Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two weeks in Abruzzo

Unfortunately, I only passed two weeks at La Canestra.
The first week, we could not do very much because the weather was very bad. But the sencond week was full of sun and therefore full of work.
I was responsible for taking care of most of the animals (pigs, cows, horses, chickens, sheeps, donkeys). Although somtimes it was hard and dirty work I enjoyed it very much and I am very thankful that I was trusted with this task.
At the beginning I didn't know what to think about the people, but then they turned out to be extraordinarily friendly and heartly. It was a pleasure for me to spend these two weeks together with them.
When the sun came out after the first week I was surprised to find myself in a really beautiful landscape. With the snow covered peak of San Franco always in sight, work was done with double pleasure (but took also double time).
In the second week, the highlight of every day was the short ride I used to make in the afternoon with Carboso, a very nice and beautiful horse.
Also worth mentioning is the food I tasted there: selfmade pasta and bread, a lot of meat and salad and cakes, everything was really delicious.

I am sorry that after this horrible earthquake I could not help with nothing but the work of my hands. But I hope very much that I will be able to return one day to offer my help once more and enjoy the hospitability of the family.

Friday, May 1, 2009

1 of May, Labour Day

The whole of Italy was celebrating labor day today. We were celebrating also. By labouring of course. Tina and me finnished cleaning the donkey stable of the hey mixed with dung but lots of plastic as well in form of strings that hold the hey ballots. I'll try and remove the strings from now on when I feed the animals or they get tangled in the hey and make it diffcult to get it out with the pitchfork. We took a brake one hour before lunch and just wondered around, slept, read and mingled. Yes, mingled since there were so many people coming by, mostly friends of Noemi, volunteers in the earthquake camps.

At lunch time we were maybe close to 30 people in the gazeebo (good thing Noemi's friend's brought food of their own!). After lunch me and Pepe went to catch the donkeys that escaped... once more. He got in a bit of an argument with the neighbours that were complaning that the donkeys are leaving dungs and the hey they make from the grass where the donkeys releif themselves won't be good anymore. Pepe believes that is just bullshit and is annoyed. But not as much as other times. Noemi's boyfriend is here to play guitar and calm the spirits. After chasing the donkeys around and avoiding the neighbours, making another electric fence enclosure for the donekeys and horses we started work on the spiral garden. I brought a chicken to feed on the worms we dug out but because Charlie was drooling over it I had to take it back. Her name is Vermisina. Good luck in trying to find a chicken that fits the name (one that eats worms "vermi").

After all the work I was looking forward for dinner. I had my fill of bruschete and Erica had her fun taking pictures of us.
Pepe, Radu, Luisa and a tiny little bit of Tina.
The tulip is giving a peck to Tina, the hard working volunteer.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


It snowed in the night up in the mountains! And it rained in very cold showers at our place! We can sense the cold from the mountains very well here. I even got a headache today and I'm thinking that it's the cold to blame.

But before it got to rain in the afternoon we got to do allot of work: cleaning up a place where the donkeys stayed during the winter, carrying food to the animals, carrying wood and feeding worms to the chickens. Much of it I did with together with Luisa and Tina and some with Pepe. Tina is a really hard worker just like Luisa.

That was until lunch time. After we ate me and Luisa (and of course the so annoying lamb) went for a walk. We got caught in the rain and had to take shelter under the roof of a gate. It was a weird situation because the owner of the house came out and talked to us from her balcony keeping us out in the rain. I am a bit anxious these days because it's getting closer and closer to leaving the family and the place and going away but Luisa is always around to keep my spirits up.

Radu Burtescu - Romania, Constanta

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another day of hard work

Today me and Pepe finished the new pig enclosure. It was hard work but I realise it could be allot harder if it wasn't for the electric wire that Pepe uses to keep the pigs enclosed. I don't agree with it but I'm not saying anything since it's a bad period that the family goes through. I'm also too tired to try and convey a message of morals in Italian. To bad I didn't take a picture but after finishing the work I looked like a wall on the edge of a country road after a rainy day. I felt so miserable in my big boots that I took them of and went along the property barefooted taking photos.

I found two types of mushrooms that I photographed and will ask Pio if he knows if they are edible or not. Later in the day when Pio came he let me know he doesn't know if they are good to eat or not but he can show me ones that he knows for sure are edible. We went to look for "chiodini", small mushrooms that grow in unplowed fields with low pasture. You can easily spot the place they grow in because the grass is darker in those spots and usually grows in semi circles. The "chiodini" are small, fragile mushrooms that at the moment I think I could recognise (they are not in the photos). We also picked "erba cipollina" (wild onions) and thyme.

The only bad news today was that someone used the laptop improperly the other day and some small part in the network card is broken. We have to use Luisa's computer for Internet but it's incredibly slow. Patience is the key word.

Radu Burtescu - Romania, Constanta

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New volunteer, Tina arrives

Today was raining as well. In between rain breaks I did some more wood cutting and finnished the new big wood pile with Pio. After that I went with Pepe and took part of the horse enclosure and made and new pig enclosure from it. We need to move the pigs apart since two of the pigs will have piglets soon and the male can kill them.

Again, there was a bit of tension in the family from a bit of miscomunication between Guissepina, the grandma and Bruna, the mother. Erica was caught up in the middle and stormed out of the tent in a rage. Everything is ok now, Erica is smiling and laughing as she looks at one of the silly shows on TV (yes, we do have TV and Internet now in the tent) and Bruna was her positive self over the dinner table.

But the highlight of the day was going to L'Aquila with Luisa to pick up Tina the new volunteer from Germany. In the car on the way talking with Luisa, I was a bit worried about my trip to Trapani via hitchiking. That's because Italians don't speak that much English, I said. But Luisa just smiled and told me "Ma tu parli italiano!" ("But you speak Italian!"). It was the first I realised that I actually do speak basic Italian, enough to get around and carry a conversation.

When we arrived to L'Aquila we quikly found the new volunteer and drove back home where she got to meet the whole family, even Noemi who returned home with her boyfriend just as we arrived. Tina is a lovely girl and I have a feeling that the 5 days we'll be working together until I leave for Oslo will be a pleasure.

Radu Burtescu - Romania, Constanta

The fun to be had listening to a Romanian talking Italian

Today we got to work with one of the donkeys (the male of course). We had to carry a bathtub to the cow enclosure for them to drink out of. We made a big hole in the ground for the bathtub to fit in and the water that was coming from higher ground to pour in the bathtub. It was hard work, digging with the shovel, the hole making tool, cutting, sawing, hammering, stomping and carrying. To bad we didn't have a camera to capture the funny moment of Pepe being stuck in the mud, loosing his boot in it and than having Bruna placing his foot back in it and tuging to get it free. Some more comic relief came by mistake from me while trying to use me best Italian to let Bruna know where the saw is: "sta a la COGLIONI" (meaning "it's at the testicles".... what I wanted to say was "CONIGLI", rabbits). Still, it was one of the most tiring days for me so far maybe also because I don't sleep that well at night for some reason I'm not aware of (maybe the earthquakes... hmmm). So while everyone was loud and talkative in the tent I went in one of the rooms and collapsed into a deep sleep. I woke up probably a few hours later and seeing a brand new pile of wood in front of the tent I started cutting away at it. That was about it for the day if you don't count the walk I took with Luisa and the lamb in the rain on one of the roads that goes up and around Aglioni and than past the family house in Collenoveri.

And as a word of advice to future volunteers: never state the obvious that "we eat to much" (here at "La Canestra", even in tents) or the teasing at meals time will have no end. Just enjoy!

The "caught in the headlights" look that Pepe has in the photo is my revenge for the teasing over dinner (even though he was the only one not teasing me!). In reality I just wanted to post a picture of us over the dinner table.

Radu Burtescu - Romania, Constanta

Flying to Oslo!

I've been talking to Luisa and also after meeting her cousin and being invited to visit them in Lanciano I reconsidered my plans of hitchhiking to Norway to the One Step Beyond! project. I'll be staying a few more days with the Commentucci family and than travel with Luisa to her relatives. I've already booked a cheap flight (10€) to Oslo from Trapani, Sicily and I'll hitchhike there instead. I'm also considering of stopping for a couple of days in Napoli as well. I'm not happy flying but I'm happy I'll get to stay more with the family and travel a bit more in Italy which I've started to grow fond of.

Mille grazie a Luisa once more because she used her credit card, a Visa Electron even that Ryanair doesn't charge a tax for, to book my flight with. I don't have a credit card so I just returned the 10€ in cash.

There's much to thank Luisa for, after lunch she even went with me to the family house and insisted on looking until we found that book on Permaculture that Pepe has. From the book we got an idea about making a spiral herb garden in front of the tents.

And even though I made the compromise of buying a plane ticket I was happy the whole day though because we got to do allot of work. Even the family that brought the chestnut tree helped out. They slept in their caravan. And I got to do some cleaning up in the pigs stall and bringing some hay, adding two more back breaking stones on the rabbit path and cutting wood with the guest family. After lunch I carried some hay, carried some wood and did some digging on the spiral garden.

Radu Burtescu - Romania, Constanta