Buses in Eastern Europe lurch along two-land highways like hefty giants; their bodies heave forward, and as their torso balances precariously, only then does the next foot fall.
Its probably 90 degrees on the bus going from Cluj to Chisinau in the glaring sun of the late afternoon. An hour has passed of our fourteen hour journey, and we have passed ornate Eastern Orthodox churches scattered throughout Transylvania with crowds bustling in and out. Men and women in black robes hurry past Roma women adorned in colorful sparking scarves and young boys bearing fit, dark chests. In one yard I saw a two-on-four match of futbol-volleyball. A rope was affixed 3 feet high across the midline of the field; the players volleyed the ball to teamates as our beast of a bus lumbered by.
In Cluj, a girl wearing a solid red skirt with her hair up, held by a red clip, was with her mother. They locked arms and smiled to one another as they floated across the jutted pavement of the bus station parking lot. The girl stowed her mother’s bags under the bus and they both boarded. Five minutes later, the girl got off the bus and left her mother. The mother must have been in town visiting, as Cluj is a university town.
A pretty girl sitting behind me has been drifting in and out of peaceful slumber. Each time the heat of the bus lulls her to sleep, a small smile crosses her face. Then, ten minutes later, she wakes just as easily, glances out the window, then closes her eyes and chooses to dream again.
An hour later, a grandmother and grandson get on the bus as we pull over to the side of the road. He puts her bag down on the seat next to the seat that she takes. “La revedere!” he says, taking a step back. She smiles and replies “la revedere,” taking his hand and standing slightly. He bends down, kisses her on the right cheek, takes a step back, kisses her on the left cheek, and heads back up the aisle. As he descends the staircase off the bus, she crosses herself, says something, and crosses herself again.
Romanian phrase of the day: Sunt aici (soont eye-eech)
Meaning: I am here.
It’s a very simple phrase. But it can also be the most comforting two words in the world. If you have a friend in distress, go to them. Give them a huge hug. And say softly, “Sunt aici.”
I can’t believe I’m here.