Raluca & Romania




Words and photos by Raluca Ostoia


I've returned to the first place I ever left. A place where I spent the first three and a half years of my life. Even though I don't remember it, I've returned to the first home I ever had. The language that used to only fill my house, currently fills the entire city. For now, that's the only familiarity.

When I think of returning, I always imagine leaving the unknown and coming back to somewhere familiar. Well I've just done the exact opposite and it's been equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

I was sure that visiting every summer would mean I was ready, but vacationing in Romania and then actually moving here are two entirely different things. There's the small things, like having to find new brands to love, or my heart jumping for a moment when I look at dashboard of the car I'm in and seeing a whopping 130 displayed before I realize those are kilometers and no it's actually nowhere near as fast as I previously thought. As well as the colorful plastic currency that won't bend and has definitely almost slipped out of my pocket on numerous occasions. My simple and universal "hellos" have also been replaced with more complex phrases that take into consideration whether or not I have to speak in third person if the person is older or a stranger. And I still haven't gotten used to the overly aggressive traffic or the occasional lack of customer service.

But then there's the bigger things, like the transition from a country with many cultures and religions (or lack of) to a country with only one culture, and one religion; interpreted in many different ways but still one religion. And despite growing up in a Romanian household, I'm constantly learning and relearning so many things that I was sure I already knew.

After spending a month exploring our new city, Timişoara, we then moved on to the many other parts of Romania. We've gone north to see the enormous caves hidden deep in the mountains, south to the Serbian border, and east where the Danube flows into the Black Sea. Over the years during our vacations here I'd only ever get to see my grandparents' town, but the last few months I've gotten to see and experience Romania's culture from all around the country. It's been an extremely interesting and deeply humbling experience especially after having gotten so used to the bubble that is LA.

My family and I left on June 11 of this year, four days short of a full fifteen years spent in LA and there's always one question people here ask us after finding out that we've returned, "Well where do you like it better?" I never know how to answer it because there isn't really an answer. There's no way to compare the two. I mean yes, I can tally up the small things about both cities but at the end of the day they're so unequivocally different that it's impossible. There isn't a place I like better over another; Los Angeles holds fifteen years of my past and Timişoara now holds my foreseeable future.

It's been three months however and with school about to start, I'm glad to say that I'm slowly getting the hang of things. I've returned to the family and childhood friends that I've continually left behind all these years but in doing so I've also had to leave everyone I had, when I decided to return.

Raluca Ostoia