Sunday, March 17, 2013

Home Sweet Home in Romania -- or -- The Exclamation Point (Conclusion)

Time lost meaning for us in Thailand.  In the fog of surgery, anesthesia, morphine drips, and surgery again, OD and I quickly forgot about days of the week and even how long it had been since we left Romania.  When our release day came on February 7, it took us by surprise.  Only once back at the Aspasia Resort did time again begin to take on meaning.  There was the necessity of dilating three times per day along with the need and desire to be up in time to walk, donut cushions in hand, to the Aspasia's outdoor restaurant for the morning breakfast.  Still, when the time came to depart Thailand on February 19, we were almost as surprised as we had been on the day of our hospital release.  It was time to go home, to begin the process of returning to work and normal life.

Final Dinner in Phuket
Phuket to Bangkok and then Bangkok to Amsterdam.  Business class may have been a luxury on the way to Thailand, but it was our salvation on the return, the thought of an economy seat almost as painful as the thought of sitting on a bench without our donut cushions.  Our route took us directly over Samarkand, bringing with it good memories of my last visit there with my son in the winter of 2009-10.

Amsterdam to Bucharest, OD and I were beginning to go through the emotions of parting.  How could it be that we were about to go our separate ways after supporting each other through one of the most significant life events any human can experience?  Through customs at Otopeni Airport just after midnight, a group of our friends stood waiting with hugs and flowers.  From there it was off to the airport hotel for OD, who had one short flight remaining the next day to take her home to Moldova.  For me it was a twenty minute ride to my home in downtown Bucharest, where friends.had made my bed with clean sheets and seen to it that I had enough cooked food for my first days back.

I was not up until after noon on the 20th as the reality of the calendar returned.  February is LGBT History Month in Romania, and the LGBT rights organization ACCEPT had scheduled a film showing that evening in the auditorium of the Peasant Museum, just a ten minute walk from my home.  I decided to go, as I knew I would find many friends there.  Since the film was to be shown with U.S. Embassy sponsorship, I knew I would find Embassy friends there as well.  

What I didn't know was that a group of anti-LGBT activists planned to disrupt the event.  Just before the film was to begin, some 50-60 protesters filed into the auditorium, outnumbering the film-goers.  Within minutes of the film's start, they had blocked the projector's light path and had unfurled Romanian flags and banners as they began singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs interspersed with homophobic epithets.  They shouted "Shame!" and "You are not Romanians!"  The police were called but declined to intervene in the auditorium.  The film-goers eventually abandoned the hall, leaving it in the hands of the protesters.  Fortunately, the protest was limited to words, not blows, and we all left without harm.  

Video of the Peasant Museum Protest

The fog of Thailand dispersed entirely as the reality of life in Romania returned.  As welcoming as this country has been to me, there is a dark side in the form of people and groups who oppose LGBT rights and are willing to be vocal about it.  Late last year, a young LGBT activist was hospitalized after he and other volunteers were attacked by hooded men following an LGBT event at a local university.

If there is a silver lining to the night at the Peasant Museum, it is that the protesters may have won the battle but appear to have lost the war.  Most press accounts came out against the protesters.  I'm proud to say that the U.S. Embassy responded strongly with a public statement and an op-ed in support of LGBT rights and decrying the Peasant Museum protest.

My Welcome Home Evening with Friends
The next morning I woke to the uneasy feeling that I may have caught cold.  By Friday I knew I had a fever.  Embassy friends had organized a welcome home party for me that evening, and I almost didn't go, warning the hostesses that I might infect everyone.  Feverish, I went by taxi and stayed one hour, bathed in the love of friends who had come that night with flowers and hugs.  By the time I got home, my fever was 103F (39.4C).  I collapsed on the couch.  Only several hours later did I have enough strength to undress and drag myself to bed.  I was in far worse misery than I had been at any time in Thailand, apparently the victim of something that had found its way to me on the flights home from Phuket.

My Bucharest friends rallied to me on Saturday and nursed me back over the next several days.  All hope of returning to work on Monday was gone, but surprise of surprises, the fever finally broke without any follow-on cold or flu symptoms.  I returned to work for the first time on Wednesday, February 27.

My recovery from my various surgeries continues rapidly forward.  I'm constantly tired from the necessity of being up before 5am to do my morning dilation.  I have no lunch hour as I now use that hour for dilation in a room set aside for me at the Embassy.  By the time I've done my evening dilation and had dinner, it's nearing 10pm.  The good news of dilation is that I have already said goodbye to Lyolik, Johnny Angel, and Dimchik (Nos. 1-3).  I begin now with Good Neighbor Sam (No. 4) and move up from there.  (See Vodka Without Beer.)

Exercise is a problem.  It will be some time before I can return to bicycle commuting, and I now depend on friends for rides to and from work.  Since there is no workout room where I live, my only exercise is stair walking.  When I get home in the evening, I put on my exercise outfit and climb the stairs of my five-storey building fifteen times.  I've tried riding my bicycle indoors on rollers just to see if I can, but even with additional padding over my leather saddle, my soft parts let me know they are not yet ready.  I have hopes for a split saddle that I've ordered from Terry Bicycles that will leave my clitoris and urethra free from saddle pressure.

Weight is also a problem.  With little exercise since mid-January, I've gone from 62 to 65kg.  I've made some dietary adjustments that I hope to maintain even after returning to my daily bicycle regimen, but at this point my hope is only to stop the weight gain, not reverse it.  I miss my bicycle and the independence and weight control that it gives me.

Other than for weight gain and obligatory dilation, life is returning to normal with its cycle of work and friends.  I look in the mirror both marveling and in wonder.  "Could I ever have looked different from the way I do today?"  I know the answer is yes, but the emotional answer is no.

Home sweet home.  I am home in Romania, in the circle of friends who have seen me through the greatest transformation of my life.  The exclamation point now stands proudly at the end of a long sentence that has been my life so far.  To all who helped me put it there, you have my deepest thanks and more.  May the luck of the Irish be with you on this St. Patrick's Day and every day of your lives.

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