Category Archives: Amintiri

Me and my… Hakone

It was a wet and heavy Saturday afternoon as the train finally pulled in the Hakoneyumoto station. Leaving Tokyo and travelling only 100 km to reach the main spa resort in the Hakone area proved to be not so straight forward, especially when it’s 30 degrees outside, and a light drizzle soaking the already humid air. But all the weight of the morning and of the hours spent on the trains melted in the sight of the Hayakawa river. It was when I felt for the first time that I was finally beginning to see the wild face of Japan, to see not the fashion and the skyscrapers, but the mountains, the old trees and the rural landscape. And what other better way to plunge in the rural life than checking in at a ryokan.

 

Being lodged in a ryokan is a life experience in itself. In the small traditional Japanese-stylized apartment the stillness of days would come to a close, and the peace of being connected to the depths of nature would be astounding, dizzying, intoxicating and, in the end, so purifying. Living for two days only with raw fish, rice and organic green tea can change not only your body, but your thoughts and even your silence, if you allow it so far. I think I didn’t know how to allow it, I was still too tied to my European heritage, too thirsty for Coke.

And thirsty I would remain, when the end of each day would bring with it the hours of submersion into large outdoors pools of, who knows, 35-40 degrees hot water. The onsen. That which they hold so untamed, yet so simple, that you, as a Coke drinker, feel that is so foreign, so far from what you might know. The bathing itself is a ritual of body purification, starting with the first moment you step into the dressing room. Taking off your clothes, down to the scratch, and sitting on the small chair which would aid to the process of washing the body. And only then, when you’re perfectly clean, are you allowed to step into the hot water. And you close your lids, already soaked with the soft steam, arising from everywhere around you.

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That Sunday was hard, yet rewarding. No better way to start the day than with a Japanese breakfast: rice, miso soup, who knows what sorts of fish, green tea. The classical way of exploring the Hakone area begins back to the outset: by taking the train from the Hakoneyumoto station. The train takes you on a steep slope to Gora, at 550m altitude, where the classical tourist would change to the cable car to the Sounzan Mountain. And this is we’re getting started. The Sounzan ropeway would take you to the sulphuric depths of Owakudani. There it is where hell itself emerges to the surface, you can smell it: black eggs boiled in the putrid water, yellow earth, green strands of leftover rain and the hot springs. It is once in a lifetime experience, you never want to get back there, your thoughts are already at the lake Ashi. It offers the iconic view of Japan: the red torii, against the humid forest, and at the foot of which, the lake itself.

 

The steam of the onsen couldn’t have clouded my memories, I still have them. Even after a month I can see the perfect round moon, over the rivers and the valley, now on the other side of the world for me. I still know that after the Hakone torii, the shrine and the path through the forest hide, a path where trees older than my own life bend over so many travelers crossing paths. I still know that there, on the other side of the world, there is a mountain called Komagatake where there is a temple always embraced by fog and rain. The weather is so humid there, the air always burdened by drizzle. It’s where the earth and the skies are only sleeping, together in a warm embrace.

 

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Filed under Amintiri, Japonia, Me and my... :Travel, Pe drum

All work, all play

I remember an early occurrence of work in my life. Looking back on it now and making a parallel to the definition of this word which sticks too often in my path now, I see that I’ve completed a circle. I ended up in the same point I started from. That childhood and those pale colours of memory seem to breathe new life in these present hours.

Various moments, various places, can’t exactly put my finger on every one of them. Hardly on any of them. Characters which my memory spawns drag question marks now, were they real? Reality as a time which has gone out of focus. Always three characters on the scene.

My grandma was always there, that’s for certain. She could only make her voice heard, my gaze was directed to the table, to the papers I was bending upon, to the notes I was taking, to the crossword I was solving. Always pen and paper. And me with my complete focused attention. Her voice speaks to an immaterial third person and words flow only like echoes now: “Leave her alone, she’s working”. She’s working. Those words protected me from whoever was trying to invade my pen-and-paper solitude. It’s worth mentioning perhaps that in my mind from then, what I was doing was not called working and I even defended myself against that. “I’m not working, just taking some notes”. Or “I’m not working, just catching up on some reading” But my defense was a weak one. Deep inside me, or not so deep, because a faint smile must have reached onto the surface of my lips, I was proud of myself, that someone thought I was working. Someone, looking at me, and thinking that my pen-and-paper games were work. Or that I was doing homework, that would be an option also. However it might have been, I was having fun with it, spending time joyfully and forgetting to have dinner, and someone thought I was working. I felt like I was getting away with it, cheating on the world and congratulating myself on it.

The contradiction grows strong now, or grows weak, I’m not really sure from which direction to look. It must be because I never regarded any of the jobs I had ever since then and until now as “work”. Those were just jobs. Even now when somebody says they’re working on something, I envy them because I always have the feeling they are just doing variants of my pen-and-paper games, secretly cheating on the world, without nobody knowing their secret. I even envy them because I haven’t had that feeling since those times which are now so blurry. I don’t think I’ve really worked since then, I’ve just been doing my job.

Maybe sleeping time is over, I should start working again. I want fun and joy to overwhelm me, I want to go back to doing my games and go to sleep smiling, feeling I’ve done something meaningful for the day. And maybe this is my way of getting those times back in focus again.

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Egoist

Citeam un articol azi-dimineață. Cuvintele, înșiruirea lor, farmecul ploii de afară, probabil perfecțiunea temporală a minutelor au stârnit ecouri în mine. Păreri, contradicții, cute ușoare pe o frunte încă tânără. La mijlocul articolului deja nu mai eram atentă, probabil că jumătate din ce am citit s-a strivit sub sunetul picăturilor grele de apă. Singurul meu gând mai era să dau share articolului, să văd ce se întâmplă. Câți dintre prietenii mei de pe fb mai au aceleași păreri, câtora li se mai iscă aceleași gânduri contradictorii, câte cute ușoare mai apar pe unele frunți încă tinere.

Mai aveam doar o treime de citit din articol când de undeva, din neguri sau din orizont, ca o furtună, amintirea lui Bobi. Bobi locuia într-o cameră la mansardă. Camera era luată cu chirie de la un batrânel care locuia singur în casa moștenită probabil din generație în generație. Adevărul era însă că nu am fost niciodată siguri de asta, dar fantasmele gândurilor noastre acolo zburau. La fiecare joc al nostru de adevăr sau provocare, când Bobi alegea provocarea, îl îndemnam să îl întrebe pe bătrânel dacă într-adevăr casa are o istorie mai lungă de câteva zeci de ani. Bineînțeles că nu a făcut-o niciodată, prefera cu siguranță să i se toarne ulei fierbinte pe gât și să moară în chinuri groaznice, deși nici teoria asta n-am testat-o. Și aici lua sfârșit jocul nostru de adevăr sau provocare. Eu mă prefăceam supărată pe el, mă întorceam cu spatele și mă uitam la ploaia curgând pe geamul strâmb. Număram picăturile și îmi așteptam cadoul de schimb. Bobi avea întotdeauna o piersică sau o caisă uscată pentru mine. Iarna o poveste, o pățanie de la școală. Primăvara un ghiocel furat, presat între paginile unui dicționar vechi. Toamna eram plecată.

Bobi ar fi înțeles. Mi-ar fi înțeles părerile, contradicțiile și fruntea ușor încruntată. Ar fi zâmbit, batrân ca vântul, doar din ochi, cu buzele strâns lipite, conturate doar de lumina galben-portocalie a serii de la orizont. Și mi-ar fi zis că ce-i al meu, al meu să fie. Și apoi s-ar fi întors la cotrobăiala după piersica aia pe care probabil uitase deja că o pusese în ghiozdan pentru prânz la școală.

Și astfel articolul a devenit doar al meu, cuvintele mi s-au tatuat singure pe creier, împreună cu semnele de punctuație și cu greșelile de ortografie. Momentele au devenit doar ale mele, niciun Canon, niciun Nikon nu va mai avea dreptul la ele. Culorile serii au devenit doar ale mele, picăturile grele de apă au devenit doar ale mele, trandafirii uscați, uitați de saptămâni pe masa din bucătărie. Apa fetidă din vază. Oboseala și nopțile. Umbrele și zăpada. Doar ceea ce e semnificativ, desigur.

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De la pizza la martini

Aveam 2 trolere dupa mine, o notita cu adresa pensiunii unde aveam sa stau pentru urmatoarea luna si un numar de Romania in roaming.  Nu stiu, cred ca imi imaginasem ca o sa gasesc un autobuz care o sa ma duca in poarta viitoarei case. Planul asta nu a functionat. Tin minte ca am intrebat pe cineva pentru un numar de taxi. M-a surpins o deloc usoara confuzie cand am recunoscut un anumit cuvant din conversatia pe care sarbul, caci sarb era am aflat apoi, a avut-o cu dispeceratul de taxi. O turista. Trebuie ca cele doua trolere ale mele l-au facut pe concetateanul sarb sa presupuna ca am venit in vacanta la o prietena zapacita. Si totusi, scumpa mea zapacita, cele 6 luni sigure pe care le aveai in fata ta in dupa-masa aia de aprilie nu iti dadeau dreptul la mai mult.

30 aprilie 2012. Imi amintesc perfect ziua asta. Ceea ce ma izbeste peste tample de fiecare data cand imi intorc privirea catre atunci e temperatura din aer. Mirosea a primavara si a nou. Am coborat din autobuzul aproape de lux fara sa ma astepte nimeni, fara sa astept nimic. Imbratisam fiecare clipa asa cum ma navalea din dupa-masa tarzie de primavara doar cu o simpla curiozitate. Sunt sigura ca zambeam, eram dincolo de orizontul imaginatiei. Erai nebuna de legat, asta erai. Venita in Germania, o tara pe care fantezia ta dublata de stralucirea monedei europene a transformat-o intr-un scop prea intamplator si o limba in care abia daca puteai lega 2 cuvinte. Cine face asa ceva? Nu iti pasa de nimic, erai legata la ochi si umblai cu mainile intinse pe marginea prapastiei, nu ti-ai pus niciodata intrebarea “ce-ar fi daca?”.

Ce-ar fi fost daca… Asta e intrebarea corecta acum si intrebarea care imi trimite fiori reci pe sira spinarii, imi incrunta sprancenele si imi arunca un bolovan in piept. Ce-ar fi fost daca pizza rece pe care am avut-o drept cina in seara aia de 30 aprilie s-ar fi repetat mereu si mereu, saptamana de saptamana? Ce-ar fi fost daca ai fi fost intampinata de priviri reci si politicoase in loc de zambete calde si voci prietenoase? Ce-ar fi fost daca, atunci cand ridici ochii din ecranul laptopului ai fi vazut nu rafturile bibliotecii indoindu-se sub greutatea cartilor, ci tot peretele alb, lipsit de personalitate al camerei de la pensiune? Si, cel mai cutremurator, ce-ar fi fost daca… daca el… Respiratia sacadata nu mai mai lasa sa continui, am nevoie de gustul individual al martiniului sa ma linisteasca.

Timpul perfect al modului conditional-optativ. Cateodata iubesc gramatica. Timpul perfect nu mai cunoaste schimbare.

Strangi in pumn firul solid al timpului prezent ca sa te aduca inapoi in papucii de casa portocalii cu un detaliu de floare alba. Paharul inalt de martini asteapta inca pe jumatate si cea mai nou-descoperita trupa canta din spatele ecranului plat al televizorului. Gandirea pozitiva si o incredere nu oarba, ci de-a dreptul disperata in concentrarea pe propria persoana. Daca ma intreaba cineva, aici sunt cheile pentru a pasi pe marginea prapastiei.

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Iconic

The air heavy with thought and my sight somewhat blurred with rum. Trying to focus on a single point in the small space in which I had confined myself seemed to be difficult. Bottles on the walls: liquor, beer, wine, whiskey. Paintings hanging on the walls: postmodernism  laid down by children, black and white photographs, portraits of people long gone. Objects floating on the floor of the small room: old chairs, tables stained with the passing of the years and alcohol, the well-known green armchair in the right corner. And the music whispering in my ears: Jack White, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Band of Skulls, even the annoying reggae. So many other countless artists which found their way in my iPod after so many afternoons and evenings spent on the green armchair or on an old chair.

Firing off a new life in Ingolstadt was something else entirely. I remember my thrill when only a few weeks would separate me from a new job, some new friends, a new living. Then the weeks turned into days, the days into minutes. The sand in the hourglass of my expectations started counting up from zero when I set foot on Bavarian soil. The loneliness which I had so much longed for, the clear time to enjoy the new city and the lack of sharing responsibilities were at hand.

After two weeks in Ingolstadt the excitement had worn off. Danube, check. Ducks on the Danube, check. Shops, check. Museums, check. Greek restaurants, check. Finding a flat, check. Practicing German, bored already. With the dictionary at least.

It must have been the end of May when I discovered it. It was a time when I was reading a lot. I already knew the parks and the banks of the Danube, I needed a new place to rest what always was a new book. And there it was, slightly askew from the city center, slightly unnoticeable, slightly something else. Just like my new life.

It became the refuge of my Sunday afternoons, of my Saturday evenings, of my pre-weekend drinks. Would have become my Monday morning, too, hadn’t it been closed. The place to go where there was no other place to go to. Getting free Mojitos must have contributed to the attraction, I have to admit. So did the free, unforced conversations with people whose names I didn’t even know and who were never to be seen again, the smile of the stranger whom I asked for a light, the southern wind softly caressing my hair while warm afternoons turned into chilly evenings as the sunglasses were no longer needed.

I took to drinking black tea with rum there, I never before knew such a fatal combination existed. But this happened later when I no longer needed only my books to spark up a controversy. When on the oter side of the wall people started showing up and real arguments were thrown in the face of my sometimes infantile ideas. I soon didn’t have time for reading or contemplating the beverages on the walls anymore, I had to come up with arguments to back up my boredom with Kafka or my sympathy for the classical ballet. Each hour and minute was electrifying.

photo

Only the tea and the rum stayed the same, just together now. I see strange faces lately there, I see new colours on the walls, I see some new chairs instead of the uncomfortable, but familiar ones. The atmosphere is still there, the smiles still painted but the the place seems to have grown out of its old heart a bit. Maybe I see my own changes reflected by the dull walls, my own ideas whom I can’t afford to be infantile anymore. It’s been a year.

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On the Outside or Forgiveness for Otilia

His eyes were sparkling blue with half amuzed fury, hands restless in his lap, one foot stamping impaciently on the floor. “Come on, take another look, summon back your senses! ” But the difference of opinions had only brought up an unshaken conviction in me.

People are islands and each one of them holds the secret to his own blooming or undoing in the back of her mind, in the back of her expressionless eyes. I see people in the streets every day, I see them strolling along the Danube, shuffling lazily in the shops, looking for nothing or maybe looking for everything. Who knows, I am nobody to make assumptions. Most of the times I just see them, I don’t actually “see” them, I fail to grasp the meaning of their sometimes living eyes. Each one of us is an island and each one of us is a story which can never be fully unveiled.

Like Calinescu’s famous feminine character, Otilia, puzzles and pushes Felix to the shores of patience, questions and apprehension, so does he and so does she when they shove me out of their tell-tale midday walks. You can imagine you know a person, you can think you understand her defects, her joys, her smiles, but the word “understand” seems to be barking up the wrong tree when it comes to human character. For what are human characters more than simple projections, effortless reflections of the one the who is “other”, the one who is standing on the other side of that furious blue gaze?

Otilia did not try to be more than she was, it was not her intent to deceive or to screw up Felix for that matter. She was just the only being who  could be: a woman. Notice the lack of characterization. She was not plain nor complex, typical nor extraordinary, mundane nor exceptional. She was in the end just a woman struggling in a society which could otherwise be taken for a human comedy. His mistake was that he tried to contain her, her mistake was that she thought for a short time that she could be contained. Freedom of mind can never be the subject of the heart rhythms, of the everyday passion. And because she had the freedom of mind and the freedom of spirit, it was in her purity of vision that she chose the comfort of life over the comfort of heart.

Her choice is not to be judged, but maybe to be learned from, to be thought upon. But in the end making once choice or the other is not what is really important. What truly crucial is, is that your story lives through you and you live your story. We are each our own mistery, our own challenge, our own hidden key under the carpet of the front porch. I see the gaze and I see the tall forhead, but I’m not sure if I want to truly unlock the door or if I even have the right to do that. I know, however, what I want to do. Gather scraps of the story and bind them together. The result will not be him though. It will only be a simple projection, en effortless reflection.

“Yellow! What yellow, yellow screams death! Green is life, green is spring, we should definitely go with green” he continued when I gave no answer. The caress in the blue of his eyes had already lifted my spirits. Who cares if they’re yellow or freaking green. “I’ve got a better idea though” I said with an evil smile. “We should paint them red, it is Easter after all”. He hugged me, giving up.

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