For me, it’s the people that you meet that makes travel so fulfilling. One of my drivers in Hungary told me about his month long stay in the states on his last family vacation. He saved 10 years for this trip. He also talked about the Hungarian economy and how they are taxed 63% and then a 27% sales tax on top of that. He said that most of it goes for the healthcare program. He did not appear to have a problem with the healthcare program, he was just lamenting about the tax rates and the fact that being admitted into the European Union meant that many prices went up but wages did not. My other driver was a former sharp-shooter in the Hungarian military and used to own a security company (Bob Dole was a client). He was very angry at the corruptness in the government and claimed that the families who were in power during the communist period are the ones in power now. He rides a Harley. He also complained about the prices set by the EU and that ‘they forget we are Eastern Europe, not London’. I do not keep up with European economic policy, so I don’t know if these are valid points, but I thought it was interesting to hear their perspective.
For the third interesting character, I will tell you about Yalçin. Yes, I am impressed with myself for knowing how to type a ‘ç’ AND for knowing someone with a name that uses a ‘ç’. 🙂 i sat across from Yalçin on the four hour train ride from Budapest to Arad. You can learn a lot about a person in four hours. Yalçin was on the final leg of a 14 month trip around Europe and Asia. He has lived in Australia since he was an infant, but also holds citizenship in Turkey. Personal tragedy had prompted this extended journey and he would soon head back to the ‘real world’ to face some important decisions. He was young enough so that responsibilities had not yet tied him down, but old enough to travel alone. Yalçin described Turkey and how it was to spend time there visiting family. I learned more about the Ottoman Empire on that train ride than I had in any history class. Although he called Australia home, he was proud of his Turkish heritage. He was interesting, funny and insightful. Somehow we got on the subject of ‘toiletting’ in different countries. He had some intriguing experiences and said that he only shared the mild stories with me. I told him that he needed to book,Shitting Across the Globe . His eyes lit up and he wrote down the title. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he did just that. I got off of the train in Arad, and he was going on to see the castle in Braslov. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about the remainder of his adventure.
This entry would not be complete without mentioning Rrrrradu. He is a university student in Romania and has lived at Ana’s House for many years. He is funny, charming, handsome and great with children. Sorry ladies, he is also hopelessly devoted to his beautiful girlfriend! It is easy to feel sorry for the children of Ana’s House when you hear of what they have lived through, but when you meet Radu, pity is the last thing on your mind. He is confident, strong and has a sparkle in his eye when he talks about his plans for the future. Radu is the embodiment of what is possible when people step forward and do the right thing. All he needed was a fighting chance. Ana’s House is more than a group home for orphaned and abandoned children, it is a family. Mama Rodi and Tata Roni opened their hearts to 10 children and have raised them, along with their two, as a family. Yes, that is 12 children under one roof! I asked Radu if I could share his picture on my blog and he said it was ok. I did not talk to the other children about sharing their story online, so I won’t betray their privacy. I spent a lot of time with two of the girls, and I hope that they will be able to come and visit my family in the states. I would be honored to host any of the kids in my home. I wish you could know each one of them. They each have special gifts and talents and my life has been enriched by spending time with them.
In addition to the house parents, several women come in during the week to help. Doinia is one of these women and she plays a very important role in their lives. She is close to the family, but I won’t say that she is ‘like a second mother’, because I discovered that Romania that means like a step-mother. :). Doinia (and now that I see it written, I think I have misspelled her name) told me about how it was to grow up during the communist years. She had 11siblings and food was rationed. They gathered berries from the forest and ‘something like a cousin to the nut’ to make oil. She said she had a happy childhood, but it was a pretty spare existence. She never had a new piece of clothing. She is a woman of very strong faith and I would imagine that religious freedom post-communism was an important change for her.


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