• Mario Alberto Gonzalez Robert

Adventures in a small town in Hungary

When I left Poland to go to Austria to the family that invited me, I decided to travel by train and visit Slovakia and Hungary first. I looked for helpx in the two countries and got accepted for one in the latter. It was in a village near a big lake called Balaton, not close enough to get there without some kind of transport though, but at least the train passed right next to it a for a long while so I got to admire it and I must admit it is really beautiful.

In this helpx my host was an English man about fifty years old, living completely alone, he had just adopted a dog to keep him company, but as he did not speak any Hungarian and it was a very small town where no one speaks English, he really had nobody else to talk to. He was somewhat quiet and spoke in a very insecure way, always thinking and doubting a lot before speaking (saying quite often "eeehm ...").

One of the curious things that happened there was that his neighbor, a man about the same age, had a mental problem so he suddenly started screaming for hours with all his might, things we did not know if they had sense or not as the Hungarian language is very strange to me, but you could tell he was angry.

Over there the helpx work was quite simple, a bit of gardening like mowing the grass and trimming some bushes as well as cleaning and renovation of an old barn next to the house which was very old and in poor conditions, mainly used for storing junk. One thing that complicated the garden work a bit was that my host decided to switch the thread of the trimmer for a round saw blade which instead of cutting the grass actually pushed it and lay it down, plus the incredibly annoying mosquitoes and heat.

There were lots of flies and mosquitoes everywhere, among which there were some especially upsetting small ones that seemed to aim at the eyes and very often I could feel how one of them smashed into my retina at full speed, burning lots and unleashing my wrath.

The barn was not a very safe place to work, for one of the tasks was to remove the floor which was composed of very rotten wooden planks and only supported by strong beams, which were the only ones in a decent state, and I had to be careful where I stepped not to end up falling through to the basement, which was full of trash and debris that would ensure a higher degree of damage and pain in case of a fall.

One day, two new volunteers arrived, an English man in his forties and a woman from Bosnia roughly the same age. The English guy was used to traveling in a fairly big van and told us that what he normally did was that he’d contact another person in any part of Europe, they would arrange a trip to some place they’d like to go and then share costs of gas, food etc., as well as becoming new friends. The van also carried two bikes and some camping gear like a tent, inflatable mattress, etc.

It seemed to me like a good idea to travel that way, but in this case there was one problem, after spending several days driving on roads through Europe, being all the time next to the Bosnian woman, by the time they got to Hungary they already hated each other. Whenever the four of us were together, for example during the meals, they would be throwing sarcastic and offensive comments at each other, which made these moments quite uncomfortable. I also found it a bit odd that, having enough room in the house, they preferred to sleep the guy in the van and the Bosnian in the tent in the garden. The English guy began working with me in the garden and barn while the Bosnian did the cleaning of the house, prepared meals and spent countless hours locked in the bathroom, which I could not explain.

The first day of work went without problems, we mowed the grass and then we went to the barn with our host, because we had to move some heavy things that were standing on the rotten wooden planks to the other end where the floor was solid. One of these things was a heavy, old and small refrigerator. They decided to move it by themselves, one grabbing it from the base and the other on from top, they lifted it a bit, the host hesitated for a second where to step, it dropped slightly so the English lost his grip, the fridge staggered and suddenly there was a sound like of some kind of gas escaping, to which the Englishman said "ah great! That is toxic" holding his breath, while the host replied "Eeehmm ... I think it's not toxic, only bad for the environment" meanwhile I turned around trying not to burst into laughter because of their reactions and the absurdity of the situation. After finishing that task we called it a day.

On the second day we continued the work with the garden, because it was huge, cutting branches of trees and grass. When we finished, I went to my room with my computer, the Bosnian was in the bathroom as usual and my host decided to take the dog for a walk, when after a while, came the English guy asking me if I could close the gate after him because he wanted to take the van with a bike to the nearest lake and take a few laps. I said yes, went to the garden and closed it. After a while my host returned and I let him know about it. The Bosnian was still in the bathroom but came out from time to time.

Everything was normal until dinner time came, my host cooked this time, I was already quite hungry and we were just waiting for the English guy to return because he had already been away for too long. Around nine in the evening, as we were all starving and wondering what had happened to him, my host was trying to contact him by phone without success and all of a sudden the Bosnian came up with the idea that perhaps he had left without her and had abandoned her there. We did not think it possible when suddenly she said "I'm going to check the tent. I know the inflatable mattress was pretty important to him and he would not leave without it, so if it is still there, he will come back but if not, he left me“ she went and came back after a brief moment "The mattress is gone.”

It seemed unbelievable to us that he had abandoned her, she was very stressed and my host began to take a look around the house to see if there was anything valuable missing, in the end the only thing that was gone was a towel, which left him traumatized because he could not believe that this guy had stolen a towel.

The Bosnian decided she would go home on the first train the next morning, she was tired and had too much stress, she asked my host to take her to the train station early the next day and left.

When my host came back, he logged in his helpx account determined to write a bad reference on the English guy’s profile explaining what had happened to warn other potential hosts about this towel-stealing escapist. After a few hours he revisited his profile and found a negative reference in response to his, in which the English guy warned potential volunteers that the working conditions were dangerous and the host was an ill person with several mental disorders such as OCD and others, which left my host quite shocked and upset as well as sad because of his towel. The only thing I could think of, to help a little, was to leave a positive reference for him explaining the situation from my perspective.

After that experience, nothing else interesting happened, everything went smoothly although one day someone came, this time from couchsurfing, a Romanian in his thirties who was traveling on his motorcycle and was on his way back home. A very nice and open person who at the end told me that if I ever went to his town called Timisoara, I should tell him, which later I did and he hosted me for one night.

Small lake near Belezna, Hungary

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