Habitat for Humanity



Upon arrival at the Budapest hotel designated by our Habitat leaders, they greeted us in the lobby and guided us to our 8th floor room that was just as hot as the train had been.  Soon we joined the rest of the group to walk a couple blocks to a large restaurant that proved to be a very pleasant surprise.  Their menu selections were numerous and equally well prepared.  The meal and getting to know our many fellow Habitat  participants proved to be a great pleasure.  We have a total of nineteen people of ages varying from almost 18 to 65.  Three are relatively recent high school graduates and the oldest couple are Habitat workers presently from India but joining us to take a break from the rainy prop work they are doing for a “Blitz Build” in India.  It doesn’t seen to me to be much of a break to come to Romania for a week in the heat, but they seem to be enjoying the change.  Two of our group have dual citizenship with Great Britain and the U.S. and two are Canadian.  The rest are primarily from the east or west coast of the U.S.  Several are teachers, several have traveled extensively, and a couple have done other Habitat work elsewhere. 

After we returned to the hotel and Larry rigged up some cording to keep the pivoting windows open to the max, we managed to fall asleep until it was time to rise for  breakfast and start on our five hour bus ride to Beius, Romania.  That gave us some time to get to know one another a bit more.


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 Writing this after only the first day feels like we have been here together for much longer.  We know each other fairly well already; everyone is enjoyable and we have actually accomplished a fair amount of work already.  We painted two one-bedroom duplex units with two coats of drippy paint and sanded drywall seams in another two-bedroom duplex while Larry and a couple others cut and stacked lumber to be made into trusses for another house.  We were all covered with drywall dust and paint splatters so there were nineteen people rushing into the three showers.  But now we find that we have lots of “down time” before our team meeting and dinner. 

 We are staying in two houses, one of which has five bedrooms.  Larry and I were lucky to be able to sleep together in one of the rooms, so I am happy about that.  Several of the girls are grouped together in one of the rooms with the guys having the same arrangement in another room. 

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I thought that we would be painting again today but it turned out that we built trusses and cut more 2x4’s for future framing.  I started out the day helping to cut wooden triangles to be used as braces on the roof trusses.  Then I did some hammering and some chop saw cutting of the 2x4’s.  Teamwork works out very nicely.  This evening we shall visit some of the other 100 Habitat houses that have been built here previously.  Then it’s on to dinner.  By the way, I had an opportunity to try their tripe soup last night because of an order mix-up.  I had wondered out loud about that soup which no one was brave enough to choose, so I am not quite sure that it was truly a mix-up that I got a garlicky cream soup with what I thought were chewy mushrooms.  It really wasn’t bad, but I’ll stick with the other choices from now on anyway. 


 Today was an opportunity to try out another Romanian ‘unique item’.  We did such a great job in the morning that the job boss gave us the late afternoon off and someone brought a bottle of Palinka for us all to try.  I had seen small bottles of this liquor displayed in some Budapest wine shops.  It is a double distilled plum brandy traditionally sipped before dinner or used as a digestive.  The smell was strong enough to keep it out of our mouth.  One small sip was enough to convince each of us that we didn’t want any more.  Yes, definitely an acquired taste!

What we did this morning (and it was a long, hot one) was to pour the foundation for a brand new house.  The trench had been dug already and the mission was to haul sand and water that was mixed in a small electrically driven mixer, then dump the concrete into the trench along with various large rocks taken from a nearby pile.  I lucked out by having been part of the previous day’s cutting team and we were selected to continue with our chop saw duties on a pile of 2x6’s.  I considered this a great blessing since we were able to set up our workspace somewhat in the shade while everyone else manned the water buckets and shoveled sand or hauled rocks out in the sun.  My team mates were glad also since they had found a night spot the previous evening and stayed out later than might have been prudent.  But that is another whole story which only they can relate with full justice.

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It was a very long morning but the entire footing and foundation was completed as well as our mountain of cut lumber.  Lunchtime was very welcome and the free afternoon allowed Larry and me to find a very nice, new coffee shop where we thoroughly enjoyed our first latte of the trip.  That was a welcome sight for us Seattle Starbucks supporters.


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