Flashback to October 2011. I was in my final year of university and had decided to teach abroad instead of going straight into graduate school. After talking to some professors, I decided that Central/Eastern Europe would be the best fit for me. One of the many reasons why I am teaching abroad is to find out what culture I want to focus on for later academic endeavors. I contacted Mary, the director of the Central European Teaching Program, and after a few emails, I was confident in my decision. One of my best friends, Jesse, had just come back from Malaysia and we decided that we would embark on this adventure together. Jesse and I were written down for Szeged, the fourth largest city in Hungary, and we fully believed that we were to be placed there. Whatever the case may be, it just wasn’t written in the cards for us. From October 2011 to March 2012, we imagined our lives there through the use of our dear friend, Google. In April of that year, I found out about our placement in Budapest a few hours before I was to present my honors thesis at a conference run by the Southern Anthropological Society. I was downstairs using a hotel computer, sitting amongst some of the biggest and brightest people in my field when I got the news – professionalism and composure were thrown out the window! Last weekend I finally visited the place I almost called home.
After missing the first train due to my alarm not being set for the correct day and the second due to metro replacement buses, slow walkers, and a poor train-ticket-line choice, I finally got on the third available train – arriving in Szeged three hours later than I had initially anticipated. I met up with friend, fellow CETP member and half-Filipina, Kayla, and her Hungarian friend, Erika. Kayla and I both came to Hungary in August 2012. In general, I know more Hungarian than my American counterparts. To my delight, I discovered that Kayla speaks Hungarian ridiculously well (I will forever sing your praises). Her friendship with Erika, a beautiful Hungarian woman who does not speak English, really pushed her Hungarian to the level it is now. I did find it humorous because although I understand a lot, I cannot vocalize many things. Whenever Erika would say something, I would attempt to muster up a response, fail, and just end up having Kayla translate it.
Szeged is located on the Tisza River in the Southern Great Plain of Hungary. It is home to both paprika and one of the country’s most distinguished universities, the University of Szeged. Erika, Kayla, and I walked about for a couple of hours, telling stories like the time a bird pooped on me while running to a police station (I will elaborate on that in a later post).
After Szeged, we drove to Orosháza (where Kayla and Erika actually live), which has a population of about 29,000. We ended up getting lost, but we were driving through the Puszta (a grassland biome part of the Great Hungarian Plain), so who cares! Upon arrival, we parted ways with Erika and walked around the town. Kayla, an anthropologist as well, will be attending university in London next year. I properly picked her brains whilst gazing upon the hilariously impressive well museum that is located in her town. As the sun was setting, Kayla and I decided that the night was to be filled with pizza and video games. Video games have always been a big part of my life, so being in the company of a fellow gamer is always refreshing. We took it back old school and played Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 2, and Super Smash Bros.
Kayla is way too majestic.
The next morning we decided to see Gyopárosfürdő, a lake/hotel/spa in the outskirts of the city. My shin is currently heavily bruised due to getting kneed during a soccer game, so the swelling/pooling of blood makes long walks a little bit harder than usual. Fortunately for us, Erika happened to be driving by. My shin loves you, Erika.
My time in Orosháza was short, but great. After Gyopárosfürdő, Kayla and I got burgers and played more video games. The bus back made me nauseous, so I slept. I have now been to 35 different Hungarian settlements, but I still feel like there is so much more to see. I will never get enough!
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: Do not get in lines full of mean, grumpy men.