Thursday, December 29, 2011

Not home for Christmas

This Christmas my friend, Jess, who many of you have been praying for and thinking about, was not with her family. She is still being held hostage in Somalia. Please keep her in your thoughts for a safe return home soon.

Jess, we still hope and pray.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Like everyone else around the world who celebrates Christmas...

We ate!
And drank.
And hoped for snow.
On our Christmas afternoon walk through the city, we saw some remnants of the few flakes that graced us on Christmas Eve Eve.
It was a gorgeous sunny winter day with friends, pumpkin pie, ham, presents, and several phone calls around the world.

Merry Christmas from Budapest!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Living in a News-less Culture

Budapest is a laid-back city, and Hungary even more so. The news stories are no different: not much to report. Whenever I peruse the Hungarian news, the stories are sometimes political, but most often not. More typical are articles about living in Budapest or a famous person's birthday. My favorite article last month was the five best places to buy kremes, a typical Hungarian dessert. These are today's headlines:

Budapest Mayor Asks Theater Director To Reconsider Hiring Of Csurka Following Anti-Semitic Screed

Tales from an American College Student Studying in Europe

A little different than Kenya invading Somalia or America withdrawing from Iraq. But I like the calm atmosphere in my new city. It's peaceful. I think I'll be happy living in a news-less culture. For awhile, at least.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cool Kids

A third grade conversation in reading group today:

"Falsely attractive is like the food on Vietnam airlines. They try to make it look good, but it's not."

"Ya, in Turkey it's like that too because they try to sell designer bags, but the rhinestones just fall off."

How many countries can we mention when talking about one vocabulary word? My kids are so cool! And the best part is... traveling the world is so normal for them, part of their every day lives. I love it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

The last three Christmases looked like this:
80 degrees, a nice sun tan, swimming pools, and flowers blooming never quite felt like Christmas for this Alaska girl.

This year Christmas looks like this:
Christmas markets, mulled wine, lights hung, wooly hats, my HUGE new warm parka... It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And feel like it too... Brrr! But my first European Christmas definitely puts me in the Christmas spirit! It's even inspired the making of 5 stockings and a tree skirt (thank you pinterest).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Guest Rooms Ready!

With guests coming in October,
we have been busy getting rooms ready.

We started first with this:
And changed it to this:
Next room was looking like this:
Now it's a little more suitable and we have this:
Porter B&B is open for business.
Come on over!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

World Politics

I know, it's a taboo subject anywhere you go. In Kenya it was tribal divides (that caused a LOAD of violence). In Hungary it's liberal vs. conservative vs. extremist vs. a whole lot of parties. In America it's always Republican vs. Democrat (meaning "Christian vs. non-Christian" from the Republican perspective and "non-thinker vs. enlightened" from the Democratic perspective). Everyone has a point of view. Everyone has an opinion. Some people listen to various opinions. Some people don't want to listen to anyone else's opinion because they KNOW. I've heard politics preached from the church pulpit (in more than one country) and politics come up in conversations on the public tram. Living rooms, kitchens, coffee shops, meetings... people talk politics. But what are they really talking about? Mostly what I hear in those conversations is what is wrong with the "other side". What is wrong with the Muslims. What is wrong with the Americans. What is wrong with the Africans. What is wrong with Christians. What is wrong with non-Christians. The truth is, we're all wrong. No one has it right. Because if we were, then we wouldn't have all the mess we have in the world. People in every country would have homes and food and jobs. Political leaders wouldn't be so greedy and would actually want to HELP the people they represent. People would look a little beyond themselves to view things from a different perspective.

I've had the privilege to live in a few different parts of the world now. And naturally, my perspective changes a little bit with each new place and each new person I meet. I can go off on my soap box like anyone else (maybe that's what this post is). But after seeing the perspective from a few different places, I have to say... Politics will always be the same no matter where you go. It's never going to get better because people are involved. Greedy, selfish, ego-centric people. And that includes all of us because we all have a perspective we want heard.

A few months ago I was living in Africa next to a slum where people were starving. I couldn't handle the sadness and frustration anymore, so I moved to Europe. Now I'm buying new furniture and new clothes. All the while, knowing friends in Kenya who have no jobs and can't feed their kids, throwing a few coins into the homeless guy's cup on the Budapest street. What am I really doing to not be greedy and selfish and focus on myself? Still working on that one. It's all politics - even internally. And I think, if we all ACTUALLY tried to see from another perspective, how would our politics change?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Missing Kenya

Yep, I said it. I'm actually missing Kenya a bit. After being in Hungary for 2 1/2 months, I'm finally having some I-miss-Kenya moments. Maybe the "honeymoon stage" is wearing off. Maybe I'm just tired from work. Maybe it's time to remember the good times of Kenya rather than the slum I left. Regardless, here are some of the things I've been remembering and missing with fondness...

Friends, of course.

Good Art Cafe bread. Haven't found a Hungarian bakery that measures up.

Diversity! Everyone here has white skin. Everyone here is from Western culture. I miss the mix Nairobi has. I actually miss NOT blending in. (Although I must say, Hungarians stare worse than Kenyans. This was kind of nice when I first arrived and I was staring at all the white people. I just fit in with my freakish staring.)

More down time. In Kenya the city doesn't have a whole lot to offer, so quite a bit of time is spent at home reading, watching movies, baking, just chillin' out. Not so much here in Hungary. I kind of miss snuggling on the couch on a Friday night, Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night...

Still appreciative of life in Budapest. Still thankful for my new job. Still happy to be living in Europe. At the same time, very grateful for what Kenya gave me as well!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What's in style in Hungary?

The mornings have a nip in the air and the nights are cooling down in Budapest. As the weather changes, so does the wardrobe of Hungarians. Coats, boots, scarves, and... TIGHTS. Women are coming out in full force, still donning their skirts, but covering their legs with tights. Now these are not just plain colored tights you wore when you were seven. You can see black and brown and the old tan-nylon ones our mothers wore (or wear). And then you can see red, turquoise, and green. But the best are the patterned ones with designs and colors that you find on old drapes (the kind that Fraulein Maria would use to make clothes for the Von Trapp kids). I'm not kidding! Today the lady next to me on the bus had tights that looked like a brown doily. I suppose the various designs and colors give character and individuality to personal fashion. However, I just don't think I can adopt this particular European style. Deep down I keep thinking of eight year old Kim wearing white tights with purple hearts all over them. And what was cool at eight, just isn't so cool in your 30's.

Europe, I love your Zara's and H&M's and Promod's, but I just can't do the tights.

I may be eating my words in a year's time. We'll see...!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cooking success!

I haven't been much use in the kitchen lately. My wonderful husband has been doing most of the cooking since we arrived in Hungary. Mostly because he is better at it than me. And partly because starting school was a bit hectic for me. But tonight I decided to get off my lazy bum and cook a decent meal. A little perusing on the internet gave me the idea of stuffed bell peppers. Yum! The recipe online called for too many ingredients, so I toned it down to create something that seemed good to me and headed to Match, the corner grocery store three minutes walk from our door. (Gotta love living in the city!) This is what I ended up creating...
Now these peppers probably look a little different than what you expect. I had to cut them long-ways because Hungarian peppers look like this:
Instead of this:
But it worked and created a great meal. Here's how I did it...

Ingredients (Measurements are estimated, as I kind of just did it as I went along.)
4 bell peppers
1/3 cup rice
5 strips bacon
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 or 3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 lb ground beef (or ground pork if you live in Hungary)
1 1/4 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup grated cheese (parmesan or cheddar are my preferences)
various spices (ground chilies, chili powder, pepper, etc.)

1. Preheat oven to 200 Celsius or 375 Fahrenheit.
2. Cook rice (can be a little moist) and set aside.
3. Cook bacon. Let cool and break up into bacon bits. Set aside.
4. Cut bell peppers in half. Set aside.
5. Sautee garlic and onions (only 2 minutes or so). Then add ground meat to skillet and cook completely.
6. Add marinara sauce and various spices to the meat. (I like things a little more on the spicy side, so I add a lot of chili powder and paste and black pepper for flavor.)
7. Add rice and half the bacon bits to the meat mixture. Let mixture simmer until well mixed and flavorful (about 3 to 5 minutes).
8. When meat mixture is ready, add mixture to bell peppers, filling them to the top.
9. Sprinkle cheese and bacon bits on the top of each pepper.
10. Bake on cookie sheet or in casserole dish for 30 minutes at 200 C or 375 F.
(Tip: Grease the bottom of the cookware with a bit of olive oil and your peppers won't stick.)
11. Serve hot.

Makes a large helping for 2 or a small helping for 3. (We had left overs for my lunch tomorrow.)


Monday, September 12, 2011

Got bikes!

Saturday we took our new bikes out for a spin along the Danube. We headed north of the city and came across a lot of new finds!

This quaint square in Obuda (a small little village that has now merged with the city).
Pebble beaches on the river.
And little resort-like sections where we got a bite to eat. This concoction is meat and dumplings.
Looking at the picture, it kind of looks nasty, but it is really good. Hungarian food could definitely add on the pounds!

Honestly, this day was one of the best I've had in Budapest. The honeymoon phase of moving is still in full effect, and we're enjoying every bit of it!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weekends in Budapest

When I'm not working, this is what we do.

Meet up with friends for drinks or lunch or dinner,
At cool places like this...
Lazily walk around the city while it's still warm and summery,
And take in the sites like this...
And this...
And meander through parks like this...
See new sights, like these old Roman ruins only a few tram stops away from home.
And sleep in, of course!

Weekends in Budapest are definitely TOO short. But I suppose they're too short everywhere. How do you spend your weekends these days?

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Daily Routine

A friend teaching in Singapore recently posted about her school week. It very closely resembles mine, so I'll quote her here:

Wake up.
Drink coffee (for me it's sit on the tram for 40 minutes).
Wake up.
Sit on the tram for 40 minutes.
Wake up...

You get the picture. I'm TIRED! I got my first cold of the school year. I go to bed at 9pm. I don't even have energy to read before falling asleep. Starting school is always a shocker to the system. (I honestly don't know how people do this job and have a family!) Despite all of that, I have a great little class. I love my school. I work with cool people. It's still sunny and warm here. My dear husband takes good care of me! I'm having fun exploring the city on the weekends. And I get to sleep in tomorrow.

Thank goodness it's FRIDAY!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm spoiled!

I'm realizing (now that I'm back in a developed country) that I learned to live quite simply in Kenya. There weren't a lot of options in terms of groceries or furniture or anything really. We lived comfortably, but we didn't have all the conveniences of home, so to say. And honestly, I didn't miss them much. (Although I must admit that I did miss the occasional shopping trip with a girlfriend.) We learned to cook a lot of things from scratch, and were SO excited when they started selling tortillas in the store. Kenya is a gorgeous country and the chaos and laid-back approach to life added to its charm (most of the time). I learned to take things slower and be more patient. I learned to expect things to take days to get done, or sometimes weeks, or sometimes MONTHS. Sometimes it got on my nerves and other times I learned to shrug it off.

Now I'm living in Hungary. A developed country where things actually work. And things are mostly on time. Now, for my colleagues coming directly from the States, I've heard a few complaints about things being slow or not working. But you've got to be kidding me?! In Kenya it took 11 months for Will and I to get residency. Hungary is only 4 weeks! So I'm feeling very spoiled in my new home. Some of the things that make me happy lately include...

Super sonic speed internet


Drinkable tap water

Instant hot water in the shower

Parks with soft cut grass

Trams, busses, and metros

Shopping malls and big box stores

Nectarines and berries

I guess going from third world to first world will make someone excited about grass. I think living around the world has taught me to appreciate what I have in the moment. There is always something to be excited about and thankful for. In Kenya it was mangos. In Hungary it is blueberries. Maybe next it will be apples in Russia... (Let's hope not! Brrr!!!)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy St. Stephen's Day!

Saturday the crowds came out in Budapest to celebrate St. Stephen's Day.
St. Stephen's Day is the celebration of Hungary's birth. It could be compared to America's 4th of July, but it was 1000 years ago instead of 200 and it celebrates a king's achievement rather than opposition to a king.

Quick history lesson... St. Stephen is the patron saint of Hungary who killed his uncle in a fight for the throne, hung his body in pieces around the country, and united Hungary as one country. All more than 1000 years ago. He was sainted a few years after his death and Hungary kept his hand in St. Stephen's Basilica. Yep, a 1000 year old hand that you can still see on display in the church. Looks like Tales from the Crypt. Now Hungarians celebrate August 20 as St. Stephen's Day and the forming of their nation, when they parade St. Stephen's hand around the city and have lots of festivities.

On our first St. Stephen's Day roads were closed to traffic and trams all over down-town to accommodate the thousands of people who came out to join the festivities. Even the bridges hoisted the Hungarian flag as people swarmed from one side of the city to the other.
There was music and dancing in traditional Hungarian style.
We watched an air show from the castle as planes whizzed across the river and under bridges.
There were many performances on the cobble stone streets. Felt like being in Medieval times.
We ate Hungarian food from the many fair booths and window shopped through all the hand-made crafts. No buying for us this time!

The evening culminated with a HUGE fireworks display along the river. Three locations of fireworks all going off on the same time was an amazing site!
We didn't let the party end there though. Went out with friends in the castle district. This bar was built in the 1700's! So cool.
Our first Hungarian festival was a great experience. Looking forward to the beer festival next weekend and the wine festival two weekends after that. Lots of fun to be had!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Getting a life

I met some of my new co-workers on Saturday. Started working with them on Tuesday. And invited the new "crew" over for drinks at our house on Friday. We're getting to know each other...
Will has found some guys to hang, joke, and drink beer with.
I've found a few shopping buddies.
Elena is my 3rd grade co-worker. Her strong New York accent makes me laugh a lot, and we're having fun weeding through our classrooms across the hall from one another.
Debra lives in the building behind us, so she's very close by. We're going to try to be work-out buddies and hit the running trail on Margaret Island.
FINALLY, we have some friends. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hopped the train

Last week we hopped a train to Prague. Our last bit of holiday before I start work. Will's birthday celebration. See friends. Enjoy the close proximity of European countries.
We stayed at Mosaic House again. They always take good care of us!
It rained quite a bit, but that never stopped us before.
Perused the local art.
While in the Czech Republic, we decided to take a couple days to see somewhere new. So we headed to Karlovy Vary (aka Carlsbad). It's a big spa town. You may have heard of it from James Bond's Casino Royale. This is the place.
The hotel on the right in this picture is the Grand Hotel Pupp (aka Bond's casino).
It's quite nice! It's where Brad Pitt and Robert DeNiro stay when they come for the film festival here each summer. It's also where Russian maffia come for holiday or other activities. I think we saw a few Russian mobsters. One guy actually looked like James Bond - swagger and everything.

We didn't hang out much at the Grand Hotel Pupp (actually pronounced "poop"). But we did meander the streets at sunset.
See lots of Chinese tour groups. (No, I didn't use the opportunity to practice my very poor Chinese, but I could still pick out a few words as I walked by. Not so bad, if I do say so!)
And tried the local mineral spring water.
Karlovy Vary has a lot of natural springs with medicinal "healing" mineral waters. So we tested it out... The thing to do is buy these little cups and fill them up as you wander the town from spring to spring. So we did.
Tastes like nickels and dimes. Disgusting! I don't care if it's good for your health, I couldn't get down more than a sip at each spring. But it was fun trying!

As Will said on the train ride home, "Well, that was one of many trips." Looking forward to it!