Monday, November 26, 2007

Upon my return from Budapest

...I realize wanderlust has a powerful pull and I have no desire to fight it.

Budapest is an amazing and beautiful city. A person can read all the books, do all the research, but it isn't until I step foot in a new city and do some exploring on my own that I finally get what the travel books are tying to explain.

After 14 hours of flying (one way) and 4 airports (8 airports altogether. So much better than the 17 to go to Greece) I landed in Budapest, Tuesday afternoon around 3. In my hotel by 4. Since insomnia just seems to be part of my life at this point, along with not sleeping on the plane, the time difference, and just being plain (and plane) tired, Tuesday was mostly a bust. A trip around the block to see what I could see in the dark (not much) a bite to eat from a local shop and back to my room.

Wednesday was the tour of the city. A trip to the Jewish District, which was the Jewish Ghetto during the war, to Hero's Square (the square built in honor of their Millennium celebration in 1896, not completed until 1929, oops.) Opera House, Parliament, around the city, over the Chain Bridge and the Danube, over into Buda, to the Fisherman's Bastion,(which serves as a viewing terrace and nothing more.) Gellert Hill, (Gellert was a man who tried to convert the locals to Christianity. The locals didn't like this very much so, they put Gellert into a barrel, sealed it, threw the barrel down the hill, thus killing him. Let all other Christian converters be warned.) and then I was left in the town square to fend for myself to find my way back to my hotel. Hmmm, where's my map. In my pocket. Excellent. Now. Where am I?

On my way back to my hotel I stopped at St. Stephen's Basilica and then, since it was approaching dusk (which happens around 3 and dark by 4. Me no likey.) I wanted to make the trek back to my hotel since I wasn't sure how to get there and according to the helpful man on the street, it was only a 15-20 minute walk. Totally do-able. However, on my way I came across the Jewish Quarter again and I wanted to walk around since we really didn't have the chance on the tour. After a short stroll I realized I had forgotten the directions back to my hotel. (hey, the synagogue was shiny and sparkly, the stop couldn't be helped.) I stopped into a quaint Jewish bakery and asked the girls for directions. English was not a second language and there was some stumbling, but I was pretty sure I got it. And while in the bakery, stomach rumbling as it had been several hours (several) and many miles (many) since breakfast I bought a few pastries and they gave me a loaf of bread as a present. (ah, girls after my own heart.) Short story long, after about two hours I found my hotel. I didn't get lost, I got distracted. There is a difference.

Thursday I walked back to the Jewish district and took a tour of the synagogue, the second largest in the world, which also included a tour of a museum, the memory garden, which included mass graves from the Holocaust, and the Tree of Life, built in memory of those who were lost. The whole thing was beautiful, amazing, lovely, and heart wrenching.

I walked through the streets which was once the Jewish ghetto and let my mind wander back to another time. I listened to the sounds, the noise, the quiet, the smells, and took in all the buildings and it was suddenly 1940s World War II. It wasn't hard to image that the graffiti on the buildings once spelled out racial slurs and the buildings once housed thousands of Jews cramped into a small space. The fear, the dread, the threat of being taken away. It never ceases to amaze me what man can do to human kind and how human kind can overcome what man tries to do. It was an emotional journey.

From there I walked over to Buda and into the Castle District. To do so I had to walk over the Chain Bridge over the Danube. Pausing on the bridge to, once again, travel back in time and image when there wasn't a bridge, through the years of the war, post-war, to the present day.

Buda and Pest are totally different from one another. Pest is busy, busy, busy, noisy, lots and lots of traffic, lots and lots of car pollution, and the buildings all have graffiti on them. Buda is quiet, quaint, and has a feeling of old world. A place where a person can sit and watch the world go by. Pest, you are the world going by.

Friday was a walk down to the House of Terror. The building where both the Nazi's, during the war, and the secret police, post-war, used as their headquarters. Just as the name suggests, it was a house of terror. Again, what man does to each other. Again, it was an emotional morning. Later in the day it was back across the Chain Bridge, into Buda, and back to my hotel.

Saturday, up at 4:30 a.m., picked-up for the hotel at 6:15 and on the plane home. I arrived back in home state around 6:35 pm. Back to my apartment at 5:32 pm on Sunday.

It was a lovely and very quick trip. It hasn't all hit me yet, but I wouldn't mind going back some day.

Some highlights: I don't know what it is with me and European airports, but from Amsterdam to Budapest, I didn't have a boarding pass. I needed to stop at a transfer desk to get one. After learning the difference between "t" and "d", running, waiting and being told to go to another "t" gate with a shorter wait, running to the transfer desk and being told the plane was closed. Telling the girl I would run really fast if they would let me on, she said she would call the gate and in the meantime I needed to run. Now, running in an airport is interesting in itself. Running in an airport after sitting for 10 hours straight with a 30 pound backpack strapped to my back, well, yeah, "running" is not necessarily what I was doing. More of a fast jog. They were waiting for me at the gate. Yep, they held the plane for me. (ah, special.) After struggling to get the pack off (nice backpack strap burn on my arm) I was on the plane. On the return flight, I was booked on a plane/flight that didn't exist, they were most kind to me in Budapest and they placed me on the correct flight. Then I realized I had a whopping six minutes to get from the Budapest plane to the Amsterdam gate. Yep, six minutes. This time I had a boarding pass and I figured between the six minutes, plus the 30 minutes to board, I had 36 minutes to get on the plane. Totally do-able. I made it in 15, (I have learned to navigate my way through airports quiet nicely) but it turns out they make you go through security well before the need to board. I "ran" for nothing. Lesson learned. I also had to answer several security questions before I could board. Toughest test I've ever taken.

The food: Lots of bread, lots of pastries. Good wine. Since I hardly ate and I walked from one side to the other (literally) no weight gained. (yah!) (Must eat more next time.) And if you like things pickled, go to Budapest. A gyro in Greece is not the same as a gyro in Budapest. The same is true for falafal. The difference: it has all things pickled on it. Red cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, and just for good measure, pickles. Mmm, that was a surprise....and not a pleasant one.

The people: very lovely.

The language: Almost everyone spoke English. When there was a language barrier, it is amazing what a smile, a pointing of the finger to what I wanted, money, and a nod of thanks, can get a person.

The currency: I made a cheat sheet, which was a really good idea; and when I would see 924 I kept reminding myself, that it was only about $5.

The weather: Not bad. Cold, but it didn't rain or snow. Definitely needed hat, gloves, and a scarf.

Problems: The only glitch was my cell phone. I had made it an international phone, but unfortunately, Verizon added that feature without checking to see if it would actually work. I spent about $80 on phone calls. Verizon will be getting an earful later today.

My feet: cobblestone, bricks, and ornate streets are beautiful, but good Lord, they hurt my feet. My shoes are literally worn out. The tread has been worn smooth. I ended each night with a foot massage. Sadly, performed by me.

Me: I honestly did this trip all alone. I was alone in Greece, but I would run into the same people, or the same people would be on the tours, so I was alone, but I met others. This trip, not so much. I literally did it all by myself and I am very proud of that achievement. I didn't get lost (getting turned around and distracted by shiny things is not the same as getting lost.) So, go, me!

My next trip: If I wasn't going to be spending my summer in Brazil (and wow, that's tough) I would be going to Prague and Vienna. Everyone I spoke with (and by "everyone" I mean shop keepers) kept asking if I was going on to those two cities. I wanted this trip to include all three, but time didn't allow for it, I now need to see the others. (I almost did a day trip to Prague, but again, time.)

It was a lovely and very quick trip, again, it hasn't all hit me, yet. I'm sure, just as Greece took some time to all hit me, the same will be true for this one.

The synagogue

The view of Pest from Buda

St. Stephen's Basilica

The House of Terror

The Chain Bridge

One of the lions guarding the Chain Bridge

Memorial garden, mass graves in the synagogue yard

Tree of Life, synagogue yard

View of Pest, from Buda

Fisherman's Bastion

Thursday, November 15, 2007

...and to all the biggest part of the wish bone

Okay, so I know I am a week early, but I won't be here this time next week.

..okay, that makes it sounds like I am going to parish by this time next week. Rest assured I have no plans to do that. However, I don't think I really have any control over such things.

ANYway. I will leave for home tomorrow, celebrate Turkey Day on Saturday (Cause my family loves and misses me that much that they are willing to sacrifice the bird early for me) and then Monday I will be on a place bound for Budapest around 4:43p.m. CST. According to the flight schedule I will be in Amsterdam around noon-ish on Tuesday and Budapest around 2-ish (Buda time.) (Actually, Pest time as I will be on the Pest side for my stay) (I wonder if they have ghosts there?) (Get it? Boooo-da) (Fine. I thought it was clever.) I will return last Saturday night. Short trip. And for this trip I will only be in eight airports. The reason I say "only" is because for the Greece trip I was 17. I am happy about the 8.

I am curious about this trip. I am excited to see the Jewish quarter and the artist quarter, which according to the map to hotel location I am close to everything that any one would or could care to see. However, I also had hopes of Mr. London joining me for the trip. However, he just emailed me and told me he is sad and very upset to say that it will not work out. I am a big believer in, life works out the way it is supposed to. We'll see each other again. I know this.

Also, on another "I must see the world front" my internship to spend the summer in Brazil was approved!! Now. I just need to come up with a few thousand dollars. This will work out. I know this.

So, I managed to finish two of my main papers, finishing touches will be put on them when I finish typing this awesome post. I will work on the others today and over the weekend. In the meantime I will be out celebrating with the rest of the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol tonight as a "see you later and have a fabulous trip" to my awesomeness.

So, may all of you have a wonderful Butterball Day and may your pumpkin pie come whipped and creamy.
I'll see you back here in about 10 days or so.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I'll take the anitbacterial soap. Thanks.

It's late and I am sitting here in the computer lab killing trees as a result of printing off research. (hate crime policy, specifically gender based hate crimes. Should be fascinating.)

However, what is keeping me entertained is the fact that I am pretty sure the guy across from me is looking at porn and trying to keep his erection to a minimum.
Why do I think this? Because of his grinning, constant movement in his seat and his need to "re-adjust" in his seat to the point that no person needs to be that comfortable that often.

...wait. Is he unzipping his pants?
Okay, I am starring right at him..he is about three feet from me...what the hell.

...yeah. That was a zipper I just heard.

Good lord.

"Dude, what the hell?"

Yes, I just "dude-ed you."

"What the hell?"

Hmmm, he doesn't seem to be amused.

I think it is time to wash my hands and go home. Cause all I can think about is what hands have touched this keyboard and this mouse.

...Where is the hand sanitizer?!?!!?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

...and now a moment to daydream...

First, I LOVE falling back and gaining an hour. Fantastic!

Second, In two weeks I will be celebrating Turkey day early because I will be in Budapest! How crazily wonderful is that?
Even though I scheduled the trip back in early June I've only had the chance to study up on it last night and then an evening when I was back home. I think I finally have the currency figured out (totally in my favor.) No idea on the language. Not happy about not knowing how to say the basics, but I still have two WHOLE weeks to figure it out. (yes, that was sarcasm.)
If anyone has any pointers, please point me.

Third, proving that life has to do with who you know and not what you know: A friend of mine (we will call her Enviro Girl) in the MPP works with a gal who has her own non-profit. In explaining to Enviro Girl what I want to do with my MPP degree, she told me I needed to talk to the girl she works with as she has an internship available for the summer, which is when I need to have one. So I emailed her a couple of days ago and yesterday we met.
Her org is EXACTLY what I want to do; educating and empowering impoverished women and children in terms of health education and life skills. She does teaching and also jewelry making/sales. So, this is awesome, right? Well, yes. However, the most wonderfully fantastic amazing part of it: it's in Brazil.
I would be spending my summer in Brazil.
Well, if I can figure out how to make it policy related. Non-profit Girl has told me it is up to me how I want to direct the internship, let her know and she will figure it out from there.
Friday I meet with my director to discuss internships and requirements and such, so let's hope.
However, right now I am in full-force daydream mode. This is the stage where everything is possible and I haven't been told nothing is impossible...perfect daydreaming stage. The stage where I can think of, dream, and image all of the possibles and all of the probables and none of the impossibles or improbables.

I was too excited after meeting with her to just come home, so a stop at the local B&N was in order. One book bought on Brazil, Portuguese language tapes, and the new book, "American Creation." Sure that last one sounds random, but I had planned to purchase the book yesterday before any of this other came about. So on the way home I popped in the Portuguese language CD. I am no where close to learning the language. However, before I even knew this was a dream that could be a possibility I was thinking about taking a foreign language class next semester. Looks like that may be a good idea now.

Fourth, if you're thinking you hate me right now, well I do have four papers to write before I leave and two of the requirements haven't been posted yet. They were supposed to be posted by Friday, alas they haven't. Yeah, that professor is awesome. But, this is a small price to pay. Small price indeed considering I will be in Budapest in two weeks.
(!!!! Two weeks!!! How is that even possible? How is it November?)

So, I will be spending the rest of the day trying to be productive and trying to not let my daydreaming take over. Needless to say, the insomnia has been back for about a week now. Yeah, surprising. Last night, when I should have been sound asleep dreaming about all of the above I was instead daydreaming and planning about all of the above. I know, it's tough.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Halloween!

...and November 1st.
Good gravy it has just flown by.

Okay, last night was awesome fun and today came mighty early. I hear that happens when a person doesn't get to bed before 3 and their alarm goes off at 7:22. Just a rumor I heard, but I am hear to tell you, it's true. True that was me last night and true that it comes early.

Also, when you go to a dive bar as your last stop and you order a vodka cranberry; top shelf, middle shelf, bottom shelf, or no shelf, sink water. Which one do you think I ended up with?
If you guessed a combination of no shelf mixed with sink and a dash of cranberry, well you would be right.
I said it tasted like Ritz crackers with fake cheese. The two other people who sipped the drink didn't get that.
Okay fine. How about just the fake cheese part?
How about I couldn't even stomach it and the drink was not drunken. (I may have been drunken, but the drink was not.) I've brushed, flossed, and rinsed twice since last night and I still can't get the taste of the last drink out of my mouth. Oh yeah. Tasty.
Oh yeah. No stomach lining.
Wait, that makes it sound like I've thrown-up.
I haven't. I am a professional.
I do need some coffee.
And some bread.
And a cookie.
(To wake me up.)
(To absorb.)
(For the sugar. And the Halloween sugar cookies they had on campus yesterday were awesome.)
Oh, and some grease.
(Just because. A hamburger is always a good thing.)

Our group costume was awesome. We were the Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol.
Oh yeah. Blue blazers, white shirts (that did not fit so well. Way big) and khakis. We either looked like we were trying to sell you a home or we looked like Mormons. I figured since we didn't have on backpacks no one would think we were trying to get them into Heaven. Luckily we also had on name tags to erase any confusion before it could start.
I would run up to the lucky winner, we would hand them the big fake check which was made out for $500 million, thousand dollars and fifty-six and half cents. (Any guesses whose idea that was?) They were then given red, white, and blue flowers, black balloons, a microphone shoved in their face that looked like a dildo (not intentionally) (no, really.)(yes, the microphone was mine. Toilet paper roll, with tissue still on it, and a paper mache' egg glued to the top which I Sharpied.) and I took their picture.
I now have a bunch of pictures of drunk people who I don't know.
But it was big fun.
We should have won the contest we entered; the owner, and the crowd said so, but alas, we were beat-out by a slutty Little Red Riding Hood and her Wolf. Sad, but true.

It was awesome and it just proves why I love Halloween so much.
Because it's awesome.