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Archive for the ‘Living in Budapest’ Category

Last Wednesday’s immigration office once again welcomed me back this Wednesday. Unfortunately, I was all alone for this trip. I had the immense pleasure of waking up at 7am (when I should have been waking up at 8:30), struggling to recall the route to take, snarling at my computer to wake up, and doubting that I was on the correct trolly/bus for most of the trip. Who can I thank for this lovely morning? The letter “C.” Now, “C” can be a wonderful letter; it trills through crispy, sugar-filled words, and decorates my youngest sister’s name. However, I find that it has a personal vendetta with me. Disregarding the fact that my name is spelled Shultz on my passport, and Shultz on my forms, and Shultz anytime I sign a paper, somehow that cutthroat “C,” found its way into my name. Even in Pennsylvania, where you’ll likely find a proud Shultz “no ‘C’” community, Mr. C slices into documents, scorches files and scars contracts.

Thanks to Mr. C, I was called back to the office for a redo of my photograph and fingerprints. As I walked in the door, I felt like collapsing as I gaped at a room crammed with students sitting, holding numbers, filling out forms, and waiting by the main desk. I stepped into line, cursing how long my visit would become. After 10 minutes sticking close to the desk, an employee appeared to deal with the few standing in front of me and the mass behind me. When I explained that I needed a redo of my photograph/fingerprints, he surprisingly brought me into the work area in the back. I spotted the woman who had taken care of me previously (she’d been wonderful and chatted with me through the long paper process). Now, I was told to sit and wait for a minute. My scatter-brain images of hours in the waiting room were swept out the door. After a few short minutes, the woman waved me into the photo box, took my photo and fingerprints and I was on my way in under 30 minutes.

Personally, I am impressed that the office didn’t cause me more than a minor hassle. However, I’m still furious that Criminal C caused me to sacrifice extra time to straighten out the issue.

Feb 1, 2012

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Currently, I only have a picture of the living room/ kitchen part of our apartment, but once I’ve finished unpacking, I’ll be sure to include a photo of my room as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 29, 2012

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So far, BreAnna and I have made two trips to the market. One was with our group of main campus students. The second was just us.

Trip One: A short bus trip from Keleti Pályaudvar (Keleti train station) planted us in front of the Great Market Hall. Wish I could have stood there, gawking like a tourist, but we had to hustle after our guide. For me, this was a return trip. In high school I had a chance to be invited to a Global Youth Leadership Conference during which we visited Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. When we were in Budapest, we visited the Great Market Hall. Now, over 5 years later, I recognized the Hall enough to remember where the bathrooms were located. I recognized the layout, saw the restaurant where my friends and I ate, and went looking for the massive candles balanced on tables outside of food stands.

This time, we wound along the hall, up the stairs and back towards the building’s front, all the while gargling the Hungarian words for fruits and vegetables. After the short tour, we were released to blubber the Hungarian words on our own to stand owners who generally knew enough English to make us feel useless. BreAnna, Kaitlin and I wandered to the ATM, which promptly refused my card, twice. I still had a few Forints with me and wasn’t planning to shop just yet, so I was fine. We twined between stands, skimming past potatoes, eggplants, onions, bananas, cheeses, meat, oranges, and grapes. Then, deciding that food shopping on empty stomachs was not a good idea, we trooped upstairs to locate some grub. And lets just say, that was some of the best grub ever. Sweets just naturally draw people, particularly tourists, and we found ourselves cemented in front of a stand selling pancakes and langos. A langos is a large circle of fried dough that is topped with jam, cheese, meat, and/or vegetables. BreAnna chose one with cranberry jam. The pancakes were more like crepes, being made on a circular frying platform. I watched my pancake being cooked and flipped, then got to see the woman add crushed walnuts, Nutella, rum flavored raisins, and vanilla cream. Then, it was rolled into a crepe and chocolate syrup was drizzled on top while gobs of whipped cream decorated the ends. Rich and delicious.

Since our bellies were full of sugary glory, we decided on a walk along the street across from the Great Market Hall. We explored several shops and saw the famous Hungarian trick boxes (I brought back one for my sister, Cyci, on my previous trip). BreAnna located a gift for her nephew in one of the shops, and we all headed home for the evening.

Trip Two: This was a short trip. We were looking for fruit and Hungarian paprika. Both were located immediately, and after a little leg work to compare prices, we were able to purchase bananas, clementines, and the paprika. On top of the food, I was able to acquire a few photos. The one above is the outside of the Great Market Hall, and the one to the left is of the inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 28, 2012 and Jan 29, 2012

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Survival skills are needed in any city, such as walking across the street without loosing a limb to a passing vehicle, or slinging your bag across your chest, instead of hanging it on a shoulder where it can be snatched.  However, BreAnna and I have a few additional skills we’re picking up here in Budapest.

Skill 1: Patience.  Now, I suppose this is a practical skill that most parents impress upon their children, but BreAnna and I are getting a Hungarian crash course.  At home, I usually know how long it will take me to reach the store, or my friends house, so I can allot the correct amount of time.  On Wednesday, our group had to meet up to go with McDaniel staff to an Immigration Office.  We had a meeting time of 8:15am, we headed out the door at 7:30am, and after a quick turn around, got going at 7:40am.  We located the correct tram to Blaha Luzja ter, jumped on-board and two stops later we were standing on the platform wondering what to do for 30 minutes.  It seems we have expectations of transportation taking longer than it actually does.  Now, even though it’s a city, I have yet to see a traffic jam.  Why?  Because many people take the cheaper option; public transportation.  As McDaniel students, we have a $15 monthly student pass that we can use to ride any public tram, trolly, subway, or bus.  Since transportation is quick, we find ourselves characteristically early when we only intended to be on time.

Skill 1 Continued: Remember, patience is key.  After our group rode to the Immigration office, we walked in and sat.  Just like any major office in the U.S., you sit while the electronic screens hold numbers lower than yours, and never seem to change.  When my number finally came up, I walked down the hall to the correct counter and sat down again.  I passed my papers to the woman behind the counter and again, waited, as she copied, sorted, stamped, and signed my papers.  Finally, they took my picture and shooed me towards the waiting room where it seemed everyone had finished…. except BreAnna.  Stuck with a complication involving her bank statement, she was still twiddling her thumbs.

Finally she was released and we could go shopping.

Skill 2: Guessing.  Surprise, surprise, Madyarul (Hungarian) is often the only language surrounding you in Hungary.  While I can now recognize several street names by how they are spelled, I certainly can’t pronounce them.  Madyarul covers every box and bag in the grocery store, with only a few food items sporting English words on the front (if we’re lucky).  It’s more of a challenge than you would think trying to pick out which baking flour is most likely to be all-purpose.  If all else fails, and you’ve lost the guessing game, ask.

Skill 3: Ask.  After debating over what might possibly be vegetable oil, in a small grocery store, BreAnna and I decided to figure it out later.  I went out that evening while she was napping to try again, and found that my skills at guessing Hungarian had not improved in the course of a few hours.  So, I went back to my room and translated salt (só), black pepper (feketebors), and vegetable oil (növényi olaj), and once again trooped up the street for groceries.  Well, I found só and feketebors, but I kept staring at the oils.  I could pick out olive oil and sunflower oil, but I wasn’t entirely sure that the green bottle with vegetables on it was vegetable oil, namely because there were two different ones, a 10% and a 15% bottle.  So, I asked an attendant if he spoke English he said a little, but had to get another store staff to answer my question.  Ultimately, I settled on sunflower oil. Asking is a very good skill; it saved BreAnna and I from cooking our food in vinegar, the actual substance in the green bottle.

Skill 4: Scrubbing Dishes.  I doubt most people from our group were stalled on this particular skill.  In our case, however, we pulled up short upon discovering most of our dishes were dotted with a yellow sticky and sometimes crusty substance.  This revelation lead to an inspection of the cabinets, releasing musty smells and location of more gunk dried on shelves and the bottoms of our wall cabinets.  We delved into a two-day cleaning frenzy of our tiny kitchen and assorted dishes.  At least we’re well aware of what’s included in our current kitchen supply.

Skill 5: Unlocking the Door Frantically.  Wednesday afternoon I was pondering over a small box located on the wall above the shower head, well out of reach for two girls standing around 5ft 2.  It was plugged into the wall, and I figured if it was meant to be messed with, it would have been placed low enough to be examined.  10 minutes later a violent screeching answered my questions.  Poor BreAnna was in the bathroom when the alarm sounded, and echoed around the tiny bathroom.  Next to the word gas, was a small red light.  All I came up with was, “Get out!”  The door immediately gave us another fright; it was locked.  We were told to keep our apartments locked, even when we were at home (to prevent cat burglars), and we were effectively locked in a gas-filled apartment.  It only took a few seconds to unlock the door and we crashed onto the terrace, releasing the alarm into the building’s courtyard.  Since we didn’t have any open fires, I headed back inside to open windows as BreAnna called our adviser at McDaniel.  We were told the company (whatever one is affiliated with the school/building) would be sent over to inspect our alarm, which promptly turned off.  Still, to avoid suffocation, we left our windows open and braved the winter wind.  As we waited for the fix-it guy, we debated over a potential gas smell in the kitchen.  Yes, our stove is a gas stove.  Finally, as we headed out the door to run errands, we met the company’s guy headed towards our door.  He had keys to our apartment, so we were able to leave, and when we returned, the windows were shut and the alarm silent.  The only other time it has sounded was when BreAnna was in the shower, and then it was sporadic, on for a few seconds, off for a few more.  I don’t understand the logic of having a smoke/gas alarm in a potentially steam-filled bathroom.  Our gas fright brings me to our next skill.

Skill 6: Lighting the gas stove.  The oven at my house has an electric lighter, and I was a bit nervous about cooking when I had to light the flame myself.  So, as BreAnna and I prepared to light the gas oven (which may or may not have been the cause of the sudden gas alarm the day before), we opened a window, made sure we knew where our keys were and got ready to bolt if something went wrong.  After teasing my mom about blowing non-existent gas from an electric oven I had gained a bit of common sense, and after each false start, I blew away any extra gas that could possibly be lingering on the stove top.  Between the two of us, we got one of the burners going and we were able to make spaghetti.  We’ll soon be cooking some Hungarian dishes, and hopefully they’ll turn out nicely.

Skill 7: Dressing correctly.  Just because we flew in on an evening with nice weather, doesn’t mean winter is over.  There was snow drifting across our faces as we followed our guide on Thursday, and Friday meeting winds that slid down alleyways and zipped around building corners.  Even with a winter coat, I could have used an extra pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt on either day.  I need to finish unpacking before we start school and find my long underwear.  Waiting for the trolly at 7:30am will certainly be colder than at 10:00am.

So, we’ve survived a week in Budapest, and we just have to get through 17 more weeks.  I think once the weather warms up and we have a chance to explore it we’ll have some adventures.  I rather like being able to move my fingers when trying to take a photograph, so currently, I’ve been leaving my cameras at home.

Jan 22-28, 2012

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Before recounting the antics involving our hotel’s elevator, I’m going to step back and grasp at where I left off in my previous post.  My roommate and I awoke Monday morning and decided getting up immediately was way too much effort.  After ten minutes of groggy mumbling we crept out of our beds.  My shoulders were complaining and BreAnna’s back was giving her a hard time over our respective luggage issues the previous day.  3:10am is not a time to wake up, even though technically it’s 9:10am here in Budapest.  Breakfast was typical European; breads, cheeses, warm milk, juice, scrambled eggs, cold cut meat, and sausages.  Being vegetarian, I simply passed over the meat and selected some eggs and a slice of bread which I topped with a forest fruit jelly.  I’m not entirely sure what forest fruit encompasses, but the jelly was delicious and tangy.

At 10am, we were picked up by Adriana who led us to McDaniel College Budapest for an orientation session.  The staircase is beautiful, but not fun to climb.  The individual steps are wide but short, making walking feel very stop-motion.  Orientation involved what to try and what to avoid about the city, such as work on make friends with other students, but don’t ever throw a college house party (the elderly ladies won’t like it, and neither will the police).  After listening for a bit and learning a few Hungarian phrases, we were given a break and sandwiches were brought in for our selection.  The sandwiches involved slices of bread, similar to Italian bread, topped with spread and dinky vegetable slices.  A creamy paprika sandwich was one of my favorites.  On the other hand, the supposed eggplant spread tasted more like cucumber (a vegetable I truly loath).

Following our session, we were released to explore the city.  BreAnna and I headed past Keleti Pályaudvar, which is a Budapest train station with a humungous arch built into the structure of the white stone building.  She and I played a bit of ping-pong – wandering down various streets and bouncing back to Keleti.  We decided to schedule some adventure days where we could fall into the typical tourist mode, with cameras hanging around our necks, photographing everything.  Still under the cloud of jet lag and needing a shield from the cold, we trooped back to the hotel to relax.

Dinner was a major event.  First, everyone gathered at 6:30pm in the lobby and strode out the door and down our street.  We traveled quite a distance (seems to be a recurring theme in cities), to reach the metro.  Earlier in the day, during orientation, we’d been given our student passes.  Public transportation in Budapest has sporadic regulation.  People are merely expected to have tickets (that they punch at a tiny machine in the metro station) or passes in order to jump on board.  However, it’s kind of a guess as to whether you might actually run into a controller who will check for your pass.  When the bus, tram, or metro train pulls up, you simply walk on, and can get a free ride.  However, if you’re caught by a controller, you have to pay a fine of several thousand Forints (equivalent is probably around 70 US dollars).  So we headed onto the metro, safe since we had our passes.  When we stepped off, the restaurant was only half a block away from the station.

Dinner landed us in a restaurant that is big on game meats, but food was available buffet style, so there were plenty of available non-meat options.  I was lucky enough to be seated across from Dr. Adamson, giving me the chance to chat with him about Hungary.  Just as we sat down with our food, most of the building’s lights shut off, loud enthusiastic music slammed down conversations, and a cake sporting a crackling sparkler pranced into the room.  Talk about a restaurant turning happy birthday into a grand event.  After the music evaporated and the lights switched on, Dr. Adamson began telling BreAnna and I about places to explore in Hungary.  A lot of students who come to McDaniel, Budapest, travel all over Europe.  Since BreAnna and I are both on tight budgets, we’ll probably stick to the cheaper option of traveling through Hungary.   Our one major trip will be to Prague, Czech Republic.  Otherwise, cheap train tickets and Dr. Adamson’s advice can place us in several different cities and towns with minimal trouble.

After dinner, we sped back to our hotel and located our beds without any doors or corners running into us.

Now for the tale of our elevator escapade.  The photograph I’ve included with this post illustrates one of the hotel’s elevators.  BreAnna and I were fascinated with the glass elevator that overlooked a courtyard, and our amusement was heightened when we discovered our 3rd-floor window was on the opposite side.  We felt very stalker-like peering through our blinds at people riding down in the elevator.  So, Tuesday morning, we snatched up our cameras and I headed out the door to the elevator.  I shot pictures first, of her in our room, and me reflected in the mirror on the elevator doors.  Then I put my camera away so BreAnna could have her turn to take pictures out our window.  After we exchanged thumbs-up I swung back around to our room.  As I entered, BreAnna immediately questioned whatever magical powers I had employed to keep the elevator in one spot.  “Oh,” I said, “I simply went into the elevator and pushed the ‘close doors’ button.  Since I haven’t pushed a floor number, the elevator has no where to go.”  I effectively trapped myself in the elevator (at least until our photo session ended).

After comparing photos and fetching breakfast, we hauled our suitcases downstairs in preparation to leave for our new apartment.  Since McDaniel Budapest does not have dorms, the students from the McDaniel Westminster campus are placed into apartments by the school.  Because we’re from the main campus, the school finds and rents our apartments for us, whereas other students must find their own places.  The disadvantage?  We don’t know what our apartment is going to be like.  The advantage?  Worrying was never necessary.  A McDaniel student showed us to our new apartment.  First we had to haul, scrape and lug our bags up two flights of stairs (the elevator was broken), then we ran around trying to locate our door (you enter the doors from a balcony, and the doors have no label), finally, we were almost defeated by three stubborn door locks.  Still, somehow, we’re now in our new apartment, and it is gorgeous.  We have a kitchen/living room, a bathroom, and individual bedrooms with more space than we could possibly need.

The rest of our day involved our McDaniel student guide pointing out stores and showing us the way to campus, signing several forms for Adriana, and difficulties with shopping.  Shopping involved trying to guess what Hungarian words might mean, attempting to differentiate fabric detergent from fabric softener and debating what to purchase for dinner and tomorrow morning’s breakfast.  Let’s just say we should have asked our McDaniel student guide a few more questions regarding shopping.

Jan 23-24, 2012

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Water, shooting across the plane wings sprays overhead, then streams down my window.  The white stream of water, like a firefighter’s hose is misleading; the water curving down my window is a light pink, channeling miniscule silver bubbles to cluster on the thin sill.  The soapy water is blasting away ice collected during the plane’s previous flight.  I’m sitting in a cramped seat in a compact plane in the Harrisburg, PA airport.  And I’m alone.  Ok, so technically there’s a seatmate squashed next to me, two people smooshed in front, two shifting in the back, and one more narrow row, across the aisle from me.  Still, this is my first flight where I’m entirely alone, and the man next to me isn’t particularly talkative.  Personally, I thrive off of connecting with people, and learning about them, but right now, it’s very quiet.  Ultimately, my seatmate’s silence is rendered unimportant, because as soon as the plane engine begins revving, the possibility of talking drops away with the ground.  Lucky me, I have foam earplugs with me, of a pleasant purple color.

My puddle-jumper flight landed me in the Chicago O’Hare Airport.  On the way in, I had a wonderful view of Lake Michigan; the lake and the sky had matching royal blues, with only a layer of clouds separating the two.  It was my first time being in Chicago, and, unfortunately, I had to stay in the airport.  While sitting in O’Hare, I worked on a few Sudoku puzzles, broke down a little when my dad called, and tried to entertain myself.  Luckily I was rescued from boredom by a gentleman who, for his privacy, I’ll call Jamal.  I had a thought-provoking discussion with him.  Jamal lives in Dubai, and told me about the city and his travels.  He said it’s an extremely safe city, and suggested I try to visit some day.  I’ve already written it on the travel list I keep with the places I want to visit one day.

Eventually, we were able to board the plane (this one feeling much closer to the size of a football field).  Jamal took my bag for me, which at first made me nervous because (as everyone keeps telling me), I was trying to be alert.  So I stuck close by him, kept my eye on my bag, and together, we headed onto the plane.  Honestly, even though I was overly cautious, it was a relief to have his assistance.  By this point I had lugged my heavy carry-on through two airports and several security lines.  Because of the American Eagle airline’s baggage limits, I couldn’t bring my usual rolling carry-on.  Callouses were forming on my hands, and my shoulders wanted to detach from my body.  On the plane, my seatmate was a young woman who was flying to India for her friends’ wedding.  She said that she, the bride, and the groom had all met in graduate school.  The bride was an exchange student from India, and although they lived in (I believe) Oklahoma, the wedding was taking place in Calcutta, India.  We chatted about schools and I had the chance to discuss two of my previous classes; Arts of Africa class, and Worldview and Privilege class.  The pleasant chat lasted us until dinner, after which I completely powered down.

The last person I met on this flight to London was a guy standing behind me in the morning line for the bathroom.  He asked me about where I was going and I told him about my college having a sister campus in Budapest.  I also mentioned that I lived in Pennsylvania.  He asked me to guess where he lived, so I took a shot at Illinois (since the flight was from Chicago to London).  “Good guess,” he smiled, but I was wrong.  So, I swung at South Carolina.  I swung and missed.  He hinted that a person could tell a lot about someone based on their clothes.  I considered his outfit for a minute.  He was settled in jeans and a light blue checkered flannel shirt, so, “Montana?”  Not quite, but “close” he said.  I finally landed on his home state, Nevada.  Then, he asked me what part he lived in, and said it was the most beautiful place in Nevada, to which I could only shrug.  I couldn’t have named him the capital.  He asked if I skied. I told him I don’t, and he speculated that was why I didn’t know.  I believe the place he said he lived was near Tahoe Lake.  Our conversation ended there when the bathroom door opened to allow me inside.

The final flight I took was from London to Budapest, Hungary.  Several other McDaniel students joined me for this leg of the trip.  Our plane took off and entered the heavy cloud coverage above London.  As we dove through globs of white and swung past massive columns framed in the blue of the sky, it felt as though we were swerving and dodging even though the plane was set on a straight course.  After several minutes we burst above the cloud tops to find swooping crests of cotton candy, pinched, pulled and separated by a child’s hands.  Globs and swirling wisps of cumulus clouds clumped beneath us as straight-backed stratus clouds hovered above, casting shadows on the mounds below.  The shadows from the stratus clouds dyed the cotton mountains a blueberry color.

As an hour passed, my wandering eyes were snatched into focus by a reddish-brown cloud shaped like a drake swooping away across a dessert of rigid white boulders filled with gashes and ridges.  A little while later, several miles off, a plane shot in the opposite direction, sending a rust-colored stream-line into the air.  Minutes later, a second plane left a streak of rose lipstick which the wind immediately smeared.  We descended towards Budapest near sunset.  The layers of color outside my window started with a large top layer of light gray-blue, then a thin line of peach that faded into magenta.  Following was a section of cornflower blue which tinted the cushion of clouds into which we slowly descended.

The first night in Budapest, Hungary started with a group ride from the airport to our hotel.  Our flight had touched the ground around 5:30pm (11:30am EST).  My roommate, BreAnna had arrived earlier than I, closer to noon.  I dropped my baggage in the room and relaxed for about 30 minutes.  We then trooped down for a pizza dinner, after which we headed to our room to check emails, and then back downstairs to explore the city.  When BreAnna and I arrived in the lobby, we discovered that the rest of our group had returned downstairs as well.  They were following two McDaniel Budapest students (one Hungarian girl, and her friend who had been there for 5 months) to a “cafe.”  BreAnna and I decided to tag along.  After walking a ways and jumping on a tram, we found ourselves at a bar.  The drinking age in Hungary (and basically all of Europe is 18), so almost everyone in our group purchased a Hungarian beer.  BreAnna and I opted out, and wound up chatting to each other for the first hour.  After two hours, we were beginning to nod, so we asked for assistance in locating our hotel.  One of the girls who had brought the group agreed to take us back and was really nice because she walked us most of the way.

Back in our hotel room we caught the giggles, and began wondering if someone had slipped laughing pills in the drinks we never had.  Then, we decided to place blame on the water we’d had at 6:30 with the pizza dinner.  Exhausted silliness ensued.  After we’d settled enough to change clothes, we practically stumbled into our beds and passed out.

Jan 21-22, 2012

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