Wednesday, November 30, 2011



We all should know the importance of a book in a child’s hand. Our very dear and close friend Patricia Schonstein, a South African writer has started a non-profit for such a cause. Years ago, Patricia had written a number of children’s books with all proceeds going to the schools in Cape Town and then beyond to fund the beginnings of school libraries. Most schools do not have one.

Later, she turned to writing novels and has written six novels, each unique, but expressing her gifts. In addition, she had four collections of poetry. Patricia has now turned her talents from writing back to her roots of advocacy. She has created SeedReaders. Please take a moment to visit her website and perhaps donate some money for this worthy project. Perhaps this would be a gift for the person who has everything, on your Christmas list. Most of us have so very much, yet so many cannot even afford a single book.

Regardless, if you visit Patricia’s site, you may be inspired. If you met her, you would definitely be a better person for the experience.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Oh Christmas, Oh Christmas Market


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Friday, November 25, 2011

Blimp Friday


Just about everyone world-wide is familiar with the US term "Black Friday". This is the most celebrated shopping day on the calendar and it is the day after Thanksgiving. If merchants don't make a major haul with sales on this day, the rest of the Christmas shopping season will look like the Grinch who stole Christmas. 

What most people give little reference to is Blimp Friday. This is the same day as Black Friday, but it a bit more personal. This is the day when everyone realizes they ate more than a teenage boy who has toked a few funny joints to survive the family gathering. Thanksgiving evening and the day after, people try to rent themselves out as the new Goodyear Blimp, swearing they are never going to eat again, at least not for the next two weeks. This manages to truncate to less than 4 hours in reality when that turkey sandwich on gooey white bread with Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise is screaming your name from the fridge.

We worked diligently at polishing off our Thanksgiving dinner. Sharing our table was W. Hunter Roberts, a Swedenborg minister, Melissa and Scott Rank, and our B and B guest Vidor. Vidor is originally from the Philippines but now lives in New Jersey. Our turkey came cooked and stuffed from Culinaris, the gourmet grocery store and it ran 6 1/2 kg. (14 lbs) after being cooked. We were expecting two others, but they were held up in Prague. Prior to sitting down to  the dinner table, our gullets were prepped with hot artichoke dip, assorted crackers and goat cheese all washed down with some Asti Spumanti, donated by one of my students. Once at the dinner table, accompanying the turkey was a mountain of mashed potatoes, a bog of cranberries of various types, a canal of sweet potato casserole, boats of Brussels sprout mash, rivers of gravy, and enough stuffing for three life sized teddy bears.

Before a single fork was dislodged from its place, Ron had prearranged for Hunter to do a communion. She brought a loaf of bread, said a prayer and broke the bread passing it around to share. As tradition dictates, she did the same with a glass of wine. Ron had a copy of this prayer for anyone who wanted to recite it with him.

Prayer for Peace
God of many names, lover of all peoples; we pray for peace in our nations and in our world.
We pray for all who have the awesome responsibility of power and decision-making.
We pray for the innocent victims of violence and war.
Lead us and all the people of the world from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace and justice fill our hearts, our world, our universe.       Amen

Though none of this is something I would have chosen, it seemed to make all the rest content, so it didn't ruffle my feathers on this lovely holiday of sharing. As the dinner progressed, as we shared stories of holidays past spent with families, some rather hysterical while others bordered on OMG, I realized a new business idea. 

Remember you saw it here first. Announcing the new Family Holiday Warning Labels. Why waste time and embarrassment when you bring friends or new romances home to meet the family for a holiday? With my new offering, no one is caught off guard. As you walk in the door you slap the appropriate label on the forehead of each family member. 
Nephew Timmy: Normally a pleasant ten year-old child, but when over excited, he will bite your ankles.
Aunt Maude: Never stops talking about how much she misses her long dead husband who she hated when he was alive.  
Uncle Henry: Has dementia and may whip out his penis without warning.  
Great Aunt Minnie: If she tells you she can play a wind instrument, don't ask her to demonstrate her talent.
Mother: Still striving to look twenty-eight, she believes her breasts continue to be firm and will offer to let you squeeze them if you are good. 
Grandfather:  Will rest his dentures on the dinner table between courses after he flicks them in the hair to loosen food particles.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening of sharing.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!


One quick post before our guests start to arrive, this is the day to give thanks and I want to do that. In no particular order of importance I want to say that I am thankful for all of this.

  • I am thankful for all of my friends who have been by my side through the good, bad, and the ugly. Some of the ugly could have scared off any lesser person, but they were right there any time I needed them.
  • I am thankful I get to live in Europe. My gene pool was has European springs feeding it.
  • I am thankful Frommer's editor Stephen Bassman found me thought this blog and asked me to be their Budapest and Hungary author multiple times.
  • I am thankful for my students who study diligently making me feel like I am doing something purposeful.
  • I am thankful that my writing seems to be appreciated with over 3, 000 page views a month.
  • I am thankful for finding Nigel Hancock, a wonderful friend, though we have never met. Nigel has been a pillar and mentor for Ron's and my BudaBaB website and for the new and soon to be released Life Coaching website. Without Nigel, I would still be wading through Joomla for Dummies, feeling like what was really needed is a Joomla for Dunces version just for me.
  • I am thankful that even with age, I am still able to do Pilates. Okay, it is more strenuous than twelve years ago, but I can do it. 
  • I am thankful that Ron is young and limber enough still to go to yoga, even if he grumbles after each class.
  • Most of all, I am thankful for having Ron in my life for the last eighteen plus years. Without him, I wouldn't have had the motivation to visit half of the fifty plus countries that we have traveled to. 
For those of you who celebrate this holiday, regardless of the country you are in, Happy Thanksgiving. 
For those of you who do not celebrate this holiday, I wish you a fabulous day.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Picture Glossary


This is a glossary for the previous post.

Antipasto, looks almost as good as my grandmother's.

Pasta e fagioli

Cavatelli - My grandmother had a special board used only for making her macaroni of various shapes and sizes. She never used a machine. They were all made by loving hands and a knife.

Cannoli - This is one of my favorite Italian pastries.

Italian cheesecake made with ricotta cheese and a special wheat on the bottom.
Struffal are little balls fried, then drenched in honey. Traditionally, they are put into a pyramid shape and sprinkled with colored beads. 

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Thursday is for Turkey


The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...
Tomorrow is thanksgiving! It is the traditional day for Americans to give thanks for all the bounty within their lives. As children we learn and they still persevere with the tales of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sitting down to a feast in thanks for the sharing of knowledge. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is mostly a lie. I didn't learn this myself until I came across the book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. After that eye-opener, I continued reading other accounts that put my political correctness into better perspective. Native Americans got the short end from the beginning.

Speaking of Thanksgiving myths that were not unraveled until later in my life, there are other things that are kind of embarrassing, but heck, I will share. I was probably about twenty-five years old before I realized that Thanksgiving didn't start with antipasto, followed by either a pasta e fagioli or a chicken soup with tiny meatballs with homemade pasta shells floating around. It never occurred to me that these didn't precede the turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and the lasagne, manicotti, or other pasta dish for everyone's 'traditional' holiday dinner. These were after all staples for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's (add baccalà for this holiday; it is dried fish that brings good luck for the NY). This was the typical celebratory meal for weddings, christenings, earning an A on your report card, the disappearance of your cold sore, a happy meal for getting the lawn mowed, and so on. However, the end of the Thanksgiving meal was not complete without the homemade pies made of pumpkin, apple, mincemeat, and pecan or ricotta cheese joined by an assortment of an early appearance of homemade Christmas cookies. Added to this foreign assortment, with foreign meaning American recipes, there had to be struffala. Struffala is an Italian cookie made into little balls, piled high and then drenched with honey and colored sprinkles. Is it a wonder I battle my weight?
Having led a sheltered life, there was never an opportunity to have a holiday meal outside the confines of less than two dozen Italians and that was only immediate family. When I was really young, this approached five dozen. My grandmother was one of twelve kids, so the entire family joined in as one. It took close to an hour just filling your plates, plural, with all of the foods the aunts and my grandmother would prepare. My family decided at one point that they needed to let me loose into the outer world during one holiday, so I could get a taste of the harsh reality of life. I learned the cruel facts the hard way; I suffered from culture shock in my own country. When I went to a friend's family for Thanksgiving dinner, the sparse table was only inhabited by a turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffed mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce. My first thoughts were fear of deprivation followed by streaming thoughts of a starvation sequence. It didn't take a full blooded Neapolitan to figure out that this was just wrong. How do these people survive like this? 

From this time onward, at every holiday, I take a private moment for a minute of silence not only in appreciation for my Italian heritage, but also for the despair of those who have no clue what they are missing.
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Breaking News!!!!


I had heard this rumor, but did not dare to believe it. 

Ron and I went to the Christmas Market, which opened on Friday. That is not the big news and I will write more on that later. The scoop it this and I am so very excited. We collect pins from every city we visit that has one of these restaurants. I cannot wait for my first Budapest pin.

If you don't recognize any of the pins (I took a quick photo with my phone), then here is the ultimate clue.


We are getting our very own Hard Rock Cafe. It is at Váci utca right near Vörösmarty tér‎. We are finally on the Rock map.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chasing Down Turkeys


There is something to be said for being single. You generally get invited to others' homes for the holidays, since no expects a single person to cook. I used to love cooking for the holidays when I had ready access to all of the ingredients that I required, but living abroad gives all new meaning to meal preparations.

This Thursday is the American holiday, Thanksgiving. For a few years, we were lucky. Ron had a fellow docent at the museum who had access to the American Embassy commissary. It is restricted to American employees and their immediate families. She would get us an All-American Butterball turkey. That eliminated the major obstacle, but then there were others that were needed to make a 'traditional' meal. Each year became a bit easier. We are now about to find sweet potatoes and yams at Tesco, for example. 

Just to be on the safe side, I had canned pumpkin and stuffing mix on my wish list. We had four cans of cranberries, but their expiration date was long past. After sending a query to Ask-a-Nutritionist, they responded that they should be tossed; out they went. We do have a guest coming on Thanksgiving morning, so I put in a request and invited him for dinner with us. 

This year, there will be 8 people at our dinner table. Three of them will be strangers. One is our B and B guest, while 2 are friends of the friends we  had last year for dinner. These friends just happen to be arriving on the holiday. They were included in the mix. 

So what about the turkey? Last year, Ron found a poultry butcher that would get us a whole turkey, but it was small. We want a big sucker that weighs in about 14 lbs. For some reason, they think we are foreign crazies to first of all want a whole turkey and then secondly to want one so big. Most people don't have an oven the size needed to cook a turkey whole. That took a long time to realize. For the longest time, I was suspecting that they hatched turkey parts, not turkey chicks. "Oh Zsolt, look at this egg. We are going to have a healthy turkey leg from this one. That egg over there had a nice breast in it. This batch of eggs are producing some sizable parts."

We were going to break down and order our dinner from one of the hotels. In years past, three of them the Marriott, Intercontinental, and the Kempinski all had dinners cooked and delivered on the day at the time you specified. This year, only one has the offer and they are taking advantage of the fact. A turkey dinner for 4 regular diners to 6 anorexics is costing 29,500 Huf. Even with the good exchange rates that is still around $137.00. Sorry, but that is way too much. 

We opted for Culinaris, the gourmet grocery store to cook our turkey with stuffing. We can do all of the rest and we will be thankful for the meal and company. This is one of my favorite holidays. Since my adulthood, I have only had one year that I spent somewhere other than home. I will never do that again. The best part are the leftovers.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Make a Offer


This is the place we have decided to try buying (post below). You have to imagine it without the bassinet and changing table. We will hardly need those.  Of course according to the realtor, their asking price is far out of range for the prices that places are selling for in this economy or have sold for in the last 6 months. We don't expect them to accept our bid as we really went low-ball, but it is a starting point. An advantage for us is that they are anxious to move as the wife is due in April, so they want to have moved long before she gets close to that time. There is another apartment we are interested in if this falls through.

The chore now is getting the money from Bank of America to here. When I online chatted with a customer service rep, she gave me 6 pages of instructions of what I would need to do since we were not about to return to California to transfer the money in person. They have a "SafePass" program now, which though cumbersome at first is much more convenient than the horror they put us through when we first bought this place. We had to send thousands of dollars to my best friend, who in turn wired it to us. I had set up the SafePass, but had not tried using it yet. The exchange rate from the bank on either end is not anywhere close to the exchange booths, so I am still thinking of a work around. 

At noon, we met with Peter who filled out the paperwork bilingually, so we knew what we were signing. After giving him a small chunk of change, he put the wheels in motion to place our offer. We need to get the money here by the middle of December; I was chewing my nails worrying. 

Once home, I tried doing the transfer. For security reasons, I had to put in all of the info on my ATM card. Easy-peasy. Next step, register your mobile phone number, which has to be US based. There was the hitch. We ran down the list of those we thought may have a mobile phone, plus one that could accept text messages. Don't laugh, but we know a number of Luddites, so this was no easy task. Targeting the youngest generation for whom we had phone numbers, of course none of them answered. I called our friend Laszlo who has taken off to NJ. He gave me his number; I entered it. Number accepted, send code now. Once the code is sent to the mobile phone, you only have ten minutes to use it or lose it. Laszlo gave me the 6 digits that appeared on his phone. I put them in. Code accepted. Make transfer. "Sorry, we cannot complete that action at this time."

I called the bank. I explained the whole process. She had no clue why it did not go through, but could tell it didn't. She referred me to the technical unit. I called them. The guy said I would need to remain logged into the error screen while at the same time calling him and having my friend with the mobile phone on the line also. It sounded like a bizarre juggling act. I don't want to play this game. We spoke further. Eureka! The first call and code is only to register the phone. Then you send the code again to complete the transfer. Viola! I didn't want to bother Laszlo again, so I called my friend Daphnee. Great, she was home. I sent and received the code to validate her phone followed by another go around to get the transfer code. Done, accepted, congratulations you have money. 

I was allowed to rest easy for an hour when I was checking my mail. There was a notice from the Bank of America fraud unit telling me if I did not call them immediately, they would put the kabash on the transfer. There were concerns about fraud and money laundering. Of for love of cold hard cash, not again. 

I called in immediately so we could play twenty questions. One was the number on my driver's license. I did not want to tell her it expired 7 years ago, but I still know it by heart. After answering all of the routine questions, she wanted to know why I was transferring so much money. The only reason I gave was to buy a property. What I did not say was that Bank of America was the corporate form of Satan in all of his guises, which made us want to distance ourselves to the fullest extent possible at the moment. 

We were one step closer. The next step was to contact the company that administered the stocks that my father gave us twelve years ago. They have been stable all of these years, but never earning any more than they lost. Time to cash in the chips, but I don't want to pay taxes on it in 2012. The broker and I arranged for me to sell them on my birthday, January 5th. That seemed like a lucky day, here is hoping.
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Picture Without a Child


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Louis Daguerre


As an avid photographer, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the Google Doodle for today. It is the 224th birthday of Louis Daguerre. This is the physicist who is the pioneer of photography. The daguerreotype play (French: daguerréotype) was the first commercially successful photographic process. The image is a direct positive made in the camera on a silvered copper plate.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rat Race With Human Contestants


I swear when I was in elementary school, I would have sworn a summer lasted a full year. It is true that the older you get, the faster time passes. Sometimes I think people believe I sit on my hands when they are not witnessing me obviously doing something, but it is far from the truth. I often get this impression from my students who think that all I have to do when not at school is sit in front of the computer waiting for them to turn in their assignment as it fits into their schedule. Even when I stagger assignments, so as not to overload them or myself, it never seems to work out. Regardless of the threats, they treat my due dates like a suggestion box.

A couple of weeks ago, PayPal froze our account. We could still accept payments, but was not able to do a thing with the funds that were in there already. Not that I had any intention of moving money around, but you leave these things and the problem escalates. PayPal sent an e-mail stating that since we received a total of 2,500 Euros during 2011, the EU law is that they investigate the account for money laundering. Would anyone even bother pulling out laundry detergent for that amount of money? My basket has to be a whole lot fuller before you'd get me close to the washing machine.

In order to remedy this situation, they sent me a list of things they needed from me to resolve this issue. I whipped together the documents they required, scanned them and uploaded them in their 'Resolution Center'. I thought it was a done deal, but apparently not. The next e-mail now requested another list of utility bills to confirm our address. It seems that my National ID card and address card was not enough. Once scanned and uploaded, it was just a matter of time. Wrong again. The next e-mail stated that the ID card was blurred and could not be properly read, so it needed to be submitted once again.

This time I scanned my passport and sent that. No good, that was blurry too, they could not read it. All of these documents are coated for protection and this seems to confound the scanner, so of course they are coming out perfectly. Then the light bulb went on. Take a photograph of them. I did that with my phone. Perfect, they accepted these pictures, but now they could not find my utility bills. After scanning those again, I sent them along with the photographs again in one stuffed package. They finally recognized all of the material releasing the account. This took a span of 2 weeks, because of the delay in their reviewing the materials.  Each time, they wrote, their logo includes "The World's favorite way to send and receive money". Ugh! Who says? What is the alternative: Western Union, which is much more expensive. After all of this they have the nerve to send a quality assurance survey to ask my satisfaction with the process. If they wanted my satisfaction, they would not have bothered me at all.

For the last year, we have been trying to get our money out of a regular savings account in the US into a money market or long term CD account. We had one, closed it to buy a property, but wanted to reopen it later. Bank of America gave me the run around for months, before I finally was told they wouldn't due it due to money laundering concerns. All of a sudden everyone is clean laundry conscious. One day on my way home, I noticed that there was a for sale sign in an apartment across the street from us. I approached Ron with the idea of buying another apartment. There are many times, people want a self-catering apartment as opposed to a B and B, plus there are Fulbrighters each semester. When he came around to my way of thinking, I called the realtor who of course didn't speak English. Fortunately for us, her colleague did and took over.

The apartment was too much work to get ready for renting and the bathroom was in a really weird place. Peter took us back to the office to look through their listings. There are thousands in Budapest alone. Once we narrowed it to district, square meters, had a lift, above the first floor, maximum price we wanted to pay, we were able to cut the list considerably putting us down to 233. After checking addresses, this cut the list down substantially. What was important was access to public transport. This gave us a list of a dozen.

We found 2 we wanted. One was on the "theater street" of Budapest, directly across the street from the Moulin Rouge; however, it was 5 stories up and the windows were insulated, so no noise, and a great view. The problem with this one was that it was one room that had a sleeping cabin made of sliding doors and glass block wall. The other had just been remodeled 2 years ago, but the owners are pregnant with child 2, but child one is still sleeping in the one and only bedroom. We took my Hungarian adult student and an American friend to look at both. Their opinions were sharply divided in opposite directions. The next day it was a moot issue. Someone made a binding offer on the theater district one.

One more look-see on the computer where we found 3 more to visit. We completed that tour this evening. This experience has taught me the opposite of not judging a book by its cover. We have looked at some fantastic buildings that one would think are just as lovely inside, yet the apartments are horrid. The layouts of the rooms are cut this way and that way, making no logical sense. At one time, these must have been huge places that were cauterized into miniscule pieces. 

Tonight we make a decision, before this becomes our avocation. We leave mid December and Peter leaves in February. We want to get this in progress so we can start furnishing it before spring.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Open Wide, We Are Coming In


I have 2 missing back teeth on the top right of my mouth. I had decided to get implants. Hungary is known for their dentistry with tourists coming from far and wide for their skills and fair cost. After a consult and full mouth x-ray, I was informed that I would need a sinus lift. Due to bad genetics and 40+ years of smoking, my gums were declared a war zone. Getting a cleaning 4 times a year for the last 20 years had not helped this particular situation. As the dentist provided an abbreviated explanation of the procedure it seemed sensible. What was staggering, even by Hungarian standards was the cost. 592,490 Huf or 2,239 Euros at the time of the quote for start to finish work. Wowser, that would really take a bite out of the budget, but vanity prevailed. When all was said and done, there was space for one tooth on the other side that was wanting to be filled it. That would be another 1,100 Euros. This is when you put our back teeth on the back burner. Three Dog Night knows that One is the loneliest number anyway.

Scrimping and saving it took me forever before I could make an appointment. That was scrimping and saving my courage, the money happened to be secondary at the time. It was time. I was told I would only need a day to recover, pushing me to book the appointment on a Thursday. It would not be until Tuesday before I had to be in the classroom again. As the time crept closer, I had trepidations about all of this. It was not the money as much as this little voice telling me not to do it. The internal dialogue continued for 3 days, causing me concern about being a multiple personality with more than one voice weighing in, all within my head. Deciding it was only dental fear, I pushed all of us forward.

For the upteenth time, they 'had' to take a full mouth panoramic x-ray at an additional 5,000 Huf. In the chair after 3 shots of Novocaine, the doctor gives me a form to fill out with the TRUTH about this procedure, which is actually surgery. This is where you learn that 2% of the population has had a heart attack, seizures, urges to dress like a cheerleader, do animal impressions while in church, and other side effects even more severe. Also, you cannot blow your nose for 2 weeks and you can only sneeze with your mouth and eyes open. Good grief, I have a perpetual runny nose, had a CT scan for it, but have not been back to the ENT to have the results interpreted. I sneeze daily like some people take vitamins. After dinner I have to sneeze a minimum of 3 times, sometimes more.  Just for the fun of it, I have tried doing it with my eyes open, but have not succeeded yet. I started getting nervous. 

They draped me in sterile covers, warning me not to raise my hands above them. Don't move! Don't move is my signal for a nose itch. Yet I cannot move my hands from under wraps to scratch it. The mental war forget there was a temporary peace treaty signed; the fighting started once again. The tray of instruments were spread on tables in front of me. Both the dentist and the assistant started wrapping various hoses in plastic sterile covers. The preparation was wearing me down. It was our last dog knowing he was going to be castrated, but no one put him under while they prepared for the surgery. Strangely, it even stirred up pain in my crotch as well.

Once they all dived into my mouth, a wave of claustrophobia set in. The covers were too much and made me overheated. Three people toothcliming with my jaw trying to dislocate like a snakes to accommodate all of them only caused a flood of cold sweat, nausea, and a feeling that syncope was sure to follow. Gurgling did not get anyone's attention, so I did my best fish out of water impression, which did prompt the dentist to tell me to hold still. 

Mentally, I am shouting "STOP, STUPID", but what is coming from my mouth was stoffgh stofffid. Not enough for the reaction I was hoping for, so I continued making sounds hoping that Superman, Spiderman, or Harry Potter would burst through the window to save me from this torture. Finally, he allowed me to sit up to explain myself, but still had to stay bundled in my sterile cocoon. No sympathy, no comfort, just orders to relax and sit back. This continued until I escalated to "I am going to regurgitate." He said "I don't understand." One would think this is a required vocabulary word in English for Dentists 101. I should have checked his transcript and report card before climbing into the chair.

We did this routine twice, before I bolted for the bathroom, finally getting everyone's full attention. I thought that by spending 15 minutes locked in the WC would convince all involved this was not a good idea after all. When I finally emerged like a shy turtle from its shell, he was ready to pick up where he left off. My soaked clothes were no visual clue and he was able to ignore my trembling as well. The only progress he made was to cut my gums and then say "We are going to drill now." I am thinking all of those noises I have been hearing so far and you have not even drilled yet? Crap, I have heard less noise when wrecking balls take down buildings. Two liters of fluid pored out of my body at once. My clothes were already soaked; it was going to take hours to drip dry. Every ounce of blood left my upper body finding refuge somewhere other than my face and neck.

After more jumping, thrashing, bouncing, pouncing up and down all while emitting sounds like a trapped animal, he finally admitted that this was not a good idea for today. I am thinking this is not a good idea in your lifetime. Cripes, I had more exercise in that chair than I do when I go to Pilates. Now that I think about it the last time I had all of that action was a positive experience  when I was in my twenties with this hot, hot.... oh, never mind. 

It has been over eighteen years since I have had a panic attack. That was prompted by my then partner dying. This one knocked me aside the head with a beam. I had to stay in the chair for twenty minutes before my land legs returned all the while floating in and out of consciousness. That inner voice kept shouting, "Get out of the chair before he starts charging you hotel rates." Even without the surgery, I could see the Huf racking up on the register. When finally feeling stable to stand, he said "You were really white. I haven't seen anyone that white before." If my mouth were not sore, I would have said that that alone should have been a clue to stop, you jackass. 

He said I would need to return in a week to have the stitches removed for the gums he cut. Then I would need to schedule with an anesthetist, but that would include having lab work done ahead of time. I didn't ask, but am certain that would involve another 1,000 Euros or more. I paid for today's services: 18,000 for supplies and made an appointment for the next week to have the stitches removed. This would tap me for 6,000 Huf more.

I had Ron call to tell them I left the country. I went to my local dentist whom I trust to remove the stitches. He charged me 1,000 Huf. That empty space only shows when I smile. Guess I will have to do less of that from now on.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Open, Close, Stand Still, Sit Down


The orders have not stopped. I have been bombarded with them the last couple of months. If it were orders for some product I have been hawking I would be in heaven, but it hasn't. The orders have been coming from doctors, dentists, and other medical personnel.

About a month ago I went to see our neighborhood doctor about my sinuses. For decades I have had problems with a runny nose. All during my childhood, doctors blamed it on my deviated septum. Just one of the ways I deviate; however, this one can be blamed on a kid named Kit. We were in 4th grade together and he was a bully. One day he punched me in the nose when I was defending my best friend Clark. From that time I have had chronic bronchitis and pneumonia more times than I have fingers. Ever surgeon offered to correct it, but every insurance company called it cosmetic surgery; therefore, it was not covered.

In the US, I had seen specialist after specialist because it always became hyperactive the minute almond trees went into bloom. The allergist ran a skin panel, but not for almonds since that was beyond the routine testing, which the insurance covered.

My little, young Hungarian doctor insisted she refer me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor, scrounging around her list of contacts until she found one who spoke English. However, while I was there, she made me commit to a routine testing; it had been 2 years. The next morning I had to offer my blood and urine after fasting from midnight. She said the results would be back within days, but I waited for over 2 weeks before returning. We were going to Munich, why spoil a good vacation with bad news about my health?

In the meanwhile, I went to the ENT who in turn wanted me to have a CT scan of my head. He personally scheduled it, but it wasn't to be until days before we left for Munich. He told me to call him when I had the results. Run there, run there. All the tests were done, but now the CT scan results would not be ready until we returned from Munich. Perfect timing. 

When we returned, I picked up the scan results and went to see the local doctor first. My glucose seems to go up at night, but is fine during the day. She said I was fine, but should watch my sugar intake. 

The ENT doctor told me to call him when I had the results so he could tell me when he would be at the clinic. He has not yet returned my calls. Hmmm...I wonder if he can hear the phone ringing.

What turns my American friends green is that none of this has cost me a single forint.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Something or Nothing to Twitter About


We have been assisting a Swedenborgian minister who has moved here from the US to create a "church without walls".  This is her full mission statement.

SPIRIT WITHOUT WALLS: Feeding the Soul in a Secular World
Spirit Without Walls is a post-modern ministry aimed at people who are unlikely to set foot in a church, and yet have the same spiritual needs as anyone:
  • Comfort when they are afflicted
  • Challenge when they are too comfortable
  • Ceremonies to mark life’s passages
  • A way to connect with a sense of something larger, by any name
  • A way to bridge the gap between us, and see the sacred in the eyes of another
  • A sense of personal worth and purpose
  • A way to celebrate Life Itself
  • A time to reflect on what matters
  • Something to give meaning and value to life
Spirit Without Walls is an experiment in meeting a diverse community’s spiritual needs outside church walls, in a variety of forms:
  • Feminine Spirit teaches and empowers women to live with Beauty, Courage, and Passion, bringing the Feminine to a world dying of expediency.
  • Weddings and Sacred Rites create weddings and other rites of passage designed to lift up personal meanings, commitment, and a sense of the sacred.
  • Kitchen Talk and What Matters are short, pithy spoken commentaries for radio and YouTube, to awaken and reframe everyday personal and social issues. Written commentaries on the Huffington Post, Interrelo Newsletter and THINK Central Europe, do the same.
  • The Common Table feeds the soul through inclusive celebratory meals in unlikely settings, creating community, plenty, and joy in the midst of alienation and scarcity.
  • Flash Mobster Choir of Angels will create moments of worship and awe when and where we least expect it, awakening us to Divine Wonder.
  • Soul Coaching works through the body and mind to reach and regenerate the soul.
What we have been involved in is a small portion of the above. If you have ever heard of a flash mob, her goal is to create a flash dinner. The original concept was to get hotels and restaurant on board to donate their left over food. Then without warning and without advertisement, a group of volunteers would quietly set up tables and place settings in a public space. When all is set, anyone walking by would be invited to a sit down dinner where they are served. That is the idea, but the practicalities have been burdensome to maneuver. 

At one of our think tank meetings, we were discussing alternative ways to get the word out if the ambling passerby is reluctant to partake of a meal. Our dear minister friend suggested we Twitter the info. After laughing and stating I thought Tweeter was as possible here as diaper rash, she challenged my thinking. Hence, I had to do a survey amongst my list of students old and current, which numbers around 400. I was pleasantly surprised to hear back from a little over 100. They substantiated my claim. 98% of them said they don't use Twitter. Of those, three asked me what Twitter was. Facebook is popular because it is translated into Hungarian. One student who works in the industry sent me a breakdown of social network users in Hungary. Someone else sent this graph.

This continually reminds me that people who come from urban areas in the US, seem to forget that the world has not embraced all things intrinsic to US culture. Another person who was a reader before I challenged his beliefs, truly believed that having everything in the cloud was the only way to go. People often forget that not everyone has a computer, or fast Internet access, or fill in the blank. Ron's family in Iowa still has modem dial up, because there are no cable companies out in the rural parts of the state and no cell towers have been installed. Not even satellite Internet service is possible.

I won my bet with the minister, but there was nothing to back the wager other than reassuring cultural knowledge is indeed intact. The only reason I have hitched up to her wagon is because I am curious about how the ride turns out and what the final destination happens to be. Further updates as they occur.
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