Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There's no place like home...

The train pulled up to Keleti Station and I jumped off.  I was home.  Home in Budapest.  After a short 10 day trip around Europe with friends, we arrived back in Hungary yesterday.  No matter where I've lived, home always has the same feeling...  Familiar.  There is something about the familiarity of my neighborhood, my street, the three flights of stairs to my flat, and my own couch.  And nothing says "home" like sleeping in my own bed!  Summer is quickly coming to a close for the teaching crew, but being home still feels good.

More to come from summer travels in Sweden, Denmark, Amsterdam, Germany, and Czech Republic.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hit the Beach

Have you ever heard of Varna, Bulgaria?  Probably not.  We hadn't either until we found cheap airplane tickets, looked it up on the internet, and hit "buy".  Varna is a beach town on the Black Sea.  It looks like a bunch of beach resorts threw up in the Old Soviet Union.  Which gives it a unique feel.

Communist statues still standing.
Cheap everything.
White sand.
Blue waters.
Sunbathers under umbrellas.
Cocktails to drink.
Old history.

I would recommend it for a long weekend with friends.  Was a great little get away.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In the midst of processing...

I'm going to be very real for a moment.  I'm sure I'll offend someone as I have in the past.  But maybe this post will shed some light on why my opinionated, sometimes smart-ass, sometimes stupid comments have been what they have in the past.  And why I'm apologizing for it.

I just read this article: 7 Stages of White Identity

While the title and some of the article doesn't exactly pertain to me, it definitely hit a cord.  The cultural identity cord.  I live abroad amongst a slew of cultures.  I teach their kids.  I go out for drinks with friends from the 4 corners of the globe.  I travel the world.  And I love every minute of it.  And then I get "back home" and talk to friends in America, and I get feelings of embarrassment, guilt, shame, frustration, self-righteousness about being American and rising above my "Americanness".  I've often had this attitude that I'm enlightened above those Americans who haven't traveled, who don't know people from other cultures.  I've thought my diverse friends and experiences gave a more realistic view of the world rather than the narrow small-town perspective I grew up with.  While my experiences have definitely shaped my perspective, my attitude and stages of cultural awareness have sometimes made me a big jerk.  I've been naive.

All the embarrassment, guilt, shame, frustration, and self-righteousness are real feelings.  I can't deny that.  But they come from my internal process of trying to sort out cultural identity - the culture of others, my culture, and the culture I grew up in.  Just like the guy in the article, I've definitely gone through phases.  They're not quite the same as this guy, but I would say I've been sitting in an "ashamed" phase for awhile.  Ashamed that I'm American.  Ashamed at what my country thinks, does, chooses.  So ashamed that sometimes I don't want to admit I'm American.  What an ungrateful brat.  

The truth is, I can now see that this has been part of my process of reconciling the cultural clashes I see around me.  Christians vs. Muslims.  Black vs. White.  White privilege. How does a white Christian American girl fit in the world when she doesn't want to be against anyone?  I don't want the "versus" in my life.  I want to be part of reconciliation and love of all people.  And reading this article today makes me realize that all my comments (harsh, real, naive and stupid) have been the verbal vomit representation of this processing inside of me.

So I apologize to those I've conversed with baring this attitude.  Family, friends, you've been very gracious over the years.  The years of me processing cultural diversity and my place in it.  I'm still in the midst of it and will no doubt share some self-righteous opinion at some point.  Sorry in advance.  Working on it.

Today I feel like I'm entering an "awareness" phase.  Awareness that I'm processing my cultural identity.  I don't need to be ashamed.  I need to continue to learn and be respectful to everyone as they process their own identities.  I need to be patient with myself and others as we all go through this process in our own time and through our own experiences.  And I need to be grateful.  I am grateful.  Grateful to have the privileges I've been given, to know the people I know, to see the places I've seen.  Now what to do with it...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Travel Tip #Something

For men and women @
These shoes passed the test on their first trip... a week in Scandinavia.  (More coming on that soon.)  I think these have surpassed Toms on my like list.  And right now they're my most comfortable shoe.  Recommended for all the summer, fall and spring travelers.

Light weight
Pack flat
Come in a variety of colors and styles
Stylish with shorts, pants, skirts...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

This week in Budapest we didn't shoot off fireworks or have a BBQ or wear red, white and blue.  It was a day like any other in July - a hot one in the middle of the week.  But this week we did visit Momento Park, a museum containing the remains of Communist statues throughout Hungary.  With this visit and my own country's celebration this week, it got me thinking about freedom.  Not just in my home country, but in so many countries around the world that have experienced oppression.  (Some that still are.)

In 1945 Russia liberated Hungary from the Nazis.  
Soviet communism took root. 
A statue of Stalin erected in Budapest
when the Soviets took power.
In 1956 Hungarians rebelled against their oppressors.
For several months they fought, only to be demolished by military force in the end.
October 1956 Hungarians tore down the metal statue of Stalin,
cutting him at the legs and pulling him down by the neck.
Communism under Soviet control continued until 1989.
Freedom was not immediate, but a new Hungary arose in 1990.
And Communist statutes and memorials were removed from cities and towns.
Stalin's feet are all that remain today.
Picture taken July 3, 2013 in Momento Park, Budapest.
 Today you can find the remains of these Communist artifacts
at Momento Park in Budapest.
We visited this week...

So many countries have been ruled by others.  Some countries are still being oppressed... South Sudan, Somalia, Turkmenistan, South Korea.  Some are overthrowing their dictators this week... Egypt.  On this American Independence Day I want to celebrate with all countries who have overcome and pray for those who are in the midst of overcoming.  Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I have not disappeared

I realize I haven't posted in forever.  As my husband says sarcastically, "You're disappointing your readers."  To which I respond, "My grandmother and mother-in-law are waiting for this post (you punk)."  I don't really know who reads this blog aside from a couple girls who emailed me about teaching abroad.  (Congrats on the jobs ladies!)  But I figure it's time to get back to the blog.  Sorry for the furlough.  Here is what has been happening on the other side of the world...

The Danube River flooded.
It was quite a site.  The biggest tourist attraction in Budapest for a week.  I must say I was so impressed with the way Budapest has been built to accommodate the flooding river.  After 1000 years of floods, Budapestians have it figured out.  No real damage in B-town but a record flood that was actually fun to watch.

School ended and summer came!

We are enjoying every minute of it... Family, guests, my terrace garden, travel, new countries, revisiting countries, sleeping in, the pool, getting a sun tan, reading books for pleasure.  Ahhh... Some much deserved R&R.

Some of you roll your eyes and make snide remarks about the life of a teacher.  But let me tell you why I deserve two months of freedom...

So all you teachers out there... Enjoy it while it lasts!  More adventures to come, and I promise I won't be absent from the blogging world for the summer.  Bring on the travel season!