Five months have passed since I touched back down on American soil, wearing my Red Wings snapback, my Pull and Bear hoodie, and my Hunter motorcycle boots. It was a chilly and snowy day in February.
Five months have passed since I left Budapest, Hungary.
To sum up the last five months in one blog post would be naïve. I can’t even begin to explain reintegration, except that it is a process. A process that will take many more five month periods to work through and will perhaps never end. That’s my opinion of how study abroad changes people; it’s that we never stop reintegrating.
I want to go back.
This tram terminates here. Goodbye.
Lite-rail, tram 6 terminates at Moricz Zsigmond Korter. Every time we have come home from school, from a late night, from heartbreak, from the airport, from exploring, from elation Cheryl tells us that we have reached the end of the line. Cheryl is the name we gave to the disembodied voice of a woman that speaks to us from the tram ceiling like God guiding us to our promise land – 11-13 Menesi ut., Eotvos Lorand Collegium, Room 212. About a week into the program back in September, I knew I wanted to title my final blog for Allison: Wayfarer “this tram terminates here,” Cheryl’s classic line ushering us off the tram. Here we are:
Five months ago, I was repacking my suitcase, because it weighed 83 lbs. I eventually reduced that number to 56 lbs., but now I find myself having a 23 kilo limit on each of my three suitcases brought to me by my parents on their visits. The weight of my suitcases does not even begin to match the weight that has been on my heart for the past couple of days as I have walked around my hometown for the last time. The view that has always struck me the most has always been the fleeting glance of the entire city as the tram 6 crosses Petofi hid. Seeing the entire city and the entirety of its beauty in one view brings me to tears. I remember the first time I saw that view, I said to myself, “I live here. I live in the most beautiful place in the entire world.” I saw that for the last time, tonight after Curtis and I said farewell to our guide, Luca, after Claire and I placed our lock on Liberty bridge, and after an excellent dinner at Szatyor with our Budafam and my dad.
Five months later, I am leaving what I do consider to be a second home. I have never been struck by a place in such a way as I have been by Budapest. However, as much as I am enamored with Budapest, it is a combination of many things that have made my time here so incredible and an indescribably priceless experience. It is the combination of these things that I am saying goodbye to and it is the combination that I will miss the most.
People: Hungarians are some of the nicest, sincerest, and most hardworking people I have ever come across. They welcomed us, were good to us, and most treated us like family. Of course, I owe my life to my Budafam and specifically King Curtis, BB Clurr, and Erhmerhly. We are a family and will always have each others’ back, but more importantly, call each others’ bullshit. I could say something about each of them, but just know that we have grown together, learned from each other, and I spent the best five months of my life with these people and I wouldn’t trade our more-than-friendship for anything in the entire world (even my “real” friends - lolz).
Travelling: I came to Budapest with one major objective: to see the world. I have traversed a total of twelve countries, interacted with people in at least ten different languages, and have flown over twenty flights to bring me to all corners of Europe. I have seen so much, but have left much to come back to, and I cannot wait to come back. In fact, it feels like we are just going on vacation to the states like we would to Prague or Amsterdam and that in a few days we will be back in Budapest.
Budapest: I came to this city with no expectations. I barely did enough research to get into the program, but I can honestly say that I cannot imagine myself studying abroad in any other city in the entire world. Budapest is a nest that buzzes with life at all hours of the day, especially at night. However, the some of the best moments I have come across are when the only thing you can hear is the distant rumble of trams and the density of existence transcends you as you stare out a tram window, look out across the city from the Citadel, the stillness of the early morning, the smell of csigas and gyros, and the vitality of a city that has been beaten, slaughtered, and maimed but has rose from the ashes as a glowing phoenix of lights and unimaginable solidarity as a city, a people, and a country. Budapest gives and asks only that you take it or leave it – you decide. Budapest is yours. Budapest is mine.
Myself: It is an interesting dichotomy to be leaving and thinking about what kind of person I was when I arrived, as if I could categorize all the emotions and naivety I had upon arrival. I leave Budapest with no regrets, nothing left undone, but knowing that I am leaving a different person than when I arrived is both a gift and a burden. Though I feel no major transformations, I feel like I will walk on American soil as a Hungarian: straight faced, ready to rage, and with even more reservations about American ideals than I left with (if you can believe it – lolz).
Thus, it is a combination of those four basic things, add a little 399 HUF Rosé from Spar and a csiga and all the laughs, inside jokes, Hungarian language, and you have the best five months of Allison Marie Tinsey’s life. Simple, right? Nem.
Thank you, Budapest, for everything and more. Thank you for our guides and professors, especially Maria, Luca, and Gabor. Thank you to my Budafam. Thank you to my parents and family for their financial backing and endless support of my dreams that have led me here.
Szimpla means unique/singular and perfectly describes my study abroad experience in Budapest, Hungary for the past five months.
Szimpla végállomás, viszontlátásra. Köszönöm szépen.
As the hours of daylight dwindle on the time I have left in Budapest, I have realized that I have neglected to write a post about the food in Hungary. However, I am glad that I waited, because I have had two of the best Hungarian food experiences within the past week.
I knew before coming to Budapest that I would get on just fine eating meat and potatoes and bread. Those are my three main food groups. (Diet Coke and Sour Patch Kids don’t exist in Hungary, but I haven’t gone through any bad withdrawals). I was really worried about Claire who is gluten-free and a vegetarian, but she has gotten along just fine mostly because she is not picky (unlike other veggimos in our group - grumble, grumble).
To keep this short, Hungarian food is pretty heavy. Homey, oily, fried, tinted red with paprika, served with a side of tejfol (sour cream), and oh, so incredibly delicious. My favorite dishes are chicken paprikas and guylas. Chicken paprikas(h) is made with chicken covered in a sour cream based sauce, served with a heaping scoop of gnocheddli noodles (doughy homemade schpaetzles). Guylas (goulash) is a hearty beef and vegetable soup. Guylas is my favorite Hungarian dish and I love that it varies in flavor everywhere you go, because, you know, every Hungarian housewife or grandmother has their own recipe, which is always better than the next.
Maria, our wonderful culture teacher, taught us how to make both of these dishes. She arrived to the dorm around 6pm and we spent the next 3-4 hours laughing, sipping wine, learning about Hungarian cuisine, and enjoying each others’ company as we near the end of our journey together. We were so blessed to have her and we have learned so much from her. Maria is an incredibly special woman who has a heart of gold, solid 14-kt. gold. After making guylas this past sunday, she handed me her personal gnocheddli maker. It is at least as old as I am and has probably been used to make millions of noodles in its lifetime. I am incredibly honored and still blown away by her kindness. People talk about not being able to accept gifts, but this is the first time in my life where I really felt like I didn’t deserve something so special.
God, bless Maria.
Living in a dorm gave us the chance to save money and cook for ourselves, which is what we often did as a group, because we had little to no homework over the entire semester. We have agreed that the time spent in that cramped, not so clean kitchen made us a true family here in Budapest. The people who were closest cooked together the most often.
Budapest has a vast assortment of restaurants and it’s hard not to find something for everyone when you go out to eat. My favorite is Szatyor on Bela Bartok - right between Liberty Bridge and Moricz Zsigmond Korter. They have the best guylas and I have insisted that all of my visitors go there at least once. We are going there as group for our final dinner! We also love the Turkish gyro places (fave: Istanbul Kebab, Moricz Zsigmond Korter) and the “soup place,” Leves. (Fovam ter). You can get away with buying a kick-ass meal for 500 HUF ($2.50).
I have not starved in this country and I haven’t died of scurvy, yet.
The inevitability of time to pass more quickly when you really want it to slow down never ceases to amaze me. With only one week left in Budapest, I feel like I have so much left to do, but at the same time, I feel unburdened. A weight has lifted as I have finished my final paper; I can now enjoy and relive Budapest for one last time before heading home.
As Budapest has become my city, I find my feet dragging me to my favorite haunts and hiking up our hill, carrying me to everything that I love: friends, food, warm beds, and nightlife. January has been snowy and rainy and cold and I have felt the want to seclude myself away and brood about going home and leaving. However, whenever our small Budafam gets together, there are guaranteed laughs and good times, which make me feel exponentially better.
I completed my final paper for the BSCS program and passed. This means that I won’t have to hit the books again until April 1, 2013, when spring quarter at Kalamazoo College welcomes back many juniors and reunites us all with welcome-back hugs and back-to-the-grind moods.
I feel as though my thoughts are entirely disjointed. I cannot really focus on one thing, because I’m trying to not think about leaving, while thinking about returning, and packing, and my dad coming to visit, and the fact that Corvinteto is closed until next week, and my music is distracting me, and I need to email professors at K to arrange meetings, and I need to visit people, and I need to wake up before noon, and one of my teeth has been bugging me, and yeah. Maybe I’m just caffeinated or this is the beginning of the end.
“Americans come to Istanbul, because it has culture,” insightfully stated the souvenir shop clerk as his friend demonstrated the perks of the high quality, flame retardant bowl that Claire considered buying. “Yeah, pretty much,” I replied with a smile.
Isn’t it true that so many Americans flock to different corners of the globe to experience “culture?” Culture: that exotic ambiance that comes along with going to a country where the food, mannerisms, visages, styles, religions, daily life, and hospitality are things you don’t come across in the States, so you have to fly thousands of miles away to find it.
I knew when I came to Europe that I really wanted to visit Istanbul; partly because I wanted to buy a Turkish hookah (shisha water pipe) and partly because I wanted to see something else besides run of the mill European cities that all start to blend together in my mind after visiting so many of them. So, I decided and booked tickets for my last hurrah back in December before leaving for my other expeditions. It wasn’t until I was reunited with Claire in Budapest that I knew I would have my favorite travel partner by my side. After hearing that I was going, her mom insisted that she go as well.
As far as a weekend trip goes, we left on Wednesday and returned on a Monday, giving us plenty of time to explore the city. However, Claire and I are a special breed of tourist. Our day normally starts around noon and we’ll walk around for a few hours before getting tired and will return to the hostel to take a nap and then go out to find food later in the evening. It usually works pretty well. Given that we had four solid days to explore, we had even more time to spread out our sightseeing. (Plus, I had to finish my final paper for the “study” part of study abroad).
We ventured into famous mosques and donned our headscarves and wiggled our shoeless toes as we padded through these beautiful places of worship. I had never been in a mosque before, let alone travelled to a predominantly Islamic country, but I found mosques to be like cathedrals or churches in other cities – though stunning, they all start to look the same after a while. We saw all the major sights and walked through the Grand Bazaar, bartered for my hookah, and walked away with our fair share of souvenirs. We took a boat out on the Bosphorus and met up our fellow Hornet, Eren, who took us out for our last night in Istanbul.
Istanbul is a beautiful city and I definitely am glad that I got to go. It was different as I had hoped, but in other ways, I felt different. With my golden blonde hair reaching a considerable length, along with my Amazonian height (as Emily refers to it), I tend to stand out among those olive skinned, dark haired, short Turkish women. We were constantly being called beautiful, angels, Dutch, German, French, Finnish, sexy, etc. I had become to acclimated to fitting in as a European in Budapest that I felt hyper aware of my looks in Istanbul. I braided my hair to make it less obvious, but there was no avoiding being pale or tall – or two lovely girls, alone in Istanbul.
I guess I got my dose of culture as I was made aware of my differences from the people around me. When you think about, isn’t that really what culture is? Our differences? Is that why we assign it a fancy name? We want to hide the fact that our differences both delight us and make us uncomfortable? Americans like culture, because we think we have none, when really we are champions of being different and acknowledging and categorizing those differences.