At this point, we are halfway through our time in Romania and over halfway through the trip. We awoke today in Homorodszentpeter, an idyllic town of 200 (that’s people, not families) nestled in the Transylvanian countryside. As a chaperon, I visited the town 3 years ago, and couldn’t be happier to be back.
The economy of Homorodszentpeter is almost completely based on agriculture with milk cows serving as the main producer of income. The town’s population has held constant over the past several decades, but is visibly aging as the youth – especially those who are successful in school – leave to find jobs in larger cities around the region. We were introduced to the town and its culture by the Rev. Kinga, the town’s Unitarian minister (and apparent civic leader). I was struck by the change in her tone between my first trip to the town in 2006 and now. Then, she was almost defiant in her opposition to the trend of youth leaving Homorodszenpeter, in her presentation this time, she seemed resigned to the more difficult situation of small towns in a globalized economy. However, she did maintain a strong sense of the importance of town live as an alternative to the city.
We also participated in a worship service presided over by Rev. Kinga (this, of course, was an optional activity). This was something I did not have the the chance to do 3 years ago, and was grateful at the opportunity to be part of it this time. The community is not only a minority because it is composed of Hungarians in Romania but also because it is made up of Hungarian Unitarians (the majority of ethnic Hungarians around the world are Roman Catholic). It was inspiring to see the reverence with which religious life was conducted in this single religion village.
Following the service, we toured the largest salt mine in all of Europe… including Russia. Under the town of Parajd, the air of the mine, filled with salt particles, is believed to be beneficial to individuals with respiratory ailments, so many Romanians will spend the day underground as a form of medical treatment. I’m not sure how much I would trust the prescription of a day in a mine, but it was quite an experience even still. In the evening, we relaxed and enjoyed each others’ company with both an epic game of ultimate Frisbee and a very competitive ping pong tournament with a decidedly Arizona University System twist. Even as a graduate of the program, I continued to be impressed by Flinn Scholars’ intelligence and ability to have a great time.