I wrote this on December 24, 2014. The first winter spent in Romania in eighteen years.

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Image by HannahLou.

And so it begins. The moment I arrive at the airport, I take a breath, walk past the sliding doors, roll a cigarette, light it, and call my grandparents. I hear instant anxiety on the other end regarding the logistics of taking a taxi, something potentially going wrong. They’ve seen it on the news…it could happen again! I reassured them I’d be careful. Thirty seconds later I get a phone call. “Did you get in the taxi yet? No. Don’t get in yet. We know someone, I’ll try to find his number. We’ll call you back.” I wait and look around. The ashtray is full, overflowing with stubs. I smile because I know I’ve entered the land of chain smokers. I get another call back. “We can’t find the number. Just be careful. Make sure you find someone decent — vezi să găsești și tu un om serios.” “Alright I’ll do my best”, I reply more out of routine and reassurance than actual intent. I take the first taxi I see and get in. All is silent. His face is serious, hardened, and tired. After five minutes I start speaking about the weather. Banal but it’s a start. It’s been a while since I’ve spoken Romanian to a stranger. I found out he was from the south, a city near where I lived for a few years (both awful places really). He said I was lucky I’m going to the north because that’s where the traditions have remained alive around this time of year. I make it to the bus station and wait. It’s a nightmare already. I start rolling another cigarette. Everyone is loud, aggressive, panicking, anxious, complaining, blaming one another and others that aren’t there. The ones who do smoke are doing so continuously. The bus that I thought I missed was late. That’s what the upheaval was about. I managed to sit in the front, with another man that had a calm demeanour, a rare trait one carries in this country. I was half-confused, half-relieved to anticipate some quiet for the upcoming six hours. Yet throughout the journey I took note of the erratic bus driver crossing himself with his right hand at every church and religious monument on the road, but unsurprisingly not wearing his seat belt. …


Ana Brandusescu

She/her. Researching the political economy of AI.

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