Saturday, May 24, 2008

New Photos

Just offering some visuals: I've added some new photo albums on my Picasa photo site. You can find the link to check them out on the right under "Links". Enjoy!

Linguistic victory, cultural understanding, and shoes

Yesterday, I passed my first language exam! While this accomplishment means more to me than many a test from my past, the bigger victory took place on Wednesday.

As I rode the #19 tram home from language school, a store caught my eye. In the window of this shop, there was a display of shoes that were perfect for wearing around the house. (Let me explain. Shoes are not worn inside homes here in Hungary. I've been slipping around in slipper socks on the tile floors and needing something with a sturdy sole. Anyway, back to Wednesday...)

Entering the store, I acknowledged the shopkeeper with the polite, traditional greeting and began to browse. As he followed me to the display, I turned and told him that I didn't know my Hungarian shoe size. Later, after that mystery was solved by converting from U.S. to European, to Hungarian, to this particular brand's sizing system, the dialogue continued. I asked for a specific color, mentioned that one pair was too small, and assertively stated that I didn't want some decorative options found nearby. Did I mention that this conversation took place completely in Hungarian?? Oh yes, my friends.

Payment followed at the cash register and the cultural understanding continued when I got "Sajnos..." from the young lady there. "Unfortunately..." she couldn't give me smaller change for the bus. This kind but weak -faced statement is very common and not a big deal, but I was thrilled that I understood what was going on.

I have so much to learn about the people, traditions, perspective, and language, but for one day, in one shop, I had victory! After exiting the store, I cranked up my iPod and strolled back to the tram in the evening sunshine. Life's simple pleasures are my favorite.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Say what?

Hungarian language school (Debreceni Nyelv Egeterem) is wonderful! At times, my brain feels as though it may burst out of my head as my teacher Tibor explains totally unique Hungarian Hungarian, but the course is extremely helpful. Today, for example, I was able to accost a woman on the street and ask her politely where a specific road/area was. She responded, and I got to my destination. Victory! And yesterday, I enjoyed a wonderful moment with my waitress at a kavehaz (that's right: coffeehouse). She appreciated my rough introduction and request for pronunciation correction. I thoroughly enjoyed stating the duration of my Hungarian study and ordering in the native language.
Here is a snippet of my first Hungarian essay written after only two days of class:

Én Audrey Ooms vagyok. USA-ban, El Pasoban élek, amerikai vagyok. Angolul, kicsi franciául, és kicsi magyarul beszélek. Tanárnő vagyok. Most itt vagyok Magyarországon, és Budapesten magyarul tanulok.

Basically, I'm introducing myself and explaining my current situation as a teacher in Budapest learning Hungarian. There's also a sentence in there in which I discuss the languages I speak or try to speak.

Oh, at lunch time, my classmates and I decided on lunch using Chinese, German, Hungarian, and a little bit of English--such fun--and on the bus this evening, I interacted with a French woman in the three languages I've studied. Quite the day for linguistics in Budapest!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day!

Today is a national holiday in Hungary. Schools and businesses are closed; celebrations have been planned across the country and certainly in Budapest.

I got to spend the glorious spring day with the English Home Fellowship group from church. I hopped onto a tram to get into the city and rode along the Danube for about 20 minutes. Grins were inevitable as I began to recognize famous sights glistening in the sunshine. After my tram stop (at Battanyi Ter for those interested in the geography of my day), I enjoyed a brisk stroll farther north along the river, across Margit Bridge, and onto Margitsziget (Margaret Island). This island is located in the middle of the river and offers a park or countryside atmosphere for the people of the city.

We spent the afternoon throwing Frisbees, watching children, dogs, and ducks play, and simply enjoying the company from blankets in the grass. Marvelous. After dinner, we rode the metro--yellow line, first underground in continental Europe--to Heroes' Square in the far northeastern corner of Budapest. Believe it or not, we sipped coffee at a Gloria Jean's before the events in the square picked up!

Traditional Hungarian may pole dances, folk music, costumes, and fireworks under the noble obelisks and statues of Heroes' Square seemed a fitting conclusion to the holiday. Though I don't have a grasp of the language yet, I could understand the romance and pride reflected in the performances.

(I was enjoying the evening so much and guarding my belongings so vigilantly from pickpockets that I didn't take any pictures. Night time photos don't typically work well, anyway, but I apologize!)

A long walk down Andrassy street in the rain, a metro ride and two buses later, I arrived at home in Diosd. What a great day to see more of this city that is now my home, interact with people who will be my friends, and appreciate the history and culture of Hungary. Happy May Day!