There’s so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones
Mark Knopfler,from Brothers In Arms
I tried to write Friday night, because I’d done something that I thought could be funny to describe earlier in the day but, as I started to write, Lou Reed’s There Is No Time kept playing from some deep recess, and I couldn’t get the images of American air strikes on Syria – telegraphed as they were to the “enemy” or “frenemy” or whatever Assad and Putin are to the U.S. these days – from my shallow recesses. Then I came across a video of two refugee women in Sweden hauntingly singing and talking about Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. And I couldn’t write.
As I’d mentioned in some earlier posts, the InterSpar store re-opened and I wasn’t expecting it to be a media-worthy event, which it probably wouldn’t be in the U.S., but here – and maybe because I was there on an early Friday evening – it was like a new iPhone model being made available.
As I wandered the store I felt like I’d been returned to childhood, to the time when the first shopping center opened in my hometown and everyone – rich and poor, famous and infamous, snockered and sane-eyed, zealot and zeus-keeper came out. InterSpar’s reopening was the county fair, the carnival and the Avon lady all in one place: families stood in wonder at the products that had been assembled under one set of walls. And it reminded me of grocery shopping in Mexico because multiple generations were there together, finding their neighbors and chatting in the aisles. The grocery carts were as large as those in the Mexican supermarket, too, because when you’re shopping for a month or for a large family, you need those things that look like 18-wheelers.
And I’m not talking about those contraptions found north of the border, those plasticy things molded in factories that also produce tires for jet landing gear, those things that allow kids to think they’re driving about the store, when, as always, it’s parents controlling their lives, those things that look like Minnie/Mickey have been eating too many chips for too long.
Those devices, however, have a singular charm for me: they can only attack from one direction. Hungarian shopping carts, and especially the new models at InterSpar, can come at you from any direction. By that I mean those in control of the cart have the freedom to slide about as if they were on ice: somehow the wheels don’t lock-in straight-on, they’re free-floating in some way so the front of the cart might be coming at you from a 45 degree angle and the rear of the cart can sorta pivot around (driver willing) and whack you from a different direction. Imagine a mega grocery store full of shopping carts ice skating in all directions.
People seemed stupefied by the quantity of products as they stood staring at things that I know they had at home, like dishes, knives, salt, sugar, etc. The store contains one of the best butcher shops I’ve ever seen and it has a selection of kitchen gear that would put some specialty shops to shame – and baking equipment, oh my. All that tells me Hungarians take their food very, very seriously.
Diverbo, the organization that looks for native English speakers to talk to people who want to improve their English at locales in Spain and Germany, notified me that I passed the first round. The “job” as a volunteer is to talk for 12 hours a day during the course of a week, in English, to strangers. It could be a fun way to meet some folks. I didn’t see anything in the volunteer conditions that said you had to tell the truth.
I opened the best $6 bottle of wine I’ve ever had, the bottle I bought last week. I also had a strawberry-“ricotta” torta at a cafe, which proved delicious although I think ricotta has a different meaning here than the one I had previously known. It was at that coffee house I saw the Easter egg tree, which was the same day I saw the bunny wreaths in the marketplace.
I had two plans for Monday’s classes – one involved watching videos online and the other – in case the internet were to prove quirky – was for the students to read Jabberwocky. And so Jabberwocky it was. In which occurs the word “galumphing” and every time it was pronounced, regardless of how it was pronounced, every student in every class laughed heartily. I initially interpreted their laughter to be due to the sound of the word. But the laughter was due to the word’s Hungarian meaning, which is something like pigeon farts.