Hungary has no raw materials and no major energy sources; we have some agricultural background. So what we produce here in Hungary is the result of our labor and minds, and then we have to sell it to the world. If we are not able to do that, if we are not innovative enough, if we are not modern and open enough, we can’t do that.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban
I feel like such a townie.
Saturday, relatively early I might add – at least several hours before the post office was due to close – I set out with my official “pick up something important from the government” notice that had been left in my mailbox. I figured out what I needed to do, where I needed to go, and , walking briskly past the big tree and under the enormous crows’ nests – after 70+ years I now understood the term “crow’s nest” as these large birds build their nests 20 or more meters above the ground – then making one incorrect turn after another, I ended up at the railroad station (nice to know where it is) and then retraced my steps somewhat until I came to a bar (around 10:30 a.m.) where a gentleman stood smoking a cigarette outdoors, so I asked in my most impeccable Hungarian, “where’s the the post office (Hol van posta?)” and I learned he was the wrong person to ask, because he looked towards the door where another gentleman, silver-haired, now stepped out of the bar to light up, although he, too, already looked to be somewhat lit, so I repeated my question and he began to give directions and I, acting like I understood, repeated “balra, balra, egyenesen” (right, right, then straight ahead) which isn’t what he said, but he wasn’t really in a condition to disagree with me. So I went back in the direction from whence I had come, which was the wrong direction. I won’t make a long story longer, but suffice it to say I ended up where I needed to within the allotted time.
There are some foreigners who feel the Hungarian post office to be just outside the gates to hell, but I was aware of their stories and that I needed to watch the natives, and lo and behold, like the watering hole in the savannah, I followed my way to the thing with the push-buttons that put you in the queue. I hadn’t a clue what every button but one meant, but I do know információ when I see it and pushed that button. Because everyone else knew what they were doing, there was no queue for the information desk where a nice woman explained where I needed to go and she saw that not a word registered, so she led the way. A few minutes later I had my envelope, a relatively important note from the immigration office that says I can stay in Hungary until 31 August 2017. Yay!
It was then I realized that I’m actually doing something that I’d always wanted to do: live in Europe. It’s not where I thought it would be, and it’s not how I thought it would be, and I’m not doing what I thought I would be, but here I am.
I did grocery shopping at Spar, a chain store I know from Budapest and they don’t follow the chaos at any expense theory of shelf stocking. Management apparently believes in an orderly arrangement of goods, but it wasn’t as much fun as shopping at Lidl or Penny. I think wanna-be Americans work at Spar because when the checkout line backed up, they opened another line. At other stores, they’re too busy stocking shelves to bother with checkout.