11:27 pm CET
The exam this morning was not at all what any of us expected; some stuff was repetetive, some of it we swear we'd never seen before. All is well, though, and the exam is now all but completely forgotten. After the test, I had a quick conversation with a Hungarian student I met near the elevators. We chatted about where we're from and why I came here, and what we're studying at ELTE (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem). She said the weather will just get worse from here: the rain will barely begin to disappear during the rest of autumn, and winter's going to be cold, snowy, and brutal. We K students probably won't have that big a problem with it, though; we do get the lake effect, after all.
I returned to the dorm in the pouring rain and slept for a few hours. For lunch, I temporarily deviated from the salami and cheese and made a lox and schmear sandwich (had to get my Jew on for Yom Kippur, yeah?) on the roll I had found that most closely resembled a bagel (Budapest really needs to get on the bagel train; their baked goods are fantastic, but they have no idea what they're missing out on).
I didn't know what time Kol Nidre services began at the Dohány Street Synagogue, so I decided to go around six and hope for the best. Once there, I met an older American woman (Betty from Madison, WI) and we stuck together. She is on a trip searching for her roots, she said; her parents had come from a smaller town further east of the city that, after several border reorganisations, is now part of Ukraine. We were early enough that we could procure good seats and, though it seemed many of the women were going up to the second and third floors to separate themselves from the men of the congregation, the two of us stayed on the main floor of the sanctuary. There were newsletters for the synagogue in each row, and an old woman came up to us asking in Hungarian if she could have some. We responded that we didn't understand Magyar and that we were Americans, and she asked if we spoke Yiddish. How crazy is that? It boggled my mind that the older generations around here still communicate in Yiddish. We tried our best and (mostly Betty) managed to hold a short conversation with the woman. It was really cool!
The service started fairly late, and people were actually coming and going all throughout the evening, which was a little strange. Also, people were talking throughout the entire thing; there was rarely a moment of silence even while the rabbi was talking or the choir was singing. The man sitting behind us--he spoke decent english--told us that services are a social event first and a religious event second, and that the constant drone of conversation is pretty much normal.
After a few hours of barely following the service (they don't have uniform prayer books), Betty and I left with a large majority of the congretation. We parted ways, each wishing the other a goodnight and good year, and hoping that we find in Budapest what we came for.
Instead of wandering around for a while, I decided to go straight back home. When I walked into the Collegium, I was met with around thirty young men, all of whom were wearing dress pants and black waistcoats (we found out later that they were a choir--we heard them singing from the third floor--but it was still kind of weird walking in and seeing them all there). Once comfortably upstairs and in my PJs, the whole group got together in the boys' room for an evening of drinking games. Following a hilarious game of King's Cup, all of us were thoroughly intoxicated and ready for bed. Tomorrow we have a wonderful day planned; Niki is going to teach us how to cook a few super-authentic, traditional Hungarian dishes, and I am more than excited.
There is no way I am missing out on our cooking venture tomorrow... so much for fasting, eh?