Towards the unknown

“Good luck, these will be very weird weeks…”
“Thanks so much. Where are you from?”
“Italy”
The bookstore employee started to look at me a bit panicked.
“I’m not a tourist. I live here. The last time I was in Italy was at the beginning of the year.”
He breathed a sigh of relief and he started to talk again with me.
“The situation there is very crazy. I hope that nothing like this will happen here. We are not ready for something similar.”

It was March 17th, the day in which the state of emergency began in Romania. That day I went to my favourite bookstore in the centre of Brasov for buying some postcards and a book in French (“Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Jules Verne). It was so empty. I think there were only four people inside. Two employees, I and another customer.

A Jules Verne’s book and a postcard

Do you remember that conversation about a post-apocalyptic world with people living in the forests and no more buses, trains, and flights that I had before going to the Carpathian mountains? Since I came back from there a lot of things happened and the world started to look way more similar to that scenario. People are scared to catch buses and trains for not getting infected. More and more flights are getting deleted. What about the people in the forest? In Italy it’s easier to find someone there than in the street right now. Due to the lockdown (meanwhile extended from Lombardy to all the country), people aren’t allowed to move without a valid reason (like going to work or buying food) and they can have walks (alone or with their dogs) only close to their houses. So who lives close to a wood often go there. For getting some fresh air, something different from the one from the walls…

My feelings have changed over the past few days. When I read about the lockdown in Italy my biggest fear was being stuck there for a long time if I would come back. In 2018 I returned there after 8 months in Bulgaria as a volunteer in a radio, wishing to have a more enjoyable life even there. Making more friends. Finding a job that didn’t make you be on the hamster wheel. Gaining more self-confidence. But everything went wrong. Like when a writer, after talking for some months, wanted to hire me for organising a crowdfunding campaign. Offering me a deposit not enough to pay an electricity bill (who knows if I would have the rest of the money at the end). Or like when I worked as a fundraiser for Greenpeace for a week. Telling me that I should have stopped working with them. In the middle of the street after working there all day long. With the strong feeling that they were using the same techniques applied to persuade people to support them financially. Disgusting.

Now I’m very scared about the situation there. To be honest I don’t know if I’m more worried about the infections or the surreal situation caused by the infection and how people are suffering from it. The latter is more difficult to document than the number of infected people, military trucks transporting Italian coffins or someone that sings from the balcony. There is a lot of fear and frustration among those who live there. Someone is scared to just go out from his door for the fear to get infected or receiving a fine. Someone freaks out all the time that he sees an ambulance. People can go inside the supermarket one at a time, waiting in line and buying food products in a hurry, for not feeling sorry for who is after your turn. No one knows when and if the situation will get back to normal.

Countryside landscape in Northern Italy

Someone from my family is starting to put pressure on my parents for making coming back home as soon as possible. But I feel safer in Transylvania at the moment. Even if the storm is coming even here. The day after coming back from the Carpathians mountains was my last day in the schools with the kids in the villages. Usually, I had the task to find or create activities for 3 groups (Kindergarten, Primary School and Gimnaziu) in the morning and to support my colleagues during the hours in the afternoon, taking pictures and helping kids to draw, to make handcrafts and so on. That day we made origami flowers, with different difficulty levels. But I totally forgot a step, so one of the kids in Primary School tried to help me…

During the trip from Brasov to Haghig (the common in which there were the two villages in which we worked), my colleagues were joking all the time about my “pretty cool” week with Arabella, coming back from there with a lazy beard and telling me tea that I was drinking hot tea all the time. They weren’t so wrong! But that tranquillity wouldn’t last so long. During the hour with Gimnaziu, a colleague called to say that schools in Romania could have been closed soon because of sanitary purposes. That evening it was confirmed: the government closed the schools from the following Wednesday until March 22th, then extended until April 21 (after the Easter break).

The organisation offered me to host me here longer, until that the situation in Italy (and unfortunately even in other countries) will not improve. My future plans are postponed until a later date. Every day something may happen. As a local person suggested to me, maybe I should use this time to plan and dream. Sometimes dreams are the best solution to nightmares…

Watching a crowdy city center in Brasov with a painter. Picture taken a long time ago

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