Travels With Myself

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

Name:
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. Now I travel extensively, and have been to more than 65 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on amazon.com. I have made friends from 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, past, present and hopefully in the future.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Autumn Interlude

As is usual at this time of year, with everyone back from vacation and summer holidays, the fall social season swung into full gear early in September. There were, of course, the standard gatherings: Viking Club on the first Thursday of the month, wherein all of the Scandinavians in Budapest find each other at a local bar and celebrate the difference between the incredibly expensive alcoholic drinks in their home countries and the really cheap drinks here in Hungary; the Monday evening Happy Hours at a local Italian restaurant, wherein a small but truly international group of expats gather to sip the Italian national drink of Spritzzz (basically, just a white wine spritzer with Aperol) and catch up on all the gossip the Viking Club didn’t supply; the monthly Internations meetings, an expanded version of Happy hour, with well over 100 attendees and as many as 20 different nationalities; the Friday ritual Happy Hour at the Britannia Club, Brit-centric but with a nice sprinkling of other countries thrown in; the Curry Club, still going from Indian restaurant to Indian restaurant to see which is the best in town; and a host of other infrequent events such as birthday parties, Pub Quizzes, comedy clubs and special gatherings to Save Budapest’s Gardens or to celebrate one of the many failures in Hungarian history.

Whew, lots to do. Of course, all of these gatherings attract not only the usual suspects, but also many newly-arrived people, so we get to meet and greet newbies all the time. Since many newbies are also attractive women, I attend as many events as I can.

I also flirted with something called Bikram Yoga. I’m still trying to lose some weight, but without the strenuous exercises of the local weight rooms or running till I drop, so I decided to try some low-impact exercising via yoga. Of course, I couldn’t pick just any yoga – it had to be Bikram Yoga. Picture doing the standard yoga stretching exercises for 90 minutes in a dry sauna. Yep, that’s what it’s like. This large, very hot room - say, 100 degrees F – filled with young women and maybe 3-4 men, and me, all doing yoga exercises – stretching and pulling and balancing and sweating out all the poisons – at least a liter’s worth of liquid. Whew. Too bad my poor old bod won’t stretch or bend or entwine in the positions desired. I did my best, however, and was able to do about two-thirds of the postures and stretches, but there were all too many times I just sat there and sweated while the limber young women did things with their bodies that I haven’t even been able to think of since 1962. At the end of the session, I had sweated out at least two liters of liquids, and my floor towel, floor mat, wipe-off towel and my shorts and tank top all looked as if I had dunked them into a large warm bathtub filled with water. I mean, I was WET! A couple of trial sessions were enough for me, and I happily went back to my couch-potato exercises, wherein the heaviest exercise I perform is to thumb down the TV remote controller to change channels. Much better.

I renewed my residence permit for another couple of years, so I’m legal once again. Guess I’ll be staying for awhile. I’ve thought of maybe moving on, but I just can’t find a place in Europe or the Mediterranean area as nice or with as many good friends as here. Or, probably, as inexpensive, even with the price rises over the years. Maybe Asia, but for the long haul I just can’t stand the humidity. And then, on Tuesday, September 29, 2009, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my arrival in Budapest. Ten years. Damn! It’s all gone so quickly, and I’ve done so many things I never thought I’d ever do, and seen so many things I never thought I’d ever see. I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people and had lots of incredible experiences. My second life has truly been, overall, the best part of my entire life. I just wish I’d taken up a career in my first life that had allowed me to travel as much. Ah, well, no regrets; maybe next time around.

I also toyed with the possibility of taking on another English class or two, but nothing definite yet. We shall see. One evening I also attended a special program at the local Holocaust Center, complete with a tour of exhibits which were new since the last time I was there, and some reminiscences of a survivor of the camps. Naturally, we’ve all seen the movies and read the books and even, in some cases, visited one of the infamous camps, but to sit there and actually listen to an 80-year-old survivor talk about what it was like to be a fifteen-year-old Hungarian girl having dinner with your family and suddenly have Arrow Cross thugs (the Hungarian equivalent of Nazis) literally break down your door and yell at you to pack a bag in five minutes and hustle you off to the train station at gunpoint – and then describe what happened after – being separated from her mother at the Auschwitz arrival platform, never to see her again – being “liberated” by Russian soldiers (mostly Mongolians) whose idea of liberation was to rape every female in sight – well, it doesn’t make one feel too positive toward Hungarians for awhile. Women like her are becoming scarcer all the time, and I hope people of today’s world have a chance to hear someone like her before they are all gone.

Also managed to maintain my standing as social prince of Budapest. One week I was out every night in a row. Guess I’m not getting too old for this stuff. Among my many events were: I helped the Brits celebrate Guy Fawkes Night at yet another party at the Intercontinental Hotel along the Danube; managed to catch a rugby match or two; also helped select the new shirts we plan to sell to help promote rugby for Hungarian youth; caught a new jazz combo at the Cotton Club; and joined some new aficionados for a karaoke night.

Anyway, I generally took it fairly easy (!), watching my diet and getting ready for my Nepal trip. Yep, my friend Sandra with USAID okayed my visit for mid-November to mid-December. To me one of the most fun aspects of traveling is planning the trip, doing research on what to do and see and where to go. So, I spent many happy hours on the Internet and in various bookstores around town, checking websites and travel books for things to see and do in Kathmandu and excursions therefrom. Once again, I sent out a request on the Internations Forum for anyone from Kathmandu who might like to meet up when I got there, and got two hits. Both Nepalese locals wrote back and welcomed me, and I arranged to contact them during my stay. One of them, Rabin, owns a travel agency and arranged for my first excursion from Kathmandu about a week after I arrive. I’ll be going to Chitwan National Park for four days, package to include an elephant safari and bath, jungle walk, village visit and probably other goodies I didn’t note. Gotta love that Internations. In preparation for my trip, I had to get more shots, of course, make my flight reservations and decide what to take with me. The best flight I could find routes me from Budapest through Athens to Doha for a seven-hour layover in the middle of the night, then on to Kathmandu. Coming back I have the same long layover in Doha, then fly to London and back to Budapest. We’ll see how it goes.

And so, on to Nepal. Watch this space eagerly for the next installment, the first of my Katmandu adventures.

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