Thursday, August 25, 2016

2 out of 3 in School

Good morning from Hungary!
   Today is a beautiful, 75 degree day in Budapest. It is also Emma Jane's 4th day of 2nd grade and Anthony Ransom's 2nd day of Kindergarten. They are attending the American International School of Budapest, which is really an international school run in the style of an American school. Emma and Ransom are in classes comprised of students from all over the world.  Both children were incredibly excited to start school, and they have loved every part of it so far.

     I was emotionally prepared for Emma to go back to school. I thought I was emotionally prepared for Ransom to start kindergarten. I mean, there was a time when I didn't even know if I would like that kid (see blog post here), but low and behold, I really, really like him, and I really, really miss him. He asked if he could walk by himself to his class on his first day, to which I replied, "Of course not". He walked into his classroom all smiles, hung his backpack in his cubby and took out his folder as though he had been doing these routines for months. I shouted a "Bye!" and "I love you!", and then he looked at me with concerned eyes, realizing this was harder on me than him. He came over to where I was and gave me a tight hug, and then ran off to play at centers. I was pretty choked up as I walked Emma to the stairs before she headed up to her classroom. As Titus and I walked out the doors, all I could think about was Handsome Ransom, age 4 sitting on top of a piece of playground equipment at the park we used to go to. They grow fast.
Even the second kid.
And every goodbye is hard. 


  While driving around the city, I have been thinking about things I should blog about.
Here are a few random observations.

  • Lots and lots of people here smoke cigarettes. It's just what they do. They may walk everywhere and eat healthy, but they also smoke. Emma and Ransom made a game out of counting cigarette butts. I think Ransom decided to just round up to 9,874 billion.
  • Most people here have some form of a tattoo somewhere on their bodies, and there are many people with body piercings. The tattoos are usually colorful and in obvious places. It seems they do not worry about being disqualified from a job based on body art as would be a consideration (whether right or wrong) in America. 
  • The average age of women having children (first babies) is well over 30. The pregnant women I have seen at the doctor's office were in their mid-forties. I am considered quite young to have as many children as I have, especially a 7 year old. 
  • Public transportation (bus, tram, subway) and walking is considered the norm. Upper middle-class people take the bus to work. The people here think Americans are crazy for the amount of time we spend in the car. I have developed a love for the tram. For about $10 a month, I can have someone drive me all around town all I want while I read, sleep, or make eye-contact with my children. 
  • European butter is amazing. 
I think I'm going to go have some bread and butter now. 



Friday, August 12, 2016

Things we Take for Granted in the States...

   It is important to me that my blog present you with an honest look at our adventures. Yesterday, I sincerely meant everything I said about how amazingly well we are doing. However, there are still hard moments... hard days... and the longing for comforts of what I know. A friend and I were messaging one another about the therapeutic benefits of cookie dough, and while I made a really good batch last week, I had to make my own brown sugar and I didn't have my Kitchenaid mixer.
   Perspective is a crucial part of our experience here. Clark and I know we are where God has us for a purpose, and the things that seem hard are usually fairly small in the big scheme of things. I did begin thinking up a list of things we take for granted, Americans especially.

Drying clothes in an American clothes dryer
    Our dryer does not have a vent to the outside. It spins the water out of the clothes and into a reservoir that you have to empty after each load. There are two lint filters which also require emptying after each load. Each small load requires at least 2 hours to dry, usually 4, though. We will be getting a clothes line soon.

Street signs with the names of streets
    The names of streets are written on the corner of the last building of the street. If you are walking, this is fine, but  when you are driving, this makes things a little tricky. Apparently Google Maps and other navigation helps are aware of this, because they don't even bother to tell you the names of streets on which to turn. They say silly things like, "Sharp left in 200 meters" or "Slight right in 1.7 km".

Good coffee
   I've heard people brag about Turkish coffee. We have yet to find some that does not taste like shoe leather.

Not sweet cereal
   Apparently the Hungarian people like to start their day with dessert. I am a huge fan of their pastries, particularly the sour cherry pies or alma lavalas (apple turnovers), but we are all craving some plain Cheerios.

Computers that come with Windows OS.
    That was fun. Especially since it was in Hungarian.

Accessibility to Over-the-Counter Medication
   All medications must be purchased at pharmacies, prescription or not, and not all "over-the-counter" medications are available without a prescription.

Free public restrooms
    Better keep some coins in your pocket!

Central Air Conditioning or Air Conditioned Public Spaces
    Sometimes stores have air at the front when you first walk in, but as you continue shopping toward the back of the store, you notice the air is a little warmer... and heavier... Our house has AC in the family room and in each of the bedrooms. Each one has a remote control and the ability to set the temperature and the fan speed, but if it is on, it is always on and blowing air. There is no such thing as reaching a comfortable temperature. People think we are crazy for even running our AC. Ever.

   Every now and then I may sneak in a few more things, kind of like Jimmy Fallon's "Thank You Letters", but for now, I'm going to go restart the dryer and then play with my kids.

Much Love,


Thursday, August 11, 2016

One Month in Budapest!

   Szia from the "Pearl of the Danube"!

   Please forgive us for the radio-silence this past month, but we have enjoyed the time to settle in and explore our new homeland.

   Budapest is an absolutely beautiful city. It has history and architecture as well as glorious views. The current temperature is 65 degrees F, and as I sit and type, my view is of the pear tree in my yard and past that the beautiful Buda hills. Clark and I have to regularly remind ourselves we get to live here, that we aren't just on vacation for a few weeks. It is completely surreal.

   Overall, we are all doing remarkably well. The kids adjusted quickly to the time difference, and they are loving the relaxed pace of life in Europe. Clark is doing well at his new job, learning the language quickly and serving as our tour guide for parts of the city. I am enjoying figuring out cooking and daily life in an unfamiliar place, made better by the gorgeous scenery and climate. We all think our two year assignment may go by too quickly.

   We began our adventure in an apartment in the bustling heart of Pest. This was an interesting way to be thrust into European culture, but as Clark and I have always been attracted to life in the city, we enjoyed our time there. We walked everywhere, ate at fun restaurants, and played in city parks. Our apartment was directly on top of restaurants and karaoke bars, and though it put a damper on our open windows at night, it was fun to hear the lively music and laughter in the evenings.

   From there we moved into our house in the woods, still in Budapest, but now on the Buda side of the Danube River. Pest is known to be flat as a pancake and very metropolitan while Buda is hilly and more peaceful. Our house is on what was once a massive estate, set back about 60 meters from the peaceful road which faces woods and a nature preserve. Our pants are fitting a little loser as our house has three stories-- garage/basement, "ground floor", and "1st floor". We have a great view of the hills from our den, and the tram is about an 8 minute walk from our gate. Clark did a FABULOUS job finding us this house.

   Things that have been tricky mostly revolve around the language and our expectation that things be done quickly. In regard to the language, many younger people know some English, but many things are still lost in translation. I have not met an English speaker at the grocery store yet, and they usually assume I speak Hungarian, so I do a lot of nodding and smiling. Most older women come up and touch Titus's thighs, and say something with a smile on their face. I hope they are saying something like "Wow, he sure is sturdy," or something like that. Regarding timely expectations, we joke that when a person from Hungary tells you something will take 5 minutes, they really mean 30. Everything takes a liiiiitttlllle biiiitttt looooonnnger here. If you plan to quickly drop off some paperwork at the school, think again. You will be invited in to sit and have a glass of viz (water) and chat about random things for at least an hour. I have come to realize that culturally, Americans are a very hurried people, and in our rush to get things done, we have lost much of our hospitality. The Hungarians I have met are incredibly hospitable, and they regularly put people before tasks.

   I look forward to posting more and giving you all a glimpse into our lives in Budapest! We have room for guests, so come visit!

Much Love,
Katelyn, Clark, Emma, Ransom, and Titus