Thursday, September 30, 2010

Toast 4 ways

This is the new breakfast here in Nagykovácsi.
It's called Toast 4 Ways- Nutella, Cream Cheese, Jam and Butter and Cinnamon Sugar.

Really a horribly unhealthy breakfast, but a new fad in our house. We are stymied here- there is no good cereal. I'm hating all of it-- all the kids cereal is total sugar, and all the "adult" cereal too, which has weird names like Fitness Flakes, but is chocolate coated. We have settled in Fruit Fitness Flakes or Bran Flakes Optimum, Fruit and Nuts- both of which are pretty bad.

There are also about 12 kinds of muesli- which is all HORRIBLE here- uncooked oats and dried banana chips or chocolate chips. Weird. What I wouldn't give for a box of Grapenuts! (Don't be a hater- Jack is craving them as well.)  Gretchen brought a bag of her home made granola when she came to Vienna and I'm rationing it like the contraband it is... Cooked oats, cranberries, pecans. It's not so hard folks-- make some good cereal. I haven't found plain uncooked oats- will start making my own soon I think.

The Tin Can of Death

We've been walking and taking the train and tram and bus everywhere for almost 2 months now. And this week we were talking to a teacher at school about trying to buy a car. It's really difficult here- they're Very Expensive-  a10 year old car with questionable mileage (Everyone has told us that EVERYONE turns back the odometer, and so it is not the true mileage on the vehicle.) will be around $7,000 USD. Seriously- as Father Guido Sarducci on SNL said years ago-- "It's all about the supply and the demand!" That's the only thing we can think of anyway. It's also about the VAT (value added tax) and the other fees I guess.

So, last weekend we borrowed this teacher's car- a 1994 Opel that he said he'd sell to us for $1000. He said we could use it while we decide if we want it, which was very generous of him. On Sunday I drove Jack to a birthday party in it, and it was exactly like the old Opel my family had when I was in high school- you can't kill the thing, but you kind of wish it would die, just so you don't have to drive it anymore. In high school, when the weather was cold, first you had to scrape the outside windshield. Then you had to get into the car and scrape the inside of the windshield. This was the same way. It wasn't cold enough to frost over, but there was a healthy supply of napkins in the glovebox, and they were well utilized on the steamy windshield. And oh yeah, he forgot to mention that the windshield wipers don't really work.  Later in the day, Kent managed it - there's a sweet spot where, if you hold the wipers a little bit past the "on" position, they'll actually work. But you have to hold the control "on" until they start to work, then you can let go. Good to know.

Here's the view from inside the Opel when it's raining, while you're trying to drive. You feel very safe in this car, yes??

 Kent was annoyed I was taking pictures instead of helping him look for oncoming vehicles.

Today I went to the gas station to put gas in the car. I got out of the car to fill the tank and this man was standing there. He asked me something in Hungarian. I said "Beszélsz angolul?" which is my "go to" phrase-- Do you speak English? he said "Yes, a bit", and asked how much gas I wanted. I had 5000 Forint, so that's what I asked for. He opened the lid to the gas, and noticed the rag stuffed where the cap should be. He pulled it out, holding it between his fingers like it was something dead he had to handle.

I said "It's not my car!" (Complete disavowal -- even though it might be our car soon.) I said "do you know where I can buy one?" He said "Wait a minute" and walked away. I was amazed when he came back holding a gas cap. He put it in the car, and voila! I said "How much?" He looks uncertain. I said "500?" He said yes, but then I only had 1000 Forint (about $5) and I gave it to him. He lifted his eyebrows "Change?" Expectant pause..... (He saved me looking all over the place for one)...... I said "Keep it!' He said "Thanks", and walked away. I'm left wondering if he routinely takes the gas caps from other people's cars so he can re-sell them later. It's not really a stretch here....

Anyway- the rag is gone, and the gas will not evaporate as quickly, and I have learned to always get out of the car to make sure the gas cap is not stolen to be sold later to some housewife.  Ah-- another cross cultural experience....

File under "What????....."

Okay- Here are some of the things which either crack me up about this place, or leave me scratching my head.

They literally bake the label onto the bread here.  Why??? This particular one came off easily, but a lot of times you're left with either a whole in the bread or paper stuck to the crust. I don't get it.

Here is the thermostat in our living room. I really can't figure out how to use it.  I wonder if I press the button with the 2 champagne glasses, if someone will appear to take my drink order. That might be worth it.

And here's what it looks like down in the basement. Of course all the manuals are in Hungarian so that's a big help.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jó hétvégét (as we locals say here)!

We're going to someone's house for dinner tonight! They offered to give us a ride home and that sealed the deal!! We haven't been out since we moved here. We've ordered pizza a few times from the local shop- we stop on the way home and order it, then walk up the hill and the delivery guy shows up pretty close to when we show up. It works, but it's JUST not the same. So, tonight we're going out! We're bringing a bottle of wine that it very cute. I don't know if it's very good, but it looks funny, and really- that's how I choose wine. It's called Bodrikutya.

Here's the link to the wine.

Here's what Google translate says that it says (close, I guess)

quality dry red wine

Here's to you! With a description like that, how could we go wrong?? 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hair Hair Hair !!

One of the things I've enjoyed and is SO different here is the range of color that people (mostly women) dye their hair. We went to a street festival yesterday where I tried to take lots of pictures of women's hair, dyed wild colors. (I tried to be discreet). At home, I associate wild hair color with teenagers or young adults who are kind of thumbing their nose at society or conventional ideas about beauty, or just trying to get their parents to have a cow. Hair color here seems unrelated to that. Here, hair seems like an accessory- people change their hair color more often, and they're definitely NOT trying to make it look natural or anything close to that. I'm including some of my favorites from yesterday. I'll write another post with kid pictures from the festival, but this one is for the ladies!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Slugs and Snails

One of the things which enchants Jack, and kind of disgusts me is the enormous number of slugs and snails here. They're EVERYWHERE. The slugs are HUGE and slimy and come in a wide assortment of colors and seriously, they're almost as long as your hand. I had a little trouble with my camera yesterday, but will post some pictures soon.

The snails are also huge and slimy, but their shells make them a bit more palatable to me; I enjoy looking at the shell variations. I think that part is kind of cool. But really, when there are THAT MANY of anything, it just kind of freaks me out- it's kind of like the realization in the movie "The Birds"  Wow-- we're totally out numbered.... I guess it's lucky we can move faster than them, but still, it's kind of creepy.

On our way to school, we get off the bus onto this little carriage road which is safer than the main road (for people anyway). There are always a ton of slugs. It's a cascade of events- one slug decided to cross the road (not sure why-- to get to the other side? To get away from a chicken?) Sad to say, he or she couldn't outrun the traffic. Then other slugs come to the wake and funeral-- (or to eat their injured or dead comrade), and they too meet the local autos and get smooshed. It's like a slug minefield on the street. You really have to watch where you're walking, or you'll slip in the slime. The snails are better protected, and they tend to stay in the underbrush, but still you see a fair number of them on the road as well.

The first day of school Jack was waiting at the bus stop and collected 8 or so snails in very short order, and lined them up on the sidewalk. The locals think that we're nuts. To them, it's nothing new- I doubt they even see them. It's how we are at home with squirrels. Not too many people stop to marvel at their bushy tails, their antics on the telephone wires, or the cute way they sit up on their haunches to eat an acorn. They're just squirrels.  Here-- they're just slugs.  (I'll take the squirrels any day, BTW) There are some kids at the American school who have them as pets- a terrarium with some dirt and leaves and sticks, a lettuce leaf or two and a couple of big snails. I'm sure that the locals think these kids are totally nuts, kind of like keeping cockroaches in a cage.  When Jack finds one close to home, he brings it into our yard and puts it in the hosta plant. He's always annoyed they don't stay put. He looks for them for a while-- how far could it go? It's a snail, after all, but they seem to disappear.  Yesterday he caught up with one.

 Jack was pleased, the snail less so.  He left it outside the house, but I'm sure it's gone this morning. He'll feel betrayed and look for it for a while, but really- a snail's gotta do what a snail's gotta do.  She's on to her next decaying plant or leaf litter.  More pictures of the slugs and snails to follow. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wrecked my Cuisinart

Waaaaah,  wrecked my cuisinart last night. I was making chicken cury that's thickened with ground cashews, and was grinding the cashews and suddenly- burning smell and - done. No more cuisinart. Crap.  I talked to some people at school who said that there are different adaptors and converters and you have to be careful about the wattage and which ones to use. Very confusing, and an expensive mistake. One woman told her her curling iron melted- as in literally drooped over, melted. Good thing it wasn't in her hair at the time. I almost didn't bring any appliances with me and now this one is a big expensive paperweight.  I'd really like to have a Cuisinart; I actually use it. I may go out an buy one and sell it when I leave. Maybe there's a used one somewhere I could buy.  Good thing I paid to ship it over---- Did I say "Crap" yet? Curry was good tho....

Monday, September 6, 2010

One Month In

Kent and I are really hoping that our shipment arrives this week. It's very echo-y and loud in the house. It will also be nice to get our stuff because it's gotten cold here (unseasonably) and we only have towels- no blankets. I'm trying not to feel sorry for myself and instead, harken back to my younger, bohemian days of sleeping on the floor. 

I've also reverted to some of my younger bohemian college habits- namely, hitch hiking. The other day I missed the bus and had to wait a half an hour, or walk, which would add 25 minutes to the 25 minutes I would have to walk from the center of town, so was feeling kind of bummed. Then, this man in a British car (steering wheel on the right) pulled up the the bus stop and asked me for directions) 

I said "Do you speak English?" in Hungarian -- one of the few phrases I know-- and he said yes and asked me where "Szeles Utca" was. Now, it just so happened that I actually KNEW where Szeles utca was, which made me very happy. Impulsively, I said- "I'll show you where it is if you give me a ride." He said "Sure" and so I hopped in the car and grabbed a ride to the town. he dropped me off close to the end of the bus line and I only had the usual 20- 25 minute walk (without the kids). I was pleased with myself. One day when I had borrowed someone's car, I also gave a ride to a fellow hill-dweller; a woman flagging people down in front of the élelmiszerbolt- the convenience store. She had a bag full of water and other heavy things, and I could relate-- so I gave her a ride up the hill. I won't make a habit of it either way- but it sure was helpful. 

School is in full swing. The routine of school seems to hold the center a little bit. Nate is doing his usual adjustment to the new schedule by lamenting the existence and point of homework, but when he gets down to it, it doesn't take him that much time. He's playing soccer (on the B team, which he is a little disappointed about). I said "I'm glad you decided to try out and that you're playing." He said "Mom, that wasn't even a question. Of COURSE I'm playing." So, he has a good attitude, and he was told that sometimes they pull from the B team to sub on the A team, so he has something to shoot for.  I hope that 2 years playing in EU will sharpen his skills enough that he comes home to AHS and makes the freshman team. If he ever grows into his feet, it will be an immense improvement. 

Kent and the kids are pretty busy, and I'm busy, spinning my wheels with the unfamiliarity of the place. It takes me an eternity to get anything done. It's getting better though. And no-- no McDonalds yet. This weekend I went to the butcher and got some beef to make goulash. It was more like beef stew in my rendition (needed more spice), but not bad. I go to the butcher every couple of days; he says the "Kezét csókolom" (which is an old fashioned term that people use here in Nagykovasci, but not many other places; it literally means "I kiss your hand") and smiles at me; I use my polite hello's and point and nod and smile apologetically that I can't say anything else. I buy a whole chicken once a week and he asks which one I want, as if I can tell the difference. We have a mutual crush. If I start going to the butcher every day, you should stage an intervention; but at this point it's harmless. :-) I never knew I had such a thing for a guy in a crisp white apron and a big cleaver. 

We went to immigration last week with all our paperwork and hope to get our residency permits in about 2 weeks and then we can buy a car. Kent has been researching and we'd like to get a used Zafira by Opel. the used cars here seem to hold their value longer than in the US-- fewer people buy new cars I guess. But we've been warned that everyone turns the odometer back, so- buyer beware. We'll see what we come up with. We'll probably sell it when we return to the US in 2 years.