Archive | May, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

25 May

Leaving the city in twenty minutes.

This has been an absolutely amazing trip. The only thing I wish I’d had more of was sleep.

And I never managed to get to the strudel place. But I’ll find one  at home. I

can’t specify how amazing this whole experience was. I am sad to come home. back to the hum drum, the boring, the mudane day in day out. I’m happy to be coming back to Cameron, though. He’s the only thing i really missed.

going back to the same old, same old seems absolutely stifling. But I’ll do it. For now. Because I know that it isn’t everything. Two girls in my group are heading off to internships in other countries for the summer. Others have already had that experience and travel monthly with their “real jobs”. They are grad students, so I have hope.

I am so glad to know that the life i lead isn’t the end. The options are endless. The world really is only as big as a language barrier, and often not even that.

I should rest my head before this flight.

 

Aside

Thursday is the last day

24 May

I think one of the biggest things I have learned during this particular trip is that I can get lost anywhere. Map or no map. But the cool thing is, that no matter how turned around I am, i always find someone to help me or someway back on my own. I can handle it. Lost in a city with no one around who speaks English and we fumble our way through. I guess it’s not that big a deal, but its still a confidence builder.

Today armed with my camera, a map, headphone, my chucks and ambition, I set out to see the Birth of Photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts. It was fabulous. I still can’t get over the leave your purse in coatlocker and we’ll follow you around the museum aspect of Budapest. (is this a European thing?) But I managed to ignore them and carry on.  My initial attempt at finding the museum was fruitless, took the wrong train, ended up on the wrong side of Budapest where I got some cool pix of ground artwork…I don’t know why it was there, but some as disturbing, others cool I ignored the slightly brutish, racist drawings and left the area when I realized based on some writing that black women may not be welcome in that particular area.

Hopped on another train, took the subway and finally made it to my mecca.

Early photography was not considered an art. I guess I can see that. Then, in attempt to earn a place in the art world they made it looks like paintings, which confused photographies position even more. It was a long journey to be accepted into the Art Pantheon.

I was unable to take any pictures of the exhibit, but I did snag a post card of the leading lady.

As I didn’t post anything meaningful yesterday, I’ll briefly recap: Company meeting in the AM then free day for lunch and wandering again. This time roomie and I went to the Turkish Baths. That was aan interesting experience. They are housed in this magnificent building, the outside terrace is more like a swimming pool–you can smell the chlorine– but the inside, the water is warmer, the water is not chlorinated that we could tell, and you float a bit more with the minerals. The water is slightly yellowish green, and we are desperately hoping its just due to the minerals. I am sure it is. But we had a laugh about it. People don’t swim there. They sit. They talk, or sleep, but mostly just sit and watch. It felt like a mall hang out spot. very relaxed, very comfortable. We were silly and forgot to take towels so we dripped dried back into the communal locker room. Women and Men split of course. Typical of European Style we all changed together though. Thank goodness for eating right and working out. Although, all shapes and sizes were slipping into two pieces whether the fabric wanted them too or not, so my level of fitness may not have been relevant to anything in that place.  And one poor chap, he couldn’t keep his speedo up for the life of him. falling in the back, way to low in the front. It must have been the tourist in me that wanted to giggle.

Dinner and a very relaxed early night at a place called Instant Which I hightly recommend if you ever visit this city. Very cool, very chill, lots of nice people and artwork to see.

 

Tonight is our last night. Group dinner and partying. Not gonna lie. We’re not sleeping. I’ll have awesome pictures of the sunrise. At 4:00am.

 

A brief list of observances/oddities

23 May
  • No laundry facility on premise
  • No laundry facility that offers same day or next day service in our area 3 days lead time
  • no hotel shampoo/conditioner/bar soap
  • i finally understand the “sandpaper” comment
  • room service folds your pjs
  • no kleenex or equivalent in the room
  • water is not free– decisions, decisions,water or beer–we have not been getting enough water this trip
  • wifi is sporadic, and not available in the hotel rooms…in the lobby sometimes
  • rain doesn’t slow anyone down
  • bikes everywhere.
  • European dogs are often off leash…because they are that good
  • pets allowed in a lot of cafe restaurant
  • pharmacy’s are super nice…everything is behind the counter
  • young people don’t seem to swim–it’s an elderly past time

 

Hungarian Graffiti Studies

23 May

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In our wanderings I have noticed some things that are part of the underground culture more than the mainstream “this is what you should know to survive in Budapest” behaviours.

I have become fascinated with the graffiti and also the tattoo designs of the people here. big surprise, i know!

I wish I had a good camera, and knew the language because there are some interesting tat designs—that differ in quality and subject matter from what we typically present in the US.  As I do not want to offend, I have ignored all the tattoos and only snapped photos of the graffiti in the city.

There is a definite anthropology to all of this.

observe:

 

I could totally come back here and do a piece on the “personal artwork” and it’s sociological meanings.

but for now, I will just be a tourist.

Company visit and car ride thoughts

22 May

Company visit today. Raba. They’be been around since the 1800s manufacturing first trains and then automobile chassis and buses and eventually military equipment for Germany during the war. They don’t broadcast that part. But honestly it was a good management strategy at the time. Go where the wind blows, especially if going against it will mean the end of the company.
So.
I don’t judge.
The company privatized in 92 and by 2004 it was doing well. They had restructured, focused their sales in three main divisions. They were profitable: 25,000 employees, strong stock on the BSE, and then came the recession. They laid off tons of people. 700 off the top, and people have been leaving ever since.

Currently they have 1100 some employees. The work conditions are hard and dark and hot. We visited the warehouse and watched the men working the steel. They don’t wear saftety gear. One man burned himself on the molten steel as we watched. It made me sad.

They have an older demographic for the workforce. Apparently its.hard to find people.wanting.to do the heavy work of machining the steel into their respective parts. I imagine company morale is low.

The government has now bought the largest share of Raba, so I’m essence.it.is state owned again. I get the feeling the outlook is grim.
I have lots of ideas and commentary to work on for my paper. It should be enjoyable though.

The manager brought us all lunch which was a pleasant surprise. It was noted that he looked like the most interesting man in the world. No photos in the building though so you just jave.to talent word for it.

It’s a two hour drive back to Budapest. We’re all napping (professors and project leader included) and looking out the window at the gloominess of this day. The scenery is amazing.

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And in this brief quiet, I feel a great affection for everyone in our study group. I’ve formulated a lot of opinions over the last week and despite all of my inner thoughts that I do not share, one thing I can definitely say is that this is a group of good people.

I’m glad to know them.

Afternoon free!

21 May

Off to the island for biking and finally! jogging. I’ve been missing out on that this entire trip.

The majority are riding bikes. My bike skills are shaky at best…Hilton Head was forever ago and I haven’t been on one in years. I’ll have fun pics of the group though. Finally set up my phone app so I can write on the fly!

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Aside

Sunday, Sunday so good to me

21 May

The beginging of anoher work week. I think this city is most of the groups favorite. It’s defintiely a lot bigger, but Budapest is so much nicer/more familiar culture wise. People are friendlier, we don’t have to worry quite as much about our purses as we did in Prague, and we are a bit more relaxed. Maybe this is due to the adrenaline of being abroad wearing off a little. We are getting a bit more sleep. That aways helps!

Saturday night was an early night for me. Dinner, a long shower and off to sleep. Being abroad wears you down. especially with the pace we are trying to maintain. We have all got a little bit of a cold coming on and we are trying our best to fight it off. The lack of water doesn’t help much. Water is not free of charge here. Neither are the rolls they put on the table. If you eat them, they show up on the bill. We learned that the hard way. Apparently they charge for ketchup, too. I don’t mind this. Just surprising when you don’t realize it at first. We have all the extras already figured into our prices at home. They charge ala carte here. Water is considered a soft drink, so it’s weird to order water and a beer, or water and a soda. The water bottles are small, so we’ve learned to ration them.

Yesterday was another full day of city touring. There is so much to see, honestly I was confused about where we were. We visited an awesome museum though on St. Andrew’s Island Ithink.  It featured the artwork of Margit Kovacs. She was a clay and ceramics artist from the mid 1900s. Loved her stuff. The rest of the group sort of ran through, but I made the museum employees actually work.

Apparently they have to follow you room to room to be sure you don’t take anything, or take photos. It felt very communist. Big brother is watching or something. I did my best to ignore it. Check out her stuff here .

 

We went shoppinging in that same little area. I bought the cutest Hungarian made gifts. I was following the “buy local” mentality and tried to avoid any big shops with commercially made products. I am quite pleased with my cache.

We ran into D.C. frat boys. I know that particular american tone anywhere. It was nice though, to see/hear other people from the homeland. One of then had been travelling for a few months. He’d just gotten to Europe from Australia and his buddies had come to see him. I wouldn’t have mind chatting with  him, but the group had other plans.

lots of cool things.

Aside

Where Thursday through Saturday merge

19 May

It’s hard to keep track of days. Today is Saturday which means yesterday was Friday whicn means we had 3 hours of sleep (those who slept) and spend the day driving into Slovakia for company visits with Volkswagon and then onward to our current locale of Budapest.  Slovakia was an interesting little town. I know there was more I was going to say about it, but it escapes me. It has more conservative architecture. The lunch was the only thing that has disappointed me thus far. The comany visit was interesting. It was more a tour than an actual meeting and discussion, but VW has an amazing warehouse.

They make 5 vehicles there: VW, Saab, Audi, Skoda, and the body of the porsche.

Interesting  fact: all VW SUVs with end location US are made there too.  It’s a very green business, reminded me of ikea upon first enterance: white tile everywhere, clean, trendy.

There are so many cool robots at work in the warehouse. driverless cars pulling supplies: reminded me of Walle. I liked the tour, it just wasn’t as much information about the direction of the business, the planning,  the people as I like. But since the main decisions are made in Germany I guess that makes sense.

Our host really was just a guide, far down the corporate food chain. They did have a nifty headphone system so we could all hear him talking. That was appreciated. Since we were functioning on no sleep (we had to be up at 3:30 to leave at 4:15) it’s all a bit fuzzy. NO photos were allowed. No watches, or cell phones either. They weren’t letting anything leave that building.

We went on a tour of Bratislava. Yes. It’s coming back to me now!

The highschool kids were collecting money for their graduation/drinking fund. It’s a typical rite of passage I guess. They don’t do bake sales, they don’t do car washes. Parents don’t pay annual dues to the school.  They grab noise makers, make posters, chant and walk the streets begging for money. It was a noisy sight to behold.

After all this, we spent another 3 hours in the bus driving to Budapest. Buda and Pest really are two separate sides of the city. It reminds me of the losers everytime I think of it now. “I’m Buda. This is Pest.”  yeah. sorry, lack of sleep….

We found money, checked into our room. (working AC in this one!) and wandered. There was food, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was! It was good though. I’m sure of that. Then more out and abouting.

Flaming shots, a slight misunderstanding due to lack of language,( funny to be on the receiving end of the frustration and grumpiness. Learn Hungarian!) entertainment, and a declined proposal for marriage at Alterego.

I get the feeling that people of African descendants are few and far between here. I am a commodity. It makes for entertaining chatter, and this guy was fascinated with my hair. He was super friendly though. Coming to Miami for business venture soon, and is very excited. I wish him the best, wherever his travels take him.

That was yesterday.

Today was laid back, touristy. Awesome Saturday.  Siteseeing around the city, lots of pics, amazing food and about to get a nap.

I’ll update on my goings ons and  observations for today’s church visits (we crashed a wedding!) and site seeing  later this evening.

I am keeping a list of things in my phone as we wander.

One of the sweetest things I’ve see here: Men hold their children’s hands. A 12 or 13 year old boy was holding his dad’s hand and it was no big deal. I’ve seen it a handful of other times, all with older kids. It seems the concept of masculinity is different here. I’m totally digging it.

Okay a few other items of note:

Children drink from wine glasses.

Families carry their babies more often than use strollers

lunch will literally last all atfternoon.

stoplights go yellow before they turn green.

drivers do not blast music from their car windows.

no road rage.

homeless men adopt the homeless dogs so there are no real strays.

And I see what was meant about the throwback clothing. It’s not blatant, but the cartoon characters are here. The mickey and off color sayings. Misfit t-shirts and tattoos and gauged ears are more prevalent.

Off to naptime.

Oh, I got my tattoo. ❤

Thursday morning Castle and Culture

17 May

Had a castle tour this morning!

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many observations.

Most recently on the train back from our Castle visit:

the children here are provided with more organic educational tools. The toy stores are filled with bright colors and shapes….wooden carved toys, puzzels, books, interconnected items, I don’t know what they do. But they look like they would actually stimulate brain development rather than just talking at them.

That is something we do here in America that I don’t like so much. We take a passive educational stance when it comes to our youth. A video game, a tv program, a light up toy made of plastic, metal and various chemical components will teach our children everything they need to know. Maybe. But something feels shallow about it.

Here, there are constant troupes of children with their classes going on museum/gallery/concert/park trips. They use the buddy system (yay sencond grade memories!) and wear neon saftey vests. It’s quite cute.

On the train the teacher was talking to them. Using the same tone we do when having a conversation with a collegue. I had no clue what she was saying, but it wasn’t said in the pleading tone we often use with American 5 year olds. She kept a watchful eye, but let them choose their own seats–decision making skills in development. We don’t promote that until it’s honestly too late. Our decision making skills should have been developed long before college. It’s a wonder we function at all.

She was holding educational coloring material. It is more detailed and realistic than our children coloring guides. It was also of a musician and his supporting orchestra. It was a decent drawing, but I was struck by the content–a real situation– and the presentation–on an adult level.

We tend to baby things in America. Mickey Mouse and Dora and themed parties, I haven’t noticed any child wearing a character item of clothing. They dress like miniature adults. They seem to handle themselves as such also.

The only child I have heard acting out in public was a tourists kid. The natives are well behaved, seemingly bright, and thin. No obese children here either.

I’ve seen some fat men. The women in this part of town are all slim and lovely. They wear their heels on these cobblestone streets like it ain’t no thang. lol.

On an education front, they do have an Occupy Prague movement. Like Atlanta the homeless were the main long term attendees. The citizens don’t stay focused very long on any particular cause, but they did have decent support for the ACTA opposition. It was similar to our SOPA. The government is trying to control pirating and internet usage in a more efficient way, but the Czech population thinks that the internet and all its content (movies, music photos) should be free to everyone, as i understand it.

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Free afternoon for me. I am getting a tattoo.

Jazzboat journey

16 May

Our wake up call was a few minutes ago.  We are to meet in the lobby for our bus ride to Bohemian Crystal at 7:20 today so we are scrambling to get ready. Last night was an excursion deeper into the city for a Jazz boat tour of the city with a dinner.

That was quite a treat. I am learning a little bit about how to get around here. I ventured off by myself at one point in the afternoon hoping to find a gym that the receptionist of our hotel said we could use for $15 a day. A bit pricey, but as the food here has been exceptional, it’s a necessary evil. I didn’t find the gym, but some other important landmarks came into focus and I have a vague notion in my head of where I am and how to get about. It really is a safe city.

The jazzboat was lovely.  The band was great! I wish they had a CD available for sale, I had my money ready to go! My camera died before I got any good pictures of the city, but my compadres say they will upload theirs at some point. So. 🙂

 

This city has gorgous streets. No crime to speak of, and no strays. The night walk home was very pretty.

It’s interesting to be in a city at night and not hear the constant wail of sirens.

 

But it is refreshing.