Category Archives: Hungary

Final Days in Budapest

Well, now that we’re settled in Tallinn, I figured I might as well officially close the Budapest chapter of our lives through blogging. Of course. After a very sad, but fun last day of teaching, we celebrated August 20th (along with most former Soviet Union countries). August 20th is like Hungary’s Independence Day (but they have several Independence Days, due to their complicated histories with neighbors). We went around the city that day, and we even got to see Szent Istvan’s hand paraded around the city.

That night, we went over to a US Embassy location to eat ice cream and watch the fireworks. The fireworks were synchronized in three places along the river, and one of the places was right over the dramatic Parliament. It was a pretty incredible show!

Another night, we had Brian and Payal over. Payal made some incredible Indian food. It was great chatting with them one last time before both Pete and Brian’s internships were over!

We also went to the famous Szecheny Baths (Hungarians love going to their bath houses–kind of like the Estonians and their saunas). Even though I am not a fan of swimming or water in general, I still had a lot of fun. The weather was warm, so the cooler (naturally healing) water was very refreshing. I think that the novelty is the fact that you are in an architecturally stunning location while also floating in water.

One day, we were on the train, heading to Visegrad, and minutes before the train left the station, we got a call from the Estonian Embassy, telling us that they can process a visa for me! They were able to process a visa for Pete, but they weren’t able to for me, but because they got a visa for Pete, they were then able to make a “spouse” visa for me. This was a huge relief because we were about to enter Estonia with overstaying our time in Europe (you only get 90 days here), and we were already over that time. It is scary to cross borders (even though they don’t check at EU borders anymore) when you have been in the EU too long. So, we jumped off the train and got my visa sorted out. The next day (our last full day in Hungary), we headed to Visegrad, which is a castle 45 minutes North of Budapest. It is situated right on the river on a huge hill. I think the location was the best part of the castle! Such beautiful views!

To get to the castle, we crossed the river on a rafty thing connected to a boat. On the way there, we crossed the river with a lumber truck. Ya know.

And then, the next morning, at the terrible hour of 7:25, we boarded a train, never to return to Hungary again. (Well, at least not for several months. We do love Hungary and wouldn’t be opposed to returning either for a short visit or longer period.)

Nyugati Train Station:

Our route North was pretty entertaining/exhausting, so we will surely be back for a post on that (as well as life here in Tallinn). Thanks for reading!

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Last Day of Teaching

Today was the last day of teaching, and I must say, I am so sad to be leaving the kindergarten and Budapest! I had such a memorable summer with some of the funniest kids out there. I tried not to cry too much while the kids sang a goodbye song during lunch. The school director asked me to write a little article about the summer camp for their quarterly magazine, so I figured I’d include that here, seeing how I haven’t really talked about how the summer camp was, day to day.

One of the English Garden Summer School teachers was Kimberly Bird from Utah, USA.

Here is Kimberly’s summer diary:

The first week’s theme was Cooking, where we were able to cook together as well as take a day-trip to Nobu and Sugar. What a fun first outing! We were all excited to see the “behind the scenes” of a sushi restaurant. I loved watching the kids learn to roll the sushi and make their fruit cocktails, but I think the most memorable part of the trip was at Sugar, where the kids saw all of the incredible different cakes and desserts. The students talked about all of the different creative cakes, such as the Japanese styled cakes, volcano cakes, and animal cupcakes. The students also had a wonderful time decorating their very own cupcake.

After such a successful first week, I was excited about the second week’s theme, Musical Theater. Fae from Dramaworks came to direct the students. The kids focused on learning songs from “The Lion King,” “Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang,” and “High School Musical.” The Juniors group especially loved singing and dancing to “I Can’t Wait to Be King” from “The Lion King.” It was so fun to watch them singing the song to themselves while they were coloring or playing. I must say, the performance was quite impressive! The Juniors sang and danced energetically to “I Can’t Wait to be King” and the Seniors were incredibly powerful and enthusiastic while they sang and danced (especially to the “High School Musical” songs).

Week three’s theme was Drama, and Fae came back from the previous week to coach the students. The students all became very attached to Fae and her friendly personality! After a day of practicing, we had the Juniors draw a picture of the Aesop’s Fable that they were going to perform; we then had the students dictate the story to us. Hearing the stories in the children’s words was wonderful. It was fun to hear the parts that they emphasized. The week ended with another successful performance, and the kids were so proud of how well they had memorized their lines!

Digital Photography was the theme for the fourth week. Each child brought in their own camera with much excitement. Throughout the week, we talked about different types of photography, and then the students were able to try it out on their camera. I loved how the different themes (portraiture, architecture, and nature) allowed the students to truly observe the world around them. I was also impressed with the quality of nature photos—the students loved capturing pictures of flowers, bugs, or plants.

Week five was Puppetry and Storytelling. This week, the children were able to really use their imagination while they told stories with the hand puppets and mini theater. Also, this week’s highlight was the trip to NOHA studios where the children made innovative spoon puppets (either Red Riding Hood or the Big Bad Wolf). After the exciting craft, we watched one of the funniest plays I’ve seen—it was a creative version of Little Red Riding Hood, but the actors used unique props. The performance was so entertaining that everyone had a great time laughing and watching the actors.

Design and Technology was the theme for week six. We were able to make and design all kinds of fun devices! The Juniors designed their own mobile, painted their own castle (as well as designed the wallpaper and flooring for the castle), and made their own felt ball. This week, we also visited the Challengeland Ropes Course at Orczy Park. The kids were able to test their minds and bodies to figure out all of the different rope routes. I had fun helping the kids from rope to rope!

Week seven’s theme was Film and TV. Each day, we talked about a different type of film (cartoons, black and white, and real-life). We were able to practice our filming skills by doing interviews, advertisements, and reality TV shows. The most memorable moment was watching the final film clips with everyone. The Seniors were incredibly creative with the script-writing and storylines, and the Juniors loved participating in all of the films, so once the filming was finished, we had quite a wonderful film to watch. The students were also all excited to design their own DVD cover and take home a copy of the week’s filming.

The final week, week eight, was all about Dance. We had Kristy from Fusion Dance come, and she choreographed three fantastic dances! The boys loved dancing to their very cool sailor/pirate dance. The girls took their dance (an Indian inspired style) very seriously and enjoyed practicing their dance moves in the garden. Throughout the week, we had fun talking about different international dance styles by looking at pictures and videos of the different styles. And of course, the students loved the final performance, and they even got to take home their tie dyed shirts!

Overall, this has been such a wonderful, fun-filled summer! I had loved all of the themes, and most of all, I have loved getting to know all of the students at the summer camp. Whether it was playing in the garden, doing creative crafts, or telling stories, it has been fantastic to work with and create relationships with all of the students at the English Garden Summer Camp!

And finally, some pictures of the kids I’ve been hanging out with this summer (a lot of the kids are on holiday this week, so I didn’t get any pictures of many of my favorite kids). And don’t pay attention to my sweaty face (it was nearly 100 degrees and super humid today) or terrible undereye circles (anyone know how to get rid of them?):

Ilona, from England

Rebecca and Charlotte, sisters (mom is from Chile, dad is Irish)

Riccardo from Italy

Maria from Italy, Katya (mom is Ukrainian, dad is English) and Zosia from Poland

Dami from Hungary

Bori from Poland

I am going to miss the kids and other teachers!

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Statue Park: Soviet Times Memory Lane

The Soviet Union left a lot of statues around Budapest when they left Hungary back in the day. Rather than trash them, destroy them, or leave them in their original place, Budapest decided to move the statues to a location just outside of the Budapest border. And while they were at it, they decided to make it an outdoor museum. Make some money… why not? Pete and I visited the museum a few weeks ago. It was a bit windy and cold (Hungary has had very cold weather this summer, tragically). Anyway, it was a funny museum to visit. We didn’t really bother to read any of the descriptions of where the statue once was; we were mostly entertained how overly dramatic the statues were. A tour group of grandmas and grandpas came through, and luckily, they were taking pictures as ridiculous as we were.

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We walked a lot

Yesterday, Pete and I decided to go see Harry Potter. Wahoo! I was excited to see the movie, and we were even more excited when we found out that the movie was in 2D (3D headaches are the worst), and that they give out student discounts on the tickets! There were a total of 10 people in the theater on a Friday night. Random. The movie itself wasn’t dubbed, but the previews were. They showed a preview of the Horrible Bosses, and the voice they chose for Jennifer Aniston was a squeaky whiny voice–so terrible to listen to. You also don’t realize how important understanding the language is to understand previews; just watching what is going on doesn’t really offer any insight as to what the movie is actually about. Anyway, the movie was great (was it just me, or did it seem really short?).

Once the movie ended, we started walking. The movie ended after midnight, and only one tram goes past midnight in Budapest, so we started walking toward the tram (or so we thought) so that we could be on our way home.

Here is a map of how we should have walked:

 

Ultimately, it would have been about 25 minutes of walking (the blue lines on the map) and a 10 minute tram ride (the red line). It’s amazing how one wrong turn can turn into a much.longer.walk.

Here’s what really went down:

We did finally make it to the tram, but we took a long detour and only rode it for 2 stops rather than 5. A lot of walking! Luckily, it was a beautiful (and rare) summer night last night, so the walk wasn’t so painful. Also, Budapest is wonderful at night, so the walk was quite nice. The only area of sketchy walking was near the beginning. What a a night! Next time, we won’t make the wrong turn.

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Birthday Abroad!

This was my first birthday abroad–and it was my golden birthday (turning 26 on the 26th) so obviously I was excited for the day! The day started out at school, no big deal. School was normal and the day went on as usual. I wasn’t sure if the teachers remembered it was my birthday, so I didn’t want to say anything about it and I was ready to pretend that it wasn’t my birthday. Anywho, at the 3:00 snack, before we gave the kids the snack, Sam, the school director, came out with the tin can birthday cake with candles lit. Fun! So the kids and teachers sang “Happy Birthday” and then the Hungarian birthday song “Boldog Szuli Napot” and then they sang another “How Old Are You Now?” song (to the tune of “Happy Birthday”). I told them I was 7 (because counting up to 26 would have taken much too long). Ha. Whenever a teacher has a birthday at the kindergarten, they can choose a wrapped present that comes with some sort of cute title regarding the contents (wake up, beauty, etc). I chose the one titled “travel” (duh) and opened it up…. it was a dinner river cruise for me and Pete! Sam had called and talked to Pete to make sure that we didn’t have any plans and got it all arranged! How awesome is that! I was so surprised to find out, and once I had opened it, Sam said that I needed to go now to go home and get ready. What a surprise!

I headed home and got ready. Pete came home early, as well, and we headed off to the meeting point to be shown where to go for the dinner cruise. Once it was time to leave, we walked about 5 minutes to the boat and got seated. The cruise was beautiful! Pete and I have never been on the river, so it was awesome to see the skyline from the river. And the food was amazing! The whole night was wonderful, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a nice birthday!

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Eger, Hungary

Pete served 6 months of his mission in Eger, so of course he wanted to go back and visit the area and people who he served. We hopped on a train (after frantically running and catching the train with 2 minutes to spare because we randomly decided to buy superglue to fix Pete’s shoe while on the train) and headed to Eger (along with Bryan and Payal–Bryan is another Embassy intern and Payal is his wife). Eger is a two hour train ride away through beautiful scenery (think lots and lots of fields of sunflowers). We had a blast talking with Bryan and Payal–they are hilarious and it is so fun to talk with them.

Once we got to Eger, we checked into our little hotel and headed to the main downtown area to go to the Palacsintavar (aka Pancake Castle). Pete and I shared a delicious curry pancake and Payal and Bryan got a burrito pancake. I just realized that we never took a picture of all of us together. Alas. We are doing a game night tomorrow, so maybe you can see pictures of them then. Anywho, our pancake was delicious.

Later that evening, Pete and I went over to visit a family who Pete got to know while living in Eger on his mission. He got very close to their family and was so excited to see them again. We had such a blast spending time with them! They are a hilarious family and it was wonderful to see Pete interact with them; they clearly loved having him back and the mom (Tunde) even got a little emotional when she thought about how Pete was going to have to leave at some point. Tunde’s son, Viktor, was an awesome kid. At 16, he is planning on going on a mission, and it is clear that he has his head on his shoulders–I think he is much wiser than most kids his age. He is also very intelligent and was able to understand nearly everything I said in English, and often he would translate for me. He and his sister, Csenge (13 years old), we very nice and asked questions about me and my interests. Csenge is such a funny girl–she has a great sense of humor and is able to make hilarious jokes. I wish I was as funny as she is! Tunde’s husband and youngest son were also so great to watch; they loved wrestling and playing legos together.

After leaving Tunde’s house, we headed back to the main downtown area to meet up with Bryan and Payal. They were at a cafe, so we joined them and got some yummy hot chocolate. There was a guy singing and playing the keyboard, so it was nice to listen to him sing. We also had a great time hanging out with B & P again. They seriously are so entertaining to hang out with! I am glad that they came. It is nice to be with another couple–Pete and I still like each other and stuff, but it is nice to switch up the conversation with different people.

Sunday morning, we got ready for church and headed over to the building. It is a tiny branch–only about 20 people were there. We saw Tunde and her kids at church (they are the only people Pete baptized who are still active in the church i Eger). Church was very nice (they only do sacrament and Relief Society/Priesthood). The women in the branch are wonderful. Here is a picture of some of the people who were there that day:

The three women are (starting at the far left): Illiko, Anita, Tunde. Viktor is in the very back with Olivia right in front of him (she is Illiko’s daughter and she did a wonderful job translating Relief Society for me). Csenge is next to Olivia. Benjamin (Illiko’s son) is next to me). The front row (starting on the left) is Illiko’s youngest daughter, Anita’s daughter, Illiko’s other daughter, and Tunde’s son, Arpad. That was a very complicate way of telling you who’s who, but that’s ok.

After church, we headed back to the train station (we left the cats we are catsitting overnight and wanted to get back to them to make sure they were alive).

Here are some nice pics of the city, which is a fantastic city, by the way.

This is where Pete lived for part of his time here:

Eger also has the northernmost minaret in Europe.

We also got amazing Kolacs: dough that is wrapped around a circular tube thingy and is golden crispy on the outside and still doughy soft in the middle. Pete’s was rolled in hazelnuts and mine was rolled in cinnamon. Amazing.

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Random Thoughts

So lately I’ve been thinking about what I could post on this blog, and I keep coming up with random thoughts rather than an actual blog post… so here are some random things going on in my head these days:

  • Traffic here is hilarious to observe. Case in point: I take bus 149 to get home after work. The bus left at the regular time, made a tight right turn, and had to stop short because another bus 149 was broken down. The two buses were stuck in a very narrow road with opposite traffic going through the other lane. Impatient drivers behind the bus decided to go around the buses, only to realize that they were nose to nose with another car trying to leave the narrow road! One car finally decided to go a different way, but the other car backed up a little bit, and (somehow) managed to get around the bus. Finally my bus was able to get around the broken bus by going into the opposite lane of traffic (a bus going the opposite direction stopped the rest of the traffic to allow space). The best part of this? I was the only one watching what was going on; everyone else on the bus kept on reading their book or minding their own business.
  • Ketchup: My students love ketchup and will put it on anything! Pizza, pasta, chips, popcorn, white rice. I get pretty grossed out by where ketchup ends up… I’m sticking to ketchup on my fries.
  • AFN (Armed Forces Network) commercials are terrible. They all are produced by the military. There are commercials reminding people to turn off light switches, clean up their yards, be a considerate roommate, and keep your records in one location. And they make these commercials with different themes (crazy wedding planner lady, Sherlock Holmes scene, dirty sock puppet).
  • Muesli and yogurt for breakfast… It has made me, um, regular, which is, um, a first for me. And it tastes yummy.
  • Metro rides are like free entertainment. The other day, I was standing to the side of a man who was sitting down, and next to him were two women who were chatting. The woman closest to the man blew her nose and somehow she missed the tissue and all of it ended up on the guy’s pants. It looked like fresh bird poop. Gross. The guy pointed it out to her, and she and her friend each pulled out tissues and started to clean up his pants. He wasn’t very happy. The ladies didn’t seem too fazed by the situation, though.
  • We are moving on Sunday to an apartment right by the embassy. This is awesome because Pete will now have a 5 minute commute (most of which involves the elevator) and my commute will be cut down by 20 minutes. And we get to live with two cats. We will also be right downtown so we can go out more in the evenings. I will, however, miss the pretty green area of where we are living now.
So yeah, that’s what’s been on my mind. There’s more, but I can’t remember right now.

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Szeged, Hungary

Last Saturday, Pete and I took a day trip to Szeged (Southern Hungary, almost to Serbia). All I knew was that it was: a) a city Pete had never visited, b) supposedly a lot of the famous Hungarian paprika comes from Szeged…. and that’s all.

We went with Pete’s boss at the Embassy, Paul, and Paul’s partner, Adam (who is Hungarian). The drive down was about 2 and a half hours which gave us plenty of time to chat and get to know each other better. Once we arrived, we met up with Pete’s friend, Peter, who Pete knew from his mission.

Peter is from Budapest, but he’s going to school in Szeged. He’s actually moving to Helsinki, Finland this fall for grad school, so it’s likely that we’ll get together up there, as well! Szeged was a great city! The city is small, but still had lots to offer. Including my favorite European tradition: the pedestrian street lined with fantastic architecture.

Here is a picture of the group (minus me) at the beginning of the pedestrian street:

Paul is on the left, then Adam, Peter, and Pete.

We went to a place where there is “healing” water available to the public. It smelled like the Great Salt Lake (aka rotten eggs). Pete was daring enough to drink a little bit. Apparently it tastes like it smells.

Here are more pictures of the city and area:

 

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Life in Budapest

Well, we’ve been here in Budapest for about a month. We leave in two months. Time goes by so quickly!

Pete still enjoys working at the embassy. He’s been doing a lot of research about getting into the foreign service. It’s not easy, that’s for sure!

Pete also found out that he got a scholarship from Tallinn University! The scholarship provides a 300 Euro per month stipend. We’re hoping to spend about that for a small apartment, so the stipend will be incredibly helpful.

I’ve been having a lot of fun teaching. The first two weeks were spent getting to know the kids and helping make their “fashion show costumes.” It was hilarious to hear what the kids wanted to be! I made several princess dresses, a ballerina dress, snowman outfit, pyramid costume, fairy wings, and lots of other little details for the costumes. The kids were really involved in making the costumes, so I got to work with most of the kids one on one while working on the costumes. The kids are hilarious!

The past two weeks have been spent with the mornings at a swimming pool. We would take the kids on a mini bus to a pool about 10 minutes away from the school. Then we’d help them get dressed in their “swimming costumes” as the English teachers call them. While the kids were at the swimming lesson, the teachers would take a break at a little cafe. It was a wonderful time for me to get to know the teachers a little better (it’s hard to get to know teachers when there are a bunch of kids screaming and playing).

 

 

The kids did a lot with little rusty cans. Mostly diving down to pick them up, but this time, they had to balance the can on their swimming board. They took it so seriously.

 

The teachers at the school are fantastic. We went to a cafe one night to celebrate the end of the year (summer camp starts on Monday!). They thought it was funny that I don’t drink alcohol or coffee, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was fun to hang out with them outside of the classroom. Sam, the school director (Samantha is her full name), gave us lottery cards as our bonus. I won 500 Forint! (like $3).

The other day, we went to a free concert at the park near us. The first band was a Hungarian reggae band. They were fun to listen to. There were lots of dred-locked people there. Always fun to observe!

The other band was a Polish reggae/rock band. They were a ton of fun to watch! I didn’t get any good pictures of the other band because it was getting dark. But, it was such a nice summer night and a great way to spend the evening.

Pete and I also celebrated our one year anniversary on the 24th! This year went by so quickly and it’s hard to believe that in this one year, we’ve been to 15 countries! To celebrate, we went to this Mexican restaurant called Arribas (recommended by one of the teachers). It was delicious! Mexican food is hard to live without.

I got an amazing quesadilla and Pete got taquitos. We also shared some cinnamon crisps with ice cream. My goodness, I love cinnamon!

Yesterday, we did a day trip to a city called Szeged. A post on that coming soon!

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Budapest

We’ve been in Budapest since May 20th, and can I tell you how wonderful it is to feel like a resident of a city? I have a home! For longer than 3 nights! I love beginning to feel like I know where I am, how things work, etc. I even led a Moroccan guy to the right metro stop to get to the airport (luckily my map had that info, because I wouldn’t have known otherwise. But still.).

We live in the greatest little house on the Buda side of the city. The house is a guesthouse of one of the diplomats at the US Embassy.

We have a washer AND a dryer! Heaven!

Our staircase is tiny!

I love this little office area at the top of the stairs. The carpet is super soft, as well.

And we’ve done some touristy things, as well! I’m loving this city and we are so lucky to get to go around and get to know the area.

We ate some incredible langos (huge scone). Mine had cinnamon on it (amazing!) and Pete had the more traditional with garlic and cheese.

Visiting Pete’s old mission stomping grounds. The apartment behind him is where he lived while living in Budapest.

The metros in Budapest are very convenient. The yellow line is the first metro line in Europe. It almost feels like a museum the whole time you’re on it!

And finally, our work outfits! Pete is interning at the US Embassy. He’s been there for 2 weeks and he’s already working on some awesome projects. He loves it there. It’s especially nice that it’s inside and air conditioned–Hungary is hot!

My work is a little bit different–teaching at an international pre-school/kindergarten. This week was my first week, and I am exhausted! It is a lot of fun work and the kids are hilarious. I wasn’t supposed to start until June 14th for the summer camp, but they let me start a little earlier (thank goodness, because I was getting bored while Pete was at work). I get to wear a lovely white t-shirt and european shoes.

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