Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Interlude from Budapest, kind of...

To call today cold would be to deny the true levity of the situation. It wasn’t just cold. No, far from merely cold. The brighly shining sun outside my window was a clear harbinger of sub-arcitc type temperatures. The lock on the front door was thickly covered in frost and was reluctant to allow the door to close once I was on the other side of it. With every breath iciycles like the sharpest knives, developed inside my nostrils where unassuming nose hair once resided. With each exhalation I was englufed in a foglike cloud. As I walked up through the square in the sunlight, I noticed little crystal lights floating lazily through the air and winking at me. It seemed as though whatever water vapor entered the air turned almost instantly to ice, so light it floated like snowflakes through the frigid sky. It really was an experience. I, who have survived in Alaskan winter with deep snow and endless days below zero, was pretty much freezing today.
On a different note, in class we were presenting different aspects of British culture. When I arrived the students were looking at an assortment of playwrites as presented by Tammy. One of the students posed a pronunciation question to Jonathan. The word in question was “gaol.” I must confess I was equally unaware of the correct pronunciation or exact definition of the word. Jonathan informed her that it both meant the same and was pronounced the same as “jail.” Taking him at his word, he being British and it being a British term and all that, I took him at his words. The students, however, had a much more difficult time accepting his expertise. Henry, in particular, called him into question. He took the paper from Lenka, who had originally asked the question, and assured her it was pronounced “ga-ol.” Poor Jonathan just shook his head.
Wanting to reassure himself, but at the same time feeling completely correct and justified in his pronunciation, Henry turned to Jonathan and told him he should come and look at the word so he would know what he was talking about. Jonathan could scarcely believe they were so unwilling to actually listen to him. Henry kept spelling the word, and verifying that he was sure it was said “ga-ol” and not “jail.” It was truly hilarious, and likewise frustrating. Eventually they got to the point where they pulled out a dictionary, had Jonathan find the word, and then saw for themselves that it does, indeed, sound the very same as jail. Sometimes you just have to laugh.
So I’ve learned something new about the word “gaol,” and I hope you all have as well. I was also reminded of how difficult it is for us to accept even the words of an expert in the face of our own personal experiences. It’s amazing how blinded we can be to our own faults and inaccuraces simply because they belong to us.
That being said, I’d also like to make a small correction to my last post. We actually watched “Kontroll” our first whole day in Budapest and not the second. A minor issue, but one that bothered my mind on further thought.
I know it’s often hard for people to sit through and read all of a long post, but I’m sitting around in my flat, all caught up in my journal, alone, and currently without a functioning internet (I’m just wrting this in word to be posted at a later point) and I feel like sharing a little story which is actually about Budapest anyway.
There is something in me that really does crave “adventure.” Even by David’s rather exaggerated standards. I can’t say I really enjoy feeling uncertain about things, because I generally don’t, but when I find myself in situations that are fueled by some sort of excitement and intrigue, I really do enjoy myself. Take, for instance, our trip to Budapest. It wasn’t all together comfortable. There were moments when I really had no idea what the exact outcome of it all would be, but I felt quite secure in knowing that eventually we would manage to arrive safely in Budapest and would be found by Joanna and delivered to a place with beds to sleep in. Feeling somewhat confident in that, I was able to take all the moments as potential for a really good story. And they were. I wouldn’t like every day to be like that, but there’s a twisted little part of me that really likes that sort of thrill. Seeks it even. it’s probably part of why I have trouble holding still and staying in one place for very long. I crave a little something different to keep me from accepting the fact that my life is just like the lives of everyone else.
All that said, I also enjoy little human interest stories along the way as well. So now I have one of those for you as well.
He was sitting quietly beside the wall, Budapest sprawled in the background behind him like a piece of art. There was a chill in the air, so his knit cap was pulled down snugly over his somewhat balding head. He seem unconcerned by the weather or the temperature of the concrete ledge on which he sat. Music from a pair of gypsies settled down around him, a look of contentment resting on his pleasant features.
As we approached him I noticed he was holding some photographs and there were others placed on the bench around him. The pictures were mostly in black and white, some with flares of color or the faintest shades of brown or green in the nature surrounding scenes of the city.
He no doubt heard us speaking English, and quietly asked if we would like to look at his pictures. They were masterfully done, and we couldn’t help but be impressed as he flipped through them, telling us where they were taken. Laura and I were both interested at once, and eagerly took each one in.
Apologizing for his English skills (which they ALL do, regardless of their level of fluency) he asked where we were from, how long we were in town, etc. When informed that we were English teachers he got really excited and told us that he really wanted to study English, but at the moment was just learning by reading bilingual books. We were very impressed by that, because he was easy to understand, and didn’t seem to have any trouble making sense of what we were saying either.
Laura asked if he took the pictures himself, and he told us he’s actually a professor of photography. Turning the pictures over, we saw his photo on the back (he went so far as to take his hat off so we could see that it was, indeed, him)confirming that it was his work. There was also a web address . He told us we could go there and see many more of his photos which could be ordered, or he would be happy to help us make our pictures look better and that he’d love to communicate with us in the future. Honestly, it was pretty much the cutest thing ever.
Laura bought a photo, and then asked if she could take his picture. He agreed, smiling that pleasant, warm smile. We continued on around the wall taking more pictures of our own. Laura even tried holding a hawk, her name was Csippika or something like that, on her arm. Her camera died, so I took a bunch of photos for her. As we headed to the next part of our castle district tour she commented on how that’s the sort of “adventures” she likes to have. Encounters with friendly locals. Visits with artists, and opportunities to get artwork directly from the source. I assured her I love that sort of thing as well. I was so intrigued, in fact, that I thought of it the whole time we were walking and before we headed back down into town I asked if we could go find him again.
Much to my pleasure he was still sitting peacefully by the wall. He was very pleased to see us back again, and was more than willilng to sell me a photo as well. It was a warm fuzzy sort of experience to be sure.
There are so many facets to this life of mine. Some days I sit on a train, passing through quiet fields and small villages. I see couples strolling with their dogs, seeminlgy unconcerned with anything around them. They take in the day. They have the time. They make the time. They know how to hold still, to drink in the little moments.
My life is an endless trek across land and time. Years fall behind me, events flow streamlike through the years. They blend and twist together. Each day is a gift that will never return. Each moment a mystery, a chance, a memory gradually making.

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