Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Week One...

Week One
I love it here! It has a magic that unless you lived in the 50’s/60’s in England, you just wouldn’t understand. A time when communities were close and families mattered, when people didn’t have a lot but their values were high. In England now we have smooth roads, a national health service, and more than one car to every family. But we also have ‘risk assessments’, and a whole pile of meaningless paperwork that everyone in every job has to fill out relentlessly every day. Our children have lost the art of conversation because they don’t go out to play anymore, instead preferring to sit in their bedrooms taking in the constant sewage pumped into their heads from unlimited TV channels. We are a society that is virtually disease free, but we have a massive disease that we don’t even recognise. As I travel I hear the rest of the world laughing at us as we drown in our paperwork and petty society rules and regulations.
In Romania, if you get Prostate cancer, you will die, it’s just a matter of how quickly. But up to that point you will have lived a real life, not a virtual one. You’ll probably look at the magazines sometimes from countries like the USA and UK, and think that you are missing out on something, but you’re not. Society here is very strict, and people avoid misbehaving because they don’t want to bring shame on their families. So vandalism, being drunk in public, graffiti or acting like a twat is fairly rare to witness. All this when in England, the police have to continue calling a chav ‘sir’ as he spits at them while being arrested!
Being an older person has its merits here, they are not just bussed off to ‘Shady Pines, to sit in their own urine until they die. Families look after their old and they are well respected. I am allowed to call the woman who runs our accommodation ‘Evva’, because I am older, like her. The rest of my group have to call her by her surname, out of respect. I feel ‘important’ here in some way just because I am older, which is a really strange feeling, because in England I feel far, far less important, living in a society where older means not valued anymore.
Unfortunately the town here is dying, as the younger people head off to the wealthier parts of Europe, mainly to take on work that younger people in those countries now think is beneath them. In this small town you can earn as much as £100 a month if you are lucky, and your first home will cost you £40,000. By working an 80 hour week in the UK, often doing 2 jobs for a year, a couple can buy a house outright, but will more than often have their first child in the UK and settle there. So the priority for the youngsters here is to get out of town as soon as they can learn enough English.
Although we are in Romania, this is a Hungarian part of the country, which used to be in Hungary until 100 years ago. I can now say, yes, no, please, thank you, good morning, hello, goodbye and how much? Just by trying, people immediately like you! At the local shop, they start laughing the minute I walk in, because it’s never simple. After church on Sunday, I went in to get some salami and asked for it by pointing. It was pure bad luck that when she held up the sausage that I had asked for, it was slightly bell shaped at the end and about 8 inches long. As she held it upright in her clenched fist, we both blushed together and the other women in the shop all put their faces in their hands at the same time! I bought some milk that day, so I thought. Having made the tea, I tried to pour this milk into the cup, and out it came in one solid piece. Yoghurt I think! The villagers produce almost all their food and sell it either through the tiny shops dotted around or from their houses. What they don’t use, meat and veg, is preserved in salt then eaten during the winter when temperatures here drop to under -30c.
As I was washing my clothes this morning, Evva called to her husband Yossif to come and look. I didn’t know what they were saying but Yossif looked at me as if I was seriously letting the world male team down. He shook his head at me and then at Evva, mumbling what I can only guess to mean “no bloody chance”. Men and women still have clearly defined rolls here and I guess from a male point of view it’s a dream come true!
I got 68% in my latest assignment at the Uni! Found this out when I went on line last night for the first time. Paul White’s wife, Laura and her sister Melony guided me through logging in as we couldn’t get the English version up. It was good to get a blog posted while things were still fresh in my mind, and extremely interesting talking to two Romanian girls about their society and hopes for the future. They had both been to work in the UK and their English was very good. I still can’t identify this ‘thing’ that they have which is now dead in people of their age in the UK; I must try and then name it!
I’m staying in the village today, hoping to go out talking to people with Anna and her husband. Anna speaks good English and if I can’t get to talk to locals on camera then the back up will be to interview them. My main camera lens has developed a fault, and although it still works, it sounds like a food mixer when turned on and off. The others have gone to a local meadow, armed with enough bear spray to drown it if they don’t blind it. The animals are often seen there early in the morning, but they come for the food that is often left by people who want to attract them, either to photograph or sadly, just to kill.
I have my PSA test as soon as I return home, the first one in 6 months. 18 months in the clear if all goes well, and I really hope it does. Can’t wait to see Beverley and catch up on all the (big) news with the kids.

One week in…
One week yesterday since we left Carlisle, and what a contrast this morning to waking up in the 4x4 in Tesco’s car park at Dover! The others are up in the hills now checking out the camera traps set last night, and I’m sitting outside on a beautiful sunny morning having a pint of Yorkshire tea. “Ureegalt” (good morning) I just shouted to the man who cycled past, now that I can speak fluent Hungarian!
No sign of bears yet, though the lads came across a pile of fresh bear poo yesterday. They could tell it was from a bear because they walk as they crap, leaving an elongated trail, so they tell me. I’m waiting for Anna and her husband who say they can show me bears today, hopefully not in Bucharest zoo.
At 7.30 every morning the church bell rings and all the children start to file towards the school with their little back packs on. There are paths some of the way, but mainly just very heavily pot holed roads where cars and lorries speed past the horses and carts, causing a mini dust storm, as cyclists weave their way through. On either side of the road are barriers to stop you falling down the sheer drop to the stream below, but the barriers have been breached so many times that there are more gaps than barrier. There is always the possibility of a bear wandering into town and you see the occasional mad dog that wants to eat all the other smaller dogs, but cats are rare. I guess they have all been eaten! No lollypop lady here and if there were, she’d have to be armed and on roller blades. But in spite of this, all the kids get to school safely every day, without and risk assessment! Yes, that ridiculous UK only document that everyone in England still manages to take seriously!
I went to the shop this morning because I wanted a tape measure. If I can see what I want there’s not a problem, but many things in this shop are kept in drawers, all labelled in Hungarian. Sign language normally gets me everything, but you try asking for a tape measure by using your hands only. After she brought out a frozen salmon, a ball of string and some elastic bands, I gave up!
The man next door smokes sausages. That is, he has a large wood shed with a chimney at the side, and in there he hangs hundreds of different sausages before lighting the wood stove, which fills the shed and surrounding air with a lovely smelling aroma. It’s in full flow right now and no escaping the cloud, but it’s made all the local dogs go away for a while. I made the mistake of throwing one a big lump of salami on my first day, since then the word has been passed around and I am an instantly recognised figure in Odjula dog world, a bit like being Cheryl Cole in London.
The guide who is taking out the younger lads into the mountains next week is called Laci (Loxi) and he’s a legend. We met him the other night, a very quiet person but one who is totally with nature. He spends weeks by himself in the forest, taking no food, just surviving on what he can get from the vegetation and fungi. Apparently he moves with the speed of a mountain goat and the silence of a shadow, so I see some weight loss amongst our team before the end of the week. To successfully track and see the bears, you mustn’t have any strong scents on you, aftershave, deodorant etc. It’s best that you smell of the forest and don’t wash for a few days, but judging from the smell in our bedrooms I think we may have already achieved!
The National Geographic team stayed here for several weeks last year, filming locally, so it’s a sort of shrine for mere wildlife & media students like us. You can read their comments in the visitor’s book and they must have left a good impression because the locals have been very welcoming to us.
I have the radio on during the day. I’m not sure of the languages but fairly sure it’s a mix of Hungarian/Romanian. This is bliss because I can’t understand the dialogue yet get full enjoyment from the music. The younger lads will still put on the TV and stare into it, the pictures being enough to satisfy their addiction, though it is was funny watching a Rowan Atkinson film dubbed in Romanian. It’s nice listening to the radio crackling also, brings back memories before digital came along, but hey, give me digital every time.
Hungarian words so far…
Eegen Yes
Nam No
Keerem Please
Cursenum Thank you
Ceeo Hello
Vislot Goodbye
Ureegalt Good morning
Manyee? How much?
When I asked what ‘Goodnight’ was I was told that it depends whether you are in bed beside someone, in the same house, leaving the house, outside on the street, what age you are and what age they are plus other variations, so I’ll substitute that one with ‘goodbye’.
The currency is the ‘Lei’, and there are about 5 to the £. Shops in the village don’t have tills, just calculators that the women use, moving their fingers like bees wings and always doing it twice to reassure you. Women? Yes, because men don’t work in shops, it would be like washing clothes, cooking or ironing, and no guy wanting to stay part of society would cross that line. Oh I love this life J
Are there any gay people in the village? I don’t know J? I can’t see the obvious signs that the gay community portray in our country, and when I asked the question of a person who could speak English, I was told that it wasn’t really acceptable. So I suppose it is what it was like in England when I was a child; it went on behind closed doors, but nobody talked about it. Back then, anyone who was mentally ill, homosexual, incestuous or a paedophile, was neatly dumped into a group called ‘queers’ and all persecuted as one!
I walked to the local church yesterday; this village is ultra right wing catholic and it looks like most people like to be seen to go to church. It also seems that fear of looking bad in the eyes of the church is far more important than looking bad in the eyes of the law. Most people here have the same disgust for their government that we do in the UK; both democracies too, so how does that work? Surely if you think you are being governed by bandits and thieves you can just vote them out, but it doesn’t work that way in either country. Big business and the media controlled by the rich ensure that decent people never make it to the starting line, so you are only given a choice of bandits and thieves, or thieves and bandits on election-day.
They’ve just come back from checking the camera traps, not much luck this time, but plenty of days to go. Caught something up close sniffing the trap, but too close to focus, also caught the arse end of something but again, not sure what.
Heading out to a larger town at lunch-time to see if I can pick up any food that I recognise! I’d give anything for some cornflakes, some fish fingers or a glass of Merlot J Will blog again when I can, but right now everything going well.
Hi Beverley, sorry about your phone bill  xxxx
Hi Sasha, can’t wait to see you first week of July xxxx
Hi Luci, hope you’re on the up still girl xxxx
Hi Chantal, keep holding back  Q’s the word! Xxxx
Maria, Sofia, Kyle, are you out there?
Too good to be true, a clap of thunder, the heavens have opened and the washing I hung out an hour ago is getting an extra rinse as all the dogs in the area start barking with joy….

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