Today's spotlight on everyday Romania is dedicated to cabbage.

Cabbage represents the many things I never liked in America, but have given a second chance in Romania. Before I came here for the first time in 2009, I spent several months forcing myself to eat boiled cabbage from the college cafeteria. Friends would gather around the table and cheer as I tried not to gag on my self-denial. I never could get over the oily, slimy, greenness, though. And please, let's not even talk about cole slaw! Disgusting!

Being a picky eater can be inconvenient, though. When you live in a culture that eats a certain food on a regular basis (like every Sunday), you eventually get tired of turning down food and going hungry. Based purely on convenience, I started to eat cabbage, and surprised myself by liking it!

That's right, I said it.
I like cabbage.

It turns out I never liked cabbage before because I'd never tasted it any way other than boiled or tossed with evil white mayonnaise. I guess sometimes you just need a little change of perspective.

Out of all the many Romanian cabbage dishes, "Varza a la Cluj" is my #1 cabbage love. It translates literally as "Cluj Cabbage" (Cluj is a large Romanian city), but because I grew up in Georgia, I like to call it "Cabbage Casserole." Baked layers of meat, onions, and shredded cabbage, covered with tomato sauce that forms a crust on top -- this is hands-down my favorite school lunch!

Another aversion Romania has convinced me to overcome is something I thought I would never, ever get used to. I had given up any hope of ever acquiring this skill. I filed it away under "Becky's many weaknesses" and let it go. What I thought impossible, and what I accepted for years as something that just wasn't for me, I now consider one of my greatest accomplishments.

I learned to drive a stick-shift. 

I know this probably doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but for me, it was huge. My attempts at driving "a stick" back home usually ended in disaster. Picture the mailman stuck behind me on our narrow dirt road because I couldn't move the truck, and my sister in the back screaming that she wanted out because I couldn't get over a hill. Now add to my incompetence the madness of Romanian traffic and terrible roads, and I think you'll understand why I've been a pedestrian for the last four years.

Automatic transmission is considered a luxury item here. Nine out of ten cars on the road are standard, including ours. It's part of life, no big deal for most people, and the rest of us just buy a bicycle and forget about it. I spent a year trying to learn to drive with my boyfriend (who in the meantime became my husband), and my first lesson involved an old lady chasing her runaway cow straight toward me. How typically Romanian! After awhile, though, I started to feel more confident and thought I was ready for the city streets. Every time I stopped at a crosswalk, the engine died and cars lined up behind me, drivers shaking their heads and honking. Then I choked in a roundabout and couldn't move the car, started crying, and called Dani to come take me home. That was a year ago and the last time I drove alone in town -- until last week.
They say necessity is the mother of invention.
I would add that necessity is also the mother of courage.

Since my roundabout incident last summer, I tried several times to conquer my fear of driving a stick-shift, and of Romanian traffic, but every attempt left me sweating and feeling panicky. I kept re-imagining my past failures. There was a lot of yelling. My husband has unbelievable patience. Eventually, though, I realized that my inability to drive was keeping me from doing things I loved. Going to our girls' Bible study at church, helping my friend move to her new apartment, or even going to the grocery store I like on the other side of town meant waiting for someone to drive me. I felt handicapped, cowardly, and tired of depending on someone else to carry me around. So I decided last week that it was time to drive. After two years of trying but not quite succeeding, and more than ten years after giving up for the first time, I got in my stick-shift Volkswagen and drove myself to church. It was that simple.

I feel like I can do anything now.

Romania has changed me in a lot of ways, especially by teaching me to try hard things or new things simply out of necessity. In a world of cabbage and stick shifts, I have learned to move past my dislikes and face my fears, because sometimes the abundant life requires that you get over yourself. Even when I don't want to do something, or even think I can't, I've learned not to say 'no' without trying 'yes' first.

And as a result, I have learned that I can.

Thanks, Romania. 


georgeblewett said...

Hey barefoot, I found your blog quite by accident -- looking for the Jesus Storybook Bible translated into Romanian.

I've been in Cluj-Napoca since 2009, and I'm always interested in meeting new people, especially ones that speak English. ;)

I'm April. I'd love to meet for coffee sometime -- send me an email if you are interested: missionaryapril@gmail.com -- which I'm giving because my blog email address is g_mblewett@yahoo.com and I don't check it very often.

or you can send me a text 0734.273.672

Happy driving in this crazy city!

georgeblewett said...

Nevermind, darlin', I see from your older posts about Romania that you are in Lugoj. Sorry for the confusion. I saw your post on Cabbage and Varza a la Cluj and thought you were here in Cluj.

Best wishes!!