Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Romania for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.
Kathryn Scheckel (’07):
Our two-day homestay in the Hungarian village of Homorod Szent Peter (or in Romanian, “Petrem”) in Transylvania began rather early, at 2 a.m., after a long bus ride of nine hours. After being greeted enthusiastically with Palinka and dessert rolls by the women of the village, members of the group then tiredly made their way to their respective hosts’ homes and went to sleep.
Around 8 a.m., I awoke to the classic sounds of a farm–sheep, roosters, and cows. Breakfast, prepared by my gracious host Veronica, consisted of bread and butter, deviled eggs, fruit, and coffee. What a delicious way to begin the day.
During the morning, the students had the option to choose between either attending the weekly Sunday Unitarian service led by Kinga, the head minister of the village; or exploring the surrounding area, which is what I decided to do. Along with Efren, Charles, Niko, Cole, Shruti, and Juhyung, we spent around three hours looking at the beautiful scenery of the rural village. We walked through the peaceful cemetery, which clearly was very well cared for by the relatives of the deceased, indicating the strong family ties of the community.
On our way back to the village for lunch, we got a chance to see cows from a very up-close perspective. Efren and Juhyung were brave enough to cross the electric fence to pet them–which was not exactly well-received by the lethargic and angry-looking cows!
Those who went to the church service commented on the traditional, simple style of the prayers, and enjoyed gaining insight into a very integral part of the community’s mentality and shared spiritual connection.
In the afternoon, everyone spent time in the city of Sighisoara, the birth place of the legendary Count Dracula–or the harsh fifteenth-century Wallachian prince, Vlad Tepes. Sighisoara attracts many tourists and is known for its beautiful cobbled architecture, classic churches, museums, and a vast German cemetery. Some detours were taken into the surrounding shops in the town, where many people, including myself, purchased the local glass jewelry, pottery, and hand-crafted wooden goods.
In the evening, another display of the community’s generosity was shown in the goulash party. All the hosts prepared an elaborate meal of traditional goulash, salad, bread, sauerkraut, and drinks. Following the dinner, the group engaged in traditional Hungarian folk dancing, led by two young men of the community. This is where I discovered I certainly have two left feet when it comes to mimicking the complicated, rhythmic moves of the dances. However, I really enjoyed not only observing but actually experiencing these lively dances. The Flinn group was able to share with the Hungarians our own “traditional” American “hokey pokey” and the “Macarena”–though not exactly the same level of dancing we were introduced to!
Overall, day one in the village of Homorod proved to be both insightful and unexpectedly relaxing for me. Observing the hard-working members of the community and seeing the different gender roles and expectations within the village’s hierarchy was enlightening. While men generally perform outdoor physical activities, the women serve as anchors for the home and family. Responsibilities are split evenly among family members, and children seem to mature at a much younger age than the average American child. The immersion into the village’s lifestyle and our immediate acceptance by its gracious members made this particular homestay a valuable and enjoyable cultural learning opportunity for me.
Photo by Kathryn Scheckel (’07)