Thursday, May 24, 2007

Three Times You Are Out

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I have been testy these last few days as I have not yet received my contract from Frommer's, which makes me nervous. Time is ticking, 330 pages need to be written, and I do not have an official letter to show that I am legit or actually hired to do this. We are leaving for Rome on Monday with Earl in tow to break up his visit. If a package arrives while we are gone, chances are they will not leave it without anyone here. My physical therapy appointment was at 11:00, so I left Earl in Ron's care. Ron had talked about going to the Holocaust Museum or the House of Terror, both things that Earl said he was interested in seeing. I have been to the latter three times and did not feel a need to return, but left confident that they would entertain themselves. When I returned, they were still here. They changed the plan and were now going to go to Palitinus swimming pool in the afternoon. I wanted to go too. I have never been, though tried one summer on August 20th and the pool was closed for the season already. Both Earl and Ron fell asleep. Ron wanted to go at 3:00, but by 2:30 the sandman was throwing sand at my eyes and I went for a nap too. When I woke, Ron was gone to bring his invoice to the language school. By the time he got home again, it was too late to go to the pool, plus I did not want to go so late. It closes at 6:00 and for the admission, it is not worth the money to go so late. A day wasted. I did not do anything on my "To Do" list, trying not to ignore Earl. It is true that "You can never go home again." What I find when friends come to visit is that our lives have diverged so severely, there not much to talk about after the first day or two. They do not understand our lives here and their lives have either become static or have gone off into a direction that we do not understand. The long distance relationship of e-mails back and forth becomes the main link holding us together at a safe distance.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Children's Railway

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If Earl had his way, he would sit around the apartment all day. He will not venture out on his own at all. He keeps saying "I just to see you guys." Well, we guys don't want to sit around all day, we have things to do. We have to modify them to include him or to not ignore the fact that he is here, which is a burden. His last visit was two years ago, but Ron was in Iowa while he was here and I was left to entertain alone. Ron suggested we do the Children's Railroad for something to do. It was a good idea for a refresher for me to write about it for the Frommer's guide. Earl was nonplussed. His mantra is "I'll do whatever you guys want to do." We guys want a guest who is independent. After we took him to purchase his transportation pass, we took the subway to the tram, to the Cogwheel, to the Children's Railroad at the end of the line. We had 45 minutes to wait for the next train. Ron had to leave to teach a lesson and I had to get home for a guest coming. The ride was pleasant and for the most part, the train was empty. The lush green trees and the sometime views of the Buda Hills made the trip worthwhile, though Earl was there for the ride. When we stopped and a large group of children boarded, he wished out loud that they would board the other car. They must have heard his thoughts as they started into our car, but changed directions and went to the other one. At the end of the line, Ron took off for his lesson; Earl and I went to get something for dinner and then home. Our guest's plane was late and he did not show until two hours after his scheduled time. I was having problems installing MS Office 2007. The product key would not take. I also received a letter from the district office, making me nervous from the few words I could read. I called my student Balazs and he came to my rescue. The letter was only a notice that the district could not assist us with our gas bill since I did not complete the form. Office 2007 was a greater challenge. After forty minutes of fiddling, trying different methods, griping, swearing, and brainstorming, we had a "DUH" moment. The number we were trying to enter for the program key was not the key. The key was actually on the inside back of the plastic box that housed the software. Neither of us had noticed it and there was no literature to suggest our looking there for it. Once we had it, it loaded fine, but the next glitch was that Office 2003 had to be deleted first. Ugh! We watched a movie after dinner, not a great departure from our evening routine.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Earl Arriives

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Our friend Earl arrived from California today. There were real mixed emotions about his coming. He was carting a ton of things that I had ordered over the Internet and had sent to his house: three pairs of Crocs, a bathrobe, and MS Office 2007. Then there were things I needed him to buy like real vanilla, chocolate chips, and brown gravy mix. He haunted me repeatedly to meet him at the airport, but I held fast and refused each time. This is his third trip here and I met him both times before. It takes me an hour to get there by public transport and then I have to pay my way back by shuttle. As it was, his plane was 2 hours late, so I would have been sitting there wasting time and seething. Earl is the only one who comes here more than once and now stays for free. There is a long complicated history here and this is the only reason. His partner refuses to travel with him and this is his only opportunity to get out of the country. He is not confident (scared to death) to travel alone. He is also agreeable to do our banking in CA when needed, so there is another trade-off. When he arrived, I must admit, I was most anxious to see his luggage. I attacked it like a young child on Christmas morning. This evening, we went to the Iguana to say good-bye to Nicole and Lynn. They are both Fulbrighters who are returning to the States. Nicole leaves tomorrow morning. Lynn first goes to London for a few days and then returns to leave, but we will be in Rome. We only stayed for an hour, knowing Earl would be tired, but with Chris, Mark, and Nicole's friend Adam there too, the table was large and made it difficult to hear to carry on a discussion.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The Airline War

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Ron's great niece and 5 of her friends are descending on us in July. They have changed their plans 46 times in the past month and are driving their travel agent to drink. The latest from the agent this morning is that they want to arrive on July 15th and four of them leave on July 19th. I told Ron to tell her we needed confirmed dates so we could book other guests.
We finally bought our tickets to Scotland and really screwed ourselves royally. We would up paying $825 for both of us, when they were $670. last month. Yesterday, I spent 3 hours trying to book the tickets. After using all of the sites to check multiple sites, I went to KLM and Lufthansa's sites directly and found yet better deals. However, when I went to book Lufthansa's flights, I kept getting a blank page and it would not reload. I did this on three computers and the same thing happened. I tried Firefox and IE to no avail. I went to KLM and found flights for $10.00 more and booked them. However, after finding the flights we wanted, I would get a error message saying we were not on a secured web page. I tried this 5 times and Ron called KLM. If we booked over the phone, there was an additional fee, regardless of whether or not we could get their site to work. The woman said she logged on and it was fine, though we could not. After my 6th attempt, it worked and I filled out the forms and was cooking. Then I got an error message that I did not include salutations, which are required. Who give's a rat's as* is they call me Mr. Or MS? Fixed that and then there was some other error, and on and on. Finally, I got to the payment part and I put in my VISA card number. Well they have this new authorization for Visa, which I had enrolled in, but forgot my log in ID and password. It has been over a year since I used it. I hunted that down, put it in and then received an error page stating the site was down for system problems. By this point, I was a maniac and told Ron we should just screw the tickets we have for the Military Tattoo, lose the $100. and skip the trip. His long face made me try ONE MORE TIME. When I tried for the last time, our discounted fare ($825 some discount) was no longer available, so I went for the next one, yet another $100 more. I went through all of the forms, page after page, after page and then at the end, I received a message. "You have already booked a flight for these days and times. Are you sure you would like to book yet another flight?" After I had Primal Scream therapy, I called KLM. They confirmed that the first tickets did go through and they resent me the e-mails with the e-ticket numbers. It is no wonder airlines are in financial trouble.

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X-Rays

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I had finally broken down and went for X-rays of my back and hip. I was concerned about what they may find, so procrastinated as long as I could. The radiologist has his lab set up in an apartment in a regular apartment building. Nothing medical surprises me any longer, but I could not grasp how they were able to get all of this cumbersomely awkward equipment up four flights and then into the door. He was a kind and professional man who spoke reasonable English and took 7 x-rays, redoing two when he did not like the results of the quality. He said he would give me a written report to take to my doctor. I could hear a typewriter clicking away in the back: a manual typewriter, not a computer, not an electric typewriter. All of the x-rays were 10,000 Huf, about $50.00. His suggestion was to go to the district doctor and get a referral to an orthopedist. Ron pushed me into doing this today, because I have been putting it off. The district doctor speaks good English, so I found out that I have a herniated disk and degeneration of cartilage in my hip joint. He has me on three medications, two for short term and one for six months, which is supposed to regenerate the cartilage in the hip joint. I am such a poor pill taker; this will be a challenge.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Aaron's Wedding

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My co-teacher, the other native speaker was married tonight. Here in Hungary, like many European countries, you have to get married in a civil ceremony for the legal version. Any other ceremony is for show. They had their civil ceremony on Wednesday, but tonight was when all of the family and friends were invited to share in their matrimonial bliss.

The wedding took place at a hall near City Park. They did not want a religious ceremony, so they asked Ron to officiate. They wrote their ceremony and Ron's parts. They rehearsed it with a Hungarian translator, since Betti is Hungarian.

The ceremony was outdoors and Betti looked lovely, cool, relaxed, and very unbride like in her
ability to maintain calm. Aaron on the other hand, was a wreck. After working with him for five years, I have never seen this man look nervous. Tonight, he looked like he was going to melt into a puddle like the witch in The Wizard of Oz. It was truly humorous to see him look so nervous, but what was funniest was the grin when the ceremony started. I had fond reminders of Howdy Doody looking at him. It was all beautiful from the readings they chose to their vows.

The reception followed indoors. The room was spacious and there were many more people than I had thought there would be from what Aaron had said. The buffet started with appetizers that could have been a meal in themselves, then the main meal was served. The bride threw her bouquet during dinner, which I thought was a strange time to do it and it was caught by a little girl. Opps!

We were seated with Aaron's aunt and her friend, so we had English speakers to talk with. They were delightful company, but after two hours, my back started paining, so it was time to go home.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Last Day of School

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Today was the last day of school. In some ways it was a sad day since I will not be teaching the language practice classes any longer. The replacement for my colleague will be doing the 5th and 6th semester classes and the repeats for those who have failed in the past. The bright side is that I will not be teaching this class as a group any longer. As much as I like each individual student, as a group, they were not the best group I have taught. Their motivation was just not there. I turned in all of my grade, signed all of the grade books and now I am off until September, from school anyway. I only have to go in once on June 13th for thesis defenses and that is it. I am impatiently waiting for the Frommer's contract, so I can hit the ground running.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Results Are IN!!!

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Hi, Ryan. This is Stephen from Frommer's. I have some good news. I've reviewed the resumes I received for the Budapest & Hungary guide, and I'd like to offer you the book update. I enjoyed your clips, and I was impressed that you did some legwork at the hotel for the sample reviews. And it's great that you live in Budapest and seem to have explored it so thoroughly, and you're a business-owner to boot. I think you'd do a great job with the book and bring a unique perspective to it--and I think this may be the first time we've offered a book to a message board commenter, so it's always nice to start another first. Here are all the logistics for the assignment, so please review and let me know ASAP if you're interested and able to do the project. Note that this contract also includes a few other Budapest/Hungary-related assignments, such as an update of the Hungary chapter for our Frommer's Rail Europe guide (due before the main Budapest deadline) and an online update for our website (due after the book deadline, so we can post updates online just after the book comes out). Let me know if this is all doable. And note you'd also be updating maps, so I can send you thorough instructions for those as well. Here's all the information I have for the contract: Title: Frommer's Budapest & the Best of Hungary, 7th Edition Release month: April 2008 Page count: 320 pages (roughly 30 pages longer than the last edition, so there's room for new material and maps) Page count minus the front matter and Index: 300 pages (text and maps)

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mayo

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Yesterday was Lynn's birthday. She is a Fulbrighter here, soon to leave at the end of this month. She is young enough to want to celebrate her birthday in a grandiose way, planning dinner at Spoon Cafe, drinks the Four Seasons, and then partying at the Living Room. When you are in your early twenties, this is the way to celebrate, but when most of your acquaintances here are ten to thirty years older than you, nope, nada, ninc, no way honeypie. We were able to gracefully bow out of the festivities due to Anders and Inger's arrival; we did not know how involved they intended for us to be in their visit. However, the bottom line was that the chosen venues were expensive times two of us. People have difficulty understanding that we really rely on our Hungarian salaries and it is less than most minimum wage jobs in the States. The B and B is not making us rich, though some people think it is, but it is our travel money. Most of the time even that has to be supplemented with other income. Lynn believes in a multi-day birthday celebration, which I did too until twenty years ago. Now I prefer I few hours instead. Tonight was the Cinco de Mayo street party at the Iguana Cafe, the excuse for a Mexican restaurant here in Budapest. We agreed to join Lyn and others tonight to continue to celebrate her birth. The eclectic choices of music bombarded the street, making it difficult to hear one another. After a couple of frozen Margaritas, we made our apologies and headed for quieter pastures.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Anders and Inger

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Our tour in Africa was a bonding experience with the 18 others confined to the long days traveling by truck. We magnanimously invited all of them to come visit us in Budapest as our guests, real guests, not B and B paying types. Anders and Inger told us as we parted ways in Zimbabwe, they knew from first meeting us that we would be easy to like and their first impression was only proven true over the course of the trip. They are the first to take us up on our offer and thanks to the budget airlines, they flew here from Sweden and arrived today. They are about my age, full of life and very amicable. After getting settled in their room, praising the apartment repeatedly, having a coffee, they were out the door. We did not see them again until later this evening when they shared their discoveries and went to bed. They are delightful to have around.

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Pins and Needles

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There were a pile of student papers to read, correct, grade, okay, not really a pile since they turn them in via e-mail. Maybe a mailbox full. Instead, I worked on my reviews. Though I am known for getting student papers back within a couple of days, these were mostly freshmen paper and they are not familiar with my work habits yet, so I had some leeway. I just sent in my reviews for Frommers: hotel, restaurant, museum. Only the first two were requested, but I am anal retentive at times. I thought the third would be an opportunity to say, "Hey, I am an overachiever." The deadline was May 7th, but I thought sending them in today would show my seriousness about deadlines. It should be of importance to an editor. The guidelines for writing the reviews was 35 pages long and I pored over them again and again. They have strict requirements for the formating, which took as much time as the rest. The fonts and sizes are different for various parts of one review and there are codes that need to be implanted here and there. It took me two days to write the 250 word review, having edited it again and again. I made mention of this when I sent them in to give him the idea that I do take this seriously, but at the same time will take direction for editing and rewriting. I also mentioned that the hotel was quite adamant about not being helpful, but after charming three people, I got my way. This was to show my tenacity, hopefully. The guide emphasized using humor, so I tried to instill some in my note as well as with the reviews. As soon as I hit the 'Send' button propelling them into cyberspace, I had misgivings about what I wrote, how I wrote it, life in general, my purpose on earth, and the beat goes on.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reviews

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I am taking my reviews seriously and researching them. I have to choose one restaurant and one hotel that is not in the current Budapest guide. I chose the New York Palace since it has only opened in May, 2006 and our favorite restaurant Paprika. Today, I went to Paprika, took some pictures, reviewed the menu to make sure nothing had changed since our last visit, looked over the wine list and absorbed the atmosphere once again. Now the difficult part is writing a review that is only 200-250 words. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it. Opps! Too many words already.

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