In under an hour the Sun from Kolozsvar will rise on the horizon. Christmas Eve. The Angel has arrived… I came home… For the first time in my life the people who I care about became more important then my personal goals. Coming home and bringing happiness to the people who care about me and who I haven’t seen for four months now.
The Friday night came rather slowly. In the morning I was still wondering with Dani on the streets of Utrecht looking for late Christmas presents and afterwards I accompanied Ludivine to the bus-station. In a couple of days Parnassos was empty. Everyone prepared to go home. Only three of us were still there on Friday. Alex was having his lunch in the kitchen while Dani and I were watching the last Dutch show of the old year. I said good-bye. Dani helped me with my luggage. The laptop on my shoulders, the small Dutch roses on my arm and my grey bag at my feet. I didn’t buy a ticket to the main station. Jarbeursplein from where my bus was leaving at three o’clock. I’m going home. I just realized it. Home. Back to a world that I left behind. I leave behind a new world to go back to an old one. A vastness of people brought the plein back to life. A pair of snickers, a blue hat and an autumn coat, the bouquet of roses in my hands. I look up on a board. Budapest 1735 km. And from there to the East my home. I was anxiously waiting for the bus when it finally arrived with a considerable delay. Where are you heading to? – I asked a young lady standing on the edge of the road. Romania – she answers back. And this is how I woke up with a travel companion.
The ravaging and chilly Dutch wind froze the previous months’ rainy autumn. We were shivering and waiting to get on the bus and go. I’m going home. This was the only thing I could say to myself. The thought of treading once again the sidewalks of Kolozsvar seemed to far away. The remaining free sits were the ones in the back. I carefully put down my roses and hoped that they would survive the long journey. We set off. And I started talking to the 22 year old girl from Torda (Turda), who left the country three years ago. She too was heading home. Are you going home for good? – I ask her. Maybe. – she answers – but I’m not sure. Maybe I will have another opportunity to work… But in the same time I have to focus on my own life. She gets her wallet and points at two blond Dutch girls. I took care of them and brought them up during all this time. It wasn’t easy leaving them at the train station – and she shows me a silver necklace on which a huge star sparkled. They got me this… And you meet someone as simple as that and get a glance of her life. A seemingly impenetrable fog vale covered the Dutch countryside. This vale accompanied us all the way. In the distance lay the fog covered buildings of Utrecht. Nightfall set in fast and it was already dark when we crossed the German border. Soon enough German border patrols stopped us. When you go to Holland they strangely look at your red Romanian passport and when you leave the Low Countries they search for drugs. But the random search was over fast and our bags got through it intact. My legs are already numb, the Budapest accent of the people sitting on my right slightly disturbs me, my neck is stiff but still every minute I try to imagine the reaction of my surprised family, when I enter the door… We stop for a couple of minutes in Frankfurt and after a couple of hours of sleep I wake up at an Austrian bus-station. A Siberian cold rages out-side but I’m surrounded by mountains, hills, snow and I feel slightly closer to home. A couple of hours and we’ll cross the Hungarian border. Hundreds of strawberry pickers from Spain cross the border… Ladies and gentlemen we’ve arrived in Budapest. Joyful Holidays everyone! – and the drivers say good-bye. Another hour of waiting in the Nepliget station and we could continue our journey.
Of course now I could write about (just to amuse the reader a lil’bit) how a guy in his late sixties bumped into me (who still believed in the Hungarian Kingdom) and bragged about how he got himself a teenage wife from Transylvania, but we won’t ruin the Christmas spirit with it.
At about 13 o’clock our long awaited bus arrived. Until Budapest we came only on highways, but from there onwards the Eastern roads awaited. The East Hungarian roads deteriorated a lot since summer. We got ever closer to the Transylvanian border. A strange sensation numbs my brain and maybe I just started to realize that after four months I was heading home. Many people leave for greater amounts of time but still four months is a considerable time. At about 6 o’clock we reached the Hungarian border. The infinite fog cover followed us and it just kept pursuing us. The border patrol gets on the bus, checks our passports and let’s us go. We stop at the closest gas-station so I can exchange some euros, so at least I could pay my ticket. I’d just crossed the border, but I could already feel that this was another world. A gabor (person belonging to a gipsy group) approaches me. Cojocu domnu’. Nu vreţi cojocu’? (A jacket sir. Don’t you want a jacket?) – and I had to tell him three times that I wasn’t interested. I looked around slightly nervous to discover that there is no snow. It will be a gray Christmas after all. The roads are filled with holes, the sidewalks aren’t taken care of, the telephone and other cables hang on poles and still something tells me that I’m home. And we head to Kolozsvar.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas… the sometimes over-used song comes to mind. And somehow my wishes came to life. As we passed the King’s Pass a fairytale white scenery unfolded in front of our eyes, one that I hadn’t seen in a while. The old Transylvanian mountains locked the escaping cold and surprised me once again. After four months of dull plains finally I could see the giants… Soon enough we passed Banffyhunyad (Huedin) and Raluca and I started counting the remaining miles. Twenty, fifteen, five… And I could see the lights of the Monostor neighborhood, the new shopping malls the bustling city …my home. It seemed as a distant idea and now I was once again here. As we approached the center I was looking at everything new and old. New roads and renewed old buildings and a magnificently lighten center. I got down at King Matthew’s statue and stared at the Christmas lights for minutes. Finally I could feel the Christmas spirit… I got into a cab and went home. The thought of my surprised family in my head. I’ve arrived… I get my bag, the roses on my arm. I climb the stairs and ring the doorbell… From the other-side of the door approaching footsteps. I listened to them as I was sitting on my bag and suddenly the door opens. I look up to see my brother looking at me for seconds and then he commenced. Is that you? – and we jumped into each other’s arms. This is the moment when it doesn’t matter how big of a guy you are, two tear drops still leave your eyes. Hurry Eniko! (my brother’s girlfriend) – I could hear my brother’s voice as he rushed to wake up my father. The amazement on everyone’s face as no one expected to see me until July. I was home. I couple of more minutes had to pass until everyone realized that I wasn’t just a mirage. My mother at work… They call her. Don’t joke with me…I could hear my mom’s voice and she put down the phone. She calls us back after some minutes. Did he really come home? – and she started to sniffle at the sound of my voice. We rushed to the place she worked at and once again your knees weaken as you embrace your mother. To see the joy on a mother’s face when her son comes home. Well this is why I came home.
Snow, a beautiful city, my family’s joy… It looked like it was going to be a great Christmas after all. The roses survived the journey, a couple of tears ran down on hour faces and I ate the home cooked food like a wolf. This is how the Christmas of 2007 began. Now even little Jesus, the Angel or Santa Claus could come.
I came home only for five days, but it was enough to start the New Year with newly found strength… I still had to meet someone. Picur (Tiny). The nights of August seemed to be distant memories and a lot happened since. 9 o’clock tonight. Matthew’s square? – I send her a message. A couple of more messages had to follow until she truly believed that I came home. In the end we chose one of the shopping centers nearby. Walking towards it the late summer nights started flickering in my mind. I didn’t know what to expect from all this. The city’s fading sounds grabbed my attention when she appeared… I hugged her, but both of us were reluctant. Where should I kiss you now? – I ask her slightly childish. You know that – and she smiles. And still I was reluctant. We slowly started our way towards the center and the once lengthy road seemed like lasting a couple of moments. We arrived at the Angel… A few cups of hot wine while I was following her every move. I was talking about my Dutch life but still something in you wanted her warmth next to you. You just stare at her and although you know that she’s with someone else now and what was maybe belongs to the past, still you craved for her embracing… We moved on towards the Deak Ferenc (Eroilor) Avenue… Everything changed. White and blue beams of light bathed the street, Picur held my right hand and the snow creaked under our feet. We got to a new place, if I recall it was called Janis. And curiously we decided to spend a couple of more hours there. We set down on tall chairs next to a round table. Two pints of Heineken on the table. Let’s just stick to Dutch beer if I came home from the Netherlands. Everything is the same as in the Angel, but maybe the whispering music in the background slowly started to increase the tension between us. I look at her face. We talk about everything. The new relationships, about the country, the past few months and still something was missing. Maybe a couple of cups of wine and a pint of beer made us wonder. I slowly look into her eyes as I gently touch her legs. I stroke her soft face as she smiles. So? – she asks me with the same eyes when I first kissed her on the Citadel… I play with her hair for a while staring at her eyes. I slowly move closer and her breath touches my lips. For a few seconds our breaths intertwine in a sensual game and a childish smile overtakes her face. The summer smile that few have witnessed since. I slowly touch her lips. She kisses softly and the summer passion gave way to a white calmness. You’ve changed. – and smiles. I embrace her and hold her tiny face. We look at each other for a few moments and commence into a flaming kiss. And once again the summer mood, not caring who stares and who doesn’t, who whispers and talks because that moment is ours. This is how the upcoming hours passed. I missed her warmth, her hugs and soft kisses and I could see that once again she’s happy, smiles and once again she dares and she’s alive.
… We slowly walked home. The sound of the snow covered streets below our feet, our toes reaching almost freezing point and a warm smile emanated from both of us. We moved on as I held her tiny fingers. Sometimes we would stop. I would hold her face in my arms, pinch her small nose which could have only been followed by a warm kiss. It was good to see once again that the person, who during summer nights grabbed my hair, was reborn even if now we would stare at each other with winter calmness. The road leading home seemed quite short and reaching her house old memories started to surface. Everything was covered with snow… The small house, the kiss in front of her gate, the train in the distance, the rail tracks.
Nights like this followed in the up-coming days. Both of us felt that we were alive once again and there were no tear filled good-byes, romantic confessions. We just felt happy for the hours spent together. Once again none of us cared about what the world would say. What will happen when I will come home for good? That’s still to far away and there is no reason to plan ahead but if we’ll be able to cherish the moment then we will.
You come home. Your family, a warm hug, a white and sparkling city which could’ve only been followed by my old mates. When will they sing Christmas carols again? Where are we going to meet, and who’ll be there? This would’ve been hard to find out if I didn’t call up someone and tell him that I’m home. Szili answered me with a surprised voice, that I should meet him near the train station… I got on bus nr. 4. Ten o’clock in the night, without a ticket ‘cause the ticket vender was not there. The old road that I knew so well. I get off and call him. I see his waving hand from one of the balconies. In a couple of minutes he was in front of the building. Hommmeeyy!!! – we scream and jump on each other. The others still didn’t know that I was home. I enter the apartment, wish happy holidays to the man of the house and head towards the room where I could hear the youngsters. Szili in front of me, covering me with his back. The door opens…Merry Christmas Everyone!! – I say to all of them. They stare at me for a second. Hey. It’s Gashi! – a couple of them say…For a few minutes they stared and then slowly started asking me this and that and how come I came home which was followed by a nice glass of wine. Although not all of them were there, still a part of them reunited once again and I met new people too. We didn’t visit so many places and didn’t sing so many carols but it was important that we were together. Traditionally Szili’s place provided the last stop, the French fries and the sausage. Marci, Varuj, Gigi, Boti and Szili were the guys from the old team. It was good to see them, reviving old memories and finding out what they were doing in the last months.
It was yesterday at 7 o’clock when we headed to my grandparent’s place. My mom, brother and me. Slight arguing on the road, but nothing serious. The months spent in the Netherlands calmed me down. I can control my temper now and I tried to enjoy every minute of the few hours spent in that small village. The old hills, the silver forests, the frozen country roads…everything that is not Holland… My folks got old. The bandages just came of my granddad’s ankle and my granny’s shoulder awaited bandages. And they never tell us anything so they won’t disturb the children living far away. Sometimes you get angry but eventually you accept them as they are and you are thankful that they are still among us and you can give granny a hug. These people provided so many bricks for the foundations of my life, it is the least I can do for them. Meanwhile these two parallel worlds unfolded. Far away from modern civilization and medical means, my grandparents have to struggle while somewhere grandmas in their eighties take a sauna. And still the image of my grandma will always be the first one, because this is the only way I can imagine her. I looked around for a few minutes in the Noble Garden and tried absorbing as much as I could from this tranquility. In the same time I realized what a God forgotten place this really was with no visible hopes for a brighter future. I went to greet uncle Sanyi and Feri ‘cause when relatives live far away, neighbors are the closest people you can get… Grandma couldn’t come out-side to say goodbye. With his limping leg, grandpa came outside and kept on waving until the car disappeared from sight. We met a few people on the road. Passing Bonyha Hill I asked my mother. What’s in this place? What is calling me back to it? – It’s a part of us. It’s a part of your life – she answers with tear filled eyes. And this is the right answer. It’s a part of who I am and even if it’s light years away from the West it filled my bag with something that already disappeared there. It will always call me back.
The night before I left I got a message from Mese. I met her and Geza in the nearby pizza shop. It’s always a good feeling meeting old friends ‘cause memories, laughters, stories tie you together. Pleasant hours passed by in the company of a few Carlsbergs. Each of us with their own worries and still once again teenagers. I said goodbye, walked home and packed my last things trying to get a few hours of sleep.
It was dawn when I had to say goodbye to everyone. In the end I had to leave at six and not five. But it wasn’t a problem, ‘cause I could spent another hour with my mom… The driver takes my luggage, the bus sets off and once again you live the treasured city, your family, the hugs, your friends…your home.
… And this is how I head back to my new home. I’m sitting in Nepliget station once again, waiting until these three hours pass. My bags near me, my Chinese army back-pack is already torn in one place, the handle of my laptop’s bag broke too, but it’s not a problem… By my side a lady in her forties wearing a crème colored dress and reading a newspaper. The older lady on my right just got up leaving her bags in the care of a half bold man. Maybe it’s his son, or son in law or maybe just a good friend. A couple of new travelers arrive, teenage lads and a mom with her daughter stops in front of me. The Transylvanian cold is nowhere to be felt. The weather is milder, mud replaced the snow and the Budapest dialect replaced the mixed Hungarian Romanian speech.
Looking back it seems to have been the best idea coming home, because even now the image of my joyful family persists. For the first time in my life I feel that I was able to forge together my family. We decorated the tree, ate the Christmas stuffed cabbage, I met my old mates, visited my old folks in a tiny fairytale like white village and I could once again feel Picur’s hugs… The old lady on my right got her bags and went away. Everyone comes and goes. Many of them stop, look around and sit down. Some for a moment, others for a minute and some of us look for hours at the bustling life that unfolds in front of our eyes.
Now the New Year’s spirit drives everyone. New plans, dreams, joy and sorrow, new friends and old mates, new roads and old paths. I look back at the past year and I finally feel that I fulfilled my promise and feel that I lived more than a year. A tough and tiring year, my life’s toughest, that filled my bag with numerous memories. And it’s good living like this. Grabbing everything possible and making the best of what life can offer even if these opportunities are well hidden. What will the New Year bring? For sure a lot of joy and sorrows, walls and bridges but I can sense that I will enter it with greater strength. My advice for the New Year? Try living a year and a day, not less than a year. I say farewell until January. I still have to get back, my bags have to manage with the extra weight and the Amsterdam New Year will have to overcome the last one. Happy New Year Everyone!!! Gelukkige Nieuwe Jaar voor iedereen.
And this would be the end of this story, but as many already know I’m writing this once again in Kolozsvar. Why? Let’s just say that I was stupid and didn’t double check the time of my departure and lost my bus L A new one leaves only after New Year’s Eve. With 40 kilos of luggage in the bus-station, after in the morning my blood pressure rose because of the bus change to Budapest. A couple of swears in the middle of Pest, torn bags, an idea to go to Prague that I eventually got out of my head… There was nothing else to do but come home. And now I’m laughing although this mistake cost me a hundred euros, but I have to look at the bright side of things. I can spend a few more days home. Everything has a reason and I’ll find out eventually what was the reason for this. Someone decided that it was too early for me to go back. Hopefully you will laugh to… J
24-29 December 2007, Kolozsvar (Cluj-Napoca), Budapest