Walk #8, with: 'Flora' (born 1976)
Where: Bucharest, Romania
When: 12 April 2016
I made contact with 'Flora' via OKCupid, which I quite often use in unfamiliar cities to identify people with similar values. Having suggested we meet for a walk and a coffee I was amused when she emailed across four different walk suggestions for me to choose from, all - by her description - variations on a theme of swampy, over-grown urban parks. It was as much as I could do to get her to pick one of them!
I took the tram which, to my shame, having failed to realise I should buy a ticket from a kiosk, I did not pay for, and managed to meet Flora the old-fashioned way at an intersection at a pre-agreed time.
We marched very fast through residential streets, stopping only for me to buy a quick snack from a bakery hatch in an underpass, to share our dismay at a 'Family Coalition' poster stating that man + woman + kids = family, and for Flora to decide whether a rather striking abandoned circuit-board would fit in her mysteriously bulging rucksack (it wouldn't).
Arriving at the park I noted that the large lake having been drained appeared to have deterred neither the casual fishermen nor the local frog population. Crossing a bridge onto an 'island' some young men commented in our direction. Dryly, Flora translated 'they want to have sex'. This was the only homophobia I was aware of in Romania; when not with another queer person it's much easier to fly under the radar.
Next we passed some nice blossom and walked into a church inside a small orthodox monastery. Flora said women aren't supposed to go inside the church during their period, a rule we both took pleasure in flouting, and encouraged me to take photographs to see what the priest would do.
Continuing our walk we talked a bit about Flora's dislike of Romania and preference for the part of Southeast Asia where she lived for several years until recently. Though the culture there is increasingly repressive of women, Flora has become so exasperated with political corruption in Romania she currently has no desire to remain in her own country and hopes to return to Asia soon.
At the end of our walk we stopped for a cake at a popular neighbourhood bakery and I found myself wondering when and where I'll next meet Flora. Mungkin di Asia! Terima kasih, Flora!