It’s Pronounced like ‚Yash,‘ actually, chapter 7: Craiova
I doubled over, the laughter coming out of me in woops and gasps. Tugba stared at me in bewilderment, and all I could do to explain myself was point at the source of my amusement and gasp out, “That duck—has—a pom-pom!”
Tugba blinked at me again, not totally comprehending, before she spotted the white duck with his puffy coiffeur paddling innocently across the lake. The pom-pom-like floof on top of his head wobbled back and forth, causing me to burst out laughing again and creep closer for a photo.
“Ooh, Mariah, be careful!” Tugba warned, eyeing the duck as it neared the bank, “don’t forget the last time with the ducks!”
The last time she was referring to was, of course, about a year ago, in a similar city garden in Mannheim, Germany, as a squad of ducks had harassed us for bread crumbs as we munched sandwiches near a lake on a park bench. I giggled even more at the memory and continued to take pictures. “Oh, don’t worry,” I told her with a grin, “those were German ducks. These are Romanian ducks, they’re much more mild-mannered!”
Tugba rolled her eyes, probably not totally believing me, but amused nonetheless. I would think back to the pom-pom duck and rewatch the video I had taken several times that day, showing anyone who cared and a few people who didn’t. The little moments in life are sometimes the most enjoyable, especially with a good friend close by.
Romania makes it three countries in which I had spent time with my dear friend Tugba. We had met in Germany, lived together at McDaniel College in Maryland, USA, and now were running around her temporary home of Craiova, Romania. My arrival in Craiova had been fraught with nearly-missed buses and trains, but the joy of finding her near her dorm building and the reward of a big hug had made up for the stress. Tugba is among that elite class of friends who I know would do anything for me and whom I can tell anything. We’ve been on many adventures together, and it was a pleasure to run around the small Romanian city with her.
The good luck of our meeting had been made possible by the University of Heidelberg, of course—Tugba was in Craiova for a month-long internship as a language assistant for the German students at the small university. She taught on the top floor in a cold building, but her students seemed engaged and she took as much care in the details of her lessons as she always had at McDaniel. I was proud to watch her guide her beginner-level students through new grammar early on a Monday morning, and I hope she knew how great of a job she was doing. It takes a strong person to let the fates hand them an opportunity—in Tugba’s case, going to the USA and then Romania, years apart but equally as suddenly—and being constantly optimistic and engaged. I admire her and am happy to have her as a friend, and not just because we have a future of traveling together ahead of us!
The evening in Craiova saw streets lit up by glittering Christmas decorations—stars and snowflakes hung from every lamppost and shop front. The main square, quiet during the day, was flooded with people under the spiderweb strings of lights now sparkling above it. Tugba’s friends, Radu and Madalina, two Romanians who were happy to practice their (very good) German and English, led us around the old town. Eventually, we four settled into a booth in a shick wood-accented bar, sharing stories in multiple languages over bottles of smooth dark beer and comforting mulled wine. Craiova, although smaller and quieter than Iasi, seemed to contain within itself the same potential for the pleasantly unexpected. Tugba and I returned to her apartment full of good spirits, and it would be with a distinct nostalgia that I would leave the next morning.
It’s rare to undertake a trip that starts out rocky but ends with a soft glow of happiness, and rarer still have a friend for whom you know that you would undertake any journey to meet up with again. Craiova ist schön, und Freundschaft noch schöner.
Above: Tugba and I with statues in the main pedestrian zone in Craiova, a giant sandwich, the front of a theatre near the University in Craiova, lovely sunrise/sunset shots from planes on my trip there and back, and some of the stunning interior of the art museum we spent a few hours gaping at one afternoon.