Years ago, when I was beginning my adventure to Romania, I never knew what it was like over there. Much of my research I did while I was in Malaysia. Looking at the wild frontier, the old building structures caught my eyes and heart and then it also hit me that the country suffered the downfall of ‘communism’ and it was towards the road to recovery. One thing only was running in my mind that my wife comes from that country. I was curious about the people, food and culture and I know that I will not be able to find Romanian food here in Malaysia nor even find a trace of Romania here in Malaysia, probably they were not easy to identify, Romanian communities quite non-existent. After I spend a long time in Romania, I made it like my second home though initially when I arrived there life was different. It was like I went through a time machine and came to another land that is way beyond what I saw over the Internet. With images that caught me it was hard for me to blend in that society when I was like the first stranger and in this city called Oradea which lies on the West part of Romania closer to the Hungary border people at that time don’t take to foreigners too lightly and to walk with a Romanian girl was like robbing of their heritage ‘why does a colored guy takes our girl’?
What ran in their minds, people were staring at me and giving me the eye that made me very uncomfortable, but I did not care though at times they do get me on my nerves. I had made a choice to stay there because of my wife and also to learn about the Romanian history and culture in any great depth. I found myself wanting to find out more about my wife’s culture, looking for her roots and her identity as a Romanian. The story of the immigrant is always deeply emotional and melancholic. I left my country where I was born living all what was left of me in Malaysia, for different reasons and chose to live among Romanians. But no matter where we go, and no matter for how long we stay away from our home country we carry our identity with us, we become very fond of small objects and memories that remind us of home. For each of us there is always only one home. It is where our heart is, and not necessarily where we live. But to me, Romania is a mixture of feelings – good and bad, memories of a world I have found nowhere else, it’s the little diamonds of Romania that makes me treasure it. My wife is from Maramures and how happy she was coming from that little town that holds a lot of good memories. When we were there together, she showed me her home, the school she studied, where she did all her growing to teenage hood. I was going through a kaleidoscope of images she painted to me when we were communicating with each other before my trip to Romania. I recollect my childhood days when I used to live in a beautiful country side called Malacca where my brother was born. Chances like this was given to me because my dad works with the police force and whenever my dad gets posted from town to town it was our opportunity to taste the towns we lived in. So when I was growing a short while in Malacca, which is situated in the south of Malaysia, after school I used to run to an open field and sit under palm trees and watch the sheep, cows, goats, gazing in a open field and farmers plough their rice fields. Just watching nature and its wonders, feeling the warm sun on your skin is such a feeling as the day slips through your fingers. Time has so much to offer when you enjoy these beautiful moments. This was missing home and I am sure my wife has her golden moments in her home town running around, mingling with friends, and going to the market in Maramures was a nice sight I saw and the other was the butcher house just next to the market great walls. The monasteries and antique buildings have so much history to it. Walking up the hill in the mid summer and watching the mountain tops and endless hills I feel that I could communicate with GOD, as he is so close by. Walking about through small villages and towns I used to see shepherds sell cheese, and sweet honey from the market place brought in by villagers. I am pretty sure that my wife has her collection of traditional objects that belong to the national customs, painted glass, handmade traditional blouses and skirts, ceramics. I carry memories with me and they fill my Malaysian small universe in Romania. Romania has amazing historical small towns and cities that carry the international culture and customs acquired over past centuries from different foreign occupations. It is hard to remain a stranger once you get to Romania as everyone is so friendly and willing to feed you and to introduce you to the people and customs of the area where you find warmth and caring. Far away from the winding roads there are small villages, traditional ones. Maramures is a region that is very rich in tradition where old people carry on the region’s pride and customs. When they celebrate they wear national costume. In winter they rejoice in the traditional songs. One can see small children wrapped in colored clothes, sheepskins, as is the custom, young girls with red cheeks who are very fond of the colorful scarves that cover their heads. The people of Maramures are warm and friendly. I remember as me and my wife were walking through the market and through lanes breathtaking scenes and greenery beautiful mountain tops and antique buildings. It was when I approached a beautiful painting gallery and saw beautiful crafted paintings that hung on walls. There was this lady sitting on a chair and let her fingers run through cloth skins mastering her craft when I greeted her and asked her to explain me about the paintings. Instantly we became friends and she invited us for an evening barbeque they planned. I took up the offer and we were warmly greeted by her husband who is a painter and two lovely teenage children a son and a daughter and later part of the day to my surprise they told me check out from the place we were renting and to move in with them. I felt so warm and very welcome from a very beautiful family who in the end became my family. One morning they took us to Morgosa, a beautiful mountain retreat where there is a huge open lake and a beautiful ski place, where you can lose yourself in the great wonders of pure nature. It was breathless and I relived my wife’s growing years in her hometown and how she explained to me in detail how she used to go into those cable with her winter clothes and skiing equipment and glide down the snowy tops. What a lovely feeling though I have not skied in my life! I can imagine the feeling my wife went through. It was a memorable moment we spent with this wonderful family, something I will treasure with all my heart. Romania will still hold a memory in my heart and someday I hope that I will be able to make a home in this wonderful land.
By Joshua Raj
Kuala Lampur, Malaysia