Monday, September 18, 2006

I think I’m Gonna Like it Here

Ten points to the first person to comment with the source of my title.  It (the source) really has nothing to do with what I’m going to write about, but it does convey my feelings.  This weekend was so relaxingly fabulous.  While almost everyone was out on weekend trips around Europe, Dora, Cari, Christy, Eric, Karin and I stayed here in Budapest.  Karin’s family was here to visit, and it was so nice to have a family around, even if they weren’t my own.  Her family has been doing a tour of Europe for the past month, and will be here for another month and a half.  By here I don’t mean Budapest, but Europe.  Her three younger siblings are taking a semester off from school to do this.  Mom, Dad, why didn’t you take us on an adventure like that? 

One of the first things Christy, the only one of my roommates who stayed behind, and I did was clean our apartment.  We were so excited to have a clean living space for four whole days.  With eight inhabitants and thirteen regular visitors, our apartment gets dirty, and fast.  So we swept and mopped, and enjoyed being able to walk around barefoot without having to wash our feet every couple of hours.  Heavenly.
Dora, Christy, Cari, and I also went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which focuses mainly on the Hungarian Jew and Roma experience during World War II.  I learned a lot.  I hadn’t known that the Hungarian government had resisted the Nazis so strongly that until 1944, the Hungarian Jews still lived in relative freedom.  The impact of the museum was greater than even the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., too I felt, in part because I have been to some of the places pictured, where numerous people were murdered, simply for being of Jewish descent, and partly because I know that in a week and a half, I will be visiting Auschwitz, where so many atrocities took place.  After visiting the museum, we went to a cafe where we sat and discussed our thoughts over coffee and tea.  It was good to be there in such a small, safe group, and to feel that my opinions and thoughts would be listened to and respected.  I think that this was probably one of the experiences that has impacted me the most so far. 
On a lighter note, the next day we all went to the baths, Karin’s family and all.  For a little over $10, which came out of our weekly food allowance, we were given unlimited access to the three outdoor pools, ten indoor pools, and two saunas at the oldest baths in Hungary (they were originally built in the 1650s!).  All the pools were different temperatures, and almost all were naturally spring-fed.  There was a lap-swim pool and a jet-massage pool that were simple chlorinated water.  You may have seen old men playing chess advertised in travel books, and they were present at the baths, just as we expected.
We even met two couples from Kent, England while in the “medicinal pool,” and had a nice chat with other english-speakers.  What a treat.  Originally, we had planned to go dancing that evening, but after three hours at the baths, we were so relaxed and sleepy that we simply made dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed, where we all slept better than we have since being here.
  Christy, Dora, me and Cari at the baths
  Some of the group at the baths
  The jet-massage bath
One of the perks to staying home while almost everyone else goes traipsing over Europe is that the kitchen is always available for use when you want it.  I found this (and the fact that no one was up late talking via Skype with a boyfriend, roommate, or family member, thereby keeping me awake in my room-with-no-door) to be one of the nicest things about the past weekend.  I could cook at length and not worry about doing my dishes until after I had enjoyed my food.  Also, with a smaller group, we were able to eat supper together around the kitchen table.  Usually everyone does their own thing for supper and then eats on their own, too.  I miss the dining hall some nights.
I’m slowly settling into a more scheduled existence.  I had my first “Holocaust in American Literature” class and my first “Perspectives on Twentieth Century Eastern and Central European Literature” class today, and I have a good feeling about them both.  The professors seem very knowledgeable, and although the classes are both large, I know a good number of people, both from Calvin and from Hungary, in both.  The English department at Karoli Gaspar has been so welcoming to us, and gone to great lengths to introduce us to english-speaking students.  I think Mondays will become my day away from the apartment, since the Holocaust class gets over at 11:30, and the Perspectives class starts at 4.  I’ll just stay at Karoli, using their library to do my required reading for class.  I am not asked to buy books for the Holocaust class.  They are all present in Karoli’s library, so I simply have to go there and read them.  If I do this on Mondays, between classes, I can save myself a trip back to Karoli (it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get there, depending on how often the trams are running), and get my homework done before the weekend. 
Speaking of the weekend, I’m greatly looking forward to our trek to Transylvania this weekend.  We will stay with host families, so I’m hoping to get a feel for how real people live.  I’ve felt at times like I could almost still be in the United States, living in a dormitory like the ones at Calvin.  I am living with all Calvin students who understand the Calvin lingo I use at times, and know many of the people I know.  That doesn’t make for a very foreign living environment.  A safe, comfortable one, which is often appreciated, yes, but not a foreign one.  I eagerly anticipate experiencing the culture of this area in a more personal way.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 09/18 at 05:06 PM
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