Of Demolished Vans and Emu Cheese

My majestical daily life, AKA the awesomeness of being me, continues to entertain me each and every day here in Budapest, despite my often uncomfortable or frustrating surroundings. The noise level recently has been through the roof (or through the floorboards, depending), and I my regular pleas to shut doors to dull the intense noise are being completely ignored. One more month, one more month. I never wanted to long so deeply to leave this semester, and it’s so unfortunate that I have to be that way, but I’m counting down the days until I can climb into my 1993 Ford Escort and drive home — by myself. In silence. In solitude.

Having said that, even if I had known beforehand how much worse my hyperacute hearing would become or how bad the noise from my fellow Calvin students here would be, I would still have chosen to come on this semester. For people with normal hearing, there are no problems, so any Calvin students reading this should not be at all discouraged from coming! I have thoroughly enjoyed it, and I will still continue to cherish each and every day and new experience that comes my way while I’m here. But at the same time, the peace and quiet of a forested valley in rural Pennsylvania sounds lovely right about now….

Anyway, aside from the noise which has been tiring me out and frustrating me, Kelly and I have still managed to be up and about despite my exhaustion. We went with Adri to a small cafe that she and I frequent occasionally, and Adri asked that we meet her at Kosztolányi Dezső tér so that she could practice using public transportation with her crutches with us at her side. We happily agreed and, after meeting her and hopping on tram 47, rode leisurely toward Deák Ferenc tér, the end of tram 47’s line.

I was standing facing out of the tram window and holding onto a pole when a flash of silver caught my eye for just a moment. Suddenly, the tram driver rang his bell frantically, and the brakes clenched tightly and pitched the entire train forward with a rattling jolt. My knees buckled and I stumbled, but I didn’t lose my grip on the pole. Kelly had hold of the hinge between tram cars and steadied herself, and Adri, who was sitting, lurched sideways but clung to her seat.

What seemed like minutes actually lasted only a fraction of a second as the other people standing in the tram car staggered in a synchronized wave, the intense force of the brakes driving them down together. The screech of rubber and the pistol-like bang of shattered glass snapped all of us in the stalled train back to our senses. A silver van, its back half crushed in like a paper bag, trickled diamond-like glass shards along the road as it gimped out from in front of the tram. The tram driver flung himself out of his compartment at the front of the 47, shouting, “Van valaki megsérült? [Is there anyone hurt?]” Thankfully, no one was, and Kelly and I briskly grabbed Adri’s canes and helped her evacuate from the tram onto the middle of the road. We made our way to the curb and looked back to see the tram, its front cowcatcher bent grotesquely sideways, frozen on the tracks next to the crippled van. 

Although the van had been making an illegal U-turn across the tracks, the van driver was lecturing the tram conductor (who would have none of it, if I don’t say so myself). We couldn’t stick around, as the congestion of people in the area was only making things worse and I assumed that Adri was getting tired from walking so far on her canes after such a stressful wreck. It was obvious that waiting for another tram would be pointless at that point, because none of them would be able to get around the 47. Thankfully, we were near enough to Astoria that we got the metro. Adri was a great sport and walked all that way, down the steps, onto a metro, and then up two escalators with our help. It was stressful to help her, as I was always fearing that I would somehow hurt her or that I wouldn’t be able to catch her and she would fall, but we made it! I was very worried about her, but she managed with a positive attitude to boot.

After that, making it to the cafe was easy (if exhausting for Adri, who’d walked quite far by that point). The next day, when I showed up for work and mentioned the collision to one of my superiors at Telepátia Nyelviskola, Borbély Eszter, she quickly pulled up the incident report of it online: (http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20121026-karambolozott-a-kiskoruti-villamos.html).

*****

Speaking of work, I do really enjoy it. I received this message from Eszter just today, actually: “We just checked one of the recordings – the taxi one – and found that your voice is very-very pleasant. We like you the most. (so does Caroline :-))”

Caroline is this very fun, very spunky British lady that does the British English pronunciations for the recordings while I do the American English ones alongside the other voice actors — Holubecz Bálint (lots of fun, really positive attitude, though he usually just runs the sound system), Odze Orsolya (also very nice, the first one from Telepátia that I spoke to), and occasionally Ezster if Odze is busy. It depends on whether the script calls for a man or woman, British/American/Hungarian, etc. Anyway, Caroline takes an affectionate interest in my time here in Hungary and often inquires about how things are going with the noise back here in the dorm. She’s great to be around.

*****

On Monday (November 5), I took my Hungarian language midterm, which I feel like I aced. We’ll find out next week! I sat down in the classroom and we had a bit of class before the test; shortly before the exam was handed out, a young lady walked into the classroom and sat down. Having been absent from class last time due to whatever illness I picked up in Romania, I had no idea that this new girl had joined our class, but today was her first day. Professor Laszlo (I don’t know why, but he’s the only professor I’ve ever called by first name) asked her to introduce herself. She seemed very confused, and he broke it down, asking her individual questions. Her English was very rough, and she whispered for fear of getting her words wrong, but when Laszlo asked her where she was from, she replied, “Japan.”

My face ——-> O_O

My brain exploded.

I just had this sudden urge to be like, “キャアアア!どこから来ましたか。私はキャリです。ちょっと日本語を話しますよ。手伝いましょうか。大学でせんこうは日本語ですから、お姉さんのために翻訳することができます [OMG, where are you from in Japan? My name is Carrie. I can speak some Japanese. Would you like me to help you? At college, my major is Japanese, so I can translate for you if you want],” as well as a whole bunch of other stuff that I wanted to say. Unfortunately, the midterm got in the way. She was very nervous through the rest of class, so when class was over, I was going to meet her in the hall and ask her something simple like “大変でしたね [It was tough!]” or something, but the professor asked her to stay a bit later to help fill her in on what she’d missed at the beginning of class, so I didn’t have a chance. Oh well. Hopefully she’s there next week and I can talk with her!

*****

What else? Let’s see….I decided that, now that my homemade banana oatmeal cream bites were long gone, I should probably make some other sort of snacky food. Not having access to an oven or nice baking pans, it’s up to me to create my own recipes here. So, scrounging together a basic idea of what every brownie needs in order to actually be a brownie, I created my own recipe and made brownie bites in a skillet on the stovetop. Because I am Queen of Skillet Cooking. I can cook anything in a skillet. Seriously.

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I know they look like pancakes, but they have quite a different consistency. They are indeed brownies! I just broke them apart to make them bite-size. This recipe, which I created myself, uses only cheap ingredients — no butter, no vanilla extract, no chocolate chips (or cocoa, or baking chocolate, or melted chocolate in general), no brown sugar. And yes, they still taste like chocolate brownies, with the same soft texture. Fudgy, even, thanks to my cooking skills — take a look at the middle!

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*****

I got up early in the morning in order to make those before most people woke up and crowded into the kitchen. Kelly had just woken up when I’d finished, so I went back into my room to study for my upcoming linguistics midterm at Karoli Gaspar. I looked at the study guide. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love linguistics, and it (especially morphology) is something that has always in some way come very naturally to me. I read the textbook pages that weren’t assigned because I was interested, took way more notes that everyone else in class, and just devoured everything that Professor Csides has been saying since September. I saw this question on my study sheet:

Allophones of a phoneme are in a __________ distribution.

Hmm…that’s a tough one. I’ll have to think about that for a minute. Let’s look at another one.

List the alveolar consonants of English.

Need to think about that one too. Anything I can answer right now?

Transcribe the following words according to RP, using the Gimsonian notation. Mark stress when necessary.

I’m screwed, aren’t I?

The syllable consists of an onset, a nucleus, and a _______.

CODA, baby. The answer is CODA. Booyah!

So I got one right, at least…. 😉

It’s not that I don’t know the answers to these things, it’s that I don’t know them quickly. This test is 40 questions, and most of them (about 35 of them) are like the first three above. It’s not that I couldn’t figure them out. It’s that I have 50 minutes to take the whole test. And when it says to “transcribe the words according to RP,” that RP is short for BrRP, or “British Received Pronunciation.” That means that I can’t mark stress or sound based on my American accent — I have to use the British accent. That makes a big difference in documenting /r/ as well as the glottal (you know, how they don’t say “ScoTland,” they say “Sco_land.” British people don’t say the T, and there’s a special symbol for that). It makes the test more difficult and time consuming.

Needless to say, I’ll really have to study for this puppy. But, I’m really excited too. This has been a fantastic class, and I really love it. It is the first time that I have ever actually felt like I am at the college level. I’ve never had a class that has challenged me in this way.

Then again, that could also be because some Karoli students are also taking this class for their Master’s degree….

*****

After I’d finished studying, Kelly and I went to Centrál Kávéház to observe the people there for a journal assignment about food culture in Hungary. I can certainly say that I was not expecting the level of grandeur that that place showed off once we got there.

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I was thinking, Oh, it’s just a coffee house. It won’t be anything fancy. Yeah.

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I originally wanted just a small piece of (relatively cheap) cake, but I decided to majorly splurge and get a meal that I probably will never have again — Sztrapacska, a curd-potato gnocchi “from the Uplands” (northern regions of Hungary and southern parts of Slovakia) with ewe cheese and sour cream and bacon bits. It was certainly delicious!

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The ewe cheese was quite unique, having an almost smoky taste. It was bitter, much more so than, say, sharp cheddar, but it was quite good. Then again, Kelly misread the menu and thought we were getting emu cheese, so I’m not sure if she got what she was expecting. 😉

She looked up at me and said, “How exactly do you milk an emu?”

What a perfect point on which to end a blog! 😉

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