Sun. 12/3

An interesting day - I met my second host family, the Stumpfs. They are really nice. We had a fantastic lunch, and then Miklós (soon-to-be host father) went upstairs to sleep, so I chatted with Miki (21-yr. old brother) and his mom. They have a daughter Brigitta in the States right now with Rotary - I'm told she's having a good time. I know I'll be really happy there, too, but at the same time I am apprehensive...

Mon. 12/4

I went to gym class today... There being no snow, and the weather being tolerable, we played soccer outside. After thouroughly freezing my hands and all exposed skin (a considerable amount, as we were all wearing shorts and T-shirts) I scored a goal, which of course made everything worth while.

I also got a long-overdue haircut again today. I don't know why that interests me, but I never fail to jot it down.

After the haircut, Nadia and I went to a theatre class. It looks like fun... anyway, its theatre! New experiences never fail to be amusing - we were the only 2 who did not realize we were supposed to memorize something to audition with. But after that I got a part in this little song thing that we are going to perform at a vague "sometime later." My being the only male in the class (except one other kid who is probably less than half my age), I was designated to play the role of "Father." This means I get to smile and sit in an easy chair while my chorus of daughters sing of their devotion. Good fun! I also have a line, which makes things even more fun!

Week of Fri. 12/8

It has certainly been a memorable week. Middle school kids came to our school to decide if they want to come here next year. The three of us were elected to get up in front of them and say a bit about ourselves in Hungarian. My being over-ambitious, I decided to memorize a part of a Hungarian poem called (in English) "I am Hungarian." So I got up to talk on Wed. (the first day of the visits) and began talking. Unfortunately, I mixed up conjugations terribly, which frazzled me. On this foot I began to recite the mere 2 lines of the poem I'd "memorized." After saying the title/author, I entirely forgot what I was supposed to say. This lasted for what felt like an eternity but was probably, in real life, not terribly long. Anyhow, I got through it completely humiliated and humbled. Consolation: I won't ever see these people again.

On Thurs. it was more talking to students, but it went better this time. I sounded coherent at least. However, I dropped the poem and complemented gulyás instead.

Friday was the last day of talking, and it went very well. Not only did I continue to complement gulyás, I also recited my bit of poetry perfectly. It seemed to go over well, on the whole. I have heard that one girl decided to come to our school next year on the basis of exchange opportunity. That's cool.

After school, I ate at the new Chinese Bufé - yum! Then it was off to a "student show/dance" at another school. There was a sort of talent show (that being the "student show" part of the program), and then, logically, a disco. After this, there was the pleasant surprise of having a popular Hungarian pop group (V-tech) give a concert. There was more dancing afterward, but having not eaten, I opted to go home.

Tues. 12/12

Its been rather a mixed week. There have been bright spots, but mostly I am sick of people in general. That is bad, and I think it is due to homesickness. Even learning Brit. English is thoroughly annoying right now. Its no fun being irritable.

Weekend of Sun. 12/17

Yet another great weekend in Budapest. It was a bit confusing at first, because Rotary had made it sound like they would be giving us rooms, but at the last minute I figured out that they never planned to do that, so I quickly found a cheap student hostel to stay in for the weekend. This ended up working perfectly in the end, ironically. Anyway, I rode down with Mariann, and met Nadia in the train station. We walked around Budapest for a while, then I headed to my hostel. After taking the tram a few stops too far, I figured out where it was, and checked into my room.

I went to the Opera Fri. night, which was lovely, if a bit boring. Unfortunately, I had to leave early, because the metro, bus, and trams lines close at 11.

Sat. was typical Rotary stuff. The Austrian ski tour is cancelled - go figure, and the Eurotour is in its death throes - no surprise there, either. We all went out and partied afterwards, but it was really boring, and I ended up going "home." Except it was after 11.00, so I went with Andrew to his house (thus reducing the taxi fare for me). I woke up before they all did because I had to check out of my hostel. His house is in the middle of nowhere - a faraway suburb of Budapest - so getting back was something of a hassle. But it was all right in the end.

I ended up just walking around Budapest alone for the rest of the day, which was nice, in a way. I saw pretty much everything I hadn't seen up to that point.

Mon. 12/18

Mariann invited us all to her house today (except Pete was in Austria). She just said she'd like us to come today. She didn't tell us until we got there that it was her birthday! Nadia and I were both sorry we hadn't know, so we could get her something, but we were both glad to be there.

Wed. 12/20

Today was the "ribbon ceremony." This is a celebration for the seniors - anticipating their graduation. Each class performed skits and dances. Pete's class was the best, I thought.

Thurs. 12/21

Half day of school today. Afterwards, I went shopping... I'm really stumped as to what to buy for my host father.

Nadia and I rented an X-Files video in Hungarian. It was almost cool, but the tape was bad, so we couldn't watch anything. So we hung out for a bit, ate, and that was pretty much it.

Fri. 12/22

I did amazingly little today. There is still no snow! My host dad had a party for his employees. It was OK - I've gotten to kind of know most of them just because they are always around.

Sun. 12/24

Sun. - the day before Christmas! The tree finally went up today - hooray! It was decorated mostly with candy, but some ornaments as well. We exchanged presents in the evening. It really felt like Christmas.

I went to the Roman Catholic Midnight mass. It just didn't feel right, somehow - even though I recognized most of the readings.

Mon. 12/25

This morning I went to the Greek Catholic mass. It felt more like Christmas there. Afterwards I was invited to Nadia's for lunch. It was nice. I was picked up and we went to a relative's house, and then to Viki's. I got presents from everyone (which was a bit uncomfortable, because I barely knew some of the people).

Wed. 12/27

I am definitely having fun today. Yesterday, I got a call from Mr. and Mrs. Sensenbrenner, saying they were in Budapest, and would like to meet me. Of course I said yes, and they said they'd put me up in the Budapest Hilton - in the middle of the Castle District!

So I met them for dinner. We ended up talking for a long time. At the end of the evening, I gave them a bottle of Hungarian wine and some sausage I got for Christmas.

Fri. 12/29

Today I moved in with the Stumpf family - my second host family. They are really nice. The father and son have the same name - Miklos - so that may be problematic. But maybe not, because the son is usually down in Budapest at the university. Anyway, he helped me unpack, and showed me around a bit. The first day is always somewhat disorienting. Anyway, I'm sure I'll like it here - the meals are fantastic!

Sat. 12/30

I went to a pig killing today with the family. That was the most unique experience I've ever had. We woke up early to go to Hercegkut - a small village near Sarospatak. I'd never realized just how big a full-grown pig gets.

So anyway, we got there about 5 AM. It was a nice crisp day. Pretty soon, four of the men went into the shed (where the pigs were kept) and brought one out. They killed the first one with a blow to the heart. Then they brought out a second, and did the same thing. They let the blood drain from both, and then burned off the hair with a blowtorch. After this, we all went in and ate a huge breakfast. The most memorable part was the real bacon. It was fantastic. Then we went back outside and scraped the charred flesh off of the pigs, and began cutting them up. I helped to haul the meat into a garage, where the women did various things with different parts. Some large slabs were preserved, but a lot of it was ground into sausage.

In the evening, the Tokaji wine plant that both of my parents work for held a party to release a new wine. There was a classical music concert, followed by a wine-tasting. It struck me as a very strange contrast to the morning.

Sun. 12/31

This morning I went down to Budapest with Miki (my host brother goes by his nickname), and met Miklos at 2. We went to a party for a while. It was OK - put on by Miklos's youth group. The music wasn't my favorite, but the people were pretty cool. I talked to a lot of people.

Then we went downtown to see the fireworks on the river. It was really beautiful. Just by accident, we stopped right in front of the boat that shot off all of the fireworks.

Afterwards, we went to his family's party for a while, and then back to his house. I caught a special train at 9 - only a few run right around the holidays, I guess.

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