Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lost in translation

In the lawyer's this morning I was much taken with the complete disregard for precise charges for things here. For example, the lady who is the official ( i.e. she has a stamp which says so) translator seems to dream up a figure for her fee which bears no relationship to the work she has done. Today, for three lengthy documents and four other standard sale contracts, she charged Ron 25 i.e. about GBP5. Last time out were just three standard contracts ( which I can now translate better than she does) the fee was about double.On other occasions it has been as low as Ron 10 and as high as Ron 80. The difference? I have absolutely no idea.
One of the drawbacks of having a top-notch lawyer in Sighisoara is that we have to bring the people from the villages about 45 minutes drive away. Some days, Alin does the round trip 4 or even 5 times. Alin usually picks them up and then I go back with him and the passengers on the last return. Today, one of the ladies suffered from travel sickness and we had to stop a time or two.Her sister made fun of her and said it was the result of the moisturiser she used. The two of them fell about laughing and then explained that they were too poor to buy Nivea, so they just used margarine - when they could afford it. The point, of course, is that they are subsistence farmers and have lots of butter which they make themselves - but have to buy the margarine.
The poor here are genuinely poor, in some cases worse off than even sub-Saharan Africa. Today I was in a house with a fire in the centre of the room, no windows ( despite having the gaps where they should be) chickens wandering about and an old lady who uses her back garden as the loo as its good for her vegetables. No longer able to support herself, she wanted to sell her land - all of an acre - which would guarantee her a pension from the state. Her son - who does nothing - wanted her to keep the land, so that when she died he would get it and he could get the benefit, not her.
Alin, being a kind hearted soul, immediately squashed that idea. We did a deal whereby we paid her an annuity as in that way she would get the use of the money and her son would not. The monthly amount was tiny, but together with the state pension it will be enough for her to live on. I also said I would buy her a new pair of glasses as hers were broken and the glass had been sticky-taped together. I put a Ron1 note in her grandchild's tiny hand.
Sometimes I want to cry when I leave these people's houses.

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