Friday, May 7, 2010

Romania: Revelations and Regrets

I never thought I would go to Romania, but a dear friend of mine lives there across the ocean I went. Once I got there, I discovered that Romania is a beautiful country.

There are beautiful medieval cities, like Sibiu, where my friend livesan enchanting city of winding streets and mysterious passageways that would be filled with tourists if found anywhere else in Europe.

There are beautiful mountains, like those near Sinaia, that make you afraid to close your eyes as you pass them on the trainbecause you don't want to miss a single view.

There are beautiful people, like the family we dined with while visiting a small village, that take so much pride in the food they cook.

And there are beautiful traditions, like making delicious homemade wines and working the land with horse and plow, that show a true connection to the Earth.

But as I explored the country by train and bus, I also found that there is another side of Romania.

The garbage.

In some parts of the country, it seemed to be everywhere—on the streets, in the rivers, and in the farm fields—littered there by people who didn't care or, perhaps, by those who don't have garbage pick-up, something I often take for granted.

Much of that garbage was plastic. Bags flying in the wind. Wrappers floating in water. Bottles left carelessly behind. It was painful to see.

Yet ironically, while I was in Romania, I used a fair amount of plastic.

I couldn't drink the water in some places, so I bought bottled water for the first time in over two (or is it three?) years.

When I got trapped in Bucharest for an extra four days (thank Eyjafjallajökull)
, I bought things packaged in plastic at the grocery store, partly because I didn't know how to be plastic-free in a different country and partly because I really wanted to continue exploring the food in this new land.

And I also bought a few presents made of plastic. I got my friend a silverware organizer as a thank you present since she hadn't had the time to go out and buy one yet. And I splurged on a new watch for myself, which may have a faux leather band. But it might be real leather. I'm not sure.

What I am sure about is that I
feel especially guilty about purchasing things made of plastic in a country riddled with a trash disposal problem.

What I'm also sure about is that I want to renew my commitment to a (mostly) plastic-free lifestyle.

So "thank you", Romania, for helping me remember, through both you beauty and your problems, that the world is an amazing place...and that I want to do everything I can to protect it.

Bucegi mountains photo courtesy of ricsen
Horse and plow photo courtesy of wikicommons


@nickscarpino said...

Thank goodness wooden stakes are, well... wooden. Stay away, Dracula!

Karen said...

Isn't Romania beautiful? Wow your pics brought it back - hubby and I took the Eurorail through eastern Europe a few years back, and Romania was our favorite place. Sighisoara especially will always have a place in our hearts :) Glad you had a great trip!

John said...

Recently returned to England after three months in Romania, often looking with friends at plastic and other garbage everywhere. My wife is Romanian.

People are lazy and irresponsible about their waste products. It is somebody else's problem...

The lack of a sense of collective responsability is probably the result of decades when somebody else made the decisions about life and lifestyle. And also of the influx of cash from the European Community (EC) or from Romanians working overseas in the EC. Some people are enjoying spending like never before.

Claudia said...

I'm from Romania and we do have a trash disposal problem that obvious. Even if we wouldn't have such a problem thing would be the same. The people don't care. They don't care about garbage, laws or other people. I could say that 70% of our people are like that. Once the plastic bag/bottle is not in their hands anymore, it's no longer thair problem. One day we will drown in our own garbage.

rosebleed said...

I just had this discussion with my sister (actually it was more of a rant on my part). She was talking about how much trash there was on the beach and how much it infuriated her. I told her it was easy to blame the people that threw the trash on the ground, but while I do believe in personal responsibility, it's not entirely their fault. We have to blame the system and the people who manufacture single use products (and anything that will eventually lose functionality) that will never biodegrade. Like you said, not everyone has trash pickup, so many people are just used to throwing things on the ground, or at least in a designated hole in the ground, but we're kidding ourselves if we think we're doing any differently by landfilling. Recycling is obviously a better option, but (as you probably know) has it's own drawbacks and is often just a smokescreen. Isn't that why we try to live plastic free? To send a message to irresponsible companies that we don't need their products? To show people that all of that trash is just stuff and doesn't need to exist in the first place? I often find myself doing something really extreme that would seem strange to other people, and I ask myself, would I expect everyone to live this way? So I feel like we need to find practical solutions to these problems, in addition to proving that being so "extreme" isn't necessarily a bad thing.