“Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark.”
~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway
The sun had only just come up when I arrived in Romania. During my time working in Belgium, I had had the pleasure to make friends with a thirty-year-old woman from Romania. (We will call her Alina for the purpose of this story.) She had invited me into her country and home to stay with her and although I never fully understood at the time whether it was out of politeness or genuine friendliness, she seemed just as excited as I to be reunited again after almost one year.
Although I was fatigued from the long flight, I found myself alert and excited. After all, I had never been to Romania before, and although I was technically homeless and jobless, as far as I was concerned I was simply on a vacation in Romania until the time a job could be found—wherever it may be.
The Romanian people fascinated me. Women were wearing old-timey clothes, long skirts, scarves on their head and shoes like I could only imagine having been worn by Amish people in the States. The men too had a different look to them, though having just come from Egypt, to me it was much more Westernized. I found my seat on the bus and simply listened to the Romanian language being tossed back and forth. It was a pleasant language. At this particular point in my life I was so accustomed to speaking in Arabic that I found myself even thinking in Egyptian. A few of the words in Romanian sounded very similar to me with my second-language and I wondered if it had something to do with the Turkish influence on the country many hundreds of years ago.
A smile crossed my lips as I gazed out the window at the beautiful green landscape and countryside—something that I had not seen during my stay in Egypt. Despite the ache in my chest and the lack of sleep and utter exhaustion at all the unknown possibilities for my life (would I find a job, where would I go, how long will I stay in Romania, what will happen to all my friends in Egypt?) I felt a calm wash over me. Something told me that despite all the doors that had recently been slammed on my face, there were countless new doors that had been opened. I knew that there was a reason I had come to Romania. I could feel it in my bones. I was meant to be here.
Though what that reason was…I had yet to discover.
Alina was waiting for me when my bus arrived. After I had left the job in Belgium, Alina work there for a total of six months before returning home to Romania. After her return she found herself unable to find work. Although she had survived working for an Olympic rider for six months, it seemed no equestrian stables in Romania was ready to hire her due to her lack of equestrian experience. Until on my second day in the country when she got a phone call from one of the stables.
“A week ago,” she explained to me, “I had a job interview at a stables not too far from here in a nearby village. The owner of the stables had turned me down at the time and told me that he wouldn’t hire me, but today he called me again because apparently, he is having an overload of customers this weekend and he wants me to come and help. I told him that I’m having a friend from America with me who is a horse trainer that worked with me in Belgium and so as soon as I mentioned this he told me to bring you along with me. We will stay there the whole weekend, if you don’t mind so he is having a room for us both and we will be eating our meals there with him and the customers.” She flashed me a pleading look before adding, “I know you’re on vacation and you wanted to go exploring tomorrow but I’ve been wanting to work for him for a very long time and I’m hoping that if I go there and prove myself over the weekend that he will hire me.”
I smiled a big smile, “of course I don’t mind! I’m happy to come and eat and sleep and ride some horses around for free while you do all the work.” I winked playfully.
I arrived at the stables in a very good mood. Alina had gone ahead earlier that morning while I had enjoyed the day with her elder brother and his girlfriend in the nearby town of Sighisoara. It was such a beautiful place. The very village was built inside a Citadel and the castle walls, though thousands of years old, still looked majestic. The cobblestone streets and the picturesque cafes and restaurants had my heart aflutter. It was almost as if you could breathe the history in the air and I savored every minute of it. I had also had my very first encounter with Dracula himself as the very café we ate our lunch was none other than Vladimir Dracul’s birthplace and childhood home.
I waved goodbye to Alina’s brother and girlfriend as they drove away, leaving me and my suitcase alone in the countryside. I looked up at the large guesthouse where all the customers slept and ate their meals. I take one final deep breath as I walk inside to find the owner of the stables and Alina.
The inside of the guesthouse is even more charming than it was from the outside. I smiled softly as I looked outside the large glass windows from floor to ceiling overlooking the rolling hills and horses in the fields. The large wooden table takes up the entire dining room and I struggle to count how many people can be seated at once.
“Krystal?” A man catches my eyes and flashes me a peculiar look. I nod my head yes as I look him up and down.
“Are you Ionut?” I ventured a guess, unsure of how to properly pronounce the name belonging to the Owner of the stables.
“Yup that’s me!” He shook my hand. “You’re late,” he said.
“I’m late?” I crinkled my nose and brow as I thought to myself, but I’m on vacation!
“That’s right, your late. Go put your bag in the room and get out to the barn to help the customers unsaddle their horses. We are winding up for the day and dinner will be inside here in an hour.” He motioned for me to follow him as he led me outside to my room. Alina and I were to be sharing a room similar to the one’s the customers were given. I wasted no time and simply placed by bags on the empty bed before wandering outside in search of the “customers.”
That night at the dinner table, I felt myself being interviewed by Ionut. “Krystaldo!” Ionut blurted, “You’re hired.”
Accidentally getting hired to work in Romania after being in the country for only two days was a welcome surprise for me! And I was forever thankful for my time there. I was amazed by Romania. As a child growing up in California, I could remember seeing fences around every piece of land. Even if there were no animals inside and it was nothing but open spaces and rolling hills and empty fields, for some reason it was always surrounded with harsh looking barb wire fences. I used to wonder as a kid what it would be like to live in a place with absolutely no fences. Just open space and freedom.
I found my childhood dream turn into a reality in Romania. We rode the horses absolutely anywhere and everywhere we pleased. Through villages, through forests, on the road, hell I can recall riding the horses to the pub once to allow my customers the chance to buy a round of drinks before heading back to the stables. What amazed me even more was the simple fact that there were no fences anywhere.
Everywhere was unlimited space and openness. I was even surprised to discover that the villagers whom owned livestock such as pigs or cows or horses didn’t fence them in either. Sometimes the horses would be tied to a stake buried deep in the ground, allowing them to walk within the parameter to eat the grass. More often than not I saw the animals running wild and loose, only to wander back inside the village in the evening where their meal awaited them. Even the shepherds were herding the sheep by using dogs, something I had only seen in movies.
I worked 6 months in Romania for two different riding stables. This job was my first one in this fabulous country and I am forever grateful for having accidentally been "Voluntold" into the position!