Thursday, December 14, 2006

finishing touches

The semester is almost officially over, with tomorrow being our last day in Budapest, and we will spend it cleaning.  Many people are out tonight, visiting that favorite bar or restuarant one last time.  I’ve come down with an end-of-the-semester cold, so I’ve watched the first sixteen episodes of “The West Wing” in the past three days.  I must say, I’m hooked.  It’s an excellent show and if you aren’t already a fan, maybe you should consider becoming one.  Excellent writing, acting, and directing.  But anyway, I’ve also had some time for reflection as everyone else runs around taking care of last minute errands and impulses. 

The semester has been, in many ways, the best and most enriching experience I’ve ever been blessed with.  I would definitely suggest that anyone who is considering doing a semester abroad go ahead and do it.  I’m sure that there are some people who have had poor abroad experiences, but mine has been anything but.  The accomodations, while challenging at times, were really quite nice.  My bed was comfortable, the shower sprayed hot water most mornings, the stove worked, my clothes got cleaned periodically and for free, and the deskies were friendly.  I could have done without the mosquitos (I killed another one just ten minutes ago…and it’s December 14).  But if I’m going to start complaining about little things I would mention the uncomfortable couch and the lack of a dryer.  But you know what, when all is said and done, a less-than-perfect couch and crunchy clothes are a small price to pay for the invaluable experience I got just from living here. 
Visit to the chiropracter (from sitting on the couch): $100
Dry-cleaner (to reshape clothes): $50
Living for four months in Hungary: priceless
Good thing I have a Visa card.  It’s everywhere I want to be. 
Seriously, though.  The semester has been fabulous, and much of that is due to the amazing people with whom I was priviledged to share it.  Professor Fetzer was such a good leader from the very beginning.  When we first got here and only wanted to go to bed, he made us adapt instead.  He was always ready to listen and help if we needed it, and he has been much appreciated.  I know I am not alone in saying that we have come to love him very much, and are sad that we won’t see him at least three times a week anymore.  His wife Tamara, and her soup, hospitality, and wit will also be much missed.  Many of my favorite memories of Professor Fetzer came from our initial group excursion to Romania, when I was in a van with him, Kyla, Mary, Christy, Rachel, Aron, and our guide Janos.  Seeing Professor Fetzer pull the van door completely off the vehicle is not a memory that will soon leave me.  Playing 20 questions and MASH (that elementary school game in which your friends determine who you are fated to marry, where you will live, what your occupation will be, etc.) in that van is are other treasured memories, especially Professor Fetzer’s random input.  His humor, wit, and honesty have been real blessings this semester.  If you are reading this Professor Fetzer, thank you for everything.
As is typical, my roommates greatly helped define my experience, and positively.  Coming into the semester, I knew Mary and Julia.  Julia was in my English 101 class, and was one of my partners on our final group project.  We hit it off then, and that trend continued.  She was my roommate and confidante this semester, for which I am grateful.  When I was tired of people, she was one person I could still go to and share a quiet, calming conversation about anything.  Mary was my RA (Resident Assistant) last year in the dorms, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her this semester.  We were friends last year, but there were parts of her life that she necessarily had to hide from me, and parts of mine that I only disclosed to my closest friends, of whom Mary was not one.  This semester changed our relationship dramatically, bringing us closer through shared past and present experiences.  When we were feeling homesick for our friends at Calvin, we could talk about them together because they were known to both of us.  She was able to be fully open to me too, which deepened our friendship significantly.  She’s more fun than I had known.  I suppose that’s the case with most RAs.
I was continually surprised at how well the group as a whole meshed, too.  21 random college kids thrown together for four months in a foreign country and we’re coming out of the time still wholeheartedly liking one another.  Everyone is sincere and uncomplaining and honestly nice.  It doesn’t hurt that for the most part we have compatable senses of humor, too.  We can play together, which I think is important in any relationship.  There have been numerous Eucher competitions, as well as various other card games, two rounds of Secret Santa, and more occasions than I can count where I laughed until I cried.  These people are my family now, and I am so glad to have gotten this chance to know them so intimately.  As I’ve been sick the past couple of days, I believe every single person has taken the time to ask me how I’m doing, whether they can get me anything, and wish me a speedy recovery.  Their attitudes and personalities have benefited this trip immensely. 
I have so many positive memories from these four months.  A few highlights:

Monday afternoons when Christy and I were the only two around.  We’d chat, nap, pretend to do homework, or dance to Backstreet Boy music while killing time until we had to leave for class.  It was always a pleasant start to my week.

Riding the Children’s Train and hiking to the outlook over Budapest.
     

Visiting Statue Park with my roommates and Cari on the windiest day I can remember.  Probably ever.  We didn’t really even know each other then, but we had such fun waiting for the bus and then seeing all the old Communist statues.
     

Learning how to do Hungarian folk dance with Julia, Christina, and Annaliese, and then going to a Hungarian folk concert and dancing with strange men to the music.

All of our group trips.  Homestays in Romania (1 picture), dancing in a Polish pub (1), reconvening with everyone in Prague following our ten-day break (4), and wine-tasting and leaf-frolicking in eastern Hungary (2).
             

Laughter-filled nights in our apartment when we probably stayed up way too late enjoying our own crazy antics.
   

These memories are not an adequate representation of the semester, but they are some of the highlights.  I’m going to miss this place.  Due to good senses of humor certain things that otherwise wouldn’t have been were funny: the faucet that randomly fell off, leaving water spraying all over the bathroom; the bathroom door handle that didn’t always work, thereby trapping you in the bathroom; the non-insulated and therefore draughty windows; the dorm fire alarm which consisted of a metal tube and matching stick to hit it with.

I have liked this place.  As my friend Laura says, why do we spend our lives collecting homes only to leave them behind?  Packing has been bittersweet.  I can’t wait to go home, but a part of me wishes I knew when in the future I would be able to come back here. 
Thank you Budapest.  It has been an honor.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 12/14 at 03:27 PM
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