October 10, 2008

From Hungarian Enclave to Small Saxon Village
Apoldu de Sus, Romania

It's certainly safe to say that we were completely and totally spoiled for the six nights spent with Janos and Ary. Most every meal was prepared for us by our hosts or Janos' mother (who specialized in cakes and feeding us meals with meat). It was like a competition to see who could please us the most, but like Tatiana said to me in private one day, "the real winners are us."

A healthy meal for Aidric, cooked by Ary

Aidric was not only embraced, but practically adopted by the women of the house. Ary took a real shine to him, and marked the first person (other than ourselves) to not only prepare a meal for him, but to actually feed him as well! That Ary would find the love and energy to cook food for Aidric before she left for work in the early morning was simply amazing.

Janos' jovial, wine-loving father didn't speak a lick of English, but never shied away from joining in on the evening conversation (or even busting out some fabulous old family photo albums). Yes, there's certainly wonderful people and eating in this home, and tolerance for any type of diet.

I think we're certainly going to miss our time here, as will Aidric (who turned nine months old today) with all the attention he received.

English Everywhere

We're finding English speakers popping up all over the place here in Romania, often times in the most unexpected of places. In Cluj I was trying to ask the clerk of a corner market how late they stayed open when a little grandmother turned to me and said "so what exactly would you like to know?" Shocked—this elderly woman should've been of the generation of Russian speakers, not English.

Surprises like these have been turning into the norm, not the exception. We've even run into a few Spanish speakers (much to Tatiana's delight) who've either learned the language from soap operas originating in Spain or Latin America (very popular here) or have spent time in Spain themselves (earning euros or picking up a spouse).

Riding the rails to Apoldu de Sus

In the midst of a rather stressful situation involving a delayed train of twenty minutes in Sighişoara and our changeover in the no-nothing town Teiuş (sporting only a scheduled ten-minute delay between arrival and departure, leaving an obvious deficit of ten minutes), we met a little teenage boy who was so polite and well-spoken for his age that you'd swear he was the son of a diplomat.

This little gentleman was an English student in Sighişoara, taking the afternoon train back to his home village a station or two down the track. It was he that translated the garbled loudspeaker announcement declaring the delay that our rather time-sensitive transport was experiencing.

This connection in Teiuş was the last of the day, and if we missed the train transfer we could very well be spending the night in the station until the next connection (at six a.m.) could ferry us onward. That, or we'd figure a way to backtrack to Sighişoara (presuming there was another train headed east) and take alternate transportation.

Finally onboard the train, the little boy explained our situation to the conductor checking our tickets. He looked at his watch and said something nonchalantly before walking out of the compartment.

"They'll make up the time," the boy translated. …Right.

A Long Moonlit Walk with a Young Austrian

Amazingly, the train from Sighişoara did make the connection—in fact, it was right on time (leaving us with our expected ten-minute layover). Shortly thereafter we boarded a real beauty of a new commuter train speeding south from Cluj to Sibiu, settling in for the final leg of our journey.

Our next host, a 20-year-old Austrian volunteer named Stephan, was waiting for us at Apoldu de Sus' diminutive station platform. Illuminated only by a single tungsten light, about all that I could make out of him in the darkness was a silhouetted pair of flailing hands, and a large curly afro.

Tatiana says that she could instantly tell he was a sweetheart as soon as she saw him, running over to take her backpack and help her off the carriage before she even began to contemplate how to best disembark.

She also recalls her confusion over this evening's walk back to Stephan's home (along a partially muddy, unlit path that lead behind the station and down a gravel road). Our host had warned me in advance that I'd probably need a flashlight for the walk (though I hadn't told Tatiana as much). And under the canopy of trees, she thought it a perfect place to do murder.

Thankfully, our host wasn't the type.

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