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.
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.
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.