A Family with no Country to call Home: Romania Adventure!

That’s right, we have officially moved to my husbands home soil… Romania!  The plan is to start working on the 2 year home residency requirement, which the US Dept. of State so courteously requires from my husband. In any case, it is a pretty loose-end move, since we have no clue what awaits us.

This is a follow-up story from my post “A Family with No Country to call Home: A Modern Love Story” and my husbands take (including the nitty gritty details) “Viorels Story: Why we are a Family with No Country to Call Home“.  To recap,  we met in graduate school in 2006, married in 2008, and our son was born in 2010.  When we met, Viorel (now my husband), was studying in the United States with a Fulbright Scholarship on a J1 Visa.  The US Dept of State requires that, at the end of his J1 term, he must return to his country and “give back” for 2 years.  In theory, it’s a wonderful idea, but (1) there are scant job opportunities for academics in Romania, and (2) this the 21st century, and a person doesn’t need to be physically present in that country in order to contribute and “give back”.  So, along with many other reasons, we moved to Canada in an attempt to bypass this requirement, in the hopes that we would settle there. We lived and raised our family in Canada for almost 4 years, searching for job opportunities that will satisfy both of us. Somehow, BC never felt like home to us, and we’ve been longing to get back in Northeastern US for a while. Both Viorel and I have close family there, which would be great for Tavi (we also found out that life as young parents in this academic system was very lonely, and seeing family was a rare event – this April was the first time in 3.5 years that Tavi met his grandparents in Romania; sad…).  Add this to the fact that academic jobs in Canada are very rare (about 80% of STEM postdocs will never even get an interview for an academic position in the Canadian higher ed system), and we started to seriously doubt our initial decision to settle in (Western) Canada.  So, we decided to take the risks involved with moving back to Romania and hope that after two years we’d be able to return to the US.

On December 15, my entire family (including Viorel, Tavi [our son],  even Rex [the dog] and myself) left for Romania.  We sold our car and the majority of our belongings (don’t feel too bad, we didn’t have much anyway).  We brought little more than 1 suitcase each to begin our new (short-time?) life in Romania.  Since arriving in Romania, we’ve been staying with Viorel’s parents while we search for a home, car, and school for Tavi.  (I should mention here that Tavi and I voted for more traditional or classic forms of transportation… however, we were vetoed by Viorel and my brother-in-law, Ionuts.  We now own an Opel Astra, a German car.)

Tavi on a traditional Romanian carriage, the horses were on break (Braila, RO- December 2014)

 

Tavi with the classic Romanian Dacia Truck or "Papuch" (Papuch= Slipper)
Tavi with a classic Romanian Dacia Truck or “Papuc”, Papuc= Slipper (Braila, RO- December 2014)

While in Romania, I have assigned myself 5 main goals, 1) learn Romanian(!), 2) spend time with and get to know my husbands friends and family (often requires that I learn Romanian first), 3) finish my dissertation (the defense is scheduled for July 1, 2015 and I’m well on my way with 3 out of the 5 chapters are submitted or published!), 4) eat lots of Chorba (Romanian borscht soup)  and Sarmale, and 5) investigate potential post-doc opportunities in Romania.

Me making great headway towards eating lots of Chorba! (Photo: Tavi Popescu)
I’m making great headway towards goal #4 and eating lots of Chorba! Thanks, Mamaia!!  (Photo: Tavi Popescu)

So far I’m making dramatic progress on 1-4!  Regarding #5, investigating Post-doc opportunities, Romania is one of the few European countries with intact wild forests with a diverse array ecosystems.  Because of this, it’s home to many species that cannot be found anywhere else in Europe and many of them are threatened or are in danger of becoming extinct.  These species include mammals, birds, plants, but also encompass overlooked, yet often just as charismatic, insects.  Some of my favourite insects on this list include Rosalia Longicorn Beetle, Rosalia alpina, and flat bark beetle, Cucujus cinnaberinus, (Family: Cerambycidae), and the Mountain Apollo Butterfly, Parnassius apollo (Family: Lepidoptera).  This, paired with a fair bit of optimism, hard work, and cleverness, allows for plenty of research possibilities.

The Rosalia Longicorn is found from the Alps to Slovakia but its numbers have steeply declined due to deforestation. Logging and wood-processing industry is the main source of income in many areas of the Carpathians, Romania. (Photo: Lhasek)
The Rosalia Longicorn is found from the Alps to Slovakia but its numbers have steeply declined due to deforestation. Logging and wood-processing industry is the main source of income in many areas of the Carpathians, Romania. (Photo: J. Lhasek)

 

The Flat Bark Beetle lives under the bark of dead and live trees in central and Eastern Europe.
The Flat Bark Beetle lives under the bark of dead and live trees in central and Eastern Europe.  This beetle is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to clear cutting forest. (Photo: L. Krasensky).

 

In the last few decades this species distribution throughout Romania has decreased drastically and currently considered extinct in the Western Carpathian mountains. (Photo: J. Lhasek)
In the last few decades this species distribution throughout Romania has decreased drastically and currently considered extinct in the Western Carpathian mountains. (Photo: J. Lhasek)

What does the future hold?  I have no idea but you can be sure it will be full of trips to explore Romania’s culture, and historical and biogeographical regions.  Because of these upcoming expeditions and adventures I expect my blog will morph as well.  It will still focus on insects and my experiences navigating through academia as a mother and mentor, but I anticipate will take a dramatic turn to Romanian entomology and my experiences adjusting to my new culture and country.  So, let the adventure begin (again)!  Join me and my family as we attempt to, “find the “Mania” in Romania!”

(Plus, I hear Dracula’s castle is for sale… a potential investment opportunity for us?!?  Nah, I been there, it’s cold and has very small doors!)

Update!  I submitted a grant application for the Mohamed bin Zayed Species conservation Fund and it was accepted!  I will be surveying endangered, threatened, and poorly known longicorn beetles (Family Cerambycidae) in traditionally managed Romanian forests!  For more information see RO Beetle Project!

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