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The East and the West: My Geography of Time

If there is one thing now that’s very different from my life in Romania, that is the pace of life. I’ve never lived in Bucharest, so I don’t know how that is, but in Cluj the rhythm of life is slow and sweet and last weekend I realized I miss a bit of that.

I went back to Romania for a course I will be doing for the next two years, and on my way to the friend I was staying with, 10:30 in the night, I kept writing her to apologize I am arriving that late after visiting other friends… It was Sunday after all and she and her brother, both work full time during the week. But I arrived and the whole apartment was lively, like it was the middle of the day. I’m simply not used to that any more. Everyone was doing something while at the same time chatting, smoking and cooking! The stew they were making was ready around midnight. We went to bed at 1:30!

Both my body and my schedule do not allow such extravagances. Although I remember those… late nights, late mornings, working on something til 3, chatting, some sort of organic unfolding of time and activities.

The next day I woke up and I couldn’t tell whether it was early or late, whether it was weekend or the week had just started… I somehow knew the week had started but there was no sound or movement to confirm that, and my watch said 8 o’clock. Everyone took their time to get out of bed, make coffee, following that inner voice that says take it slowly. I love that calm, the feeling that time is elastic and it can be bended and twisted according to my inner clock. I think that’s the space where ideas and solutions jump in your mind, it’s the space for self knowledge and for observations.

Or maybe I’m just romanticizing.

All I know is that in Dutch terms my habits are still quite eccentric, but in Romanian terms I am a complete foreigner. My eccentricity consists in not having an agenda and planning everything weeks in advance. I deeply need spontaneity and unstructured time. I am also the last one to come in the office and I like to spend my breaks by myself reading or writing. BUT. I do wake up before 8 almost every day. I do plan as I go. And I need to be structured not because it’s in my nature to be so but because otherwise I won’t have enough space to write and read and organize the film screenings I organize. Otherwise I won’t have time to run. And to watch the pile of films I watch every week. It takes some structure to do that and have a full time job. To do all that I need to be in bed by 11. 12 during weekends. Maybe 1.  I need to know who’s coming and when.

In Romania, after a weekend of going here and there, and taking part in the course all day, and seeing friends and sleeping too little…I felt really tired. I missed my schedule but felt a bit nostalgic at the same time, because this life rhythm reminds me of old me and of home. I do know I could easily fit back in, cooking at midnight, writing at 3 AM, sleeping in the morning whether awake or not. Would that be sweet? I have no idea. Somehow, I kind of got used to the fresh and cold smell of early mornings, and to running in the park.

Small note: check Robert Levine’s really interesting book – A Geography of Time – on time and pace in different cultures.


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