On Call Bell Ringer

P1010189 (2)

May 5th

They let me into their lives.  I awoke with the church bells ringing as they did.  They rang in the morning, at noon, and at night.  And depending on the village, morning and night times varied.  What I found amazing was the job of the bell ringer.  This is still done by one person, who rises in the morning to ring the bells, oh somewhere between 7 and 8 am, always very close to noon for the mid-day ringing and around 730 or 8 pm for the last bells of the day.  This one person does this job 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  I don’t know what they do if they’re sick – one villager told me they don’t get sick – and the bells always ring.  I can’t imagine a job like that.  Having to be on call basically all the time.  And these bell ringers have been doing it for 20 years.  One little old woman in the Homorod Valley had been the bell ringer for 40 years.  These are their lives and they are content.

How different their lives are here.  I envy them.  They really do watch the cows come home.   You can’t miss them actually, they completely block the road.  8 wheelers remain stopped in the road until the cows complete their journey.  I got to milk a cow tonight.  Well it was an attempt.  A tiny stream came out and compared to the teenager whose job it was I guess to do this nightly, it was a pittance.  He filled a large bucket in 2 minutes!  You need strength not only of pull but of pressure, and I was sadly lacking in this respect.  I will never be a cow milker.  🙂

I also got to see the Szekely gates.  There is a place where various villages have placed a memorial gate – huge 10 feet tall gates with a door to one side – in memorial to King Orban Balazs I think.  My tour is all a blur now and my notes a little poor, but walking up the hill we pass gate after gate until we reach the top where his grave is.  It is decorated with wreaths and ribbons from different towns and families to pay homage to him.  History is important here.  History is sacred here.

I go to sleep at night listening to the sounds of the animals and insects of the night.  Crickets chirping, dogs barking, owls hooting, donkeys braying, dogs barking.  There’s as much activity at night here as there is in the day.  It’s actually quite comforting.

From my Transylvanian part of Mayberry,


Watching the Cows Come Home

May 1st


And at the end of the day I literally watched the cows come home.  🙂

I found it amazing.  What life in this little village is like and what it can teach me and others.  It has been an idyllic day, filled with simple pleasures, a beautiful planet and the laughter of little children.   In Hungarian.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can see the similarities in children from any land.  They tease their brothers and sisters, they squabble, they tussle, they drop things, they fall, they cry.  They all do the things children do in whatever language they know and you can always tell what they are doing. 

Our morning began with sleeping in, oh how I needed that after the 4 hour drive finally ending in the driveway here at 1130 pm.  (930 am PST)  My nights are now officially my days.  Today we had scrambled eggs with sliced tomatoes and homemade crusty bread so soft and moist inside that I thought it would melt in my mouth.  And they bought it homemade last night and it was still that fresh this morning.  We had the day to rest a bit so I did what all travelers do when they finally get the chance….. laundry!!!  Oh that felt so good!  I was on my last pair of socks and everything else so a host family with a washing machine was a welcome sight.  I hung all my clothes out on the porch on the drying stand to dry and as I placed all my things on the rungs a fresh breeze came up and I could smell the wonderful air breathing fresh scents into my clothes!  I hadn’t hung my clothes out to dry since I was a child.  No one does that any more with the advent of clothes dryers, but there is something so very simple about this act that is so touching.  The earth is drying my clothes.  Try it sometime.  You might just like it. 

Then something happened that can only happen in Transylvania – the gypsies came to the door playing their accordion, violin, cello and horn!   And they played and played until we gave them some money and a shot of palinka to drink!  Oh If you’ve never tried palinka you just must!  Stronger than any American whiskey and oh so tasty! (but not so early in the day)  🙂

Then we went on a walk to some of the hectares of pasture right outside the village for a good old fashioned picnic!  What a joy!  We climbed up a hill and settled under the shade of a white pear tree whose blossoms showered down on us with each stiff breeze.  Blue skies, white clouds, laughing and fighting children.  Sounds very American doesn’t it?  Only I’m in the middle of a pasture in a southwestern valley of Transylvania and it could almost be a spot somewhere in the California Central Valley.  Our earth can look like our same earth in so many parts of this world.  The adults sat and chatted and thank you God for host families that know English!  I had a chance to quiz my host minister about what her parish was like,  some of the trials and tribulations of church Boards and what she experienced in her 18 years of ministry with the same congregation.  Did she run out of topics for her sermons; did she run out of things to say?  She has had basically the same 200 people as congregants all these years, I wondered to myself, did she get sick of them or they her?  I can’t imagine living in the same place for that long of a time and then on top of that, living with the same group of people?  What must that be like?  And to top it off she’s a wife and a mother.  It amazes me how some of the women in this world do as much as they do.  If men did that, they’d be canonized.  Women do it every day on a daily basis without recognition.

Kinga the daughter had been staring at me without my knowledge for a while and then presented me with a pencil drawing of myself!  What a sweet little girl she is, I promptly took it and responded, Köszönöm sapen!  Thank you so much!  A little later I was presented with a small bunch of lilacs and felt very accepted as this nearly mute visitor in their midst.  The parents know English but the children really don’t.  So I was a bit saddened that I missed out of so many of  the family conversations as I had no clue as to the dynamics except for body language and intonation.  I could only guess at the conversation. 

On our walk returning home, my minister host reflected to me how to watch out for the cow patties on the road as this was the path the cows took coming home.  So I got so excited and asked, is this something I can see?  Of course she said!  So Czaba the little boy came up to me later in the evening and said, “Can you come wit me?” I finally understood and he showed me a pad his father had written, please come with me.  The cows are coming!  So I sped out the front door hoofing my shoes on without tying them and ran out the gate to watch the cows come home.  Czaba had an empty pitcher that he gave to the woman across the street and we sat down, she knowing some English, at least to understand but not to speak and we sat there and smiled at each other mostly until I started to hear some small tinkling bells ringing!  We ran out on the road and up the path from the road below I could see cows walking up, some turning to the left at the juncture and others to the right, until a few actually came straight towards me and entered the gate of the woman I had sat with!  They knew exactly where they were going, no one had directed them.  They must have done this a 1000 times and knew where their owners lived and went to them every evening.  And people say cows are dumb. 

The woman handed the boy a bag of eggs and the full pitcher now of milk and we crossed the road once all the cows had passed.  The trucks coming down the road had to stop for them, some reluctantly and I nearly feared for the cows!  How selfish are they!  How often do you get to see the cows come home!  I found it a wondrous sight, it felt so simple and serene and just a part of nature. 

Today I felt a part of life.  Today I watched how my ancestors must have lived.  It felt so calming and natural.  I’ll never joke about the cows coming home again.

From my Transylvanian part of Mayberry,