It was the end of school and excitement lingered as the sun cast itsrays on everything, leaving a glow. My highly anticipated summer had finally arrived. Everythingwent according to plan until my parents told me they were making a three-week trip to Romania tovisit friends and relatives. Whether I liked it or not, I had to go and nothing I could do wouldchange their minds.
The day we left was a living nightmare. I awoke, made a few phone callsand walked out the door without saying a word to my parents. I had a window seat for the flight butI pulled out my Ipod and turned my back to the aisle. After the meal, I slept and awoke to thecaptain’s announcement that we would arrive shortly in Bucharest. I tried to remain calmduring the turbulence and finally, we were on Romanian ground.
What happened next amused mea lot. Swarms of people grabbed their luggage and pushed through the crowd to reunite with familyand friends. To my surprise, there were a lot of people waiting for us. Everyone I knew and hadever known was there: grandparents, great-uncles, second, third and even fourth cousins. I’msure you can imagine the craziness of that moment since they hadn’t seen me in five years andhad never met my four-year-old sister. An hour later, everyone was still huddled in the same spot.I don’t speak much Romanian so you can imagine the trouble I had raking up the words tosuggest, “Let’s head home and we can talk more there.”
To my surprise,lots of details about Romania had escaped my memory. For example, cars, apartments and stores didnot have air conditioning. Only rich homeowners had this luxury. Luckily, our house was airconditioned and we survived the 95 degree heat. I had also forgotten about the traffic. People acted asif getting to their destinations was a race. Cars squeezed into tight spots and honked if anyone oranything slowed them down.
My next few weeks were dedicated to visiting the historicsites of Romania, the countryside and, of course, the beach. All my relatives eagerly lookedforward to showing me around so that I could see for myself the changes the government had made.They bragged about the imports Romania had gotten including expensive name-brand cars that the“youngsters” drove.
Words cannot express how this vacation made me feel. It onlytook one glance from a former family friend to make my heart break. Their eyes fixed solidly on mebut their gaze traveled to a time when I enjoyed prancing around in my diaper dreaming of becominga dancer. Other things affected my attitude as well, like the way they anticipated showing me everypart of their lives. They had so much pride in their culture and way of life, even if what they hadcouldn’t compare to life in America. It hit me how selfish I had become. I no longerappreciated the little things that made life so wonderful. After recollecting my thoughts, I feltlike a new person, one who stops to appreciate the true beauty of something and notice the details.My perspective on everything has changed.
When it came time to say good-bye, I found ithard to let go. These people I had spent the last three weeks with had made me a better person andI didn’t know how to begin thanking them.
So my summer turned out differently thanexpected, but the trip to Romania become the perfect summer I had wanted all along. Iwouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.