Holiday from hell in Romania: Cashless and living in four-day-old clothes


Suceava, Romania, where our columnist is cashless, almost homeless, and roaming the streets in sweaty clothes. — CEZAR SUCEVEANU/Wikimedia Commons

Currently, I’m homeless in Suceava.

I’m on a family trip to Romania, where my wife is from a little village out here, and within minutes of arriving at the farmhouse, our little boy was trembling from the cold. Which is when we realised we had underestimated the effect of him growing up in South-East Asia where 26°C is considered frosty. Here it’s 13°C, and it definitely had an effect on him.

Our boy caught bronchiolitis. Then he was promptly taken to the hospital in the nearby town, by ambulance, which thrilled him to no end.

Our boy has been in the hospital for the past three nights, in Suceava, the nearest big city to my wife’s village, and we travelled here so fast that we brought nothing with us.

Now let me reassure you, our son is OK. Bronchiolitis is pretty common with kids, so though he’s having some trouble breathing, he’s still as cheeky as ever, waiting eagerly for ambulances to arrive at the Ambulance House (what he calls the hospital) and calling me “little buddy Daddy”, in response to me calling him “little buddy”.

He’s also adamant that he wants to return to Romania; clearly he doesn’t grasp the concept of countries, instead he thinks Romania is the name of his grandmother’s house. “We are at Romania!” he said with glee looking around her kitchen.

So our boy is OK. Just getting treatment in the hospital. His mother is staying with him, which is a rough job – keeping a toddler happy stuck in a room isn’t easy – but she has a bed, and has had local friends drop off clothes for her, and the hospital provides her food.

Now let’s get to Daddy.

Daddy has been wearing the same clothes for four days. Which is made worse because I have to walk everywhere because for some strange reason every bank machine in the country tells me my card PIN is wrong. So I have no cash. Which is a problem, because rural Romania is very much a cash society. The little shops and small cafés that line the side of the main road are mostly cash businesses, which means I cannot pay for anything.

There is also no ride hailing service here, and taxi’s only take cash, so I’m limited to travelling only as far as I can walk. I did manage to find a hotel about 2km from the hospital, so that’s a plus – but that means I walk 2km back and forth multiple times a day. Which brings me back to the clothing situation.

I need clean clothes.

I’m sweating in my clothes non-stop as I walk back and forth, back and forth. I can’t find a shop to buy anything from within my walking radius, so I’m stuck. Every morning I wake up, shower and put on the clothes I wore yesterday and every day, it gets a bit harder to do.

And if you’re wondering about underwear and socks? Yes, I’ve been wearing the same things for four days. At this rate I’m going to give myself herpes. Yes, I know herpes doesn’t spread like that, but I’m going to give myself something wearing the same rancid undies day in and day out.

After seeing my boy in the hospital, I wander the streets of Suceava in my gross sweat pants and increasingly disgusting jacket – that I’ve sweated far too much in – and I look like I’m homeless. The good thing is I’ve always said being safe when travelling means not sticking out as overly affluent. Basically, don’t look rich, and no one will try to rob you. Well, I’m definitely not looking rich these days. People cross the street to avoid walking too closely by me.

What’s funny is in my younger days, I would have lived for this situation. I would have hiked across town, found a clothing store, bought some new stuff and supplies and set myself up in the hotel. I loved travelling and my backpack always had multiple currencies to deal with any issues. I would have loved talking to people and trying to sort out my situation.

But now, I just hope my boy gets better soon so I can stop living mostly on the streets in the cold while looking for places that take credit cards. I’m too old for this.


Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – a model who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries and lifestyle programming. Write to him at lifestyle@thestar.com.my and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.

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Jason Godfrey , travel , homeless , sick child

   

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