Society for Harmonious Living - does this sound scary to you?
To me it sounded like the chant of birds and that's why I decided to go and see what it was. Actually I should tell you in advance that I knew it is an ecovillage in Slovakia, in the Javorie mountains, aimed at voluntary simplicity.
After a night without sleep, or , let's say, a superficial sleep on the floor of Stansted airport only, I arrived in Zvolen not too late. But it was already dark. Janka Jesenskeho was the address of my youth hostel. Fine, that must be one of the main streets according to the city map. But I forgot about what a main street looks like in eastern Europe and that the backyard behind the backyard, behind the parking area, through gravel and mud, behind the garbage bins could be the one and only official entrance to a hostel. It was already night, as I mentioned, and my Slovakian had not reached the stage of being able to say "Nerozumiem Slovensky" (I don't understand Slovakian). So I faced the wired situation of 2 ladys asking ME for the way!!! Finally I found a middle aged gentleman who looked not very, very inspiring, but I took my heart in hands and pointed at the map and the name of the hostel and looked at him with a questioning face like a dog that hasn't understood the instructions of its owner. The man almost took my hand, at least he took my luggage, and went with it through the dark, behind the houses, away from the lighted road, and, as I say, to the backyard, behind the backyard, behind the parking area, through gravel and mud, behind the garbage bins, to the official entrance of the hostel.
Saved! I laid on the bed and forgot about the world. Next day, I knew, the adventures were to be continued. The hostel was making that special offer of giving away an outdated toothpaste which I managed to refuse, despite of my zero Slovakian skills.
Next day I went to the bus stop and waited for that daily bus to Kralová. Finally it came and I somehow got the ticket to the right place but the driver was very suspicious what I was going to do there in the middle of nowhere. So he wanted to expulse me of the bus next to a hotel and I had to fight and resist to coninue on the bus until the last station, where normally only the gipsys go out, for the last bus stop of that line is close to an important gipsy settlement. When I got out of the bus the driver caught my arm and said I should travel with him back to Zvolen I was certainly at the wrong place. I resisted again and looked up my map where to go, now that I was 3000Km from home and 1500Km from the next human being I know. There it was written I should go left. But, where, in the name of God, is left in the middle of nowhere?! Fortunately there were all the gypsies throwing out and crying and hitting each other and I kindly showed them my map. One of them came close and tried to understand the map. Another came, took the map and was about to scratch it: what the hell was the one gipsy informing a non gipsy about whatsoever? But the first gipsy somehow calmed the other and pointed into one direction.
I started the journey along the meadow and found, in fact, a little sign saying "Sekier". It was extremely foggy and I knew that I had to walk for about an hour through woods and meadows through the hills until reaching a wooden pole close to which the farm Sekier is. I had no idea what a wooden pole extactly is and was looking at all sorts of wooden stuff with much attention. I was very glad that the sounds of the screaming gipsys started to fade in the distance and that there was apparently no gipsy trying to go my way. It was about 15h when the light started to fade into the famous luzcu-fuzcu and I saw somehting wooden and tall and...finally a house down in the valley.
I went to the house and someone opened the door. They knew I was arriving today but didn't pay much attention to that fact. Fortunately there was Evellyn from Swiss and she was glad to be able to speak her mother thongue and therfore showed me around. In the living-room-kitchen there were all sorts of strange guys, it was extremely dirty and the rock music was so loud that I couldn't understand the names of the people.
Well, I stood for almost 3 weeks there. On the first evening no one directed me a word and the music was so loud that no one could speak. I was tired and asked where I could sleep. Wherever I want. Fine. This is especially useful information when you don't know the place and have no idea at the side of whom you will wake up when you choose to lay down on a certain matress...
The first days I helped with making "God damn plum jam". There was a little orchard with many, many late Plum trees. We took Matus' home and shaked the trees, so that the plums fell right on the tarpauline that constitutes Matus' summer house. Then we took the kernels out and obtained about 50L of smashed plums, that we had to cook for almsot 2 days, stirring all the time. The fireplace was in the open, it was very foggy and becoming cold and sometimes it rained. And there we were, in turns, alone until late in the dark, stirring the big pot and maybe singing.
The fantastic spinning and knitting course!
Other things I did there were washing the kitchen towels, helping to repaint the kitchen, harvesting Topinamburi (Jerusalem Artichockes), drying apples, drinking tea and eating Petos' excellent vegan Gulash, and reading Whiteheads book on permaculture in the evenings. I met excellent people as well, whom I hope to meet again some day... One week-end there was this course on working with wool and I became passionate about spinning and finally learned more or less how to make felt! Unfortunately I left before the exciting course on "How to celebrate a proper Christmas", that was supposed to "teach" the traditional way of celebrating Christmas, without the habitual orgy of consumption.
So, what is Sekier all about? It is a farm where people interested in a simple life on the land can try it! It is part of the Society for Harmonious Living in the ecovillage Zajezova, where they have also a training centre for rural and natural skills (Polomy), a recycling centre, a food co-op, several self-built houses, and always someone willing to talk about his experiences of the Good Life.