How Piercing My Nose Changed Me

How piercing my nose changed me. From scaredy-cat to kind of brave.
It’s cloudy and rainy when we walk into the piercing shop in Brasov, Romania. One of those bone-chilling days where the right idea is to stay inside and do nothing. But, with a new city outside my hostel door, sitting inside is the last thing I want to do. So, with a new friend at my side, the two of us venture out. And, end up in this little piercing shop.

“I’ve always wanted to get my nose pierced,” I announce to my friend as we stare at the selections.

“Well, you should do it,” he says.

I let the thought cross my mind, and quickly let it leave.

Truth: I’m a chicken

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Romanian sunsets, Hungarian mornings and Polish afternoons

I stood outside at 22h 40 (I know, very European of me), backpack strapped tight to me, messenger bag slung across my front and purse on my arm.

Whew.

It was time to depart Cluj and head to Krakow. Via bus. Back to Budapest.

When Arpad first told me I had to take a bus to Budapest in order to get to Krakow, I immediately tried for other options.

“Why don’t you want to stop in Budapest?” he had asked.

Aside from backtracking, Budapest and I were still at odds. Only a little, but still. I would have rather trekked from Ukraine like I had originally planned.

But, bus to Budapest it was.

So, there I stood, in the dark outside of a hotel, looking for the bus that would whisk me back to Hungary and then on to Krakow via an Orange Ways bus at 6 a.m.

I was actually a bit bewildered.

I didn’t see a bus. Anywhere.

“Miss, miss,” called the cab driver who had dropped me at the lot. “Here, follow me.”

I picked up step behind him as he walked me away from where I was standing and towards a tiny cluster of people smoking outside of an overgrown white minivan.

“Here,” he said, gesturing for me to stop at the van.

Right. This isn’t a bus.

“Hi,” I said to a man standing at the van door, who seemed to be the driver. “Budapest?”

“Yes, yes,” he said, motioning me to follow him to the back of the van. “Luggage?”

I took off my backpack and placed it on the ground.

Where was it going to go? The van wasn’t like a bus that has the storage underneath.

Then, I saw it. The U-Haul-esque attachment to the van, hooked at the back. My luggage was going to go in there.

“Thanks,” I said, handing him my backpack and keeping my other two bags as pillows. I got in the van and grabbed a seat, trying to fathom the next five hours of driving to get back to Hungary.

Once we departed, I noticed there were only six or so people riding, so I took over two seats, trying to balance myself on the cushions that seemed a few inches too short, and trying to keep the arm of the  seat out of my back.

I slept on and off as we drove through the still of the Romanian night, waking up when I got too hot, when we stopped and at the border.

When we arrived in Hungary at 4:30 a.m., I was glad. Only seven or so more hours of driving until I could get to a bed and catch some real sleep.

The bus to Krakow from Budapest was nothing like the van ride.

Orange Ways is a machine. They pipe in movies. They have wifi (although it wasn’t working on my trip). They even have coffee and hot chocolate. And, they have packed busses. Packed.

I sat in the second to last row of the bus on the aisle, ready to pass out. I could feel the exhaustion seeping into my body, my head growing heavy, my eyes fighting to stay open.

And, that’s when three drunk-from-the-night-before Brits walked onto the bus, past my seat and sat behind me. Smelling like a bar and lots of liquor. Ready to party.

I heard beer cans crack open and ignored it.

I listened as they talked on and on about partying and then put my headphones on to drown them out.

Then, they decided they want to have a party on the bus. So, they opeedn up their laptop and put on some techno for everyone to listen to. At 6 in the morning.

Now, I’m a pretty chill person. There are very few times I will ever ask anyone to stop doing something. Those times are:

– Having sex in a dorm room. C’mon on. I don’t need to hear/see it.

– Talking loudly in a dorm room in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping. It takes two moments to go outside.

– Playing loud and crappy techno at 6 a.m. on a bus with a captive audience.

When I could hear the thwackthwackthwack above my music, it was time to turn around. Luckily, they were cool about it and turned it off.

About 30 minutes later, they were all passed out.

And, six hours later, I was walking through the streets of Krakow.

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“GLEE” in Cluj-Napoca

Ginny and I awoke the next morning and popped some headache medicine (one of the first times this trip I actually needed to take something). I don´t know how she managed, but a few minutes later, Ginny was out and about, heading to meetings.

After she met with a professor, we packed our belongings, left them in the room and headed out for our last day in the city.

Armed with her guidebook, we navigated Cluj, taking in everything we could in an afternoon — the churches, the Hungarian cemetery, gelato.

By the evening, we were both beat so we decided we needed to unwind. We weren’t feeling social, so instead we took my little computer into a kitchen at Retro and tried our luck to stream “GLEE.” (Helpful hint for those who want to watch American TV abroad, go to www.watch-series.com)

And, it worked.

“GLEE” was one of my favorite shows in America before I left to travel. Since I had begun my journey in March, I had not watched a bit of American television.

But, in that kitchen, watching Sue Sylvester bash Will Schuster’s curls, it took me back to such a happy spot … sitting on my butter yellow couch in Atlanta, cats curled up at my side, nice glass of red to sip on.

Ginny and I sat, heads planted on the kitchen table, watching the episode, trying to drown out the chatter coming from the reception room, and allowing ourselves to be taken back to America.

It felt nice to be transported from a hostel to a Ohio high school for 45 minutes.

But, when it was over, it felt even nicer to be in Romania.

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An American in Cluj

Ginny sat, blonde hair pulled back, on a bed in the adjacent room, examining her belongings.

“Hello,” I said, exercising my voice for the first time pretty much the entire day.

And, that was it. Ginny, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and I were instant friends. Originally from South Carolina, Ginny was in Transylvania doing research. She’s a historian studying at Oxford, so for the few days she was in Cluj, she spent some of her time meeting other historians and researching in the library.

The rest of the time, we spent together, exploring Cluj, eating and drinking.

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Next stop: Cluj-Napoca

The day following our little Romanian Road Trip, it was time to head out. Tommy and Benjamin had left the previous night, Chris was leaving at the crack of dawn for Istanbul (and an Anzac Day event), and I was boarding a train northeast to Cluj-Napoca for some more time in Romania.

The trip from Brasov to Romania was beautiful. The clouds hung low in the sky, gray against bright green rolling hills and the odd trees poking out of the ground, boasting the first blooms of spring.

And then, after six hours and some harassing by gypsy children, there it was in the distance, spreading up one of those rolling hills in red and yellow and all sorts of pretty, Cluj-Napoca.

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Steering wheel death grips and driving in Romania

Remember, 10 and 2, D. 10 and 2. And, go slowly. Very, very slowly.

Car packed with the three Aussies, I pulled out into Brasov’s traffic.

Oh. My. God. I hope we don’t die. I hope I don’t kill anyone. I hope I don’t hurt this car because I really, really cannot afford to lose the 400 Euro deposit.

My shoulders were tight and nearly touching my ears. My arms were locked straight out. And my hands kept tight on the steering wheel as nearly six weeks of not driving paralyzed me. That, and never having driven in another country.

How did I get roped into being the driver?

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Three Aussies and an American

I was laying in bed Saturday morning when I met Chris, a shaggy brown-haired, adorably cute Aussie.

I was exhausted — the night before Benjamin, Tommy and I headed out with Scott and Heidi (my friends from Budapest), along with a group of four who had rented a car for the night to get out of Bucharest. We enjoyed traditional Romania fair at Sergianna (delicious) and then headed back to Crew Bar, where we were treated to complimentary drinks and a game involving dice ensued.

Actually, it was a nasty little game that revolved around rolling one die and stating before the roll if a specific number was rolled, then something would be done.

For example, Benjamin said if he rolled a four, he would drink a double shot of whiskey. And Scott said the number he rolled would be the number of shots he would drink. And Ryan, a new member to our group, said if he rolled a two, he would buy a bottle of wine.

The die won those rounds and more, and after we left Crew Bar, we ended up in Kismet’s basement, playing cards and drinking more beer.

The next morning, well … suffice to say, we all felt like a million bucks.

After attempting to stay awake with Benjamin to watch “Beer Fest,” I slowly crawled back up Kismet’s spiral staircase to Ageeth’s Room to my bed.

And, that’s where Chris comes in, my main partner in crime (and breakfast-maker and perhaps travel buddy to Morocco) in Brasov.

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