Friday, March 21, 2008

City Slicker

A little hitch hiking and 4 hours on a bus next thing you know you have arrived in Cluj. Cluj is a great university city just south of the village on the far northern edge of the famous Transylvania region. I decided that I needed bit of a break from all of the fresh air the village has to offer and get back to civilisation for a few days. Cluj has a lot to offer...shops, restaurants, a night life and even starbucks (the second one in Romania)! Oh and Obviously a plethora of internet cafes. So that gets us up to speed to where I currently am. So now for a brief update on the last couple of weeks.
So I thought digging a 1/2 meter deep trench was back breaking...little did I know that filling it in would be just as tiring if not more. We laid the plastic piping from the source of the spring all the way down to a valley where more pipes will be needed to led to the respective homes. All in all we laid and re-filled 100 meters of pipe and dirt respectively. I was given a spade and slap on the back and we got started. My hands became blistered despite the nice hard layer of Clausius they have developed from all the wood I have chopped, but I kept on. That afternoon was quite unusual, it rained, snowed, hailed, the sun shined and there were bouts of wind that almost knocked me over. Just I as I was hitting my stride we broke for lunch, which because of the fast going on consisted of bean soup, garlic and orange soda...a far cry from the traditional "mountain spread" consisting of pig fat, smoked sausages and horlinka...however it satisfied the emptiness in my stomach. Just as it was digging the trench, filling it in takes no special talent, just a lot of elbow grease and back breaking effort. Everyone on the hillside laughed as they asked me if I has ever done this type of work before in the States. This was a saturday and as with every saturday around 6:30 - 7:00 pm a bell rings out from the church letting everyone know to cease whatever work they are doing and go home, relax and clean up for Sunday, the day of church, family and cabbage rolls. We still had a touch of work left as well as a ray of sun still shining from the fast sinking sun when we heard the bell ringing off the mountain side. Immediately, all of the women with us dropped their shovel or spade and said good night. I was exhausted, really really exhausted, but I just wanted to finish and not have to worry about coming back up here the following week. So being the team player that I am and the only one of the troop who is not Orthodox I keep the spade in my hand and kept rocking. All the old women told me that I did not have the permission from god to keep working but I joked back that I didn't understand what they were saying in Romanian and that because I was not Orthodox I was of the benefits of speaking more than one language! Finally we finished filling in the trench, all 100 meters and needless to say I sleep damn good that night! I could not bend my fingers the next day, or my body for that matter... however I always feel better about stuffing my face with cabbage rolls on Sunday after a hard days work.
With Easter on its way, we have 8 lambs running around the barn and just as a couple of days ago a baby goat which I just looked up and is called a kid on english. We started off with a set of twin lambs and then over the course of the last 3 weeks every so often there would be another one on the barn floor in the morning. They are amazingly playful, soft and cute. For the first 6-8 weeks they are not able to eat anything but their mothers milk and cows milk out of a bottle. I have been assisting the two boys with this process, which is not as easy as one would think. The lambs and kid do not stay in the same part of the barn as their moms, because other moms will kick them and be abusive. Therefore, when it is time to feed the lambs we bring the mothers into one part of the barn from the field and then go after the lambs and kid. However, the lambs and the kid stay in the same part of the barn as the horse and cow, but in a separate compartment. We have to be careful when letting the lambs out because they spook the horse who could easily crush them with her hooves and from the cow who tries to gore them every chance she gets. Finally once the are in with their mothers they feed and then we have to separate them and put them outside. This is the best part of me. Once away from their moms the start running wildly and jumping every where. If you run with them they get even crazier and more out of control. After a bit of play time they are carefully guided back to their pin where they await the cows milk. I have been assigned this task which I signed up for but had no idea what I was getting myself into. As soon as those lambs see the bottle of warm cows milk the all attack me and try to climb up my legs, in my boots and over whoever is in their path to the milk. Once one has a hold of the nipple on the bottle, others push, shove, bite, do whatever is necessary to saviour a taste. The even resort to biting at my pants which scared the hell out of me the first time and brought tears to my families eyes because they laughed so hard. As hazardous as it is with those sweet Innocent lambs and kid I love doing it and look forward to it every night. Oh also, in my two attempts at milking the cow I have failed miserably, not even a drip comes out! I try to warm up to her before but she as nothing to do with me, I think she is playing hard to get. Maybe some candles and a glass of wine would help?

Ciao, SUTW & Keep smiling

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Pickles! Why wouldn't we want Pickles!"

I hope this find all who read it well and good! I have not been able to write in awhile but today the internet is working, at least for the time being, and it is raining outside so no work to do outside. Life has been really good. I have summited the highest peak in the surrounding mountains, it was not very high however there was plenty of snow which made it very challenging. Every step I took I would sink about 2-3 feet down and have to lift my foot up and over the next bundle of snow. I really enjoyed it, I am all ready planning trips to other parts of Romania for summer excursions. I went with the husband of the family I live with, his brother, a neighbor and one of the boys I live with. On the way up to the peak we came across these concrete blocks along the road. I asked what these were or what they will be for. I was informed that during Communism these were electricity poles but after the revolution, even though they worked perfectly well they were destroyed just from what they represented. As we continued up the mountain we came across old abandoned buildings, again I asked what these were. They used to be check points before the revolution, anyone and/or thing crossing these mountains would be checked and as one of the men said, forced to pay a bribe to the patrol not matter if you had papers or not. I have not asked too many questions about the days before the revolution, but on this day the men spoke freely and with a lot of emotion. It was way more than a sunday afternoon hike, this was a real life history lesson! Since then, I have helped put in new fence poles and fence, I have dug over 65 yards of ditch to lay a pipe that will send water from a natural spring in the mountains to a certain part of the village. By the way I have a whole new respect for ditch digging, no two ways about it, it is just back breaking work! The weather has been mild and with a lot of rain. The kids as well as I have spring fever. Everyone is fasting for Easter, April 27th in the Orthodox calendar here. For seven weeks, people do not eat any animal products or drink alcohol! Fortunatly, not everyone is required to follow this fast, for example long haired, American teachers are exempt, but I am abiding 50/50. I am enjoying the break from the pig fat and horlinka but I have already eaten some chicken and some cheese, opps! Well I hope all is well for everyone and keep smiling!

PS - the title of this post is a direct quote from the husband of the family I live with. One evening after coming home from the forest we were all eating and Angela, his wife asked if anyone would like pickles with the food. Ion responded with "Pickles! Why wouldn't we want pickles!?" I dont know maybe you had to be there but we all laughed until we were red in the face, or maybe it is just funnier with horlinka! Oh and the pickles here are to die for, homemade with plenty of deliciousness