In Which I Become a Hungarian Waitress

Well, originally this blog post was intended for yesterday, but a lot of unexpected (and mostly delightful) things happened yesterday that kept me up until after midnight — if you know me, you’d know that’s pretty radical.

So, my day began with a cup of coffee with cream. Fools! My legend dates back to the 12th century. And now you see why you must obey rule #778 — never mail your mail without the proper postage!

Come on, people. That was a Soul Eater spoof. Get with the program.

Anyway, my real day began with a quick overview of my Hungarian knowledge in preparation for the midterm. Today, I discovered that I got a perfect score on the test. I was the first one to finish it; actually, I finished it quite a while before anyone else did, and I was a little paranoid with thinking, “Did I miss something? I obviously didn’t do something right if everyone else is still working on it. Maybe I misunderstood the directions?”

After class, I immediately headed out to the store to buy this week’s groceries, which came to about $12.50. Then, I dashed over to the ATM, still carrying my duffel bag of groceries (did you know that you have to bring your own bags to the store in Hungary?) and took out the money to pay for my roommate’s and my ticket to Romeo and Juliet, the musical, in Hungarian. I also took out enough to pay for the sim card of a mobile phone that one of the students is lending me while I go to other countries by myself, in case there is an emergency. Then, I zoomed back to the dorm to drop off my groceries, passing a scary man on the way.

He was staring at me, but when I’d look at him he’d start sweeping the sidewalk. As I got closer, he came further out into the sidewalk. I was thinking to myself, rendőr, rendőr — “policeman” in Hungarian. If you shout that, it gets you more attention than if you shout segítség (help). Thankfully, I just walked briskly but confidently past him, switching my duffel to the opposite side, and nothing came of it.

When I got back to the dorm, I had just enough time to put some stuff in the refrigerator before dashing back out the door to catch tram 47…which was leaving as I hopped onto the platform. Of course. So I waited for it for a while, and I got on when it came back around. Adrienn, the Hungarian student I was going to meet, told me to wait for her in Kosztolányi Dezső tér in front of a cukrászda (pastry shop), but I had never been to Kosztolányi before. My plan was to take 47 to Gárdonyi tér and then catch 19, and thankfully it worked. I found the cukrászda and stood in front of it for a while to wait. As the sun got hotter, I retreated under the awning of the shop and then behind a big plant. To my chagrin, while standing behind the plant, I was also standing right next to the chalkboard menu outside the cukrászda — which, apparently in Budapest, means that I’m a waitress. After people came up to me asking things I couldn’t understand, to which I didn’t have time but intended to give a heartfelt bocsánat, nem értem (I’m sorry, I do not understand), I decided that it would be best if I moved before the cukrászda owners got angry that I wasn’t answering people’s questions.

As I was stepping away from the sign, an elderly lady approached me, tossing around a whole bunch of really fast Hungarian sentences. Thankfully, I understood what she wanted — the time, because her watch was broken. I held out my watch, but she couldn’t read it (I think it was too small). She held up her thumb to me, saying, “Egy” (one). I shook my head with a smile and held up two fingers and said, “Kettő” (two). She shuffled away with a happy köszönöm, and it was shortly after that that I met up with Adrienn, who gave me her phone in exchange for the money I owed her. Then, she invited me to her house!

I wish I would have brought my camera, because having the opportunity to visit a Hungarian house in the countryside, far away from the city atmosphere of Budapest, was refreshing and beautiful. Unfortunately, I can only describe it — a very hilly, forested landscape with houses facing all directions speckling the deep green pine trees with bits of adobe red roofs. Compared to the very organized layout of Budapest, the seemingly random placement of mountain homes was refreshing. When we arrived at the bus stop, Adrienn’s mother came to pick us up to prevent Adrienn, who walks with two canes, from walking the incredibly long distance to her house. From the moment I hopped into the car, I knew things would be interesting.

safapoigneonoaefpodinasfd. Huh? That was when I realized that Adrienn’s mother does not speak English. Suddenly,  I was very excited to finally spend some time with Hungarian speakers! Sure, I travel around in Budapest a lot, but I’ve never been in any lengthy conversations with Hungarians. I feel confident about my Hungarian language abilities after such a short time of learning, but being able only to muster a feeble köszönöm occasionally, or víz in response to what I’d like to drink, was a great reminder of how much more I would like to learn.

I told Adri that I should really only stay for an hour or so, since I had a lot of Hungarian to study (about 60 words for the quiz the next day, and large phrases as well, such as elfogadnak hitelkártyát and szénsavmentes ásványvíz) and I hadn’t had the chance to study yet. She said that was fine, and offered to make me a traditional Hungarian meal called káposztá tészta, or “cabbage noodles.” She told me to put sugar on it, which I did, and it was delicious. Literally, it was one of the most amazing things I have ever tasted. We talked for quite a while, and I really enjoyed her company, although I had to keep politely hinting that I really needed to leave and study. I wanted to be home by 4, because I had met her at 2.

It was now 6:45. Oh dear.

So, finally her mother returned and kindly gave me a ride back to the bus stop, where I said goodbye to Adri and her mom and walked toward the stop. I saw bus 272 drive away as I approached. Dang it — I needed bus 272! Out in the countryside, the buses don’t come very often. It was 6:45, I still hadn’t studied or done any of the other things I needed to do, the trip back to Budapest would be about half an hour, and the bus just left. Was God really saying that I shouldn’t study? I find that hard to believe. 🙂

I waited there, excited to finally see a bus 272 approach. It was a different-looking bus, so at first I was cautious to get on, even though it said it was heading to Kosztolányi Dezső tér. It parked and grumbled as the driver shut it down. Following it very closely was another bus 272, of the same shape and color. It also pulled over.

Now that’s strange, I thought to myself. Why would two of the same number buses be at the same stop at the same time when they’re not supposed to arrive for another twenty minutes?

Turns out, both of them had apparently had engine troubles, found each other, and followed each other to the closest stop when their buses finally broke down. Yes indeed, it appeared that I wouldn’t be getting home any time soon. I watched the two drivers walk back and forth talking to each other and trying to start the buses to no avail. Finally, I approached one driver and said, “Is this bus leaving?” He stared at me blankly. Oh, he doesn’t speak English. I gestured with my hands to show the bus moving forward.

“Five-ten-min,” he said. I smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, then went back to waiting. A bus 172E pulled in, and I was like, “Forget this. I’m leaving.” So I climbed onto that bus, which I knew had also stopped at Kosztolányi Dezső tér earlier. Adri told me to take 272, and that was my plan, but it was time to take matters into my own hands.

The bus trip was long, but I did in fact end up back at Kosztolányi Dezső tér, where I retraced my steps through tram 19 and onto 47 back to Albertfalva. When I got back to my dorm, I flung myself onto the bed and took a deep breath. Now to start studying. I flipped open my laptop to let Adri know that I had arrived safely only to see a jolly message from Professor Feenstra sitting in my inbox.

“Hi Carrie. There is good news and bad news for you regarding the courses you would like to take at Karoli.”

That was the last thing I wanted to see.

ALL of the FIVE backup classes that I had chosen were scheduled for late Thursdays or were on Fridays. I was told that there are, without fail, no classes on Fridays, but apparently that is not true. Additionally, Professor Feenstra planned all of our excursions on Thursday-Sunday interims, so I would miss anywhere between 4 and 6 classes between now and December should I take a Friday class. That’s half of the class, since Karoli classes only meet once a week.

So you mean to tell me that I’m studying abroad for no purpose (other than to study the lovely language, which was one of my main goals in coming), and I will come home without a single credit that counts to my name? Fantastic.

Thankfully, with some quick and coordinated effort initiated almost immediately by me, we were able to find two alternative classes that will work and will count for the same things that the originally intended classes would have. Now the trick will be to actually get into those classes before they are full. We’ll jump that hurdle when we get to it, which will be the crazy, chaotic day known as Every-Single-Karoli-Student-Registers-for-Classes-All-at-Once Day.

Later at night, I recruited Kelly to help me scrounge through the book bins from previous students in order to hopefully find copies of our required textbooks so that we wouldn’t have to buy them. We sneaked (yes, snuck is not a word) into the hallway with a list of books, found all of them (woohoo!) and scurried back to our rooms like ninjas. So now we shouldn’t have to spend the predicted $130 on books! 🙂 Can’t say what kind of cost the Karoli classes will have though. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to pay for these ones!

No, we didn’t steal them. They’re sitting there, free for anyone to borrow for as long as he or she would like. We just sneaked in a borrowed them before everyone else had that brilliant idea and there were no copies left. 😉

Things are going well, despite the occasional really frustrating logistical issues. But, no program could be without issues at some point, so I can’t complain. At least the problems are fixable (so far). Thank goodness I’m a pretty chill person that doesn’t panic under pressure!

Anyway, today Kelly and I are heading to the bookstore to purchase the book for the Healthcare class that is new this year (therefore there are no old copies). Then, it’s on to Hungarian tomorrow and some Budapest hot springs!

I know, I haven’t really been updating my Hungarian vocabulary lists. So, here’s some of what you’ve missed —

Hol, honnan, hova, mész, mikor, mióta, meddig, melyik, kezicsókolom, asztal, alatt, mellett, előtt, mögött, ban, fölött, doboz, könyv, füzet, toll, ceruza, szék, hány óra, semmi baj, ingyen, talán, nagyon sajnálom, hol van a férfi/női mosdó, mesgismételnéd, minden renben/ok, kérek egy pohár csapvíz/vizet, eltévedtem, beszél itt valaki angolul, dollárt szeretnék beváltani, segítség, rendőr, elég, mennyivel tartozom, bocsánat mennem kell, kérem a számlát, elfogadnak hitelkártyát, kérek egy (angol) étlapot, vegetarianús vagyok, mast nem kérek, én fizetek, kérek egy pohár fehér bort, szénsavmentes ásványviz, ez fantasztikus, szeretnék úszni, szeretnék venni egy blúzt, kék, sárga, piros, lila, barna, fekete, fehér, aranyszinű, ezüst szinű, szürke, rószaszín, bordó, narancssárga, gratulálok, na verge, balra, jobbra, nem baj, jaj de szép, drágám, csillagom, bejárat, kijárat, meleg, hideg, nyitva, zárva, kórház, hétfő, kedd, szerda, csütörtök, péntek, szombat, vasárnap.

Naturally, this is not nearly close to summarizing all I’ve learned to say in Hungarian. This is just what I’m pulling out of my head at the moment. This obviously doesn’t include any of the sentences/conversations I can have.

Well, I think that’s about all I have for now. Cheers! Or, as we say in Hungarian, egészségedre!

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