I first moved to Romania in 1998. It was a very different place back then. Stalls of CDs, clothing, pretzels (“covrigi”), and inexpensive electronic gadgets walled the sidewalks of a street that was the artery connecting my neighborhood with the more central parts of the north-eastern city of Iasi.
A sense of hardship was in the air. The city was grey. The collapse of the communist regime left many struggling for a better life in a new system that was striving for the rule of law, democracy and a free market economy.
As a 15-year old student back in those days, I was able to cross the border between Moldova and Romania with my school card. It had a glued color photo of me and my hand-written grades. One time, a border guard asked me if I was a good student. Modesty was not a choice if you wanted to cross the border, or so I felt at the time. He skipped through my grades, smiled and wished me a safe journey.
I moved back to Romania on February 1st of this year. This time as a 33-year old World Bank staff. It has been 18 years, but now I can call Romania home again.