The second trip November 2003:
Instead of giving them money, Mariana and I decided to buy food and some other things that we knew they needed mostly. Because of the short notice, there was no time to ask your permission first, but I hope you will agree this was the best thing to do. And anyway, when you come to visit next year, you will see for yourself.
Two hundred US$ means almost 7 million lei (ROL). This is a large amount, and I’m sure they never had so much money. Also, we’re not sure if they would really understand how much 7 million lei is. But, anyway, the main reason for not leaving them all these money is that they wouldn’t be able to use them there. Their small community, Lacurile (the Lakes) is very, very remote and isolated. Now that I accompanied Mariana there, I could see how far away from civilization they live. All the time while I was there I kept wondering “Why would someone build a village out in the nowhere?” Yes, it’s true, the scenery is beautiful, their little community is on the bottom of a valley, surrounded by hills and mountains. However, there is nothing to work there. No agriculture (except for some fruit trees) just raising cattle if you have them. Georgiana’s family, however, doesn’t own animals, they are extremely poor. You will see some pigs in the photos, they belong to some of their neighbors.
There is no place to go and buy food or other useful things. The only “store” is actually pretty far away (probably one hour walking) from Georgiana’s house. The “store” is actually a small room where you can buy bread (which is brought twice a week, so it is not always fresh), some plain biscuits, cigarettes, beer and rum. The store in Bisoca is even further away. Being so remote, the prices are pretty high also, because they include the transportation expenses. Anyway, not a good place to go shopping…
Our concern was the money you have sent for Georgiana would have been spent on cigarettes and beer. So I hope you will agree with our decision to buy and take food to them, instead of giving them the money.
Well, here is the shopping list for Georgiana and her family, total spent $95:
6.6 lbs sugar 2 packs margarine 1 pair thick trousers for Dad
6.6 lbs cooking oil 2 bottles soda 2 pairs socks for Dad
6.6 lbs rice 2 bars chocolate 1 pair thick trousers Grandma
1 salami 2 packs matches 2 cans liver pate
1 baloney 1 sack (22 lbs) apples 1 pair of slippers for Dad
2 lbs minced meat 1 sack (88 lbs) potatoes 2 cans sardines
2 jars jelly 6 pieces bread 1 set hat and muffler for Dad
2 cans peas 2 bottles shampoo Left 100,000 ROL at store for
2 cans tomato paste 1 pack detergent bread (about $3.20)
4 packs pasta 1 blanket (eiderdown) Left 500,000 ROL with
2 packs biscuits 2 small towels Grandma (about $16)
2 packs wafers 2 large towels
1 sack (81.5 lbs) corn flour 1 thick vest for Georgiana
1 sack (33 lbs) wheat flour 1 pair of boots for Georgiana
We have exchanged only $100 of the $200 you have sent for Georgiana, the reason being the floating exchange rate, which is currently around 34,000 Romanian lei (ROL) for one dollar, but tends to go up, so it’s better to keep the dollars. As you have seen, our shopping totaled 3,251,000 ROL (which includes the 100,000 ROL we left at the store and the 500,000 ROL we gave grandma for current expenses.). Therefore, we still have 150,000 ROL and $100 for Georgiana and her family.
On our way back, we stopped at the store and left the 100,000 ROL for more bread when grandma would come in the next few days. Also, we talked with Mrs. Neculai, the lady who owns the store, and asked her what she thinks Georgiana’s family would need. Her answer was “food”. We left them enough food for the time being, but we should plan to take some more food to them after a month or so. Mariana also realized she knows the man who drives to that store twice a week to bring bread, and arranged with Mrs. Neculai to send packages for Georgiana’s family with the bread car driver, and Mrs. Neculai would give the packages to Georgiana’s dad or grandma.
(I had originally sent $200 with the clothes, toys and school supplies. Of this, the balance of $100 will be used to buy Georgiana a radio/CD player and more food. In Georgiana’s Christmas box that we sent, I included a box of CD’s of mixed music genres. Laura)
"Here's Georgiana's father (Above Right)-- he is camera shy, and he was also very ashamed that he wasn't dressed properly, as he was coming from work. He doesn't have a regular work, unfortunately there are no jobs in the area. He works on a daily basis wherever he finds something to do, be it shepherd, or cutting wood, or whatever else available".
(I bet it was good to get back outside! The woman on the right holding the child in red is Bianca's paternal grandmother)
"The light blue winter coat fits Georgiana, although it is big, but this means that she will be able to use it next winter too. Also, Mariana showed her that there are actually two coats in one, and she can unzip them.
Georgiana was thrilled to receive the doll, she liked it a lot. She was also amazed by the musical jewelry box. Laura, you must be certain that nobody on that side of the mountain ever had such toys.
They were all very interested to see the photos in the album. They enjoyed the photos of Bianca a lot, and also the one of the three of you dressed in very elegant clothes -- Mariana told them that it was a photo of you on your way to church. They were also very happy to see the photos taken by Mariana on her first visit there.
I am glad I wrote down the translation of your letter. They were all (I will tell you what "all" means) very silent when Mariana read it to them, they all wanted to hear about Bianca and her family. I am sure they will keep the letter and the translation inside the photo album, and they will take good care of it.
Well, "all" means the whole community, who never left us alone during the whole visit there. I wasn't able to find out about them, but some of the kids you see in the photos are cousins of Georgiana (and Bianca), the rest are friends, and all of them are neighbors. It is a very small community, maybe there are only ten houses or so. Because it was so cold we went inside the house to give them the gifts, and everybody followed us -- it was pretty funny to see more than 20 people crowded in a very small room!
Because the room was so small, and also because it was so crowded, I couldn't take better pictures that would help you make an idea how the room looks. I can tell you that it is very small and also very low, I had to stand a little bended because of that. One of the photos shows the stove in the corner -- that stove is used for cooking and also for heating, when it is used (it wasn't when we visited, probably because they cannot afford and use it only when it is really freezing). The small room has a sort of "bed" that goes around the walls -- I sat on the "bed" for one of the pictures, and realized it is just a wooden board covered with a thin fabric. I wonder how they can sleep on that hard wood, I know I would wake up with all my bones aching!"
(Pictured left are the family's kitchen stove, which is their only source of heat. On the right is the front of the house. Notice the outhouse has no door.)
"Well, I tell you, climbing back to the car took much longer than when we walked down to the house. It is quite a steep hill, and not very easy for city people".
Next Visit February 2004 Romania 4