Craiova is a small city that is growing by the day. They have opened an international airport, and various road building projects are underway. By observation I see what it takes to boost the economy of a city, and to be honest it’s not that hard (a topic for another day). The people of Craiova are not used to someone like me- Black, and their reactions are a bit interesting, depending on the person’s point of view. I have not encountered any racist behaviour but instead I have been the recipient of what I deem to be a celebrity status- a rather unwanted status- especially when the various festivals in the city occur. Imagine walking into the pharmacy and the person behind the till asking you to take a picture with them, going to the park and a random person asking you to take a picture with them, going to the circus and children asking u to take a picture with them; I think you get the picture. It can be a bit annoying when the bus goes past you as you walk on the street and everyone apart from the bus driver is breaking their necks to get as vivid a mental picture of you. But I must be clear that this is not the regular occurrence- apart from the bus thing lol- but it happens a bit too frequently in my opinion. I must also emphasise that this is based on my personal experience and to be honest the more you frown the less likely people will to want to take pictures with you.
Ever heard of “manele” music? Well this stuff rocks every Romanian party there is. It sounds different from anything I had previously heard and how annoying or enjoyable you find it depends on what exactly you are doing at the moment it’s being played. In my opinion it only sounds good when you are dancing to it. You get in circles and perform three steps repeatedly- kind of like the Hollywood portrayal of Russians dancing- until you are tired. Mind you, this dance can take a while (I think I have gone 20-30 minutes non-stop before, but I didn’t count lol). However it might surprise you- as it did me- that D’Banj’s Oliver Twist is a banger and the song received widespread play on the radio. The younger Romanian generation are more open with their music and there are some classic pop tunes that would be a hit, if only they were released in English. I suggest you check out “minim doi” by Alex Velea and “Inevitable va fi bine” by Andra. Within the first few weeks of my arrival I loved the music.
The university experience has been great so far. With my set being the first, they have sought to really take care of us and meet all our needs/demands. Imagine complaining that an anatomy partial exam was too difficult,and being promised that the next partial would be “not so difficult”, and surely it was not. You are made to work very hard but there’s the feeling that the university and your lecturers- bar the rogue one or two- are not against you succeeding but are willing to encourage and support you. Not everything is perfect but not much is wrong either. We have also had to learn the Romanian language, but living in the country means it’s not so difficult to pick up the basics, and of course studying in English is the main attraction here. An English section has been created in the Department of Medicine.
The weather is not necessarily an attraction but is definitely a positive. Having lived in England previously, I can vouch that a Romanian summer is indeed a summer. As of the time I left Craiova for Abuja on holiday in July, both cities were experiencing exactly the same weather conditions, with both having hot days at an average of 27 degrees Celsius and intermittent rainy days. Apart from being a summer it also lasts long. I remember having to wear light clothing into early November last year. Funnily enough my coldest experience (not necessarily the coldest day of the year) also came in the same November. I and the only other Nigerian at the university had gone to see the new James Bond movie. Both of us slept off during the screening and upon waking up and exiting the cinema we were greeted by bitterly cold wind that left you with the terrible choice of covering your ears so your ears would not sting or placing your hand in your pocket so your hands would not freeze (I remember switching between both whenever the pain was getting too much). The extreme winter predicted turned out to be pretty lukewarm in the end. Personally I realised two things: that a -10 in Craiova feels exactly like a 5 in Sheffield, the main difference being the regular cold wind that comes along with the British winter, also that a muffler hat goes a really long way. Other cities in Romania do have more extreme weathers and I remember the capital Bucharest having a -35 while I was on a later visit there. Talking about cities, Craiova ranks low in terms of beauty in my opinion. I have seen pictures of cities such as Cluj, Constanta, Sibiu… and they look stunning. Personally I have experienced Bucharest and Brasov and both were much more lovely in comparison. Bucharest for me would be the Lagos of Romania because that’s where all the money is made, and where everyone looks to go for business opportunity. Cluj is on the the other hand the Abuja. Even though it is not the capital, it is quite modern and expensive too.
Speaking of food, I must say I am not a big fan of the Romanian cuisine but I have grown to love their tripe soup. I was surprised to find “shaki” in my food upon randomly ordering ciorba de burta but I definitely liked what I tasted. Now I must also tell you that a friend of mine tasted it and screamed “God Forbid”. I did find it rude that someone would spit disgust at something I was eating but it goes to show that cuisine is all about your personal preference in taste. The influence of the Black Sea can be identified with the fact that they eat a lot of fish. They also love their soups and you would find a lot of Ciorbas (The C is pronounced with a “ch”, and there you have your first Romanian word), if you visit any of the restaurants.
Regarding Romanian education as a whole I must note that there is a dark side. I had originally successfully applied to Carol Davila school of Medicine in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, with my only obligation being that I pass an English test. When the results came out I indeed had passed the English test but my result was below standard. Funny thing was that even the guys that had come from the UK couldn’t speak English well enough as some of theirs were below standard as well. I was surprised when I spoke to one of the guys I had done my exam with, who could hardly speak to me in English, and he told me he had got a 10/10. Suddenly it all made sense and I was no longer distraught (let’s just say something had changed hands on a mass scale.). I hold no grudge against the other applicant and to be honest the fault here is with the establishment for allowing that to happen.
So I found myself in Craiova and the rest they say is history.
On a final note, I have been asked several times upon returning to Nigeria on holiday why I study in 9 hours away-Romania and unfortunately the answer does not shed glorious light on my beloved nation. In Craiova, I don’t have to deal with PHCN and their sadistic power cuts. The internet is the second fastest in Europe and more importantly it is cheap! I would gladly ask that people question why we Nigerians pay so much for the quality of internet we are getting and that we demand proper regulation. Thirdly I don’t have to deal with ASUU strikes and I will definitely finish my six year course in six years. I really believe it is worth it. But of course, I will be coming back to Naija……eventually 😀
See more photos of Ayo below
Ayodele Alabi is a man of three passions. God, Football, and Medicine. A christian with great love for the “red devils”. He is currently studying Medicine in Romania. Once in a while, he blogs at ayoalabi.wordpress.com