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Summer, 2009: Visitors from Our Partner Church

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San Francisco San Francisco
Ben Bloch, Istvan Bancsi-Rigo, Sandor Antonya, Katalin Jakab, Gyula Timar, Timea Kovacs

Transylvanian Partners Visit San Jose

Article By Monty Low & Connie Bloch

Summer, 2009: the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, FUCSJ, hosted 7 visitors from our partner church in Homoródszentmárton, HZM, Romania. Our first visitor, Istvan Bancsi-Rigo, is a college student who arrived 7 weeks ahead of the main group. Istvan was sponsored by our members Lisa Hettler-Smith and Gordon Smith. Lisa and Gordon arranged for Istvan to attend internships with Love Apple Farms and The Permaculture Institute of Northern California. Istvan says that he learned many organic and permaculture techniques to use back home.

Katalin Jakab, Gyula Timar, Timea Kovacs, Sandor Antonya, Erika Szombatfalvi, Rev. Jozsef Szombatfalvi


On August 5th, the main group traveled from Budapest to London where they had a 21 hour layover. As it happens, Sundar Mudupalli and his family from our church have been living in London for 1 year on a temporary assignment. They met our travelers at the airport, helped them see some sights in London and had them stay at their house overnight.

As a point of interest to organizers, we brought our visitors over on donated American Airline frequent flier tickets. Booking our travel dates in late January was not early enough to obtain our preferred travel dates (7 months later). Thus we had the long layover in London and we had to bring our travelers in through Canada. Changing planes in Canada requires a transit visa for Romanians even if they are just transferring from one flight to another.


The main group arrived late August 6th. Istvan was now joined by Rev. József Szombatfalvi and his wife Erika Szombatfalvi, the HZM church board president Gyula Timar, and three teens, Timea Kovacs, Katalin Jakab, and Sandor Antonya.

Sherry Howd, Erika Szombatfalvi, Gyula Timar, Madeline Morrow
Pot Luck Dinner

The next day our travelers were treated to a relaxing pool party followed by a welcome potluck dinner with the congregation. On Friday we went sightseeing in San Francisco. That evening we attended a dance rehearsal of the Eszterlanc Hungarian dance group. Saturday found us back in San Francisco for a second day including a visit to the San Francisco farmers market.

Dance Performance at First Unitarian Church of San Jose Sandor Antonya, Timea Kovacs, Rev. Jozsef Szombatfalvi, Katalin Jakab

In San Jose

Rev. Szombatfalvi delivered an inspiring Sunday sermon and the several of the travelers performed a beautiful traditional dance. In the evening, our travelers helped our church to serve dinner at the Julian Street Inn for homeless, at risk families and the homeless mentally ill.

Stueve Organic Farm, Oakdale Gyula Timar, Gage Stueve, various Holstine's

On the Road...

Monday morning found us at the Stueve Organic Dairy in Oakdale, CA for an extensive tour of their dairy. As president of the HZM dairy co-op and dairy farmer, Gyula was very keen to talk shop with our host, Gage Stueve.

Yosemite: Gyula Timar, Timea Kovacs, Istvan Bancsi-Rigo, Sandor Antonya, Katalin Jakab, Monty Low, Pam Price
Yosemite 07

Traveling On,

We took our friends camping and visited Yosemite National Park. Here we were treated to magnificent views of shear granite cliffs and waterfalls.

Monterey: Gyula Timar, Connie Bloch, Rev. Jozsef Szombatfalvi, Erika Szombatfalvi
Monterey 12

On Wednesday.

We split into two groups - the adults traveled back to the bay area to tour Monterey. They looked at the tide pools, strolled down Cannery Row, and enjoyed The Monterey Aquariam.

Channel Island National Park, High School youth from FUCSJ & HZM
HS Camping

The HZM youth took a ferry to the Channel Islands National Park in the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles off Santa Barbara . Here they joined 25 FUCSJ high school youth on their annual summer campout. Over the next few days our visitors joined our youth to hike cliffs above the Pacific and kayak into sea caves.

Pixar Animation Studio
Pixar Studio

On Sunday the adults and the youth joined many folks from FUCSJ for a dinner and bonfire on Sunset Beach near Santa Cruz. The high tech day was Monday where we visited the Intel museum, the Toshiba disk drive design center and were treated to a tour of the Pixar Animation Studio.

Big Basin Redwood Park, Inside the hollow base of one living tree Sandor Antonya, Gyula Timar, Katalin Jakab, Carol Low, Rev. Jozsef Szombatfalvi, Madeline Morrow Timea Kovacs, Elizabeth Low, Monty Low
Big Basin Redwoods

Tuesday was the last day of the visit. The Big Basin Redwood Grove provided a peaceful setting see some of the world’s oldest and tallest living things. The farewell dinner was well attended by FUCSJ members. After 2 weeks we bid our friends a teary eye goodbye.

Morning, Monterey Bay (Jim Guffey)
Morning Capitola

We were very pleased to provide our visitors a full experience during their stay and that our events were well attended by the folks at FUCSJ. During our 2 church services, 2 dinners and beach bonfire many people were able to meet our visitors. It was a chance to return the hospitality shown to us when 28 members of FUCSJ visited Homoródszentmárton in 2007. Many thanks go to the donors of the airline tickets and the host families who provided home stays for our visitors. We look forward to seeing our visitors again in 2011 when we plan to return to Homoródszentmárton.

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