It’s evening and I’m in the kitchen, in front of the laptop. between a plate with cheese left overs and a glass of water with a basil leaf floating in it, listening for the first time to a band called “Mazzy Star” that youtube recommended for me. I’m closing my eyes, but the light of the screen flickers through my eyelids. I’m sitting criss cross on the chair, my shoes are drying up on the window sill. The pink geranium on the table shakes when I type. So does the water in my glass. The wind blows shyly through the thin white curtain, stained with polen. The air is cool but not cool enough to close the window. It also lets the cheese smell out.
Last Friday on the train I got chatting to a guy who was coming back from a sanatorium near the Black Sea. He used to work on a construction site until a metal wire pierced his shoulder and his arm was paralysed. After a couple of weeks of therapy he could move his arm and fingers and even helped me take my luggage off the rack.
He was saying how he didn’t finish his high school studies and now, in his 30s, he was already retired and didn’t know what to do. “Why not finish highschool?”, I asked. He needed two more years to get his diploma. “Oh, I’m too old for that. My time has passed”, the reply came and I felt my heart sinking. I started protesting that he’s not too old, that now he finally has the necessary time for studying and maybe opportunities will arise from it. He could finish highschool, take computer classes, learn foreign languages.
Sometimes I’m asking myself if it’s not too late.
I read this once:
“Do you know how old I’ll be when I’ll know how to play the piano?
The same age you will be if you don’t!”
Monte and Sharon, my friends in Idaho, are an inspiration when it comes to this. I met them 4 years ago in Bucharest, a sweet couple with grey hair, big smiles and wise stories. We had a chat that evening and ever since, we’ve told our lives through letters, photos and emails. I became very fond of them and read their stories to my friends. They told me about their family, their garden, Tibet, Ukraine (where she has roots) and Dobrogea (where he has roots). I told them about my family, WW2, my breakup. We meet again in Ukraine, I went over the ocean to visit them, they came visiting to my little village in Romania, and stayed at the same table with my parents. I was their interpreter, translating back and forth jokes, family history, advice.
Here’s is an example of Monte’s wit, from an email he sent about visiting Bucharest:
“When we were in Bucuresti we wanted to take the bus to Constanta so we asked the hotel desk clerk how to find the bus station. She said to go to the end of the hotel building, turn right one block, turn left one block, turn right one block, turn left one block. Excellent directions! On the way we walked by a farmers market and stopped to look around. Sharon wanted to buy some grapes, in fact, she was single-mindedly intent on buying grapes. As she picked some up to look at them the owner began telling her not to handle the grapes. She didn’t pay him any attention since her mission was to inspect them. He began shouting, and assuming we were foreigners, used an English word or two. Sharon was still inspecting the grapes. I put my hand on her arm and told her the guy was upset and that she should put down the grapes, which she did. The guy grabbed them, put them in a little plastic bag, tied it up, and told us how much they were. We paid and went over to the little shops along the wall where a man gave us some free cookies. Oh, we did take the bus. Nice ride.”
But why am I saying all this about them? Because they are some of the coolest travellers I know. After they retired, they ventured to Eastern Europe, while many Western Europeans are scared to come here. They travel light and make their own itinerary. They trust people. They are fun. And “it’s too late for me” doesn’t work for them.
Photo: Tibetan flags in Monte and Sharon’s back garden