Jó réggelt kívanok!
(That's Hungarian for "I wish you good morning")
I think I like this country. Every day has seemed like two days in one, I have been so busy. I am staying at Hotel Góliát, which is a collégium, or dormitory. Although by bus and train it is about 45 minutes from school, it is in a very good part of the city. I can walk to 3 elelmiszers (supermarkets), a Catholic church, a supermarket, and about 5 different bus/tram stops. The public transportation system is great. For most of the week, I didn't even pay for a ticket! However, if I was to get caught riding without one, it would be at least a $20 fine, so I forked over the $10 for the month. Heroes Square, which is bordered by 2 art museams is about 5 minutes from my dorm. Right next to it is the City Park, which includes the zoo, ice skating rink, and best of all: Szecheny Bath. If you ever visit Europe, and are anywhere close to Budapest, the baths alone are worth your visit. For $10, we got to explore over 15 different baths with temperatures from 104 F to 40 F. Some had bubbles and minerals, others had powerful jets that create a lazy river on steroids. There were almost a dozen different steam rooms and saunas. It was amazing! And if you leave in under 2 hours, you get almost half your money back.
I keep mentioning the cost of everything because the cost of living here is very affordable. 200 Hungarian forints is about 1 dollar. I can buy a freshly baked loaf of bread for 100 forints. A bottle of wine is 288. Cookies: 199. I've also noticed that there is less waste here. I haven't bought anything that came in a cardboard box yet. Also, there are very few overweight people. Even at the mall food court, where I had a gyro for lunch, it seemed like everyone was very healthy.
I have 2 roommates in a room with 4 beds. Chris Mohr is from Nebraska Weslyan University, and is studying History and Anthropology. He is a 20-year-old junior from Omaha, NE and lived less than 10 minutes from where I used to live. Andrew Cawrse is from the University of Idaho. He is a 22-year-old junior studying Environmental Engineering and is big into Snowboarding. There are also 3 American girls who live next door. They are studying via the International Student Exchange Program, also. There are a couple other guys named Aaron and Jin who live down the hall. They have already been here for a semester and have been very helpful to us. Aaron's girlfriend is from Transylvania, and speaks 5 different languages. There are other international students, staying at other locations, who are from Finland, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Italy, and Colorado.
Almost everyone I've met so far is in to outdoor stuff, so I feel like I fit right in. We took a hiking trip yesterday up north near the Danube Bend. Very pretty rolling hills. Reminded me a little of the Eastern Kentucky landscape, except that it was covered by almost a foot of snow. Next weekend we will probably take the same train and head to Esztergom, where we can cross the border to Slovakia.
We also took a bus trip around Budapest with the other 40 or so international students. Budapest is actually a merger of two cities: the hilly Buda on the west side of the Danube and the flat Pest to the east. The view from Buda Castle and Fisherman's Bastion is stunning. You can see the whole Pest half of the city spread alone the Danube. On the trip we passed a disco called LivingROOM where we had a party with all the exchange students. I sang 2 hours worth of Karaoke with my new Hungarian friend Adams, who is majoring in American Studies.
Probably the biggest challenge so far has been the language barrier. Although all my dealings with the university are in English, it is not so widespread around the city. Unlike Spanish or German, Hungarian has very few words in common with English. It is in the same family as Finnish, but my Finnish friends here find it just as foreign as I do. I am enrolled in a language course, and have already began picking up the language, and ways to get by until I learn it. 3 quick tips if you want to sound Hungarian:
- "S" makes an "SH" sound. So I am living in "Bood-uh-pest"
- Almost all words are spoken with an accent on the first syllable
- Igen (ee-gen) is yes and Nem is no.
That is all from me for now. I have to get ready for my first day of class. I'm signed up for 21 hours right now, but will probably drop a few once I find which ones I like the best. My pictures and videos, as well as this message, should soon be up on www.nicksuch.net. We don't have internet access at our dorm yet, but hopefully will sometime this week. For now, the only place I get it for free is at school, and it is very slow. I have been receiving, and enjoying, all your voicemails. Once we are up and running with net, you'll be getting some phone calls!
(A greeting, hi or bye, as said to more than one person. Szia is the singular form. Sounds like "See ya!")
Your Hungarian correspondent,
Kerekes u. 12-20.