Sunday, December 28, 2014

No Boxes for Hungary


Someone corrected me stating Hungary does not celebrate Boxing Day, but rather it is called St. Stephen's Day.

Well not according to this website or this one either. Apparently, not everyone received the memo!

The point is, regardless of what it is officially named, the reality is it is a celebrated holiday.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Frozen More Than a Movie


It had been a week to the day that we were without gas, but a semi-Christmas miracle happened. They installed the new meters in each apartment and turned the gas on. It was tough going getting the stove top to light again, but eventually it did. The hot water heater sprang to life once a torch provided the initial flame. Yet, the one piece of equipment we really need is the one holdout. Our thing for lack of a better word or is it a furnace, regardless, it is what heats the water for the radiators. There is still no life visible.

We called our friend Andrew who rents out apartments and has workers on call. He arrived last night to see if he could fix it himself, but when he couldn't he promised to return with a mechanic in the morning. That was today.  

After a careful examination, the repairperson explained that a necessary part has been broken. He showed that it was obvious by the small pieces left behind. Attached to this inside part is a small red button on the outside that once protruded from the surface of the machine. After we had Budapest Repair out to service this heater a few months ago, the red button had been permanently shoved back with no wiggle room to be effective for any reason. We didn't know the function of this button, but we hadn’t even noticed until after they had left. Back then, we were grateful for heat. Little did we know the importance this was going to have in the future.

Today is December 23rd. Tomorrow most things will close for the holiday which extends through Friday as they celebrate Boxing Day here. Then we have the weekend extending the shutdown until normal activities resume on December 29th giving us a short window before our next go with a long holiday weekend. We have B and B guests coming on the 28th.

You know what happens to men’s genitals in the cold? Well, we may expect to see ours again by Ground Hog Day.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Give Me Credit Even If I Have a Stupid Moment


I had one of those "I am overwhelmed" moments. I just received my new MasterCard to replace the one due to expire while we are still in Ecuador. It arrived via UPS.

I called to activate it as instructed. The credit card phone system robot asked me to enter the 16 digit account number twice before finally saying, "I am sorry. I cannot locate that account. I will transfer you to a representative." I really wanted the system to activate it so I could move on with other things.

The rep comes on the line and asks me my name and the account number. Now I am getting testy. I had to enter the 16 digit account number twice already, yet this representative is asking yet again for the number.

He too has a difficult time finding my account, which is causing me great distress and I am about to say something uncouth. He preempts me with a question. Are you sure you are calling about a Capitol One account?

Mercifully, this was not a video call. It was not my Capitol One MasterCard I was calling to activate; it was my Diners Club MasterCard. I fessed up to the mistake giving the representative a hearty laugh and a wish for a good evening.

And to think I have been taking vitamin D to help improve my memory, now I need something to improve my awareness. Anyone who calls this a senior moment is going on Santa's naughty list.

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No Gas Until Christmas


Last week we received a notice there was going to be a house meeting. We never attend knowing we will not understand, but our next door neighbor said we should. He explained based on the square meters of our apartment, we had great influence in the decision making. One agenda item was replacing gas pipes. It seems the BKV building across the street from us, the company responsible for all public transportation in the city, has discovered a gas leak in their basement. These pipes needed to be replaced. They continued under our building so all of us were affected.

What we did not realize was the timing or the impact. On Monday, Ron was up early to shower before his appointment with the anesthesiologist for his Tuesday surgery. When I went to shower, there was no hot water. I immediately blamed some downdraft blowing out the pilot light on the hot water heater, but then I noticed the light was blinking on the heater for the radiators. Bother were avoiding being relight.

No gas! Our neighbor came running over when he saw the whites of my eyes, chattering a mile a minute in Hungarian.  I must have looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights, but it did not stop him from continuing to ramble on. I started calling everyone I knew who could possibly translate. Of course, most people did not answer their phone, but thankfully, our friend András did.

What I learned was that the gas was being turned off that day, Monday. Men from the gas company would be coming to remove the gas meter. There will be no gas until December 23rd. This was not good news under any circumstances, but in December it does send a shiver down one’s spine.

As of Monday, we have no heat, no hot water for showering or washing clothes, and no stove for cooking. Due to my newly renewed culinary interests, we do have an electric crock pot. It will be a savior keeping us from having to eat out. Monday was our first night without heat; it was not too cold. We did fine.

Tuesday, we were up at 5:30am to get Ron to the hospital for his surgery. He was to be there by 7am the latest. Our kitchen sink has an electric water heater, so we were able to get hot water for his sponge bath. I could not go that route, so I took a freezing cold shower. Truly not an experience one wants to repeat.

Tuesday, we were up at 5:30am to get Ron to the hospital for his surgery. He was to be there by 7am the latest. Our kitchen sink has an electric water heater, so we were able to get hot water for his sponge bath. I could not go that route, so I took a freezing cold shower. Truly not an experience one wants to repeat.

After Ron was taken off to surgery at 7:45, I went home again. Our neighbor showed up again chattering like a magpie. Again, I called András. People from the gas company were going to be in and out all day. First two men came to take pictures of our meter and then remove it. A bit later, another man came with a new gas meter that is now sitting on the floor. Because I wanted to be at the hospital when Ron’s surgery was over; I gave our neighbor keys.

Back at home I found that one of the gas pipes had been cut off. Thankfully, it was in a closet where the meter lives, so didn’t matter. A different worker made an appearance to perform the soldering task on a cuff put on the new pipe. He tried to explain it may damage the outer wall. What I thought this meant was that they would have to break through the cabinet. It seemed the original pipe was too close to the side wall. When I yet again returned home, it was apparent it just created small burn marks in the paint, but it is low enough that our shoe stand will cover it.

Ron is various stages of grogginess as I went back and forth to the hospital. His doctor looks like a teenager, but is from Chicago, so English is no problem. His surgery went well, but they were keeping him overnight.

Today, Wednesday he was able to return home leaving a warm hospital for a cold apartment. He is not allowed to shower until the stitches are removed on December 24th. Merry Christmas! In the meantime, he has to administer a shot in the arm each night.

Dinner is in the crock pot cooking. Last night I survived the cold with a couple of extra layers of clothes so it should not be too bad. A hot meal makes all the difference. A second blanket does wonders as well. Friends have offered a shower, so I will take them up on the offer.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Quick Trip to Vienna


Our friend Margie from CA had arranged to take a river cruise ending in Vienna. She suggested we meet up if possible. Thinking that Margie was leaving on Monday morning, we made arrangements to train up to Vienna on Friday, the 12th and come home Saturday evening. Our other friend Kat, who is living in Budapest, had never been to Vienna so she came along. We booked the 7:10 am train going and the 7:48 pm train returning so as to maximize Kat’s time seeing the city.

It was more than fortunate that we had seat reservations. There were mobs of people standing in the aisles the entire trip. Strangely, the Railjet, a nicer train cost us about 2,600 Huf for the reservations for the 3 of us, but the lesser older train cost us over 4,500 Huf for our return journey.

Margie met us at the train station. We stopped at our hotel to leave our things, but at 10 am it was too early to check in. From there we toured around, visiting Christmas markets, a major disappointment still after all the years we have visited here. Hawking more junk than Christmas related products, it was a letdown yet again. Christmas related items for sale are so commonplace; there is no reason to pay these inflated prices. Those vendors who are really making a killing are at the food booths. Lines are ten deep to fill up on grease, sugar, and salt. Interestingly, I have eliminated all sugars and grains from my diet. Though I had some fears that the temptation would be too great, but as it turned out, watching grossly overweight people pigging out made it extremely bearable.

Ron tried to show everyone a good time and valiantly attempted to find the tram we remembered as circling the city. Either they discontinued this route, changed it for the season, or something was posted we could not read, but it never happened according to plan. Regardless, Kat and Margie did see parts of the city they would not normally get to view in such a short time.

As it turned out, Margie was leaving very early Saturday morning, so we basically had the entire day for the three of us. I like Vienna, but it leaves me cold. Others have said this as well. Perhaps it is the ultra-white buildings, but it was fine to go, but not a thrilling experience.

Joining Kat, we went to the Schönbrunn Palace where we did the Imperial Tour for €11.50 each. They would not discount me with the press card and there were no concessions for Ron. Ron received an audio guide that had to be replaced twice; it malfunctioned. Rococo to me is gaudy, not attractive, but of course this was the style of the time.

We managed to fill our day, but closer to the train time we were all running out of steam. We left our things at the hotel at 9:30 and did not return until an hour before the train. I was more than ready to return home.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Opps! There Goes Our Window to the World


During our now regular Sunday dinners, after announcing this happened to be our 13th year anniversary in Budapest, we moved on to the topic of Internet connections. Sharing our experiences back in 2001, our friends were in awe over the advancements. We moved from a dial-up modem paying for every minute of telephone time except between 11pm and 7am to a full-fledged high speed cable connection.

It must have been a hex or a premonition. Monday morning our Internet connection stopped. I did all the things I normally know to do before calling the cable company, one of which is to wait an hour to see if any changes have taken plus. Then I powered everything off, rebooted the computer, and went through the checklist. No luck!

I called the cable company. Press 7 for English, press 2 if you have Internet connection issues, then the message is “You may find what assistance you need on our website.” Duh!! If I could get the website, I would not need to call in the first place or at least not by pressing 7 and then 2. I waited in the cyber-line for my turn. When I spoke to a human and explained the problem, he had me do all sort of things, although I had explained I did them already. Then he reset the connection from the office.  It did not work. He said he had to transfer me to another level tech person who answered my call, but could not hear me. “If you don’t answer in 3 seconds, I am cutting this call” he announced. The line went dead.

Two more calls were unsuccessful, but four was the charmed number this time. Again, the tech ran me through the paces, but could not find any errors on their end. It is always the computer’s fault; never the responsibility of the cable company. After pushing for more service, he finally agreed to send out a technician to look at the wiring to see if that was the culprit. They were due today between 8am and noon.

If the meanwhile, I left the computer on all day long to see if anything would change. 

What we did all day without the Internet:
Head to the computer for researching some movie then realize it is not working.
Read books
Sit down to write e-mails and then remembering they cannot be sent yet.
Took naps
Flip on the tablet to read the news, but only finding “No Connection Found”
Went out on errands we would normally put off
It was a long day!!

By 10pm, the icon previously showing no Internet connection made the conversion to being connected to the wider world. Hooray, but do I cancel the technician coming? No, it could have been a fluke that it started working. Why risk losing a house call if it turned out to be needed.

As it turned out, it was necessary. There was no WiFi anywhere in the apartment. When the technician came of course his English was limited, but we managed. He saw the computer was now connected, but I told him there was no WiFi. He booted his netbook and showed me there was. I booted up my tablet to trump his bid and there was no connection. A smile came over his face. It turned out that when the office reset the connections from the office, they reset everything back to the default, which included our connection name and password. To be fair, the man told me it would revert to the default, but it did not occur to me what was included in this.

When I asked the technician in our living room to change our connection name back to BudaBaB with our original password, he agreed to do so. However, it turned out the cable box had other ideas. In the end, he had to replace the entire cable box. Job well done and problems solved!

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Yet Another Anniversary - 13 Years


Today marks yet another anniversary for us. This date is a ménage à trois celebration if one wants to be anthropomorphic with Budapest and consider this as celebratory. Some may call it a major triumph. 

September 11, 2001 we were in New Jersey at my father's. We had flown into LaGuardia airport the week before. I was on the phone ordering our Eurail passes when the Eurail operator told me of an incident he heard about on the radio sitting on his desk. I immediately went to turn on the news after finishing the call. Our scheduled flight from Newark airport to London on September 14, 2001 was delayed until the 24th.

On December 7, 2001 we arrived in Budapest and rented our first apartment with all good intentions to stay for 3 months before continuing a year of travel that started in July of that year. 

Our first apartment is not where we are currently living. We moved into this place on February 14, 2002.

Thirteen years living in Budapest!

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Some Things Are Too Good to Toss


Ron pulled out some Xmas things to spruce up the place since we will be here this year, much to my chagrin. This card was in one of the boxes. Some things are just too good to toss! If you remember Dick and Jane I hope your memories are as good as mine are. Sally and Spot helped millions of US American kids read. In storage in New Jersey, with thousands of other books, I have a copy of Dick and Jane Grew Up

What really is funny about this is the bottom picture. Quite coincidental!

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Did Szent Mikulás Visit You?


Did you polish your best boot(s) and put them on the windowsill or in front of the door to be filled by Szent Mikulás? If you did and you were good, you name will be recorded in his ledger. Szent Mikulás will fill your boots with presents from his great bag of presents and treats.

Unless you are wise enough to get extra-large boots for the occasion, there will not be much room for the candies, tangerines, oranges, walnuts, apples, and chocolate Mikulás figures that the saint leaves behind. There seems to be a bit of egocentric behavior going on with the chocolate selfies.

Krampus (Krampusz) is the ugly devil who accompanies saintly goodie man. He is supposed to be a frightening figure with horns and chains, dressed in fur. That is old school. After the series of horror films like Silent Night, Deadly Night, it is challenging for any devil to outdo scariness. For those of us who prefer naughty things in life that bring some unadulterated pleasure all year round, we subjected or treated to, depending on your point of view, to receiving a golden wad of sticks or a wooden spoon. For the bawdy among us, this could be much better than an orange!

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