Sunday, October 10, 2010
Baths, Bells, and Benevolence
The Hungarian Cave Thermal Baths last weekend were as interesting and decadent as they sound. You may have seen my Facebook pictures, but if not, you can take a look here. It was the nicest kind of escape from the bone-chilling damp cold of the previous weeks and I'm really grateful to the 4th year Peace Corps Vol (Chris Fontenasi)who organized it. My brief encounter with a Hungarian massage therapist was noteworthy, too, as I've never had anyone get up on the table with me, straddle my back and knead away! I have to say it was all very clinical and sterile--a medical procedure, even though it was advertised as Aromatic Massage and the spa is housed in the luxury of the baths (a la Roman). I suppose I should be glad he didn't bring out the small tamed bear to walk on my back--a Romanian custom I may have to skip. **** Back in my village on Monday, I happened upon a funeral when I went to the Post Office. The procession was organizing in front of the Orthodox church on the main road. Two priests in full regalia and two alter boys carrying the staffs-with-crosses (must learn the name for those) led the way. The mourners, all in black and two-by-two, solemnly followed a flower-laden, casket-bearing pick-up truck down the main (busy) road all the way to the cemetery--a good 5 or 6 blocks. All the churches in the village (Orthodox, Catholic and two Protestant) tolled bells a long, long time. I liked this interfaith salute. Traffic was slowed, clerks came out of their shops and crossed themselves, and there was a general "paying respect" to the dead that seemed genuine. **** My school participates in a project "The Heart of a Child" which helps children with profound physical/medical needs who could not otherwise receive help. Our students generously brought in bushels of used toys and several students and the media specialist contributed artwork to a sale this week, first at our school and then at the Children's Town Hall in Oradea on the weekend. I was very impressed with this enormous park in the heart of the city with colorful, sturdy, well-designed playscapes outside and in, a well-equipped hall with offices and meeting rooms, and permanent stalls outside (more like little log cabins with drop-door/counters in front) where vendors on occasions such as this fund drive could set up their wares. It was a beautiful fall day and a good turn out of families and helpful citizens and me without my camera! When I told my counterpart that I didn't think I had ever encountered a city in the US with this concept of a town hall for children, she was shocked. I am constantly reminded of two things: 1) my country does so many things right and I'll be even more appreciative when I return of those things I took for granted, and 2)other countries can offer us examples of what they do right as well, and we need to be open-mined enough to allow ideas to flow both ways. **** To end on a warm note: I have HEAT! The landlord has cranked up the wood-burning soba/furnace and the radiators are doing some impressive radiating to the point where I have to keep taking layers off the bed--and myself. I've retired the hot-water bottle for now. Three of my PC Westside colleagues spent the night here last night, and thankfully we were all warm with minimal blankets. If they had come a few days earlier, I would have had to bring in the landlord's hound dogs to keep them warm. Sweet timing. Peace to you, friends.