Shortly after we arrived in Markóc, János explained to us that we would not be doing the gypsy camp because the Hungarian-speaking helpers had something come up. And there were simply not enough of us. So, we would be spending time in Markóc and leading a few Bible camps in Croatia.
Monday’s task – sheep sheering. Jáanos keeps sheep at his house in Markóc as an experiment. They’re old-fashioned sheep, with woold that is perfect for tent-making and not much else. But the sheep can’t wear their coats all through the summer. Hence the sheering.
I supposed if you are really serious about sheep and their wool, you own a pair or two of sheep sheers. But if you own two sheep at a community house 4 hours away in a tiny village, you use the kind of scissors found in craft boxes and sewing kits.
So, there we were, kneeling in the sharp grass, mosquitoes everywhere, lanolin-filled wool all over our hands and legs and the ground … The first sheep was harder. She had horns and didn’t want to stay still. And we had no idea what we were doing. Jáni (János’ oldest son) get pretty good at it by the end second sheep – done in under 30 minutes! And all of us sported bug-bites as numerous as freckles for our battle scars.
Monday afternoon – the Biking Adventure. Zsófi, Bólaz (two of János’ children; they are 17 and 15), Danielle, Sam, Steph, and I biked south toward the border past corn and wheat and sunflower fields.
(By the way: Sunflowers are waiting flowers. Because they always face east, a whole field of sunflowers is always facing the same direction. They seem like they are all facing this one thing, waiting for it to do/be whatever it should. It is of the upmost importance because the sunflowers never look away. It makes me feel inferior, somehow, because they can see something so important that I cannot see.)
Ok. The Biking Adventure. Six bikes in a pack; Steph said she felt like we had just stepped out of The Sounds of Music. Let me tell you a bit about my bicycle: no grips on the handle-bars, red frame, single gear, seat too low (but this meant I didn’t have to bend over the reach the gripless handle-bars…)
After several small villages lining the long, flat roads (everything here is flatter than usual, somehow; as flat as a map), we turned onto a rutted dirt road. The road got smaller and smaller until it was only a path going into the wood. Here, we were once again swarmed by mosquitoes, but this time in such large numbers that is was like swimming through them. You couldn’t swat them fast enough – you needed more hands. When the path got too rough for bikes, we ran as fast as we could to the edge of the forest, dropped our bikes at the treeline, and sprinted across the sand to the quick flowing water of the Drava River. Croatia lay on the other side.
It took about 10 minutes for everyone (except me) to strip off as many clothes as they could and jump into the river. I rolled my jeans up and waded at the edge of the sand. I was just as hot as they were, but I would rather be a little hot with only my feet wet than get my whole body wet and ride back hot and soggy. I would rather be almost anything else than soggy.
The way back through the woods was once again a race against clouds of mosquitoes. When I got out, I saw Zsófi sitting on the edge of the road washing blood off her foot. She had cut her big toe on something while running on the path, and it was a deep wound. We decided she needed to see the nearest doctor, so we quickly hopped back on our bikes (even Zsófi) and followed the dirt road back to the main road and town.
Bólaz and Zsófi got directions to the doctor’s house, but he wasn’t home just then, so we waited out on the sidewalk next to the gate with our bikes. The doctor finally came, and we headed “home” after he cleaned and wrapped Zsófi’s foot. That bike ride was a long 45 minutes of hot evening sun, sore knees and rear, dry throat, and itching bites. The good news about biking with mosquito bites: you can’t bike and scratch at the same time. The bad news about biking with moquito bites: you can’t bike and scratch at the same time.
It felt so good to take a shower that night and wash everything off of me – the bug spray and sunscreen and blood and sweat and dirt and sand and vinegar. (At one point, sans bug spay, some of us rubbed vinegar on our arms and legs. Maybe it worked a little?)
Bólaz’s paprika krumpli smelled so good, and who doesn’t like endless bread after a full day?
By that evening we were so sick of mosquitoes that we kept all the windows closed tightlyand didn’t even bother with candles and vinegar. It therefore got hot inside, even as as the night air cooled off. So hot that I wasn’t sure which was worse – stuffy, wet heat or a blanket of mosquito bites. But it was not solely my decision, and the windows thereafter remained closed. And we were itching so much we didn’t really want to go outside. It soft of felt like we were under seige. Beseiged and outnumbered 10,000 to 1.
The next day it rained on an off, so we were sort of stuck. Our only mode of transportation until Eric returned from the airport (picking someone up) was biking. We occupied ourselves cleaning up the kitchen, ridding the girls’ bedroom of an ant infestation, picking cherries from the garden (quikckly), writing emails … I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The rain got worse as the day wore on, and so did our cabin fever. Sam had the bright idea to construct a fort, so we gathered all the mattresses, furniture (only a little there), sheets, and rugs into one room and created a masterpiece. All six of us climbed inside, pulled out a bag of Dum-Dums, and told stories. We rushed back inside there to hide when Eric returned with newcomer Mike.
After dinner when Eric offered to drive somewhere to watch the World Cup game on that night, we were all happy to get out and go away.