Wednesday, December 31, 2008

the mother of all blog posts...

yeah -- it's been a while! I've been pretty busy, and it's much harder to update this blog without having internet at the apartment! so this is going to be pretty long. Save it for when you have some free time. :)

In fact, first visit Karen's blog. She's posted pictures from her trip last year, and it's like a virtual trip to Budapest! She and Kathy were fortunate enough to be here over a holiday weekend, so she has tons of really cool shots of things you don't always see. Go look at them, and come back here to read the rest of this post later!

I'm trying to remember all that's gone on.... Let's start with the Nutcracker! It was pretty amazing... little did I know that we actually had bought box seats! The set was incredible, the dancing was great, and it was all for a pretty cheap price. I love the opera house.

Then, we had the labyrinth, a kick off for the Alpha course. It was held in conjunction with the neighborhood Christmas party, and each station had something there to help people process and meditate on the meaning of Christmas. It came out far better than any of us expected! And hopefully it was meaningful to people as well. I did get thrown for a bit of a loop when we realized that they had no one to play carols at the end of the party....although earlier in the evening we were treated to a performance by the local doctor, who is also a trained concert pianist. That's right -- I had to follow the amazing musician! But it came out ok, I think. Anyway, it was a fun evening.

And in the morning -- very early in the morning!-- Kacie, Scarlett, and I left to Poland. The ride there was incredible. I seriously think it was worth the price just to ride through the snowy countryside. We arrived in Krakow just around lunchtime, so we settled into our apartment and started exploring the Christmas market. Later we visited the Jewish ghetto area and then Auschwitz. Since I teach Night every year (and if you haven't read it, you should!), I've been wanting to visit the camp for a long, long time. It was truly impressive. and sad. We arrived on a cold, cold day, and as we started to walk toward the crematoriums, it started to pour. Let me tell you -- that was a lesson in itself. I was determined not to complain, as I knew I had a warm coat, gloves, a scarf, hat, and shoes, and I had eaten well. It really helped to put things into perspective for me -- and that was only for a very brief time. If you ever get the chance, you should go.

And on a very different note, we went out one night to a Karaoke bar -- and we treated by an odd mixture of classic rock, Christmas songs, polka and or Jewish inspired folk songs, and my personal favorite -- an ode (in Polish) to "King Bruce Lee." I laughed so hard -- and fortunately for you, I found it on youtube! Sadly, this version does not include all the fun sound effects we heard. Just picture loud "hee-yah!" sounds -- with a Polish accent.

I've decided Krakow is one of my favorite cities. The buildings were beautiful, the people were friendly, and the food was amazing. I ate so well on this trip! All in all, a really good trip.

We got back late on Christmas Eve, and then I spent Christmas Day with the Bullock family. They had a couple ofther single girls staying with them -- one of whom was also a teacher from NC, so that was cool -- and a Hungarian woman who was visiting. She was a big fan of green bean casserole! It was really nice to spend Christmas eating, playing games, and watching movies with a family -- although it was nicer to use their Vonage to call home and talk to my real family for Christmas!

I am so grateful to have people around who are willing to invite me into their lives. In fact, I had several other invitations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day -- it's nice to feel like I'm part of a community. And when our car died recently, I sent out an email to the staff and immediately got offers to jump our car and suggestions as to what may be wrong. Two different men helped me out by taking me to buy a new battery and then installing it for me. It was really wonderful not to have to take the car to a mechanic -- I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who are so gracious and helpful.

It's also been fun to see the alumni coming back. Many former students have come home to be with their families for the holidays, so I've been catching up with them. It's kind of the equivalent to Homecoming back in the States!

and Izabella took me to see some of her Irish friends who play traditional music all over Budapest. It was kind of surreal to be in a Hungarian pub talking to Irish musicians! but they were really talented, and it was lots of fun.

So there you have it -- the extremely condensed version of my life lately! And if you didn't click over to Karen's pictures -- seriously, go!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

more Christmas fun

Every year the single teachers and those without children have a progressive dinner and white elephant (Dirty Santa) game. This year, the gifts were truly horrific, as evidenced by the pictures. Lisa somehow got back the video she had tried desperately to get rid of, and two men ended up with interesting women's apparel, much to their wives' dismay/amusement. I, however, ended up with the coveted white elephant, which meant I got to sign it. I really wanted to sign the elephant's posterior for posterity -- but sadly, that had already been taken! I settled for next to Lisa Adams from Christmas two years ago :)

We're finishing up exams right now (which I should be grading at the moment. oh well), and everyone is ready to be done. We're already feeling festive; some of these pics are from the annual Christmas concert. Notice's Lisa's debut as a pot-banger! One of the songs was a 70s version of the 12 days of Christmas; Day One's gift was an 8 track of the Partridge Family. :) Last night Lisa, Kim B., Jillian, and I went to Box Utca for dessert, and tonight Kacie and I are going to the opera house to see The Nutcracker! I've never seen it, and I've heard it's spectacular here...

Friday, December 12, 2008

the goose is getting fat

and Christmas is soon to be upon us!

Most of you know how much I love Christmas music -- but this is one that I can't seem to get out of my mind lately. I appreciate my family so much more now; this is now the third year away for the holidays!

But I expect to have a good Christmas nonetheless... Kacie, Scarlet, and I booked our tickets to Krakow yesterday! Can you believe it only costs $20 to go from Budapest to Poland? crazy! and we're setting up our Christmas labyrinth for Alpha this weekend... pictures coming soon.

For now, here are a few pics from this year's Christmas market... make sure you notie Santa's guest appearance, and be sure to read the "english" sign posted beside the mulled wine. :)

Monday, December 08, 2008

the holiday rush

So today I looked at my calendar and realized that starting Wednesday I have something planned every single day from here until the 25th. every. single. day.

I will be so grateful for a few days after Christmas to breathe.

This weekend was a return to Rezkigyo coffeeshop! I was really excited about this setlist, as I basically forced Austin to play songs I wanted to sing. :) I got lots of compliments, and the place was packed, so it was tons of fun. and some of us went to Beckett's afterwards -- too many to fit into our tiny car, in fact, so I have now had the experience of riding in my trunk. That's right -- I rode in the trunk so we could accomodate everyone. but it wasn't as uncomfortable as you might think :)

and the Christmas market is open again. I would love to have some pictures, but it was so freakin' packed that i didn't bother to try taking any. I love the Christmas market so much, though, that even hordes of tourists can't ruin it for me!

Our Alpha course kick-off is coming up, so please be praying for us as we set up our final preparations... I'm really excited to see how it will all turn out! and yet again -- it's decision time, when we must notify the school whether we plan to come back for the next school year. such a stressful decision! Be praying for me to have wisdom about what is best.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


So I left the snow of Budapest for the rain of Sweden. lots and lots of rain! oh well. I still greatly enjoyed my time there! Judy was a great host, and I enjoyed seeing a bit more of Europe... it was especially interesting to see how different it is from Hungary. I actually had a man working a cash register apologize to me for not speaking English when I first walked up. And then his English was impeccable, as most people's was. Sweden was also very clean -- note the picture of the bus terminal. I kept mentally comparing it to Blaha Lujza here, just to make myself laugh. It was also cool to hang out with Judy's friend John, who actually spent several years in Greensboro, of all places, before going back to Gothenburg. It's always helpful to get a local perspective, but especially so when the tour guide actually knows the place you're from! Truly, it is a small world.

Pictures follow. I didn't take a lot of pictures due to the cold and rain, but you get the idea. There are some of the sights, several of a ministry Judy works with at a sescond-hand store, and some from a family's Advent celebration, to which I was graciously invited. I've decided I love German Christmas cookies, much like the dog who waited at my feet for any crumbs to fall! And in lieu of turkey for Thanksgiving, I had traditional pea soup (better than it sounds) along with pancakes with cream and berries. And later, I had bear meat! pretty delicious.