My first Thanksgiving away from the States turned out to be incredible! All that was missing was the people I love back home. Monday I got snow, Wednesday and Thursday I made hand turkeys with all the kids at school, and Thursday night I had an amazing Thanksgiving meal with an abundance of people! We not only had Americans from my program, but we were fortunate enough to be able to share Thanksgiving with a few really amazing Hungarians. We ate, drank, and had great conversation and laughed A LOT. Because Thanksgiving is really about keeping things in mind that we cherish and are well, thankful for...I thought I'd make a list of some of the "little things" I have come to enjoy and be oh, so thankful for here in Hungary...
Getting a million hugs before the hour of 8AM every day.
Those rare times where I arrive at the bus stop right as the correct bus rolls up.
Waking up without an alarm
Hide and seek in the hallway...and getting awkward glances from other teachers as they walk by and see me (a fellow professional colleague) crouching behind benches with laughing children.
Hearing kids yell "Hanna!!" with immense excitement when they see I've come to pick them up for English class.
The smiles I get from the toothless, non-English speaking man who sells fruit and veggies outside of the grocery store by my flat.
The sound of the ring on my computer when someone calls me on Skype.
The way Hungarians often pronounce their English v's as w's...so words like village, university, and very come out as willage, uniwersity, and wery. But hey, I can pronounce about 3 Hungarian words altogether, so I can't give them too much of a hard time.
Seeing packages and cards on my table at work when the mail comes.
Talking and laughing with my favorite Hungarian friend, Gergo about the meanings of different words like "fluffy", and "squishy", and expressions like "drooling" over the opposite sex and "watching out for bed bugs"
Getting coffee that comes with a little cookie on the plate with your coffee!
The little jingles on the metros and trams when they reach their destination.
I hope they brighten your day like they often do mine!
For anyone unfamiliar with the system of public transportation in Budapest, worry no more! I have compiled a guide that is a must-have for anyone making their way around Budapest. With this guide, you can minimize angry encounters with employees of public transport, grumpy elderly ladies, and you will be able to blend in perfectly with your fellow travelers. Enjoy!
1. When boarding the trolleybus/tram/metro, it is imperative that you board with the hastiest of hastiness! Those seats get taken quickly! And physically wrestling someone for a seat is not at all out of the question. Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest prevails in this rough-and-tumble world.2. If you should be unfortunate enough to NOT get a seat, HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE. The drivers are not there to make sure you don't fall and scrape your knee (or get a concussion from slamming into the walls and other people)...in fact, the drivers are amused by watching people bounce around and they will drive horribly to indulge this sick fetish.
3. The signs posted that warn against drinking, eating, and talking on your cell phone are more for the purpose of suggestion, rather than stating rules. If you are going to drink while commuting, there's also no need to be classy about it...drink straight out of the bottle/can if you wish. But God forbid, if you put your feet on the seats, prepare to die.
4. If you are the type of person that hates waiting for public transport, then Budapest transport will constantly make you angry. Expect to wait long and often for your transportation. And your bus/tram/metro WILL pull up to your stop and then drive away again when you are still waiting to cross the street or coming down the escalator to get to the stop...you can make your best attempt to chase after it, but don't be let down when you are left in the dust huffing and puffing. Let it go, you'll catch the next one...if it shows up.
5. If your bus should come to a sudden stop, and should the bus driver get off and return to the bus with an unknown part of the bus dripping in oil, that is the sign that you should disembark the bus and walk or wait for the next one. That bus ain't goin' anywhere no more.
6. For those couples out there who are still living at home with your parents and have nowhere to get cozy with your "honey", public transport is the perfect alternative! Find a cozy seat, lock lips, and completely disregard everyone around you. The more sounds you make, the better. People LOVE watching other people eat each others faces while traveling...and single people love it the most.
7. Avoid public transport officials at all costs. They WILL find a way to hassle you and take your money. You could have transportation passes stocked up for the next 6 months, and they will find something wrong and fine you. Should you have an encounter with one of these people, you might just end up having to pay...or if you are the athletic type, running away has been known to be effective on several occasions *see entry entitled "My first run in with the Hungarian authorities".
8. A note on night buses. The night bus is a great place to do some people watching, and you can even meet some pretty interesting characters...but the safest suggestion is to just sit and stare out the window. Do not make eye contact with anyone, particularly people who have crazy eyes or who cannot seem to keep themselves in a standing position. If someone looks pail and woozy, sit a few seats away, or preferably on the opposite side of the bus. Also, don't be surprised when your bus sometimes decides to take a different route than listed and then dump you at an unknown location in the middle of the dead night.
9. Whatever you do, DO NOT try to make conversation with people on public transportation in Budapest. The "F-U, don't bother me" look that everyone has on their face isn't just for show. This point is particularly imperative on morning commutes...should you speak to someone, they will not only scowl, but you will get a big whiff of morning breath that will haunt you throughout the day.
10. It is customary in Budapest to get up and stand anxiously at the door of the trolleybus/tram/metro at least two stops before you have to disembark. You may want to push others out of the way as well, even if they are getting off as well. No one knows why this custom has come into existence (or still exists at all), but if you really want to fit in, it is suggested you follow along.
The second part of my Fall Break was spent in the beautiful country of Croatia. It's still amazing to me to think that this country didn't even exist as an independent nation until a decade ago. I went on the trip with three amazing girls from my program who I got to know well on this trip and look forward to getting to know more as we continue here in Hungary. My absolute favorite part of the trip for me was in our visit to Zadar. This is a small town on the coast of Croatia, and it was absolutely gorgeous, and we were blessed with wonderful weather as well. Since the tourist season is over in Croatia, the town was pretty deserted, and it took us all of about an hour to see most of the sights. That meant we got to relax and cafe-hop A LOT! I LOVED just sitting and drinking coffee while enjoying the sounds of the waves and breathing in the sea-air, along with people-watching (quick sidenote: Europe is a wonderful place for sipping coffee and watching some interesting people. It's pretty much my favorite thing to do now). My absolute FAVORITE part of Zadar however, was the Sea Organ: The Sea Organ is pretty much exactly as it sounds...built into the dock are a bunch of holes and slits that are engineered as such so that beautiful sounds emerge when the waves hit the dock. I can't even describe the sound to you, but I can tell you it was beautiful and it will be worth ANOTHER trip for me someday. I just wanted to spend all day sitting by the dock and listening to the beautiful music. Who would have thought you could experience a little of la dolce vita in Eastern Europe?
I was able to spend the last ten days of October traveling in Transylvania and Croatia. I was on Fall Break from school here, and the break was much-needed by the time I left for my trip. October was a roller coaster month here in Hungary. The newness of Budapest had worn off and I came to the realization that I would be here, away from the people closest to me for another 8 months. I was tired and ready for a break from it all, and I found just what I needed in the two trips that I took. Rather than give a complete synopsis of my trip through Transylvania, I'd rather just elaborate on just a snapshot of my trip that highlighted something I've been realizing my whole time here in Hungary. Since arriving here in Hungary, I've been awakened to the realization of how truly lucky I am in life. I've grown up with amazing people around me who constantly support me in both my triumphs and times of weakness. Don't get me wrong, I have always been aware of the fact that I have a lot of incredible people present in my life. It's something I always consciously try not to take for granted. But I think that everyone could use tangible reminders of these things every once in awhile! One of our stops in Transylvania was in a small village near the former Austro-Hungarian border. We visited a family of people (three generations, in fact!) who are all still living together in the same house. Not only are they still living in the same house, they are still living in the same ONE-ROOM house! At first I was astonished and appalled at this fact (on top of seeing how small the space was), realizing these people almost never get "alone time"...something I thrive on. After getting back on the bus and thinking about it though, I realized that the family in that house really DOES have everything they need. The people living in that house have the constant presence and support of their family members. From what I could tell, each person showed an abundance of love for the others. Since they have that (here comes the cheesy part...you'll have to pardon me), they seem to have no need for more space or possessions. All they really need is each other. I think about that and I am filled with appreciation for the special people in my life who won't falter. It's truly a rare thing in life to have people like I have to miss like the dickens (because I DO miss people SO much) and to be thinking about constantly. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm SO thankful to have SO SO SO much to be homesick for.