In three days, I’m moving to Romania.
Suceava, seen from the ruins of the old Suceava Fortress.
This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done since the time I went to Romania to live there for a year, when I met my wife. But this time I’m not going for a year—I’m going to stay, and my wife and kids are already there. They headed off to Romania about a month ago, while I stayed to finish up some final projects at my work and at home.
Those things are done now. Tomorrow is my last day of work. The day after that I tie up loose ends, and then I fly out.
But I hear you ask: Why are you moving from a comfortable and well-paid job in the US to Eastern Europe, of all places? Don’t they have bears and Communists there?
Of course they have bears and communists! In fact, there are over 6,000 bears in Romania, about a third of all of the bears in Europe, making Romania a major destination for European hunters and sportsmen. As for Communists, well, my wife calls herself a Communist to anyone who will listen, but what she means by that is probably not what you’re thinking. That’s a topic for another post.
But let’s get to the real reasons. There are three:
My wife has three sisters who live in Romania, along with her parents and something like sixty cousins. The trajectory of my life over the past decade has towards a greater engagement with family and long-lasting communities, and away from urban areas and high-stress jobs. In 2011 we moved from Seattle to Minnesota so we could spend more time with my family, and as a result of this change we were able to develop deeper relationships with my cousins, grandparents, brother, and parents that we would never have had the opportunity for otherwise. Moving to Romania continues this trend: we’ll be minutes away from Larisa’s sisters, and my children will get a chance to know many Romanian cousins whom they had never previously met.
My wife’s family has deep roots in the area where we’ll be living. She was willing to uproot herself and come to the US with me for a decade. Now it’s my turn to go to her hometown, and I can’t wait.
I kind of got sick of sitting at a desk all day with a manager looking over my shoulder, you know?
Don’t get me wrong: I really liked my software job, but as part of my shift in priorities, I found myself progressively more disengaged from the work I was getting paid to do, and more interested in other things. Selling my house in the US and moving to Romania (a country with a lower overall cost of living) allows me to go into freelance programming, something which offers me tremendously more flexibility and freedom. I hope to cut back on the number of hourse I spend programming, and put that time into other things.
One of which is publishing. I’ve been writing like a madman for the past several months, and I’m hoping to use some of this extra time turn my writing output from “substantial” to “OMG SO MANY WORDS”. I have a half-written series of six books which I’m going to start releasing next summer, and beyond that there are many, many worlds that I want to visit. I have a crazy dream of putting out a novel every other month, and with all this newfound time, I might just be able to do it.
My wife, meanwhile, is working hard to bootstrap her aromatherapy and therapeutic massage business in Romania. This is something she had worked on here in the states for the past few years, and there’s a large untapped market for this kind of thing in Romania. I think she’s gonna make it big.
Oh, but there’s one more thing that I’m going to do in Romania:
The main thing that my wife and I want to do, the thing which really got us thinking about Romania in the first place, is make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Gypsy children in Aiud, Romania.
Larisa’s sister and brother-in-law spent the last several years working in a small Gypsy village in Romania providing social services and education to the impoverished population there. They initially contacted us about two years ago wanting to know if we would be interested in joining them. We thought about it seriously, but for various reasons that arrangement didn’t work out for us. But we couldn’t shake the idea of revamping our lives, and using some of our money and expertise to reach out to people in Larisa’s home country.
The idea we decided we could act on was to open a kind of after-school program for children from poor families who are struggling in school. The Romanian education system is set up to require a lot of parental supervision: the school day is only 4 hours long, and children are provided with homework and lessons which they are expected to complete with the help of their parents. However, economic changes in Romania mean that there are lots of families with absent parents or parents who aren’t able to support their children’s education due to their own poor education or personal problems. Romania is relatively lacking in the kinds of extracurricular activities and remedial education which can help these kids. We hope to step in to fill this gap in our local city.
We’re focusing on children in grades 1-6, hoping to intervene before people fall too far behind. Initially, we’ll simply be going to local principals and offering tutoring in common subjects (English, math, reading, and writing). Soon we hope to expand this into an after-school program which offers a healthy meal followed by a structured time for homework and mentoring. Eventually, we hope to integrate the after-school program a fuller family-oriented curriculum that offers counseling and support to parents and their kids together.
But that’s still a ways away! We’ve determined to go slow and take things as they come, discovering exactly what the needs and priorities of the people we work with are. We’ve already had to change plans a few times, and we might have to change them again. But we’re definitely going to do something.
(Because we often get asked: we don’t have a formal non-profit organization yet, and we aren’t asking for donations. Our plan is for me to continue working and support the family, while the profits from Larisa’s business are put into the charity work.)
It’s going to be an adventure. I’m incredibly excited.