Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Torture of Thai Masszázs

I went to A-list yesterday. This is the szépségszalon (the beauty salon) in Budapest where they speak English. All the expats go there, and I resisted at first because we wanted a 'more authentic experience' and so we all went to Beauty Hair here in Nagykovacsi. Then after a few bad haircuts, we gave in and decided that all the English speakers can't be wrong. 

I went there earlier in the week for a haircut and this Asian woman, Noi told me she would give me a hand massage while I was getting my hair cut. Good marketing on her part. After my lovely hand massage I signed up for a regular massage. I went yesterday and she asked if I wanted an "oil massage" or a Thai masszázs. All over Budapest there are Thai masszázs places and so I've been intrigued by it, and I didn't really feel like being all slicked up. A Thai masszázs it is! 

The massage was given on this large pad on the floor, instead of a table. She gave me these soft cotton pants and a large pullover top wear. The room was warm and comfortable, with a pretty metal lamp hanging in the corner of the room. I was feeling pretty good, thinking how lovely a massage would feel. And then she proceeded to climb around over me, bending my legs back at impossible angles, digging her elbows into my back and her heels into my hamstrings. She used the straight surface of her forearms like a scraper, kneading all along the sides of my shins. She used her thumbs to separate my calf muscles and dig into the deeper muscles underneath. I felt like I needed "labor breathing"- this tiny little woman was really strong!  What the hell was I thinking? I signed up for an HOUR, of THIS? Honestly I didn't think I'd make it. At the end, when I was paying for this rough treatment, the young woman at the desk said "A Thai Masszázs- you are really brave. I've worked here for 2 years and I've never had one." I can see why.  The smiling tiny Thai woman said, "Next time you come, we use oil." Next time, indeed. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Track Meet- AISB and ICSB friendly meet

There was a friendly track meet at school today between AISB and the ICSB- the International Christian School of Budapest. Nate has been running track and field, and he participated in a few events. He ran the hurdles, pretty much for the first time.

He won! He also lost.... He was the only on in his race.  He also won and lost the high jump. He was the only middle schooler to do the high jump as well.

He's going to Munich in 2 weeks for a real meet, so this was a good practice.  The coach came over to chat with us and said that he was pleased with how Nate did, and how fearless he was to try new things. This is a trait I've always admired in Nate. He's game. It's something I never was; I was always too embarrassed, or too afraid to be embarrassed to try a lot of new things. I wish I had cared less, and tried more.
Jack on the other hand, is crying about T-ball right now. The drama of it all is killing me.  Every week he complains about going. Every week he cries about it, and says "You're killing me. Why are you torturing me by making me play T ball? I HATE T-ball." And then, when he gets there, he runs off to join the other kids, and never looks back. All the preceding drama is like a dream. At the end of the practice, I say "That was Fun, wasn't it? You got on base, you made a hit, you ran the bases." (yes, he agrees) "Will you PLEASE remember this next week-- that you had FUN." And he swears he will. But he never does.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's Official- I am an Embarrassment to my Child

Nate is running track this season, and has practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, there's also an exercise class that I go to after school. A mom from school who's a personal trainer is doing a "bootcamp" with some of the teachers, and I've joined the group. Usually we're kind of off to the side, doing stations like jumping rope, mountain climbers, pushups, and dips. Things that don't look too funny, or least things that Nate can ignore without too much effort. But this week, she had us using the track more, doing plyometrics like "power skipping". I knew that Nate would be horrified by this. I knew it. The woman I was talking to said, "What? He's not even going to notice you." She has 2 boys, but they're only 6 and 4 years old, and the idea that her sons would either notice or care about their mom doing exercise is not on her radar yet.

Then Nate and his teammates ran by.  A pretty 7th grade girl in the group ran by, pointedly not looking at me, wearing the funniest look on her face, like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary.  She's a friend of Nate's. And I knew... She was delighting in the spectacle of Nate's mom, skipping around the track, swinging her arms like a madwoman trying to frighten the crows away.

There were other embarrassing things we had to do. Embarrassing if you happen to be a twelve year old with an image to protect. We paired off at one point to play "foot tag"- where you were supposed to chase your opponent, trying to tag her toes with yours. I looked down to the other end of the field, where Nate was supposed to be practicing, and I could tell, I could Just Tell that in fact he was watching this game with horror. My partner said "He's not even going to notice." She has an 18 month old. She clearly has no idea what's coming.

After practice, Nate was sitting in the lobby at school. I sat next to him and a friend of his, waiting for Kent. It was quiet for a few minutes. Then Nate looked straight ahead, and said "Mom, is there any OTHER day you could practice at the track? Like, some day that my friends and I aren't going to be there to see it." He wouldn't even look at me.  I explained that the class was on Wednesday, and that was the only day.  I also pointed out that the team did some funny stretches too, and it was just part of the class.

He looked pained. "Skipping??? Seriously, Mom,  SKIPPING? And what was that thing you were doing with your arms, and that other thing where you were dancing around with that other person, moving your butt around...." he trailed off, too disturbed to continue.

His friend Dani was pointedly looking down, trying to swallow a grin. I decided a good offense was the best defense. "But Sweetie- Aren't you PROUD of me?? I was the BEST and the FASTEST skipper there!!" I winked at Dani, who looked up in confusion. (huh? She's not denying it?). I said "Dani, wouldn't you be proud if your mom was the best skipper in the class?" (wink) He laughed and said "Sure; I'd be really proud of my mom!" Then he said, "I gotta go- see you tomorrow." and made a quick exit. Nate was horrified. There was no getting around it. Horr-i-fied.

But, I'm going to that class. Every week. Get used to it, dude.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hike to the Tower

We've been looking at this tower on the other side of the valley since the day we moved in. We've been talking about hiking up there to see it. This weekend, we finally did it.  It's hard to see it in this picture, but that was our goal.
We hiked through the conservation land which surrounds the town.

At least, I think that what it says.

My children, who are usually such good hikers, complained for a lot of the way. It made for a very pleasant walk in the woods. I ignored them, concentrating on the "flora and fauna" of the Nagykovacsi conservation land. 
This bug is not as big as it looks in this picture, thankfully. 

Kent and I walked ahead of them and they hustled to catch up. They didn't want any of their whining to be wasted and everyone knows that old meditation, about if a child whines in the woods and no one is there to hear them, do they really make any sound? They were taking no chances.  It would be a shame to waste a whine, in their opinion. 

We made it! 

Hey- you can see our house from here, and where we usually hike.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Czech and Hungarian Traditions of Easter Monday

Here in Europe, Easter Monday is a big thing. They have the day off from school and work. I never really understood the significance of it, but now, Jack and Vojte have explained it all to me.  In Prague, we saw all these braided sticks with ribbons on them. I asked what they were for and Vojta said that the boys are supposed to make them, not buy them, although now many people buy thm instead of making them. And on Easter Monday they're supposed to hit the girls with them, according to Vojta, in order to "make them fertile." 

Here's the story that Jack told me about how Easter Monday goes here. He learned it in Hungarian Culture class at school. And I quote: "So, the boys go to the girl's houses. They read a poem that they wrote to the girls,  and then they say "Can I sprinkle you?" at the end of the poem. Then the girls say "Yes" and the boy puts a little perfume on the girl's head. And then they have alcohol together, like wine and beer, and then the girl gives the boy a chocolate egg. And then by the end of the day the boys are drunk."  Miss Monika, the teacher, told him this.

Some egg related photos:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Lost in Translation" Czech Style

On our way back from Prague we stopped along the highway at McDonald's for lunch and bathroom break. Kent was trying to explain that jack only wanted a cheeseburger, no ketchup, no mustard, no pickles, just the meat and cheese.

The girl at the counter repeated something that sounded like "no mustard.' Kent repeated, "No mustard." She asked again to be sure. "no mustard." What she really said was "No maso."

What he got was a bun, with just cheese.

Maso means meat.

And, along the lines of Evil McD's empire shutting out the local mom and Pop store, directly behind the McDonald's was this homestyle Czech restaurant, which we did not patronize. If it had been just our family, we might have pulled it off, but we didn't even notice it until we were sitting outside in the "play space"

 Here are the play space rules.

 Jack is happy though and got to run around before we got back in the car.

While there, I talked to a couple of kids from the US (Eastern Long Island) on a class trip. One girl said that the school did this every year, because the reality was that most of those kids were never going to leave the country ever again.... It's hard to know what to say to that. Really? At 15 you already know this? I said I doubted it was true, but she said most of their parents didn't have passports and hadn't ever been out of the country. Could it be a whole town of Sarah Palins? (You knew I'd get there soon enough, didn't you?)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Prague Astronomical Clock, Jewish Quarter and the Lego Museum

Think they don't go together? We think that no trip to Prague would be complete without seeing them! 

Unfortunately, the astrological clock was out of order when we were here.  The legend has it that the clock maker was blinded by the Prague counselors when he finished the clock so that he could not repeat his masterpiece anywhere else.  

Nate even talked Kent into going back to the Lego Museum for a second round. He has found his calling in life, and can't wait until he's 16 so he can work in the Burlington Mall at the Lego store, spending all his earnings on his employee-discounted merchandise. 

And now, for something completely different. 

This info is directly from Wikipedia; there's a lot of great history on the Prague Ghetto and on the many many injustices visited upon the Jews there, but I only included this about the end of the war and the Soviet occupation.  Before the war, the Jewish population of Prague had been approximately 56,000. 

Finally, on May 9, 1945 (the day after Germany officially capitulated) Soviet tanks reached Prague. It was not until May 12, 1945 that all fighting ceased in the Czech Lands. German occupation caused the death of 270,00

Slowly Jewish life began to return to the city. Chief Rabbi Gustav Sicher, returned from then called Palestine. However, in 1948, the communist takeover put a stop to Jewish practices. By 1950, about half of the Jewish population had gone to Israel or emigrated to other countries. Anti-Semitism was officially encouraged. Most of the Jews of Prague were branded as "class enemies of the working people," and suffered from imprisonment, exile, forced labor and some execution. During the years 1951-1964 there was no possibility of Jewish emigration from the country. Jewish practices were banned.
The two Prague rabbis left the country. With the Soviet invasion in 1968, the Jewish population was further reduced as a wave of emigration began. In Prague the Jewish population was now 2,000. In 1989, with the "Velvet Revolution" and the ouster of the Soviets, Judaism was again being rediscovered. The famous Synagogues were restored to their original beauty, there were kosher restaurants in the Jewish quarter, and streams of tourists poured into the city of Prague, to see the bitter and the sweet. 

Creepy Dolls in Prague

When you walk through the touristy sections of any city, you get a sense of what tourists buy. Of course there are the usual sweat shirts, shot glasses and post cards that every city has, but then there are some items which seem to be associated with that city or country. In Hungary, for instance, it's paprika. In Prague it seems to be marionettes and crystal or glass. I was kind of fascinated by the "dolls" but also a little creeped out by them.

Prague Pics- Castle, Charles Bridge, Cathedral, things I thought were cool

The Prague castle is the largest castle in Europe; I took about a million pictures of it. I took a LOT of pictures in Prague. So many in fact, that my mother in law yelled at me.  After that, I toned it down a bit. In my defense, you have to take a lot of pictures, because in each one, someone might have their eyes closed, or your 6 year old might be making a gruesome face, or someone might have a statue seemingly growing out of their head. And everyone is capital H-Happy to see the pictures afterward.

Charles IV- the most important Czech ruler and the namesake of the Charles Bridge
 See what I mean? Kent has bunny ears in this photo. Small ones, but still....

Gotta touch the saint on the Charles Bridge.

And the dog. 

 Some interesting cherubs on a random building.

 Detail of the cherubs.

The Easter Markets in the Old Town Center

The Prague Castle at night and us on the Charles Bridge, tourists to the end!

Prague Castle at night.