Monday, May 15, 2006

My Kingdom for a Village and a Pig

For the entire week, Don had insisted he needed to see a village. Regardless of his explanations, we could not understand why. We did everything imaginable to talk him out of it. After all, who comes to Budapest for a mere week to venture out to the country to see peasants and pigs? He persisted in wanting to see peasants and pigs, not to say that there is a relationship, but this is assuredly a pork eating culture.

It seems that the notions Americans have about this part of the world, other non-Europeans share in these ideas too. Those who have few experiences with the culture believe that there are farms for miles and civilization is somehow on a different page of the country's book. Sometimes it is true, but they are surprised when they have to travel three hours to find the experience they have in mind. Hungary does have many small cities, but they are cities. I thought I had him convinced to use a photo from the Ethnographic Museum by doctoring it up, but alas, my powers of persuasion are not as great with anyone that is not dependent on getting their university grade from me. He finally found a village called Holloko. The next question was how to get there.

Last night, while Ron and Patricia were at the opera, I had a student translate the bus schedules. This village did not have a train station, not a good sign. Don roused himself at 5:00 am to leave on the 7:00 am bus, but since Patricia was concerned; we gave him Ron’s mobile to use. We were more concerned about his returning; the buses are not regular or often. Don was off for the day for what should have been a two hour bus ride to one town, a switch of buses in Szecseny, and then his final destination of Holloko. At 9:00, I received an SMS stating that they were in the worst traffic jam and he was still in Budapest. I refrained from writing “I told you so” but I was able to think it with satisfaction. A couple of hours later, the next SMS or SOS (?) came through “Among peasants at Szecseny, but no pigs yet.”

As we wondered why he would leave this beautiful city that he found so enchanting looking for pigs, we found tremendous humor in it nevertheless. Patricia maximized her free time by going with Ron to the bookstore to buy books by Hungarian authors translated into English, some souvenirs for her children, and some grocery shopping for their trip home tomorrow. Yes, they are returning home tomorrow. Our lives will be torn apart and we will have empty nest and separation issues to drive us into therapy, but if I think about it now, I will not be able to type through the tears. I am gasping air in chunky gulps just thinking about it.

When guests go shopping, we always encourage a “Show and Tell”. Show us what you bought and tell us who is it for or where you will place it sort of thing. With Don and Patricia it is more relevant since we have been to their home, so the mind pictures are vividly realistic.
Ron, Patricia and I went to the opening of the New York Hotel for tea. Now this is a story in itself, but the New York Hotel has had a sign proclaiming “OPENING SOON” in on the front of it since we arrived here in December 2001 and who knows how much longer before that. Well it finally opened this week and we were like children wanting to visit the candy store. It is magnificent and worth the wait, especially since it just around the corner from us. The experience was lovely sitting in this elegant dining room having tea and coffees, but the one piece missing was not having Don with us. This would have made it complete, but he was off looking for pigs and peasants. We absorbed the swank atmosphere without him, thinking we would drag him back here when he ventured back. This was starting to have elements of the prodigal son theme. The waiter, who brought our check, said that he recognized Patricia from her novels and would be honored to provide her tea on the house. We were so overwhelmed with this; we authorless companions did not mind paying for our coffees, which were not complimentary. Alas, being with a recognized authoress in such ambiance is enough satisfaction.

When we returned home after going off in three different directions doing errands, Patricia did her magic and whipped up a luscious lunch to share. After lunch naps were in order, but when I awoke, the prodigal friend had returned. After spending eight hours on a bus going to a village that no tourist will ever venture to, he had stories to tell. This is what makes his friendship so endearing; his stories are fantastic and being a professional photographer, they are supplemented with visual aids as well.

Don never found the pigs, but did find cows, peasants, and fields of canola. With all of his travels, he had one hour to spend in the little village of Holloko to shoot photos before returning on the only bus that would have allowed him to return in time to share dinner with the other four guests we have invited to meet our loved South African family.

Ron is planning a buffet dinner with Patricia’s assistance. John, a former Fulbrighter who has returned to Hungary, will be here with his partner Mike. Beth a current Fulbrighter will come over with her husband Bob. We will have a full house. This is a good thing and for this we give thanks.

Post note:
John and Mike brought bottles of wine to share. Beth and Bob had bottles of wine in hand as well as a Bird of Paradise. Patricia and Don gave us a magnificently beautiful gloxinia. As a joke, Patricia, Ron, and I gave Don a marzipan pig. Dinner was wonderful, the sharing, caring and connections were amazing. Everyone had something in common with someone else, making it a great web of inter-connectedness. The whole group of us went to the New York Hotel to ogle. What a tremendous group of people we know and only because we moved here.

Here are some books by our esteemed authors, each and every one recommended reading. I would say this even if we did not love them. The books are incredibly good. Don is an editor/author/photographer for Getaway magazine focusing on Africa with an international section as well.

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