Friday, April 28, 2006

Feri G.

One of my small successes at Kassai this week was introducing to my students “Feri G” as a nickname for the unpronounceable PM Gyurcsány Ferenc. They loved it, and found a variety of reasons to talk about politics just so they could use it. (The vaguely porn-starrish “Viki O” for Orbán Viktor was also well-received.)

So I was amused to see this article today on Pesticide, which explains the circumstances under which Feri G. used the word “cool” to describe how young people feel about being Socialist. I understand completely. I mean, I think I look pretty damn 'cool' in red. Or maybe 'hot'. But of course that means something different in Hungarian.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I love Kati... and music

I’m also a great fan of Scrubs, so I hope y’all can appreciate both my love of the show and my ability to work quotes from it into my my everyday life:

JD: Dr Cox?
Cox: Yeah, Newbie, whaddaya got?
JD: That guy looks fantastic. What do you think he’s dying of, a case of the Handsomes?

Because today my contact teacher Kati was back at school and looking better than ever after her still-unidentified illness. And just like when I see my real mother after a long time, Kati proceeded to notice my new hair cut, ask when I did it, compliment it nicely, smooth it out at the back of my neck, and point out the two pieces that weren’t exactly the right length. Oh, I’m so glad she’s back. Seriously, school has been so boring without her.

After Scrubs and Kati, for some reason today I’m also in love with music. Maybe because MTV keeps playing one awesome song after another. Maybe because I finally discovered the easy way to create playlists in iTunes. Whatever, nem fontos. Gaines and I have been working on a CETP/Hungary Soundtrack, so allow me to publish it first here:

Another Brick In the Wall; Pink Floyd
Teach Your Children; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Don't Stand So Close To Me; The Police
Sex and Beer; Pat McCurdy
Kids; Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue
Eye of the Tiger; Survivor
Magyarország; Oláh Ibolya
Should I Stay Or Should I Go; The Clash
Hot For Teacher; Van Halen
Smoking In The Boys Room; Motley Crue
Fight For Your Right To Party; Beastie Boys
Fridays I'm in Love; The Cure
Working for the Weekend; Loverboy
Schools Out For Summer; Alice Cooper
Two Way Monologue; Sondre Lerche
Midnight Train; Journey
Lazy Days; Robbie Williams
Represent, Cuba; Orishas
Cash Machine; Hard Fi

You might notice a bit of a theme. Keep in mind that this is a rough draft only, and please give me any suggestions, additions, or subtractions you can think of. As added incentive: anyone who comments, I’ll burn you a copy of the Soundtrack when it’s finished.

Happy Birthday

I realize I’ve been lazy about posting recently, and will be working to fix that. My new goal: 5 posts a week. Somehow I was managing it back in the winter... and writing interesting things, even. God knows I have enough free time to maintain three or four blogs.

Anyway, for today: the song Happy Birthday, by Flipsyde. Normally I would feel that simply posting lyrics as an entry is a bit of a cop-out, but... but what? But this song deserves it. The lyrics alone don’t do it justice, so if you can download the song, or better yet watch the video, I encourage you to do so.

Happy make a wish
Verse 1:
Please accept my apologies, wonder what would have been
Would you've been a little angel or an angel of sin?
Tom-boy running around, hanging with all the guys.
Or a little tough boy with beautiful brown eyes?
I payed for the murder before they determined the sex
Choosing our life over your life meant your death
And you never got a chance to even open your eyes
Sometimes I wonder as a fetus if you fought for your life?
Would you have been a little genius in love with math?
Would you have played in your school clothes and made me mad?
Would you have been a little rapper like your papa da Piper?
Would you have made me quit smokin' by finding one of my lighters?
I wonder about your skin tone and shape of your nose?
And the way you would have laughed and talked fast or slow?
Think about it every year, so I picked up a pen
Happy birthday, love you whoever you woulda been
Happy birthday...
All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed (happy birthday)
All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed
I made a mistake!
Verse 2:
I've got a million excuses to why you died
Bet the people got their own reasons for homicide
Who's to say it woulda worked, and who's to say it wouldn't have?
I was young and strugglin' but old enough to be your dad
The fear of being a father has never disappeared
Pondering frequently while I'm zippin' on my beer
My vision of a family was artificial and fake
So when it came time to create I made a mistake
Now you've got a little brother maybe he's really you?
Maybe you really forgave us knowin' we was confused?
Maybe every time that he smiles it's you proudly knowin' that your father's doin' the right thing now?
I never tell a woman what to do with her body
But if she don't love children then we can't party
Think about it every year, so I picked up a pen
Happy birthday, love you whoever you woulda been
Happy birthday...
All I thought was a dream (make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed (happy birthday)
All I thought was a dream (yeah, make a wish)
Was as real as it seemed
I made a mistake!
And from the heavens to the womb to the heavens again
From the endin' to the endin', never got to begin
Maybe one day we could meet face to face?
In a place without time and space
Happy birthday...
I made a mistake...!

That’s all for now. Coming soon: a series of entries about the eleventh biggest city in Hungary (that means Szolnok).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fly x2

Fly #1: (of time) pass swiftly. As in, “It’’s the end of April already? Two months from today I’ll be on another continent?? Only 7 more weeks of teaching???” etc. Since I’m in the mood for stats:
245 days I’ve been in Hungary so far
57 days until I’ll be in Minnesota
8 weeks of teaching
29 more actual days of teaching
11 weekdays on which I could feasibly teaching, but will hopefully instead be traveling
So it’s going to be a good spring, I think.

Fly #2: (of an aircraft or its occupants) travel through the air. As in, “Who ever thought flying home would be so difficult? Why on earth is a plane ticket so expensive, why won’t the major websites let you book a round trip ticket starting in Europe, why...” and further ranting.

Anyway, a lot of my fellow CETPers were smart and bought their tickets home months ago. For those who haven’t, please benefit from my experience. First of all, for those who are coming back next year and want to buy a ticket to the States and back, the following sites won’t let you buy a round trip ticket originating in Europe: Priceline and all it’s affiliates, Orbitz and affiliates, STA Travel, Student Universe, Cheap Tickets, Cheap Flights, Lowest Fare. So boo to all of them.

On the other hand, two awesome websites that let you compare a bunch of airfares at one time: Kayak and Sidestep. These two are great, they do all the work for you. I wish I had found them before I did all the work myself.

If you feel like torturing yourself by checking all the airlines individually, the cheapest ones I found were at Lufthansa and Air France, and Expedia and Travelocity also presented some options.

In the end, I went with Alitalia, because it was absolute cheapest. And me being the person I am, I’m willing to switch planes 3 times in order to save $50. But you might be different. Anyone who’s willing to share with me what their ticket cost, please comment.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Forty-eight thousand forint is a lot of money. That’s $222, 180 euro, 26,200 yen. In my funds-reduced life here in Szolnok, 48,000 Ft is approximately half my monthly income. Things that I would like to buy with 48,000 Ft include:

- summer shoes, socks and underwear, or a spring jacket
- food other than pasta and bread
- a broom, or working vacuum
- Draino, so I can take a shower without it being a bath
- burnable CDs, so I could download more Lost, Housewives, or Simpsons
- beer, wine, pencils, and other teaching supplies
- a bus or train ticket to anywhere-not-Szolnok this weekend
- a plane ticket to a sunny, tropical island paradise.

What I will actually do with my precious 48,000 forint: buy a one-way ticket to hell... and back. Specifically, an 8-day bus trip to London with 40 of my students and 3 of the other English teachers. Back a couple months ago, when I agreed to come along and paid the first half of the fee, no one held a gun to my head to force me to come. They laid out two perfectly reasonable options: pay 88,000 forint for this lovely trip, OR stay behind for the week and pick up all the extra English classes. So I made what seemed to be the obvious choice, particularly since at the time I had nothing better to spend the money on. Well... things change.

My mind would also be less financially-occupied if my private students would stop playing musical chairs with me. Student A moved his lesson from last week to today, and wanted it at the same time. So I asked B if we could meet at a later time today. Then A called to cancel today completely, but can we meet tomorrow instead? Fine, so I was reveling in my free hour when C called and wanted me to meet his friend D because she needed to talk to a native speaker. ARGH! The ending is, none of this would bother me in the least if I felt like the money I get for my troubles was going toward something worthwhile. But it’s not, so it does.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Poor Girls' Spring Break

An update on the House War coming is coming in the next entry. But now, a recap of Spring Break: Szolnok.

Last week Wednesday seems eons ago. But, as I may have mentioned once or twice, there was a basketball game. Despite various handicaps, not the least of which were Davis being out of the game with a snapped ankle, as well as having to dodge the beer people kept throwing, the Olaj managed to pull off a 76-56 victory. Hajrá, Olaj! After the game, Mike, Juli and I celebrated.

Laura arrived Thursday, and we continued the celebration. Mike, not yet fully appreciating the wonder that is a Poor Girls’ vacation, departed for Budapest and points beyond, leaving Laura and I to spend the remainder of the break cooking (paprikás csirke, galuska, and onion rings, all successful), venturing out daily to check on the rivers (rising, flooding), watching movies, and getting Laura addicted to Lost (unfortunately, on the last day).

Today, Tuesday, we drove with Juli and her father to Budapest. Juli was going to the American Embassy to be interviewed for her visa application. She got it! They gave her a one-year tourist visa. Gratulálok, Juli! (She also got a really cool pair of new sneakers, not from the Embassy, and I got some books. But of course the visa is the most important part. Hence the parentheses, indicating a digression or afterthought. All right, I’m done).

PS - how could I forget? Our majorest accomplishment of the break was setting up the new CETP newsletter / blog, which anyone and everyone can check out at CETP Newsletter.

That’s all for real.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I returned from my Transylvania sojourn to discover that 3A (Apartment And Appliances, aka my flat and all things in it) has turned against me. After the Water War, I thought we had reached a peace accord, but 3A’s treachery is beyond belief. This morning, he (and it has to be male; nothing female would give me this much trouble) decided to go with a five-pronged attack, one in each room. In the kitchen: my sink is falling apart and covered with goo. In the bedroom: my alarm went off an hour early today. In the hallway: the faint but ominous smell of gas. In the bathroom: the toilet is making alarming gurgling noises. Most disturbing, in the living room: as I was using my extra hour of time this morning to watch channel 22, MTV, it suddenly switched to channel 21, but was still MTV. Intrigued, I examined the problem, and discovered that about half of my 38 precious channels are now fuzz. Grrr.

Granted, some of the problems may have been caused or exacerbated by me - ahem, such as leaving dishes lying in the sink for a week while I tromped around Romania, or forgetting to change my alarm back to Hungarian time. But! The toilet? The TV? The deadly gas?? These are not things you can mess with! The TV especially - you took away my Viva!! So, 3A, here it is: in the spirit of generosity, I’ll give you a couple days to shape up. After that, if you fail to meet my already super-low standards... there will be war.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Great Transylvanian Experiment, Take Three

Day Zero - Inauspicious Beginnings

The first leg of the journey, for me at least, was getting from Szolnok to Budapest. Normally, this is not at all problematic, but since I had the grand idea that arriving into Nyugati would simplify my inter-Pest traveling, it became more complicated. Not the least of my problems was that the train was 45 minutes late. Anyway, I arrived in Pest, and arrived at the Kollégium.

And arrived at the second problem. Or, if “problem” is too strong a word, maybe I could just say “situation”. I met the other Americans. How? By standing in my room and listening for other American voices, which drifted loud and clear down the hall. I poked my head in and asked, “Are you Hajni’s Americans?” to which they replied in the affirmative. I had found the group of Lexia students.

Let me clarify this. In addition to CETP, Hajni also runs the Lexia Student Exchange Program, which I did in 2003. When we went to Transylvania in the fall, the entire trip was CETP teachers, but for this trip, in addition to 6 teachers and one teacher’s boyfriend, we also have Lexia students from Krakow, Budapest, and Berlin.

Right, so I met up with the bulk of the students, who are from the Berlin leg of Lexia. Two things which occurred to me after meeting them: one, that I need to stop teasing Janos about being the old man. Two, a memory of a conversation we had some weekend, I think in Tiszaújváros, when we were all together and discussing the upcoming trip. Someone, possibly Liz, said something about how not fun the trip would be, to travel around on a bus with a bunch of rowdy college students. Someone else, possibly me, came back with, “How bad could they be?” because really, we’re mostly only a couple years removed from them. Ha ha. I’m eating those words now.

Day One - Nagyvárad and Bánffyhunyad

Today we drove a lot and visited two churches.

Despite a late start, due to flood-related transportation problems, we were on the road by 7:30. My fellow travelers this time around are:

The Adults are almost the same as last time: Hajni; András, our translator; Péter, our bus driver; unfortunately this time our guide isn’t Sándor, but instead we have a quiet young woman named Ildikó.

The Teachers: myself, Nicole, Jess, Jenn, Jillian, Tara, and Tara’s boyfriend Tom.

The Kids (the Lexia students): one from Krakow, Mike; one from the new Hungary-and-Romania program, Meghan; and a whole large group from Berlin. Their names escape me, and until any of them do anything to distinguish themselves from the group, I’m just going to refer to them collectively as The Kids.

We drove across Hungary, past Szolnok and eastward. We made it to the border and across without major hassle; we were through by 2 o’clock. I had a brief reminder of my earlier feeling of inauspiciousness as the first sight I saw in Romania was a dead sheepdog lying in a ditch (a sight which, sadly, was not a singular event). We stopped in Nagyvárad to see the a church. After leading us to the main walking street, Hajni let us loose for half an hour to exchange money and scavenge up some food. On the way back to the bus, Jillian and I walked past two younger girls who made a comment about Americans, then turned around to see how we would react. Unfortunately, at the same time Jillian and I turned around to see where the group was. The girls started cracking up, we started cracking up, and when we meandered back towards the group, they started following us. They followed the group for a couple of blocks - unlike so many people, ranging from sketchy to sad, who would follow around a group of Americans begging or pick pocketing, these were just two bored girls. So all was well, until we got back to the bus, when One Of The Kids thought it would be a nice parting gift to make idiot faces at the girls. At which point, they started sulking, and The Kids started snapping pictures. Not that I didn’t have the same impulse. But I didn’t.

After Nagyvárad, we headed into the Kalotaszeg region. When we came over the Királyhágó pass, Hajni announced that we were officially in Transylvania. We applauded tiredly. We stopped in Bánffyhunyad to visit the 13th century Protestant church there. András told me I should give the speech, since I’ve heard it twice before. Actually, I was proud of how much of the speech I could understand in Hungarian, before András translated it.

The first evening was, as it has been on my two previous tours, the village of Kalotaszentkirály. We all had dinner together in one room, at two tables to which we automatically separated ourselves: Kids at one table, Teachers at another. Jillian said she felt like we were the camp counselors of the group. Dinner was a veggie and meat soup, followed by rice and veal, and a pastry for dessert which was sort of like a powdered-sugar-covered, light, spiral donut. Plus palinka, of course. Amazing.

After dinner, Hajni divided us up into groups for the night, and although we schemed to all be put together, we were split. After the Dividing, we all sat around for a while, until we staged a coup d’état by standing up and putting on coats under the pretense of huddling around the stove. It worked; everyone stood up and started moving towards the door. Good job, Teachers - way to instigate some social change.

Day Two - Körösfö, Kolozsvár

Today we drove a lot and visited one and a half churches.

This morning, we three girls (myself, Jess, and Jenn) walked back up to the place we had dinner for breakfast. It was the traditional spread of bread, meat cheese, rosehip jam tea and coffee. Mmm, coffee. At breakfast, we plotted our attack on the bus - we were determined to snag good places and let The Kids share seats today. Success! The bus picked us up first, and Jillian and Nicole were the only two on time to the meeting places, so we staked our claims.

Our first stop of the day was Körösfö, which has nothing in the way of tourist attractions other than dozens of tiny shops and stands lining the single street, which is actually a highway with cars and semis rushing past. So in my mind, it will always be the Highway Mall village. This time around, I managed to restrain myself a bit, and despite much drooling over embroideries and pottery, I got back on the bus having only spent 55 lei ($18) on two rugs. (And yes, I know that it was only a couple weeks ago that I spent $35 on rugs at Ikea. I’m sorry, I’m developing a new obsession or something. But there are far worse things I could be spending money on. At least rugs are practical.)

The next chunk of the day was spent in Kolozsvár. We saw the Farkas utcai Reformist Church and part of the medieval town wall. We walked past the Babes-Bolyai University, which in a past life was the Franz Joseph University where my great-great grandmother Katalin earned her degree in midwifery. We wandered around the town, saw the main square, the statue of King Mátyás and the Szent Mihály Church, but only from the outside (hence the “half a church”). We listened to Horváth István’s speech about the problems of the minorities in Transylvania, which was informative as always (I’ve now seen it four times). After the speech, Hajni let us loose in the town. Jillian, Jenn, Nicole and I immediately headed for coffee and pastries, followed by a toothbrush-hunt (successful) and a bathroom-hunt (also successful) before we hopped back on the bus.

As a final note, I have to say that the best part of Kolozsvár was when Péter ran a red light and got pulled over by the cops. Nothing came of it, because Ildikó jumped out and saved us with protestations of, “We’re just a bunch of American tourists; we need to find food and bathrooms and exchange money and we only have one hour in your beautiful town...” But it was funny anyway.

The planned final stop of the day was the Torda Canyon. Thankfully, it was drizzly all day and Hajni and the driver decided not to risk the possibility that the muddy roads might swallow the bus (not to mention us walking). So, hooray, no canyon. It was beautiful last time, but the walk back up nearly killed a good group of us. In fact, I seem to recall Hajni vowing never again with the canyon... but apparently her memory isn’t as good as mine.

The back-up plan was a tour of the Torda Salt Mine. Words fail me. Salt is beautiful. It forms in waves and swirls, it drips down in massive stalactites, and it grows to cover the cut walls and underground buildings like delicious crystal barnacles. Mmm, salty. Yes, I licked one of the walls. And broke chunks off the ceiling. No goiters for me!

Our overnight stop was in Torocko, the village where the sun rises twice (because of the giant mountain. Remember the giant mountain?) Once again, we had dinner together, and once again, we self-segregated. The Teachers sat on the left, the Kids sat on the right, and the Adults sat in the middle, joined by a couple of the less-bubble-headed Kids. Dinner was a creamy meat-stock soup with carrot pieces and rice, followed by noodles and pork in a paprikás sauce, and something like cinnamon cake/bread for dessert. Because we were following the local tradition, we had a pálinka as an aperitif, in addition to as a palate-cleanser between courses.

In the evening, after dispersing to our houses to drop off luggage, we reconvened in the town square to search out a bar. The Teachers plus Ildikó ended up at the same bar where last time a farmer invited Laura for a ride on his tractor, and other such shenanigans. It was interesting to talk to her (Ildikó, I mean). She’s Hungarian, of course, living in Satu Mare with her husband and two small sons. She said that this is actually her first tour, which surprised me because although she is shy around Hajni and András, it’s obvious that she knows so much about everything we see and do. I like her - if I come on this trip a fourth time, I hope she’s our guide again.

Day Three - Marosvásárhely and Korond

Today we drove a lot and visited one church, one museum, and a culture house.

After a group breakfast, we toured the Torocko Ethnography Museum. I’ve only been there once before, and I was just as interested this time. Too bad others didn’t follow my example.

After the museum, we hopped on the bus for the long ride to Marosvásárhely. As yesterday, it was rainy and yucky, but nevertheless we tramped through the city to visit their Orthodox church. The iconostasis and sheer level of opulent decoration was almost enough to make me convert.

Continuing the day’s theme of overwhelming opulence, our next stop was the Kultura Palota to marvel at the painted walls (I’m thinking about doing some folk-style embellishment when I do my hallway) and stained-glass windows.

Our last stop of the day was the pottery-making village of Korond. As usual, after a brief tour of one of the pottery-makers, we and our cash were let loose on the village. I made a pre-planned purchase of two vases, one blue and one brown & green. The most exciting part of the trip was that for a brief few minutes in Korond, a tiny village in the Carpathian foothills, my laptop picked up a wireless signal. But not long enough nor strong enough to get online.

The evening we spent in Zetelaka. Tara, Tom, Nicole and I were together in a house, owned by Lukács Erzsébet and her husband Tibor, and daughter Annamari, who was dragged out of her comfortable position glued to the computer to speak some English for us. Erzsébet cooked us soup, stuffed cabbage, and dessert, and filled and refilled our glasses with homemade pálinka and homemade wine. Oh, wonderful. I could have stayed forever, but retreating back upstairs to a warm, downy bed had it’s own appeal.

Day Four - Segesvár and other things

Today we drove not as much an usual and saw two churches and a castle.

The theme for the day had to be something along the lines of “so close, yet so far away.” Example number one: on our itinerary, all it said for day four was Segesvár, and spending the night in Zetelaka. Since the two places are relatively close, and having done Segesvár twice now, I knew it wasn’t going to take all day, I was wondering what we were going to do with all the extra time. The answer: we took the long road and made various side excursions, to Nagygalambfalva to see the Reformist fortified church, and to Cris to see a Renaissance era castle that belonged to the Bethlen family.

Example number two is more personal. We were so close to both Bögöz (where as a Lexia student I stayed with the Demeter family, my favorite memory from that trip) and Medgyes (near to which my family came from, a few generations back), but obviously we didn’t stop in either.

Segesvár is important for two reasons: it’s the city where Dracula was born, and it was formerly one of the biggest Saxon towns. We used the restroom in the café next to Vlad’s birthplace before visiting the Saxon Monastery Church. The speaker about the church spoke German and Romanian, which made for some interesting translation work. After an attempt for her to speak in German for one of the Lexia Berliners to translate failed miserably (she made it three sentences, but I knew it was doomed when she mistranslated Wilkommen. And apparently her German is the best of the group. Honestly, what do these kids learn?), the church lady switched into Romanian, which went through Ildikó and András to become Hungarian, then English. Ever the linguist, I was fascinated by the process, but I may have been the only one.

After the church, we walked up the Covered Steps to the Church on the Hill, and then Hajni released us for the day. We had an unheard of two hours free, so I stuck out with Nicole, Jess, and Jillian to find lunch. It was a bit of an adventure, first to find a restaurant, and then to order. Three of us opted for what appeared in English as “Frankfurten with bread and mustard,” which we assumed could only be bratwurst. Wrong! They turned out to be nasty, pale pink, bologna-like hot dogs. Despite trepidation, we ate them. They lacked any flavor outside the mustard, so I guess the best thing about our “bratwurst” was that none of us got sick. Yet.

The days’ third and final example of “so close, yet so far away,” is in the situation of the gypsy beggar children which abounded in Segesvár and the roads to and from. Their physical proximation (close, very close - they run up and grab at you, or knock on the bus windows) contrasts with their social distance from us (far, obviously far. I can’t imagine what they think of us).

The evening we spent again in Zetelaka. Dinner was subdued, despite Erzsébet’s attempts to ply us with food and drink. We ended up not going out to the disco as planned, but instead Tara, Tom, Nicole and I sat around upstairs and played cards and drank the two bottles of water they gave us. Yes, we sat around drinking water. It was great. One of the bitchier things we did was go over The Kids and try to figure out who was who. Since none of them will ever read this, and I think it’s funny, here’s the descriptions we came up with:

Josh - surfer who wants to be a doctor
Sean - the one with the beard
Michael - nice kid from Krakow. As smart as the rest put together
Meghan - the Budapest / Romania program
Ursula - trendy beyond belief, maybe not in a good way. Iowan
Aurora - dumb as bricks. Asked, “What’s hay for?” Wears leggings and moccasins
Anya - chubby, sweet face like a cow, and personality & brains to match
Stefanie - quiet, loner, takes a lot of photos
Kelsey - the screecher. Fashion major, wears the tucked jeans
Leah - quiet beatnik. Looks “like a New York poet”
Erika - has a cool scarf. Artsy, in a good way. Bought a porcelain Milka cow
Colleen - small loud Irish girl

Day Five - Communist Buildings, and Nature

Today we drove a lot, up and down mountains, and saw two churches with much embarrassment.

The theme of today was nature, namely in the form of water (the Killer Lake) and earth (the Frags’ Canyon). But before we would get to that, we stopped in Máréfalva to look at the painted gates, in Lövétebánya (I think) to taste the mineral water, and in Csikszereda. Csikszereda is a marvel of communist architecture (much like Szolnok; I felt at home). After we saw the Clapping Square, where crowds were forced to stand for hours and clap for Ceausescu, we moved on to see the Roman Catholic church designed in the new Organic style by Makovecz Imre, a friend of Hajni and András. The fact that it was Palm Sunday was a bit awkward, to say the least. There we were, indifferent group of 20 Americans, standing in their courtyard listening to a lecture while they were trying to conduct a service. It was worse when we got back on the bus and drove up to see the bigger Csíksomlyó church. It was surrounded by hundreds of cars and thousands of people, who stared at us passively as the bus made two passes by the church, driving slowly through the crowd.

Finally, we left the crowds behind and headed nature-wards. We saw the Killer Lake (frozen) and Frags’ Canyon (cold but sunny), but since I’m getting lazier and lazier, I’m going to skip over elaborate description. One is a lake, with a bunch of petrified trees in it, and one is a dramatic rock canyon. You can guess which is which. More important than describing either of them was the fact that Hajni moved to the back of the bus (she hates heights, so driving over a narrow mountain pass isn’t her favorite part of the trip) and we got to talk for a couple hours. So this was definitely my favorite part of the day.

The last night we spent at the Motel Dorina, which is not the hotel the group normal stays at. After a mediocre dinner made better by the Teachers splitting 4 bottles of wine, I got ready for bed, but was sucked into playing cards and drinking with some of the Kids. And I discovered that, who knew, some of them are actually cool people. I mean, with brains and all.

Day Six - Marosvásárhely, and homewards

Today we drove a lot, a lot a lot, and saw some gas stations.

After an even-less-than-mediocre breakfast (veto on the Motel Dorina), we backtracked a few minutes to Marosvásárhely to listen to a speech by the Hungarian vice-mayor of the town. It was interesting, but not worth reiterating here. After the speech, we settled back on the bus for the nearly 12-hour drive back across Romania and Hungary. We stopped in Kolozsvár to drop off Meghan, and in Satu Mare to drop of Ildikó. András and Hajni tried to spice up the journey by teaching us Hungarian folk songs (anyone from last time, remember the cinege-cinege song?) and András gave a quiz about the things we had learned in Transylvania, the prize being a can of authentic Transylvanian beer. But it was a long day.

Finally we made it to Budapest. I spent the night at Jess, came back to Szolnok, canceled my private lessons, and am sitting here now typing these final thoughts.

Speaking of final thoughts on the trip, here they are: Transylvania is the same. It’s beautiful, and I know I will go back again and again. The people were different this time around, and I can’t say for the better. This wasn’t just the fault of the Kids; there just wasn’t the group chemistry of the October group.

But overall, good trip. I’m looking forward to trying again next fall.

Monday, April 03, 2006


This is an idea I stole from Priest’s blog (which I love despite it’s angst), who stole it from Darkneuro (whose blog scares me), and hopefully someone will steal it from me. The idea is, you write ten messages, things you wish you could say to people but probably never will. The only other rules are that you don’t say who each message is for, and you can only write one to a person. Because I have problems following directions, I wrote 11. I’m also going to cheat a tiny bit and tell you that one is to a student, three are to CETPers, six are to Americans, five are to Hungarians, five are to men, six are to women, one is to two people, and one is to more than two people. So here goes:

1. I like being around you but I can’t stand how you use humor to keep people at a distance. You’re so good at it, it’s barely obvious 90% of the time. Which makes it all the more disturbing and sad when your facade slips. You’re a great person, but you need psychological help.

2. If we had met in America, I wouldn’t have liked you. I don’t know if being in Hungary has made me a more accepting person or maybe I’m just desperate for English-speaking contact, but in any case I am thankful beyond words that you’re in my life.

3. You are my icon. It’s for you that I try to live a good life and be a good person.

4. You are the victim of the most terrible thing I’ve ever done, and I’m not sorry.

5. Once a week you terrorize me without feeling the least bit of regret or shame about it. I can’t imagine what is in your head to make you believe that the way you behave is anywhere near acceptable. I think deep down you are just a horrible human being and I don’t think you’ll make it past age 30 without being killed or incarcerated or both.

6. I wish I were part of your family.

7. I wish you could understand me. In either language. In any langauge.

8. I don’t miss you as much as I tell you I do. In fact, I barely miss you at all.

9. I miss you more than I can say. I don’t think a day has gone past when I haven’t thought about seeing you. I drive myself crazy making up scenarios: What if my doorbell rang and it was you? What if I were walking up the street and saw you standing there? What if I ran into you in the store? I know it’s completely impossible but I can’t stop. Just thinking about you makes me smile, makes me calm, makes me whole.

10. When only the two of us are together, I enjoy being with you. When there are other people around, you act like a completely different person, and not a better one.

11. I think about you every couple of weeks and it scares me that it should be so infrequently. I’m afraid that when there’s no one tying us together, we’ll lose touch completely and that there might be a point when you’re not part of my life at all.

That’s all for now - tomorrow afternoon I’m off to Transylvania, so in about a week I should be back with some new stories. Hopefully good ones.


Having spent I-don’t-even-know-how-many weekends in Szolnok, this last weekend an escape was long overdue. So Friday afternoon I hopped a bus Kiskunhalas-ward in search of adventure and booze. Success on both counts.

Since spring has finally arrived to stay in Hungary, we made it our mission on Saturday to get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. Granted, this took almost until noon to accomplish, due to an extreme laziness and lack of motivation. Finally we settled on a goal: finding the Kkhalas river, which appeared on the map as a tiny blue line snaking through the city. A secondary goal was the two pubs the map indicated on either side of the bridge.

Well, the “river” didn’t really live up to it’s name. Unless you picture a river as a garbage-filled, stagnant channel. Which I don’t. We did run into some interesting characters along the “banks” of the “river”, including frogs, turtles, a tribe of dogs and a tribe of gypsies.

The pubs turned out to be quite similar to the river - dead, ugly, and sketchy - so we settled on a marginally better place near the bus station. After lunch, having satisfied the need to spend time outside, we retreated back indoors for an afternoon of lazing (and yes, that is an actual verb. I looked it up. Not that I’m overly concerned with whether the words I use are “real” or not - why start now? But in my opinion, both the verb “to laze” and the action itself are underused. And I’m trying my best to remedy both).

Wait, where was I? Oh, who cares. I’m skipping ahead to Sunday morning, when we got up, I won’t say early, but it did involve an alarm, in order to go to the fantastic, first-weekend-of-the-month market, which is held on a big field outside of town (near the “river,” actually). There are miles of booths filled with clothes, tools, produce, electronics, housewares, textiles, and pretty much any other type of junk you could imagine. The best part (and the reason for the alarm): at the far side of the field, an entire section devoted to animals. Horses, cows, the occasional sheep, and the most adorable little pigs (as well as some that weren’t so cute). We spent a good time ogling the animals, but went home empty-handed.

Although I didn’t come back to Szolnok empty-handed; I managed to steal 6 books, which should keep me reading for the next month or so. Wait, I forgot that I’ll be spending a week on a bus, followed by a week lazing around my flat not working. So, maybe for half a month. Well, we’ll see.