Updated: Jun 4
Wow, this one is going to be difficult to do justice to. Ana is one of the single most significant people in my life. When I was lost and thought that I had failed in love she was the bright shining beacon of hope in the darkness. When I had given up looking I found her in the most unlikely of spots. Her natural beauty, charm, kindness and intelligence keeps me grounded and causes me to fall in love with her over and over again.
In 2008 after leaving Worldspan I returned to Romania to visit with some of my Tech Team friends and to attend the wedding of Nicolae and Roxanna. Nick and Roxi (as I know them) are wonderful people with hearts of gold. They offered to put me up in their apartment (as did Roxi's sister Loradonna) when in Bucharest. When we got to Nicks hometown of Râmnicu Sărat I checked into the Hotel Ovidiu and set about to help them with the wedding plans during the day and exploring the town at night. They were doing most of the work themselves so we moved a lot of tables, picked out fruit for the reception, went to speak to the priest, etc. I got to meet Nick's parents and the happy couples godparents Silviu and Monica.
As is tradition in Romanian weddings the godparents hosted a party the day before the big event. As Silviu and Monica were living in Ploiești at the time they used his fathers house to host the party. Nick invited me to attend and Roxi stayed behind to handle some last minute arrangements. We arrived at the 3rd floor apartment to discover a large number of people already crammed into the modest rooms. Alternating between techno/house music and traditional Romanian music the laptop in the corner of the living room served as the DJ station constantly queued up so there was no interruption in the entertainment. The furniture was shoved against the walls and the center of the room served as a makeshift dance floor
Romanians love to dance. That's an understatement to say the least. I met several people that evening but due to the loud music (guess the neighbors are understanding) and the constant motion demanded by dancing it was near impossible to have a real conversation of any kind. At one point still early in the evening I stepped onto the porch to give myself a reprieve (Americans don't dance as much) and to catch some fresh air. I spoke with Nick and his godparents. Soon thereafter Monica received a text and stepped back into the apartment, a few minutes later I saw her round the corner returning to the living room with a new face in tow. Following her was a petite young woman with long strawberry blond hair wearing a green shirt and tight jeans. She had the sweetest most angelic face and was clearly ecstatic to be there as without hesitation she joined into the ring of dancers circling the room.
I got close to her a few times that evening and made a futile attempt to speak to her but it was always drowned out by all the activity. We partied quite late but still left before most of the other guests. As Nick was the groom to be I didn't argue when he said it was time to and welcomed the opportunity to rest my legs. The next day a steady stream of guests came to visit the would be newlyweds. I spent most of the time just trying to not be in the way helping Nick's mom in the kitchen till I was replaced by Roxi's family that had traveled from Dărmănești.
The wedding and traditions were breathtaking and beautiful (something I will address in a future post) and that evening we found ourselves dancing again at the reception. A lot of the same faces I had met over the past few days were present. I was honored with a table very near to the front and sat with some of the newlyweds family giving me a clear view of the dance floor. Early in the evening I saw the sweet young lady from the previous night this time in a white dress with red trimmings. Again without hesitation she entered the dance floor seamlessly switching between the (forgive the analogy) "Ring Around the Rosie" type traditional dancing and the more footloose style that comes from party music.
After a brief hesitancy I said under my breath, "carpe diem" and joined them on the floor. My main focus was to not look like a fool while trying to get closer to the cute girl in the red and white dress. At some point I realized I had her attention and she seem to be watching my feet more than anything which made me self conscious of my movements. After some strategic maneuvers I found myself close enough that when the next slow song started I extend my hand and ask her to dance. Sadly it was rather short and my attempts to talk to her failed so when she walked back to her table I followed her.
It was only at this point detached from the loud music that she was able to hear me. You could tell she was surprised when she finally heard my voice as until this point she thought I was Romanian (despite the giant American flag shirt I was wearing the first night). All the eyes at her table turned to look at me as they each tried to decide why on Earth I was there. I felt pretty awkward so after a few exchanges I excused myself and went back to my table.
A short while later I saw her dancing alone and summoned the courage to join her. She seemed more engaging and focused less on my feet and more on my face (which I took as a positive change). This time when she stepped away from the dance floor she took her time almost as if she wanted me to come after her (and I eagerly complied). Standing next to a pillar off to the side I was finally able to get her name, "Ana Maria" she announced sweetly. Her accent was pronounced and adorable and her body language was reserved but approachable. I explained how I came to be there and she told me that her best friend was the godmother of the couple. We hit it off well enough that I asked to see her again the next day and to my excitement she instantly agreed.
The reception went until the next morning and the sun was coming up when people finally started to file out. Not realizing this when I first arranged to meet her I had only a couple of hours to sleep before I had to get up. Luckily she picked a park not far from my hotel and despite my red eyes and tired muscles I bounded down the street to see her. Although I was early she beat me there and although she was dressed down and also running on very little sleep she looked like a million bucks.
This was the first real conversation we had without distractions. I was tense at first hoping that she would like me but quickly became comfortable in her presence. Her English was good enough for us to communicate but you could tell she was rusty and struggled to come up with words on occasion. I don't know how long we stayed in that park but it must have been a couple of hours until finally she had to go. Not wanting the moment to end I asked to see her again which, once again, she quickly agreed to. I saw her a couple of times that week each time getting to know her a little better. Concerned what her family would think about her talking to an American she never let me walk her home.
A week after the wedding I went back to Bucharest with Nick and Roxi as planned and stayed with Loradonna while they went on their honeymoon to Barcelona. I had plenty of Tech Team friends in town but couldn't stop thinking about sweet Ana and asked her if I could come back one more time. She agreed and I used my experience with the subway system to get to the main train station in town, Gara de Nord. From there I was outside of my comfort zone and fumbled my way through booking a "MicroBus" ticket back to Râmnicu Sărat. I road two hours Northeast and not wanting to miss my stop I got off as soon as I saw the welcome sign only to discover I had added a couple of miles to my walk.
I connect with Ana once again and she helped me book another room in Hotel Ovidiu. We ate dinner and talked the night away before strolling through the park. I had become so comfortable in her presence and fell in love with her smile. In the matter of a little more than a week she had already improved on her English and showed how deep and insightful she was. I stayed as long as I could till I had to hurry back to Bucharest, stopping quickly at Loradonna's to pick up the rest of luggage, say goodbye and hurry to the airport.
We kept in touch via email, IMs and when we could afford it long distance phone calls. I came to see her again and she came to America back and forth till she agreed to be my wife (all good stories to share). Now here I am 13 years later the luckiest man alive with a wife just as beautiful and smart as the day I met her.
This video is me being sappy and I felt it was appropriate on this post. I recorded one of these a day for a long time. And now more photos from the trip where I met Ana...