It takes my mother-in-law, once again, to remind me of my “Coming to America” anniversary on October 15th (yesterday). It’s been 24 years already? Actually, right now I should ask: “I’ve lived in Romania?” It sure feels like a distant dream, the land of my birth, a dream mixed with happiness and sadness:)
To pretend that my new culture (America) doesn’t have its shortcomings would be infantile. However, I remember my very first experience in America, fresh off the airplane, which was a breathtaking experience in itself.
I had to use the restroom quite urgently, since I’ve held it in for a good fifteen hours now. I knew sooner or later I would have to learn the new and improved American system and due to its urgency on the matter, that time seemed to have arrived.
We took a boat to our new place on an island and through gestures – Chet and I could hardly speaking to each other, he barely knew Romanian and I was sure I didn’t know any English- I asked him where was the restroom. With his gentlemanly manners Chet showed me the door where a funny looking woman painting with very sharp edges about her announced my gender. I walked in absolutely flabbergasted by the clean surroundings, the bright lights- no one seemed to steal the public light bulbs in this country- and looked for either a hole in the ground with its own fly occupants or a toilet. I saw a row of sinks on one side and boxes on the other. With hesitation I walked toward the boxes, opened one and to my relief saw a toilet. I rushed in closed it and did my business. Once done I reached up to pull the string -the only system of toilet flushing I’ve known my entire life- shocked to find there was no string.
“Maybe its broken.” I looked up. No hole in the ceiling. “Great, now what?” I looked around for buttons or handles, anything, and became quite panicked. There were none that I could see. I dressed, and was about to make a run for it, when I heard the toilet behind me flush, by itself! “What?” Relieved, even if quite confused, I was ready to wash my hands, but there too I sat in a tremendous dilemma. No matter what I did no water came out. Again no buttons or sink handle were visible. Ladies came in and out, washing their hands just fine except for me. “Maybe my sink is broken.” I snuck to the sinks others just used but as soon as I got there the water flow stopped leaving me in utter confusion. I pulled and pushed on different spots of the sink. Nothing. Eventually, one simply began working and I ran to it washing quickly, glad the whole thing was over. Turning around ready to wipe my hands I got struck by another dilemma. “Shucks! No towels!” Nothing! Just some shiny things- later I found out they were automatic heat blowers- but no towels. I wiped on my clothes and found my way out of there eager to put the whole thing behind me and into a deeply worried new husband. How can I explain to him that American toilets were moody and sinks were playing tricks on me when one could not speak a word of English? I’ve since learned of the automatic toilet flushing system along with the automatic faucets of the public restrooms, but it took a few more trials and a whole lot of confusion to get the whole new system of things down:)
A sample of vegetarian Americo-Romanian dinner:) Zacusca (red pepper and eggplant dip) and salata de vinete (an eggplant and mayo dip) meets potatoes in the oven with steamed broccoli (never saw that vegetable in Romania) and snow peas (another vegetable I never saw in Romania) and backed squash:)