We had weathered the car ride together, and I learned that Andi had recently arrived from Sziget, Hungary eight months ago. She would be the new employee for Care2Travel, and she was shadowing Peter that day to learn the ropes. She had briefly hinted that she was just settling in and she expected challenges in making friends—although they were not challenges that I could directly relate to. We were able to find some wooden benches and after introducing my phone-recording device, and my camera we lost no time digging into the subject further.
“So I’m coming from the southern part of the country from Sziget. Sziget is the fourth biggest city in Hungary. So that was big change for me because Csikszereda [Miercurea Cuic] is a really small…yeah, city not town, but for me it seems to be a small town. It was big change, especially uh…the people and the whole uh…how do you say, umm…”
After some guessing here and there I was able to tease out that Andi was expressing that the local culture was something she had not encountered before. [Csikszereda/Miercurea Cuic is an area largely populated by Hungarian descendants called the Széke people or the Széklers. The historical reason for their placement within Transylvania is war-based. In short, their ancestors were Hungarians sent to defend Transylvania against there enemies, although there are many theories that exist on the topic].
She went on to say, “The local people have inhabitants that are so different from what I used to have in Hungary…I think alone, make[ing] friendship is a little bit complicated for a Hungarian [person].”
Her reason for this conclusion intrigued me. Supposedly, there is the tacit sentiment that Hungarians from the nation of Hungary are weaker people than the Széke Hungarians [I guessed because of historical reasons]. Andi spoke of initial discrimination sometimes being the consequence. Despite this issue Andi felt after settling in for a few months she could call Csiksereda home.
Andi gushed, “And right now I love the people, I love the traditions, the whole culture, the atmosphere of this territory…”
Other challenges Andi faced previous to coming to Csikereda included being unemployable in greater Romania because of her linguistic abilities.
“ The problem was at the beginning in Budapest—because in Budapest I finished university a year ago—one and a half year ago—and after university for graduation I begin to work in my profession, in tourism. I studied tourism and when I arrived here [Romania] I had to confront the situation that I cannot find any job in my profession because I cannot speak the Romanian language. But I speak Italian, German, and a little bit of English as well. And these three foreign language[s] weren’t enough to get a good job here [Romania]. So without Romanian I cannot find a job in my profession and after a while I found this possibility at Care2Travel…this has been a big advantage or possibility to use foreign languages again and not forget everything.”
As we continued to talk Andi exuded confidence in herself and her situation. She had no doubts that she was competent to do great things within Care2Travel given her past experience and from what I heard I didn’t doubt her either. Especially considering I was only monolingual, I still cannot wrap my head around juggling more than two languages in my head.
At this point, Andi and I had been gently interrupted by Barni to go inside for lunch. Despite the empowering conversation, I had no objections.