Bridging East and West – An Erasmus love story

, by Radu Dumitrescu

Bridging East and West – An Erasmus love story
Source - europesluxuryhotels

You know those people that groan as if suddenly overcome with pain whenever the words “Valentine’s Day” are uttered? I used to be one of them. How about the hearts that popped out in commercials or in wishes and declarations, filling the internet with gooey, sticky, lovey-dovey feelings? Repulsive, aren’t they?

And yet, I’m writing this article from a foreign, chilly bedroom located in the north of a foreign country, some 2800 km away from the familiarity of my native lands. All around this bedroom there are lots of locals with strange-sounding names, some I can’t even pronounce properly, each populated with plenty of people whom I probably couldn’t understand in their native language. Not probably, more like surely.

Just earlier today I went to buy groceries in a shop that advertised everything in a language I don’t speak. Yesterday I visited one of the hearts of Europe – a city that I only read about or saw in the movies. Few people in my world have ever stood before the Notre Dame, or got on top of the Eiffel Tower. But I did.

Moreover, I flew here – I should probably mention that I’m quite terrified of flying – and then waited for about 5 hours in a frozen Belgian airport for a 68-year old Frenchman who didn’t speak any English and who was supposed to drive me to my final destination. What could have possibly possessed me to do all of these things? Well, the same gooey, sticky, lovey-dovey feelings that so repulsed me before.

No, you stop that smile from forming and that “aw” from coming out. Otherwise you won’t hear the rest of the story.

Erasmus is to blame, really. A programme that was started years ago by a few distant, coldhearted and calculated bureaucrats, as EU officials are often portrayed by their critics, brought us together. The funds they attributed almost randomly brought her to me, and led me through all of those adventures.

2007, the year that my country joined the EU, was to be the first step in our meeting. Hers had been a core member since the beginning. Europe became a reality without my homeland. Without hers, there is no Europe.

We met in the Eastern parts of Europe, among flats that still had rounds from the 1989 revolution in them, and entire blocks that were built at the whims of a dictator. One month later, we took it to the West, on streets that carried names of the 1789 revolution and cathedrals built by ancient kings.

She was(is) a fiery leftist, educated in an environment that’s plentiful in inequalities and intellectuals keen to counter them. I was(am) a classical liberal, born and raised in a country ravaged by the incompetence of communism and the disappointments of post-communism, one that killed its intellectuals long ago and served them on the altar of equality. She was(is) a vegetarian from a country that offers that alternative to its inhabitants. I had eaten meat with every meal since I could remember, since my fellow countrymen view not eating meat as a form of disability. She was used to having a very bad internet connection, I was used to having the best in Europe. I could go on and on with differences.

But differences are not the point of this article. Or of the Erasmus programme. Or of the European Union itself. But then what is the point of it? Well, that’s easy. It’s love.

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