ECHOES: Dustin

Design by Alexa Druyanoff

The following is sourced from a conversation with Dustin Olteanu (TD ’26). Quotes are edited for clarity and length.

Ever since I was two years old, I’ve traveled to Romania almost every summer. The US always feels like a workplace, expecting my labor and fullest attention. But Romania…Romania is my shelter, my true home. 

Summer of 2022 was my first trip after COVID. I stayed in Sibiu, where my parents are from. It’s a vibrant but mellow place. It’s also known as “the town with eyes” because the windows on all the houses’ rooftops look like friendly eyes that gaze down at the people in the streets.

About a month into my stay, my Invisalign retainer cracked. There aren’t a lot of Invisalign providers in Sibiu, so I went to see a local dentist who claimed he could make me a temporary retainer based on a mold of my teeth. To make the mold, he used an uncomfortable putty that stuck to my gums. The entire time I had this nagging fear that the putty would become glued to my gums and the dentist would pull my teeth out. That never happened, of course. 

Some friends of my first cousins-once-removed own a business in nearby Tălmaciu that manufactures steel and wood frames for office buildings. They gave me and my aunt a tour of the factory. One of the work stations was an ultra-powered laser that cut through sheet metal. A worker showed us how to insert the metal into a hole where it would be cut. The laser activates as soon as it detects metal, so you have to pull your hand out quickly to avoid dismemberment.

Allegedly, a rat once got trapped in the machine and got chopped in half. Not every hole is meant to be plugged, I guess.

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