Archive for the ‘Living in Budapest’ Category

BreAnna and I earned the label “crazy,” from Jade’s father when we voluntarily invited her on an outing.  This is the record of our Return Journey to Snow Playground.

Surprise Attack!

According to Budapest, it’s “City Park,” but on this day we’d been graced with snow, and it was still swooping down to latch onto eyelashes and winter clothes.  The previous trip (snow-less) gave me a good idea of the park layout, so we didn’t worry about stumbling about directionless.  As we set out, the sneaky duo of kids I was attempting to guide to the park decided I was the best target in the immediate area.  At BreAnna’s encouragement, coordinated fighter snowballs began sweeping in from both sides.  I ducked and dodged, swooping towards Jade, away from BreAnna, only to have a clump of snow nestle right inside the collar of my jacket.  I took some damage and learned a new Snow-Down-the-Back contortionist position.  Thankfully, we approached the street, and concentration shifted from bombarding me to reaching the park on the opposite side.

After crossing the street, the amount of available snow to pummel me with increased.  Here we go again, only this time, I had room to run.  Luckily, Jade discovered that BreAnna was just as funny to attack, resulting in a three-way snowball fight.  Somehow, I was still the main target, so I was able to direct the snowball-the-leader chase game towards the playground.  We wove through trees.  Skidded by a fence.  Dashed by the group of elderly men chortling at our antics.  Slid through the gate which provided entrance to the playground.  And finally, we crashed onto the play equipment, ready for the zip line.

Jade Ziplining!

Jade and I took a few turns swinging down the line, whipping through the snowfall, and adding more sparkles to our winter coats.  The falling snowflakes were impressive, and if I wasn’t so worried about my camera getting damp, I would have attempted more photos.  These massive flakes descended as though they ruled the world and swooshed dramatically when touched by miniscule drafts.

Jade Ziplining Some More

Following several flights down the zipline, Jade decided to settle herself into the basket swing.  BreAnna was willing to pilot the craft, so I had the opportunity to take photographs.

Jade in a Basket!

Our next stop was a second playground which had a hill with a flattened top.  About ½ of the hill had a rough texture which allowed for ascension by tiny hands and feet, and you couldn’t slide down it.  The other half involved a gradual slope and the back of the zenith had a fence that ran down the gradual slope portions.  We didn’t have sleds with us, but the snow eliminated the no-sliding issue on the steep slope, allowing us a wonderful snow-sledding experience sans sleds.  Then, I had a brilliant (aka stupid) idea to try the slide that is at the zenith and curves then drops down to the sandy bottom.  This slide is fairly steep itself, and with the addition of snow, there was probably zero traction.  I went from top to bottom to flying through the air.  Seriously, we’re talking “lift-off,” completely launching off the edge of the slide.  Considering the edge of the slide was only an inch or two from the ground, I landed pretty quickly in a combination of snow/sand, so I wasn’t injured, just a bit stunned.

I regained my senses quick enough to swing myself around to crouch before the end of the slide just as Jade came swooping down.  I’m glad I was there, because she flew as well, boots first, into my stomach.  “Oooof!”  It didn’t hurt because she doesn’t weight that much, I didn’t fall back far, I had a cushioned winter jacket on, and I knew to let the air out of my lungs on impact.  Even though it was fun, it was a one time thing for Jade.  I, on the other hand, decided there would need to be a video.

If you want to know what I’m saying in the video, please click on the Title to view the original on YouTube and read the video’s description.

After the creation of the video, BreAnna’s hands were stinging, so to prevent frostbite, we had to head back to Jade’s house for some hot tea and a chance to shake sand and snow from our clothes.

Feb 18, 2012

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Public Transportation Here in Hungary

Here in Hungary:

– Public transportation etiquette exists. When waiting for a trolly, people either stand right at the curb, or up against the brick buildings, creating a funnel through which passerby’s may tread. When getting on a mode of public transportation, you always wait until everyone at your door has gotten off. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a bus, tram, trolly, or metro train, some unspoken rule of culture allows those on board to step off safely, at their correct stop. It’s rare for someone to even attempt to enter before the pathway is clear. I’ve even had one instance where I reached the top step a few seconds late, and a woman climbing up stepped back down to allow me complete access, even though the stairs were wide enough for us to pass each other.

Here in Hungary:

– You use unusual muscles. Since BreAnna and I have student passes for transportation, we ride trollies everywhere. We often find ourselves standing up on these rides because 1) our stop is coming up 2) we smoosh in where we can or 3) an elderly person is looking for a seat. Since the trollies ride along in traffic, standing up is rather difficult. There’s usually a bar or handle you grasp to keep yourself mostly upright. By the end of our trip, we’re going to have toned arm muscles because every turn, stop, start, and unexpected jolt strains whatever arm we happen to be using to keep ourselves in place.  Furthermore, depending on the driver I watch the passing streets or I cling to my bar imagining how a sudden stop would drive me into the lap of the woman sitting in front of me.

Here in Hungary:

– The stop lights run from green to yellow to red, and then from red to yellow to green. It seems that when the light goes from red to yellow, you can proceed forward with caution, ready to pick up speed as the light flashes green. Sometimes the walk signs have a yellow walking person, although more often the green walk person flashes green a few times before switching to a red standing person.

Here in Hungary:

– Running for the bus/tram/trolly rarely looks silly.  When a tram pulls to stop, it’s not unusual for people to emerge at a run for a bus idling across the street.  However, BreAnna and I made an exception to the role and watched the trolly pass by filled with laughing people following our “look, we can catch 78!” sprint.  People who run for their ride seem to gain entrance with room to spare.  No surprise if our badly judged dash slapped “American,” on us.

Here in Hungary:

– You simply walk onto the bus/tram/trolly, and no one checks to see if you’ve paid.  You are supposed to have either a pass or a ticket, but people ride without either.  BreAnna and I have student passes (there’s a huge discount for students), which allows us on any public transportation for a month.  After a month, we have to purchase another pass.  People with tickets have to stamp the ticket in the little red boxes located on the transportation device.  However, with metros, you have to stamp the tickets before riding the escalator down to the metro platform, and the metro lines are the only transportation that have controllers at all times.

Here in Hungary:

– Watch out for controllers!  Controllers are officials who make sure you’re not riding on public transportation for free.  They are always stationed at the entrance to the metro, watching people stamp tickets or looking as people show their passes.  However, I have never seen a controller on the trollies, and only once on the 4/6 tram.  Should you get caught by the controller, you have to pay a fine (equivalent to about 80USD).

Jan-May, 2012

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Classes Time:

I walk into my first class, web design, five minutes early to find myself alone. I double check the room number, and it still reads B07, so I’m not in an alternate universe, good. I settle into a seat in the second row of computers. I note that the professor’s coat and bag are occupying the front table, and a minute later, in walks my professor. He told me he’d been waiting for someone to show for a while. I’m starting to feel apprehensive because as much as I like small classes, I’m not sure I want his full attention to be directed on me for all answers and brilliant conclusions.

Class time started and there was a brief trickling of students, bringing the class count to 5 in a room of 40 or more computers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if our voices began echoing. The class itself immediately looked promising; the end project is to make a full-blown website! This particular day of class involved concentrating on theory and how the Internet works. After listening to the lecture, I decided, I’m going to think twice from now on about sending private information over the Internet. Of course, even though I’m apprehensive, I’m astonished about the sheer ability of the Internet to reach so many people in the world. Honestly, that’s extremely vague, but while I’m in Budapest, Hungary, I can connect to servers in the United States, India, Russia, Japan. The connections cross oceans, mountains, deserts, forests, and do so in a few seconds or less, and I’m excited to ultimately create a website. The only issue is, I don’t know what I want the website to be about.

Other classes I’m taking include: Film Analysis – Great Masters of European Film (4 students), Visual Communication (10 students), Communication & Interactive Media (10 students), and Salsa Dancing (unknown #). The small number of students shocked me in every class. At McDaniel Westminster, most classes range 15-25 students. A few classes may drop to 10 students, but I’ve never been in such tiny classes before.


Wednesday was a grumble-filled morning over the immigration office, but my afternoon was brightened by a 6 year old girl I have the privilege to watch while her Dad works. Since she had more energy to spare than I (after a long walk and a monster chase game), we folded paper airplanes. I was able to sit and fold, and she could throw and then dash after the airplanes I made. Airplane noses crumple quickly after clipping or slamming into the walls and assorted furniture. We figured outside was a better place for airplanes to fly so we tied ourselves into winter jackets, boots, gloves, hats and scarves and clomped outside to visit the nearby city park. Once we located an open area, we discovered that the airplanes couldn’t avoid smashing as they swooped, twisted, flew, and dove nose first into the ground. Then, the airplanes began dive-bombing me, thanks to a certain tiny pair of hands.

After some abrupt airplane crash-landings, our attention was turned to the playground shinning just beyond a line of scraggly trees. We skimmed around the corner of the path and raced to the play equipment. I am planning a return trip soon because I want to take photographs of everything I’m describing here. First, I swung my friend on a basket swing. What’s a basket swing? It’s rigged like a tire swing, so that it loops around in elliptical swoops. The seat, however, is more comfortable than a rubber tire; it’s a woven basket rimmed by a sturdy circular tube for children to hold onto. From the basket swing we clattered up into the play castle, swishing down slides and balancing on wooden beams.

Then we discovered the zipline. I’ve never been on a zipline, but I have no other name for this piece of equipment. You start on a wood platform portion of the castle. You mount a black disc attached to a thick chain. The chain easily slides along compact cable wire. As soon as you push off you zoom down the line, until you reach the end stop, where you become a pendulum and travel back towards the castle a bit. Standing up is difficult because as you take weight off, the tension causes the seat to rise, causing several dismounts to end in the sand. My friend and I were thrilled with the ride and took turns flying down and running back, seat in tow. Hopefully, our return trip will bring photos and more stories.

March 30-Feb 2, 2012

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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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