Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The European Dream

I'm long overdue in telling you all about how my two weeks in language school went. It was really good, actually. I learned a few more verb tenses which have helped me convey more concepts in Romanian and I feel more comfortable with the language. I'm also understanding more. There are now more words I can recognize, so I at least have a chance to respond now. We'll have to see how much more time it will take before I get close to fluent. That's not anytime soon, though.

We had class every day for two weeks, with the weekend off in between. Lessons occurred from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, and there were activities in the afternoon, like tours, films and "immersion courses," which were a time for practicing Romanian in conversation. If you don't already know, I did this same course last year, so I repeated the city tour and the museum tour, but a whole year had gone by, so it was still worth it. I felt more comfortable with getting around, which was good seeing as I was on my own this year.

Sibiu is one of the most beautiful places I have been in Romania. Some people complain that it is too "tourist-y." One of our classmates was trying to get our teacher to tell us where all the hidden clubs were located (she wouldn't divulge her secrets). But even though it lacks a night life, Sibiu still takes my breath away. And the high density of tourism means there are plenty of gelato stalls and places to buy gogosi (donuts).

I have a lot of memories from last year attached to places in Sibiu and I've attached a few more, this year. I got to know several of my classmates and had a great time eating with them and talking about our occupations, books, and, of course, Europe.

It might be possible to say that I now know twice as much about Europe today than I had known before coming to Sibiu. I got to be a part of conversations about immigration, education, language, politics, and everything in between. My fellow classmates included Germans, a Polish guy, a French guy, some folks from the U.K., and there were others not in my particular class that I got to talk to, as well, who were from other parts of Europe. It turns out that I stopped in three hometowns of three different people from classes, including Mannheim/Heidelberg, Cologne and Strasbourg, as I went on my vacation last month. There aren't many things as remarkable as being able to connect with someone in such a way.

The thing is, though, traveling is common in Europe. Super common. It's what people do. Europeans get more vacation than Americans (I heard that an acquaintance of mine gets...28 days of vacation? I think?) and every country is so close together that traveling is  no big deal, and kind of necessary to really have an enjoyable vacation if you're in any way adventurous. It's a normal thing to travel to another country, even one where you can't speak the language, and really do your best to communicate and live life the way the locals do.

Everyone has an opinion about the countries bordering their own but mostly the attitude is one of shared understanding. The world wars are still very much remembered and history lives all around. I wish Americans had this same sense of shared space, that the land we occupy does not belong just to us here and now but to everyone who set foot and lived or worked or died on it. America could benefit from sharing experiences and culture, by considering a different kind of dream for once. I certainly have been inspired by this new thing, the European dream. It's a good thing I'm here to stay.

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