We take a Sunday stroll and encounter a guard pig

Trip Start Oct 02, 2011
Trip End Oct 27, 2011

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

As any traveler knows, things can change fast. The key to a successful experience is to be flexible, to roll with the punches. At least that's what I keep telling myself. 

This morning I again chose the Healthy Start breakfast; coffee and slaw is growing on me.  The servers are graduates of the orphanage who are learning restaurant work. They are very sweet.  Though their English is limited, they always politely say "enjoy your meal" when they put your food in front of you.  The phrase must have been part of their training.  And when they bring your coffee they also say “enjoy your meal.”  Today I dropped my spoon on the floor.  When the server delivered a replacement she said, “enjoy your meal.”  I was completely charmed.

So here’s the latest reason for the need for travel flexibility: One of the nice police officers who extorted the bribe last night also took Manfred’s car insurance certificate.  And he failed to give it back.  It’s tempting to think that this was a gambit for future extortion—and it might be—but the consensus is that he simply saw no reason to return it, and tossed it in the trash.  Or, more likely, in the road. 

In any case, without the ability to document insurance coverage, and with rogue police ranging over the countryside, Manfred reasonably elected to stable his car in the guest house parking lot.  So no trips to nearby towns, or even back to Uzhgorod to see the sights.   Suddenly we had a whole day on our hands for exploring the 'hood. 

After lolling in the guest house for the morning we decided to take a stroll.  We walked up the dirt road past modest houses, fields, and stands of oaks.  Eventually we encountered a partially-finished Orthodox church with walls the color of Crest toothpaste.  Its golden domes glinted in the sunlight.  Further on was what looked like a subdivision of exclusive homes under construction.

Some of the partially built structures were overgrown with vines.  But most of the sites were active, and protected by not very friendly looking dogs, almost all German Shepherds, who made it clear that it might not be such a great idea to explore the construction activities.  These houses were large and solid.  Some were enclosed with high walls, rather ostentatious gates and elaborate iron work. The roofs were typically covered with fancy composite tiles the color of a bruised plum.  We were surprised to see such posh houses.  Later we learned that every single one was being built a government official—police, border guards, or administrators--bankrolled with money obtained illegally.  We speculated that the bribe we paid the previous night might buy several square meters of the plum tiles.

At the top of the hill was yet another church, this one in the advanced stages of completion. The photo shows Manfred, who is an architect, contemplating its form and function.  While he was doing that I walked down to the entrance to see how the interior was coming along.  I cracked open the door to see a cross with a painting of Jesus leaning against the wall, a fancy runner leading to the alter, and a golden chandelier hanging down mid-ceiling.

Emboldened, I opened the door wider and started to step in.  Just then a man with  shoulder-length hair holding a big bottle of mineral water walked across the platform under the alter and noticed me.  Timidly I said “hello.”  The man simply stared, not saying a word or even altering his expression one bit.  I thought of all those guard dogs at the construction sites and decided to step back.  I closed the church door, and rejoined Manfred in external contemplation.   

On the way back down the hill we passed yet another construction site.  It seemed atypically quiet and peaceful.  Then we noticed that it was protected not by a dog, but by a menacing guard pig!  See the photos for documentation.
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Hillary on

I was so glad to see an update in your blog after the police shakedown incident. To tell the truth, I've been pretty worried about you all. Please leave that country ASAP. :) Love you.

Julie on

Ahh! Now I know how to put our feral pigs to practical use!

Andrew O. on

Well, I'm completely torn between being jealous of your adventures and glad I'm not having them!

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