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intergenerationalism (soapbox)

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Brasov, Romania
Please note this post is written by the Crazy-Mama of the family.
The Sensible-Father does not necessarily share all the sentiments!

Here’s a little girl and her great-grandmother. Mother and grandmother were there too, but we didn’t get a picture of them all together.

We did, however, get some funny stories about the oldest living generation……let’s call the main character Great-Grandpa. He came to visit from his little farmhouse in a nearby village. There were crumbs on the table, which he swept up into his hand and promptly deposited on the floor. He had forgotten he was now in town and there would be no chickens running into the kitchen to demolish them!
On another occasion, Great-Grandpa came to the grandparents’ place, where, as a special treat, they ran him a bath. As per his life-old custom, he filled a cup with water and splashed it over himself!

These smile-inducing stories punctuated a discussion about how we care for the aged. A kiwi example was cited (not by us) – individual homes in a little community with sports facilities, garden etc. But even there, as nice as it was (and much nicer than the more usual apartment block complexes), something was missing – people under the age of sixty! We couldn’t follow the conversation fully, but we did pick up and agree that old folks’ homes on the whole are not quite right. A community loses wisdom and experience when the aged are “kept” away from society in general. Children miss out, young people miss out, middle-agers miss out and the elderly themselves miss out too.

Something we have noticed over and over on this trip is old folks contributing meaningfully to their families and to their communities. There have been countless examples – right from the very first place we stayed in (Singapore, where the 80+ year old Grandmother went out each day with her barrow to collect cardboard for recycling)….to the ladies at the market here in Brasov, bringing their home-grown produce or homemade cheese or hand-carved wooden spoons in to town from the villages to sell. All throughout Asia and eastern Europe we have seen old ladies and old men still working. This is such a contrast to New Zealand where (excuse the generalising) there is an expectation that at age 65 you will stop working and embrace leisure.

Even if this were a desirable model, it would not work, not with the demographics we have these days. It will soon be impossible for the ever-enlarging “oldies” group to be supported by an ever-diminishing younger workforce. (Rob does not disagree with this bit).

And as hinted at already, I do not think putting my feet up permanently in twenty years’ time (not even to knit all day – wink) is going to cut it for me. Just this week I have realised that there is no urgency to bring to fruition my visions within the next ten years. Assuming I might live to be eighty or ninety or so, I still have more than half my life left! While I would like to move to a farm as soon as we return and start the process of city-girl-turns-country, I can see that staying in the suburbs for another decade does not relegate me to a whole lifetime there. Starting a farm at fifty might seem crazy, but since when have we walked the sensible route? At least it would give time for some theoretical learning to occur while we wait – maybe we’d make fewer mistakes than if we jumped in the deep end right now! And even starting at fifty, gives perhaps thirty years of regular (although undoubtedly slow) work. In that time we could improve whatever ground we have, get the vege garden not just established, but in a seasonal rhythm, we could grow trees (even walnuts would be producing fruit before we died and we could have harvested a pine forest), raise piggies for curing our own bacon, raise chookies to have eggs to eat with the bacon, and even learn to spin wool from our own sheep’s backs in our spare time.
For the next few years while Rob makes his contribution at his chosen place of employment, when I’m not edumacating our children or weeding our garden or preserving our harvest or baking our bread or brewing our vinegar or petitioning the council to allow the keeping of chickens on our section (as could be done in the rest of the world without stringent regulatory red-tape) or knitting our socks and sewing our quilts or doing Pilates or practising hospitality or reading the classics or or or….I’ll be dreaming. Rob asked what I’d like to be doing in twenty years’ time and I answered without stopping to think, “To be a hippy.” There just might be time for that yet! When you reach retirement age and do not equate that milestone with reaching a use-by date, you can dream big. You can even dream for your great-grandchildren.

PS The two litres of honey brought home from the Grandpa’s house at the weekend, made by his own bees in his own backyard, just might have gone a long way to convincing SensibleMan that hippy is not so bad!

PPS If you’d like to see some of our intergenerational stories, please CLICK HERE.

back to town

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

Brasov, Romania

It was so easy to get out of the habit of going to church on a Sunday. Here it has been easy to slip back into the habit. But it’s a habit with a difference. The church “family” we have become part of is not a Sunday-only deal. This was the group we met our first weekend here, then hiked with last weekend, and also had Slideshow Sunday with, it was the group, who came away for this weekend trip (minus just a few with other commitments). They belong to a church in Brasov, but instead of attending the services every weekend, they meet together as a small group to share their lives deeply, to make disciples. They maintain ties with the “big church”, but also have the freedom to take us away for the weekend, to spend time together seeing God revealed in creation, to open his revealed Word, to practise amazing hospitality, to share a yummy breakfast, to sing and pray together…..and then to wander through the streets of Pitesti, stopping to look in churches along the way, and the spot where a church stood before the communists decreed it be destroyed in 1962. We walked and talked. We found St George killing his dragon on two different churches, and wondered about the widespread-ness of this legend. We enjoyed this style of *church*.

Then we hopped in vehicles and zipped off towards home, stopping on the way to visit the remains of a Roman fort. At this point Rob thought it an appropriate time to stop for lunch <wink> (being two o’clock-n-all). But this was not to be until we covered A Lot More miles and made it to a World War I memorial, where we climbed the hill and ate smoked ham sandwiches as the sun disappeared, leaving us shivering with the sudden drop in temperature. The setting sun cast a deep red glow across the bare trees; it lasted only a matter of minutes, and then darkness settled.


Back into the cars, we drove homewards. But not directly. Along the way, there was a detour through a steep-walled canyon. The sides rose up, towering above us so high that we could barely see the stars. The road winding along beside the stream, was not the best, but the view captured in our headlights was simply spectacular.

And there was one more treat in store. Climbing one of the last hills, rounding a corner, we caught sight of a fox. All through England we had hoped to see a fox, but it hadn’t happened. Here frozen in front of us was the foxiest-looking fox you’ve ever seen (OK, so it was the *only* fox we’ve ever seen). Its bushy tail stretched out behind its poised body, front paw raised off the ground. For a few seconds it stood there, long enough to think you’ve seen a fox and take a second look to really make sure. Then off it trotted into the darkness. And we drove home. 507km covered, a 2l bottle full of honey from our hosts’ backyard beehives tucked in our bag, wonderful memories tucked inside our minds.

“Don’t go to Romania,” they said. “Especially not for a whole month,” they urged.

Saturday, November 28th, 2009
Pitesti, Romania Before arriving in Romania, we spoke to countless Romanians, all of whom were most disparaging about their capital city, Bucharest, and most of whom were unimpressed with the rest of the country as well. Once we arrived here, ... [Continue reading this entry]

as a parent….

Friday, November 27th, 2009
Brasov, Romania In my role as parent (or perhaps tour guide), I’ve posed a few questions to the children over the past couple of days. Questions like “What did you think of the trip?” and “What have you learnt this ... [Continue reading this entry]

toilet, transport and traditional crafts

Thursday, November 26th, 2009
Brasov, Romania So some of the kids think it’s gonna be a real boring post….just updating info about toilets-n-stuff. Let’s see if I can convince them it’s a blog-worthy topic.  Well, they read the toilet page, and laughed. They remembered ... [Continue reading this entry]

do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Brasov, Romania Our clothes are wearing out a bit. We’ve been living in the same two long-sleeved tops, two short-sleeved tops, two long pants and two short pants for over a year now. Handwashing gets things really clean, but it ... [Continue reading this entry]

Brasov by night

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Brasov, Romania


asking the right questions

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
Brasov, Romania You’ve got to know what questions to ask. On both Saturday and Sunday I asked different people how Romania has changed over the past hundred years. You could ask that question in New Zealand and likely receive a response ... [Continue reading this entry]

Slideshow Sunday

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Brasov, Romania Church again. This time at our apartment – makes sense – it’s the biggest one! Almost everyone from the walk yesterday is here and a few more too. We sing, predominantly in Romanian, but also in German and English. We ... [Continue reading this entry]

crossing the road

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009
Brasov, Romania If there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s that each country – and in some countries, each city – has its own etiquette for getting from one side of the road to the other. On our first day in Brasov, ... [Continue reading this entry]