Sun. 4/1

Its been such a gorgeous weekend - I wore shorts and a t-shirt the whole time! I climbed the Magas Hegy ("High Hill") and the "Hungarian Calvary." The latter is really unique - this was the first time I'd been there. Along the path going up are large rook-shaped "gravestones," mourning each city lost after the treaty of Trianon. I also rented Jesus Christ Superstar - which was even more fun than usual, because of the Hungarian subtitling.

I'm changing families on the 20th. I have really mixed feelings about that. After all, on the 25th, I'm leaving to Italy for a week with school, and I plan to travel for at least 3 weeks after school lets out. So I'll effectively be with them for only two months - which really isn't enough time for anything. I'll fell I'm being somehow unfair to them if I don't stay around, but that would be unfair to me. On the other hand, Eszter (one of the daughters in the family, who spent a year in the States last year and goes to my school) is pretty cool, and I'm sure living with them will be really nice. But the biggest problem is that I'm really attached to the Stumpf family, and don't want to leave.

Thurs. 4/5

Today was the Easter party. Nadia came over and baked brownies with me - each of us had to bring a typical food from our country. She also tried to make something Brazilian, but it kind of imploded on her. Also, we'd each written a multiple-choice test for a competition. Each included history, geography, culture, etc. One of my culture questions stumped them: "What popular American TV show was known for being 'about nothing'?" A lot of the kids picked "Tom and Jerry" (a darn good guess, I thought). Then we talked about Easter traditions in our countries. Pete tried to show us up by speaking Hungarian, but he didn't complete any sentences and ended up looking stupid. Of course, it wasn't a party unless there was a disco afterward. Tamas, Laci, Mate, and Tomy stayed, so I had a good time.

Fri. 4/6

This morning Nadia, Mariann, and I left for Bp. We met her sister-in-law Marta and went to Esztergom. There is a beautiful basilica there where St. King Steven - the first Hungarian king - was crowned. We also went to a few nearby villages - all in the Duna Bend region. Each had a gorgeous castle, all of which were remarkably intact. (Most Hungarian castles were pretty well destroyed after either the uprising against the Turks or the Austrians, both of whom had conquered Hungary.) We spent the night at Marta's house in Fot, which is just a few minutes outside Bp.

Sat. 4/7

We went to Szentendre and visited the outdoor museum there - Skanzen. It was really well-done - there were areas representing each region of Hungary and its respective architecture, etc. There were also gorgeous replicas of Greek Orthodox and Reform churches.

Afterward, we visited the figt shop, and Nadian and I each bought little knight figures. Then we went to lunch at a fantastic spot nearby. We degenerated into battling our knights by the end of lunch. But it was a good time.

Sun. 4/8

Nadia, Marta, and I went to the Reform service this morning. I ended up wishing I'd gone with Mariann to the Greek Catholic service, but oh well. It was a mediocre day, so we didn't go to Godollo as planned. Instead we saw the great Roman Catholic church in Fot. Later in the day we went into Bp., to some museums: the house of Ady Endre and the Petofi Sandor Literature Museum. Both were very neat.

Mon. 4/9

Today we went to Sopron. The hotel we stayed at turned out perfect - just a short walk from downtown, and very atmospheric. We walked around and saw most of the sights, but everything touristy was closed.

Sopron is really beautiful. Most of the city has not changed from its Medieval form, so most of the streets are still cobblestone, and the major square is amazing. Also, Sopron has a very interesting history - after the Austrians left, many cities voted as to whether they would stay in Hungary or join Austria. Sopron was the first city to vote, and (obviously) voted to remain in Hungary.

Tues. 4/10

This morning we walked more, and at 2, caught the train home. I've had a really great time. So many good memories.

When I got home, I was told that the family was going to be doing some repainting/cleaning, so I had to move out by Friday.

Wed. 4/11

Today I played soccer with the guys. It was pretty cool doing that again. Then I tried to teach them American football. It didn't go so well. Hungarians aren't contact-sports people, in general. And I think playing with a round ball pretty much destroyed any hopes I had... but it was fun all the same.

Thurs. 4/12

I began to pack today. I got one bag done, at least. I keep putting it off, hoping maybe I won't have to, I guess.

I also went over to Olga's today. I'll be dubbing a video about Ujhely and the school for her. Its kind of fun, really. Today I just read over the script.

I also hung out with Nadia for a while. We're both rather depressed.

Five PM tomorrow...

Fri. 4/13

It was a funny morning. I woke up and looked at my alarm clock, and it said 8.30, so I went back to sleep. Later, I looked at it again, and it still said 8.30 - turns out it was displaying the alarm time, so I didn't get up 'till 12.30.

So I got up, packed, dropped some stuff off at Nadia's, bought perfume for Sun., and had half an hour before the Szala family came to pick me up. Just a little bit beforehand, the Stumpfs had gone out, so no formal goodbyes were said.

I got myself moved in here within an hour or so, which surprised them - they thought it'd be longer. They're very kind. We had spaghetti and red wine for dinner. I talked with Aliz (the other sister - at college in Miskolc most of the time) for a bit, and then walked the dog Bobo with the rest of the family. When we got home, I played cards with my host father for a while, then called home. After watching TV for a while with the sisters, I went to bed. I feel a bit guilty, because Eszter moved out of her room and is now sharing a room with her sister, so that I could have my own room. Which really is the only logical thing to do, I know. But I still feel guilty.

Sat. 4/14

Well, first full day here. I love Bobo - he came into my room and woke me up about 9, but I didn't decide to get up till 10. My host dad seemed annoyed by this, but didn't say anything. After breakfast, I went shopping with Aliz and Eszter. My host family had decided that my porcelain mug was not enough, so they bought me another cup to use.

The host parents went to their vineyard, but I decided to stay home. I read a bit, and then went out. I was going to get cappucino, but ended up playing with Bobo, Aliz, and Eszter. This was better, and probably more fun.

After dinner, I played my host father in chess... and lost miserably. Then we watched TV for a bit, and I went to the always-beautiful Greek Catholic mass at 10, because tomorrow is Easter. I ran into Mariann afterward, who invited me back to her place for some champagne. It turned out there were a bunch of other people there, too. It seemed like a college youth group of sorts. I didn't want to leave, of course, but did eventually, because I didn't want to be out too late.

Sun. 4/15

Well, happy Easter! I woke up this morning about 8.30 or so - early, by my standards - and was reminded by my host father that if I left my curtains open at night I might wake up earlier. "Special" Easter breakfast of ham and eggs (I kept hoping they'd be green, but no) and some fould smelling, very spicy stuff that didn't go down well.

About 11, we went to their cottage in a little town an hour or so from here. Its on the Tisza river. Even though it was built on 6-ft. high "stilts," but they showed me that during the flooding, water had been 2 feet deep in the house itself. I helped them put some plants in the ground, and then we left.

The second stop was to my host father's sister's house. Their mother and the sister's husband, as well as another woman whose relation I'm not sure of were there. I had a good time - they were all impressed by my Hungarian. Then the man started talking about his job - he'd been an important Communist. He comlained about capitalism, and even started slagging on the US before my host father changed the subject. But that was really OK with me - after all, I'm here to learn how people here feel. The essence of being an exchange student is being able to take another person's perspective and respect it for just that - not wrong or right, just different. And this is the only way for me to find out how things were - I don't get an unadulterated version of how things were in the States.

After that, we visited another castle. It was also beautiful - the castles are one of my favorite things about Europe in general.

We got home about 6.30. After dinner, my host dad and I played chess again - and I won!

I haven't been able to shake that vague depression I've had for the past few days. Its especially strange, because I really do like my family, and I've been doing cool things. What's going on?

Tues. 4/17

The morning began pleasantly enough. About 7, I awoke to my host father in the kitchen, but decided to sleep in, whatever he might think. They both ended up going to work, and I slept 'till a blissful 9.30.

I walked a lot in the morning, came back for lunch, and then saw Aliz off to the train station. Eszter and I went to her grandmother's house for a while. The grandmother started going off about Gypsies, as subject that is unappealing to me.

I hung out with Nadia for a bit, but then had to be back by seven to meet Olga and dub the video. That went fairly well, though I made a couple mistakes. I got back just after 9, but everyone was asleep except Eszter.

I'm adjusting to this family - every day gets better. But often I feel like I am at a friend's house, waiting for the friend to arrive, and just making small talk with his parents until he gets here. It'll be good to get back to school tomorrow, too. I want to see everyone again.

Wed. 4/18

Well, the first day back to school went well enough. I was there the entire day, too - Eszter's father gave us a ride, as the morning was crappy. They had a PowerPoint presentation about WWII and the Holocaust in the morning. Then in Literature, we talked about a poem that I knew, which was nice.

This weekend is another Rotary trip - a "Sports Weekend" in Szolnok. Which basically means its a good excuse for Nadia and me to go to Budapest instead. Her host father is a tyrant about her going anywhere, but this is, after all, a Rotary thing. So all we have to do is "accidentally" miss our connection from Bp. to Szolnok. So more opera and good museums instead of stupid sports with useless people (I don't much like most of the exchange students). This is a very good thing.

Thurs. 4/19

Nadia and I went over to Mariann's house - she's been teaching Laci Italian. So I hung out with Mariann while she taught. Mariann and I went to buy some wine for my upcoming trip to Italy - good host-family gift.

Also, Nadia and I realised that the Rotary thing is not till the weekend of the 27th. We're dumb.

Fri. 4/20

I went to school for a little bit this morning, and then putzed around on the 'Net for a while. After that, I tried to change Forints into Italian Lira, but they gave me a bunch of crap, so I gave up and left. I'll just get some from an ATM in Italy. I wandered around for a bit, and ran into the guys from my class, so we walked around for a bit.

Then Nadia and I decided to go to Miskolc. We saw a Hungarian movie - Sacra Corona (Sacred Crown, I think, but it isn't Hungarian). It was pretty bad, which is sad, because the story was good. Only the wooden acting ruined everything.

The train rides there and back were both very interesting. On the way there, there were four Hungarian girls who obviously saw we were foreigners and must have thought we didn't speak Hungarian. They started ripping on the States. Nadia and I could barely hold back our laughter. It really is amusing being able to "eavesdrop" on conversations like that.

On the way back, a mildly disturbing, poor Gypsy sat in our compartment. He was missing most of his front teeth, and was pretty hard to understand. For all that, he was very talkative - just a poor, usually drunk old guy. He made a few intelligent remarks, began crying that his wife left him, and asked us when we were getting married, among other things.

So goes life. I'm slowly finishing the box of candy canes my family sent me back in January - I've probably got a dozen left. Maybe Italian host gifts? We'll see tomorrow.

Sat. 4/21

Well, the morning began better than expected - I was able to sleep in, and woke up b myself about 10. After breafast I went into town to buy some much-needed contact solution. After waiting in line for a full half hour, I was told that they didn't take plastic. (Note to self: this is not the States, Steve.) This was with about 10 minutes to closing time. So I had to run to a bank machine and withdraw a bunch of money, run back, wait in line more, and then finally buy the darned stuff.

Its been raining off and on all day, so I stayed home most of the day, but I took a short walk with Nadia about 6. She taught me to swear a bit in Italian before I go.

The best part of the day was this evening. I was lying in bed reading, when Bobo climbed into bed with me. He layed there for quite a while, but got the sheet all dirty. Oh, well - it was fun.

Sun. 4/22

Driving. All day - at least from 8 AM. In a small bus. Strangely enough, it was fun. I sat with Melinda and Richie (from 11.B), which was cool. About 5 o'clock we got to the Hungarian border. I ran with Tomy to the McDonald's. I was in a hurry, but the service was really slow, so we sat in line making fun of it. Thankfully, we were back to the bus in time for it to leave.

The driver says it'll be noon before we get there, but that makes no sense - we're making really good time.

Mon. 4/23

What a long day. I slept for a few hours, but not more than 4, I'd say. We arrived in Senigalia about 8 AM, though we could've been there by 4 AM if we hadn't dicked around for a long time at various rest areas/gas stations in the wee hours of the morning.

A breakfast bufe was provided for us at the school, and then we waited for a few hours for the girls (the Italian group is all girls) to finish class so we could meet. When we did, they proved all my good prejudices concerning Italians. We hung out with them until 11.30, and then paired off with our respective hosts. Richie and I were both paired with a girl named Lycea. We are way out in the country, and can see both the sea and the mountains from their home.

In the afternoon, we went into another small town to meet some of her friends and hung out. Real Italian cappucino didn't let me down - I've had 3 so far. Dinner was pizza - fantastic! Afterward, we played cards for a little while, and that was it.

Tues. 4/24

Another fun day in Italy. Morning was "school," though we really didn't go to any classes. We had a sort of English class at one point - it was pretty silly. Then a guy performed some songs for us. First he sang some English classics ("Stairway to Heaven," "California Dreamin'," etc.), which left me rather disillusioned. His pronunciation was pretty bad, as was the interpretation. The Italian songs were fun for a while, but got long at the end. The Hungarians sang "Viragom, viragom," and I remembered when Marta and Mariann tried to teach it to Nadia and me.

After school, we walked for a long time - it was so European! If from now on everything goes to hell, I'll still love Italy - first for the people, then for that walk. We got back around seven, ate, and went bowling. It was OK. We got back home and slept for an hour, but we had to leave for Rome at 5 AM.

Wed. 4/25

When summarizing a trip to Rome, what can one say? The grandeur, the scale, the feeling of living history is really indescribable. I really got so overwhelmed that by the end, everything seemed normal.

The drive there took 5 or 6 hours. The first stop was the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope was holding a celebration outside, so we couldn't go in, but we did get to see the Pope in his Popemobile! He is so old and frail, I really don't know how he keeps going.

We walked all over Rome, and saw most of the sights. We ended up at the Coliseum, where I got a bit lost. But I found everybody in the end, so it was OK.

Probably the most memorable part of the day was lunch. We were in a large park, and I was eating with some of my friends. I had dropped a sandwich (part of one, actually), and it was laying on the ground, when a little boy and his mother went walking by. He looked at the sandwich, looked at me, and said, "papa, papa!" I was confused...

We ate dinner at a gas station on the way back. I got pizza, a Coke, and the nastiest coffee I've ever had. Which is sad, because this is Italy. We got back to the house around 11.30 and called it a day.

Thurs. 4/26

A relatively boring day today. Fun, though, all the same. In the morning was school - everybody is fun to hang out with, so that was cool. The Italians had school, so we visited another branch of the same school downtonwn. The visit itself was pretty boring, but the building itself was gorgeous - like a museum, with old paintings on the walls and everything.

We walked through the city afterward - just looking at shops, etc. I hung out with Mate and Tomy - it was just like we'd been friends for a long time (more than a year), which felt so nice. We were the first group to get back to school, and weren't sure if anyone else was in the room or not. The door was closed, and we didn't want to disturb whatever was happening inside, so I jumped up to see through the window above the door. Of course, this attracted the teacher's attention, so he came out to see what was up. He brought one of the girls out to translate, and it amounted to just another amusing story, really. Eventually everbody came, and we all went in. The same teacher began talking for a minute, and ended up saying something mildly to the effect of, "Who needs English, anyway?" Some people looked back at me, and I was thoroughly amused.

In the evening, we had a guided tour of the city, which really just meant the castle. It was really beaurtiful, of course, and perfectly intact.

Tonight some of us got together for a pizza party. It was OK, but I couldn't concentrate, and just wanted to walk in the country. Anyway, that was over by 11.30, and we went home and to sleep. We're going caving tomorrow. It could be interesting, perhaps, but I'm not sure... we'll see.

Fri. 4/27

Another long day, but a good one. Instead of going to scool in the morning, we went to the caves of Frasassi. It was really pretty. We were done about noon, and came back for lunch.

Lycea was at a track meet, so Richie and I ate with some of the others at McDonald's, and then to a little mall, where we found Lycea. We came home for dinner, the relaxed a bit.

About 11, we went to a disco. It was OK - not many people danced, though, which was a let-down. One of the Italians was having a fight with her boyfriend, and begged me to tell him she loved him. I did so, but it obviously didn't work. Not much happened apart from that. We left about one, but thankfully we don't have school until late tomorrow - we have to wake up at nine. The last full day here!

Sat. 4/28

Well, the last full day in Italy finally came. We wandered about Senigalia for a while in the morning again. Lunch at home - the entire family was there, so we did pictures and stuff.

Richie, Gyuri (another guy from 11.B), and I went to the beach alone, but eventually most of the Hungarians and a lot of the Italians showed up, too. That was fun. We swam a little, but the water was so cold that I only stayed in a short time, just like most of the rest of everybody. After a few hours of sunbathing, we went to a party at the English teacher's house. It was actually a villa in the countryside, and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a lot of fun - I hung out with a bunch of people. However, I really like one of the Italian girls - Erica - but am too afraid to tell her (yup, I'm a wuss), so that bugged me the whole night. There were also some amusing real English people there that I talked to. One of them had been a soldier and had tattooed "True Love" onto his knuckles. I got a kick out of that.

The party ended about 12.30, and we went to the beach again. It was really beautiful at night - I like the night anyway.

Mon. 4/30

Well, more travelling today. We left about eight Sun. morning. We stopped for maybe an hour and a half in San Marino. I wanted to go to the Torture Museum, but there wasn't enough time, so Tomy and I walked along the ramparts of one of the towers. There were also a lot of suits of armor displayed outside of shops, and I took my picture with some of them.

This morning I woke up on the bus completely disoriented. At first I thought we were still going to Italy, the I was just confused for a minute. We got home about 7.45, but I slept much of the day, and walked some in the evening.

Back to Home Page

Email: Sschwerbel@hotmail.com