Monday, December 24, 2007

The Last Magyar Class

My last Hungarian class. It was quite sad and also really fun! The woman on the far left is my teacher and I loved her because she let me make not-so-funny jokes in Hungarian. The man standing up is from Germany with his best friend Robert on the farthest right. Danusha and Dorottya, the Polish girls (I really dont know which one is which) were always very serious, but I am going to miss them. The man sitting next to them is Janar from Turkey and the one making a funny face is Enrico from Italy.We all made dishes from our country after reviewing for the exam. It was a great party and we practiced speaking for the final time with each other in Hungarian. The day of the test, only the front row and I showed up.


Vienna was beautiful to say the least. Picture the ideal Christmas town on a postcard and you have Vienna. It was constantly snowing, but not too cold and there were street performers down every alley, generally mimes or masked dancers.

There were many white marble statues in almost every street corner on the buildings. Also, in every square there were tons of Christmas trees being trimmed and pruned. Sometimes, it was a bit difficult to navigate because it was like walking through a forest of pines.

If you go to Vienna, go at night because it was the most beautiful sight. It could never be truly nighttime because the lights lit the entire city. My only complaint would be that there were so many tourists everywhere that it was impossible to find a place to sit inside that wasnt packed with people.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving and warm wine

This was where I had Thanksgiving. A couple who I met at church Ed and Syble invited Alex and I over to their house for Thanksgiving. A guy named Akim from Ethiopia who wants to be a doctor and Pablo, from Cuba also came. They are church members as well.

It was my first Thanksgiving without my family but we had a lot of fun. We had ham, cornmeal stuffing, sweet potatoes covered with marshmallows, rice and mushrooms, gravy, whipped strawberry mousse, brownies, coconut cream cake, and of course, pumpkin pie. I actually made the pumpkin pie with a weird type of squash that looks like a butternut squash but tastes like pumpkin.

The next day, I went to my friend Zsombor's house and he taught me how to make traditional Hungarian hot wine. I had never heard of heating wine before so I was very curious. Alexandra, Tegan, Carlos, from Mexico, and his host sister came as well.

Since you know how much I love to cook, I thought I would share the recipe with you.

Stir red wine, cloves, cinnamon, lemon juice, and lots of white sugar together in a pan. Boil ingredients for five to ten minutes.

When we finished making it, we went outside and sat on the deck, wrapped in blankets and listened to Hungarian Christmas music. Zsombi sang his favorite Christmas carol that went something like this: "Small Christmas, big Christmas, where is the pork? Where is the pork?" I almost died laughing.

It really has started to feel like Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, a gargantuan pine tree was place in front of the Nagy Templom in Kóssuth Tér. Christmas lights adorn the trees and fairy lights hang from the plaza walls. In Match, my favorite grocery store, hundreds of chocolate Santas wrapped in decorative aluminum foil fill the shelves. I cannot believe it is almost December and I have been here for four months.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


As a kid, I always dreamed of going to Venice. What could be more unique than a city where instead of cars, there were boats and in place of roads, water. A floating city.

Well this dream of mine finally became real when I found myself on a Rotary bus trip to Venice. We all met in Budapest October 19th. On October 20th, we arrived in Venice at contrary to the weather forcast, it was beautiful weather.

We took a boat over to the island and although many buildings looked worse for the wear, it was so historical and it made me imagine what the city used to look like when it was a major port. Did you know that Venice had a king at one time? It was almost like its own country. When we arrived, Béla told us that we could split up in groups and explore the city. The first place we went was to a big square full of pigeons. There were so many waddling pigeons that I was afraid to walk. Sometimes, it seemed they were walking on top of each other. One landed on my head which was special until I started trying to get it off. It seriously wouldn't budge!

Ofcourse I had tons of food. I snacked on the piyya which to be honest did not beat Mom's. It was circular and had only sauce and cheese on dough. The crust was good though. I had a mushroom calzone which was better and that is saying something because I generally hate mushrooms. I also ate tiramisu gelato. That was the best. It was light but sugary and you felt like you needed more.

I think what I liked most about Venice were the alleys and the canals. You could get lost for hours. Once you got past the touristy parts, Venice's true beauty cam eout. When I was in the alleyways, I felt a sense of solitude and peace. There were colorful clothes hanging from windows and oftentimes, a birdcage. Alone, I would be scared, but with a group, those long peaceful corridors were so inviting. Most of the time, they were made of brick.

One word to describe Venice is colorful. All the houses were either brick or a salmon pink. Occasionally, yellow. They weren't obnoxious colors like Romania and once the sun came out, it was beautiful. The salmon pink against the blue sky was something I wanted to paint.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

October Vásár

In Debrecen, there is a fair that happens twice a year. It's more like a market, with stalls lining both sides of a web of roads. I was there for four hours and have yet to see more than half the stalls.

Every 200 meters or so, there is a food stall where you can buy 2 foot-long kolbasz (Hungarian sausage), csirke és hagyma (chicken and onions), and bread to go along with the various meats. I could not resist the first food stand I passed because the vendors were cooking the meat right on the grill. I bought a kolbasz with two pieces of bread and it was to die for. Every 300 meters, there is also a candy stand that sells mainly gummies in various colors and shapes. I got some gumimaci (gummy bears) and some long gummy tubes filled with white taffy.

In addition to food, I bought a scarf from a scarf stall. All of the most beautiful and unique scarves that I had ever seen were before me and they all screamed Hungarian. I managed to pick one from the bunch. I choose it for its lovely design and combination of gold, black, and sky blue threads. Unfortunately, when the weather turned from sunny and 70 to bone-chilling, I realized it was time to put my purchase to use. I did look somewhat comical and my friend Teagan, from Australia decided to take advantage of that fact and take a picture of me in my pitiable state.

Besides shops, there was a live band playing that had interesting music. When I saw how they were dressed, however, I almost choked on my kolbasz. They were dressed as Native Americans, only wearing the most ridiculous outfits ever! I had to take a picture of them because their idea of what Native Americans were like was so off the mark. I wonder if they even knew what they were doing. Apparently, they come to Debrecen about once a month and are somewhat popular.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Pictures and Explanations!

So this is my host mom. She basically rocks because she knows exactly how much freedom to give me. A week ago, we made some chocolate chip cookies and they were a success to say the least. Everyone went crazy and she would not stop telling everyone how good they were. We get along really well and I love my room. This picture was taken on the first night.

There are a couple of things that are different. For example, I cannot leave anything plugged in or there is a chance the apartment will burn down. I also am not allowed to do any dishes. I tried to do them for a week but my host mom kept telling me, "You are not in the United States anymore and I do the dishes."
This is my view outside my room. Yes, my room has a terrace. I love to go out at night and sit in the white chair. I can hear all the people speak in Hungarian and it is the most beautiful sound.

This is the university which I walk past every single day on the way to school to catch the villamos. Every once in a while, I run. It depends on how much of a hurry I am in and whether I can hear the villamos coming. Inside is magnificent. It looks like a palace.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tóth Árpad Gimnazium

My new school in Hungary is called TÁG and I am in 11th grade. Today is my fourth day at the school. The very first day was definitely different from what I had ever experienced. The whole school stood outside and before classes started, the other exchange students and I had to give a speech in front of everyone (1200 kids) in Hungarian. Trust me, it was not easy. The sun was just rising and of course, shining in our eyes.

After our speeches, we were rushed off to different classes. My class has a focus on math and history which is an interesting combination. I understand math and all the students were shocked when I did an example on the board. History is a little more challenging but the teacher gives me a sheet of paper each class to write an essay in English. She feels bad because I have nothing to do. I also take other courses like art history, music history, Italian, English, biology, physics, Hungarian literature, computer studies and PE. I am not brave enough to try PE yet because I don't trust their exercises that they do. They are much more jerky and in my opinion do more harm than good.

My favorite subject is English because I am the center of attention and am constantly correcting the teacher (two things I tend to do.) I feel a little bad for the teacher because she is so young that the students do not respect her and think that I should be teaching the class.
One thing that I find interesting in this class is that they learn English with a heavy British accent. When we were listening to tapes, I could barely tell what the people were saying. It could have been Scottish for all I know.

I eat lunch at 2:00 pm at school. It is so much better than school lunches in the US although I miss MPH lunches a lot. We do not have options for what to eat, but what we have is chicken and rice or potatoes. Its not bad, but compared to what my mom makes, its inferior. For example, yesterday, I had peach soup. I kid you not. It was the consistancy of syrup and had an opaque gray color with little pieces of peach floating on top. It didnt taste bad though.

Today, I have the Rotary orientation until Sunday which I am super excited for because I get to meet the other exchange students who are mostly from Brazil, Mexico, and the US. I should probably go now so viszlát!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shops galore

Today I woke up at 10:30 am and ate breakfast: a chocolate bar with sweet ricotta cheese (Túró Rudi) and szülö (grapes) with ice tea. Then, I got dressed and waited for Sziszi to come at 12:30. It was very funny this morning when I was still at home, waiting for her. She called at 12:40 because I was supposed to meet her outside, but I didn't understand. I opened my apartment door, but she was not there. It took me a while to realize that the whole building was locked and that she had been waiting for 10 minutes outside.

We went to eat at their version of a mall. It has 2 stories and they call it the plaza. I ate cucumber, tomato, and pork salad and she had pizza. We had a long talk about religion. It took me a while to explain church. She thought that all religious people have to go to church. She asked me if I wanted to go to church and I told her that I did, but it wasn't necessary to have a relationship with God. If there was a church, that was good, but I didn't have to go. She was very confused. She said that she believes that God is alive, but she doesn't go to church because she is young and wants to be free. She said young people do not go to church. She also thought it was weird that I liked it because there is no one who is my age there. I told her about youth group, but I don't think she understood.

We rode the villamos (tram) to Erika's workplace and I was able to ask for a yegyet (ticket). Erika, my host mom, works in the city hall for the elections. Its apparently a very important job. I like Erika a lot. She took me to the Media shop to buy a hair straightener and they were very expensive. I payed 14000 forint for a hair straightener! That's like $100.00!

After the media store, Erika took me to the grocery store and told me to put in the cart whatever I wanted. So we got lots of Túló Rudi, black currant nectar, strawberry nectar, grapefruit juice, focaccia bread, and melted cheese bread that was so fresh, you could burn your hand holding it. Ha ha, I have to stop writing about food or else I will gain lots of weight.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My First Day

Well, I arrived safely just so everyone knows. My Hungarian host mom is really nice. I finally finished unpacking and now regret packing all those clothes. Im in a lovely room in a 2nd story apartment. My mom kept asking me if I wanted to take a shower, so I finally got the hint and obliged. I just had my first shower without getting my hair wet and without a shower cap. They have a bath without a curtain that has a handheld spray nozzle and it allows you to have 1-minute showers.

This day is summarized in one word: Surprise! I was more prepared than anyone else, but there is only so much preparation you can do. The first surprise was security in Amsterdam. Unlike the US airports, Amsterdam doesnt have those metal detector things so when you walk through the security and the thing starts beeping, they do a full patdown. For someone like me who has never had a patdown, this was a slightly traumatic experience. The lady not only stroked every inch of my body several times, but also checked under my shirt and pants.

The rest of the surprises came like aftershocks. I arrived in Budapest a little early, with both my bags and left with 6 other exchange students who I had met in Amsterdam (Skyla, Irene, Pat, Claire, Alina, and Emily) When we got past the baggage claim, there were all these people waving to us. I picked out my host mom from the crowd immediately because she was holding a sign with my name on it. Another girl was with her who I thought was Nori, her daughter, but was actually Marisztéla, a girl who went to Toronto for a year and was going to my school.

We drove for 2.5 hrs and finally arrived in Debrecen. It is so pretty! They have really cool methods of transportation too. Instead of a bus, you take an electrical bus that runs on wires at the top, but otherwise looks like a regular bus. Their road rules are nearly identical to ours (you just cant turn right at a stop light and stop signs at intersections mean slow down, not stop) Both my host mom and Marisztéla have bikes.

As far as the language goes, they were really surprised at how well I spoke already. They also couldnt believe how well I caught on. I guess I know more words than I thought. They said I would definitely be fluent by December. I really really hope so.

After carrying in my leaden luggage, they took me to Erikas anyas house where I was served a delicious meal consisting of fried (with egg and flour covering) cauliflower, chirke (chicken), peas and rice, cucumber salad, pumpernickel cake, cheese bread stick thingies, and last and best of all, grapes. Now these grapes were unlike any grapes I had ever had in my life. There were the small yellow ones that are sweet and the larger yellow-green ones which are to die for. They have the most unique flavor that I cant possibly describe.

Anyway, to put it bluntly, right now, I am typing this in the living room at a time when I should be sleeping, so without further ado, I bid you jó éjszakát!