Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snowy Sunday

I woke this morning to snowfall, the big wet flakes
like we get in Minnesota near the end of winter. However, I could see that there was also a good wind, so I figured the weather was unpleasant for sight-seeing and getting further acquainted with the town.

I found good web-streaming from National Public Radio while I studied Hungarian for bit and put together breakfast. For breakfast I had a vanilla csiga. As much as I like chocolate, I think the vanilla csiga is better and it had a few raisins, too. I also ate the second half of the Sweetie. I looked up Sweetie fruit on the Internet and discovered it is a cross between white grapefruit and a pomelo. The breeding was done at the University of California. Thus, I wonder why I've never seen this fruit in the United States. It doesn't exactly taste sweet, it's just that the sharpness of the grapefruit is gone. I'll keep buying these are long as they continue to appear in the fruit shop over in Kiraly Utca.

By 12:30 I was feeling like a nap, but I thought if I slept then I would have problems falling asleep tonight. So I buddled up and made my way to the Arkade. I had pizza again, and then went to the supermarket. I found a cup to hold pens and markers so they aren't all rolling around on the desk top.

Speaking of the desk: it's cardboard. This undoubtedly would have mystified me except for my Poland experience. In 2006, Reymontowka remodeled the attic space to provide a permanent work space for the volunteers as well as storage space for all the teaching resources that have been accumulated over time. During the time I was there, design students from a university in Lodz (can't write the name of the city correctly with an English keyboard -- it's pronounced Woodge) made cardboard storage furniture for the work space. In 2009 most of the shelves were still standing.

At the market I also got bread and fruit to last me through the evening meal and breakfast tomorrow. I'm beginning to understand why the Polish young women tell me they don't like shopping. The constant trips for fresh food get old in a hurry.

I go to Budapest for orientation tomorrow and don't plan to take the computer with me this trip. Thus, the blog will be quiet until I return on Friday evening. I'm certain I'll have a lot of stories to tell.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sleeping in on Saturday

I woke about 6 AM and moaned when I saw the time. I rolled over and slept until about 10 AM. I made breakfast with yogurt and a chocolate csiga. A csiga is rolled like a cinnamon roll, but made of dough more like a croissant. (Later I found in an Hungarian dictionary that csiga means snail. Ah ha!, that's why that roll has that name, it's perfect.). I finally started wandering to T-Mobile to complete the phone purchase. I got there and found the door locked. It said the Saturday hours were 8:30 - 12:30. Why is the door locked? Only when I turned around and saw a public clock did I solve the mystery. The time was 12:33 PM. Pecs shuts down on Saturday afternoons. No more sleeping in on Saturday morning if I have things to do. Saturday afternoon nap will be a much better idea.

I wandered on and scouted out the Pecs train station. An intercity train was in the station getting ready to go to Sarajevo. I walked the length of the platform and found how cars are numbered. Now I know what to look for on Monday. I still don't quite understand how one is know what track to use, but I'm guessing there is only one InterCity train in the station at a time, and one can figure it out. Also found a shop in the station that sells water, so that can be purchased after arriving at the station. I like to have a bottle of water if I'm traveling for 3 hours. Agnes told me the best part of traveling first class is that one is close to the car with food. However, I don't know if I can simply walk away from my luggage and do something like that. Monday will be quite an adventure again. If I manage to get myself to Budapest and then buy a ticket for the Metro and get to the hotel, I'll feel like I've really accomplished something.

I started a walk back to the shopping center, Arkad, only you can't see there are marks over both of A letters that make them sound different. Studying a bit of Hungarian this afternoon, I find this word means Arcade. That also makes perfect sense. On my way I saw carnival masks in a shop window. This is supposed to be carnival time in Pecs, but this is the first sign I've seen of it.

I was hungry again after walking for about an hour, so got some pizza. This choice looked the most "normal" to me. I wasn't ready for pizza with kernels of corn.  Pepperoni pizza with olives and red peppers is quite fine. The piece of pizza and a 500 ml Coca-Cola lite was 750 forints ($3.95).

At the shopping center I got my first pair of European shoes from this trip. I wanted something just a bit more dressy to wear in Budapest. They cost about $37.00. One nice thing about shopping
in Europe is that the price you see, is the price you pay. Any taxes are already in the price.

My next stop was the supermarket. Every day it makes more and more sense. Once I figure out how to light the gas stove, I'll be able to make pasta dishes for example. Also, my landlady has offered to include me in weekly shopping trips, so shopping will become easier. I can buy heavy things like pasta sauce and not have to carry it home, walking 15 minutes. Making sandwiches, however, needs mustard and I found that today. I had a good French roll and some good cheese to go with this, and life is good.

Tried to find a nearby movie theatre, but didn't have luck. That will take another study with the map.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pieces Coming Together

Jet lag or bad biorythym or whatever hit last night and I didn't sleep much. I still got myself together to go to the office of the Faculty of Health Sciences to learn more about my work and schedule here. This building used to be a secondary school. It has been repurposed for part of the Health Sciences group, but is very basic. The Health Science group is presently separated in multiple buildings around town and hope to eventually all be together. Thus little renovation has been done on this building. It sure has a great entrance though!

And it's right across the street from one of the major Pecs landmarks: The Padlock Gate. One can hear many stories about how this got started. The primary use now is for partners to declare their love as shown by the example on the left.

I learned I will be helping with three English for Special Purpose classes. One is for recreation managers. Indeed that should be interesting. The other two are the same class, but with different groups. They are for nurses who want to learn the language necessary for patient care in English. I will also have a Hungarian lesson on Wednesday mornings with one of the teachers that I will help with the English classes. More may be eventually planned. We are still waiting to learn about possible registrants for a doctoral nursing class. And I may also help with an English class for University staff and faculty. Each class is 90 minutes long, including my Hungarian class.

Agnes, the International Coordinator, walked me around the building and introduced me to many people. When we were done, she took me to a nearby place where I could get my train ticket, saving me a walk to the train station. She also showed me a place to change American dollars that I brought for my first month's rent. I got a much better exchange rate here today than I did at the airport, but that is to be expected.

Came back and put things away safely and then took off to find some lunch. I had noticed a nearby restaurant that had an outdoor menu with typical Hungarian soups. When I went inside, however, the menu handed to me was entirely different. Just because I was curious about what it could be, I ordered flan. It turned out to be something like pizza dough with ham and cheese baked in the inside. It tasted good on a brisk winter day.

The restaurant decor was curious. There were numerous wall sconces that had carved African figures. Between the legs or held by the arms of the figures were candle holders marker Jagermiester. Quite a cultural fusion.

I decided to walk to where the above classes will be held, a building also belonging to Health Science in another part of town. On my way, I stopped at the post office. It is an amazing buildings. Watch for pictures from there someday. Next thing I knew I was walking by a T-Mobile store. I had a phone all picked out and was ready to pay, but we couldn't finalize the deal because I didn't have my passport. So I'll go back and get it tomorrow. One can buy a phone without ID, but they wanted ID to go with the minutes card.

I never did find the other classroom building. Good thing Agnes is going to walk me there the first time! I did manage to get back to the shopping center. After walking for nearly two hours, I was ready for a rest and treat. Here's what I got: Sour Cherries with yogurt ice cream and also fresh yogurt. It was yummy!

My final stop was the grocery store. I got a chocolate bun for breakfast tomorrow, among other things. The errand was for detergent. I got a small box and then even managed to wash a load of clothes. Took a bit of thinking. The directions given by the owners were very clear, but when I pushed the start button absolutely nothing happened. Well, I've done technology troubleshooting before. I looked under the sink and found a plug just lying there. There was a one plug connection in which the refrigerator was plugged. I changed things around and voila! the washing machine works. Since this is Central Europe, there isn't a clothes dryer, so things are hung all over the room now. Oh, well, needed a bit of humidity in here anyway. That's all for today

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting Settled

I slept in until 9 AM this morning. The University staff were indeed right that I needed a day of rest. Here's what I wake up to now. My flat is basically three rooms. One enters through the kitchen. I'm back to washing dishes in the sink, but that's not too bad. I haven't figured out yet how to light the stove. When I buy detergent I'll give the washing machine a try. The directions for this one are certainly easier than the one I had when I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Poland last summer. Just like Poland, there is not a clothes dryer. I have a drying rack in the closet area behind the bed.

The second room is a combined living room and bedroom. I might have been very surprised about this, except that I read before leaving that a room in a Hungarian flat is often used for more than one purpose. On one end is a table that is my work center. On the other side of the room is the sleeping area.

Outside the door at the right of the beds is a terrace. The owners apologized to me for the fact that the terrace needs cleaning up. I laughed and said, "Hey, it's January! I don't expect to be sitting out there for awhile." However, when spring comes, it will be a great place to spend a lot of time.

And of course or maybe I shouldn't say of course for in many parts of the world this wouldn't be expected, I have a bathroom. One delightful feature is that a heat duct must run under the door area between the sleeping area and the bedroom. It is great to have a warm floor.

This is all located on Janos Utca. One is not allowed to drive or park on this street without a permit, for Janos is part of the city designated as a walking only zone. It is amazing how quiet a city is when there aren't cars and trucks moving through.
Notice the lack of snow.
And here's the front door I come home to now. Yesterday I was very challenged in getting the front door unlocked. The owner oiled the lock and gave me a different key copy and since then I've not had a problem.

I spent a good part of the day trying to get a bit organized for living. First, since my cupboard was totally empty, I went out for breakfast. I had a very nice omlette at a coffee house. After that I walked down to the shopping center. I found a hair dryer and did a bit of looking for a mobile phone. I got some groceries, so now I can at least make breakfast for the next couple of days.

It is at least a 20 minute walk between the shopping center and my flat, and uphill when one comes back. It was cold and I was tired, so I stopped midway at McDonalds and had a Diet Coke. McDonalds was full of university students, and it seems so odd to me to see  so many 18-21 years olds, since my home university has an average age of 32 years!

Came home for a bit and then decided to walk down Janos Utca in the opposite direction towards Kiraly, a main walking/shopping street as a way of getting more acquainted with the neighborhood. Went past a fruit stand and purchased something called a Sweetie. It looks like a green grapefruit and is labeled as coming from Israel. Yesterday when I was with the University professor I asked what that might be. He didn't know. I'll cut it tomorrow for breakfast and begin to find out.

I continued to the pastry shop, and picked out a sweet to take home. In English I said, "To take home, " for one can also have coffee and pastry on site. Well, we didn't quite connect. I came home with two pieces of cake. One piece is already gone as I write. I'll not be unhappy to eat it twice. I thought it might be lemon, but it turns out to be a cream cake. It is makes me think of a cake that is called Pope's Cake in southern Poland, for this dessert was the favorite of Pope John Paul.
Tomorrow I find out more about schedule for this experience. So stay tuned for more news.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Speed Bumps and Angels

My flight to Hungary was one of the most difficult that I've ever encountered. The first thing that happened is that I had problem with kiosk check in at the airport due to the merger of Northwest and Delta. The kiosk kept kicking me between one and the other without either moving forward. That meant a live person had to help me, and when she discovered I wasn't returning until July 15, she said I couldn't board without my long term visa. I told her I would get the long term visa once I was in Hungary, that even the Hungarian Embassy had told me to do it that way. I was mystified about why an airline clerk was acting as an EU Border Guard. She went to get the manager to work with me. The compromise is that they wrote in a return flight for April 1 that I'll have to somehow cancel before that date. Not sure if this man was an angel, but at least I got out of Minnesota!

Meanwhile I was playing telephone tag with the Washington office for Fulbright. When we finally connected, she told me I was the second person who had encountered this difficulty. Something has obviously and recently changed.

I had to connect for the flight to Amsterdam in Montreal. Due to the fact that we arrived one hour late, I couldn't make the connection. I got to KLM just when they said they had closed the door to flight. They sent me to Air France. The woman at the counter said she was supposed to put someone like me on the next flight on Tuesday, but she would instead try to get my on stand-by for the Air France flight to Paris that evening. She asked me to come back in 25 minutes and she would have an answer for me. Well that's how I found myself on Air France on the way to Paris rather than on KLM to Amsterdam. Indeed the woman at Air France is an angel. She didn't have to help me and she didn't have to be so very pleasant about it. She also got my Paris - Budapest connection to arrive at the same time as would my Amsterdam to Budapest flight, so my reservation for the Pecs Shuttle wouldn't be messed up.

Once we landed in Paris -- and hurrah I was able to sleep about 2 hours even with all this adrenalin in my system - I had exactly 65 minutes to make the connecting flight to Budapest. I kept following and following and following signs for Terminal 2D.

I walked at least 15 minutes before I hit passport control. I was right. The passport control office looked at my passport only about 4 seconds, just long enough to find a place to put the stamp. Then I had to walk a lot, lot more -- I have learned the Hungarian word for my walk is that is sok-sok, meaning long-long or lots-lots. I got there just in when that flight was closing. My boarding pass wasn't good enough. They wanted my ticket. By this time I was totally frazzeled. I couldn't find my e-ticket print out. I was convinced that it had been left in Montreal. The young ladies went through all my carry on trying to find something. Can you imagine this happening in the United States? The definition of privacy is very different between our country and that of others. Meanwhile one was on the phone and discovered I did indeed have a Malev ticket for Amsterdam to Budapest, so they let me on the plane for Budapest. At last I could relax, and my stomach untied the knots that hda been there since Monday morning -- and I was quite puzzled on Monday morning why I was so anxious.

The shuttle driver was waiting for me. He had already found one passenger, a university student. I changed some money so I was ready to go and purchased a bottle of water for the trip. We picked up two other university age passengers a bit later, and were on our way to Pecs. We were moving along, only 50 km from Pecs when the driver turned west and then in a bit found another highway going south.

This main highway is just that. The secondary route took us through villages. One in particular was very interesting for it was full of food stands selling bags of paprika. This really is Hungary!

After about 30 minutes we arrived at a Christian Conference Center of some sort, signs all in English and I think American, and that's where the two passengers got off. Think American because these two had to walk up a long driveway. Meanwhile two young men came running down this same driveway. They didn't pay attention to these two and that's why I think they were Americans. Hungarians are much too gracious to ignore some arriving.

Then we made our way east back to the main highway. At last we got to Pecs and I found myself at the Hotel Barbakan. I put my bags in the room and then headed off for a bit of dinner. Clearly I was much more disorganized than was the "all packed" picture pictures that appeared earlier.

When I had been preparing for this trip, I talked to a professor at another university who had recently been in Hungary. He told me he was uncertain if there would be food in Pecs during the winter. I was mystified by that comment and was very certain that wouldn't be true. Dorota, from Poland, was staying with me then and just laughed. She had led a Global Volunteers team in Hungary. She told me the food would be wonderful in Hungary and probably less expensive than Poland.

For dinner I had a selection from the appetizer menu -- broccoli a la Poland and one entree -- a pork cutlet stuffed with plums served in a plum yogurt sauce. This with a diet Pepsi came to $11.00 with the tip -- which I think I messed up a bit trying to get used to the coins and how to do math with these big numbers -- the check was 1920 forints. Well maybe I was OK for I left a 280 forint tip which is right on for the recommended 10% tip.

I walked back to the hotel and tried the TV for a bit and fell asleep. I woke up at 7:30 PM! Got myself back to sleep and woke up at 11:30 PM. I read for awhile and set an alarm so I would sleep through my Wednesday morning activities. Woke up at 7:30 to see a bit of snow storm. If this is winter here, I can certainly handle it. The people here are complaining about how cold it is and how much snow they have.

The University staff picked me at 11 AM as planned and took me to my flat. The owners explained to me that this unit is usually rented to tourists who stay only a few days. It is very basic, but will be fine for my short, long stay. I'll post up pictures of this place another day.

After letting me settle in for a bit, the staff returned and walked me to lovely restaurant. We were joined by the professor who directs the English as Special Purpose classes in which I will participate. He also advised me that Hungarian classes have been organized for me. On Friday I'll learn more about my whole schedule.

Would love to get comments or questions from readers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

All Packed for an Adventure

I'm all packed for my adventure. Well, not quite. The computer has to yet be put into a bag, but that will be easy. A few minutes ago I remembered there were no socks in any bag. It will be interesting to see what I've forgotten when I get to the other end.

It was challenging to pack for a season change from winter to summer, to have clothes for every activity including going to the Opera in Budapest next week to going to Poland for language camp at the end of June.

I've tucked in one set of English learning cards for my little neighbor as well as a Valentine card. Not knowing her age made it a bit challenging to know what to take.  I think I did quite well to get everything into this quantity of bags. I've weighed them and find the big bags come in around 40 pounds so they are legal. Delta/Northwest is raising baggage fees again. When I booked my ticket I could take two bags on an international flight. Retroactively the airline changed the pricing scheme so it is costing me an extra $50.00 for this trip. I think the airlines are again becoming a monopoly and it is becoming time again to have regulation of this industry.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Only in Minnesota

Today was an ugly winter day. The temperature was just above freezing obviously for we got rain. This on top of the snow that is around made a real mess. However, it is Winter Carnival time in St. Paul and this weather did not prevent people from running either a 5K or half marathon. Earlier this week signs appeared advising us that we were "locked in" between 9:00 - 12:30 for the race. Sure enough blockades went up outside my window this morning along with police presence. Here's photos from outside the window. The one showing the people with the banner were the very last runners.

Watching all this was a good way to put off packing. I spent some time this afternoon organizing all the books and papers needed to teach the classes in Hungary as well as what I need to take with me to design a new class for fall at my home university. I spent some time digging in the closet too. I want to take along a couple of counted cross stitch projects. I took one with me this summer and found I was missing one color of yarn. I forgot all about that until getting it out again. I really didn't want to have to take a shopping trip tomorrow for one skien of embroidery yarn. Digging in the closet was successful. I did find the color I needed in a box. I have packed one large suitcase. I think the rest will fit in the smaller bag. I'll know tomorrow.

More about the weather-- this weekend there was also a bit pond hockey tournament being played. It just got cancelled for it is not possible to skate in 3 inches of water on top of the ice.

Thanks to all of you that have sent wishes for safe travel.

What Happens If You Comment

I've heard from readers who say they wish to comment, but were concerned about having their comment become public. What happens is that I receive the comment as an e-mail message and I can decide if I want to add it to the blog site. So if you want to say something, but don't want it to become public, write your comment anyway and say you just wish me to see it but not others. I look forward to comments particularly as I travel to Europe.

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Thing Leads to Another

I read today that the announcement of an attempt to better control banks in the United States led to a devaluation of the Polish and Hungarian currencies. I went to a currency conversion site and found my proposed rent for my apartment has just gone down $17.00 due to the fall of the Hungarian forint.

I've just finished reading some really awful comments and language on another web site about the Hope for Haiti Telethone. People simply don't seem to understand that in today's globalized world Haiti is very close. When simply an announcement of  a proposed policy makes the change noted above, we must be mindful of how closely related we all are. Our "backyard" where some people loudly advocated money should go is much bigger than it used to be.

A very long time ago I was with the first group who did training about helping families in Minnesota who experience Sudden Infant Death. At that time, people were quite concerned they might make an error and by nice to abusive parents thinking they were SIDS parents. I will always remember the wise mental health professional, herself a refugee from Europe in World War II, who said, "Compassion is never an error."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Surprise -- not Mundane --Round 2

Later in the morning I got a 2nd e-mail from the wife of the apartment owner, an e-mail also written in excellent English. I had inquired if I needed an Ethernet cable for my computer to connect to the wireless network and she replied back telling me no, I don't need that, they will give me a password for the connection. She also added they have a little girl who will "be keen to show off a few English words to me." They will be my next door neighbors and it will be fun to have a little child close by.

I went to Tobie's at Hinckley and met a professor and his wife who will also be in Pecs on a Fulbright appointment. They are definitely world travelers for they mentioned having been in Europe in many locations, western Asia,  South America, and Australia. It looked on the map as if our apartments in Pecs will be about a 5 minute walk apart. They will have a car and already said we may make some trips together. The professor has been going back and forth to this area for the past 18 years doing excavations. His speciality is 4th century Roman farms. He explained to me that this how the Roman culture survived after the fall of Rome, but little attention has been given to the agricultural life of Romans.

This whole experience will be so much fun, because I believe I will be introduced to learning such as this in a multi-disciplinary context. Some of my fellow Fulbrighters at other locations are in agricultural research and I'm anxious to learn about that as well.

Surprise -- not Mundane

This morning I received an e-mail in perfect English from the owner of the apartment in which I'll live in Pecs, Hungary. There is now a washing machine installed in the apartment -- hurrah, no washing out the lingerie in the shower!! And I'll have wireless internet, too in my apartment -- but what a great relief -- a landlord that speaks and writes English!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mundane #2

Today I spent 4 hours at the car service area to get everything fixed up on my car before I leave. Better to do it now than to have come back to all that. Since my car is way over 100,000 miles it is time to fix things up to make it last another 150,000 miles!

Then I want to Nordstrom's at the Mall of America. I got new make-up, trying to look respectable in Hungary. I also got new shoes to wear to the opera in a couple of weeks.

I came home and put together a shelf for the coat closet so I can store things more orderly on the shelf in that closet. In the course of this I re-organized the storage of holiday decorations and went to recyle a bunch of boxes. At the elevator a nice man said, "I'll take those down for you." He was standing there with an animal cage in a cart on his way to the underground garage area where we also put the recycling. Maybe on Sunday I'll go take a photo and show what it looks like after everyone does weekend work. We do put an immense amount into recycling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mundane Adventures

The title says sometimes the adventures are mundane. That's today. I called at 12:30 to see if I could still get an appointment for flu shots before I left. The news was that a 2 PM appointment was available. So I buzzed across the river to the clinic. It seems amazing that I'm a professional nurse with a PhD and that I get a caregiver who is an LPN. I think that is one reason I avoid health care as much as possible. It seems demeaning to have a caregiver with less skills than I have for myself!

I did make my reservation for a shuttle ride to the airport on Monday. So nice, the van meets me at the central elevator in the underground garage. The forecast is that Monday will have messy snow, so this arrangment makes it a very special treat and leave-taking.

Earlier I wrote about getting a 2nd bank card to have on hand in case an ATM eats a card. Today I decided to use it for an online item. It wasn't in my wallet. What was the good place I put it? Well, after about 30 minutes of searching I found it. It got put away odd because I walked away from one window in the credit union to another to get a form notarized. I'm certain this won't be the only time I panic in the next few days!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Last Moments with Family

Here is Nilima trying to eat the keychain that I bought in Florida. If  you look closely, you may notice my name on it. It blinks on and off using solar power. I thought about the fact that I would need a keychain for my apartment key in Hungary. Then it dawned upon me that probably I would find a zillion keychains at WDW. I was right. Only perhaps I shopped too soon. I got this one at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It has an animal skin pattern on the reverse side. If I had waited, I could have gotten the same one with my name in Chinese characters at the China Pavilion in EPCOT, only who knew it would be there?

Next comes my older daughter who spent the weekend with me. This shows her opening up her delayed birthday gift. Her birthday occurred while I was in Florida. She loves purple and I managed to find purple pajamas and purple M&Ms.
Here is LeeVon playing some sort of game with my decks of cards that have Krakow pictures on them. He attends a school that gives emphasis to science and technology and really likes it. I also have just paid his tuition to the Art Academy through Community Education here in Saint Paul, and today got the supplies that he will need for that. Grandmas are good for something!

This is the first time that I've posted up pictures since blogspot got enhanced software. Just in time for when I'll need to post a lot of pictures!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Steps Towards an Adventure

Today I started on the final list of things that need to be done before leaving for almost 6 months. I passed through Herberger's -- a department store and picked up a couple of very basic shirts as well as a pair of earrings -- some bling for dress up occasions such as going to the Budapest Opera. The clerks were elderly women -- and since I'm now a Medicare card carrier, when I say elderly, they were really old! Usually when I go the clerks are college student age. It must be that Thursday morning gets a different workforce.

The whole process of making these purchases was a bit different -- they were really bossy and a bit set in their ways and discussing all the time other workers who didn't do work the same way they did. It made me think of the observations I've read about the older women in Poland who work the post office windows, for example, or perhaps now the stories I'm reading about the Hungarian nenis on the buses. Central Europe doesn't own this phenomenon of the older women who set the rules and are going to keep the rest of us in line. It was alive and well in Saint Paul this morning.

Then to Target to get some things to enhance the storage in this apartment. I've yet to tackle putting away the Christmas decorations. This has been postponed because a whole shelf area in a the foyer closet is going to get reorganized at the same time.

Then I went to a License Bureau armed with the e-mail that said I could purchase my license tabs up to a year ahead of time. I was expecting a hassle but the whole thing took about 3 minutes after I waited through the number line from 81 to 99.

My final stop was the Credit Union. I got a second debit card. I'd read advice about this and decided to get a 2nd card in case some ATM -- called Bankomat in Central Europe -- eats my debit card. I found out how much money I can take out in one day. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to routinely get the 150,000 Forints in hand that it will take to pay the rent! I took out cash -- and hurrah, I have received my Fulbright advance -- so that I have two months rent in hand to take to a change bureau in case that will be the best way at the very beginning.

My final task was to get a document notarized. I have to send a report to the probate court every year in my role as my older daughter's guardian. So that task is done except for addressing an envelope and getting it in the mail.

Tonight I'm organizing what materials I have to take with me to write a new course for fall semester at my home university. So little by little things are getting done. Tomorrow I'll start a new list.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Sunset

Looing out my window is like watching a kinetic sculpture, something I feel in love with while at the University of Iowa. Also after the stupid mistake I made yesterday with vacation photos I wanted to try to see if could download photos correctly. Yesterday I made the mistake of using Picasa instead of Photoshop. Photoshop is much better and much more intutitive.

We are beginning at last to see longer days in this northern latitute. Everyone thinks the day begins to lengthen after December 21. The sunset gets later beginning then, but the sunrise comes later, so the days remain the same length until January 7 when there is a bit of lengthening starting at both ends. This view is taken "upriver" and shows the High Bridge over the Mississsippi River in the upper left. The road marked by the street lights in Shephard Road, a fast and easy way to leave downtown Saint Paul and connect with locations further west in Saint Paul or head to the airport or freeway connections elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Freezing in Florida

Every have a vacation that is a bust!?! Late last summer I was asked to teach a study abroad course in Jamaica beginning in late December and ending just about now. When that fell through, I decided to go to Florida, for I was ready to be somewhere warm for awhile. Well, I went to Florida for the record cold spell. The only thing that saved this trip was unexpectedly meeting friends. I found that a pen pal I've had for more than 20 years (from before the Internet and text messages and all the way we communicate now) was going to be at WDW at the same time as me. We got together for a long breakfast at the Boma restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Two days later I started off to the O'hana Restaurant to meet another friend, this time from Atlanta. I got caught in a monorail slowdown and it took me more than an hour to make what is usually a 5 minute trip. We still had a very good dinner and were able to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom while we ate.

On Saturday I met a friend from Orlando for tea at the Grand Floridian Hotel. It was so cold I had to wear my winter coat inside the hotel. I realized there wasn't any way to heat the atrium area and restaurants. Florida buildings are constructed for cooling, not heating! We still had a wonderful conversation over tea. I also took her some Good Earth tea from Minnesota. I knew she liked it, but when I put it into the suitcase I had no idea how much she would need it. Believe me 30 degrees in Florida is much colder than 30 degrees in Minnesota.

And now tonight I downloaded my pictures, but made some kind of mistake and they didn't get saved on the computer. Of course, I discovered that after I had deleted the photos from the camera. Oh, well!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back home

Came back home last evening with an uneventful flight. Pictures and more news tomorrow. Survived just fine without my computer and surprisingly the e-mail list wasn't too bad. Enjoyed a day of not much today. I found a reference request from a former student in my e-mail. I did it and will take it to the office tomorrow. These must be in by January 15 so he cut it close to the deadline for asking about the reference. I'm quite surprised about how many former students have asked me lately for references for either graduate school or job.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Taking Off for an Adventure

Later this morning I'm leaving for Disney World. It's been about 4 years since I've been there, mostly that time for a professional conference. Coincidently, I found my pen pal from Ohio will be there at the same time. We are meeting for breakfast tomorrow morning. A friend in Atlanta will be there beginning on Thursday and we are meeting for dinner that evening. A friend from a Global Volunteers team lives in the Orlando area. I'm hoping to make a reservation and meet her for tea at the Grand Floridan on Saturday afternoon. I'm not taking along my computer. It will be strange to be without a computer for a week. I can't remember the last time that happened. More news later.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My View of the World

Here is my view of the world from my new apartment. This shows trains moving in both directions. I enjoy kinetic sculpture and just put the trains into that category. Recently I have been observing how a coating of snow on tank cars changes the perspective and makes them all look hump-backed. It is also interesting to observe what goes by on Shepard Road or on the road below. One day I saw a snow plow truck. There must have been sand or salt in the truck back, but what mystified me is how the snow suddenly made a criss-cross pattern in the truck cargo area.

This morning the temperature was about -11 so the view included ice on the window, too.

The Internet gives us a view of the world, too. I was delighted today to see on Facebook that my very first English student in Poland has become a father. The picture looks like a healthy boy and the new father reports the baby's APGAR scores were great. Who knew Poland also used APGAR?!?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

On the Second Day of the Year

I drove my daughter over to one of her friend's home where she had left her car on New Year's Eve. She stopped first at a gas station and bought coffee so she pour it over the lock and get the door open! She arrived at my apartment a few minutes after I got home and we gave the closet below a good work-out with 5 loads of laundry from her place. Some is still drying as I write and I'll return it when I drive over to that neighborhood tomorrow for church.

While she was here, she searched the web and found a job opening -- in fact 8 openings for the same job. Hope something happens for her. She also signed up for a statistics class that must be completed before she can apply to enter a master's program. Later I ordered the textbook and graphing calculator necessary for this class. Raising kids is expensive even when the child is 30 years old and a parent of three kids herself!

I just finished watching You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Now I'm starting Ms. Congeniality. More fun on TV tonight than the recent couple of holiday nights.

I should be finishing a power point for a lecture I have to give on January 13. Wondering now why I volunteered to do that when I'm on sabbatical!

Friday, January 1, 2010

On the First Day of the Year

Clean Closet
Mississippi River on January 1

I started the New Year by fixing up the utility closet. One day in December I came home to find the cleaning and laundry supplies all crashed down in the kitchen. A table upon which I'd placed a shelf had broken. Today I put together another shelf and then reorganized the closet. It feels good to start the New Year with things in order again.

The temperature is floating near 0 (Farenheit). I ventured out very fast to take a photo of the river and then was very, very glad to come back to my warm apartment and look at the views from my third floor window.

Hope your New Year started peaceful and beautiful, too.