The End in Sight
On Saturday, we were told that we would only work a half day and our reward would be a trip into the mountains where our bottled water was taken from a local spring. We had gone through a mountain of water bottles and it had been good water so we were looking forward to the trip, hoping that it might also be cooler at a slightly higher elevation. Besides, an afternoon off would be a welcome respite from a week of hard work. On a few mornings, we had started earlier (leaving for breakfast at 7 a.m.) so that we could stop working at 3:30 when the afternoon heat got most intense.
The spring proved to be primarily a tourist attraction consisting of a partially man-made waterfall. But the surrounding area was indeed a bit cooler.
Besides, the outing included dinner at a different restaurant, which was a real treat. All our meals thus far had been at the same restaurant. It was quite nice, with a large enclosed terrace for lunch and dinner and a separate room for our breakfasts. However, we were suffering from a relatively sparse menu and a definite lack of vegetable choices. The salad choices consisted of tomatoes, shredded cabbage, cucumber slices, and roasted white peppers, always prepared the same way but available in various combinations. Soup was usually served first with a choice of four, three of which all had the same basic broth. They were all very good and filling also. It took me a couple days to get used to having hot soup for lunch in 80 degree weather but it was either that or only the buffet of the same two types of cheese, salami, tomatoes , cucumbers and the same canned mixed vegetable salad prepared slightly differently each day. Dinner consisted of the same soups and salad choices, along with a variety of thin slabs of meat, most of which were breaded and fried. It really was not bad, but a week of the same menu choices tends to get boring. I tried to stay away from the rice and potato choices but the mashed potatoes proved too tempting and even the hot soups became my twice daily routine. A jar of peanut butter found itself being passed from one end of the table to the other and the white French-style bread became a popular treat when we found it toasted on one side in the morning. I marveled at all the fields of corn that we had passed, but the only corn I saw at the restaurant was on top of their “vegetarian” pizza. That was a new culinary idea to me.
The restaurant at the spring had beef steak on the menu so a few of us ordered that with requests for “medium rare” and “rare”, since every meat we had previously had was more than well done and not too tender. Well, I wouldn’t classify my steak as rare, but it was very tasty and fairly tender so I was thrilled. To end my tales of our food, I might mention that I got the nerve, on our last night, to order “pork neck”. It had been explained to me that this was supposed to be a delicacy of the most tender cut and, indeed, I found it quite tender and tasty.
Sunday was our “day off” and we were taken on a bus to the “Bear Caves” of Chiscau.. The thought of being in a cool cave during our heat wave was enough to get my enthusiasm. Besides that, our Romanian co-workers were going to prepare a barbeque picnic for us. The caves were very cool both in temperature and appearance. The caves were only discovered in 1983 after a sinkhole was created by nearby quarry blasting. It appears that some similarly earth-shaking event had sealed off any exits 12,000 years ago, capturing cave dwelling bears within their shelter. Consequently, the bears gradually starved to death and their bones were discovered in the cave, sometimes in perfect arrangement, as we saw in one location.
The picnic was a huge success with grilled chicken and pork as well as French fries, a mixed salad (tomato, cabbage, cucumber, pepper) salad. Their barbeque grill consisted of a round, concave metal pan on legs which is placed over an open fire and everything is essentially fried on its sidewalls. Consequently, the potato slices are fried in all the seasoned meat fat that collected in the bottom of the disk. Everyone acknowledged that they were absolutely loaded with grease, but we didn’t have a single one of those French fries left uneaten!
Two more days of building found me starting to slack off a bit with my work efficiency slowing down. Whether it is just knowing that the end was near or true exhaustion taking its toll, everyone seemed to be getting more tired. Volunteers were readily available for the “transportation team”. Even though they had to load and unload concrete blocks, they knew that they also had “down time” riding to and fro in the truck. Nobody gave up, though.