I’d enjoyed my time in Sovata but it was time to move on. A friend I’d met in West Africa eight years ago, Mirela, was staying with her mother in a small village about 25 kilometres from Cluj-Napoca, I was invited to visit and stay for a few days. I met up with Mirela in Cluj-Napoca and after a quick lunch she showed me the way back to her village. The family own quite a lot of land, but it doesn’t mean much as land is kept in the family for generations. When we arrived Mirela introduced me to her mother who, having lost her husband not that long ago now lives on her own and works the land herself. It’s hard work, but necessary as without the food she grows it would be difficult to live. Mirela told me that many families have to live on less than €100 a month. A middle type job pays only €200 a month and in the small villages it’s only the younger generation that might have a job as the elders have to work the land.
I was amazed to find that my motorhome offers more comfort than the small family house. Mirela’s mother has no running water, just a shallow well in front of the house that is used for washing and cooking, drinking water has to be taken and carried a couple of hundred metres from a neighbours house as their well is much deeper. The toilet is a small wooden structure at the back of the house, no cistern, what would be called a long-drop in Africa. The only modern facility they have is electric, which powers an ancient refrigerator a TV and a few light bulbs, cooking is by gas from a gas bottle, which can sometimes be bought from the one shop in the village, more often than not it has to be brought from a few kilometres away by neighbours who own a car or horse drawn cart. Besides the vegetables and salads grown, there is an abundance of animals that roam freely about the land. Two dogs, two cats, geese, chickens, turkeys, and a pig to name just some. The chickens provide eggs and also provide meat as do the ducks and turkeys. The pig is fattened up throughout the year and killed for the Christmas festival. It’s an incredibly hard life and one that most of us couldn’t hope to fully appreciate or would be able to sustain for long. It’s a very labour intensive way of living, long hours spent bent over tending to the vegetables and few if any even small luxuries. It was for me an eye opener thats for sure. I got to try some fresh, warm, Buffaloes milk direct from the animal, very rich and slightly sweeter than cows milk, but tasty nine the less.
I ended up with terrible indigestion and the runs for most of my stay. Whether it was something I’d eaten or the fact that cleanliness and hygiene were not a main priority I don’t know, but despite that I really enjoyed the experience and appreciate far more now how hard it is for families like Mirela's to survive, all the more so as we are all in the EU now and we expect things to be much better for everyone.
It seems I've been travelling for most of my life.
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