The other side

Trip Start Jul 04, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of Romania  , Bucharest,
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Every day I am reminded how blessed I am. Usually it's by the beauty of my physical surroundings, whether it be a waterfall, a sunrise or the coolness of the air in the morning. Sometimes the reminder comes from an act of kindness from a fellow rider or exposure to knowledge or experience I otherwise would not have. Sometimes it's from a unique culinary or cultural opportunity. Sometimes it's from what my body manages to accomplish and the good health with which God has graced me.
And sometimes my gratitude comes from the stark realization that people all over the world are living in abject poverty yet find a reason to get up in the morning and smile. Today was one of those days.
After a morning coffee stop at a small market on the outskirts of a small Gypsy village, we rode through the only street in town. It was paved, but covered in horse dung and lined with small mud homes that were literally crumbling. Most of the roofs were falling in, many with large exposed areas. Stray dogs and children were everywhere and as we rode through the town, all the children chased us, holding out their hands for a high-five and yelling out greetings. One young boy was carrying an unopened bottle of beer as if it were a Buzz Lightyear doll. Adults also waved, smiling and calling out from their horse-drawn carts, home fronts and bicycles. As we left town, our route turned into a dirt road bordered by piles of rubbish and rutted w/ cart tracks. My heart sank with a sense of sadness and guilt yet my mind kept replaying the smiles on the faces of everyone in town.
Funny how we take pictures of all the beautiful things we see along the way but somehow ignore the ugly side of things. I didn't want to violate these people by taking pictures without asking but I also didn't want to stop to ask - I'd been warned that they can be very aggressive beggars and didn't want to get myself or my fellow riders into a contentious situation.
I've been trying all week for a way to describe Romania and it's very difficult. I am deeply intrigued with it but can't really explain why. It is, for the most part, a very backward country with even the affluent parts holding on to architecture and interior design left over from the Communist era. People EVERYWHERE smoke, inside and outside. But my perception is that most Romanians are CONTENT, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Some use archaic farming tools to tend to crops, some ride rickety bicycles to the factories, and some drive Audis fast through the villages to God-knows-where. But they are all generally pleasant, warm and very polite and helpful. It appears this country has a quality of life that is not contingent on standard of living.

And so we have arrived in Bucharest - the "Paris of the East" I'm told. There is laundry to be done and showers to be had - I suspect we'll do our exploring tomorrow. I'm hoping to go for a run but so far I haven't seen any suitable running paths.
And so tomorrow we "rest"...and I'll report back if I find anything interesting ;-)
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lauri Young on

Beautiful post, Lori! In many ways your observations and feelings about Romania reflect our experience in Borneo. We have so much to be grateful for and it never hurts to be reminded, as you said, that "things" do not determine quality of life. Ride safely ...I'll be hoping for a decrease in traffic and smoother roads!

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