Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The new blog

The new blog actually seems to be working, so feel free to check it out:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Six Months Later

It is six months after I last promised to start blogging again.

I think this blog is done. I am not saying that I will never blog again. Still, I think I will close the cover on Lauren in Budapest. It's time for a new page in my life.

Thank you to everyone who read this blog, commented, made me feel like in some way my thoughts and photos and ramblings were helpful to you. Thank you to this blog itself, for all the great and varied ways its existence provided me with catharsis, processing, closure, reflection, celebration, memory, and more. Most of all, thank you to Budapest, this funny, heart-wrenching city that took a girl and carved her into a woman.

I never could have done it without you, BP.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to make a happy moose

So, I know that I haven't blogged in a long time. Once, for something rather traumatic, months ago, and with a few months in front of that. And I miss blogging! Part of the reason is how damned busy I am this year. Part of the reason is that my new-found love of exercise leaves me with significantly less time sitting in front of my computer. Part of the reason is that I have so much "blogging backlog" floating over my head, and it's intimidating!

So. Sorry. But the stuff I once promised to write about? Paris, Copenhagen, that sort of stuff? I'm probably never going to write about it. What I'm going to try to do is to write short vignettes, more often. Much more often? One can hope. 

I went to Dublin this weekend. It was lovely, relaxing, and delicious. Really delicious! I ate so much food.

On Sunday I was walking about and I passed this store. I saw this window display: scones, muffins, cute pumpkin cookies. But one thing in particular caught my eye.

I went inside and asked the girl working there what those things next to the pumpkins were.
She replied, "Maple Cinnamon Pecan Bars."
My eyes widened. "I'd like one of those, please."
She wrapped it in a paper bag and charged me. Then she asked if I wanted a carrier bag.
I laughed. "No, thanks. I'm going to eat it!" She laughed, too.

Imagine pecan pie, but thicker, perched atop a rich, buttery square of cinnamon shortbread. It was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. My teeth sunk into that first bite, and the clouds parted and angels sang sweet songs. I almost cried. It was perfect.

The moose approves.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I have absolutely no right to write this

A few months into my first year teaching here in Budapest, a new teacher started at my school. He was a little bit strange, but also nice, so we became relatively good friends in that fast expat, kids-at-camp sort of way. We didn't work together, just at the same school, so our interaction was purely social. Over the course of the next year, he became a pretty good friend. We hung out in groups on the weekends, he got me onto the correct bus after too many drinks on an occasion or two, we talked, he came to my dinner parties, ate my food and played with my rat.

I moved to Spain and we stayed in touch. He became a manager for the program I currently work for, and was instrumental in my eventually returning to Hungary as a Spanish teacher. Meanwhile, I heard rumbles that the power had gone to his head and he was acting irrationally, particularly to female colleagues.

When I arrived back to Hungary, everything between us was as it had been until he found out I was living with Anna. The two of them had pretty intense issues, both personal and professional. After this discovery, he quickly came after me, professionally and even physically menacing me. I was shocked, confused, and hurt. I reported him to our program director, and he very soon thereafter quit the school and left Hungary. I couldn't imagine what had happened to this person I had thought I had known.

Today I found out that what had happened was that he was terminally ill. He did not tell anyone about this, but when he went home he spent several weeks in the hospital. Then he returned to Hungary and his flat here without telling anyone from the school.

Every expat, in moments of vulnerable honesty, will tell you that their worst fear is to die alone and not be discovered for weeks, for their family to have to travel to another country to tidy up their affairs days and days after the fact.

He was found a few days ago. He hadn't been gone long. His family is on its way now, and the school is struggling to find a way to honor the legacy of someone who left under such difficult circumstances.

I wish he could have reached out more, and we could have known what was happening to him to cause these fundamental personality changes. I wish that I had been a better friend. I wish that we had made amends. I wish he had died at home with his family instead of alone in a foreign city. I wish so many things, and I don't know how to react to this news. I did not cry, and I do not feel anything I could truly define as sadness. What I feel is a deep, profound regret. It's worse, really.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Over a month

I started well this year, and blogged a lot! Now, I haven't blogged in over a month. I still have to write about my trips to Paris, Copenhagen, Bratislava, Sofia, and Graz. I have to write about all the nonsense that has been going on at work, the joy that my students bring me, and my conflict when viewing these things together. I have to write about my friends and how amazing they are. I have to write about confusing and exciting feelings that stress me to no end. I have to write about my new journey towards fitness, the hours spent at the gym, and how that is changing my body and life. I have to write about the things I have done and seen. I have to write about my life.

And yet I don't want to. I will write about my trips, and soon. I will write about some of the adventures I've had. I might even write about my job and my new fitness addiction. But the other things are mine. I want to put them in little glass balls and hide them away somewhere safe, because they are fragile and magical.

I've been so busy. So busy. Running around back and forth, working like a slave, going to the gym, attempting to maintain a social life. I stay up too late every night, grabbing little bits of happiness from the miracle of the internet.

I have decided to not travel in July. I won't work, I won't study, I won't spend the four weeks flinging myself from one place to the other and exhausting myself in the pursuit of novelty. I may take a short trip or two to visit friends, but otherwise I am going to sit in Budapest and get work done and relax. I am going to enjoy my first Hungarian summer, and I couldn't be more excited.

And over the summer, once the school year ends and reports are handed in, I will write. Because I do miss writing.

Friday, April 20, 2012


So on Friday night I went out dancing with a girlfriend.  And I had a lot of fun, until my purse got stolen.  Now, when your purse is stolen from three inches from your hand in the ten seconds it takes you to order a drink, and the phone is already disconnected when you call it a minute later, you can only assume you have been robbed by a pro.  So, while my friend freaked out, I was rather calm at the moment.

The next day I got up super early and headed back to the island, where the club was.  I combed through the bushes, and even gave my flatmate's phone number to some homeless guys who were doing the same, asking them to call me and promising a reward for my ID.

Still in my party gear, I then went and waited for the bus.  Two dudes started to sort of harass me, and I snapped at them that I had been robbed, and demanded a bus ticket.  Mollified, they actually gave me a bus ticket, and then turned friendly and non-creepy enough.  I guess it's easy to pick on the girl in a sequined dress at seven in the morning.

So the next step was canceling my Hungarian bank card, which Anna helped me with.  Then it was off to the police station to file a report, which I was able to do myself.  Actually, the male police officer at one point had to go ask his female colleague exactly how to say "sequin" in Hungarian, which I found amusing.  I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't know everything!  After that, a new phone.  Then going to the bank to order a new bank card, and last of all heading to immigration for a new residence card, which, as usual, was a nightmare.  The only good thing was that Balint pointed out that we needed new locks on our door and was able to change them out for us.  It's good to have a handy person around!

I really recommend you don't get your bag stolen.  I mean, it could have been worse: it was only a small bag with some essentials in it, so I still have my passport and all my other cards.  But, really, this has been one annoying, expensive, week-long hassle.  So hold onto those bags while you're out dancing, ladies!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fluffy Boys

Laying in bed, watching silly TV shows while reading a good book, letting my two little fluffies climb all over my back and kiss my cheeks...

sometimes it's good to just be lazy.  Real blog posts about Paris and Copenhagen coming soon!  In the meantime, a funny kid story: yesterday during tutorials, I had my sixth graders play a game from the television show Whose Line is it Anyway, where they each are given a prop and have to come up with different mini-skits using the prop as different items each time.  And they had just tons of fun with it, actually taking the whole half-hour session to play.  I had expected they would take about ten minutes and then it would be time for a new activity.

One group of boys had a lot of fun with it.  They had a little bulb-shaped timer as their prop.  And, surely enough, at one point they used the little timer as a bong.  I kind of just pressed my forehead to my hand, and asked where they had learned about these things.

The kid turned to me, scoffed, and said, "Ms. Lauren.  Youtube," as it it was the most obvious answer in the world.  Which, really, I suppose it was!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Free bird!

This is a traditional Hungarian folk song, rethought.  I've kept coming back to it over the last few days.  The lyrics, translated by me and repeated in various patterns throughout the song (I'm translating in the full order, starting at 1:40ish) are:

Cold winds are blowing.
They do not bode well.
Free life, free as a bird.
Oh, how beautiful is the one who travels free.

This is important for me to remember.  Maybe cold winds are blowing right now, but who knows what they will bring?  More importantly, I am free.  If the winds blow too cold, I'll breeze into something better.  It really is beautiful to be free.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


So this weekend, one of my sorority sisters was in town.  Nobody I was ever particularly close to, since she was a freshman when I was a senior, but still a really nice girl.  So I took her and her friends out for dinner on Sunday, and then we had some drinks last night.  It was nice to see her, catch up, and gossip about Lycoming people for a little bit.

After she left the bar last night, I stayed and had another drink with my friends, and then headed home.  As usual, when such things strike, it struck on the bus.  I became horribly dark.  Now, most of you know me, and know that I'm not really all that dark.  I'm regularly described as a "sunshiny" person, for goodness sake.  I think this is mainly because I keep my darkness to myself.  So I rode the bus a few extra stops, then wandered home over the back of my little hill.

I'm not sure exactly what it was that tripped me over the edge into an emo midnight wander.  Certainly, it has to do with roots.  I'm not really in touch with anyone from America anymore, and while that's ok and understandable, in many ways it's also awful.  I have a life that I genuinely love, and I'd like others to understand it with me, and yet there really is nobody who can.  This whole experience is also changing me so drastically, in so many (mainly) positive ways, but I don't know anyone who knows both old Lauren and new Lauren.

At the same time, as soon as I feel like I'm putting roots down here, the ground starts to become sort of shaky. The international and financial situation here in Hungary has always been something that, as a foreigner, I could happily ignore.  But it's reaching a level where I can't ignore it any more, and I have to consider the future of this little country that I adore in my life plans.  And that is so upsetting to me.  I hate the feeling of uncertainty where just a few months ago my life was laid out in front of me, for the next few years at least.

Beyond that, so many of my friends are planning to leave in the next few years.  And that's fine, and I'm happy for them, and I know that I will make new friends.  But... still.  Add to that the fact that this weekend I met a boy that I think I could grow to really like, and I think he feels the same way about me, and, of course, as usual... doesn't live in Hungary.

Then mix in the fact that this feeling of uncertainty is not unique to me.  All across the world, young people and especially young women are starting to worry about their futures.  We have to care so much about everything, while pretending to be cool and not care at all.  We have to worry about our bodies.  Appearance is tantamount, and we have to present a perfect feminine appearance, but we have to also act like men.  More than anything, though, we feel a bit cheated.  We have to deal with living our whole life being told we could be anything we wanted to be, and then coming out of college into an economy where we're all still sort of scraping by five years later.  So many of my friends are still in an entry-level position, or back in school racking up more debt.  It's ridiculous.

And last night it all became too much and I became a little bit angry.

Happily today's the last day of my work week, and tomorrow I'm heading off to Sweden and Denmark for Easter.  And I'll remember that I'm one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A weekend in Madrid

The first weekend of the month, I headed to Madrid.  I found the ticket for about 30 dollars, round trip, so I figured why not, and bought it just about two weeks beforehand.  So after the typical Ryanair runaround, I arrived to Madrid and discovered this in the metro.  (I must say, it's a good thing that this wasn't such a common ad campaign last year when I was in Madrid and desperately missing Hungary.)

I found my way to Mary's flat and dropped off my stuff, quite pleased with myself that Madrid is still second nature to me.  We then headed to her friend's apartment, grabbing me a yummy kebab on the way, to play Settlers of Kataan.  Which is pretty much a perfect table game, by the way.  Then it was off for some really overpriced tintos, which Mary got delightful Spanish over, before heading home.

Saturday's breakfast was at Mundo de Croquetas.  The dude working there judged us slightly for eating croquetas before noon, but I didn't care.  They were delicious.  Croquetas.  I miss you.

I headed to Moncloa and caught the bus out to San Lorenzo to see Hernan and Yoichi.  We had a nice dinner outside: the weather was amazing for the first weekend of March.  And I held Yoichito cat and he was angry, but then he relented.
Hernan and I then went for walk, and admired the bucolic sheep grazing under the bucolic almond blossoms...
... and the Spanish sky...
... and the monastery.  We had a really nice talk and it was really great to speak for hours in Spanish again, and especially to see my old roomie.  He was a good roomie and I miss him.
Then it was back to Madrid and out for Cien Montaditos, which no longer serves gulas to my horror, and then to Magic Beer.  Which still serves magical beer, to my delight.  Silliness ensued, and, as usual, I wound up buying beer from a dude selling cans on the street from a cardboard box stand.  We then went back to Mary's and played darts and danced with puppets.  And then, to continue the as usual, I ended the night at a gay bar.  It was a fun night.  There's me, Jess, and Mary up there.
The next day, Mary, Chelsi and I hit the Rastro, where we found nothing, and then visited one of the funniest shops ever, where we read ridiculous books and improved our vocabulary.  Then for lunch it was pinxos!  Yum.
Then there was a trip to buy some jewelry, and we visited Chelsi's tea room.
I also pierced poor Mary's ears, in the most horrifying and least successful piercing ever.  But now she has pretty earrings!  Chelsi even managed to help, despite her fear of needles (which she has somehow despite all her many piercings).  After that, it was off to the airport to catch my flight back home.
This is all the loot I got in Madrid... I have a problem!

It was a great little whirlwind trip.  Definitely a new kind of trip for me: a trip to see people only, and pretty much ignore the city they are in.  It was beautiful to speak Spanish again beyond the very elementary stuff I get to speak to the kids.  I do miss Spain: the food, the language, the spirit of it, even though I really didn't love living there.  It was funny to complain to my friends about the same old things, because the country's never going to change.  It was also great to just see my girls (and Hernan) that helped me through that really tough year.  They're great people, and I miss them.

Excluding the 22 months in which I needed to leave Spain alone after Alfonso and I broke up, I have yet to go a year without returning to Spain since I studied there.  And I imagine it's kind of always going to be that way.