighted! While my group had moved on, I stayed back for just a second to pet the picisa. I felt at home for a minute and all fears and inhibitions were momentarily gone. I had broken the language barrier and made friends with a socialistic pisica.
I will save the remainder of my trip for another time because upon writing this, I realized that I dare not go that deep because it is highly emotional for me. The missions trip and time there was the most amazing experience but it did not stop there. I have never forgotten, I want to go back some day. When I was there, I was young and ignorant. I did not understand what was right before me nor the history or what these people *really* went through. I am desperate to go back, re-explore and until I do, I will not be content with just one visit.
Here is a picture of a memorial on the square where most of the revolt took place:
And here is a photo of people waiting to get gas. They waited for a couple of days in a line that went around the city. Notice all the cars are the same.
And finally, A picture of myself visiting an orphanage.