“Meeeeh” stands for shepherd

Lotzi

Baja, Hungary, October 2011

There is still a little bit of sunlight when we unpack out tent. A farmer allowed us to camp in his garden just in time. While I start building the tent a small man comes closer. He is skinny and has a short beard. His big blue winter jacket has some holes but still holds his warmth properly. He has a big smile on his face and insecurely waves at us. We wave back at him. He comes closer and says “Hello” in English. We say “Szia” in Hungarian. There is not a lot more we can say in Hungarian so we just stand there nervously smiling at each other. I start explaining him the tent in German while I put it up. He does not seem to understand. “English?”, I ask. He shakes his head: “Nem”. When the tent is done I open the door. He looks inside for a quick moment and then smiles at us again. “Annika vagyok” I introduce myself. Roberto and Lotzi also introduce themselves. Finally we found something to break the uncomfortable silence. A bit later the three of us are smiling nervously again. Then Roberto shows his ten fingers, makes fists, shows his ten fingers again, makes fists again and then shows eight fingers and points on himself. “Veinteyocho”, he says in Spanish explaining his age. Lotzi understands. He points at himself and shows us a lot of fingers counting the numbers in Hungarian. When he reaches 54 he stops. I do the same until 25. Lotzi starts talking. Then there come a lot of long words full of ö’s and ü’s out of his mouth and neither Roberto nor I understand what he is trying to explain. For a moment there is silence and I am ashamed of not being able to respond anything. Then Lotzi points at himself and makes the sound of a sheep. Roberto and I do “Aaaah” making clear that we finally understood what he tried to tell us – Lotzi is a shepherd working for the farmer. We try to explain where we come from, what we do and where we are planning to go to. I say “Hamburg”, point in the air to show that it is far away, and then move my hands as if they were on the bikes pedals, then I point on the floor and say “itt”, the Hungarian word for “here”. Lotzi is impressed. He also does the pedal-move, shows to one point on the horizon, then on the floor and says “Igem?” – yes?. “Igem”, I respond proudly. Then Lotzi points at the two of us and asks “Kávé?”. I do not understand. He shows something small with his hand and makes a drinking move. He asks if we want to have a shot with him! Why not?

Lotzi leaves and after a while he comes back. “Come, come!”, he makes an inviting gesture. We grab our kitchen-bag because we are really hungry and just wanted to start cooking, and follow him. Inside his apartment it is hot. He offers us a seat in the kitchen and gives us a small cup each. The “shot” is black and warm – a small coffee not a shot at all! But at least I did understand that he offered us a small drink. It tastes delicious. He shows us his apartment.

Lotzis flat behind the curtain. The door on the right leads to the animals

In the sleeping- and living room there are two TVs, a small bed and an oven full of burning wood. In the kitchen everything has its exact order. The smallest plate is on top, the biggest on the floor, all the empty beer bins on top of his shelve have the same space in between. Roberto is impressed of the exact order. While we start cooking a soup Lotzi tells us about his life on the farm. He points on his left arm, then shows us five fingers and stretches as if he had just got up. I understand. At five in the morning he has to get up every day to feed the animals.

He leads us outside the house and into the stable. There are two big and old horses. I start cuddling them and Lotzi smiles at me doing the same. Then he opens the next door and proudly shows us the herd of cows and pigs. He points at them and moves his hand like a spoon to the mouth. Does he eat them or feed them? Then he points at the pig-food on the floor. He feeds them. I do “Aaaah” again, to make sure he understands that I understood. He has a proud look in his eyes showing us “his” animals. Again I point at the left hand and show a five. “Jeden Tag um fünf?”, I ask in German, “Every day at five?”. Lotzi giggles and moves his shoulders. Then he shakes his hands in the air sides to say “more or less” and showes a six. There must be time enough for toilet, coffee and cigarettes in the morning he explains in Hungarian but though the words sound similar to English I understand without further hand-and-feet-explanation. After this morning ritual he feeds the animals and goes out with the sheep. Explaining the sheep Lotzi makes its noise again and we all start laughing.

We go back to the house and when the soup is done I switch off the gas stove. Lotzi switches it on again. “For the heat. The boss pays for the gas”, he giggles. I am impressed how well we could communicate without the language and how much we have already found out about each other. We are happy to know that we do not need many words in common to make friends and laugh together. He already ate so we have to eat the soup alone. But we can make him try the ready-made-Spätzle (Egg-noodles) we brought from Austria and he offers us a shot called Szilva. Lotzi smiles all the time. He seems to enjoy having guests. His son is 25 years old and does not live with him anymore. All day long Lotzi is surrounded by animals. Being a shepherd is a lonely job.

Lotzi at work

When we are cozy and full sitting on our chairs in the warm kitchen our cheeks turn all red and we get tired. Before we leave I wash all our dishes and Roberto asks for a tissue. Lotzi gives us a roll of toilet paper and a packet of tissues. “Souvenir”, he says and seems happy to offer us something we can need. He does not have a lot of money but he likes to share with us.

When we get up on the next morning Lotzi prepares two tiny bottles of sugared coffee for the way. We drink them slowly talking a little more. All the time Lotzi looks around nervously, he should be at work now and does not want his boss to see him talking. We say thank you: “Köszönöm” , then we hug and leave. Lotzi waves until he cannot see us anymore.

  1. Héctor says:

    It is not a rule, but you can often find out that the people that would share the most is the people that have less. It is nice to know that you can find such people anywhere in the world. Thanks Annika for sharing this story.

  2. Teresa says:

    Dear Annika and Roberto
    I am so happy that you are meeting so many kind and warm people in all the countries you are visiting! I am sure, they are happy in getting to know you too. ;-) I can imagine every single situation you are explaining and often wish to share it with you. Thank you so much for sharing and bringing it closer to me! Besos Teresa

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  6. Violet says:

    What a nice and cute story. :) Made me nostalgic of my grandfather living in Romania and my time spent in Hungary for 8 months this year. My family is Hungarian in case you were wondering. Thanks for sharing your nice encounter! And his name is spelled “Laci” short for “Laszlo” in case you were wondering. Have a great trip!

    • admin admin says:

      Aaaah, Laci! I was wondering indeed, but I just tried to write it down as I understood it. I have always wanted to go to Romania too, hope one day I can make it. Will you be back in Hungary next year?
      Annika

      • Violet Koncz says:

        No worries! My dad’s name is Laszlo and it’s a very common Hungarian name so thought to help out if you didn’t mind. Romania is gorgeous, especially the countryside. I don’t really like the fact that a lot of (most) of the buildings are super old and not maintained so it feels kind of depressing but people are really nice and cool. I might go back to Hungary next year to visit family and whatnot but it’s not 100% yet. Yourself?

        • admin admin says:

          Well, we will be out in Asia and Oceania for a while, the we’ll cycle through America and in the end go back to Germany. So probably not within the next 2-3 years. But hopefully after that we have the chance to come back. We both miss the food :) And people like Laci have been so good to us. Maybe next time we can include Romania in our trip. I’ve never been. But I read Romanian is similar to Spanish, Italian and Portugese and maybe we will understand it a bit better (Roberto coming from Mexico) than Hungarian.
          Maybe one day we’ll be there simultaniously, who knows!
          Annika

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