Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Since then I have traveled extensively, and have been to nearly 75 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on I have made friends all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met in the past and present and hopefully will meet in the future.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

So Long, 2007 - A Good Year

Well, after the warm, sunny, relaxing days in Barcelona, it was a shock to come back to winter. Yep, the seasons finally changed again here in Budapest, and Old Man Winter reared his cold and nasty head again. Ah, well, we’d never appreciate good weather unless we had bad weather to compare it to. Anyway, I no sooner arrived back home than I was swept up into the mad winter party season of Budapest. Got back on Monday evening and was at the Caledonia Scottish pub the next three nights for meetings, wine-tastings, football matches and the monthly Viking Club gathering.

The British Women’s Association held another Quiz Night at the British Embassy on Friday of that week. It was another long, Brit-centric quiz without enough general knowledge questions. One team of Hungarians was actually disqualified because they were all Hungarian and therefore weren’t expected to know most of the answers. As a result, our team came in last. We got our own back when we won the karaoke prize at The Stage pub later that evening.

In keeping with trying to touch base with my ”lost friends” during the holiday season, I got in touch with my friend Aniko. Remember, Newsletter/Blog devotees, I stayed with her and her ex-husband in Moscow back in 2004. She’s divorced now and her new boyfriend Laci looks like a keeper. Anyway, he moved in with her and needed someone trustworthy to watch over his flat, and Aniko suggested I might be the perfect tenant. Well, other than being a touch farther out from the center of town than I’d like, it was perfect. And the rent was definitely perfect, nearly half of what my good friend and landlord had been charging me for one room at his place.

So I moved in late November. It’s nice to have my own flat once more; it’s quiet, and with the east-facing windows I’ll even get some sun in the mornings. It’s small, but cozy, and the windows look onto one of the main streets leading into Budapest. So, things are good again and I can afford to do more stuff now that I’m not spending so much on rent. For those of you who are interested, my new address is:

XIII, Váci út 138/c, V/18
1138 Budapest

One evening I once again met up with my favorite group of former students from the local energy company, including Andras, who had gone to Thailand to teach English for a year. It seems they innocently enquired of the mayor of the small town they lived in what getting married there would entail. The mayor was so ecstatic to have such a request, that he and his staff planned and carried out a complete wedding for András and Kati. Since the town in which they lived had almost literally never seen a white person in the flesh before, the entire town turned out for the ceremony. Our meeting here in Budapest was to view the video taken of the wedding, which András kindly cut down from five hours to only about one hour. The town paid for everything – drinks, flowers, food, etc. How cool is that?

Next up on the social calendar was a birthday party for a Danish friend of ours. After a soiree at her flat, we repaired to The Stage for more fun and games. A few days later I attended another Comedy Night with more expat comedians. The evening turned out okay, and the comics were much better than the previous group.

An American friend of mine invited me to a two-days-late Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and stuffing and potatoes and veggies and wine. Better than my standard holiday fare of spaghetti and meatballs.

Caught a performance of a friend’s band at The Stage one evening, and was pleased to see another old bud back in town for a visit – Jonathan Wilde, formerly of Budapest, now lawyering in Cornwall, England. November and December needed lots of mulled wine to keep me warm. I also had to visit my dentist several times, an activity I always enjoy. At least the prices here are reasonable: three visits with the dentist looking for a root to deaden only cost me about 75 dollars US. More money for the parties.

Then it was time once again for our 6th Annual Sagittarian Birthday Party at The Stage pub. If one can judge a party by the really terrible way one feels the next morning, this one must have been an all-time knockout. My gifts included wine and a small stuffed donkey. The following week saw yet another Indian Curry Night at Kohinoor restaurant, where the food was some of the best yet. Unfortunately, the service continued to be down to Budapest standards. They still haven’t got the service thing down.

But the big news of the winter season is my upcoming new part-time job. Unfortunately, I still can’t tell you much about it at the moment, as I need to keep my name from getting out in conjunction with the job. Sounds mysterious, hah? Actually, the word ”mystery” does appear in my job description. It will involve lots of all-expense-paid travel to such exotic locales as Russia, Libya, Portugal and Africa. When my book comes out in the fall of 2008, I’ll include details. Maybe even in my mid-summer 2008 Blogs. Watch this space for more information.

Let’s see, what else? Ah, yes, I had my Hungarian residency renewed in December, this time for two years. I was also invited to a concert at the new Millenium Concert Center on the Danube. I was expecting holiday music and chorales, but was bitterly disappointed. The St. John’s College Choir from Cambridge, England, was there, and their songs were technically perfect and beautiful, especially those sung by the younger boys in the Choir (some of whom couldn’t have been older than 5 or 6). But the songs they chose were sad and low and depressing. Then the world-renowned English organist Thomas Trotter performed several pieces, pretty much all of which were really terrible. Such a shame to waste what is obviously a major talent on such bad music.

December 25th once again saw a bunch of homeless ex-pats gathering at the Marriott hotel for one of their infamous all-you-can-eat-and-drink Christmas brunches. The champagne flowed freely and a good time was had by all. Troy Weeks cruised into town the final weekend of the year and regaled us with his tales of travels to Mongolia to represent companies that make mortgage loans on yurts and want to market a Mongolian vodka called Chingiss Khan on a worldwide basis. Cool. New Year’s Eve was spent at the Caledonia Pub once again, and the evening included drinks, food, music, dancing, stumbling home, etc. The parties are beginning to run together and stomp heavily on my liver.

And 2008? Well, based on present circumstances and future plans, it promises to be another great year. More on my new job as it progresses, complete with lots of travel. Will be heading to West Africa in February, then will spend some time in Lisbon. Watch this space for updates.

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday season and that the coming year will see all your dreams and schemes come true. And by the way, an email or two to bring me up-to-date on all of YOUR activities wouldn’t be remiss. Bye for now.