Monday, September 30, 2013
Two Weeks in Zăneşti
I came to Romania in part to search for family roots, and, here in Zăneşti, I gained a new family.
I realized this after about a week, as I was bicycling behind my host family's ten-year-old girl, on our way to the village park to play soccer with the local children. This family took care of me like I'd been born into it.
Language-wise, it was a full immersion experience. Needless to say, I learned to comprehend a LOT of Romanian very quickly. During one of my first nights, I said "ma numesc" (my name is) instead of "mulțumesc" (thank you) upon receiving a mug of Turkish-like coffee--we all had a good laugh. Learning a new language in an environment where said language is the only one spoken can make one feel like a child again; I'm sure that I sounded like a four-year-old for most of my stay. Romanian is a beautiful, yet complicated language--close to Latin, flexible word order, complex and unpredictable conjugations and tenses (especially for native speakers of English), its having been influenced by Greek, Hungarian, Turkish, German, French, and Italian.
While playing soccer with the village children, I had this realization that "playing ball" is like speaking a universal language. The cooperation, the gestures, the implicit understanding, the implicit "togetherness" of a newly formed team like an instant friendship of understanding. For these two weeks, I felt as if I were reliving a second childhood. The children regarded me as a playmate, and they didn't care whether or not I could understand or speak their language well. One day, a little boy wiped out on the asphalt. As he cupped his scraped elbow and mouthed a silent sensation of pain, four little girls gathered around him. Then, one by one, they pointed out their own scars on their hands, arms, legs. This language, much like the one of playing ball, comforted him, and it was such a special thing to witness.