Monday, June 30, 2014

Szeged Sunday


When I resigned from ELTE, they requested my discount train paper, which technically is good until March 2015. They did waiver the rule to allow me to keep it until August 31, 2014 when my contract really expires. It seems petty to make me hand it over, but then again, I have never used the maximum train trips and generally less than half a dozen.

Our friend Kat, who has been living in Budapest for the last 9 months and her boyfriend, Geoff, who is here from the US, have never been to Szeged. With Ron’s birthday coming on Tuesday, it was a no-brainer to suggest we all do a train trip.

Szeged is the 3rd largest city in Hungary with the Tisza River running through it. The city is famous for paprika, Szekelygulyas, a goulash made with pork, sauerkraut and sour cream, and a fish soup named halászlé. It is made with catfish and carp, two types of fish I would never touch.

I went with Geoff to get tickets for the two of them. I was shocked to see that 2nd class ran over 14,000 Huf and they needed an IC supplement besides. The woman clerk knew we were traveling together, but never said as much for me. Ron who used to ride for free, due to his elegant age, had to pay 520 Huf. No BFD.

With 5 minutes to spare, we rush for our train looking for the car with Kat and Geoff’s assigned seat. What should be on the next track over, but the New Oriental Express? Oh, how I would love to do that route from end to end.

Setting fantasy aside, we found the seats, but they were not a foursome, so we moved to one. Wouldn’t you know it, when the trainwoman arrived, she made Ron and I move to the next car because we did not have the IC supplements. All four of us move and actually were more comfortable.

Szeged was delightful. It has been about 6 years since we were last there, but it is a charming city. We were amazed with the number of trams and buses crisscrossing the streets but we chose to walk. The day was delightful and enjoyed by all.

Returning to Budapest, we went to the Caledonia Scottish Pub and Restaurant for a beer before going somewhere else for dinner. As it turned out, we dined where we drank and the food was excellent.

It was a lovely celebration of Ron’s birthday two days early.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Keep Calm and Carry On, But the Rules Have Changed Again


Last week, I posted an article in Facebook about the changing rules of the airlines with regard to their rules for carry-on pieces. Half jokingly, I stated that if an investigation were to be pursued, it would probably uncover a co-conspirator relationship with the luggage manufacturers. How often have people bought a smaller carry-on because the last one was not small enough? 

Unless your suitcase is from the planet Imsk, like Shrinking Violet of the Legion of Super-Heroes fame, you are gonna be stuck with a conundrum at check-in time. Airlines used to report their size requirements in linear inches: you added the total length + width + height. If you met their maximum magic number, you were safe regardless if one side was bulkier than the other. You were still sitting pretty.

Two different experts have a bit of differing information. You can read Peter Greenberg here and George Hobica from here.

Most importantly, check before you fly, check again on the way to the airport, and one last time while waiting in line to check in. The rules are changing with great momentum.

The second most important thing: Buy stock in a good luggage company~

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Want to Try “Google glass glasses”?


This last week, I received this e-mail. Being a techie junkie, I would have loved the opportunity, but knowing this was unrealistic, I just wrote him back about my location. His response is below the initial note. Regardless, I thought I would give them a shout-out for trying. Please do not blame me that he spelled organization incorrectly!

I think that ultra-expensive drinking holiday actually happened on our street during the World Cup matches. We were inundated with Brits, more than usual.

Hi Ryan
We have some of the much talked about “Google glass glasses” arriving this week and we were wondering whether you or any other travel writers in your organisation might like to borrow them? Perhaps for a trip or even just around the office!

It would be completely free of charge and is just part of our plan to grow our relationships with writers.

Let me know if you might be interested?

We are also going to be the first UK travel company to lend them to its customers, which may be a story in itself!

Best wishes

Byron Warmington
Marketing Assistant
Direct line from UK: 0121 200 5706
Direct line from outside UK: 00 44 121 200 5706

•    We are the best travel company … that no-one has heard of!
•    Recent trips include a £750,000 drinking holiday
•    No.1 ranked for customer service from 300 UK travel companies on Trust Pilot
•    UK online travel agency of the 2013-14

Hmm Budapest might be a little bit of a problem logistic-wise at the moment. Perhaps reach out to me later in the year when I have hopefully figures out how to get them round the UK first!

Of course in the meantime feel free to mention we are the first company in the world to also be lending them out to customers:-

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Chip In or Else


These days, you don't need a chip on your shoulder to travel, but you had better have one in your wallet when visiting many countries. When we were in Cambodia in 2008, we went to a lovely restaurant that took credit cards

After an outstanding, but still relatively inexpensive meal, I whipped out my credit card to pay the bill. I had not visited an ATM, so we were cash poor at the moment, but credit rich. The server took the credit card only to return moments later to say the card would not work. Assuming the company did not read the memo that we were traveling, I just handed over another card. Without leaving the table, the server said "This card will not work either." Not sure if we had met a Cambodian fortuneteller or what the story was, I asked innocently "How do you know this?" 

It seems Cambodia, back in 2008, had changed over the credit card system to the microchip embedded cards. Their machine was only capable of reading the chip. Swiping the card was not an option. 

Having read about this issue occurring in Europe, the thought that it would happen in Cambodia never surfaced in my wildest dreams. Still, what I had read was to tell the creditor to call in for authorization. There was no getting around this issue; the restaurant people were not willing to comprise on our using our credit card. When they finally accepted the fact that we did not have enough cash between us, they suggested we return the next day with the full amount owed. Refusing even partial payment, they sent us on our way.

The next day, we arrived around noon to pay our debt; we had to get to the airport. They were closed, even with the hours showing a lunch service was possible. We left the money with the business next door, hoping for the best. 

Now in 2014, I just read the article Don’t be a chip-and-pinhead! by Christopher Elliott where he had problems on a motorway when approaching the Europabrücke or Europe Bridge. When he went to pay the toll, the machine would not accept his non-chip US credit card.

This made me check my credit cards. I have a Citibank Visa, CapitolOne MC, and 3 different Amex cards, but the only card with a chip is the Diners Club/Mastercard. I never leave home without it, because it gives me access to Diners Club lounges in airports around the world. There are some really unexpected places where they have fabulous lounges. The $95 membership fee pays for itself, plus I get airline miles for any purchases. When we are at home, I keep it for emergencies. 

Check for chips before leaving home. More and more places here are using the chip cards and much of the rest of Europe is too.

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Ray Wrote


Ray Ruiz has left a new comment on your post "Umm...I Am Not Out of Here Yet":

Congratulations, Ryan!!! Wonderful send off.
Now--- the world is your oyster-- not that that hasn't been so your entire life.
But, now you'll have more time to pursue your dreams and fantasies.
I hope so, anyway :-)
Ray Ruiz in New Orleans

It figures! Now the world is my oyster, but I am allergic to oysters and mussels, (but not muscles). 

On a side note, Ray is a B and B owner in New Orleans. Check out his site here. He is also personally responsible for our buying a condo in Pompano Beach, Florida.

We have never met Ray in person. We have never seen the condo that we bought. Funny world!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Motivational Teaching


I was advising a BA thesis student. His topic concerns teachers’ motivation and its impact on student learning. He sent me this story he found particularly enlightening. It came from the book Teaching Well and Liking it: Motivating Faculty to Teach Effectively. This is the story as the student sent it to me. Since this has been published in the book above, I am leaving the names intact.

Dr. Ralph Connors and Dr. Carol Raynor have been colleagues for eleven years. They have adjoining offices in the modern science center of Eastern State University. Both teach introductory physics to undergraduates. They have much in common, but they are entirely different teachers. Among the undergraduates, Dr. Connors is known as “Dr. Snores.” As he lectures, Ralph has the curious habit of looking down at his weathered boots while constantly counting and recounting his pocket change. Occasionally his right hand emerges from the side of the podium to add emphasis to what is being said or to flip pages. But only his hand is animated. His speech is soft and slow. There is little life in what he says or in the way he says it. All the fraternities have copies of his notes, copies of copies that date from 1984. But he is popular with them because “Snores only gives two multiple-guess tests, and if you’ve got his notes, you can skate his class.”

Dr. Raynor has a different reputation on campus. Students call her Dr. Rap because in the spring of 1990 she invited to class a local group to rap about Ohm’s law. Midway through their performance she suddenly turned off the lights and told her two hundred students to join in: “The louder you sing, the brighter the lights will become.” Sing they did, much louder than she ever expected. The lights swiftly rose to glaring intensity and then flickered and began to fail. After their applause she said, “Now let’s talk about the role that resistance can play when circuits get overloaded.”

Dr. Raynor no longer needs the rap group; it has become a tradition for students to rap on their own on the day that Ohm’s law is scheduled. She constantly works on her teaching. She enjoys physics and shares her enthusiasm with students. When asked by a campus reporter about the best class she ever taught, she replied “Teaching is a work in progress; I’ve been pleased with some of my classes, but I have yet to teach my best class.””

On that note, I want to share my pride in all 9 of the students who I advised for their thesis this semester. For some I was their direct advisor and for others, they were part of my thesis writing class. Each and everyone of them received a grade of 5 (the highest possible) on their written thesis. So far, they each have received a 5 on their defense as well.

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At Home Around the World


When I first posted that we had joined a home exchange club, particularly, someone wrote me warning of their negative experiences with this group. It was not a problem with exchanges, but rather the lack of exchange opportunities. From what I remember, this person was not successful in getting one exchange completed during her enrollment.

We are doing our first exchange this August for 10 days with a woman who has a home in Cádiz, Spain, though she lives in Seville. Since we agreed to this exchange, we have had offers from:

Somewhere on the Canary Islands
Palermo, Sicily
Strasbourg, France
Como, Italy
Salinas, Ecuador
Toledo, Spain
Livadhia, Cyprus
Guebwiller, France
Rome, Italy

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, was my first choice when I ventured into this as a project. Knowing the expense of Norway, this seemed like a somewhat affordable way to see the country. Our suitcases would be packed with food, even if it only left us with one set of clothes for the duration. Prices up north are astronomical. Denmark nearly killed off our wallets and that was back in 2005. 

As luck would have it, I contacted every Oslo member, around 9 of them. Not one was interested in Budapest at this time. It was then we accepted Cádiz, Spain. 

This last week, I received an exchange request from a couple in Oslo. How strange I thought; I sent a request to each and every member. Looking at their profile, they had just joined the service the previous week before their contacting me.

So far everyone wants to exchange this August. I have offered the months of October, November, and December, but no bites yet.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hungarian Go-Round


Hungary may be chomping at the bit to reestablish a national airline after Malév's demise in 2012 (gosh, has it been that long already?), but it seems unlikely that it will happen. 

As an article in points out, Wizz Air has the area wrapped up in a neat cloud covered package. There really is no need for another significant national airline. After Sólyom Airways, with their non-Hungarian moniker attempted and failed rapidly, it should be obvious that another attempt is futile. It is like riding the merry-go-round; there is no ending point, just going in circles.

You can read the article here.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Umm...I Am Not Out of Here Yet


Hmmm…current events have brought to mind the misquote of Mark Twain “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. (‘The report of my death was an exaggeration’. It was his cousin James Ross Clemens, who was seriously ill and he was confused with the author).

Reports of our leaving Hungary have been greatly exaggerated. It is funny; I resigned from ELTE at the end of the semester. Wednesday was my last official day at the university, where I spent close to five hours administering thesis defenses with three of my colleagues. After each student defended, I kept thinking this is the last time I will have to do this. The night before, I was awake most of the night, so this was the one thought that energized me through the tedium of the exams. When we finished grilling the last student, there were two hours to spare before a faculty meeting scheduled at 2pm. I gave serious thought to skipping out on the meeting; whatever they discussed no longer pertained to me. However, it did occur to me that there was still a paycheck hinging on my being cooperative, so I decided I had better go.

After everyone was there our department head announced there was a long agenda. As it turned out the faculty meeting was a ruse for my goodbye party. She said that my students will probably remember me for many years to come and of course I had to add that I hope that some of those remembrances would be positive. This provided a chuckle.

She reminded me that I should take all of the equipment I have purchased over the years, since it is mine and not ELTE’s. She didn’t know was that my office was wiped clean weeks ago.

The television that sat in there for the last 5 years, which I had purchased for my classroom was given to an orphanage in Göd. They also received a large bag of Legos I used in my Critical Thinking classes. My printer went to a former student. I took home my laptop, speakers, and of course the projector; all of these were my purchases. Every book that had accumulated on my bookshelf, came home in small easy to carry bundles until my bookcase space only had old theses I advised and books donated by former Fulbrighters.

At the party, all of the women colleagues gave me a hug, while the two male colleagues who showed up, shook my hand. The ‘refreshments were Hungarian pogácsás, a tray of chocolate chip cookies, but the highlight was special.  One of my colleagues thought enough of me to go out to buy three pieces of diabetic cake.

My going away presents were a novel by a Hungarian writer translated into English. Another present was a travel coffee cup with the ELTE insignia on it. I was assured that the top could be flipped around to I would not have to look at ELTE any longer.

Funny, but each of my colleagues had a different version of what my plans were now that I have left the university. They ranged from my leaving the country to move back to the US, to South America, to another European country, to sailing the blues seas in a life raft.

So I am officially or unofficially no longer working although my contract continues until August 31. I'm not sure what I'm going to do beyond that, but as always, I have some ideas brewing.

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Call Me the Human Shar-Pei


For the last couple of weeks, I have been suffering with dryness on my eyelids extending up into my eyebrows. Since my eyebrows are not naturally thick, the scaliness was definitely apparent. Some people commented it was just in need of moisturizing, but I generally do this daily anyway.

As time went on, I noticed there was a sandy feeling on my eyelids. This alerted me to there really being a problem. I used natural oils to moisturize them before bed, but it did not help. It just kept getting worse while my eyelids swelled. It was when my eyesight started getting blurry that I started getting really concerned.

After consulting WebMD, it looked like I may have blepharitis. Repeated searches on various sites all came to the same symptoms and conclusions.

One of my former students that come to the university to meet me to pick up some things I was getting rid from my office. She went with me across the street to a pharmacy, to ask the pharmacist to look at my eyes to see if there was some over-the-counter medication I could buy to treat them. The pharmacist said that I would need to see a doctor, since the medication would require a prescription.

Later that day I went to our house doctor. On Thursday his hours are 4pm to 8pm. I was so proud of myself being there at 3:30pm and being the first one in line. About 10 minutes after my arrival to elderly gentleman arrived and took their seats to my left. We sat there patiently waiting for the nurse or the doctor to arrive. Close to 4pm, a nurse from the other side of the building happened to come over to an office close to where we were sitting. She looked at us with a question on her face, but didn’t say anything immediately. She walked over to our doctor’s office door, slapped on the sheet of paper taped to the door, and turned to us and said something in an incomprehensible Hungarian. At least the Hungarian was incomprehensible to me. I waited to see the reaction of the two gentlemen before making a move. They both continued to sit there as did I because I was not giving up my place. The nurse continued to hit the sign on the door, clearly enunciating the word nincs. It was then that I took a good look at the side and with my limited Hungarian knowledge realized that the doctor was going to be gone till June 17.

I finally returned to the doctor after he returned from his vacation, he looking dapper and tan, while I looked like a Shar-Pei puppy. He prescribed a steroid ointment for me to put on my eyes, but said if this doesn’t work I will have to see a dermatologist. I am hoping that this does work. My experience with the dermatologist here has not been the most positive sense getting an appointment proves to be extremely difficult. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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Saturday, June 07, 2014

Hungarian Irony


This is a wonderful example of Hungarian irony. If you do not recognize this store, you have yet to come to Hungary. This is the ubiquitous outside décor for all Hungarian state authorized tobacco stores. All may be redundant, but I want to drive the point home. The Hungarian government in its infinite wisdom decided to license the sale of tobacco related product with the expressed intention of limiting sales to those less than 18 years of age. The rumor was that all tobacco store licenses were doled out to friends of the current government’s administrative friends. One such person reportedly has over 1,000 licenses.  

Adjoining our apartment building used to be a small shop rented by an animal groomer; however, she was evicted to make room for a tobacco store. There are only 10 of them in a one block radius. 

The irony at this particular shop is the sign on the door. It states that smoking is prohibited within 5 m of the entrance. I have looked at other tobacco shops, but they don’t all have similar regulations.

If this were not enough humor, almost on a daily basis when I am coming or going from our building, there is an older man, presumably the worker, standing on the shop step smoking away. Apparently he cannot read the sign on his own store.

We certainly miss the pet groomer; it was always a great joy to pass by to get a peek at whatever dog was getting a haircut at the time. Now all we get to view is a drab looking building with the
Hungarian version of the old Indian statues once used to signify an American tobacco establishment.

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