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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The days seem to be blending together.

8:52 pm CET

I think I've watched more movies in these past two weeks than a normal person would watch in half a year. It gets a bit boring, yes, but I find I'm so very tired lately... maybe it's all the travel or the relative lack of sleep; I just wish I had the motivation and energy to go out. It would certainly help if it weren't so damn cold outside, too.

Tomorrow should be interesting, though. We'll just have to see how crazy it gets!

Sidenote: I've been on a Harry Potter binge recently, and I don't think I could be more excited for Deathly Hallows, pt II. But screw Harry fighting Voldemort; I can't wait to see Molly Weasley beat the shit out of Bellatrix Lestrange. It's going to be one of the most epic and satisfying moments in good-versus-evil history. One for the books. Seriously. So excited.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I amar prestar aen...

5:42 pm CET

Why, yes; I am having an extended Lord of the Rings marathon today! Nearly twelve hours of pure fantasy goodness. Two down and one to go... nothing to beat it!

This has been my whole day and I have no regrets. None whatsoever. It is so very wonderful spending a day immersed in brilliant films. Definitely better than trying to brave today's snow and bitter cold, that's for sure.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Boldog karácsonyt!

3:05 pm CET

Yesterday Matt, a Hungarian guy we don't know, and I--apparently being the only people in the Collegium without places to be for Christmas--were moved to another dorm down the street so our dorm's staff could go home for the holiday. I packed up enough for a few days and bought some food to last, as well, and then we walked the short distance to our home for the weekend.

It's a nice place, but more like a hotel than a dorm, if you ask me. The rooms are big enough for one person, but there are three beds in the room. I can't imagine how cramped it would be if three people had to live in here... that would be terrible. We're on the fifth floor and the view is amazing! I can see my own dorm and everything beyond it and, if I go to the other side of the building, I can see across the river into Pest. It's pretty cool; I know I wouldn't mind waking up to that every day.

So yesterday all I did was watch movies and play games and it's looking about the same for today. It's all rainy outside and my desire for chinese food is not great enough to make me go out and find some, so I guess I'll just enjoy some more movies and pretend that I fulfilled my Jewish Christmas obligation.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone who is celebrating. Hopefully your weather isn't as grey as it is here. But maybe that's even more of an excuse to eat, drink, and be merry? Meh. Maybe, haha.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again."

9:37 pm Central European Time (CET)

I am so happy to be back in Budapest. Travelling for nearly two weeks straight has taken its toll, and I am more than relieved that I now have time to sleep all day and be blissfully idle.

Yesterday, my last day in Athens, I mostly sat around and got some rest. I knew I wouldn't be sleeping during the night, since I had another early flight the next morning, so I opted to snooze during the day. I did, however, go out for an hour or two to take a walk. I went to the Olympic Stadium from the first contemporary Olympic Games in 1896, which was pretty cool. It's a fully restored ancient stadium made entirely of white marble; it was once used for the Panathenaic games to honour Athena way back when. From the stadium I walked across the street and through the National Gardens (parts of which were kind of sketchy, to be honest) till I ended up at the Zappeion, a convention center-like building in the center of the park. There was a Christmas fair being held on its grounds, and I walked around a bit more before heading back toward the hostel. I bought some food for later and went straight to sleep; I was more exhausted than I thought I was, I guess.

Once I woke up, I tried to pass the several remaining hours before my flight by watching movies. Two movies later and I still had a long ways to go, so I gave up, checked out, and got a cab to the airport. I didn't sleep there, either, but at least I didn't have to worry anymore about being on time. The flights themselves were fine; I just hate all the waiting and waiting and waiting that one is forced to endure in airports. But now I'm here again and I couldn't be happier. The sky was clear and there were icy patches on the Danube; it couldn't have been a better welcome home!

Now that I'm back, all I've done is sleep and mess around online. Tomorrow is looking to be the exact same and, frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way. I need a break from moving about all the time, that's for sure.

And a sidenote: if I hear another smooth jazz rendition of Sleigh Ride ever again, I might have to kill someone. Just something to keep in mind for the future.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The best laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry.

8:35 pm EET

Well, Cape Sounion plans ended up not working out after all. It would have been really cool to see the Temple of Poseidon against the epic backdrop of the Sea, but I guess that'll just have to wait for another time. It gives me an excuse to come back someday (not that I need one, of course).

I slept in late and enjoyed staying in bed for most of the morning. I rushed out to the meeting place for the last two tours I've been on this week, but after half an hour and still no bus, I let my impatience take over and I decided to wander around the neighbourhood. I bought a t-shirt (it says "THIS IS SPARTA" on it and I have no shame whatsoever) and went to a nice little restaurant for lunch. I ordered some delicious Greek specialties--stuffed grape leaves (incredible) and some lamb meatballs (exceptional). I may just go back tomorrow for my last meal in Greece... goodness knows the food alone is worth it.

Following lunch and a cup of coffee, I bought some fresh spinach and cheese pie to reheat for dinner and then returned to the hostel for the day. Turns out one of the new girls in my room is from K's Rome program! Small world, eh? It's funny how we all end up in the same places. Like remember the wannabe archaeologist old guy I mentioned earlier from the Mycenae trip? Well I saw him in Delphi and on the Acropolis (wearing the same ridiculous getup). Small world, indeed.

Tomorrow I'll walk to the Panathenaic Stadium, the fully restored ancient stadium where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. After that... I'll probably just go to a café and laze around before coming back and relaxing in the hostel. I think I'm ready to be back in my bed in Budapest... it's been a long two weeks and I'm definitely looking forward to being in a city I know again. I've missed it!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ascending the Acropolis.

8:53 pm EET

Yesterday was fairly uneventful. I walked to the Olympieion (the Temple of Zeus) across the major street near the hostel and wandered around there a bit, but quickly the chill and my cold got to me and I decided to go back and rest. I bought some medicine at a pharmacy and got some snacks for later, and then I returned to the hostel where I slept for the rest of the day.

Today I woke feeling a lot better. I slept in a bit (which was wonderful) and left around ten. I walked the few minutes to the base of the Acropolis and started my climb upward. I took my time, deciding to take it slow and steady, paying attention to the other ruins that line the road to the peak, such as the Odeon of Herodes, the Stoa of Eumenes, and the Theatre of Dionysus, rather than just making a straight shot to the top. I'm glad I did, too, because otherwise I would have missed some beautiful relics. The theatre was like the other two I saw in Epidaurus and Delphi, albeit somewhat more affected by time. The Odeon (another theatre), however, was mostly restored and looked ready for a performance. As mixed as my feelings are about restoration using modern materials, I think that the Odeon really does look lovely. Hopefully the restoration of the Parthenon will meet a similar fate, and it won't look like a patchwork of ancient and newly-cut stones fused together.

When I made it to the top of the Acropolis, I was met with a wonderfully mind-blowing sight. The entrance to the temple complex, the Propylaea, is enormous and beautiful. Beside it is a small temple dedicated to Nike, the goddess of victory, who always accompanied Athena. Both the Propylaea and the Temple of Athena Nike are being restored, but neither are quite finished yet. Anyway, after gaping at the Propylaea for a significant amount of time, I continued on toward the Parthenon. As a lover of mythology (and Athena being my favourite of the Greek pantheon), I felt I owed this towering place a certain reverence greater than the respect I already possess toward the structures of ancient Greece. Though I knew how much the temple has suffered since its construction more than two thousand years ago, I was immensely saddened by the its state; after countless raids and careless attacks, it is lacking much of its former glory. The glorious statue of Athena that once graced the inner sanctuary is long gone, and the decorations from the east and west pediments have also been almost completely destroyed. Compared to some of the other temples I've seen, though, the Parthenon is in good shape for its age. Its original beauty is easily reconstructed in one's mind, and, all things considered, some of that beauty and a different kind of otherworldly splendor exists still in its ever so slightly asymmetrical pillars.

Once I had sufficiently geeked out on the Acropolis, I made my way down to the Agora. I had hoped to find the Tower of the Winds in the Roman Forum within the Agora, but I couldn't locate it... maybe I'll go back tomorrow or Sunday to look for it. I walked a little through the site and exited on the other side into a very busy avenue filled with shops, street vendors, and restaurants. I walked all the way back around to the Plaka neighbourhood near my hostel and grabbed some lunch before heading over to the New Acropolis Museum. I was completely blown away; the museum is built on top of an archaeological site and the floors are glass so you can see through to the ancient buildings below, which scientists are excavating from time to time. The Museum is amazing! Within its walls are several artifacts recovered from the Acropolis temples; there are friezes and statues and bits and pieces from bronze shields and spears and sculptures. There are massive statues of dieties and mortals alike, and part of the The Porch of the Caryatids, all of which are absolutely gorgeous. The most impressive piece they have (I think, at least) is the relief known as the Pensive or Mourning Athena. It depicts Athena at what seems to be a gravestone, leaning on her spear and looking thoughtful and tired. I have seen it several times in books, but seeing it in person was incredible; it is one of the most well-known pieces of ancient Greek art, as it is one of the first to use emotion as its main focus, rather than an action. Seeing it made me exceptionally happy, and it was an even better find because I had forgotten that it was housed here in the New Acropolis Museum.

When I had finished the rounds in the Museum, I bought some more food for later and returned to the hostel where I have been hanging around since, chatting with a bunch of people who are also staying here. I've made friends (sort of) with a young psychologist from Uruguay, a crazy (but very entertaining) grad student from Buffalo, a Mexican student on holiday, an Australian taking a year off, and a kind of crude guy from London. They're all rather strange, and it's definitely interesting talking to them and sharing experiences.

Tomorrow I'm supposed to be going on a tour to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, so hopefully it works out and the weather will be nice (or, at least, nicer than the cold and cloudy the last couple days have been). It's starting to feel like Budapest here!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Delphi (Δελφοί), old and new.

9:38 pm EET

Today was yet one more long day on the road. I took another day tour (with the same company), but to Delphi this time. The two state representatives (Kenny and Jay) from yesterday were on this tour, too, so it was good to see some familiar faces.

We drove for a couple hours before stopping at a café in a small town near Thebes (so many Oedipus jokes; holy crap) where I got some coffee and a couple pieces of baklava for later. We continued onward in the rain, hoping that it would clear before we got to Delphi. The rain stopped, but then the fog rolled in; driving through the mountains toward Mount Parnassus (I was thoroughly excited; so much mythology surrounds the mountain!!) was absolutely terrifying--I could barely see the road in front of the bus!

When we finally arrived, we got our tickets for the museum and archaeological site and went off to explore. The location itself high in the mountains was beautiful enough, but coupling that with the aura of history that permeates the site was almost overwhelming. The remnants of the Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo, and the amphitheatre were gorgeous, and it was incredible to think that everyone from common, everyday pilgrims to the most powerful of kings came to this very place to consult the Oracle (or, "virgin tripping on ethylene and bay leaves babbling complete and utter nonsense").

After hanging around the ruins for a while, we moved on to the Delphi museum. All of the statues and relics discovered at the site are kept at the museum. The stuff they had was amazing! Most of what the tour guide was describing I already knew, but actually seeing the sculptures and friezes that I'd only before seen in books was an awesome experience.

From the museum we drove into the modern mountain town of Delphi for lunch at a hotel for skiers visiting Mount Parnassus. It seemed as though no one else was there; the only people in the dining room was our tour group. Lunch was good; pretty much the same as what we had on the tour yesterday. I sat with Kenny and Jay and we had a nice time chatting over lunch. Once we'd finished, we drove to the tiny town of Arachova in the mountains to do a little shopping. I bought a rather inexpensive woven bag with the Parthenon on it (I needed a small bag, haha); the shop owner said that it was locally made, so I'm happy.

Driving back wasn't so bad. It didn't take nearly as long as the trip yesterday, but that's because most of the traffic was gone or managed. I've had dinner and eaten my baklava (so delicious!!) and now I'm just hanging out in the hostel's kitchen/social room watching a movie. I still feel awful, but not as bad as yesterday or this afternoon. I certainly hope I'll feel better tomorrow... at least I get to sleep in for the first time in days. I don't really have a plan for tomorrow, but I'm thinking the Temple of Zeus (it's right across the street) and taking a walk around Syntagma Square. But plans can change, of course. If it rains again, maybe I'll just spend a day inside recuperating! There's nothing wrong with taking a day off to sleep all day... right?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Nafplion.

8:41 EET
I barely slept last night and, now that I’ve gotten very little sleep this week, I have a terrible cold. I can’t stop sniffing and I can’t really breathe. I feel like shit, which is awful in and of itself, regardless of the fact that I’m on vacation.
Despite my miserable cold, I still had a lot of fun today. I went on a day tour to Epidaurus and Mycenae, with a quick stop in Nafplion. It was so awesome! Once we escaped the traffic of the city, we drove past the sea and tall mountains; it was all gorgeous. Our first stop, however, was at the Corinth Canal. It was incredible! The tour guide (Joy, I think her name was) told us that it was built by the same company that built the Suez Canal over a hundred years ago, and that they used the original Roman construction plans from Nero's construction workers. How cool is that?
After seeing the canal and grabbing a quick breakfast, we kept driving till we reached Epidaurus. It’s a pretty big excavation site on a mountainside that was a temple complex dedicated to the god of medicine, Asclepius. They’re still restoring the baths and the hospital (aka a hallucinogen-inducing basement), but the amphitheatre has been nearly completely preserved. It was so amazing; we tested the acoustics and they were amazing, too. It’s a wonder that they were able to harness such amplification technology just through architecture alone. Sitting at the very top row one could hear everything! On the way through the ruins, I chatted with some of the other tour-goers: I mostly spoke with a father-mother-daughter trio from Atlanta and two state representatives (older Kenny from Missouri and younger Jay from Ohio). There was also an old guy dressed up in what seemed (to me) to be stereotypical excavation attire (cargo vest and Indy-like hat included)... I think he was a wannabe archaeologist; he kept taking notes and he had an "Ancient Greeks for Dummies" book. It was pretty entertaining.
From Epidaurus we continued to Mycenae and went to the crumbling fortress and palace on the hill. I started geeking out as soon as I saw the Lion Gate; it was just as incredible as I thought it would be. It was definitely cool to imagine what it would have been like in its glory days, though, and the location is absolutely beautiful. I was just fascinated by the fact that (assuming they were real), King Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra walked in the same steps. I was thoroughly taken by the history of the place, to say the least.
We left Mycenae and drove a little down the hill to another site, the tomb of Atreus, Agamemnon’s father. It was simultaneously creepy and mind-bogglingly interesting; the light only entered the tomb through a rectangular door and a small triangle above it, so the rest of the structure was cast in shadows. After hanging around the tomb for a little while, we left and went a short ways to a really nice hotel (that seemed strangely in the middle of nowhere) for a delicious Greek lunch. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten spanakopita (spinach pie) that tasty before…
By this time it was around 4:00 and thus time to return to Athens. We made one last stop in Nafplion to grab some photos of the three fortresses (one of which was on an island in the sea!) near the harbour. We quickly took pictures and then hopped back on the bus for the hour and half ride back to the city. The traffic was once again a nightmare, but I finally made it back to the hostel. Before going in, though, I walked around a street in the Plaka, an old neighbourhood filled with shops and tiny cafés at the base of the Acropolis. I got my first glimpse of the Parthenon, and it was breathtakingly beautiful all lit up in the night.
Delphi tomorrow! SO EXCITED.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome to Αθήνα!

8:00 pm Eastern European Time (EET)

Today was certainly a whirlwind of insanity, to say the very least. Being up for more than twenty-four hours is not my definition of fun, and it never fails to turn me into a bundle of nerves and negative emotions.

The entire night was spent with SarahJean in the airport watching movies and hanging around. When it came time to check in for my flight, I was grilled by this Israeli security guy. It was going fine until he asked me how long I'd been in Israel. He seemed shocked when I said five days; so shocked, in fact, that he had to call another security guy over to interrogate me about my apparent lack of clothing. Because packing light and not particularly caring to check the weather forecast raises a gigantic red flag. At least, it does to these guys. And, to make matters worse, as the second security guy is flinging inane questions at me, I'm shifting my weight because I'm 1.) pissed off, 2.) impatient, and 3.) absolutely terrified. He stops in the middle of his question and says "are you nervous? Why are you nervous?" Why the hell do you think?!

Following that security disaster, check-in was a complete and total joke. It took 45 minutes; nearly every single person in line before me had a million bags to check in, and I was lucky to make it to the gate in time. Even before I could get to the gate, I had to go through security twice more. I mean, I understand that Israeli security is always on high alert, but this felt like a bit much.

The flight itself from Tel Aviv to Rome was awful, too, with one exception. There were crying children, kvetching jerks who had an issue with everything and everyone, and three people standing in the middle of the aisle to pray for the plane's safety. It seemed that the flight attendants were at their wits' ends dealing with everyone, and I, already exhausted and irritated, was feeling their pain. The woman seated next to me, however, was the only redeeming factor of this flight. She is one of the most interesting people I've ever had the honour of speaking with, and I am rather sad that we never exchanged names. She's a Finnish lady who has been living in France for most of her life. She worked for the French consolate in New York City for six years and has travelled the world with her husband numerous times over. She has spent a month every summer for the last nine years in Budapest and we exchanged adventures and tips. She told me of her trips to South America and Africa and all around Europe, and I recounted my comparatively short list of places. She and her husband were on their way back to Nice where they have an apartment. I really hope that when I'm her age, I'll have the time and money to enjoy a life of globetrotting. That would be so amazing.

Anyway, the flight got in late and I missed my connection to Athens. After freaking out sufficiently from lack of sleep and nerves, I calmed down, got a new ticket, and wandered the airport before I could board the plane. This flight was a breeze; fairly short and thankfully quiet. However, upon landing in Athens, I discovered that--surprise!--the Greek public transportation workers are all on strike. For practically the entire week. The cab fare from the airport to my hostel alone was 60 euros; luckily I've already paid for my three day tours and the hostel is close to nearly all the awesome stuff I want to see while I'm here, so I won't need another cab until I go back to the airport early next Monday morning.

For the most part, I had an awful day. Stressful, emotionally taxing, and altogether not too great. Now that I'm here and mostly settled, though, I'm feeling a lot better and I'm ready to face this new city and explore to my heart's content. The classics nerd in me is going to be in paradise!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thunder and lightning and sandstorms, oh my!

10:50 pm IST

Let me say first how ecstatic I am that this dear blog of mine has not been deleted. For a moment I was terrified that all my months of writing would have been for naught, but we're back and I couldn't be happier! So, let me heave a thankful sigh of relief, stretch out my fingers, and I shall recount to you my interesting (albeit short) adventures in the Holy Land.

The day after I arrived, Chloe, SarahJean, and I hopped on a bus and went to the Dead Sea. The weather was lovely; not too hot, but not too cold. It felt like a late spring day, and I kept getting weirded out every time I remembered that it is December. The bus ride wasn't too long, and the desert mountain landscape that flashed by us was beautiful. The Sea came out of nowhere; there were mounds of rock and sand and all of a sudden they disappeared and this magnificent vista of the Sea and Jordan across the water came into view. Once at the beach, we floated around in the (strangely slimy) water and took some token "floating with the newspaper" photos, and I'd say we had a largely successful afternoon. We returned to Be'er Sheva and I relaxed in Rachel's room, and we prepared for her program's trip to Tzfat on which I tagged along.

The trip left the next morning and we drove far up north to the mountains. Watching the desert give way to forests was a little strange, but also reassuring in a way. When we got close to Tzfat, we stopped at Mt. Meron to hike around the peak. Our guide, Baruch, was from Huntington Woods before moving to Israel; how crazy is that? Anyway, the mountain was very pretty; lots of trees and clear views into the valleys below. After the hike, we continued upwards toward Tzfat, where we checked into the hotel (which was quite nice) and got ready for Shabbat. We baked challah (mine was rather poorly braided) and then went to services at a small shul in the Old Town. It was nothing like I've ever experienced before; the service consisted of loud, joyful, lively song with bouts of muttering prayer interspersed throughout. The singing was powerful and moving, but I found that I resented them tremendously for it. I wanted to be part of the mob of men on the main floor but, as a woman in an orthodox place, I had to be upstairs. I felt thoroughly left out, and, though I knew what to expect, I had not expected how much it would hurt. The meal following services was splendid, and after dinner and a quick chat with some Chasidim, I went up to the room to sleep.

The next day was rainy, windy, and very cold. Rachel and I, instead of joining the two-hour walking tour, made the wise decision to stay in the hotel and rest. I am so glad we did, too, because the rain and wind only got worse as the morning crawled on. We went to a short lecture on Kaballah and dreams, and after that we relaxed some more, had some snacks, went to Havdallah, and got back on the bus to return to Be'er Sheva. When we got back, Rachel and I did some laundry and sat around talking and giggling and having some good, old fashioned fun.

Today we woke and did not feel like doing much of anything. We were far too sleepy to function properly, so we ended up sleeping till around noon. Then we spent the day in her room hanging out before she took me to the bus station (during a sandstorm), where I got a bus to Jerusalem to meet up with Chloe and SarahJean. SarahJean and I soon afterward got on a bus to the airport in Tel Aviv where we are now waiting for our flights early tomorrow morning. There is a huge thunderstorm (and it was hailing at one point), and I am hoping that the flights won't get delayed at all... the time I have between connecting flights in Rome is short enough as it is; I can't afford any lost time.

So, though my time in Israel was short, it was pretty fun. Being with Rachel was fantastic and I was so glad I had the chance to be with a great friend. I am so excited for Greece tomorrow; hopefully the weather will be better there than it has been here!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hineni - Here I am.

12:34 am Israel Standard Time (IST)

I am exhausted. Waking up at four is never fun, but having to endure several hours of travel afterward is just painful. Getting to Ferihegy was no problem, neither was flying to Rome. The flight from Rome to Tel Aviv was interesting, though, to say the least. The guy next to me was high as a kite, having just flown in from Amsterdam, and was en route to Israel because, apparently, he was to attend a huge pot harvesting festival. He wasted no time in telling me of his European weed-related exploits before derailing and talking about Canucks hockey (he was a Canadian fellow). Finally he fell asleep and I tried to do the same, but I didn't get much rest.

Once through security (which wasn't so bad, surprisingly enough) I met Chloe and her friend SarahJean (who, surprisingly enough, is also studying in Budapest) and we took a train into Be'er Sheva. It has the feel of a suburb rather than a city. Or a small city like Kalamazoo. I think that's why I'm not so weirded out yet that I'm in Israel; it just doesn't feel like I thought it would. At least, not yet.

Dr. Haus is here doing some K stuff (I think), so he took Rachel, Chloe, and I out for dinner. It was nice!! We went to this place called Gecko and had some really good food and entertaining conversation. But now... now I am just ready for bed. It has been a very, very long day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I've gotta jump on the wind's back and away I'll go!

4:14 pm CET

Practically everybody is gone now. Julianne left for home this morning, and I'm fairly certain that Ada and I are the only BSCS people still here in the dorm. It's sort of a weird feeling...

On a happier note: I'm going to Israel tomorrow!!!! I am more excited than a neuron during action potential (sorry; horrid joke, I know). And after Israel, I'm off to Athens for a whole week! It's so terribly thrilling, but I am a teensy bit nervous, too. I always get so anxious in airports; what if I can't find my gate? What if security takes too long? What if I miss my flight? Too many problematic scenarios go through my head at once and I just get a little overwhelmed. Since my flight is at 7:25, I have to get up super-early once again to make sure I have enough time for transportation and whatnot. Arriving too early I can deal with; I just really, really don't want to be late.

For some bizarre reason, I have to backtrack to Italy before I can continue east to Israel. I've got a two-hour layover in Rome and I hop on another plane to Tel Aviv, so maybe I'll buy a t-shirt in the airport and pretend that I went to Italy. I've heard the airport is massive and I'm a little nervous about finding my way there, too. I'm sure I'll be fine, though. Just gotta be time-conscious, right?

Regardless of what happens in the airports, I am beyond hyped for this nearly two-week long trip to a couple of the most historical places on Earth. I'm not sure when I'll be able to update, but I will do my best. For now... viszontlátásra Hungary, and helloooooooo Mediterranean!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All good things must come to an end and parting is such sweet sorrow.

11:44 am CET

After three days without internet, I am happy to say that we are back up and running again! It's only slightly pathetic how annoyed and anxious I became without it... but really, when one's sole method of communication is through a computer, being disconnected can cause some problems (not the least of which being intense, incurable boredom).

Anyway, our last week of real classes, and therefore the BSCS program, has ended. The class was nothing special; very much the same as the some of the others (meaning I was sleepy and not paying close attention). On Thursday we shook up the routine a little by having a Secret Santa gift exchange; I had gotten a couple Transformers toys for Matt, and Dan got me a question coin in Hungarian. Following Thursday's class, Jane, Julianne, Yoana and I took the six from school in the hope of going to Moszkva tér for lunch, but the transportation pass-checky-people were out and accosted us. The lady, for some unknown reason, kept asserting that Yoana's pass was invalid and was trying to make her pay, so Yoana got off the tram. I got separated from the other three in the hustle, but we met up again at Trombitás for mulled wine and a tasty lunch. After eating, we walked around in search of a hands-on science museum called (in English) the "Palace of Miracles" (Csodák Palotája in Hungarian). When we finally found it, though, we couldn't get in because they were about to close. We went home and attempted to study for the exam the next day, but due to a serious lack of internet, very little studying actually occurred.

Following the exam on Friday morning, Jane, Yoana, Catherine, Ada, and I went back to Millenáris Park near Moszkva tér and again found the Palace of Miracles, but this time it was open. We had such a blast running around playing with the exhibits; it definitely took me back to when I went to the Detroit Science Center as a kid. A lot of the exhibits were related to optical illusions and tasks we studied in class, actually. It would have made an awesome field trip! After we'd had our fill of entertainment at the museum, we went to the other end of the park to a small, kinda funky café for some mulled wine ('tis the season, right?). Then we went down the street to the City Pub for lunch. It was great to spend a last day with friends; most of them will be gone by this time tomorrow, and I'm going to miss them terribly...

Last night was the official "end of BSCS" dinner with the program coordinators. A few of the professors were there, too, along with Niki and Zoli and some others. All of us participants were there (save for Carrie, Catherine, Dion, and Tristan) and, though these wouldn't be our last goodbyes, they certainly felt like it. We got some good free food and certificates for completing the program, and we even got tupperware to take the leftovers home with us! It was a nice evening and, though we weren't eager to miss out on our last night together, we were all quite tired, so we went back to the dorm to chill instead of staying out to party.

Catherine left yesterday, Jane left this morning, Yoana leaves later this afternoon, and Julianne leaves early next week. Half of our BSCS contingent will soon be gone, and even then, many K students will be in and out of Budapest till we all go home in February. I doubt the quasi-cohesion of the group before will last now that it's only Kalamazoo students; we'll see one another, to be sure, but I don't think there will be any group dinners or drinking excursions or explorations. Hopefully we won't entirely drift, but I fear that's where we're headed. But who knows... maybe we'll crave one another's company.

But here's to you, BSCS friends. The last three months have been wonderful, and I hope we see one another again someday. Have safe and happy travels, and don't be strangers!