I’m an outgoing gal for the most part.  There are stories of me chatting up gang members and homeless guys on the T in Boston.  Or getting into a 30-minute conversation with a woman in Walmart when she asks me about condensed milk versus evaporated milk for a pumpkin pie.   And I always seem to be the person an older lady or guy sits next to on the bus/train and then, once they realize I speak Romanian, I get several hours of their family history.  Maybe it’s my open face or that I’m quick to smile or that I make eye contact. Who knows.  In general, I like people and their stories.  David finds this characteristic of mine endearing, most of the time.  He’s not so into talking to strangers.  But this week, I took him on a little adventure. . .

While we were at the library working, I saw this group of Asian students pass by the door.  I might have whisper-screamed “Foreigners!” and got all giddy.  Really, I miss America’s diversity SO much!  Later on, I was talking with my colleague Corina and asked about the group.  It’s a group of students from the Phillipines here for a math competition.  I immediately thought of my friend Mari-An in Sibiu — she’s a grad student from the Phillipines studying in Romania.  I texted her: There’s a group from the Phillipines in Ramnicu Valcea!

Now before I continue with this anecdote, it’s important to note that being far from home when I hear someone speaking American English, I have this urge to talk to them and meet them. I think I miss Americans and so I jump at the chance to interact with them. I figured my friend Mari-An might miss her fellow citizens, too.  So I offered to talk to enough random strangers in town to get Mari-An connected with the group from the Phillipines.

So I dragged David with me to the school across the street.  I talked to the hall monitor students who greet visitors.  I explained that I’m a foreigner and I heard there was a group of foreigners at the school.  Could I talk to them? They looked at me like I had three heads.  A woman passing by overheard our conversation and brought out another woman for me to talk with. I explained again.  Me, foreigner.  Them, foreigners. Friend of mine, foreigner. She was quite helpful — told me about the competition, the group’s itinerary, and even their hotel. I asked if I could come to the math competition and she laughed, “Why would you? It’s not like math is fun.”

Back at the library, I debated going to the math competition to try and meet an adult with the group, but thought that might disrupt the mathletes’ mojo.  I thought about going to their hotel and asking about them, but that seemed creepy.

On the walk home, we passed the group’s hotel and I decided to drag David along and talk to more random people — the receptionist or maybe someone in the lobby.  We entered the hotel lobby and there were at least five people from the Phillipines hanging around.  One gentleman made eye contact with me and I headed towards him, introduced myself and began with my crazy reason for wanting to talk to him: “I’m an American Volunteer here and I have a friend from the Phillipines and she’s here in Romania and she’d love to talk to someone from home. If your group is traveling this weekend, she’d love to meet up with you.”  Fast forward fifteen minutes and  I had learned about their group, the guy (Arve), his students, his thoughts on Romania and travel. He noted my name and number as well as Mari-An’s, promising to get in touch.

As we left the hotel, David commented: “You’re the only person I know who can do that so easily.” “Do what?”  I asked. “Talk to random people with a crazy request and not come across as crazy yourself.”