Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weird Stuff Goes Down

Creepy Cat

I had the strangest encounter with a cat the other day. I had taken the elevator up to my floor at the hostel. Upon exiting I noticed an adorable black and white cat a few steps down the staircase. I stopped and stared for a minute or so because I haven't seen a cat in like forever and this one was pretty adorable.

I said "Hi kitty!" because I'm crazy and I like cats and the cat started meowing back at me for a solid 3 or 4 minutes, without any interjection from me, as if it was attempting to talk to me. I took a step toward it and it ran a few more steps down. At this point I figured this cat wasn't going to let me pet it so I turned around to walk to the door to the hostel and the cat meowed at me again. I turned back, looked at it strangely and yet another meow. So I took a few steps toward it and it ran down some more stairs.

Repeat process of me stopping following it, the cat meowing at me when I stopped and then trotting down some more stairs when I took steps towards it several times down the entire staircase until we ended up in the creepy dark hallway on the bottom floor that leads back to I have no idea probably murdersville.

The cat ended up deep in the dark shadows of the hallway and I could only tell where it was because it's eyes were reflecting the light behind me.

And this point I was insanely curious about where this cat wanted me to follow it, but I've also seen a couple horror movies. A person who follows a strange talking animal down a dark hallway in an unfamiliar place ALWAYS gets killed. Always. It's kind of a rule.

I also thought it would be ridiculous if my curiosity about a cat killed me (curiosity killed the cat) and since I don't have 9 lives, I decided it was best for my health to just go back up to the hostel.

I've since ventured down that hallway when it was light and there's nothing interesting down there, but maybe it's the cat that makes it interesting.


I have this weird thing with good guy friends - I can tell within a few times of hanging out with them whether or not we're going to be very good friends. It doesn't happen with boyfriends and it doesn't happen with girl friends (I'm actually usually completely wrong about girl friends - I never anticipate well which girls I'll be great friends with) and it doesn't happen with guy friends in general - only guy friends that turn out to be some of my best friends. I've known for all my very good guy friends.

I had this same feeling with hotboss. Of course, I know it's never going to happen, but there was the same amiability and, after I got over the blushing factor and actually had some conversations with him, I felt immediately comfortable - too comfortable actually, because I started teasing him and he got a bit defensive with one of them. I think if I had stuck around longer we'd ended up very good friends.

Or maybe my intuition would have been wrong for the first time ever.

Who knows.

(And if you're a guy friend of mine you know if you're a very good friend and if you are, then yes, I knew. I didn't tell you because it sounds creepy).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm So Excited!

I'm so excited that I'm just like Jessie Spano! Except, you know, without the drugs and the freaking out and stuff. But the excited part applies. A lot.


Ugh, even caps lock doesn't express it enough.

SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Caps lock + bold + italic + a bajillion exclamation marks? Eh, nope, still not really expressing it.

I'm going to London, people. I've wanted to go to London for as long as I've known London existed. English accents are kind of my favorite. I used to have a Prince William poster (I still might depending on what my mom may have done with it). English comedy is by far my favorite comedy style. If I wasn't so obviously German I'd say I was English. You get the picture - I'm a big fan. Thus, I'm incredibly exciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiited!!! Lots of happy dancing going on here.

And now for something completely different:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Misc., etc.

London Calling
London called me the other day. I was like, "what's up, London?"

"Oh, not much, just hanging around England, the usual."

"Sounds pretty cool."

"Yea, for sure. Listen, you should come visit, you're not that far and you haven't been here in like forever."

"Dude, I've been there in like never."

"I'm insulted that you forgot so fast - you were in Heathrow just a few weeks ago for a couple hours."

"Ok, ok. You're right. I'll come visit."

And that's how I ended up going to London for the last week of my time in Europe. Well, to be more specific, Oxford for two days and then London for four.

Things on Margaret Island in Order of Frequency
(most to least)

Teenagers making out
Baby strollers
Ice cream vendors
Statues of famous Hungarians
Hot dudes running on the track
Adults making out like teenagers
Hot dudes running on the track shirtless
Golf carts
Church/monestary ruins

(cars are not allowed on Margaret Island)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'll Miss You

Things I Miss About Home:
- family and friends is a given
- Free and endless ice water in restaurants (here you have to buy bottled mineral water and it's usually at least $1.50 for about 11 oz of water)
- Ice (it's possible to get ice in some places, but not generally - I'm now addicted to McD's iced tea because I can have as much ice as I want)
- Air conditioning everywhere (it's been SO HOT here and maybe 1 out of 10 places have air conditioning and that's probably being generous; thank God my office does, too bad THE MALL doesn't [I know, I couldn't believe it])
- Driving (I'm totally okay with not driving here because they're nuts and the roads are tiny, but I miss driving at home)
- The vegetables - it's so SO much easier to get fresh vegetables at home, this probably has something to do with the AC, veggies wilt a lot faster in the heat and the produce selections at most markets is pretty tiny; also, this was more in Vienna than Budapest, but they don't generally serve veggies as a side for meals and their side salads are either potatoes or cabbage covered in mayo
- Breakfast - there is almost no breakfast culture here. They usually grab a roll or croissant. The closest to american breakfast I've been able to find was this place that had "ham and eggs" on the menu - this meant that a couple slices of deli ham were laid in a large skillet, then three eggs were cracked on top, leaving the yolks whole, cooked sunny side up then served on a plate intact. And I was really happy about this because it's the closest I've gotten to american style breakfast.
- WIFI - I never realized how much I now take wifi for granted, and it hasn't even been around that long. A dependable wifi connection is hard to come by here.

Things I'll Miss About Europe:
- The beer, it's just seriously so delicious, even the really cheap stuff
- Leisurely meals, you can sit and talk for as long as you want, no pressure, no bigger tip expected and they don't bring the check until you ask for it
- The pillows, they're huge and firm, which is perfect for a side sleeper like me (not so good for stomach or back sleepers)
- The atmosphere, everything has tons of history, I wish some of the buildings could talk
- The public transportation system, I miss driving, but I almost don't. I've been able to get everywhere I've wanted to quickly and easily between the trams and undergrounds (I haven't even bothered with the buses).
- The white asparagus - this was pretty much just Vienna, but it was white asparagus season when we first got there and it was EVERYWHERE, soups, main dishes, side dishes, etc. and it was amazingly delicious.
- The food in general - I don't think I've had a single meal that I've disliked here. They are all at least good, but most are super good. Most especially these rolls they have that are basically a roll version of crusty french bread - so good with butter.
- Clothes dryers - there are washers, but everything is line dried. I need to shrink up my jeans SO BAD and I've really missed the smell of clothes right out of the dryer. Also, their washers have like half the capacity of washers at home, so because most places charge by the load you end up paying double.

Things I Won't Miss About Europe:
- Not bringing the check until you ask for it - yea, this is great for leisurely meals, but sometimes you really just need to get a move on to somewhere else. I don't think I've had a sit down waiter meal that's lasted under an hour and a half.
- Manpris - I'm pretty sure every european male owns at least one pair of manpris and they are AWFUL. I wish they would just wear normal shorts, the manpris are just so, so bad.
- Sundays - in Vienna more so than Budapest, but EVERYTHING is closed on Sundays: grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants; the only places open are chain fast food places; this always threw me off because at home I'm used to gearing up for the week on Sunday and doing grocery shopping and running errands. I consistently forgot that I needed to go to the grocery store on Saturday, not Sunday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sweating and Blushing

IT IS SO HOT, you guys. SO HOT.

My desktop weather thingy says that the temps for the next four days are 97, 99, 98, and 94. Oh, and 60% humidity.

On the plus side I have a nice steam room wherever I go so my skin has never looked better. Unfortunately that goes along with sweating through every piece of clothing I own. Yea, I know it sounds gross, but at least you're just reading about it and not living it.

I'm apparently adjusting, though. I'm not sweating/glistening nearly as much as I was before at lower temperatures.

Okay, in exchange for having to read about sweat I'll give you a story about me embarrassing myself that you can laugh at:

Hot Boss hasn't toned down his hotness in the office despite my insistence that it's out of control (insistence communicated by blushing whenever he says hi to me).

Today he asked for my email so he could either 1) flirt with me without our coworkers knowing, or 2) send me a contract to review (in homage to awesome choose your own adventure books, I'll let you pick the option).

After sending me the email he came out of his office to let me know and then asked how to pronounce my last name, which I pronounced. Knowing that he knows German (what? so I read his bio on the company website. You're supposed to read the website of the company you work for, no?) and knowing that my family does not pronounce our last name correctly according to its origin, I was about to tell him that we pronounce it differently, he interjected asking me if I knew what it meant. I replied that it did, we had a cute little exchange of both saying the meaning at the same time, then him pronouncing it how it's originally pronounced.

He then asked if I was of germanic origin, to which I replied "I prefer Jen", because I thought he had asked me what I prefer to be called - I have no excuse other than he makes me nervous. After his confused look and my realization of what he actually asked I had two response options: 1) a long, very TMI and very 20/20-hindsight-vision-embarrassing schpiel about how I think I am but because of family stuff I wasn't sure and that the last name wasn't a blood relation thing but my mom's maiden name is very German and it IS a blood relation thing so I'm pretty sure I'm mostly German, but not entirely sure, or 2) "Yes."

I picked the first option.

I'm cringing just reliving it in my head. So, so bad. So bad.

In other law firm news: there's this old attorney that works some days at the office. Whenever I run into him I feel like I'm being tested on how smart and cultured I am and that if I'm not smart and cultured enough I'm a representation of all that is wrong with America. I know that's not true, but Americans tend to not be thought of well abroad and I don't want to confirm any "Americans are ignorant and don't care about the rest of the world" bias.

Yesterday he asked me all about films and various languages. He kept asking me if I spoke [fill in language], which I had to reply that I didn't. I said I picked up a bit of German in Germany, to which he replied something in German, which I didn't understand. I said I had picked up a couple words in Hungarian, to which he replied something in Hungarian, which I didn't understand. He asked if I knew French, which I said I don't, and then he said something in French. Finally I said that I spoke a small amount of Spanish, to which he replied something that I finally DID understand and could reply to in Spanish. That seemed to satisfy him for the day and the exchange fulfilled my awkward quota for the month.

Today was a literature quiz. Thankfully I answered well off the bat with my favorite author being John Steinbeck. He started listing off Steinbeck books and I started thinking "dangit, I was not prepared for a literature quiz, what are all of Steinbeck's books?" Thankfully he didn't make me list any. But then he went into his favorite authors, only some of which I had read or even heard of. I think I managed a B.

What? You want to hear MORE about my new office? Okay then!

I am WAY busier at the new office. They have a ton for me to do, mostly including correcting english on documents, but also some very interesting research on EU law.

I kind of freaked out today, though. Yesterday they had me read a contract and write a memo on how our client could get out of the contract. I thought I had misunderstood the assignment, because it was incredibly easy to look at the "Termination" clause of the contract and then write down what it said. Turns out that's what they were looking for and decided to communicate the contents of my memo to the client as a recommendation for how he could terminate the contract. I then freaked out and was like "Dudes! I'm not an attorney! I can't make official legal recommendations, especially on what constitutes serious breach of contract under Swedish law!" I didn't say that, but I had thankfully written basically that in more professional terms at the end of the memo. I think at some point I'll have to get used to people relying on my opinion, though.

Aaaaaaand now I'm going to go home and try and convince myself to put away my clothes, but I'll probably end up reading and then fall asleep instead. Exciting stuff!

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Jobbaroni

Say goodbye to Tom everyone! ("Bye Tom!")

Despite Tom being my future husband who won't ever know it (I mean, really - tall, cute, nerdy and funny - is there a better description for my future spouse? I think not - stupid pesky "hungarian" thing getting in the way), I have moved on to another firm. It may be the best for our relationship - no worries about being found out around the office and such. One of my goals in life is to avoid being tawdry and really, an office affair would have tawdry written all over it. So I have moved on.

The new firm is a block up the street from the old firm. It adds maybe 2 minutes to my looooooooooong less than 10 minute walking commute. It's quite a bit fancier in the interior, unfortunately that means a less comfortable desk and desk chair (I'm seriously going to have to find a new chair - there's no way I'm sitting in a straight backed wooden chair full time for 3 weeks). Also, their coffee machine is woefully less fancy. I may have to drop in and say hi at the old firm just to take some coffee.

Oh, and I found my new future husband who won't ever know it. Probably the most gorgeous guy I've seen in Budapest so far AND he speaks english with an english/UK accent. Suh-woon. I literally blushed when talking to him today. That's bad news. I can't be blushing up in my workplace, that's inapprop. I think I'm going to ask him to tone down the hotness so I can get some work done.

This weekend was pretty mellow. On Saturday the director of the program invited the three of us left in B-town to a graduation party. Apparently the undergrads graduated on Saturday and there was a party for all the professors and deans. It was very sweet of him to invite us, but it's one of the most awkward things I've ever been to in my life. These professors could care less who I am and, to be honest, I could really care less who they are. Add in their not so great English and my non-existent Hungarian and it's a lot of nodding and "nice to meet you" and "oh, that's interesting, I did not know that." My one attempt at a more significant conversation with a Hungarian Constitutional scholar/prof ("what do you think of the proposed new constitution?") was met with a glare from the host. I know, I know, don't talk politics with strangers, but as I have no opinion and was just asking theirs I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. Apparently still a bit deal.

After a good dose of awkward washed down with a bigger dose of wine I headed to one of the most massive malls I've ever been to. It was huge. Massive. Gigantor. You get the hint. Notorious B-I-G big. Ok, I'm done. Just, it was big, and I want you to know that.

(They're playing Ricky Martin in the McDonald's right now, but it sounds weirdly dubbed in a different language, right music video, right music, wrong voice - just thought you should know that too).

I watched the new Twilight movie (shut up, it was one of the few movies that wasn't dubbed) then went on the hunt for a fan for my room. I smartly picked a hostel without air conditioning, which saves the buckaronis, but does not save me from sweating out a water bed at night. On the fan hunt (during which I texted Tom asking where I could buy a fan and received back "Probably this word has a meaning that I don't know. What kind of 'fan' would you like to buy? Not the kind that supports a team, right?") I ran across THIS AWESOMENESSS:

I literally gasped out loud when I saw it. I was so excited. Way, way more excited than I should have been, but it is the ONLY Starbucks in Budapest. I didn't think they had one at all.

I drank a delicious iced americano, found a fan and headed back to the hostel. I intended to clean up my room and put stuff away into drawers but instead I read and then fell asleep.

Sunday dawned bright and early with 10 chimes of the non-existent grandfather clock. I attempted to do some laundry and the kind of sort of laundrymat around the corner but the only english word these ladies knew was "tomorrow." (I went back "tomorrow," aka today, after having used the washer at my hostel and just needing the dryer and it turns out they also know "No" and "wash then dry only"). So instead I went to the two museums on either side of Heroes Square. The one on the right is useless - so glad they gave me the student discount because every single piece was a complete stretch. I must not be cultured enough. The museum on the left side was pretty awesome. They had some beautiful pieces. I really have no idea what else to write about a museum.

On to the excitement! Watching the world cup final in an Irish bar that was so insanely hot I never put down the menu because I was fanning myself with it. After 120 minutes of pretty much nothing but me sweating and drinking a Guinness, Spain scored a goal and put us all out of our misery.

Ok, fine, that wasn't exciting at all, but I ran out of writing steam and snark like 10 minutes ago but figured I needed to round out the weekend anyway. You're welcome!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Entry Where I Wow You With My Delightful Genius

I've managed to pick up a bit of both German and Hungarian in the nearly 7 weeks I've been abroad. I would hope so ... being surrounded by a language for so long and not bothering to learn any of it would make me a pretty bad guest.

I managed to learn enough German to order food fairly well, but it basically consisted of me ordering, and the waiter writing it down. If they asked any follow up questions I was screwed. That's the hard part of trying to initiate conversation in a foreign language ... they continue in the foreign language and then you look like a jerk reverting back to english when the conversation gets more complicated. That rarely happened, though. My pronunciation is so bad they usually respond in english with any follow up.

Anyway, here is my mini German and Hungarian lesson for you. Print it out and take it with you if you ever go to Austria or Hungary and you'll be all set.

Ich hitte gern ein groβ Märzen und ein frittatensuppe und ein käsespaetzle ohne zwiebel, bitta. (I would like a large Märzen [type of beer] and a soup with pancake slices and cheese dumplings without onion, please).

Ich hitte gern svei wasser ohne köhlensaure, bitta. (I would like two waters without gas, please).

Danke/dankeschön (thank you/thank you very much)
Bitte/bitteschön (you're welcome/you're welcome very much)

(This is way more basic because almost nothing in Hungarian sounds or looks similar to the equivalent english word, so it's much more difficult than German)
Igen (yes [eegan] - they often say it in a string of three or four)
Nem (no)
(okay [yo])
szia (hello or goodbye)
köszönöm (Thank you [koh-soh-gnome]
Szívesen (You're welcome [see-va-shem])
egészségedre (Two uses: like bless you after someone sneezes or as a drinking cheers - it means "to your health" [egg-geh-sheh-geh-dreh)
szeretnék kérni (I would like ... [I haven't actually used this one yet, since Tom just wrote it down yesterday and I'm pretty sure I'm not pronouncing it even close to correctly])

Tom says my pronunciation is very good, so I'm pretty proud of myself. Though most of the time I feel like I'm in the middle of that SNL Nunni sketch - the one where two people who live in a weird apartment are both named Nunni. The normal people can't hear the slight differences and keep pronouncing their names wrong ("My name is Nunni." "Hi Nunni." "No, it's pronounced Nunni." "Sorry, Nunni." "No, Nunni" and on and on ...). The strange people likewise have difficulty pronouncing normal names ("Frank" turns into "Frwowude"). Man, this reference would be so much better if SNL didn't consistently take things off of YouTube and if I could access Hulu abroad. You'll have to suffer with my poor recount of a funny skit.

Ultimate lesson: learn "hello" and "thank you" in the language of wherever you are and you'll get places. Everyone is so delighted when I bust out some Hungarian.