Month: May 2006

Last Day at the Office

Last Day at the Office

Last Day at the Office

Today the pictures come off the wall, the files go in a box, and I clear out. Another milestone.

Before I leave I will take a moment to remember this one. It’s the biggest office I’ve ever had, and it has a view better than I ever hope to have again. In Orlando I’ll have an 8 x 8 cubicle in the middle of a cubicle farm, possibly not even within 20 feet of a window. This one was nice while it lasted.

The Start of my Blackmail Career

On a cold, drizzly day today here in Budapest Andrew finished his least favorite class; Hungarian Culture. His first year of this class was a dud because the teacher was, well, not a good one for sixth grade boys. I forget what last year was like, but the reason this year’s class fell to the bottom of his, and all the other boys in his class, popularity charts was because they had to learn and perform a traditional Hungarian dance. A day has not passed in the last six weeks where we have not heard of the pain and suffering each of these boys has endured. While this could reasonably be expected from girls, he asks, how can anyone expect 8th grade boys to like this? His sympathetic father didn’t help the situation any either.

Today, though, his sympathetic father took a step down the road of sinister behavior. I recorded video of his Hungarian dance performance. He trusts me enough to know that I probably won’t post this video here, but his friends weren’t so sure. When one of his friends saw me filming, a look of horror shot across his face.

“Please tell me you will delete that video, Mr. Hertzler!”

“Hertzlers.com,” was my only reply.

This sent him over the edge. He almost tackled me to get the camera.

While I don’t plan to show you this video, I do plan to hold it over Andrew’s head as a threat whenever it serves my ends. Let the blackmail begin!

Almost Ready for Prime-Time

Uh oh. I got hooked on another web site project last night. It was my goal before we moved to get the OLD Danube International Church website converted to a NEW Danube International Church website based on a content management system called Joomla. This change will allow members to login and see private information, and it will allow anyone with a web browser to update the content without knowing anything technical. The software system was free, and I paid $20 for the template which is in use on the site (which gives the site its look and feel). It took me about 20 hours of work over the last few months and, voila, a new website!

Compared to the amount of time, money, and expertise previously required to produce something equivalent five years ago, this is like magic. I am really amazed.

[If you visit the site, try the “Template Chooser” feature in the lower left corner. I found it amusing.
Also, I would value any feedback you have about the site. Post comments here.]

Andrew’s Award

Andrew's Award

Andrew’s Award

We could not have been more proud last night when ICSB (International Christian School of Budapest) presented Andrew the “2006 Outstanding Middle School Boy” Award at the annual school awards ceremony. I forget the character qualities they mentioned, as I was fumbling to get my camera into action, but what I heard was that he hung the Moon.

Way to go, Andrew!

The Fine Art of Parking on the Sidewalk

Lest I depart Europe with the smug confidence that I had learned how to drive and park on the sidewalk, the Budapest parking patrol gave me a lesson in humility a couple days ago. Upon returning to my car, parallel parked with two wheels on the sidewalk like the other seven cars adjacent to mine, I found a 10,000 Forint ($50) parking ticket on my windshield. The ticket was issued 15 minutes before my parking permit expired, so I had no idea what was going on.

A call to the city administration (made by a helpful friend) revealed that I should actually have parked all four wheels on the street, not just two. Of course, the only way a foreigner like me would know this would be if I had either recognized a sign marking the area or maybe if I had acquired a Hungarian driver’s license and studied all the parking rules in the process. Having not done this, I suppose the last laugh was on me after all.

Valerie once got a ticket for parking all four wheels on the sidewalk in a two-wheels-only-on-the-sidewalk area, and plenty of others we know have parked all four wheels on the street and received tickets. Furthermore, all the other cars around me were parked identically to mine. This is simply an unsolved mystery for me, a departing gesture of affection from Budapest.

Planning Life in Orlando

We’ve now hit that point. It’s when your planning begins to be about your new location more than your present location.

The day it occurred three years ago was when the Gowers invited us for a barbeque at their house for the following week. We were still in Orlando at the time, and that’s when it hit us that we would soon be in Budapest.

Today it occurred as we made plans to attend a Campus Crusade conference in Orlando for returning overseas missionaries. We also decided not to drop Andrew right into a special summer school program, and we think there is a good camp opportunity for Audrey later in July. We have orthodontist appointments scheduled for both kids, and we are almost done setting up utilities at our house.

After this weekend there are only two weeks remaining until we fly to Orlando!

Ugly Stick Photo

Ugly Stick Photo

Ugly Stick Photo

Last week I applied for a new passport and mentioned that the photo service I used hit me with their ugly stick just prior to the exposure. Several people goaded me to post this frightful image, so here it is.

“You don’t look ugly, Honey. You just look serious… international… and like a hit man,” was Cathy’s “encouragement” when I showed her. Thanks, Sweetheart. I think.

This new travel document has one nice aspect, and as I picked it up today they told me I was lucky. I got a 48 page passport rather than the standard-issue 24 pager. That means fewer page inserts will be necessary in the future when this one fills up. My freshly retired passport had two 24-page inserts added already, making it look more like a pocket novel than a passport.

Since I’ve already shown you the worst, I might as well show you the rest, too. The event which best epitomizes my other bad ID picture is the time I flashed my driver’s license to the high school punk running the Blockbuster register a few years ago.

Florida DL photo

“Surprised, huh?” was his unsolicited comment when he saw it. Grr.

Not Unlike Two Years Ago

ICSB Family Field Day

ICSB Family Field Day

Two years ago around this time our lives looked amazingly similar to what they look like now.

We had just experienced our first ICSB Family Field Day, and Audrey had her first experience with braces.

Today we had another fun ICSB Family Field Day, and tomorrow Audrey will have a one-week check up on her second set of braces. (This set created pain for an entire week, as all of her teeth now have bands and wires.)

We didn’t eat downtown with the Seelys today, but we did have a friend join us for dinner; Mallory, Audrey’s friend who has become like a family member in our house this last year.

The cherries are ripe like before, but most like two years ago – we all ended the day with a sunburn!

Solution to Photo Problem!

Bharat, technical support guru from Gallery’s forums, fixed my photo installation problem today! I am impressed. Not that I thought someone couldn’t fix it, I just didn’t think I’d find anyone willing to fix it.

Good work, Bharat! Thank you!

Solution to US Passport Problem

The US Embassy in Budapest

The US Embassy in Budapest

Yesterday I solved my looming passport problem; the upcoming inclusion of an RFID chip in all newly issued US passports. This is a problem for me, and anyone else who is even the slightest bit paranoid, because it makes identity theft one step easier for hi-tech identity thieves. (Read more about how the Dutch passport RFID chip encryption has already been cracked.)

I fixed the problem by simply applying for a new passport that will be good for another ten years. The RFID-chip passports are still in testing and only in use by government employees, so the ones currently issued don’t have the chip. Sure the solution cost $67, but my passport expires next year anyway.

In solving one problem I created another, though. I had to get more passport photos made, and the photo store I used hit me with the ugly stick right before they took my picture. Living with that picture for 10 more years may be just as bad as having an RFID chip on my passport!

Hungarian Car Papers

“Do you have the car papers?” is one of the most common questions around our house.

One consistent factor of life in Hungary: car papers. These official documents must be with the car at all times when in operation. Not too hard there. These official documents must NOT be in the car when it is not in operation. Therein lies the challenge. Once you remove the papers, it is hard to always remember them again.

I have never seen anyone’s car papers in anything except these plastic wallets. I would expect people to want to customize the appearance of their own car papers, but apparently no one does. It’s probably not allowed.

This will be another thing we will leave behind in Budapest. It will be nice to just leave our car’s registration papers in the glove box again and forget about them.

Doesn’t Look Good For Humpty

It looks my photo software, Gallery, took a Humpty Dumpty fall and won’t go back together again. Unless the technical support volunteers at Gallery come back with some amazing help, I think it’s dead.

This is one of the most frustrating problems I have ever walked away from. It bothers me to leave a problem that I have engaged with unsolved. While I am sure that I could eventually solve this problem, I am also sure the time spent solving it would neither be enjoyable nor worth the final result.

So it’s back to Flickr.com and all the associated problems I was happy to have left for the last six months. In the end, I’m sure I’ll spend less time dealing with Flickr problems than I’ve already spent on Gallery software!

Cat Eludes Her Captors Twice




Cat

Cat, not really a captive, eluded her would-be new owners recently; not once, but twice.

Scott, who stayed with us last week while taking a seminary course here in Budapest, planned to take her back to Zagreb with him. Their family has been looking forward to getting Cat for a while now, but Cat was outside when Scott had to leave, and she didn’t return until later that night. Strike one.

Yesterday there was someone else going from Budapest to Zagreb, but his route to Zagreb involved several stops and long stays in a potentially hot car. This courier also made it clear he would leave her at the border if he got any hassles from the border guards. Strike two.

So Cat managed to keep her home another day, but our search for a new Cat home kicked into the next higher gear.

The Hertzler’s Orange Fork Sale

Hertzler's Orange Fork Sale Catalogue


Hertzler’s Orange Fork – (not for sale)

My friend, Scott, is also moving his family from Budapest to the U.S. He had a creative idea for marketing his sale items; Barbie. We’re selling some things, too, and, while not as cute as Barbie, our orange fork will be your guide.

Click here (or on the photo) to go to the catalogue of items we have for sale.

Too bad the Hertzlers.com photo software is broken right now. I had to post things to Flickr.com instead.

If there is something you want, send me an email using the “Contact” link above.

Budaörs City Hall

Yesterday I went to City Hall – by myself. This was a new challenge for me; interacting with local government without someone along to help. Actually I brought my mobile phone with me, and I used it twice, so I guess I had help after all. It was an accomplishment either way.

The people at the Budaörs City Hall could not have been nicer. They helped me find the right place to go, and they even found someone to translate into English for me. It was a very pleasant experience!

If everything works right, in two weeks I should have a laminated card indicating that I am the official owner of my 1995 Ford Windstar – at which point I hope this fact becomes history as the ownership passes to someone else.

Cereal Box Surprises

Translating cereal boxes in Hungary provides us lots of morning entertainment. You have lots of pictures to help you out, and they are often written to the less alert or the beginning reading crowd. Our most recent box of “Cini Mini’s” (Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the U.S.) had a surprise we never expected on a cereal box, much less any box of food; toy body parts.

Our first hidden surprise was a plastic nose. It had air holes at the usual places, so naturally, it soon became a runny nose once filled with water. Fun, but not exactly what I would expect from my cereal box.

This morning’s surprise was – intestines! Yes, inflatable intenstines, a la, whoopee cushion intenstines. I am still amazed that this came out of my cereal box.

Nevertheless we played along and enjoyed our new toy. Here Jim, our guest for the week, blows it up for the first try.

One van-full gone; one half van-full to go.

This morning I unloaded a van-full of rummage sale items to the kids’ school. Since I had to leave room for a few kids, too, there is one half van load to go. I figure this will amount to about 2-3 cubic meters of stuff leaving our house and not going to Orlando. What a great feeling!

To make the morning even better, after I dropped off all that stuff I took the van across the street to get the air conditioning repaired. This was a huge gamble, as I had no idea if they spoke any English, or whether they would understand my Hungarian, or whether they would fix my A/C even if they could and, most of all, if I’d discover I had expensive A/C problems. (Are there any other kind?)

After successfully communicating in Anglo-Magyar (not that hard after all; how many types of problems can you bring to an air conditioning repair place? “nem hideg” – not cold – did it.) and a five minute wait, they took a look and made a diagnosis; two old gaskets that let all the freon leak out. Within 20 minutes they had them replaced, and I was on my way with cold air blowing out my vents. Cost: 12,000 Forint ($60).

‘It doesn’t look like you’re moving.’

Last night Scott, Jim, and Michael came to stay with us for a week. Our attic has enough room, and we have enough mattresses to sleep them here while they attend a seminary class that our CCC theology training team teaches here in Budapest.

Scott was here last month with his wife, Jane. It was good catching up with him last night and getting to know Michael and Jim, too. As we were sitting around talking, Scott looked around and said, “It sure doesn’t look like you’re moving in a month!”

And then I had my first mini panic attack. I am sure there will be more to come in the next few weeks!