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!