Laura Fortune

M E T A L S M I T H & I L L U S T R A T O R

Down South, and kinda like it.

Laura FortuneComment

I returned to the US in a whirlwind.  A visit with a friend in New York City outside of JFK airport, a quick stay with an old friend in Jacksonville, Florida, a sweet wedding in Asheville, North Carolina, a visit to my sister in a cabin in Elijay, Georgia....and that was the first 5 days back.

And after all of that, I needed to boogie down to Florida to set-up a studio and get to work.  I decided that in July, I would travel the west coast to participate in a series of Renegade Craft Shows, so I needed to stock up.  A series of events led me to Studio 209 in Thomasville, Georgia.

It's a perfect place for me, and this is a total surprise.  I'm growing fonder of being in an area I never thought I would return to.  I love my family and friends here, and the idea would come to my mind over the years, but then I would go for a visit and as fast as the idea came to me, it flew out the window and I retreated back to Brooklyn and back to the drawing board.  

The opportunity to have extended traveling time has changed me.  I don't feel trapped by places, because I can see that I can go away, experience new people and places, and return and quiet back down, work in my studio.  That is the life I want.  A studio life/travel life/gardening life/old truck with a dog life.  

And someday I will have that.  But in less than a month, I will pack up my 1999 Jeep Cherokee and drive west for a whole new adventure. 

Two Weeks, Wut?

Moving, TravelLaura FortuneComment

At this exact time in two weeks, I will be sitting in the Lisbon airport, waiting to board a plane and fly back to the US.   

My plan is vague at this moment, and I have a few options for what I'll be doing while back in the States for three months.  The options so far are, a west coast road-trip at craft shows, an artist residency in Southern Georgia, a summer in Brooklyn working at a Summer Concert Series and other odd jobs, even an offer to live in Seattle.  In the next two weeks this plan will take a shape.  But also in these two weeks, I will feel a sadness and uncertainty about how I am spending my last days in Lisbon, until I return in September.

I have settled into a life of spending time with my friends, eating at local places, working at the studio, or being home.  It isn’t so different from my previous life in NYC.  I stopped exploring as much as I did when I first arrived, and a guilty feeling has hit that I just didn’t do enough and my time is running out. 

“It will all be here when you return,” is what I am told.  But the next three months hold so much mystery, and I wonder what I will have experienced and who I will be when I return.

I ran into a guy I met here in Lisbon, and he was telling me about his plans to move.  Even though I could see the trepidation of getting everything in order, I congratulated him.  I know from my experience you have to keep putting one foot forward and plans evolve, the fear is a waste of time, although difficult to avoid.  He agreed and told me of an old Portuguese saying that goes something like, 'If all you have is cold water for your shower and you don’t want to take a cold shower, then lather your body with soap and using cold water to rinse is the only choice.'  I still kind of laugh at this story, and ummmm, okay, I guess it makes sense.  Lather up, the rest is inevitable. 

I will miss it here, and I will try not to dwell on every passing day…the 14 days and one hour.  These are some of my daily sights I don’t want to forget. 

Saturday and Sunday Morning cartoons in Portuguese

Saturday and Sunday Morning cartoons in Portuguese

The view as I sit in the window of my apartment on a rainy evening.

The view as I sit in the window of my apartment on a rainy evening.

My next door neighbor, the Panteão Nacional.

My next door neighbor, the Panteão Nacional.

Sights I see walking to and from the atelier to my home.

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When I leave the studio, this yellow building always pops up in my view and I love that.

When I leave the studio, this yellow building always pops up in my view and I love that.

The Old Story

TravelLaura FortuneComment
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My time in Romania was spent in one region, Transylvania, and one small village, Apos.  I like to say I was on Farm Island.  It was difficult for me to find time away, an ability to get off the island, and I didn’t try very hard as I found everything I needed on the island, good food, good people, a place to sleep and sweet animals all over.

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As island life and small towns go, there is so much to learn from personal and work dynamics, right there.  An event at Villa Abbatis was to happen three days after my arrival, so there was a lot of work to be done in preparation.  The people I worked with spoke Romanian, and my only language is English (a little Portuguese, yayyyy!) and a good work ethic.  The last one came in handy as I eventually made my way in with the workers, a group of people I came to really love.

The event came and went it was a “brunch”.  I’m not going to spend any time describing the celebration, besides to say, the food and music were wonderful and a great Romanian experience.  I knew so little of what was expected of me, so I ended up just busing tables all day.  Any server and busboy knows that term.  It was never ending and I became one with the dishwashing staff.  It’s a bonding that happens with no language needed, within a kitchen crew.  We all bond with laughter and eye-rolls.

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The brunch scene is not my thing in NYC, and it happens to be the same case in Romania.  It was interesting to see this age-old dynamic (upper class comes to experience authentic food in a poorer village), and I questioned my ability to stick around after the event was finished because I could see my presence was not necessary after the work for the event was done.  But there were a couple of days “off” and I ended up spending it with the people who live in Apos. 

For the next three days, I was invited to their homes and sometimes just showed up for coffee.  One day in particular I finished a task at the stables and went to one of their homes to see the pig butchering.  I arrived a little before noon, just as the burning was happening.  The use of hay and fire to burn the hair and char the skin of the pig.  After the pig was scrubbed clean and shaved, we peeled the skin off and ate it with a bit of salt.  The ear was cut for me to try, then the snout.  I have no resistance to trying anything new, and when standing there with the kindest people in their backyard, with a lamb and chickens plucking about and beer cooling in a bucket of well water, I trust their way of life.  It’s poor, but rich with so much knowledge and a way to move forward in life.  For the next 9 hours I stuck around and helped with every aspect of what is a normal day for two families every 2 months.  Utilizing every part of a pig that was raised in their backyards. 

For those 8 days on the farm, I experienced two worlds.  People that pulled up in their cars and paid for a brunch and horse rides, and people that’s only mode of transportation is a horse and wagon and the food they raised and prepared themselves.

 

I felt lucky to again be placed in an environment that was a new experience I could never have imagined.

Taking Chances, Romanian Style

TravelLaura FortuneComment

I didn’t have the balls to answer Romanian people honestly when I was asked, what made you travel to Romania?  My answer, still honest, “I’ve heard it is a beautiful country!” but it wasn’t the whole story.

Traveling to Morocco and Romania came out of a necessity to leave the Schengen EU region to extend my time on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.  I was able to pause my tourist visa that allows me 90 days to be in the EU.  My deadline was to be back in the US for a friend’s wedding at the end of May, so essentially I am over here for 4 months rather than only 3 months in Portugal.

I found cheap, direct flights from Lisbon to Marrakesh and Bucharest, and so, Morocco and Romania were the spots.

I don’t have a bucket list of travel spots, there are too many and I am the type of person that is open to travel anywhere.  In someway, it felt like these places chose me, each so special for me to further learn about traveling and myself.

Romania is an outdoor enthusiasts dream.  There is the Black Sea, bird watching in the Danube Delta, the snow capped Carpathian Mountains, and the rolling green hills of Transylvania.  Upon researching where I would travel in Romania, there was a clear line of small mountain towns that led me to the Transylvania region.  But traveling solo, I found it a little unrealistic to be able to get further out of the little train stop towns to see the areas I really wanted to experience.

So I joined the website, workaway.info, and I sent an email to a man and his wife offering a place to live and work in the region I was most interested in experiencing, near Sibiu, Romania.  He responded that he didn’t have room for me, but his friend was having an event the week I needed accommodations and he may need extra help.

Two quick emails later, I had agreed to spend 8 days working at Villa Abbatis Equestrian Center in Apos, Romania.

Two weeks later, I arrived in Bucharest, and with no follow-up contact with my Romanian contact, I sent him an email confirming my arrival the next day to the Sibiu Train Station at 4pm.  I hadn’t heard back from him, and boarded the train.

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On a six-hour train ride, one of two options would happen at the end of the ride.  One, I would be picked up by my contact, or two, I would be in a region I wanted to explore anyways and would just carry on with a new plan.

I arrived to Sibiu, and there, at the bottom of the train station steps was a man I saw with a similar look of recognition I had seen on blind dates in NYC bars and coffee shops, “Laura?”

Gabriel stood there with two Romanian pastries and a bottle of water.

We hopped in his truck and he drove me to a farm.