Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And we're off!

One of my dear brothers and I have just left the familiar sights of Budapest for lands unknown. We'll be gone for about 17 days, visiting Poland, Czech Republic, a blur of Vienna, Slovenia, and finally Croatia. I've been looking forward to Andrew's visit and this chance to travel in Central/Eastern Europe, but now I'm pretty sick and nursing a cup of tea in our hostel. We have so many amazing opportunities to experience new places and meet new people. If only I can get my stomach to cooperate!

P.S. Krakow is gorgeous, and I've only really explored for a few hours today!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Culture Stress: Konyhaban

Culture Stress: in the Kitchen

Hungary doesn't shock me. (Well, maybe the police tactics do from time to time.) Typically, I notice differences in culture, tradition, language, but I'm not shocked. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised Thursday by the Immigration Office experience. There are stresses, though, when living in a new place. Today, the specific stressor with which I've battled the most appeared, guns blazing.

I tried to make brownies. Brownies are a treat that every junior high girl in America can make. Brownies are not known to be fundamentally difficult to bake. Until today.

The only real life difficulty that I notice here is located in the kitchen. Ingredients are different--obviously--or nonexistent because they aren't part of the culture. Measurements are different here, because I don't really remember my conversion tables for the metric system and I sold my measuring cups before I moved. :) And, my oven doesn't have a thermostat. All these small differences combined with the fact that I naively try to cook exactly the same as I did in the States make for frustrating moments like when the brownies take 1.5 hours to bake and don't taste right.

The basis of the frustration lies in the starting over, the re-learning of skills I mastered years ago. I've baked treats since I was a kid. Preparing food for myself in the States--while not my favorite use of time--was a daily, undaunting task. Now, even though I step confidently onto the red 7 bus or introduce myself in Hungarian at church, I still struggle with something as simple as food preparation.

In the grand scheme of eternity, kitchen kerfuffles don't mean much, and I appreciate the perspective. I'm so thankful for the perspective. In my current phase of culture stress and transition, though, the kitchen seems to be my biggest obstacle.

(This post is a few days old as I publish it. The poor brownies are still in the pan as though, by some chance, they will improve when I walk by and taste them again. No such luck.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Smoke bombs, and tear gas, and crowds. Oh my!

Did I get your attention? Well, I have just described a large part of last Saturday. Yep, I witnessed a riot.

Now, I am going to seem a little cheap, but I'd like to direct you to Kristen's blog where she offers an account of our day with PICTURES. I have no such gift to offer. She does a great job of narrating the day.

I let some time pass before sharing this account so that I could assure you that everything has calmed down here in Budapest, and there doesn't seem to be any permanent physical damage to person or building. It was a pretty frightening and unreal experience over which we had no control, but it proved the reality of Psalm 20:6-7. The police may have been out in force--like a small army--but our God is always in control.

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I hope everyone in the U.S. enjoyed the Fourth of July! Here in Budapest, there was a festival in the Castle district celebrating when the Magyars came to Hungary. I was glad to spend the day with friends in a festive environment even though it wasn't the typical cook-out and fireworks event.

Freedom is a gift for which I am very thankful but that I don't fully grasp because I've never known the lack of it. During my lifetime--and yours, too--the United States has been totally free. Since I was quite young, I've even enjoyed spiritual freedom from sin and death because of Jesus. The people of Hungary have had a different experience.

On my last day of language school, my teacher Bori helped us to translate (roughly) a song that is very significant here. While considering the history, the words, and finally the sounds of this song, I was moved to tears. On a weekend when Americans celebrate independence, I'd like to share this glimpse of the darkness that so much of the world has known.

Please accept this rough translation of the lyrics of Ha én rózsa volnék (If I Were a Rose). This song speaks to the resiliency, pain, and yearning for freedom that surrounded the failed revolution of 1956 against the evil and oppressive Stalinist government, all of which came after Nazi occupation. Then, check out one (or both) of the YouTube links. The first shows some helpful images and also what the Hungarian language looks like. The second is an amazing performance by Koncz Zsuzsa that displays how a Hungarian audience feels about this song.

If I were a rose, I wouldn't blossom just once a year.
Every year, I would blossom four times.
I'd open for the boys, and I'd open for the girls.
For true love and for passing away.

If I were a gate, I would always be open.
From anywhere someone could come, I would let in anybody.
I wouldn't ask: who sent you??
I would be happy if everyone came in.

If I were a window, I would be one so large
that the whole world would become visible.
They would look through me with understanding eyes.
I would be happy if I showed everything.

If I were a street, I would always be clean.
Every blessed night I would bathe in light.
If the tank wheels should crush me
The ground would cry out under me and open.

If I were a flag, I would never flutter.
I would be angry at all kinds of winds.
I would be happy to be tightened/stretched* by them. (image like
Jesus' arms on cross)
I wouldn't be merely a toy for any wind.

YouTube link: song with images

YouTube link: live performance