Monday, November 27, 2006

School?  What?

As our semester here is drawing to a close (three weeks to go), we are suddenly reminded that yes, in fact, we are still students.  Our purpose here is to learn, and while we’ve been doing lots of self-learning and cultural learning, the book learning has been relegated to the back burner for most of our time here.  Now, however, we are faced with three or four papers apiece to finish in the next two weeks, along with various readings and exams for which to study.  What?  A regular college workload?  We are not used to this.

We have lots to do, and with only three weeks left we are suddenly faced with the realization that we’ve come to love this place very much.  It is interesting to note that almost all of us had a bout of homesickness a week or two ago, but then we got over it.  Three months seemed like we had been here a long time, but now that we only have three weeks left, we’re not so sure that leaving is what we want anymore. 
I shouldn’t speak in the first person plural like that, because my experiences are not shared by everyone in the group.  The majority of us has come over the three month homesick-hump and turned to cherishing our last bit of time here.  We want to savor every moment.  Some, though, are struggling very much still, and are quite ready to go home.  With all the work we have ahead of us, the time should fly no matter what our feelings about leaving Budapest. 
We’re still trying to fit in a few more European experiences before our time is up, too.  This coming weekend almost everyone is going to Vienna for two, three, or four days to take advantage of the Christmas market, museums, and amazing musical opportunities.  I will be going with four of my roommates, three of whom were actually in Vienna this past weekend, too.  My roommate Kyla has a sister who lives in Vienna, so we are blessed enough to have free accommodations all worked out. 
I had considered accompanying the three who went to Vienna last weekend, but my brother was able to get a flight to come visit me over Thanksgiving.  It was such a blessing to have him be able to come.  I very much wanted to show someone from home “my” city, and Greg was the perfect person for it.  I think if either of my parents or my sister or any of my friends had come, it would have made me even more homesick.  With Greg I am used to going long periods of time without seeing him.  He also fit into the college-age group that I live with very well.
Of course I showed him around the city, visiting the cathedral, the castle, Parliament, and the baths.  We also took a daytrip to Eger, where I went earlier in the semester with Julia and Cari, for some winetasting.

Finally, we enjoyed making Thanksgiving dinner.  Neither of us had ever cooked a bird before, nor had anyone in our group, so we were a little bit wary but decided to give it a shot.  Turkeys are not to be found, so we bought two small chickens from the Central Market.  That in and of itself was an experience.  While waiting in line we watched while the seller used her bare hands to weigh out one kilogram of raw livers for the customer before us.  Then it was my turn to practice my Hungarian language skills.  They’re still not all that great, but I can get by, so I asked nicely for two chickens.  The seller grabbed two chickens out of the pile of raw (albeit plucked and beheaded, unlike some other stands) birds, still with her bare hands.  She deposited said birds into a plastic sack, unwrapped, and then asked for the equivalent of $6.  No problem, but I’ll need change.  Of course, without washing her chicken-gut-coated hands, she took my money and handed me the proper change.  I am proud that I did not even cringe.  Outwardly that is.  Needless to say, the first thing I did when we got back to the apartment was wash my hands, and the chickens. 

Then we proceeded to do our best to cook not one but two decent Thanksgiving birds.  Not only did we have no experience, the oven does not give temperatures (the settings are 1 through 8), and we do not have a meat thermometer.  So we were totally on our own.  Even marthastewart.com cannot help those who have none of the proper tools.  Julia’s family pokes holes in either an orange or a lemon and then sticks the fruit in the cavity to keep it moist and give it some flavor, so we did that, and also poured some oil and a spice packet we found at the store (who knows what was in it) over the birds.  And into the oven they went.  We kept checking the birds, and two and a half hours later we took them out, and discovered, much to our astonishment, perfectly moist but fully cooked and delicious chickens!  Mission accomplished.
The whole meal was wonderful.  Karin made some fabulous stuffing, Aron and Rachel couldn’t find green beans that weren’t frozen, so they made us a delicous leek and potato soup, Nate and Eric provided lots of good things to drink, Chandra made spiced cider, Cari and cousin Jenna did corn, Christine made her excellent garlic mashed potatoes, and Julia and (her boyfriend who was visiting from Spain) Alex made the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.  The 13 of us sat down in our living room for almost four hours and ate wonderful food, laughed a lot, played some games, and ate more food.  Everyone pitched in for clean-up too, so it only took about 15 minutes.  It will definitely be a Thanksgiving to remember.
     
But now I must get cracking on those papers.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 11/27 at 08:23 AM
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