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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Vampires, Gymnasts and Other Domestic Animals

The problem is I can't write about my country (Romania) or my city (Oradea, in northwestern Transylvania, right at the border with Hungary) without a feeling of embarrassment. I have to plow my way mentally through questions about Vlad Tepes, aka Dracula, and Nadia Comaneci, the (need I say) exceptional gymnast. I've been asked these questions so many times that I've internalized them and started to think of myself as a former inhabitant of country with two types of citizens, vampires and gymnasts.

Well, a vampire I'm not. I once joked with a classmate in my Intro to College Writing class back in community college, that we Romanians drink goblets of blood on full moon nights. My classmate gave me a look of pure horror. I laugh at this now, but the truth is that back then I felt a bit nervous. I did eat blood though, cooked, inside a sausage. Well, blood isn't all that it's cracked up to be. It always gave me horrible indigestion. (I've since become a vegetarian and am attempting now to be a vegan.)

A gymnast I'm not either. I was one of those kids who tripped over her own feet and barely passed physical education class (a grade of five out of ten, consistently from grade to high school). I couldn't run, couldn't jump, couldn't finish up the simplest of gymnastics routines. (No, being good at gymnastics isn't in Romanian genes.) I was terrified to the point of nausea by the pommel horse. My parents signed me up for a gymnastics class at the sports club in our city. I went twice, wore a navy blue polyester suit that was too tight around my thighs, then was thrown out because I wouldn't walk on the balance beam, and anyway I was too fat. (I've since started practicing yoga and am now able to do a few pushups and stand on my head.)

So -- what's there left for me to be? Something that's recognizable as Romanian to people in these United States? Come to think of it, I don't even know what in me is Romanian, what goes in that basket and what in the American one. It's all jumbled together into this thing that's me, for better or worse one of a kind, who has a love-hate relationship with her accent (it's like the mark on Cain), with both her Romanian and American selves.

I like to think of my country as the books I read (latest obsession: novels about India under British rule), the music I listen to (Fiona Apple and Keane and The Canadian Brass Ensemble, lately), the food I eat (cabbage rolls, vegan version, as well as veggie burgers).

Awfully messy. But that's me.


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