Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mad'arska ( aj sa vola Magyar)!

[Hungary (also called Hungary)]

Wednesday was no school. It was one of the Virgin Mary's holy days, and Ruth says Slovakia's national "slogan" (?) has to do with the Virgin Mary, so that's her theory on the national holiday. Sounds likely. At any rate, everyone loves a vacation in the middle of the school week!

And especially me, since Tibor, Aneta (Tibor's girlfriend), Patrik (Aneta's son), Lenka (Ruth's cousin, age 11) and I went to Hungary for the day! My first time there, though hopefully not last. Obviously the Hungarian countryside I saw looked just like the Slovak countryside I'd left, since we went to a town right on the border, and Nitra's only an hour or so from Hungary. Corn fields on one side, sunflower fields on the other, poplars and other deciduous trees marking the margins, willows on the riverbanks. Very pleasant. It was interesting to see all the sunflowers that had been bursting at their peak a month ago when I first arrived (I remember seeing them driving from the airport) now were dark brown and shriveled, left to dry out.

Okay, Slovak's no walk in the park (more cases than Russian and a lot less study materials out there), but Hungarian... wow, I'm glad I'm not sweating over that. It seemed almost absurd how long every word on every sign was, not to mention the seemingly random jumble of consonants and diacritic marks. I discovered not only does Hungarian have the regular accents and umlauts, they also have slanted umlauts: they're like two very stubby lines which come down right-to-left. I have no idea what sound they usually make... So, Gyor, the town we went to, had the slanted umlaut over the "o" in its name. It's pronounced something like Yurr, I think.

Sad to say, Gyor was not a pretty place. I don't think Communism was very kind to it. Interestingly, this Hungarian town was pretty similar to a Slovak one (though the buildings in the old town were much more Venetian architecturally), while the Polish town we went to weeks ago was so radically different. I didn't mind that Gyor wasn't the easiest on the eyes; we weren't there to sight-see, but to go to the aquapark!

The aquapark was much different from Galandia last weekend. It didn't have the aura of sanitation that Galandia did (quite the opposite), but I didn't care. The water was very green, and, as I found out from Tibor later, partially salinated (did I just make that word up?). The water itself had a certain texture to it, like seaweed. Interesting. And it was very warm, in the nicest way.

There was an outdoor portion, with a sort of wraparound pool and one of those whirlpool-circles Galandia had. There were all sorts of alcoves and tunnels and places to sit. The inside portion was much larger, and was two large pools (including a swim-up bar, whirlpool-circle, and twenty-foot waterfall), two water slides, various saunas, locker rooms, and facilities, and two restaurants.

Cultural difference here: at Wild Waves, the regional waterpark back at home, the majority of people are young, teens or immature twenty-somethings. Here, the clientele was overwhelmingly the elderly. Many of whom I was surprised to see swimming, because they had a hard time just walking to the pools... I guess warm water is good for arthritis?

Lucky for me, I was there with Lenka. I mean, it would have been fun regardless, but relentlessly exuberant, enthusiastic Lenka made things more exciting. I don't know how many times we went on the water slides. (Too bad I didn't know how to tell her in Slovak about my adventure last summer when I went on a water slide over 70 consecutive times.) I also got told in Hungarian by the life guard. Oops. I guess watersliding together was a no-no...

This lasted many hours, but I'm not sure how to correspond the time to paragraphs, since really, it was just a series of going around in the whirlpools and going down the slides, with a lunch break in between...

We had left the house at 10, but we didn't get back home (after dropping off Aneta and Patrik on Klokocina, and Lenka in Chrenova, and picking up Kora from Erika's) until 6:45. The shower felt very nice, especially getting all the salt water off me, which irritated my cuts (and I mysteriously got sores on my feet).

On the way coming home, the sky was incredible. Not very colorful, just beautifully lit and textured. I have this one image of a large murder of crows darkening the sky over a fallow field.

And so passed my brief holiday...

Today, I had another occasion. Wednesday, when we'd picked up Kora from Erika's house, Erika had asked when I was going to come back to finish frosting the cookies. We agreed on Thursday at 3:30 after school. I get home before 3 every day, so I thought that would be fine.

Well, it started off that the bus was late. I got home at 3:05 and remembered Thursday is one of the days Ruth gets home late, so I need to walk the dogs. And for some unknown reason, I realized I couldn't remember where Erika lived. Which was very strange, because I'd been there several times and taken special note of the place, and knew it well. But then, today, it was just blank in my mind. I had no idea. All I could remember was a tiny church was visible from her house. But I definitely didn't know where the church was...

So, at 3:15 I set out walking very briskly, into the heart of the stare mesto, hoping I'd stumble upon something to jog my memory. I walked behind the divadlo (theater)... nothing. And then suddenly, to my unbelievable luck, from behind the synagogue (an imposing and very architecturally-interesting building), I glimpsed the church. I'd never seen it from there before; I'd only ever seen it from Erika's house. Since it's so small, it's dwarfed by everything around it. So I took off, down some alley I hadn't been through before (don't worry, this wasn't a mugging alley or anything). I emerged on a street, saw in the distance the "homeopatea" sign next to Erika's house... and only five minutes late! It was a miracle. Well, it was a strange hole in my memory to begin with (no, Dad, not my usual inadequacy), and then a lucky resolution.

I was surprised, when I came in through the garden, to see stara mama and Lenka were eating on the terrace with Erika. I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised, since Erika is foremost stara mama's friend... Lots of dogs about. There was Molly and Lilly (stara mama's Yorkies, daughters of Phoebe), Kora and Aika (Erika's dog-- a wild thing that reminds me both physically and personality-wise of a vilossa raptor, but I like her a lot), all running free (though to be fair, Kora never runs, just sits or lies down). Lenka had a traumatic wasp stinging, I ate a corn on the cob, and then stara mama and Lenka left.

Erika had boxed up the cookies from last time, long dry, and had already made up a tube of yellow and a tube of pink frosting for me for the rest of the cookies. I'm not sure how it happened, but my technique was instantly perfect! I'd struggled before, but now I was writing in flawless cursive--this is frosting--and doing the most minute details. Aika was lying on the couch beside me, momentarily subdued as she tried to crack open nuts; Kora was snoring loudly at my feet; Erika was busying around the kitchen; Slovak opera was playing in the background, including later Simon and Garfunkel's exact arrangement of Scarborough Fair/Canticle, sung in Slovak... it was very peaceful.

I glanced at the clock and saw it was 5:30; I shrugged, because obviously Erika's clock was a few hours fast for some reason. Tibor came over and got Kora, and a half hour and three glasses of tonic water later I finally finished. I enjoyed myself so much, thinking up and then executing unique designs for the probably hundreds of cookies. And I could tell Erika really enjoyed that someone else was enjoying the art. She invited me to come over at Christmastime to make the large, many-layered seasonal cookies. I'd really love to.

I said my goodbyes and then walked home with the stuffed box of cookies. Back at the flat, the microwave's clock said 6:40. What?! So Erika's clock had been right after all... It was just very shocking to me that I'd spent over three hours there, when it'd felt like an hour at the most. Well, me getting absorbed in something and then losing touch with reality is nothing new, I guess.

Tomorrow evening I'm riding along with Larissa and Ramiro to Strecno, a town 10 km from Zilina, for the Rotary Inbound Conference! It's going to be all weekend long and I'm very excited. So Sunday or Monday you'll hear all about that... assuming the wi-fi stays intact. :)

Much love!


  1. Maybe you could capture some of your cookie decorations with photos...I'd love to see your art in the frosting medium; entirely new! The dinosaur spelling is velociraptor. It's nickname is the speedy thief, although it's not believed to have been all that speedy. Your fall mental snapshots of Hungary sound great! Love, mom.

  2. Speedy thief... that describes Aika (actually probably spelled Ajka) perfectly. Everything not nailed down gets snatched and destroyed. But I like her. I need to get pictures before they're all eaten!