“Hey! Come back here!” My head swivels at the English as I walk down the street to watch the soccer practice that many of the orphans are taking part in. “Come back!” I hear again, a voice coming from the little pub, the only one in the village, that I just passed. As I make my way back towards the pub, a man greets me and says “American, right?” I nod my head, and he immediately smiles and says to me, “Come in, drinks on me.”
The hospitality I have experienced in Romania in the past weeks never ceases to amaze me. In this instance, a group of people sitting at the pub on a hot August night saw me walking down the street and immediately decided to invite me over for a drink. As we sat at the table, with one of them speaking English fairly well after having lived in Denmark for some time, they asked me all about my experiences so far, how I liked their country and their town, and about life back home in the U.S.
After having a drink, we all made our way to the soccer field where practice was in full swing. The temperatures this week have been hitting 100 degrees every day, but at this point in the evening the sun was beginning to set, and the temperature was just beginning to drop. As we moved to the field, the coach kicked some soccer balls over, and we began shooting at the goal. The players had a game in which each person had two shots at the goal to try and score on the goalie, and if they did not score on one of those two shots, they were out. This was played until only one person remained. Most players, including myself, were eliminated after the first two shots.
The coach was very interested in what I was doing here in Romania, beginning by asking if I was German or Austrian. Most of the foreigners that come to Szentjobb come from these two countries, so he was a bit more interested when I told him that I was American. Before he headed to the other side of the field to conduct some drills with the younger players, he turned to me and said I was always welcome as a member of the team.
In addition to the hospitality here in Szentjobb, my host family from my first three weeks stopped by for a visit on Tuesday. They get their water from a pump in this village, and decided to stop by and say hello before leaving for Croatia the following day. They also brought some food for me – a very welcome sight. With only one week left in Romania, their visit reminded me of the awesome experiences I have had over the past 6 weeks, the incredible people I have met, and how grateful I am to have experienced this hospitality this summer.