Month: February 2005

English Club

Tonight I helped out Timóteus Társaság, Campus Crusade’s university ministry in Hungary, by going to their English Club meeting and speaking my mother tongue. English-speaking events are one way Timóteus Társaság meets new students.

About ten students came to this event, but only about half were Hungarian. The rest were Russian, and they didn’t even speak Hungarian! They took classes in Russian and English.

It made me feel much better knowing I wasn’t the only person living here who doesn’t speak Hungarian.

Tomorrow night and the next night I’ll be at similar events at the law school. Maybe I’ll get to sneak some Hungarian speaking practice in for myself as well.

In the middle of the Windows ritual

If you use Microsoft Windows on your computer, sooner or later, you’ll need to reinstall it. In the course of installing and uninstalling programs, visiting free game websites, crashing, etc. eventually things get so messed up you just need to start clean.

I bought a new hard drive for my laptop since it had run out of disk space and I was tired of spending hours managing files. But this means I had to reinstall Windows onto the new hard drive. It needed it, too. It had been 18 months since my last reinstall and my laptop had begun running slowly. I’m about halfway through the 40 or so program installations I need to complete for this process.

At the same time we are also considering options for our home computer. Since 1991 we have only spent about $400, yet we’ve managed to have about 4 different computers. Our current 5 year old model may actually have some life left in it if we can make some strategic upgrades to it. And, yes, it will almost certainly involve REINSTALLING WINDOWS!

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Well, we have our van now and a few less happy feelings about life here.

It turns out that my default option was getting my car certified, by hook or by crook, and if I didn’t pull the “stop the train” lever quickly it was going to happen. I never make decisions to cause train wrecks in my life quickly, so while I considered my options I ran out of time.

This evening when I picked it up I apologized to my mechanic for having put him in this “awkward situation,” not having known that I had these out-of-compliance issues with my van. He, of course, didn’t feel the least bit awkward and said, “This is how we do it in Hungary.” The thousands of Soviet-era Trabants on the road (just like the ones in the Amazing Race when it went through Hungary) testify to this truth.

If there is any one thing humans are good at, it’s justifying themselves in their own eyes, so I won’t bore you with my own convoluted path to that end. On the other hand, I feel like I need a shower. Good thing I’m forgiven.

The Bribe-Mobile rides again.

Bribe or walk; pick one

I just got a call from my mechanic. He said he needs another 10,000 Forint ($50) to bribe the mechanical inspection official to pass my car. The alternative is buying a new door (>$1000 and a one-month shipping delay) to replace the one I smashed last July – and getting the van re-fitted for European headlight standards, something the previous owner of the car just told me could cost “thousands.”

My certificate of inspection expires in 2 weeks. Hungarian police regularly inspect car papers. Just last Sunday night I was pulled over (and given a alcohol breath test which I passed of course!) The Seelys avoided having their car being impounded for an expired mechanical inspection only by the good graces of the police officer who caught them and Valerie’s tears. Our other friends, the Olsons, weren’t so fortunate. Last week they lost their car due to an expired mechanical inspection. It will be at least a month before they get their car back. (Yes, someone here needs to start telling the new families about this when they arrive!)

Do I:

a. get really angry. Well, this already happened.
b. bribe the inspection official. I am quite certain this is illegal in the EU.
c. spend $2000 to get the car into compliance and take public transportation while we wait for parts
d. buy a new car
e. ride public transportation for the next 18 months.
f. none of the above
g. pray and expect God to provide some unseen solution.

Cathy meets W’s “uncle” at school.

Today ICSB had a visit from American Royalty; US Ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker, cousin of former President George Herbert Walker Bush and “uncle” of President George W. Bush.

Cathy met him as he visited her special-needs teaching center, and she said it was just like meeting George H. W. Bush. He was very warm and kind and had the same smile.

Turns out he has done quite a bit of work in St. Louis, Missouri over the last 15 years, and so he was excited to know that Cathy grew up there.

He is also a follower of Jesus Christ and expressed himself on that matter very clearly.

This was definitely a fun highlight of our time here so far!

Dinner with our friend from Orlando-Berlin-Budapest

Tonight we had dinner with our friend, Andrew Solymosi. We met him when he came to do a sabbatical in Orlando with Campus Crusade for Christ. He is a professor at a university in Berlin and is part-time staff with Campus Crusade there, but he grew up in Budapest.

He has family here still, so he visits occasionally.

By far the most interesting thing of the evening was his story of experiencing the Hungrian Revolution in 1956 as a boy. He lived on one of the streets that borders Heroes Square and saw the Russian tanks rolling down his street as they suppressed the uprising. His parents joined the crowd that tore down the nearby statue of Stalin.

During the meal we got our Budapest street map out, and he showed us where many of the key events of the ’56 Revolution took place. Pretty amazing.

Like a small town – only not really.

ICSB vs BCA
ICSB Basketball Tournament 2005
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

This weekend was the ICSB International Basketball Tournament. Several Christian missionary schools from around Europe play in an annual tournament for bragging rights; Vienna Christian School, Kiev Christian Academy, Bucharest Christian Academy, and International Christian School of Budapest. Hinkson Christian Academy (Moscow) didn’t come this year.

Both the Kiev girls and boys teams won the tournament. Our team, ICSB, took second place in each as well.

Like a small American town, everyone in the community came to the games. Unlike a small American community, the teams came from different countries. But like a small American town, they were still mostly American kids.

Dead Snowman

Dead Snowman
Dead Snowman
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Inspired by their favorite cartoon character, Calvin, Andrew and Audrey created some snow horror scenes in the backyard tonight.

Equally as fun was Annie. I took a light outside (the one from my camera’s focus-assist) and ran her around the yard in circles. I got tired of it before she did.

Snow at the office during AWANA reply

snowing in Budaors
Snow at the office
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Growing up I went to AWANA, a Christian youth program run by many churches around the world. Now, as a missionary, I get an occasional email from someone in AWANA who needs to interview a missionary.

Today I answered one such inquiry and took a picture of my office view in the snow.

It looks a little ugly in this picture, but it’s actually interesting because it’s snowing. Looks much different than in November!

Cathy chases off the tree burglers

The tree theft attempt was foiled, but the damage was done.
Tree theft attempt
Originally uploaded by squarejer.

Last night at 12:45 am Annie jumped up off the bed barking and woke me up. Cathy was out of bed, so I got up to see what was going on.

Downstairs Cathy was peering out the blinds and announced in a matter of fact tone that, “Someone tried to break in.”

Why my wife was not a puddle of wilted nerves upstairs in the closet, if this was the case, was the first question on my mind, but before I could ask she explained more.

“I saw one guy across the street whistling signals to another guy hiding in our tree out front. So I opened the door loudly and scared them off. They ran across the field, and I see them waiting down the road.”

Again, I’m not sure if I’m awake or not at this point. Cathy would never try to scare off a thief, let alone stand there and watch them if they loitered! But apparently I was awake, and she was really up for this fight.

Seeing that she had the situation in hand, I went back to bed.

This morning when I took the dog out I discovered the object of the thieves’ attempt; our tree branches. We have a few evergreen trees that seem irresistable to some local florist supplier. They come by periodically through the year and strip one of our trees clean of any green branch.

This really irritates us.

Where’s Greenpeace when you need them!!?

Still working on the delivery.

Tonight we ordered Pizza Hut delivery for dinner with the Seelys. It took two hours to arrive, and we still had to pay for it. Things like that remind us that we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The driver got in a collision on the way, so we felt a little bad for him.

In the mean time we consumed a package of Oreos while the kids watched Garfield.

It was so close to being just like home, but not quite. And we wouldn’t want it any other way either.

This last week I’ve had photographer’s block. Got anything you want to see that I can take a picture of?

Blog toasters don’t work.

If you’ve been watching things this last year, you’ve seen blogs pop up everywhere. People have converted their whole websites to look like a blog, they’ve published newspapers blog style, they’ve reported political campaigns, created sales journals, etc. My coworkers and I even tried planning a conference with a blog. If that had worked we would have invented a blog toaster.

But it didn’t work. So instead we changed course today and began planning the old fashioned way; with a regular web-based collaboration package, Microsoft Sharepoint. Tom knocked out a work site in about 10 minutes, and we had most of our old work posted in about 30 minutes.

Even though I’m writing this in past tense, we haven’t yet really all agreed to switch course. Only Tom and I have. But since my coworker friends read this blog it’s all part of our psy-ops campaign to convince them to switch! 🙂

Equilibrium has been restored in the Universe

This winter we’ve had two days when school *should have* been cancelled due to snow but wasn’t. This created a state of imbalance in the Universe.

Today equilibrium was restored.

So many kids and teachers are sick (with highly contagious stuff) that they cancelled school for two days!

If that’s not evidence of God’s existence, I don’t know what is.

It wouldn’t have happened like this in America.

This morning I took our van in for some repairs and experienced something that wouldn’t have happened in America.

My friend, Beni, set up the appointment at this garage since he knows the mechanics and lives nearby. He said I could walk to his house after I dropped the van off and he would drive me in to the office when he went in himself.

When I arrived at Beni’s house he told me he wasn’t going in to the office today. D’oh! I knew I should have called him last night.

He suggested the 250 bus which stops just up the street and would connect to another bus that would get me back to the office (and then a short walk home for Friday language lessons). At the bus stop I discovered I had missed that bus by 10 minutes and would have to wait for the next one for another 30 minutes. No way.

Here’s where things get really different. In America I would have walked back to Beni’s and begged him to just give me a ride. Instead, I figured I could walk another ten minutes and catch a different bus on another road, one which I had never ridden before. I got to that bus stop only to discover that it didn’t even go my direction at all. But not to worry, there was another street, just five minutes away with another bus line. At that bus stop, now with a completely different schedule table that I had trouble reading, I stood and waited for the bus that would arrive in about 6 minutes.

There was an older man standing there with me, so I asked him if this bus went to my destination. He said it didn’t. Keep in mind there is a 90% chance that he didn’t understand my question, and there is a 90% chance that I didn’t understand his answer. Nevertheless, I wasn’t getting on any bus at that stop.

This is where the story becomes nothing at all like America. There were still other transportation options for me within five minutes! I simply crossed the street and caught a bus going the opposite direction, headed for the kids’ school. There I knew I could connect with Valerie who was dropping her kids off for school before heading to language lessons at our house.

Problem solved – Hungarian style!

Under the knife

Yesterday I had an appointment to get a couple irritated moles removed and analyzed. Sorry to write about my personal medical issues, but, hey, this is my blog. I expected no problems during the procedure, but I was uneasy about what the recovery period would be like. My expectations were fairly accurate; I’ve been pretty tired, even with as minor as the whole thing is. I have new sympathy for my friend, Dave, who had a hunk of his flesh removed similarly.

And I figure no one wants a picture on this post either.