Sunday, May 30, 2010

Migrant and Ethnic Minority Health Conference & Around the Town

I spent much of Thursday, Friday and Saturday attending a Migrant and Ethnic Minority Health Conference. This is the third conference held on these topics in Europe and was held in Pecs this here due to the fact that Pecs is a Capital of Culture. I am very lucky that this conference was here and all I had to do was hop the bus to the Faculty of Medicine. Well, I did pay a hefty fee to attend too.

I learned a lot. The conference was a combination of presentation of research papers, poster presentations and lectures. I also attended a roundtable about human trafficking. Sitting on the border with Eastern Europe brings this topic high on the priority list. We frankly give little public and political attention to this topic; it most often appears as a plot line in something like Law and Order. At this roundtable I learned many European countries have shelters primarily for women who have escaped forced labor or prostitution.

Other learning: I spoke with Swedish participants about their Somalian population. (I was surprised to hear so many countries discussing Somlian populations for I thought with the number we had in Minnesota, there could not be many more to be anywhere else.) The Swedish participants immediately recognized Minnesota as a location of Somalians and immediately told me that we [Minnesotans] are providing a much better environment for this group -- that they are successful in Minnesota for they can obtain jobs.

I saw another poster presentation that said North Americans did much better with cultural competence -- that we are far ahead of Europe on this issue.

I'm very grateful I could attend this conference. And it is amazing how much the same it is as conferences in the United States. One difference though -- we never get glass goblets for drinks at coffee breaks, let alone have people making expresso for us.

After the conference I did a bit of walking about Pecs. It was sunny when I left my flat, but five minutes later a big gray cloud dumped rain on the center of the city. I took shelter in the courtyard of the Nagy Lajos school. I found some interesting posters there that had pictures of Szechenyi Ter over time.

Here is a picture of area from 1907.

And here is a picture I took last evening from about the same spot. The school is there and the statutes are there. And in pictures taken later in the 20th century there are cars along the sides of the Ter. Now there are no vehicles as this has been turned into a totally pedestrian area.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Images of the Day

When one is a foreigner, there are many things one doesn't understand.

But this really has me stumped. I don't know where it came from nor why it's there. It is too large to be a personal umbrella and doesn't match any outdoor cafe from which it could have blown.

For three days I'm attending a conference on caring for migrants and ethnic minorities in Europe. This conference is being held at the Faculty of Medicine. What a difference 3 months make. This is the same place that I ventured in mid-February on a  dark cold rainy/snowy night. I was so nervous. Now the roses are blooming, and in the early evening I'm standing at the bus stop with people from many different countries explaining how they get to various destinations in Pecs. More about the conference at another time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Perfect Summer Day

Yesterday the sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-80's, the way we meaure it in the United States. I walked by the post office and mailed a card and then went to the train station to find the #33 bus. Since the revision of Szechenyi Ter the bus routes north and south have changed their routes, but there is no information provided about the new routes, so I didn't know where the bus might be near my flat. The bus starts from the train station so that's why I went to the train station.

Another American told me walking up to the Mescek Hills wasn't "too bad." However, as the bus ground up the hill in first gear, I was very glad to be riding, not walking. I got off one stop too early from where I wanted to go, but still found many interesting things to see.

I was right by the Tettye Ruins.

Just below the hill where this area is located a new fountain is being created. Note the blocks with the holes. They are the same as the fountain now in Szechenyi Ter. The color on the seats is actually mosaic, but the detail just wouldn't show up on this photo.

I also found interesting sculpture tucked away in the trees.

Here is a view from the hill side. The center of Pecs, where I live, is in the center of the picture where the buildings all appear to be terra-cotta color. One can see the high rises of New Pecs further in the distance, and then finally the Villany Hills.

I tried to walk down the road to where I really wanted to be, but the sidewalk was under construction and the road appeared to be too dangerous for walking. So I went across the street to a restaurant.

This is  lovely place on a balmy summer day.

The mid-day meal is usually soup and then a "second plate."

I had strawberry soup with turos dumplings. Oh yum! And in case you are wondering, this is a cold soup. I can't imagine what hot strawberry soup might taste like!

My "second plate" was a salmon salad with mustard dressing. Both the salmon and the mustard dressing were new and novel flavors.

I checked out the map and decided an arboretum couldn't be too far away, so headed there after lunch.

This is part of a large national park in this area. Here national parks are more for preservation of wild areas than public recreation, so finding something like a developed arboretum is unusual.

This guy welcomed me.

The area had many other more modern sculptures.

I wandered until I found a park bench by a pond. Pulled out a book and sat there reading and admiring the dragon flies.

After about an hour I walked back a bit and went into a shop and got a wonderful ice cream bar. Waited for the #33 to start coming down the hill and then got off at a stop somewhat by my flat.

About 5 PM I went over to the Caff e Lite and ordered a coconut lemonade and waited for Thomas and Carol. We had not seen each other for about three weeks, so we caught up on the news. Then we went for a bit of walk through Pecs in the evening summer air.

Wow! Truly a perfect day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Random thoughts on a holiday

Today is Whit Monday and a holiday in Hungary. I feel very much like it is a holiday and it's strange to have a holiday that most others are not celebrating. The US is plugging along and my Warsaw News arrived just like always because this is not a holiday in Poland.

I've been editing photos from the past few days and so here are some random thoughts.

First, the above is a photo from Transylvania from the airplane. It is truly a beautiful area.

Upon my return to Budapest I spent the afternoon with Richard and Wendy. They had dinner plans with friends, so I took off riding the Metro to see where I ended up. One end of the Blue Line took me out into a suburban area.

I came upon a book sale. This seemed like a great contrast to what I've been learning about the huge value of books in the very old libraries that I have visited this month. The sign says one book is $2.50. Quite a contrast from what was done in the late 18th century to get books to start or expand university offerings in Central Europe.

On Friday evening we  Fulbrighters were treated to a Danube Cruise. The weather was very cooperative. This is one view of the buffet. You can see we were treated very well. The Fulbright Commission had invited the Hungarian grantees going to the US to come on the cruise so they could talk with Americans. We enjoyed having a grantee going to Chicago join our table. As it turns out he is from the University of Pecs and so I gave him my card. He said he had many questions about going to the US.

I realized I had never shown what a tram looked like from the inside. Notice there is a visual display announcing the next station. There is also an audio announcement of the stations -- a good way to learn how to pronounce Hungarian. These trains are used by thousands every day. Note how clean the train is. It is a bit empty in this photo because I took it on the middle of a Saturday afternoon. Monday morning would find the train much more crowded!

And the final random thought. I boarded the train back to Pecs quite early and found I had a seat with a tray table. While I was waiting a woman came along and put two turtles down on the table along with a business card. The card explained she was deaf and was trying to earn a living. The turtles were so cute and I was very glad to pay $2.50 for one of them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost -- in Hungarian: Punkosd

Punkosd except I should be using a Hungarian keyboard so I could make the vowels with the correct marks, as the word is much more complex than it looks above.

I came back from Budapest yesterday afternoon, amazed as my friends predicted to see the flooding in the fields. They told me while I was gone that Pecs got a 6 inch rainstorm. This is all part of huge storm that stalled over Central Europe and caused major problems in many locations in Central Europe.

I especially wanted to attend the Unitarian church service here today. The congregation meets in a conference room in a commerical building near my office. I surely couldn't understand the Hungarian -- maybe got about 5 words such as no, problem, God, Amen (said in English or whatever language it is, but it was Amen), and help. Once in awhile I could understand some of the numbers for the hymns. And I could understand easily a baby dedication. I couldn't come to this part of the world and not attend at least one service.

After the service the minister asked me to go for coffee. We had a lovely visit. And things go around in circles, for I learned that Targu Mures is the city in which he grew up.

After we parted I headed to the Arkade to buy some groceries only to find it all closed up. I was surprised, for it wasn't even closed on Easter. I wandered my way back towards to my flat, stopping at a nice restaurant for lunch. I left my cupboards quite empty since I would be gone for 8 days.

I came home and put the camera battery on charge for a bit. Then I wandered over to the Cathedral area to see what the celebration was there. Oh, I know what this is.

I found many booths selling homemade crafts. Just what I need. We discussed this past weekend how difficult it is to get gifts for people that don't carry a Made In China tag. These crafts were all being sold by the people who made them, and many of them were working on things. I really enjoyed seeing lacemaking and how women here do embroidery. I got a couple of things for myself and some things for gifts, assured that they really do come from Hungary.

People were also playing board games with game materials made from boards (wood).

One can also listen to music.

And of course there is food. This is a traditonal Hungarian food. I walk by a woman on Citrom ut who makes these every day, but I don't know what it is.

My friends in Kaposvar tell me their city will be locked up tight today and also tomorrow, Whit Monday, a holiday in Hungary. Pecs, however, is booming with visitors. I stopped in an ice cream shop for a dessert. While I was there, they were simply mobbed with customers. I often stop here, and one person can manage both the seated customers and the walk-ins for ice cream cones. Today they had two people working inside and one person scooping ice cream outside. Tourist time has hit Pecs.

For me this was a perfect summer day. It was sunny and just the right temperature. About 7:30 PM a thunderstorm crashed in, but oh, the rest of the day is one to remember for a long time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back in Budapest

I'm back in Budapest after a comfortable and uneventul flight on Wizz Air. This plane we had is a large Air Bus 330 model. The European way of boarding is so much easier. Everyone found their seat and got their luggage tucked away in about 10 minutes.

I'm off for some lunch -- and the temperature here is quite a bit warmer than what I left in Transylvania.

No way to add pictures to my blog using the hotel computer so more updates will wait until I get back to Pecs.

Adventures in Targu Mures -- Part 2

With all the teaching done, I was graciously given another tour of Targu Mures. We took the bus towards the city center to save a bit of time.

Our first stop was by the National Theatre. Hard to get a good photo because there is a construction site in front of the building and we could not walk closely to the building.

Our path took us next by the now un-used synagogue building.

Our next destination was the Palace of Culture. This is truly of the most amazing buildings that I have visited during my time here in Central Europe.

One immediately is astounded by the decorations in the foyer. We walked upstairs to what some call the Hall of Mirrors. I think it should be called the Hall of Windows. One entire wall, exterior to the building, is entirely covered with stained glass windows. The subjects center on religious figures and every day peasant life.

Here is an example. Perhaps the photo is too small. It shows a driver with a horse-conveyed wagon carrying a log. This is a frequent scene is small villages in Central Europe.

This one shows the Devil causing temptation. I hope you can see the red figure in the central panel. Note: if you click on the picture it should enlarge so you can see the detail in the designs.

I also liked this one very much. To me it appears to be the Transylvanian Hills/Mountains in the central and right panels.

I was also intrigued with the chairs in this hall. They live up to the Hungarian principle of never making something plain if you can make it beautiful. One could see the principle being applied everywhere in this building. It is truly incredible.

We walked next up to the balcony for the auditorium. All the time we were admiring and enjoying the windows, we were given a concert. The orchestra was practicing and it was magical to see the windows with splendid music being played at the same time. You can see this is a beautiful space as well. We also enjoyed the art gallery in this building. Visiting here was indeed a treat.

We next admired the City Hall and I explained that the building decorations and tiles on the roof certainly had come from Pecs.

We walked next to the old Teleki Library. It is truly amazing to learn that individuals in Central Europe were attempting to gather knowledge before we even had a country! The physical building of this library started in 1799 to house books already collected. While looking I asked, "I wonder how much a book cost in relationship to the income people had at the time?" This turned out to be a good question. The library guide spoke fluent English and she told me one bought only the pages of the book. Then these were taken to a book binder. What the total expense turned out to be depended upon the choices at the book binder. She showed me one with painted parchment covers, others with leather covers of some sort, and also showed me books on which gold gilt had been added to the margins to every page. We are so casual about books. It is good to be reminded of how precious they were at one time. And I'm so glad that the old libraries I've seen this month have survived the ravages of warfare and diasaster.

In the same building I was also able to see a display that presented the work of Boylai Farkas and his son, Boylai Janos. They were both natives and residents of this city. Boylai Janos is responsible for creating geometry theories that led to the Theory of Relativity and also supporting many of our present day chemical and physics theories. Above is a desk that they used.

I've probably forgotten to mention some of the things I saw with the tour. I've been so very priviliged to come here and meet such great people who were willing to take the time to show me their city.

This day culminated with a farewell dinner. Ms. M and her boyfriend and brother all joined with me. We had two hours of amazing conversations ranging from social problems in Romania to factors in US culture. It is always a pleasure to have a conversation with high school students and young adults in Central Europe. They speak knowledgably about history, the IMF loans to their nations, and EU politics, while it seems we are obsessed with who is going to win American Idol -- at least that is all I see when I try to find news from the US!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adventures in Targu Mures

The weather is not cooperating. It is very cool and rainy, but not just here, but all over Central Europe, so it doesn't matter where I am. Being here is a new experience and that's a good way to deal with ugly weather.

Yesterday and today I walked to the University of Medicine and Pharmacy to teach the courses to Ms. M. The University area is absolutely beautiful.

Here is the facade of the main building.

However before one gets here there is more beauty. This university was started quite soon after World War 2. If I understand correctly, part of the beauty is due to the fact that it has botanic students. There is a special botanic garden behind the University buildings. The inside of the buildings are very attractive, too.

While being escorted around today we ducked into the dental building, too, and I found this view. Chairs are empty because this is the "exam" time, a special feature of the way higher education is done in Europe --often hard to understand if one is part of the U.S. higher education system.

I'm done with the teaching and so glad I came. Ms. M is a highly talented professional. I'm so very glad I could help her get a couple steps closer to her PhD. This strikes me as one of those experiences in which one gets much more than what one gives. I'm not certain which one of us has learned the most in the past few days.

After lunch I took a bit of a nap and then went for walk to take some of the above pictures.

Further down the street I found the Student Center.

Across the street from this building is a small park with a monument to those who protested and fought against Communism.

Here too is a view of houses in the area. If you all still think Central Europe is gray and drab, here is another photo to change that perception.

I went into a grocery store to explore and purchase a few things. The biggest surprise I had is how eggs are sold. In Hungary they come in two different ways. In a supermarket one finds them in a carton. In the smaller markets one is expected to bring a container of some sort for the eggs, and hence it is a good idea to save the egg cartons from the supermarket!

One thing I found is packets for making salad dressing. Now I'll have to get someone to help me read the Romanian directions. These are not available in Hungary so I'm glad to have them for salads for the next coming weeks. Hopefully the weather will change soon and we'll be back to spring and summer when salads will taste good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Day with Incredible People -- And a Falling Coat

The hospitality of people in Central Europe is simply amazing. To protect privacy I'll just call my doctoral student here Ms M.  She came and found me at the pension at 10:00 and we walked all over the city.

The pictures above are from what is called the Weekend Complex on the map. This undoubtedly is not what people think about when they hear the word, Transylvania. This area includes restaurants and outdoor terraces as well as private cottages. I also saw many beautiful buildings in the city center and hopefully another day I'll get some pictures. We were having such wonderful conversations that I didn't stop to take a lot of pictures.

We stopped for coffee and pastry about 13:00 and then met up with her boyfriend and brother and we all went to Sighisoura (sorry if I have spelled this incorrectly). What a surprise to have this chance. The trip took us through several villages, often each reflecting a slightly different culture, and through the beautiful hills that here are the end of the Carpathian Mountains. The vistas are magnificent.

At Sighisoura we walked up to the fortress area. This one is quite unique in my touring experience. It has many, many towers, each made by a different guild such as the shoemakers, ironmakers, or clockmakers. We walked about the streets and then were headed to the clock tower and the museum housed in the tower.

That is when we saw a coat come over the side of the tower. It looked like it would fall all the way to the ground, but got caught on a gable of another building. The last we saw of the coat owner was his ringing the bell for the entrance of this building.

We went into the museum and saw everything from old pottery to tools and emblems associated with the various guilds. The history about the guilds was indeed new to me. At last we got to the very top and did the best we could to not drop our coats over the side of the building.

We went to a restaurant for a wonderful luncheon of traditonal Central European foods.

What a lovely and totally unexpected day. And now to answer: "What did you do in Europe?" I can always answer that I watched a coat fall off a tower in Sighisoura!

After our luncheon we noticed the coat was gone, so the gentleman was successful in somehow getting to the roof of the building and getting his coat.

Another Fulbrighter told me I would never forget Transylvania and that is certainly already true.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Getting to Transylvania

I left Pecs yesterday on the 15:23 train and got to Budapest right on time. Got to the hotel and quickly left again to get a light dinner. I decided to go back to a favorite place at Batthyany Ter, partly because I like the food and partly because it would put me at a good place for some photos at sunset.

Here is the Parliament Building at sunset.

And here is a view of the Liberty Monument far up on a Buda hill.

I went back to the hotel after eating and crashed out. Up at 6 AM today for I had a room on the "sunny" side of the hotel. Went to breakfast and asked for a taxi at 9 AM to take me to the airport, thinking that would get me there by 10:00 well in advance of my 12:15 flight. Did a polish change on my nails and then got out the plane ticket. Oh, heavens the flight leaves at 10:15 and gets there are 12:15. I grabbed everything very quckly and went down to reception and asked for a taxi immediately. I got to the airport about 9:00 and got on the flight to Targu Mures without any problem.

Arrived in Transylvania. Got through passport control and picked up my bag but couldn't find the promised driver. Quickly everyone was disappearing and all the taxis were getting customers and leaving. I thought one taxi still needed a customer and started walking there. I think that taxi driver had two customers already. There was a man there with a Rent a Car sign and I said something about needing a taxi. He said he would take me to the hotel for the same price as the taxi. I vertified the price and off we went. The airport is 14 kilometers from the town for I'm glad I found a ride.

I got to the Pension Ana. I gave my name and they simply handed me a key! My room is on the first floor (in the states we would say second floor) just to the right of the flags. I have a very nice room that opens out onto the first floor terrace. I'm right across the street from a very major hospital for this area of the country. When I went out walking I saw a helicopter arrive on airlift operation.

My short walk took me to two very interesting sights. The first appears to be a heros/military cemetary. I will be interested to learn if there has been a recent holiday or if the flowers are here everyday.

Above is one of the gravemarkers that I found. Even though this is in Romanian, the message is easy to read.

Walking back I found a very pretty wooden church.

My room here is very comfortable, the food is very good, and finding WI-FI was a great surprise. Off to a good start.