Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meeting Katie


Today held a great treat for me. As many of you regulars know, I have had posted comments from reader Katie. Katie lives locally for the time being, but is planning on making the great escape to greener pastures. Having mentioned the UK in one of her notes to me, I ASS-U-ME-ed that she was from the UK. Her disparaging remarks about about Hungary and Hungarians led to the veracity of the assumption.

We decided to meet and share war stories using Szentendre as a midway point for each of us to be equally inconvenienced by travel to mid-way spot. Katie knew what I looked like, but even a search on Facebook did not produce a person living in Hungary, but rather one Katie Mc... from Ohio and the 4 others that had to be befriended before they would share their country of domicile. Note that those Midwesterners are so friendly they will list their country and State and if you ask kindly will probably offer their address, phone number and have coffee waiting for your arrival.

I dragged Ron along with me to Szentendre and we found a young blond, attractive woman standing in front of the TourInform office just as we had planned. My first thought that went unshared was "How impressive that a young woman would be reading my blog." Sorry, Jennifer, but you are in the friend category, so you don't count. I was go to bring my camera, but when we left Budapest, it was pouring rain, so I left it behind.

We quickly decided on the Marzipan restaurant/museum/cafe for a coffee and dessert. Within minutes of placing our orders, the conversation started and never begs for a filler, it flowed like Niagara Falls, never missing a beat. The second surprise after finding Katie to be so young, was that she was not British, but Hungarian. Born and bred here, but having lived in 4 other countries, she has had it and is ready to move on. But I don't want to share much about her life, because I never asked her permission to share it at all.

What I do want to say is that Ron and I had a delightful time. We pummeled her with questions, but Katie kept saying "I have talked enough; what about you?" Then I would start to tell a story while noticing Katie smiling. When I would hesitate, she jumped in with "I know, I read it in your blog." It really struck me as funny as in ha! ha! and disconcerting for a moment, in that someone who was a stranger sitting across from me, knew so much about my life. After a moment, the feeling passed and I was fine with it. After all, I write it and put it out there. When this blog first started it was meant to be a way of communicating with former co-workers and friends who repeatedly said, "E-mail and keep me up-to-date on all of your adventures." Little did they anticipate then that it would be years and years of updates. Little did I realize I would gain a following. I will write a note about that later.

After 2 1/2 pleasurable hours in the coffee shop, Ron and I both needed to stretch. Katie offered to walk with us to the shop I wanted to stop at to buy a ceramic sun for one of the guest bedrooms. I wanted the moon too, but could not bring myself to spend that much money at one time. On the way back, we stopped at my favorite store in the town, Hand Pets. Hand Pets are handmade puppets that utilize all five fingers. They come in adult and child sizes. The designs, the quality and the imagination that goes into these have landed them in all of my tour books. My inner child cries and throws an inner tantrum each time I see them, wanting one and then adding to the collection. My outer child, Ron, has learned to parent those instincts, so I have none of the five finger models. Two guests who found the store because of me, bought a bunch for their grandchildren and bought two of the goats for us. Mmmm...the expression 'old goat', getting goat puppets...what is the message here?

Katie then walked us to the HÉV or suburban train. Leaving the coffee shop did not inhibit the conversation in the least. When we finally said good-bye, it was like saying good-bye to someone we had known for ages.

We wish you the best in your new adventures, Katie!!!
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Why the Budapest Tourism Numbers are Shrinking


Last year, the hotels here in Budapest had an occupancy rate ranging from 30-60%. Many were moaning, crying the blues as I went from hotel to hotel when I was researching my latest book. While the book was going through the copy-editing phase, I found out one of the hotels I had reviewed, which had been open for four years, decided to close its doors due the economy.Fortunately, I had time to pull it from the book.

This brief from is a real indicator of why we went from twenty-two budget airlines at the peak to the six or so remaining now.

Ryanair is considering cancelling its flights in and out of Budapest if it cannot offset the rising airport fees, regional sales director of the low-cost airline László Tamás said. The problem is not with the landing and passenger fees but the fact that handling fees have gone up over 10%, Tamás explained. The Irish airline served 400,000 passengers in Budapest in 2008 but - after cancelling its Bremen and Liverpool services - transported only 177,000 passengers last year, and is aiming for 140,000 this year.

The airline's twice-weekly flights to Glasgow-Prestwick were recommenced yesterday.
"Pécs airport employees were not co-operative and the runway in Debrecen is too narrow," Tamás said in answer to a question as to why Ryanair does not operate from the provincial Hungarian cities. Ryanair does not fly to Fly Balaton airport due to bankrupt airport operator Cape Clear Aviation's outstanding debts to the airline.
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Instant Gratification and Quick Fixes


In a world of stressful situations and fast living, people need instant gratification and quick fixes. This is the only way I can explain the exponential success of Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics. The first book had sold over 4 million copies world-wide at the close of 2009. You can bet your bottom dollar, those authors are not too worried about their personal economic issues. However, before you bet that bottom dollar, you had better read the book to see what your betting odds are.

Have I read either book yet? No! Will I read them? Well, honestly, after reading their blog, yes, I will read them, but when they arrive at the local library in English or when someone sends me a copy (upon a note, I will send you my mailing address).

This is purely speculation, not facts herewith. As the blurb goes, this is a blending of pop culture and economics. Taking a serious look at the world in the last few years, don't you think we should put pop culture on the sidelines for a while and concentrate on getting serious with our money?

Here are two chapter titles to titillate your interests or persuade you there may be some truths to sensationalism.

Chapter 1: What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?

Chapter 2: How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?

If you count the chapter on why drug dealers live with their mothers, there are 3 chapters devoted to parenting. Why?

So my cynical mind wants to know how these books or blog are going to help people understand what their credit card APR is? Don't know what APR means? Annual percentage rate, what the company is really charging you when you don't pay your balance off in full each month. If you only pay the minimum due on a hefty balance, chances are after ten years, you could have paid cash for a new car with what you paid in interest.

How are these books or blog helping people who are bankrupt because they don't have health care coverage? The State of California has shut down most of the county run HIV programs and many of the maternal/child programs due to lack of money.

How are these books and blog going to help people who have been "downsized", the politically correct term for being screwed by their employer and fired?

How are these books and blog going to help people who can no longer make their mortgage payments and are losing their homes?

How are these books and blog going to help young people who cannot afford to attend college or university?

My best guess is if these books and blogs did these things, no one would buy the books or read the blog. 

My best guess is that many, not all, but many people want to think they are learning something as esoteric sounding as economics seems to be for most of us. How many of us took an economics course in college just for the fun of it? I don't have my hand raised. 

Ashamedly, I will admit here, publicly, that as I point a finger, I have four pointing back at me. I am guilty of enjoying pop culture pseudo-science as much as the next one. However, the current economic situation in the US and the world has been a real wake-up call. 

I leave you with one last link for others who did read the books and have criticisms, so you can judge for yourself.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Freaky Human Psychology


This happened to be one of those flow of consciousness days via the Internet. Google Alerts is set to send me a list of articles on "Budget Airlines", "European Airlines", and "Budapest". Once a week, I receive a list of stories to check out on the desired topic.

Today, I started with an article describing the cat fight between the owners of RyanAir and easyJet. On that page was a link to the Times Book Review, so I wandered over there to find three books to add to my Amazon Wish List. While hitting the browser back button, I came across this article on free drinks in NYC, which I read, posted to Facebook, and moved on. 

Another tap on the back browser button brought me to a page where I spotted in the sidebar "An Airline Pricing Puzzle", which grabbed my attention, so CLICK and I am off into no person's land on the Internet highway once again. Interesting little post it was, but without a conclusion or resolution, there was no satiated feeling. That did not stop me from clicking on the other links there from "Discrimination Against the Thin" to "How Much Is Your IPhone App? What has not bypassed my attention is that all of these are posted under the NY Times, Opinion section entitled Freakanomics: The Hidden Side of Everything. I know the book named Freakanomics, but the authors of the book are not the author of these opinion pieces. There did not seem to be much about Daniel Hamermesh, the opinionated blogger of these freakishly short quips of financial puzzles. But I would place bets he is earning a tidy sum for these 30-minute observations, sit at the computer to type, and e-mail to the editor little rants. Am I jealous? You can bet on it! E-mail me an offer.
More on Freakanomics and SuperFreakanomics later. We are meeting friends for a coffee soon. With any luck there will be some crazy dismal economic freakish event when we are at the cafe so I can e-mail it to the NY Times Op-Ed editor and see if they want to hire me.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Vagina Monologues


If you did not read the title of this post, reread it and proceed with caution. 

Although I had heard about The Vagina Monologues in the past, it was usually from my lesbian friends. The title alone produced not so appealing images of talking vaginas. Thinking I could end up being the only man in the audience was no incentive to see the play either. The last interaction I had with a vagina of any sort was in 1999, when I taught the last semester of Psych 110 - Human Sexual Behavior at the college in CA, a class I had taught for twelve years. Prior to that, my in-ter-actions with the V-word were not so in-ter at all.

Since then my life has been perfectly fulfilled without having to resort to vagina monologues, dialogues, diatribes, explorations, visualizations, sightings, or any other sensory confrontations. Who convinced me I needed to see this show was one of my former students, Dorottya Karsay. She asked me to attend this production at Central European University. Because she was always special to me and she was part of the cast and I could get Ron to go with me, I agreed. Our friend Laszlo joined us too.

The tickets were free, but based on a donation which went to two excellent causes. One recipient receiving 90%, is the only shelter in Hungary for helping the survivors of sexual abuse and assault, the Eszter Foundation. Each year, 10% of the donations from around the world go to one charity. This year it is the "City of Joy" for the women and girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is said that the DRC is the world's most dangerous place to be a woman or girl.

The smallish theater was packed. My guess is that the audience was a 50-50 gender mix. Consisting of sixteen vignettes with a cast numbering more than twenty, some of the contemporary themes made it apparent that the play is rejuvenated with current vagina related events keeping it timely. A point to be made here is that the play at any time will be entirely different than the movie, which was made in 2002. The latter consists of the author as the sole performer.

Ninety minutes after entering the theater, my emotional repertoire had run the gamut. I laughed hysterically at parts. I wanted to cry hysterically at others. Some just made me sad, while others made me angry. This group of young women gave us their all while draining it all from us. Bravo and thank you!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

One Reason Why I Love My Students


Today, I had a private lesson with my one and only private student. Before I left his place, he took green leaves out of the refrigerator and asked me what the vegetable was in English

I had no clue what it was. Smelling it, it smelled similar to scallions, but the leaves were open and broader yet only about 6 inches long. I thought maybe some time of leek, but there was no bulb at the end, only the greenery. 

For years, we rarely found celery here. What we found was celery root, but not the stalks. Around our 3rd Thanksgiving, we came across a pitiful stalk of celery in one supermarket and cringed as we paid close to $5.oo for it. We used it for the stuffing for the turkey. Many have told us that the stalks are fed to pigs.

These greens that Janos was showing me, made me suspect that they really cut away tossed the good part. It is only available for a short 6 week growing season. I had him write it down in Hungarian - medvehagyma. I know medve is bear, hagyma is onion, but this did not provide any clues to the English name.

My first year of teaching here, I set up a Yahoo group that all American Studies students had to join. Many moaned and groaned at the time, but I have received a zillion thanks since then. They communicate about everything as a system. The newer Bologna students have the option, but most do not want to be bothered. 
So, I sent out one e-mail asking what medvehagyma was in English. Within an hour, I had 27 responses giving me websites, translations, and so on. For the unknowing, it is called bear's garlic (not onion) in English, but also wild garlic, and ramson. I have never heard of it, never seen it before, and obviously never tasted it. The joys of teaching is learning something new every day. Today, not only did I learn about a plant, but the generosity of students, some of the responders were those I have never taught. They were my teaching partner's 'kids'.
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Arpad Speaks


One of my students at least, reads my blog. I always remember that in the back of my mind when I think about what should or should not go here. He did comment on the "Say Cheese" post. Now if he or someone else could find me a discount photography supply store that would be awesome.

Arpad states:

"Well, yes, it does not really work to tell someone to “mondd, hogy sajt” in Hungarian. Therefore, it is never said. But we do say “csíz” which sounds exactly the same as cheese. It is frequently used when one wants the other to smile when taking photos. However, “csíz” has no meaning in

This portrait studio kit is similar to what we used in class. Not a bad price considering. Let's see, that is about 224 Euros, which is approximately four nights for two people in the large room. Throw in another night for that is a thought.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Say Cheese!


Did you know that the famous photography quip "Say cheese", when you want people to make a facial expression for the camera does not work when translated? In Spanish "Decir quesos", French "Dire fromages", Italian "Dire formaggio",Swahili "Wanasema jibini", or even Hungarian "mondjuk sajt", it doesn't cut the mustard. The reason is that the words SAY CHEESE in English makes the lips move close to a smile formation.

What prompted this interesting tidbit? We had our 9th and next to last photography class last night. No, we did not learn about cheese,but we did have an excursion down to the river to take night photos. What I have learned most through the course of the course is that it is an expensive hobby. Last week, we used different lamps for lighting. Our instructor has four different types depending on what you are shooting. He also had these huge rolls of black and white paper that comes down the wall on a pulley system as huge sheets to cover the floor and behind a model as background. Not only do you need the money for such toys, but the space to store it. He is forfeiting one large room of his flat just for the equipment. 

What would have been handy for last night was a tripod. I have a full sized one in storage in NJ. All the good it will do me here. Since we did not have one, we had to use his. Thankfully, one of the other students bought her own. For the first half hour, it was only Ron and I sharing. Then my batteries finally gave out. I had another set already charged, but as we ran out the door, they did not shout out "take us along" from the wall charger, so they were left behind.

The three others in the class are teachers from the American School. They never show up on time! Thirty minutes into our class, they appear. Within the first ten minutes of their arrival, one of them drops her brand new $500 camera. That was the end of her participation. The camera refused to cooperate after that. The two of them decided to go drown their sorrows at a bar.

Ron decided he did not want to play nice with the rest of us, so went off trying to take night shots by holding the camera on the railing. All the while, I was not certain I really cared for my classmates. 

That brings me to the Advanced class this teacher is offering. Another 40,000 Huf is mucho dinero or sok pénz. I need more practice learning where all of the controls are on my Pentax K-x camera. Buying it here, I could not get an instruction manual in English, so I had to download it from the Internet. At 357 pages, I want to learn the basics and then print out the pages I will need to refer to most often.

I did get a couple of nice night shots, making me a happy camper. I have never been able to get a good one before. Hmm...tripod = good night shots. Okay, got it.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Be Counted


The US Census is currently going on and is about to end. The first US census was done in 1790. It is completed once every ten years. The numbers not only guide the political representatives your state has, but the number of hospitals, emergency workers, schools, job training centers, and other socially responsible components to community life.If you received a census in the mail, get it back in. Time is running out.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Somewhat Attractive


Good News: The functional part of the bathroom is completely finished as of today. The plumbers returned to put on the shower door. They had to wait three days for the glass brick wall mortar and grout to dry and harden before they could mount the door. Other good news, the cabinet maker came yesterday, on Sunday, to go over the plan I drew for the custom cabinet that will go on the wall.

Bad News: The shower cannot be used until 11:00 am tomorrow morning. I have to be at school at 9:30 am. The sealant needs the 24 hours to set, without exposure to H2O.

Somewhat Attractive: The bathroom as a whole. It is not what I was planning in my imagination, but is not repulsive either. I can live with it. Now that we don't have a tub any longer, I have cravings for a bath. 

Old Bathroom Look
One of my pen-pal buddies just mentioned that his partner had to take sitz baths with Epsom salts. Opps!

I just don't have enough light in there to show the true color of the light tiles. They are almost white with a faint coral pattern in them. They do look darker in these pictures.

Here is the "old" bathroom with pictures of the new and improved one below.

The timing was excellent. We have a family of four coming tomorrow afternoon.
New Look 1
The wall tile is really much lighter than it looks here.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Someting New on the Side Bar


I just came across a site called Qhub where you can create your own Q and A web site. I created one for Budapest. Now anyone can ask questions and have them answered by myself or others.

You can ask a question in the box to the right or access it here.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Well Smell Me


Seriously, it is now safe to smell me if I happen to be in range. The plumbers were here this morning and for a good part of the day. They finished installing the shower, radiator, washing machine, sink, toilet, and bidet. While they were at it, they put the mirror and towel back on the wall as well as putting in the two shower racks for bar soap, liquid soap, shampoo, and all those other goodies. I am not sure where to put the bubble bath now. Of course, the brand new soap dispenser that I bought had a broken holder, so that will need to be returned.

They have to come back on Monday to put the glass doors on the shower. The cement and grout on the glass block wall still needs some drying time, but they said it was safe to shower. With an old shower mat on the floor, I christened the new shower and bathroom. 

Still not loving it, but it is better than before. Without the tub, the washing machine is now under the window giving more floor space. Time will tell, but the shower today was so very nice.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Katie, Katie


Katie wrote in:

If you mean it and I can find time in all the planning I would be pleased to meet you. I have been an avid reader of yours since the first madness descended on me to move here.
Over that now and back to not so perfect but way more tolerant England. Can't comment on the US because I have never been there but I find this place really maddening. An idea just popped in my head, I live near Szentendre, so if you are interested I could show you around and have that cup of coffee. :-)

Change experiences, although I don't think anything short of a lottery win would make me want to stay here.
BTW which dental practice have you used and do they do cosmetic dentistry? Tried to look for it in the archive but hit a few dead ends. Thanks.
Take care now

Hey Katie,
I am coming on to spring break soon starting on March 31st. If you are still around then I would love to meet you for a coffee. There is a shop in Szendendre I have been wanting to return to. You know the town is in my travel guide? I was there recently to show it to a friend and update the info for the 8th edition of the book. 

Either way, if you are free then, let's get a coffee.
The dentist I went to is Haifa on Akacfa, but I would check with MedicalTours Hungary for other options. You can check them out here.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Potty Training


For the last week, I have been in potty training all over again. It seems that I have to train myself to like the new potty tiles. Though it is not what I wanted had I had the time to shop the limitations of choices, but I have to admit it doesn't look half bad. 

When our tile man told us we could not hold off on the wall tiles, they had to be done at the same time as the shower tile, we flew from store to store. Six weeks ordering time here, eight weeks before delivery there, so we bit the bullet and went to the over-sized hardware stores. They keep stock on hand. After deciding on the least of all evils at one store, having bought a sample for 500 Huf, we went to the next. There I found tile that would have been perfect. Notice the conditional "would". Of seventy-two different tiles, this was the only one they did not have in stock. This bathroom is a curse and cursed. Settling for the same design in a lighter color, we were set. Delivery charges - 10,000 Huf about $60. There is no way we could have hauled the boxes home on the tram.

Sandor our tile person has been working like a champ. He knew I don't like the tiles, so he has been trying to persuade me they are not so bad after all.  We decided to repaint the ceiling too. Sandor has a friend...not expensive either. I think that will help with an attitude shift.

The plumber returned today and put in the shower floor so Sandor could finish the surrounding tiles and reinstall our glass block wall on one side. Tomorrow, the painter comes to paint the ceiling and Sandor will finish all of the grouting. On Friday, the plumbers will come one last time to reinstall everything associated with water. Sunday, we have a cabinet maker coming to show us colors for a custom medicine cabinet I designed.

Tuesday, we have four B and B guests arriving. Biting my nails to the quick over timing, I am able to relax a bit now. With so many workmen in and out of the place every day, it will take some time before I get over my expectations of  guests of doing something constructive like slap some tiles on the wall, put in an new electric outlet, or coat something with paint.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Budapest Innovations Video


A few weeks back, I taught a Master Writing course for an adult education program. One of the students sent me an e-mail saying he lent out my hand-outs to a co-worker and she lost them. He wanted me to e-mail him what I distributed once again. At the bottom of his e-mail was a video about Budapest and Hungarian inventors. I thought it was quite interesting to see which things I knew Hungarians were responsible for and which were new surprises. The helicopter was the only one I was not aware of. One question in my mind is which of these inventors invented these things while still in Hungary or after they left for a new homeland? The Biro pen was patented in Paris in 1938. The Biro brothers fled to Argentina in 1943 to escape the Germans.

There seems to be some confusion over the invention of the helicopter. Hungarian sources give credit to Oszkár Asbóth as the inventor, while other sources credit many others with models and prototypes, but the credit of successfully building the first working model goes to...drum roll please...Russian born Igor Sikorsky. He has been called the "Father of the helicopter".

If you want to prove or disprove other parts of the video, you are on your own. Either way, I think they put together a pleasant little piece of Budapest entertainment.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Reader Comment -


Well it looks like the Hungarian population is going to decrease yet again. I just received this comment from a reader who has thrown in her own towel. Gosh Katie, we should have met for coffee before now to swap battle stories.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Nightmare on Akacfa u.":

Wishing you all the good luck I can. I would also offer my shower but it's a bit far for you to come. (Szentendrei sziget)
I really admire your patience, I had enough! 'Evacuating' in 30 hopefully very short days.
Really wish you all the best.

Actually, sad, but true, it takes a lot less patience to deal with things here than it does trying to find a respectable job that utilizes my education and experiences in the US.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nightmare on Akacfa u.


The nightmare continues. The tile guy has keys to the apartment, the plumbers have keys to the apartment and all of this was because the release for the front door was not working. At the same time, the elevator decided to go on vacation, so it was improbable that we would run down the stairs to let people in. At the time, I still had bronchitis, causing Ron to have to make the commute up and down. God knows, he does not need the exercise.

Each morning in the wee hours when I get up to use the bathroom, when I stub my toe on the toilet, because it is sitting in the hallway just outside the bedroom door, I realize I have limited choices. There is no choice, but to turn on the hall light when getting up in the middle of the night. It is like an obstacle course filled with boxes of shower parts, the new shower floor, shower glass walls, glass blocks from our past shower wall that will be resurrected in part, boxes of tiles, a toilet, a bidet, a sink, oh and yes, the washing machine too. This is like a recreation of The Beverly Hillbillies, Hungarian style. 

Sandor, out tile man is an excellent worker. He did the tile in our kitchen, the walls and floor. We had him return to do the hallway floor. If it had not been for the rotten pipes, this would have been winding down by now. I think there is light at the end of the tunnel, but for now it is as bright as a match across a football field in daylight. That is the extent of my sports metaphors. I filled that lifetime quota finally.

The worst part is the bathing. It is not easy fitting under the kitchen faucet. Seriously, we do have to wash our hair there, but the 1/2 bath has no hot water. They had to rip out a lot of that wall too to replace pipes. The plumbers will not return until all of the tile work is done, so we are stuck. I have thought of booking a room at he IBIS just to shower, but Ron would stroke out. He is an old country boy after all, so this just brings back memories of his youth.

Tomorrow is a national holiday, the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution. Although the country closes up on national holidays, Sandor said he would work. The crux is that since it is a national holiday, he cannot make noise that may disturb the neighbors. They were not quiet and mincing around 162 years ago on that date, why should everyone have to be quiet now?

Shower me with good wishes, I will take any kind of shower I can get.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight Savings Time


For those in North America, it is Daylight Savings Time time of year to move those clocks an hour ahead at 2am Sunday morning. Spring forward and fall back. 

For those of us in most of Europe, we will wait until the last Sunday of March to make the change.
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Showering in Angry Tears


Any reader knows, we have needed to reconstruct our large bathroom for some time now. We have had a leaking problem into the 3rd floor apartment's bathroom for over 2 years now. You can see the dozen related posts if you are interested.

When we returned from vacation, Ron went to the local bathroom showroom to find a definitive person to diagnose our woes. After cutting a portion out of our glass brick wall and then the tub, they found the leak. Prognosis: the tub has to go and so do the pipes under it. Up to this point, I was having visions of sugarplums dancing in my head. Opps! Wrong metaphor. I was having visions of Martha Stewart sweeping through to glamorize the new remodel. When my feet touched the ground again, I did major Internet searching for bathroom designs and remedies. 

I still have not settled on a theme or color scheme when the emergency sirens, bells, whistles, and alarms sounded sending us to a bathroom showroom far, far away from the one around the corner. There we choose a new shower with glass door. Our glass block wall will be replaced on one wall. Okay, I have resigned myself to no longer having a tub. I am going to miss that once-a-year, long, leisurely bubble bath that I indulge in, but in reality, I am too hyper for baths. I can spend a half-hour in the shower, but not sitting in the tub. Too many movies that portrayed the tub as some romantic bastion of refuge alone or sharing, so those delusions linger in my memory.

Here is the difficult part...ordering tile. Yes, agreed, I am a spoiled American when it comes to wanting choices. When I had my bathrooms remodeled in California, it took me weeks to make decisions about tiles because the choices of tiles was so vast. Materials, colors, textures, coating and so on kept me awake at nights visualizing, planning, and scheming. Here there are no such problems. There is boring, less boring, least boring. When you finally find something that could actually seem livable, it turns out that it was a sample glued to the display board for the showroom in Kazakhstan and was never removed when put on display here.

Under duress, I picked out tiles, mosaics, for the shower walls. They were shade of dark blue, royal and navy. This would not have been my first pick, but I had perused the web sites of a half a dozen tile stores and found nothing more interesting. Ron put his foot down on ordering from Italy or Spain. I could live with this tile. It would not have been my first choice had I had choices, but I could live with it. There was something unnerving when the lady wrote up the order. I just had "that feeling", but without the language, I could not say anything other than point to the tile sample we wanted repeatedly. She kept responding with "Igen!" meaning "Yes". That was over four weeks ago, because no one keeps stock on hand. It has to be ordered. If a store needs to run from the tax office, they don't need to worry about liquidating stock. Now you see them, now you don't. 

Four weeks later, our tile, shower, shower head and the pipes arrive. I know immediately the tile is not the tile we ordered. It was on the same display board, but not the same tile. This tile is shades of azure blue with mottled salmon mixed in. The surface is flat, not the textured type that I ordered. The real dilemma is that the bathroom is totally ripped bare. All of the old tile is removed, the toilet, sink, bidet, and bathtub are all missing in action. What was once a water closet is now a vacant shell that resembles a bomb shelter after it was bombed. There is no option for returning the tile and ordering anew unless we want to be without a functional bathroom for the next four weeks while a new order comes in. My sense is that the tile we wanted was no longer available, so the woman gave us the second best option. Hey, after four weeks, who will remember what they ordered. Um, duh! We weren't drugged or drunk at the time. There was no blackout to distort the memory.

Now to add insult to injury, I thought I would have time to shop for the balance of the tile for the rest of the walls. Hell no! It all has to be done at the same time for humidity leaking reasons or some such nonsense. I think it is because the workers want to get it done and move on. Having been home sick for the last two weeks, I cannot go running around tile shopping. The doctor has me home bound until Friday. Friday, I am out of here like being shot from a cannon into the stores to find the rest of the tile where it is ready for delivery. I will have my bottle of aspirin in one hand and my sobbing towel in another.

For the whole hairy mess, click on the photo below to see the album of current events.

Bathroom remodel
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Note from the Toothfairy


My previous post on the tooth fairy prompted this note:
Did you know the Tooth Fairy's ~magic~ disappears if she is "seen"? Lots more to learn and explore within my "Toothfairycyberspace". *Sprinkling you with Fairy Dust*
Tooth Fairy

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Still Sick


Originally, I went to the doctor on Monday, but he had me come back on Friday. Friday, he was not there, but his medical student was. She told me to return yesterday to see the 'real' doctor again. When I went in, he decided to send me for a chest X-ray at the hospital. I knew where it was, but was not thrilled. It is a maze of confusion with an interpreter, but going it alone is beyond intimidating.
I walked there, hoping the fresh air would do me good, but the trolley bus would only take me one stop anyway and then I would have to walk the rest anyway. When I walked into the hospital lobby, I could not remember which building I had had my X-ray in the last time. There were so many tests and so many different buildings. 
Taking a chance that some communication could happen if I asked the guard, I handed him my slip and said "Hol van...?" Unfortunately, he was very kind giving me tons of information that I had no clue about, but watching his body language was the key. My deductive reasoning told me it was next door.
When I looked at the next door-door, it looked like a fancy clinic. Surely, this could not be right. I had State insurance, not private. Hmmm...which person can I grab to ask? Usually, I target a young person. The chances of their knowing some English are better than an older person who wants to communicate with me in German. I see an older man coming toward me, but he is wearing hospital scrubs. Bingo! I ask him and he directs me to the fancy door I dismissed moments earlier.

Inside is a lovely spacious waiting room with flat screen TVs on the walls and soft cushioned chairs for waiting your turn. With my medical card and the doctor's referral in hand, I walked up to one of the three woman sitting at the desk. She intuited that speaking to me was pointless, so she took me to the machine that dispenses numbers and procured one for me. I was not sure what this number meant, but time would tell. When my number appeared on the electronic board, I went to the desk number next to it. I was back where I started: same spot, same person. Now I was getting registered and then told to sit. 

I have a nervous habit of shredding these numbers when I get tired of waiting, but I had a book to keep my mind occupied. Good thing too, my number was called again thirty minutes later for the X-ray tech. So far, so good. The tech never told me "Take a deep breath...hold it, hold it, hold it...okay breathe." My past experience of having chest X-rays instilled the drill in me, so my breathing stops like it is on auto-pilot once near an X-ray machine. I wonder what would have happened if I kept breathing? Two shots later, she motioned for me to dress and wait. 

Waiting, it is what I do the worst. I am a horrible, terrible, no good, lousy waiting person. I would rather gather snails from the garden with my teeth than have to wait. There was a crowd of waiters, not just me. People who were X-rayed before me and those still needing one. About twenty minutes passed when the tech came out, shouted someone's name, yelled something to them, they responded with something and they left. Here is where past experiences and reasoning come in handy. I know that the tech needs to check the films to make sure that the shots are viable, not blurry or off kilter. My guess was that she was telling these people that their films were fine, would not need to be redone, and they could leave. 

This little fantasy worked for me, kept me reading my book, and waiting for my name to be called in some bastardized form. They always have problems pronouncing it. Two hours later, nada, nothing, nincs. My name had not been called in any form, accent, or dialect. Each time the tech momentarily appeared from behind the door like the Wizard of Oz making a rare appearance, I jumped in front of her like I was auditioning as a dancing bear act, just to refresh her memory that I was there. With her flat affect, I was not sure if she noticed me or was just ignoring me.

After another hour, my patience was wearing thin. When  I caught her the next time, I made a huge X across my chest and said Jo/Nem Jo? It never ceases to amaze me how such few words can cause an avalanche of responsive words that I certainly did not understand. What I was able to piece together is that since my doctor wants a written report, I was waiting for the radiologist to provide one. Thankfully, my second language is Body. Body language is the great communicator when all else fails. 

Another chapter of my book later, I heard something that sounded slightly similar to James Ryan. I jumped to the call to find the tech standing there with a paper in her hand. The radiologist appeared, made the report and now I was free to go. It was now 12:30pm. My doctor's office hours ended at noon. My next chance to see him is tomorrow at 4pm.

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sick, Sick, Sick


Don't give up on me. I started getting sick last Thursday, but went to the doctor on Monday when I was not getting better. It turns out I have pneumonia. The doctor put me off of work this week. I had to crawl out of bed, I was getting bedsores. Two months without smoking and this is my reward. : (

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