Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Green Acres

I was finishing up at school today when I got a call from a phone number I didn't recognize:

"Mike, it's Tibi. Remember you said a while back that you'd like to help out at the village?"
"well, I'm leaving now, do you still want to come?"
"uhhh, ok. (I would have preferred a little more notice) I can be ready in 30 minutes."

So we met half an hour later, and drove off to the village of Tipari (pronounced 'Tseepar'). Tibi grew up in the village, and his mother still lives there. The village was once exclusively Hungarian, but many Hungarian families left after the Revolution. However, Tibi's family remained and they still strongly identify with their Hungarian roots. In fact, I was greeted at the door with a bowl of paprikash, bread and home-made sour cream.

I was wearing shorts, so Tibi's mom found me a pair of her husband's old pants for me to borrow. They were about 3 sizes to big around the waist, so I used a bungee chord to cinch them tight. We loaded up the cart, attached it to the tractor and headed out to the fields. Sitting in the back of the cart, I waved to Tibi's mom as we exited the gate. But, she didn't wave back. Instead, she made a sign like "no no, hang on, I'm coming with you guys." And sure enough, she closed the gate, and jumped on the tractor.

So, we were off like a hurd of turtles. The sun was shining brightly. I bounced around in the back of the cart as we made our way down the dirt path. When we arrived at the first field, I noticed that the grass had been cut, and was laying in rows. I soon found out that our job was to flip the piles so the hay so they could dry out in the sun (it had rained the day before). We got to it, and nearly immediately the storm clouds rolled in. Just our luck, right?

We decided to keep going, in spite of the threatening skies. We saw bolts of lightning to the south, and felt the occasional drop of rain. But, nevertheless, we kept going. Sure enough, our persistence paid off, because the storm passed just to the south (but it was still pretty overcast, so it didn't seem like the hay would dry out very quickly). We moved on to the next field and did the same. Thunder continued to rumble in the distance.

The scenery was really nice. We had a lovely view of the mountains to the east. At one point I stopped to just look around and get my bearings. I pointed and called to Tibi, "this way is west?" He said, "yeah, everywhere you want to go is that way." I thought for a moment, 'that way is home...I wonder what my family and friends are doing right now...'

The sky cleared just in time for the sun to begin setting. It was about 7:30pm. We were nearly done with the 3rd field. The field was on a hill, and we were working on one side of it. Little did I know that there was another group working on the opposite side. As we reached the top, we met the other group. I found out it was Tibi's uncle, aunt and cousins. They all started speaking in Hungarian, and, for a second, I forgot I was in Romania.

By 8:30 we had finished the 3rd field. We went back to the first field to see if the hay had dried out enough to load on the cart, but alas, no. So we just went home. Once back at the house I ate some cherries, bread and sour cream. After I went out in the yard to pick visine (sour cherries, pronounced 'veesheenay'). I stayed out till 9:40 or so-- gotta love the long daylight hours!

I left Tipari by 10, after a good day's work, with visine-stained hands and a bottle of fresh milk given me by Tibi's mom.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

2008 Concordia Cup

Today was the 12th annual Concordia Cup, hosted by Clubul Concordia, Lugoj. It took place just outside town, near a village called Poganesti. There were nearly 70 participants (a new record) and they were from all over Romania. I volunteered to help out with the organization, and was assigned to check-point 2, which was the half-way point of the trail. It was a lot of fun, and luckily the weather held out until the very end (when we were cleaning up it started to rain).

More pictures can be found HERE

Euro 2008

Later that evening, after the bike race, I went to the center of town with Martin (a Danish guy living in town, and my pseudo-sitemate).

The attraction was a new giant LED screen that they had recently installed in front of the Lugoj 'House of Culture' (Casa de Cultura), which is a sort of performance hall. The Euro 2008 football championship is on, and here in Lugoj they're using the big screen to show the matches-- quite a cool idea (better than 24/7 adverts). They set up a beer garden in front of the screen so that people can watch the games in comfort. Tomorrow night is Romania vs. France, so I expect the whole town th show up.

Here are some pics of this new-fangled contraption:

The new monstrosity

A closer view

The beer garden they set up in front of the screen


Saturday, June 7, 2008


my new-old bike

Last week I was talking to one of the physics teachers at school, and I happened to mention to him that I've been looking for a second-hand bike, something not too expensive. Without a moment's hestitation he said, "I have an old bike at home that I don't use anymore. You can borrow it for as long as you need." What a sweet deal! A free bike! Almost too good to be true. In fact he had his son bring the bike to the school that very same day so I could see it and decide if I wanted it.

It hadn't been used in a few years, but it was still in pretty good shape. In fact it was quite a beauty for a free bike, complete with white-wall tires, shiny white fenders, a dynamo-powered lighting system, and a bell (certainly a cruiser). It's a Motobecane 'Mont Blanc,' circa early 90's. The tires hold air, and everything is in decent working order (except the rear derailleur needs some adjustment, but luckily I know a mechanic at the bike shop in town).

I took the bike on a little trip today to a colleague's home on the edge of town. She has a huge garden, full of onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, peppers, celery, carrots, squash, cherries AND strawberries. Strawberries! Needless to say, I spent most of my time picking the strawberries (one in the basket, two in the mouth).

On the topic of bikes, there's a big mountain bike race just outside town tomorrow. It's being put on by the outdoor club in Lugoj, Clubul Concordia, and I'm meeting them early in the morning to help set it up. I hope to take some pictures...