Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vienna, Vienna, Vienna!

We spent a few days in Vienna this month. It is easy to do from Budapest. 3-hours by train or 2-hours by car. With the border open, there is no stopping. You just drive on through like you would in the US between states.

The first trip was special. Steven reconnected with some Peace Corps friends in particular Brenda who served in Steven's town, Võru, in Estonia. Brenda flew in from Santiago, Chile, where she is living with her husband and two lovely children. Two other Peace Corps-Estonia volunteers, Harald and Stephanie joined us in Vienna. They are living in the Czech Republic and made the day-trip to Austria. We also got to meet two of Brenda's lovely friends Naomi and Katalina who flew in from Geneva and Madrid, respectively. What a great weekend!

On our second trip yesterday, we joined our friends Jeremy and Zsuzsa for a day-trip to Vienna. As soon as we arrived we went to this wonderful restaurant (no tourists!) where they served simple but wonderful German food. We had bratwurst, sauerkraut, smoked ham, schnitzel and dumplings...and of course beer. We were stuffed! And this was on the heels of our Thursday (day before!) Thanksgiving feast. We are such gluttons!

On both trips we visited Vienna's Christmas markets. These markets are full of gifts, handmade crafts, amazing holiday foods and lots of hot spiced wine. It is something to see.

Here are some photos... We’ll post some more…as soon as we find the camera cable!

Steven and Brenda
The last time they saw each other was 2001.

Diane nursing some hot spiced wine.

Vienna City Hall - location of the city's largest Christmas market.

Harald, Stephanie, Brenda and Steven.
All Peace Corps Volunteers from Estonia.

Noemi, Katalina and Brenda in Vienna's historical Central Cafe.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ain't No Sunshine

Actually, we had a great sunny day and it is warm for late November (14C/58F). This post is a bit random, but we so love this song by Bill Withers and we find ourselves listening to it more and more. Wonder why?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Work trip to countryside

Steven started the week by visiting one of United Way's funded projects. He travelled 3-hours by train to a village in northwestern Hungary. A small village with a big name: Kemenesmihályfa.

The project engages younger adults who were injured in accidents. Specifically, this was the first-ever training camp organized for an emerging Hungarian Quad Rugby team. Quad rugby, you ask? It used to be called murderball! It is also known as wheelchair rugby.

Wikipedia describes it best: "Developed in Canada in 1977, it is currently practiced in over twenty countries around the world and is a Paralympic sport. ... All wheelchair rugby players have disabilities that include at least some loss of function in at least three limbs; most are medically classified as quadriplegic, although some are functionally closer to paraplegics. Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court. ... The rules include elements of wheelchair basketball, ice hockey, handball and Rugby. It is a contact sport and physical contact between wheelchairs is an integral part of the game"

The Kemenesmihályfa countryside. View from the ridge of the town. Very peaceful.

The Kemenesmihályfa train "station." More a train stop. A nice older gentlemen riding by on his bike stopped over to say hello to Steven and make sure he knew which direction he was going. He also helped reassure Steven of the timetable. Steven thought that he was interested in seeing a new face in his village of 500.

Wheelchair rugby players use a volleyball instead of the rugby-style football.

Specially designed wheelchairs are used for the sport. The chairs take a beating!

Two of the players demonstrated how the game is played.
The team was practicing in an old school gymnasium.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hungarian countryside. Relaxation.

We had such a relaxing and wonderful weekend. Click here to see some photos posted on Diane's design blog.

Great day on the job!

Steven’s work puts him in contact with a variety of interesting people and organizations. On Monday, he was attending an United Way Hungary workplace giving campaign kickoff. The company asked one of the supported nonprofits (NGOs) to attend and make a small performance. The Pető Institute Of Conductive Education put on a great show.

Six of their students performed a short play. At one point the boy on the left (see photo) looked up from his script, smiled wide and delivered his lines. You could tell he was so thrilled to be on stage and seeing the audience enjoy themselves. The girl in the middle (turquoise shirt) was darling. She had the best smile. You couldn’t help smiling yourself just to see her.

Great day!

More information about the Pető Institute Of Conductive Education: “Conductive education is a unique system of teaching and learning for children with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida. It is designed to improve motor skills and increase independence of many aspects of common living. It is not a cure, but a method of exercises and education which are broken down into basic functional movements. The exercises are performed intensively (5 hours per day, 5 days per week) in small groups which promotes interactivity and fun. Conductive Education was developed at the Pető Institute in Hungary over 40 years ago…” Source.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Berlin Wall - 20 years later

Today there are celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall over 20 years ago. It is momentous for us to be in Hungary so close to this history. Hungary is credited with the first strike against the wall. In 1989 August 23, Hungary opened the iron curtain to Austria. This allowed the first mass exodus of East Germans to escape since 1961. Can you imagine living 48-years separated from your friends and family by what seems--on one hand--to be a simple wall?

This video is a good review.
You may want to skip the first the first minute.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

hunters and gathers - Part II

In late October, we were out hunting and gathering walnuts that fell in our yard. Walnuts are called dio in Hungarian and are a mainstay in Hungarian cooking and pastry. Dio is also the name of the 1980's American heavy metal band formed by former Black Sabbath band member Ronnie James Dio. These coincidences amuse us...

Anyway... We spent a few hours last Sunday cracking walnuts with our vice grips and listening to This American Life. It was like meditating. Cracking...listening to story-telling...cracking...

We doubt that earlier hunters and gathers had the luxury of listening to Ira Glass host yet another thought provoking episode of This American Life...let alone vice grips to crack their walnuts. Yet another reason to count our blessings!

after cracking over 100 walnuts, we had this

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Traditions: Part 3

And now we come to our third and final entry about traditions. This one, very special for Diane.


"I am not a religious person. However, I am a spiritual person. Taking time to light a candle and remember those who we miss has become a ritual, a tradition. I have found that no matter where you are in the world everyone knows what it is like to miss a loved one. It is a common thread that binds us all no matter what your religion or god.

In all the cemeteries I have been to there is always a place to light a candle for those who do not have a memorial or grave in that cemetery. So, Steven and I always search this common place out in the cemetery and I light a candle for my mom. We did this last year in Budapest, in Estonia on Christmas Day and recently when we were Zagreb.

Estonia Christmas 2008
Zagreb August 2009

November 1 is All Saints Day. In Europe, candles light up the cemetery as loved ones place flowers and remember those who have passed. Steven and I went to Kerepesi Cemetery on Sunday and lit a candle for mom. It was very cold and very beautiful."

Where I lit Mom's candle
Do you have any traditions or rituals to remember?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Traditions: Part 2

Halloween is a tradition many Americans celebrate. We have never been big on the whole costume thing. The last time I remember dressing up was about 10 years ago when Steve was a hot dog and I was the bun. I wish I had a photo to post-it was hilarious!

Living in Budapest you realize how small the expat community is. We heard of 5 different Halloween parties that we could attend. We decided to go to two...but what to wear?

We debated over what we were going to be....good and evil, vampires, Dorothy and the Tin Man.... We decided on....a priest and a banker. What does a priest and a banker have to do with one another? Diane was the banker asking for forgiveness for the financial crisis. Maybe a little risky, maybe a little funny. Either way we got lots of laughs and had a ton of fun!

Steve really liked being a priest. People let him
cut-in line and gave him "respect".
Photo: Begging for forgiveness.

Diane's hat was great! We rigged it with a birthday card Steve's mom sent back in July. When you moved the money on my hat you heard a "cha-ching". Unfortunately it was so loud at the parties that Diane was the only one hearing the "cha-ching" all night.
Our good friends Susan and Bill (a.k.a. Witch and Warlock)
...and Évi and Kata (a.k.a. Flamenco Dancer and cat-meow!)
Waiting for the bus-gotta save money:)
Dancing at The Iguana a Mexican Restaurant.
They can really throw a party!
What were you for Halloween?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Traditions: Part 1

Two things have happened since living abroad. We celebrate traditions more than we did in Seattle. Maybe because we search for things to make us feel at home. To remind us of our childhood and to comfort us. Older age no doubt has some influence.

The secound thing is creating is the process of creating new traditions-our traditions. So, in the past two weeks we have participated in the traditions of old and the traditions of new.

We carved a pumpkin. It wasn't as beautiful as Rita but it looked pretty good. At the time of carving we also had a visitor, Flat Stanley. You can see Flat Stanley in the photo below.

After we carved our pumpkin we decided to give it to Mari and Lajos. They are the kind people who live in the house our flat is in. I don't think they have ever been given a pumpkin. Mari gave us the biggest smile when we gave her our pumpkin.
Our tradition of baking the pumpkin seeds and eating a snack after the carving. Interestingly Americans will eat the whole seed compared to Hungarians and others who fish out the seed inside the seed.
Many years went by where Diane didn't carve a pumpkin. Over the past few years, Steve has been coming home with a pumpkin and I end up carving them. It is a nice way to welcome fall.

Do you have any fall traditions?