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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music to my ears.

5:37 pm CET

Today has been a rather normal, boring, R&R-type day for two reasons:
  1. It's rainy and windy and cold outside.
  2. I'm very tired and thus very lazy.
So instead of recapping for you, my lovely readers, how many times I dozed off while reading (seven) or what I ate for breakfast this morning (some creamy, peach-flavoured yogurt stuff), I will regale you with the happenings of yesterday.

We went to the actual university for the first time and were shown around the buildings where we will be most often. The BSCS program has been allotted a tiny classroom where all of our lectures will take place. It may induce a little claustrophobia, but I'm sure we'll get used to it after a week or two of classes. We were introduced to the program directors and some professors, and received a short lecture on John von Neumann. It was rather amusing to see how quickly everyone reverted to school mode; some scratching out notes, some trying to pay attention, and some failing miserably at that task. Hopefully all the lectures we must sit through won't be as listless as this one. After the droning on and on, we got BSCS t-shirts and left the university. We got Hungarian cell phones (the guy at the phone shop spoke good english, so that was relatively painless) and public transport passes. Once everyone returned to the dorm, my roomie and I got some more groceries from the Spar across the street from the enormous hill that leads up to our building.

Following the day's business, we got to rest for a few hours before being ushered onto a bus headed across the river. After getting off the bus, in one of the underground stations we walked through, there was a younger guy playing the third movement of the summer concerto of Vivaldi's Four Seasons. I almost stopped to listen for a while, but we were in a hurry, so I reluctantly kept on. We went to this bar that basically looked as though it had been furnished with everything but the kitchen sink (and perhaps even that, too). We met up with the other program members who have arrived thus far--us seven K students, three from Carleton, two from Vassar, one from Reed, and one student from the New Bulgarian University--and the professors we had met earlier for some drinks. We each ordered half a liter of the best Hungarian beer (which, as our professor joked, means it's still not that good), and we all had a great time socialising among the people with whom we'll be spending the next 5+ months. People left in small groups, and a few friends and I finally departed around 9:00 to go find some food. We hopped on the bus back to Móricz Zsigmond körtér and bought some gyros from a small restaurant at the base of the hill. After a tasty meal, we walked back up that deadly hill, up several flights of stairs and to our rooms, where we relaxed for the rest of the night.

Today, as I said, has been quite boring; lots of sitting around, reading, sleeping, and the like. Tomorrow we begin part of our Hungarian language course, so hopefully I'll be able to communicate the basics soon. And that is a huge hopefully. Whew.

9:08 pm CET

I met up with my darling Jacob this evening!! It was so wonderful seeing a close friend and being able to just walk and talk as though we were home. We walked to the river looking for someplace to eat and then doubled back, deciding upon gyros (third time in two days for me! So goooood). Since he's been here for two weeks already on an extended language deal, he pointed out words on signs and awnings, and I tried to repeat them with little success. Following dinner, we got dessert at the neighbouring bakery, got yet even more groceries, and we went back to my room in the Collegium. I am so glad that we got to hang out, and I'm looking forward for more fun times together throughout our stay here; it's going to be so much fun!

Now I'm sitting in bed, hanging out with a glass of wine (famous Tokaji white this time) before I get tired enough to sleep, trying not to get nervous about the giant barrier that awaits me tomorrow as I dive headfirst into Hungarian. Maybe that barrier will come crashing down with time. I guess we'll just have to find out together.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

10:02 pm Central European Time

Arriving at Metro Airport early Saturday morning, something within me snapped into place: this was the last time I would be in the United States for an entire 5+ months. It was a concept that made my mind freeze for a moment, and in that instant I took in every last detail I could, so as not to forget what it felt like to be home. I choked back plenty of tears waving goodbye to my mom and stepped through security, gaining a little bit of confidence with each stride.

Luckily I wasn't alone for long; other program members had arrived as well, and we managed to find one another fairly easily. Waiting around in the airports in Detroit, D.C., and Frankfurt became a bonding experience, and the four of us definitely had a good time (although perhaps at the expense of perpetuating the loud, obnoxious American stereotype).

Eleven hours in the air, three and a half in-flight movies, and several danke schöns later (one of the Lufthansa flight attendants actually thought I was German because that was all I would say. Sorry Fraulein Zimmerman--I have no idea what you were saying to me, but you seemed really nice), we got on a minibus headed for our dorm. For a while, it was somewhat shocking at how similar the surroundings seemed; electronics billboards and clothing store advertisements and McDonald's and slightly dilapidated housing. Closer to the city rose the bleak cement high-rise apartments from the reign of communism, and it was only when we were nearly there that the change really made itself apparent. Old buildings mixed with new; architecture was more well preserved and intricate; and when the River Danube came into view, the realisation was complete: we all knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.

The minibus crossed one of the many bridges and climbed a hill and dropped us off at this older, very academic-looking building. After a brief encounter with our coordinator, we schlepped our luggage up three flights of stairs and unpacked. My fellow K student roommate and I have a lovely room with a view; high ceilings, low beds, and two huge windows that open to a uniquely European vista.

After unpacking, the three K boys went off on their own adventure while us four K girls received a quick tour of the immediate area from our coordinator. We walked around, keeping mental note of each turn we made to avoid becoming lost in the Móricz Zsigmond körtér maze. Our guide left us in an extremely modern mall so she could catch her train, and we bought a few necessary groceries and afterward returned to the dorm with ease.

Since getting back, my roomie and I have relaxed and recovered, alternately napping and lazing around. Tomorrow is a big day--orientation at the university, purchasing local phones, more exploration, and dinner & drinks with the other program participants--so we need as much rest as possible. But for a few minutes more we'll stay awake, taking in the not-so-distant lights of downtown while holding aloft our delightfully college student-indicative plastic cups of famous Egri Bikavér wine, making a resounding toast to our new city of Budapest.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Screw you, Little Orphan Annie.

All I keep hearing in my mind is that stupid song from Annie in the voice of some obnoxious child belting her poor little heart out: "TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMORROW! TOMORROW! I LOVE YA, TOMORROW. YOU'RE ALWAYS A DAY AWAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!"

Disdain for a certain musical aside, tomorrow is coming more quickly than I had imagined and I'm feeling the proverbial walls starting to close in. I think nerves are attempting to overtake excitement, and I'm afraid they might yet succeed. Placing everything out on my bed before finding a spot for each item in my bag is a long and methodical task; hopefully it will become more calming than nervewracking as I go.

Though it may seem otherwise, it's not just fear all up in here (see what I did there? Yeah...). Tomorrow I will hop on a plane for Washington, D.C. and meet up with the other six members of the Kalamazoo College Cog Sci Semester in Budapest contingent. Tomorrow I will be frantically checking my watch several times an hour, making sure I and my bags are where they belong at that specific moment. Tomorrow I will probably consume more coffee than is necessary in any situation to keep me awake. Tomorrow I will use my one phrase of German--Darf ich ein Bier, bitte? (May I have a beer, please?)--while on layover in Frankfurt, unless I wimp out. Tomorrow I will walk out of the Budapest Ferihegy International Airport, with wonder at its maximum and courage at its minimum, thoroughly jet lagged, yet aware of every tiny nuance of my new world.

Till then, I've got a lot of packing to do, and a lot of mental preparation to endure.

I guess I can put up with Little Orphan Annie for a teensy bit longer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five days and counting.

I think my first post should be a bit more eloquent than this, but I have a feeling that excessive language will merely misrepresent my current emotions. That said: I am more excited than I have ever been in my entire life, but--damn!--the anticipation is killing me.

All the excitement and fear is simmering just beneath the surface, and I'm... I'm just ready to let it all go. Bring it on, Budapest. Bring. It. On.