How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective

Dearest humans,

Since I've left Great Britain, I wrote nothing in English. And that's a bad thing because I love writing in English. I lost so much of it...

Leaving England was a very difficult decision for me. I mean, since Brexit, I have been thinking of leaving, but not to move back to my country. Yet, here I am.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

If you don't know or follow me, allow me to take you to the beginning of this journey.

Why have I left England? 
After my father's passing (in April 2018), my mother could not live alone, and we were not able to remain or move to live with her. Most of us have a life in foreign countries.
One of my sisters, Ana, the second-born, took my mother to stay with her in a city far from the village my parents' spent their entire lives. She took very good care of our mother.
May the universe pay her back the infinite kindness and generosity she had for our mother.

But my mother didn't like living in the city, and she missed the only places she's ever known for the last 83 years.
She wanted to come home at any cost.

Because we had no other solution, on the 9th of January 2019, I decided to move back to the village (it's happened at the end of January) I was born in, and bring my mother home.
But my parents' house, built from mud bricks, had structural issues and was falling apart.

Once I got here, Gheraesti/Neamt, I discussed the situation with a few builders. The conclusion was to tear it down and build another one in place.

I don't know if it's a cultural thing regarding demolitions. Almost everyone prefers to take something down completely and build from scratch.
It makes sense if you think about it.
Mud bricks, almost no foundation. Imagine building on top of that.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel
March. It was still winter. After we tore the house down, it snowed a lot for a couple of weeks. 
Honestly, I didn't have a huge amount of money to start building, but I had to.
Sounds excessive, I know. 

Anyway, it's easier said than done, right? 

I am a writer, I know nothing about constructions. I never dreamed to build a house. I wanted to have one, if..., but not to make a plan and build one from nothing. Literally.
And again...

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

I rolled up my sleeves and started planning.
Since I had almost no money, I had to come with a solution fast.
Most people, except Romanians, are convinced that building in Romania is cheap.
Wrong.
If you want something like ordinary people have in "normal" countries, you need loads of money.
It might not cost 300,000 pounds to build a house like the one I did, but 100,000 pounds will not suffice.

And do you know why it doesn't cost 300,000 pounds? 
Because we don't spend 5,000 for a closet or a toilet. If we did, we'd need 300,000 pounds.
That's the logic.

Don't get me wrong.
In some areas of Romania without roads, electricity, internet, and mobile reaching, you could build something with little money.
But it would be an old-style house (mud bricks, no bathroom, no running water in the house, no central heating), or a house that will fall down in a few years.
Or you could build it yourself, helped by loads of friends.

But that's valid in any other country of the globe. Probably in the UK too. If you own the land.

Anyway, I had no intention of building an old-style house and, most importantly, I had no knowledge to build it myself. And my friends are all away. Or gone for good.
So I had to find the money. Loads of money.

But first I needed to find a company to help me build. And this was way harder than I would have ever imagined.
Skilled Romanians are almost all away. Yes.
Everybody thinks that mostly criminals leave Romania. The truth is that is the other way around.
But this is another story.

I owned a small (very, very small) flat that I cared for deeply. It was the only thing that I ever had the name on. That flat meant stability, roots for me. That flat was me!
I sold it in three weeks.
It was February.
I couldn't allow myself to cry or be sad. There was no time for that. My mother was running out of time. She couldn't adapt to life in the city and her health was deteriorating at the speed of the light.
I had to make everything in my power to bring her home in two months. Tops. Not a day more. It would have been too late.

The money wasn't enough, not even close, but it was a start.
My mother had some savings. I had a few bank accounts, but not huge amounts of money in them. I emptied all of them.
Three of my siblings - two sisters and a brother - gave me certain sums of money. Some of these I have to pay back. Nobody is rich in my family. It's not that we have money we don't need.

In March 2019, I started the building, but continue to look for more money.
What I had, was barely half of what I needed just to make the house livable. Not to finish it. No way. For that, it was required @ 90,000 euros.

I made several calls, I wrote dozens of emails.
Nobody had the money I needed.
I prayed and begged. Over and over and over again.
One evening, I received a phone call from an old colleague.
He's heard about my plans and asked me for more details. I told him everything. Then I heard him asking:
"How much would you need?"
"At this point, @10,000 euros."
"I can lend you this money right now. I will need it back in a year or so. I need a new car. That's why I have these savings."
I was speechless.
It didn't even cross my mind to ask him for money. At all! I've never thought he had savings, besides, we had no contact in years. Then again, it wasn't that we've always been close. We were just colleagues. Nothing more. Ever.
Three days later, I had 10,000 euros in my bank account.
A miracle!

The builders moved on.
Then, a pause. I spent every penny I had and I couldn't buy the windows and the doors.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Romanian author Cristina G.

We could not continue.
I was so close, yet... And my mother was running out of time. Literally.
My sister's told me to get ready for the worst. She was not going to make it. She wasn't coming home alive.
I was so desperate that, one day, I lay down on the grass while it was heavily raining. My teardrops mingled with the sky's drops.
Exhaustion.

My dear sister in law dragged me inside the house - her house, I was living there -  dried my hair, made me tea and forced me to get changed.
"You'll find the money. You'll bring mama home. I don't know how, but you will. I know you can do that."
Deep down inside, I knew that too. But I was so, so tired and so worried.
I ran out of options, of people to call.
And it's been so difficult for me to ask for money! I was ashamed! I never did that before. I would have never! I couldn't. But I did it for my mother.

I found the money for the windows. A friend of mine, a beautiful woman inside-out, Valentina, gave it to me. Without a warranty.
How lucky was I? 

My mother came home. As promised.
It was 18th of May 2019 - her birthday. Two months after I started building.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

I am in huge depts, but my mother sleeps in her bed now.
This house was my mother's dream, not mine.
I would have never come back if it wasn't for her.
I was planning on moving to a Spanish speaking country.

The house isn't finished. Not even half of it,  but the downstairs is livable.
The bedrooms (2) are okay, the rest, not so much.
We don't have flooring everywhere (I am referring to the first floor). The corridor, the stairs, the living room are without. I put a rug in the living room.
The bathroom and the kitchen are without doors. The corridor also needs two doors.
The kitchen is missing the furniture.
But we have running water, a toilet, and a shower. The essentials.
That's why I needed to build the house in the first place.

The mansard consists of walls only. It will never undergo other work.
I built it for storage space because downstairs had none.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

I put rugs on the rough floor, a bed and a small closet, just in case we have guests.
You are invited if you want to see it in person.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

I also made a couple of beds from boxes filled with books. I have no library to put them anyway.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

But the mansard can only be used in the summertime.
Once the cold settles in, you won't be able to sleep in there. Because the outside of the entire house (and the mansard) is not plastered or insulated, the walls have holes in them. It doesn't rain inside, but you can see the sun - if it shines.
It surely needs insulation or plaster at least, but I have no means to do it.
The only thing I absolutely have to buy before autumn is a stove to heat the house.
The first floor only.
I have stretched myself and installed underfloor heating. I've done it for my mother. She suffers the cold incredibly. Normal heating will never be enough for her.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Romanian author Cristina G.

And because the walls are not plastered, we will need loads of wood to make the fire.

We have wood. It's from the old building.
It took me weeks to prepare it for the stove.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G.

And it's been a very dangerous job to do, as every piece of wood (huge) had loads of nails in it.
I used a wood cutting circular, an ax, and a sledgehammer to cut it into stove-sized pieces.
No, they can't be called logs.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G.

During this time, I also worked the land. It wasn't easy because it rained a lot and I've been extremely busy with the buildings.
But I couldn't leave it without onion, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and so on.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Romanian author Cristina G.

I didn't plan on abandoning my writing career. I thought I will keep writing, but there is so much to do. I am absolutely exhausted.
And my mother isn't well.
When I brought her home, nobody thought she will make the trip alive (300 km). But she did because we prayed a lot.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Romanian author Cristina G.
We watched her for 2 days when she got back to the village. We were afraid she will not get better.
Here was at my brother's place. The house was being decorated. 
Then I took her to a recovery centre close by - Centrul Medical Barticesti. Two weeks we stayed there. They saved her life in there.
My sister, Alexandrina, offered to replace me for a week so I could get the house ready for my mother.

Every day we took my mother to many doctors, various treatments, physiotherapy and baths in the swimming salt pool.
My mother's has never been to a pool, a sea, a river before. She never wore a swimming costume.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Romanian author Cristina G.

She couldn't walk at all when she got there, she came home walking. Not on foot, of course, but she could stand up and walk.
She still does, even if her health isn't good.

On the 31st of May 2019, my mother and I moved into the new house.
Two months after I started building.
What a journey that was!

Many people will criticize the size of the house.
If I didn't have money, why have I wanted something like that? 

It sure looks big, I can't argue with that, but it really isn't. The mansard is for storage.
I know that many will think that I could have finished the house if it had one floor only.
That's not really true.
It cost less to build it this way. It was more practical.
I couldn't have finished it, no matter how I'd have built it.

I forgot to mention that on April, the 7th, I have launched the book: "14 nuanțe de roșu: Amintiri din Copilăria Comunistă: Epoca de aur/14 shades of red: Memories of a communist childhood: The Golden Epoch".

A memoir settled, as you understood, during the Ceausescu's dictatorial regime. 500 pages of true to fact stories.
The launch, that took place in the church I was baptized, was blessed in every possible way.


Despite the launch being a huge success, I didn't become rich. No. I still have a long way to go to reach recognition and start making a living from writing.

Book launch: 14 shades of red: Memories of a communist childhood

I couldn't have done without the help of a few people with huge hearts.
My brother and my sister in law gave me shelter and food for free.
On top of that, they helped me with many other things.
My neighbors helped me move all my stuff from a place to another.
My friends brought my mother home.
Some of my brothers and sisters gave me some money.

But mostly, while almost everybody told me that I was crazy to give up my future and come back to my country to bury myself in a countryside, only one Romanian person supported and encouraged all my choices: my uncle.
Without him, I would have probably gone mad. Because building in Romania it's not as easy or cheap as many think.
We have laws and rules too. It's not the Wild West.

Of course, my sisters and brothers also encouraged me. But, somehow, I knew they will.
Some of my friends from England were on my side too.

I don't know what would I have done without the people I mentioned above.

Thank you, Valentina - beautiful human being and true friend - for the fact that you gave me money without any warranty. I must be honest, it took me days to gather the courage to ask. I didn't know you had the money and you would give it to me without me begging.
You're an angel.
With that money, I bought many windows. Without them, my mother wouldn't sleep in her bed now. Without your priceless help, she wouldn't have made it. I am sure.
I will always be grateful.

And because I want to pay them back, I need to take care of my career now.
If only my mother was well. But she isn't.

Thank you.

How I built a house in 2 months: Retrospective by Cristina G. Gherghel

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