Friday, January 29, 2010

A different atmosphere

Within some steps, I've gone from having a working vocabulary of dozens on top of a passive vocabulary of maybe 100 words to now being able to comprehend thousands. It's like taking earplugs out and being able to hear again. While I still must indulge on my patient and helpful interlocutors for basic conversational requirements like conjugating my verbs appropriately and declining the nouns and adjectives to the proper gender, number, and contextural position, Romanian, being not only a Romance language but also in Roman letters, is instantly comfortable. Ahhhhh.

Subtleties make houses here look more 'European'. Shops, road signs, barns, too. Such variety in the shops. There are immediate signs of functioning infrastructure. In particular, the absence of outhouses. Ironically, though, I've seen many pony carts being used to haul freshly cut marsh reeds across the frozen streams and fields. A throwback to the last centuries maybe, but one that works. The kilometer markers on the snow-packed secondary roads, with the names and distances to the next villages inscribed from both directions, look like they could be in Italy or France. Reflective of the former Roman presence? I never saw them in Ukraine. I get it now. To the ancient Greeks and subsequently Romans, getting to the Danube was one thing, but crossing the vast delta to the nearly endless marshy steppes was something else. Why bother, I can imagine them questioning. As far as I know, they weren't hurting for real estate. This is one enormous delta. It would need significant engineering works to be drained so a road could be built or the land worked. I can see why they never put forth the significant effort required to build some sort of network of bridges to cross it. All roads may have led to Rome, but none of them started on the far side of the Danube.

For me now, the snow remains, both the charming soft falling kind and the blanket accumulated on the hilly ground. It prevents me from really seeing the landscape well, much less doing any kind of painting to record it. It's gotten a little warmer, though, closer to the freezing point and I enjoy more freedom from peeling off a few layers. In addition to little village shops, there are little cafe/bars, similar to what can be seen in similar size villages in Spain and Italy. I've popped into a few for chai (fruity herbal infusions; no black tea here) and to warm up before a potbelly stove. Conversations start easily. I use an amalgam of Spanish, Italian, and French and am understood pretty readily. Upon learning I'm from America, the old men are all quick to demonstrate their English by saying 'I love you.' It seems to be the only English they know. Endearing in its way, actually.

Visa requirements and interest, I suppose, keep the Romanians from visiting Ukraine and Ukrainians from visiting Romania. I haven't been here very long, but I've seen many cars and trucks with French, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Polish license plates; in Ukraine, I only saw Ukrainian plates. I sense a different atmosphere because of it.

1 comment:

Compostelle 2008 said...

It is interesting how different parts of the former Eastern Europe have adapted to change. Has alphabet anything to do with it?

Michèle, Ottawa (Canada)