not hungry in hungary

October 19th, 2016

Prague was cool, but I was happy to return to Budapest and was looking forward to another week of free room and board through teaching. I was headed back to the hostel where me and Jules stayed the weekend prior, because I knew where it was and I had left a bag there. Upon my return to the city, I checked my reservation and realized I hadnt actually made one for that night, I had booked the wrong date, so I started to panic a little. It was a Saturday night. I would have to find another hostel probably and pay more money and move my shit and oh god. I tried not to freak out too much on my walk there, since I had to pick up my bag anyway, I just went there and went upstairs to talk to the girl at the desk. I recognized her and told her I was there to pick up my bag and explained my situation. As she said they were full for the night, I expressed my stress just slightly, but ! she quickly offered that I stay in the mixed dorm on the couch/bed they usually just keep open as a lounge area. It would only cost $7 so I didn’t hesitate. I could shower and relax and use the computer and all was well with the world. Sweet relief. I did consider going to the party at the giant spa, the sparty, but it was like 40-50 bucks and I just wasnt up for it. I dont know if I mentioned this, but the hostel was called homemade hostel, and I made myself at home.

I got myself together and made it to the meeting point the next morning for the teaching program, confused at first, but saw a group of people with suitcases milling around and got myself to the right spot and introductions soon commenced. They seemed nice, but in my head I was already thinking that it wouldnt be as good as Germany. Of course it wouldnt be the same though, the second time doing anything is naturally different because nothing is as intense as the first impression or experience. I still feel a special fondness for my Englishhaussen coherts, and realize the difference in attitudes between people who had been in a program like that before verses the first timers. I was a little hardened and not as enthralled. But, as the week went on, I warmed up more to the other Anglos and Hungarians and softened up. Unfortunately, we had to share rooms on this program, and I was rooming with the one girl I immediately thought to myself, no please no, because she was a loud American. Yes, Sue, if youre reading this, you speak very loudly, and worse than that, you grind your teeth at night, and you should really get a night guard, I forgot to tell you. She was actually a very lovely human, despite the fact that she was only in Europe, and in Hungary, to do this week of volunteer teaching. I found that a bit odd. But, whatever gets you out of the country, I say! Just use more vacation days next time, Sue. We also had a great conversation about South Korea, because her family is Korean, and she was a very funny part of the week, much thanks to Laszlo.

The hotel was okay, it did have some really beautiful horses and adorable ponies and a donkey, and some nice little decor, and the food was decent. Very filling, anyway. The first lunch was fish and chips, and dinner was nice because Tamas bought me and the girls some drinks, and he was a very sweet man and shared his homemade palinka with us. Lunch the next day was delicious, peas and rice and chicken with liver stuffing, yum, and we had ratatouille at some point, which is also a traditional favorite among the Hungarians, so it seemed. Almost every dinner, the Hungarian gentlemen would buy us wine or beer or palinka, which was a nice treat and showed how hospitable they were. I had a lot of good conversations with all of the Hungarians, also. Their abilities were quite varied, much like the Germans, and they definitely tried just as hard.

This program was different in that I got a mentee that I met with every morning and helped with a presentation for the end of the week. I was super excited that mine was actually the only other regular smoker, and we had already made friends, obviously, so our mornings together were casual and fun. She was a vet, but instead of wanting to do her presentation on chicks, she wanted to talk about cultural immersion and her experiences on how we are all different, but all the same. This actually blew my mind a little bit, since this is something that I’ve been looking at very closely on my travels. I was a little concerned, because it is kind of a big topic, and everyone else’s presentation was on something more specific, but she wanted to present something light and relevant to all of us. It was a little difficult to help her, because I wasnt sure exactly what she wanted to say about it, kind of an intense topic to work through translation, but ultimately, it turned out well, and I found it more kismet than anything.

For entertainment hour, instead of being a planned open mic or theatre set like at Englishhaussen, one night some of the girls taught the Hungarians how to play beer pong. The cups were way too small so I opted out, and I sat to the side and played guitar. I felt like I was playing at an Irish pub where everyone is drinking and having a good time and enjoying the atmosphere. Another night,  I ran everyone through a game of fishbowl, which was really fun. Break times during the day, I checked out the thermal spa and sauna, and it was such an invigorating relaxation session. I have really gotten addicted to saunas and bathing practices, thanks, Korea. I went back a few more times throughout the week. Although sulfur smells bad, you can definitely feel it in your muscles.

I had some great conversations with the Hungarians, despite how some of them had limited English. Me and Judit spoke about Iceland and driving around the countryside with our friends. Janos, had very limited English, but we spoke about traveling too and he understood that I’m still trying to find my place. and was very encouraging. (I found out that he owns a very successful organic juice business, and actually saw his juices for sale at the airport when I left Hungary). Speaking with Elizabeth was fun because she was curious about grammar and using the right words at the right time, and was very sweet and appreciative. Peter was fun to talk with because he was also just learning English for fun, and this was his second time at the program. He really loved traveling, too, and scuba diving, so he told me a lot about that and how I should do it as part of my adventures. Laszlo was quite a character, very intelligent and spoke about classical music and culture and we had a great conversation about North Korea because he also just read the same book I did about teaching there. Tuesday night, a lot of us stayed up late and were drinking and listening to music and chatting a lot. Laszlo and Csaba, a more conservative businessman, got into a slightly heated political debate because of the referendum about refugees in Hungary right now, and Laszlo more liberally told him to chill out about 1200 refugees, which I was really glad to see. Not only can these weeks be cultural exchanges between two different peoples, but of course between those in the same country!

We really did have a lot of fun the rest of the week, too, and I do find it funny that although my second experience doing this sort of thing is quite different than the first, they were similar because I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, and I thought the same in Englishhaussen, that I would not like these people, really, they wont actually be my friends, but then the warming up and realizing how truly lovely they all are, and I love them all in their own ways, and feeling so fortunate to meet them – that was the same.

I find it interesting that I waver so much on feeling good about what Im doing, and feeling awfully lame about it. On one hand, I feel lost and unsuccessful and ashamed that I havent found a specific career path, on the other, I feel proud and accomplished that I’ve seen a lot of the world and met so many cool people. Have I found out a specific destination? No, but as this is part of my trip, enjoying each moment, enjoying the journey, that is what I am trying to enjoy about my life in general. I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing, I am my own person, as my tattoos show, (proud even when I’m asked if it will ever wash off one day by the elderly Swiss lady I happen to sit next to, as she talks about how a person with tattoos probably wont be hired if in competition with a person who doesn’t have tattoos, and I tell her, then I don’t want that job). I am who I want to be and I will work for money to live the life I want, even if the job where I make money is not a passion, it will allow me to live how I want to live. I am so lucky to be alive. I have a home to go back to and a community waiting for me. I don’t understand how life works, but everything will work out for the best, eventually, and today. I do not know what will happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year, but I will be okay. I am loved and am fortunate. I love the world, as much as it is awful, it is even more wonderful. I still want and need to find something to do to give back, to help those in need. As Laszlo said in his presentation, “Get closer to the world to understand it better.”