Friday, May 24, 2013

The Carpet, Too, Is Moving Under You

It's all over now, Baby Blue.  The old Bob Dylan tune is playing in my head. For weeks I have put off the thought of my departure from Romania.  The emotions of the past four weeks have contributed to that denial.  "Surely there is more time, more time for everything, more time to come to emotional terms with recent changes?" Alas, the answer is "No."  I depart Bucharest for good in only three weeks.  My time here is nearly over.

Personal life in the Foreign Service is both exhilarating and cruel. When we first join, our eyes are filled with the wonder of the impending adventure, the chance to live and work in other countries, other cultures. That joy never fades. I still experience it.

The painful side is that after two or three years we must leave the homes we have made in countries that we may never have expected to visit in our lifetimes.  I was misty-eyed when I left Moscow in 2007.  I was sad to leave Uzbekistan in 2010.  Nothing, however, compares with the emotions I am experiencing in my final days in Romania.  This is the country that saw my rebirth.  It is filled with friends who supported and walked me through every twist and turn of transition.  I feel I have a sister and brother in Chisinau.  The memory of a family life with my emotionally adopted daughter in Bucharest will stay with me for the rest of my life.  Wherever I go, I meet friends who are more like aunts, uncles, and cousins.  This has been the warmest home I have known.

Last Ride to Work . . . With a Passenger
My last bike ride in Bucharest.  When I roll out the door this morning, it will be my last ride to work in Romania.  Day in, day out, the bicycle has gotten me to and from work and all over Bucharest for over two and a half years.  The route that I could ride nearly in my sleep will seem not at all humdrum today.  Tonight the bicycle comes to pieces for cleaning, servicing, and packing.

The dismantling of this life begins in earnest this weekend.  With the help of friends, I will go through my apartment to divide what is to be kept from what is to be given or thrown away.  What is to be kept must be divided between unaccompanied air baggage and household effects.  I will pack personally anything I consider too fragile, important, or emotionally valuable to be entrusted to the movers.  I must pack two suitcases containing everything I will need for the next six weeks or two months.

Pack out. The movers come a week from today.  In the course of a day, my home will be transformed back into furnished but empty government housing.  The pictures will be gone from the walls; anything that made it home will be loaded into trucks and driven away.  I will be left with my two suitcases and a departure kit provided by the Embassy consisting of some basic housekeeping items and kitchenware.

Once the movers have carried out their destruction, I will have two weeks left in the country.  If there is a bright side to the sadness of leaving, it is that the first week of June will be a celebration.  It will be GayFest week, Bucharest's celebration of LGBT Pride.  It will be my second Pride in Bucharest and still only the second Pride of my life.  The LGBT rights organization ACCEPT has a full week of events planned culminating with the Diversity March on June 8.  The Embassy is involved, having arranged a digital video conference with former Ambassador Michael Guest and also bringing Kevin Sessums, author of Mississippi Sissy, to Romania for the week.  We will be co-hosting a Pride reception with other diplomatic missions.  I have had a hand in many parts of this, but I feel particularly good in knowing that significantly more hands are involved this year than last.  Even the informal transgender support group I started a year and a half ago (3F@Robyn's, Stepbystep_ts, and Our Transsexual Summer) has acquired a life of its own.  The first week of June will be a time to celebrate with friends and look back on the road we have traveled together.

As my Home Looked in the Beginning,
So it Will Look Again a Week from Now
Then it will be the last week.  At work I will be running around collecting signatures on a departure checklist, writing up work summaries for the person who will be taking my place.  Perhaps there will be a last party or a dinner or two.  That there will be many hugs and tears of parting goes without saying.  Bob Dylan will continue to reverberate in my head:
You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.

Then I will close the door of my Bucharest home one last time, rolling my two suitcases to the waiting car that will take me to the airport.  But what will last is not to be found in those suitcases.  It is to be found in my heart and in my memories of the people I have known and loved and who have known and loved me in return. Romania, te iubesc.

* * * * * * * * *

OK, you knew this was coming.

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