Drake Starling
2008-09 Outbound to Hungary
Hometown: St. Johns, Florida
School: Bartram Trail High School, St. Johns, Florida
Sponsor: Southpoint Jacksonville Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Budapest-City Rotary Club, District 1911, Hungary

Drake's Bio

 “Professing to be wise, they become fools.” – Romans 1:22

Bliss can be found in ignorance like the old saying “Ignorance is Bliss,” but bliss can also be found in wisdom. Therefore, if we are wise, we are blissful, but if we are ignorant we enjoy a close-minded form of bliss which is a transparent form of happiness; in other words we can only be happy with what we see because it’s all that we know.

If we only could step out of our comfort zone and accept that we cannot change some things and use courage to change the things we can, then we become wise, and we remain blissful, but this time without walls and blinders and hindrances we are finally open to the world, then we see that with wisdom we become too blissful, thinking that we know it all, so we attempt to humble ourselves. When we hear people say “Oh, some people just think they know everything,” you think to yourself “That’s how I feel, like I’ve got everything figured out,” so we tell ourselves, or we should tell ourselves that it’s best that we not act like we know it all and that we have everything figured out. However, we tell ourselves this but we do not act upon it, so we continue on believing that we are indeed wiser (and it’s inevitable we all make that mistake) but that’s what makes us fat and happy and eventually those words, thoughts and actions of wisdom become obsolete to us and we fall from our point of nirvana and clarity; and we as livers of life professing to be wise become fools.

I do not want to be a fool, I have no intention of being blissful through ignorance, and as a matter of fact I refuse it. I’m fifteen years old and I’m going to Hungary for an entire year and although you don’t hear that every day I say it just about every day yet it somehow doesn’t lose its zeal. I could tell you all about my hobbies, friends, family and whatever else is usually found in a biography, however I’m telling you this instead because it’s something that will hopefully show you more than “Drake Starling” but his inner thought, so here it goes.

I find myself wanting wisdom, although right now I think I have everything figured out, probably the teenager talking in me, I have enough sense now to know that when I feel that way, it’s just a feeling. I hope - no, I know that this year will make me into something great. For every exchange student I know that he/she will become something great. When we tell people about what we’re doing this year they look at us like we’re crazy and they’re absolutely right, because no normal person would do this, it takes a certain person to do this; and if that’s what qualifies as crazy then so be it, we’re crazy, and I’m proud of it.

I look back at former exchange students and there is something in their eyes that tells us that they are a different type of people, and I see the naivety in our eyes as we embark on this experience and I can’t help but think “Will my eyes tell people that when I get back?” I sure want them too, but I guess that depends on whether or not I want this badly enough, I want this like I’ve never wanted anything before but what’s going to make me blissful is if I step out of my comfort zone and embrace all that this has to offer, even if it is going to be difficult.

No one ever said this was going to be easy, it’s going to be the furthest thing from easy, I have to let go of what I know and love and learn to start all over, a fresh start. That’s an enticing yet scary idea. I’m ready to do this, I’m ready to let go. It will definitely be worth it. Thank you to everyone who has had some role in this; Mom, Rotarians, and all my family for supporting me to do this. I’m ready to let go and begin.


July 30 Journal

 All right, I have 25 days left…. 25! When did that happen? Everyone will tell you something that starts off like “It seems like just yesterday I signed up for the program,” they’ll say something about the past and how they prepared for leaving but I want to forget the past, well, not forget it entirely but more like, press the pause button, take the movie out, put in a new one and restart later where I left off.

I haven’t left yet but I already feel changed by this experience, not in its entirety but I feel much more mature than your average junior. Maybe it’s just nerves, but this doesn’t seem as unreal as I thought it would be. I went to the mall today to get some winter clothes for Budapest (I hear it gets cold there hehe) and when my mother was telling the cashier why we needed the clothes, which she always does even if they don’t need to know why, he was gladdened to hear that I wanted to go study overseas, but he asked that one question that I don’t have the right answer to. “Are you fluent in Hungarian?” “UHH…. well, I… a little?” I mean I have studied a lot of Hungarian, and I can hold a minimal conversation with a native speaker, a two year old perhaps, however I don’t want to be minimally fluent. My goal is and has been to be fluent by the time I get there and if I try to and continue attempting then hey! What’s stopping me?


August 26 Journal

 All right, here we go. It’s day two for me and I haven’t slept properly since I got on the plane, I’m too excited to be here.

This city is nicknamed “The Paris of the East,” and I can see why. I’d like to talk about the flight but I’m trying to repress some horrible memories, and well…I….it…just wasn’t good, but the airplane food is gone now, far away from me.

I have the top floor of the house all to myself, it has two secret passageways, yeah that’s right SECRET passage ways! It’s almost the size of my house and it’s all mine. Plus it has the best view of the city, every morning I wake up to a sunrise over the mountains of Buda and look down the river at Pest. It’s quite a sight.

My Hungarian has improved a lot since I’ve been here. Today I was listening to a conversation my host sister was having and I finally understood how to say “I have.” Hey! I know that you other outbounds are saying that that’s the easiest verb in any language, but guess what, there is no way to say "I have" in Hungarian, so they have to use several other words. There are at least three ways to say I have, and I just learned them, so ha!

Everyone says my Hungarian is AMAZING. I was so happy when I met my rotary club tonight, and they told me that…. Well, they didn’t have to say too much, their mouths were open the whole time. However, I’m still not satisfied with It so I’ll improve it.

OH, by the way the reason I’m so tired is because last night I opened my windows since it’s so cool outside and I fell asleep and woke up at 2am because I heard a buzzing and it was a moth the size of my hand, and I’m not gonna lie I was a little…”Startled.” So guess who had to battle a 5 inch moth monster at 2am….that’s right me. Now… guess who won. Haha, I think the neighbors must have heard it because it was quite a noise I made, and then today we went around town and everyone and their mother wanted to meet me. So I met everyone and I tried to remember all their names but it wasn’t working.

My host family is extremely hospitable, and just about perfect. I couldn’t ask for a better one. So many things to do, such little time to do them in. HAAAA overload. I start school in a week, so I have to be fluent by then or else. This is the best feeling I’ve ever had. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

A viszontlátásra


August 28 Journal

 I know I wrote yesterday but there’s something that I just have to say. Today I read some of the student journals and many of them described the feelings they had before leaving and while they were leaving, and I hate to say names, but Joe…you’re awesome. I liked your journal, it shows more than you let on.

Anyway, when I said goodbye to everyone, it didn’t hurt as much as they said it would, and I just told myself that It was because it hadn’t sunk in yet, but I’m here and I still don’t feel sad, or deeply missing family or friends. I didn’t find myself crying at the airport or when I got off the plane, and I was waiting for the roller coaster of emotions as I reminisced about my memories at home, but still nothing. At this point, I was forcing myself to be sad, but it wasn’t working. I was too excited so I thought I could try it later, and I did but still NOTHING.

OK, that’s a lie. I was a little sad to leave, but not the depression that the Rotex speak of. I think I realize (after 3 short days) that it’s because I know I’ll be back. I know I’ll return, but life back home isn’t going to wait for me. But if I wait for it, then I’ll lose out on life here and there. I can’t hold onto both for now, but I keep on thinking that when I do return home, how great it’s going to be to have both worlds in my hand - such power and knowledge and wisdom I’ll have, and no one will be able to take it away from me.

However if I do fall prey to emotions, which I know I will, then I’ll know it’s because I’m absolutely unique…just like everyone else. Life is good….and it only gets better because we want it to.


September 29 Journal

 All right, it’s been a while since my last journal, I know. I write this in my bed, covered in sheets with tissues and medicine everywhere and as I look out my window I see the city, hustling and bustling. People are going on with their lives. I like days like this because then I can reflect back on what I’ve done, and then I learn what I have to do. I went to Lake Balaton, the Hungarian “SEA.” Even though there are puddles in my backyard that are bigger, it’s still a sea to them, I love it. It was supposed to be a getaway tennis tournament weekend for my host father, which it was, but I was planning to go swimming, ping pong tournament, volleyball, go to the beach, bicycle, and everything under the sun, but plans never really work out how I want them to anymore, I was stuck indoors in the hotel, with a cold, and I am still with the same dreaded cold.

OHH! Almost forgot I went to Vienna, it was the best, beautiful, but Budapest is prettier (Don’t tell the Austrians I said that) and I went into the old Hapsburg royal palace, the national museums, and St. Stephen’s church. I swear everything in Hungary and is named after Stephen. St. Stephen’s square, St. Stephen’s hill, St. Stephen’s buildings, streets, shopping centers, OHH the agony!!!!!And then when I thought I was going to get away from it all, NOOOOOO. Everything in Vienna had to be named after Stephen too, and yet no one can pronounce my name properly, life is funny.

Also, I had my 16th birthday here, it was surprising. At first, I thought nothing of it, I almost forgot my own birthday, then I had dinner with my family and started to fall asleep from the carbs, and I thought maybe I should go rest- and then BOOM! The lights went off, the door opened, candles were lit and I came face to face with the most delicious cherry filled, turo (cheese)-cake in the world. The singing began “Boldog Szuletesnapot, Boldog szuletesnapot, boldog szuletesnapot…” etc. It was a good day.

I think the little things in life are what make us the happiest. I was late leaving the house the other day, and the bus was late, I was pinned to the glass window like silly putty, and then I ran to school, ran like my life depended on it. I had three blocks to go in 50 seconds. I barely made it in before they locked the doors, I ran up to my classroom and saw that that door was closed, so class must have started earlier, and even though you’re not supposed to come in to a class after it begins I had to. I knocked, no one answered, I banged no one answered, I said “this isn’t funny in Hungarian” and then the woman next door, came out and said there are no classes today. Just my luck, then I sat down, thought about what I should do and decided I need some fun, so I went deep into Buda, got lost, on purpose, and somehow ended up without even planning to, at fisherman’s bastion in the old city overlooking all of Budapest. Things were coming my way. I went to the mall, and then I did a double take at the large group of students headed my way, it was my class. They were coming to the dentist. Here, no one goes by themselves to the dentist, only in school groups, strange. Of course, NO ONE told me about it, so I got on the bus, and went to Pest to meet the other exchange students for our weekly meeting, where we try to teach each other Hungarian and told them how my day went, oh and I was hit by an old lady’s purse on the subway, long story it was her fault…….. mostly.

On another note, my host family is nothing short of perfect. I’m starting to grow to love them, I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to leave them, I hope that day never comes. They do everything to make me feel comfortable or happy.


November 15 Journal

 I understand now why babies can’t talk for the first two years of their life, it’s because they’re so tired from learning the language. Everyone says, “You’re such an adult for doing this,” but usually they never finish that conversation with me because I have to go take my daily nap (yes I take a daily nap.) I think it’s the only way I’d survive here.

I’ve decided to start doing my journals a certain way. First, in every journal, I will describe the native culture. Second, I will describe the happenings and on-goings of my life. So lucky for you, you get the best of both worlds. Now I will begin.

I think I’m getting better at school. The language is getting easier everyday, but some days I’m on the ball and other days I can’t even find the ball. The teachers are more than helpful to me in my language learning. The students are nice people. However, they're not perfect. I try to pick my friends carefully, because I think I have to here (there’s no telling what natives can get an exchange student to do if they’re bad apples.) School is probably the cleanest place in the city. Budapest could use a few renovations. Nonetheless, it’s beautiful.

However, since Budapest is so dirty, my Rotary club here has suggested a project called, “Szeretem Budapestet” Which means, “I love Budapest.” So the other local exchange students and I have decided to get involved in it. What it entails is going around the city, picking up garbage, and trash and painting over graffiti in the city. As exchange students, most of us really don’t think that we can make a change (whether it’s in our host country, community, or even back home.)

Sadly, most of us think that we’re just here to have fun and stay on vacation for a year. I don’t want to vacation here for a year. I want to live here for a year. Become a native, make my own opinions about the political happenings, and understand the history to learn why the present is the way it is, and then predict and hope for what the future may hold for the Hungarian people. I want to feel Hungarian. Just like I feel American. So I think the language is becoming less of a challenge for me. I'm so happy. It feels like I've been holding my breath since I've arrived, waiting to exhale, and I don't think I can yet, but the pressure is definitely starting to release. It's a really good feeling. I’ve been finding myself thinking in Hungarian lately, without even realizing it, I’m understanding so much more. I never thought this period would actually come to pass. It’s like my brain is clicking and the sparks are flying everywhere but then the ohhh so sudden meltdown comes and I feel like a blob of gelatin. I can’t make out a sentence, I lose my senses. All you want to do is sleep and then you wake up more tired than before.

Luckily for me, every morning I wake up to a great host family, good food, warm house and more good food. It’s actually quite funny and I’ve noticed this of many Hungarians. When I come downstairs for dinner and my family tells me, “Please, have something to eat,” and they go through the entire list of items in the fridge or pantry that I could eat, which is the best, who cooked it and for what special occasion. I’m telling you I know that fridge like the back of my hand. I have to stop them somewhere and say “No thank you, I’m not hungry,” then I usually get the reply, “Ok, in that case, you should try the cherry and cottage cheese pancake.” So I usually end up eating the pancake anyway. I can honestly say every day I am stuffed to the rim.

On habits, Hungarians have unique habits, that most of the time make me laugh out loud. First of all, even if there are no cars for miles around and the red “do not walk” sign is lit then they still don’t cross the road. My logic is if there are no vehicles coming then I can cross, but when I do people look at me like I’m crazy, and say things like “You can’t do that.” I usually reply “Is it illegal?” “Well, no but-“ “Is it rude, or low-class?” “No, but-“ “But what?” “We just never thought of it before” “Well, we learn something new every day. Don’t we?” Ok, it didn’t go exactly like that, I’m not rude to the natives Al, I promise.

School. School here is solely an academic place, there are no clubs, no after school activities, or anything of the sort. However, since my school is a special athletic school everyone has a sport to do after school. It could be anything from synchronized swimming to hand ball or soccer to Olympic gymnastics. That’s right I have some Olympians attending my school. As a matter of fact my school was named after a Hungarian Olympian. Csik Ferenc, maybe you’ve heard of him…….or not. Anyway, I’m making friends faster than I thought. Last night I went to a birthday party that everyone invited me to and it was great, I think it was the first time the words were coming out of my mouth without me hesitating or thinking about them beforehand, that’s when I realized I was thinking in Hungarian. However, I’ve never had such a bad headache in my life, I actually had to go home early because my head was hurting so badly, I never thought it was possible to feel that much pain in your head. I’m probably exaggerating but it hurt a lot. Oh! And, since I have no name equivalent in Hungarian, my friends gave me a Hungarian name. Listen to this, since I’m always tired (as all exchange students are) they gave me the name Almos, which means sleepy, but it also is a name of the first chief of the Hungarian tribes from Siberia. So, from now on I am Almos.

Spain. That’s right. I went to Spain. It was amazing. Well, the places were amazing, but the timing was terrible. It rained all the time when we were there and I went to bed at like 1 every night, because that’s the time we usually got back to the hotels and we had to wake up at 5:30 every morning. I was not a happy camper, and I must say we could have had a much better tour guide, she was a little too demanding that we all wake up at 5:30 yet we never left the hotel until 8. Why? I have no idea. Besides that, I had a great time. I went to the Casino in Monte-Carlo, when we were driving through. We also went to Cannes, which reminded me of Miami, ahh home. Then came my favorite city on the entire trip. BARCELONA!!! Beautiful, rich, sunny, always great weather and a sight to see. However, we only stayed in the city for a day, until we drove through Valencia, saw the market, which is a World heritage site, and took off to Sevilla. Wow! I never thought that I would have that much fun. I ate all day, I mean I had 6 meals, then I pedaled a boat on the Guadalquivir, the river in the city, and finally went to the bull fighting rings. I was supposed to go that day to Africa, but my visa wouldn’t allow it. However that didn’t matter, I still had a great time. After that, the next day we went to the last Moorish stronghold in Spain, THE ALHAMBRA!! I’ve never seen something so large and so beautiful. Also, I’ve never been in such cold weather. It's the South of Spain for Pete’s sake, why is it so cold? Returning back to Hungary was not a pleasant trip. I was on a bus for two days, and I didn’t sleep for Two DAYS! Do you know how crazy I went? I started throwing cheese on the bus at other people while they were sleeping. I lost it. Plus, I didn’t eat for two days, ok I had some snacks on the bus, but I wanted to have an actual meal, not chips and cookies. I want FOOD! Then after the bus ride through hell I arrived home and found myself back in the safety of my host home, which really feels like my own home. I didn’t really realize how much I loved my host family until I was away from them on the trip.

I’m back in Budapest now and the weather is not………Florida. So I had to buy some clothes for winter, somehow I didn’t think that winter would actually come. Everyone tells me that I must live under a rock if I’ve never seen snow. Uh, it’s called Florida, thank you. I wear a sweater, long socks, scarf and sometimes some gloves, and it hasn’t even snowed yet. I’m still waiting for the snow.

On language. Here’s where the cultural part comes in, Hungarian is not even closely related to the languages around it. Now you may be saying, “OK, so it’s evolved a little differently than its neighbors have, other languages do too.” If you’re saying that let me give you a little history lesson. English and Hindi are more closely related than Hungarian and Slovakian, which is right across the river. This is because, if you look at the languages in Europe 1200 years ago, Hungarian was not there. All the ancestors of present Indo-European languages were here, Latin, Old German, Old English, Greek, different forms of the Nordic and Slavic languages, etc. Hungarian was not there because Hungarian is related to few languages on Earth. No one knows for sure where Hungarians came from, but many believe it was somewhere East of the Ural mountains around the Altaic mountains in Western China (However Caucasian). That’s right, in China. Anyway, Hungarians were supposedly driven out of their homeland by other peoples and thus forced to migrate, when they began to they never stopped. So, they moved over 8000 miles (roughly) to the Carpathian basin (Hungary) in the 800’s but before that they split off into different groups around 4000 years ago, from what the very shady timeline says, and this group went into northern Europe and within the last millennium split into two languages; Estonian and Finnish. After several thousand years these languages have almost nothing in common with one another. Not to mention, somehow the tribal Hungarians before I was even born or you for that matter knew that I was coming. Here’s what happened: the 7 Hungarian tribes gathered around a campfire and said “One day, a boy named Drake Starling will try to learn our language we must make it as impossible for him as possible! Quickly! Arpad, start making some irregular verbs! Almos, make every verb have several conjugations in each tense for each person and give no proper order to them, so that even our own people will not be able to tell the difference. YOU THERE! Peasant man, put all prepositions at the end of words and make all nouns have irregular endings if they are one syllable words." If you knew some Hungarian it would be really funny to you.

So far, I think that’s all about it.

Still waiting for snow…..

-Drake


January 4 Journal

 The seven stood upon the hill top; each was a leader of one of the tribes within the crowd that they were gazing down at, looking at the multitude of people that were gathering closer and tighter to the foot of the hill. Their heads were raised up with every eye on them, no twitches, no faces turned away. Few in the background were occupied setting up the white and brown colored tents. Several of the Horses had bolted from their paddock, made of old twigs and tree trunks. Some of their roots could still be seen on the fences. Occasionally, one of the horses would gnaw at the end of the root and the owners would scream in their native tongue so they would not eat away the fragile fence made from the withering fall trees. Trees were shedding their old leaves, losing their summer glow and being replaced by dark, cracking bark. The wind had come to a dead calm, stopped. Yet there was richness to the air, it wasn’t muggy nor was it damp, but it felt like the old was being replaced by the new.

The 7 tribal leaders braced themselves for the moment that could give birth to so much love, pain, evil, destruction, power, and greatness. The wind was howling louder and louder, the leaders’ uncut hair slapped their faces and helmets. Noises came from the Shaman at the top of the hill, his chanting has progressed into a faster pace, it ran through him like fire in the prairie, he lost control of his words, only the ritual was occurring. He was unaware of his surroundings, his dancing moved quicker, his voice stronger and the tune faster and faster and then……… it stopped. He was ready. His hand lifted parallel to the leaders, a miracle for such an old man, and curled his index finger backwards as if to beckon them, he dropped his hand and waited. The seven held their chests high with courage in their blood and fire in their stare. They walked, yet that doesn’t describe the movement these beings made. They were not of this earth to their people; they were almost God-like, divine among men. A large goblet was placed at the center of the hill in front of the shaman. He was enthralled by its gaze, no emotion, not an eye blinked as he stared at it; yet remained his constant chanting.

The leaders moved around the Goblet accordingly to their places. The nameless elder, a grey bearded man with eyes like a bay with algae in summer came closer to the goblet. He grabbed his sword handle, wrapped his hands around it, and pulled it out into the sky. He ignored the cheers from the crowd. He had lost all sense of time and place. He woke from his trance and lifted up his sleeve, the other 6 were kneeled down about the goblet. The elder gave them one glance each. These men needed few words to convey their thoughts, indeed like Gods. They all held equal standing among the seven of them, none was above the other. The other 6 followed suit and lifted up their sleeves in the same fashion. Their fists were clenched and few had their eyes closed while taking in deep breaths to begin.

The elder was the first; he placed his arm over the goblet adjusting it so that his wrist was at the center. The chanting Shaman raised his voice louder and louder, the chanting pace was much quicker, the crowds threw up their clenched fists and had not anger in their shouts but hope and eagerness. They were ready. To the elder all noise had faded away, the movement of the shaman’s chapped lips, the crowd’s fist throws, and the slight blinks and heavy breaths in the cold air were all that existed to the elder. He turned to his sky-bound sword, pulled it swiftly towards his arm, stopped it and with one quick slice cut open his wrist and his dark blood spilled into the goblet, he passed the sword to the next leader, wrapped up his arm with a large piece of white cloth and stepped aside. The 6 all did this exactly as was done by the first. The shaman stepped up and limped over to the goblet while the seven stood in line on the slope of the hill, each seemingly with more strength than should have remained in their bodies after losing such an amount of blood. The shaman knelt before the eldest leader. The leader did not move his head as the shaman knelt; he only moved his eyes down and looked down his nose at the shaman. The elder took the goblet by both handles on each side and drank from it, from the mixed blood of the seven leaders several large gulps were taken and passed onto the next 6 leaders. The last leader came forward and drank from the goblet, every last drop that was left. He steadied his hand for a minute while holding the goblet in both hands. The crowd quieted, fists were lowered, the shaman abruptly stopped his chanting and the winds had died down. The last leader with the goblet held his head high and with one hand threw up the goblet to show reverence to it and to him.

The crowds began again, hugging, kissing, shouting for their new leader, the shaman stepped back and grinned. The other 6 did not feel regret for giving their own flesh for something they would receive nothing out of, but they were overjoyed. All eyes were on him, whether they were teary ones of future hopes and dreams or dry ones with simple, yet extreme approval. He rose to the top of the hill, his name was Árpád. According to tradition the last of any ritual or even bloodline was to inherit the rewards of it. Thus he became the chief leader of all the 7 Magyar tribes. This is the historic moment of how the Hungarian nation was born. There would be much to follow for the next 1000 years………………………………

That right there, was entirely true except for the parts that I added a little flavor to. Well, every fact was true in that story according to Hungarian legend; I just added several descriptions to spice it up. That is what Hungarian children are taught in schools. To me it seems pretty miraculous, or more like old-pagan, non-modern tradition of self mutilation. But hey, who’s to say what’s right and wrong?

I wish I could really describe how great this feels. I mean the whole thing, doing this whole exchange year. I feel somewhat accomplished, more confident, more humble, and much more aware not only of the world around me, but of the people around me as well. I don’t feel alone here. Not that I felt alone when I was back home, but I already feel attached to so many people here. My host family, whom only God himself could have handpicked for me. I’m not kidding you - I already feel that much for them. I love them, they're like my family away from home. I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to leave them, but they always say that the best of things come to an end very quickly, I hope that’s not true.

I remember the first day here at school. I woke up, the family told me what special clothes I had to wear and what I had to bring. My host sister took me to school and made sure I was in good hands before she left. I met up with the other exchange students in the principal’s office, where we then were sent into different classrooms, according to our age. I waited outside the doors of my new classroom, my pulse was racing, I was practicing every Hungarian greeting in my head. I walked in and I felt like a sheep among wolves. I introduced myself and they didn’t seem that happy to meet me. Almost like I was anyone else to them, which I was at the time. I then met another exchange student in my class, well she was an exchange student to Portugal last year, and was one of the first kids to approach me. I remember her greeting very well, it went something along the lines of, “HI, I’m Lilli. You must be the new exchange student. I was an exchange student last year to Portugal so I know how scared and nervous you must be, so you can sit next to me until you get to know everyone.” I still haven’t left that seat to this day.

It took time, but not as much time as I thought it would take to make friends here. I’ve been invited to parties, to go kayaking, football games, birthday parties, study sessions and everything in between. I knew at some point I would go from point A to point B but how did I get here? Did it just come to pass with time and effort? Or did they actually come to grow on me? I don’t know what the future holds but I can predict that it will be extremely difficult to say goodbye to them. I wish I could drown into my sleep and let this remain the dream it has been forever. Unfortunately, I don’t get to decide that. We really don’t get to decide too much in our lives, I mean we can choose to go left or right, but not really where we’ll end up, our choices are completely different from what God has in store for us. We just have to let him do what he does and use the tools we’re given to make our life and those around us the best that we can.

I think it’s finally making sense now. This whole thing we’re doing, and the great part is, there is no moment you can really pinpoint and say, “This is when I went from Static to Dynamic.” It’s like a very slow evolutionary process, and we have to wait almost a millennium for it to show some significance, and yet once you reach the 500 year mark, kind of where I’m at right now (half-year mark) then you start to realize that a millennium is not as slow as you thought it was, it actually moves too quickly. Far too quickly. Some say life is too long, and I pity them because If they think that way then they won’t use the tools nor the time they’re given to make it the best, and they eventually will get from point A to point B but the sad part is there will be nothing in between for them. I found my Boston.

-It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years that matters.”

-Unknown

Christmas was… SUPERB. I got a Hungarian jacket from my host parents which is used by the national Olympic team, only special Olympians get them, and I’m not too sure how they got it. I also got a yearly calendar from my host brother, an ancient Hungarian book from Anna, my host sister, plus a slang dictionary. From Kata, I received a great CD for intermediate users of Hungarian, and it’s working wonders for me. Now, it’s my turn. What did I get for my family? You ask. I got my host dad a beautiful tie, host mom a great book with law quotes for every day because she’s a judge. For Anna, my eldest host sibling, I gave her a Chinese incense box, because I know that she loves all things Asian and loves incense. What I first did was I found a really old crappy incense box at the Christmas markets downtown (don’t tell her I said it was crappy), bought it, repaired it, painted it, carved Asian symbols on it and voila! There you have the perfect gift. She really loved it. For Sari, my youngest host sister, I bought a small scarf. My other host siblings said that she would really like one that’s dark brown, just like big girls have. You know how kids can be. They all want to be adults and be grown-ups. Funny, adults always want youth and children always want to be adults. The grass is always greener on the other side isn’t it? So I bought her a small, wavy brown scarf. She really loved it, she even sleeps with it sometimes.

For Andris, my host brother, since he loves poker and I do mean he loves poker. I found one of those hand rests for the computer, and on it I wrote in white-out “MINDENÖRÖKKÉ PÓKER” Which is kind of like the equivalent to our saying “Everything poker.” Translation is difficult when it’s not literal. Last but definitely not least, I gave my Kata three candles, and since she’s very religious like me, I found special candles with the crosses made out of flowers in them, and when the flowers burn in the candle it releases a different aroma for each candle. Those gifts took time and effort to find, buy, and fix. Am I the best gift giver or what? All right, maybe not The best.

What we did here for Christmas was completely different than what I usually do at home. We got all dressed up, as if we were going to a ball or something, but we were only going to the living room. We decorated the Christmas tree not with popcorn but marzipan, which is probably the weirdest tasting chocolate in the world. Dinner was delicious and yet I didn’t stop eating for about 3 days, consecutively. We ate at home, then the next day at Grandma’s, then again at home. The amount of naps, candy, plates of cookies, and Christmas snow fights was something that I may never forget. For the next several days, I was completely in teenage sleep mode, as was the whole house.

Szilvesterkor came along, which is New year’s here, and I went out with my friends and had probably one of the best parties of my life. ANNDDDD!!!!! I had the best feeling. It was one of those moments that every exchange student hopes for. I passed for a native, and not just to one person but to three people. I don’t mean I said a word and I kind of fooled them, and I risk saying this knowing that it may sound like I’m bragging. However, I had a long conversation with 3 different friends of my friends, and 2 of them said that they could tell that I wasn’t from Budapest because it sounded like my accent was different than the Budapest area, but I still sounded Hungarian just from a different region. When I told them that I was American they just laughed and didn’t believe it. The third friend told me “It’s New Year’s not April Fool’s.” So I actually had to show them my American I.D. to them to prove that I was indeed American. I walked away at the end of the night, with the biggest smile on my face. I risk saying this knowing that it may sound like I’m bragging, but to be honest it was a great feeling.


April 25 Journal

 I am surrounded by the former Hapsburg royal palace, the residency which is located on Castle hill, one of the highest points in the city; it was the ruling seat during the Austro-Hungarian empire. It is built over the site of the former ruling castle in Hungary before it was mass bombed out by the Germans. This is less than a mile away from my 17th century school. It is located in Buda which is on the western bank of the Danube. Usually, only the very rich live in this part of the city, it is mountainous with villas that have been handed down for several generations to present day Hungarians. The old city is located on a plateau-like hill, which is encircled by a mighty stone wall, actually more like a fortress. No enemy nor foe has ever been able to break through this fortress, not even the Turks during their 150 year reign here. Across the Danube is the Parliament right on the bank's shore, it is so close as a matter of fact, that when the river floods, which it usually does in spring, it rises past the grand steps of the parliament and can even cause flooding to nearby areas. It is one of the largest parliaments in the world; although many protest and demonstrate against the decisions that are made within its walls, that still does not underestimate its beauty and magnificence.

The Bazilika, not far from Parliament, is so outstandingly breathtaking that when directors are seeking to film a movie in the Vatican and the Vatican denies them entrance, they come here to the Bazilika. When they want to film a scene on the Champs D’elysees and are not able to… they come to Andrassy ut, where the streets and flats resemble those of the Parisian avenue. The Nyugati Palyaudvar train station was built by Gustave Eiffel, the same man who built the Eiffel tower, you can imagine how beautiful it looks. Hero’s square, which contains all the Hungarian kings, leaders, soldier, captains, etc that have led the nation to where it is today. The archangel Gabriel looks down on the city and blesses all those that pass by. These statues are carved in larger than life replicas that represent the people’s passion for their own history. The freedom statue that stands above Gellert hill on the river's edge is a symbol of freedom after communism, the woman who holds the wreath of leaves still lives to this day. This city, in its former glory was just as rich as any west European nation and in my opinion just as, if not more beautiful. However, after all the revolutions, system changes, attacks, flips, turns, and falls this country has taken it remains an undiscovered Roman column in the sands. The city has party places, movie centers, parks, rock climbing in the downtown center, cruises, mountain climbing, a full island as the recreation center, buildings of centuries past that you can easily get lost in looking for a friends apartment. I have Matyas templom, janos hegy, parliament, westend, mammut, heroes square, vajdahunyad castle, the world's 2 largest Jewish synagogue, the yellow villamos, BKV, freedom bridge, Turkish thermal baths, szimpla, morrisons, golgota, Cicero, rozsadomb, vaci utca and more. And the funny thing is…….to me…it all means nothing. Nothing AT ALL!!! Nothing, that is, without the people that I've shared these places with. Our underground church would have been an old empty former theatre without Kata there every Sunday. Learning the country’s history and going to college debates that I shouldn’t have been going to would have unbearably boring without Anna there. The first months of learning the language would have been too difficult to overcome without Lili sitting next to me translating. Coffee at Cicero would have been another good-tasting espresso without Gabor and Kati to talk to. The Blue Monkey café could have ended up much worse had Akos not been there to help. Going up to the Stumpf’s house when no one was there would have been creepishly quiet without Sari and her energetic childlike behavior. Playing poker by myself would have been less than pathetic had Andris not been there to teach me. How would I know what to do if Gabor didn’t give me a little suggestion along the way. Spain would have been no fun at all without throwing cheese at Nicole and Aniko. Budakeszi would be another village without my 3rd host family and their children. The Damjanich house would be another flat in the city without the Grafjodis to make noise in it. Csik ferenc would be another 17th century building had I not gone to school there. English class would not have brought tears of laughter to my eyes without laposneni running into the cabinet all the time. Forgacs’s class would have been a snooze had my friends not answered all my questions about their language. It is not the beautiful places we stay at, or visit or learn about those that built them and why. It’s about the people that we spent all those days and hours with - that’s what makes a place special to us. It’s not so much the places I was but the people I was there with that made this year. It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that matters.

It has been quite a while since I wrote last. Here has what has happened since then: Gabor’s Birthday, I did a presentation in Hungarian in front of the whole school, and my mom and Aunt Kathy came to visit me. Where to start oh boy….

How did I end up there? It fell so softly and quietly, if you were blind you wouldn’t be able to tell it was even falling. On the ground in the middle of a crowded, probably the most crowded square in all of Budapest, lying down in the falling snow in front of the Bazilika at 5 am. Sounds a little suspicious to me I know, but I don’t think I’ve had so many epiphanies nor words of wisdom found in my entire life than I’ve found in this past week. Let me start form where we left off.

It was January fifth when I wrote my last journal, on January 11th I changed host families. To be perfectly honest, I found my little host sister Sari unpacking my bags before I left, and I almost cried when they dropped me off at my new family. No matter how much it hurt to move, I do understand why I must because without change we remain content and don’t learn what lies beyond the wall that encompasses our lives. I once again have the biggest room in the house, I live further from school but still can make it there in time. Time had passed quite quickly in the past weeks with so many school parties activities, and what I thought would take the cake, the Szalagavató, which is the Hungarian prom. However, all the events seemed to have been of the same importance to me. I can’t really say one was more important or impacting than the other. The Szalagavto, was completely unexpected. Everything that occurred that night was unexpected. To begin with, the Szalagavato encompasses all students from the high school grades dancing in their own class dance. The last grade, the 13th graders, are the stars of the night, because they will soon be off to college. They have the honor of dancing the KeringÅ‘, or Waltz. That’s right a Waltz in a prom. I told you it was unexpected. They dress up to the nines for this: blazers, ties, prom gowns, the whole shebang. My class, since they are only 12th graders, chose their own dance as the rest did. I want you readers to prepare for the fact that this may be shocking that all Hungarians love Mama Mia, and can’t get enough of it. This is what they decided to dance to. I think the name of the song was “take a chance on me.” Unbelievably hysterical.

As most of us were behind stage watching the dances and getting ready to go on stage next for our performances, I was supposed to take pictures for my friend Akos, which I may or may not have forgotten to do. Then, the moment came our class finale dance. I was pumping with adrenaline, our homeroom teacher was taking deep breaths in and out of a paper bag, and the lights went down she pushed us out onto the floor and said “Don’t mess up.” So basically in one ear and out the other. Our footing could not have been more off, well except falling off the stage which Marci almost did after his shoe slipped off. And all of a sudden we began to dance the szorba I know that we Americans have this dance but I cant recall its name. Sorry. Anyway, we danced the szorba and formed a gigantic circle in the center of the stage and several students were thrown into the center to perform several dances, and somehow I ended up in the middle by myself and I knew I had to do something so for some strange reason unknown even to God I began to dance like the men in Fiddler on the roof, with both arms crossed over my elbows jumping up and down screaming “Hey” and yet they loved it. I expected to be laughed at for quite a while yet they really thought it was hilarious and entertaining. It was a good day. The actual Waltz was probably the most synchronized form of dancing I’ve ever seen. They were all dressed up in blue shining lights and cameras flashing like it was the red carpet. Beautiful, it truly was. Moms and dads crying for their sons and daughters, cameras capturing every moment of the dance, and teachers throwing roses at their students, it made me think that this is what a prom should be like.

January 31st, Friday was my friend Gabor’s 18th birthday party. A very important day for a young man, Lucky for us it was a surprise party, he knew nothing of it. Let me give some background information…Gabor was one of the first people to become a good friend in my class. He heard we had an American in the class and since his life is American football he decided that it would be cool to talk to a real American. To be honest he knows more about the game than most Americans do. Every time I was free Gabor would always try to invite me somewhere. It got to the point that he was being so nice to me that I thought he was trying to play some trick on me so the whole class could have a good laugh at the exchange student or something. I was very mistaken. I usually go running with exchange students or other friends 2 a week, and so I invited Gabor to tag along and now we do it frequently. Through him I’ve become friends with his friends as well. Akos and Dani, his two good friends at school, took me aside on Wednesday and told me all about Gabor’s birthday party and how I should be there. It was in a normal restaurant where we all met up, about 13 of us, including his parents who made sure he didn’t know anything about the party. BUT!!!! And here’s where it gets a little pg-13. Akos had been pretending for weeks to be this girl Noemi online who was interested in Gabor, and Gabor thought he was going on a blind date with her Friday night when in reality we were all hiding under the table waiting to great him, and Noemi was there waiting patiently, because Akos thought it would be funny and he was quite right, if they bought a blow-up doll and called her Noemi, and that is exactly what was done. Beautiful plan. AND!!! Before the dinner Akos passed around the online conversations between him and “Noemi” to get everyone laughing and as a birthday gift to Gabor which was what the PG-13 part was. Then as I was taking tedious photos, which came out great I have to say, I was looking through my camera lens and saw the group of them in the photo and realized that all the people at the party were really close to Gabor (this occurred at the beginning of the party). For the rest of the night I kept on thinking that all his friends that he’s been friends with for years are here then what am I doing here? I almost felt like I shouldn’t be there, like the waitress was going to come over any second and tell me “sorry, your table’s over there sir.” Then it hit me, “I was invited here by them, could that possibly mean that they want me here?” “That must mean I am a good friend, even if it hasn’t been for years.” I do have a feeling that I will make very good friends with them all, as in lifelong friends. I can see the future however and I see that leaving here will definitely hurt.

The week before my mother and Kathy arrived, I was preparing for a presentation that I had to give in front of the school in Hungarian. We had been preparing for weeks, it was a joint effort, all the English classes in the upper level school (high school) had to perform a skit of some sort for the rest of the school. In English!!! So it was a challenge for them. Gabor and I were chosen to be the presenters. HOWEVER, we decided to make things even more difficult than they were, Gabor was to introduce the groups according to the script in English, and I was to do the same in Hungarian. For the first few minutes the audience was fooled into the fact that I was a Hungarian and then when I made some mistakes that no native speaker would make they then realized that I was not what I seemed. I was congratulated and it was an amazing feeling, but I realized the reason why I don’t feel so amazing is because I’m not satisfied with my level of Hungarian, and I don’t think I’ll ever be, and I honestly believe that’s a good thing. I mean the learning never ends, right?

BIG NEWS!! MY mom and Aunt Kathy came. Although they only stayed for a week I still had an amazing time with them. I took them around town, showed them every place that I usually hang out in, showed them my school, my host homes and families of course. My first host family (THE ALL MIGHTY STUMPFS) even invited us for a dinner on them at their home, well my former home. Both the families got along extremely well and I never really thought of it until now, but both my worlds came together when they were here. The home I left back home and this one here which I will be leaving soon. When I reached the middle point of my exchange I felt that it would be extremely difficult to leave, but it won’t because I’ll be back again, many times. Yes, it’s coming, and within two months I will not be in Hungary any longer. Oh boy, I feel it with every passing day. MY mom and Kathy said that I have changed, and it was great to finally sit back and not worry about the complex problems and exchange student faces. The strange thing was once my mom and aunt left, I felt this loneliness. Like I had just started my exchange year all over again. It went away within a few days, but I missed them so much and I didn’t even realize it until they left.

Freedom, Love!

I need these both

For my love I would sacrifice life,

For freedom I would sacrifice my love.


Szabadság, szerelem!

E kettő kell nekem.

Szerelmemért föláldozom

Az életet,

Szabadságért föláldozom

Szerelmemet.

Written by Petofi Sandor, a great Hungarian poet


May 18 Journal

 Day 50 and counting….

So why do we try to hold on to those whom we love the most? Our friends and family. Is it just so we have someone to turn to when we’re in a time of distress or pain? Most people want all those they love to be around when their end comes. I do not want just an ending, I’m not saying this because I feel like it’s all over or anything along those lines, but I want people to know that I want to laugh until my sides hurt and not be embarrassed about it. I want to live so much that I will actually get physically tired of doing so. I want to dance so fast that no one will be able predict my next move (figuratively). I do not want to say “I love you” to those that I do but I want to show them how much I do. I want to keep my wits about me so that I will know what’s dangerous and stupid or crazy and fun. This year was crazy and fun, I grew as a person and much more. So I finally made it to the end of this chapter’s road and from here I can see Everest, but I still need to get to the top. How do I do that? How do I satisfy this feeling? How do I go to greatness? I think it may just be the hunger I have for everything I can get. I believe most of us on this Earth don’t realize we’re really living until we slowly start to fade away and look back at the years we’ve had and say “OH, the good old days.” I never want those days to end, and people think when someone says “the good old days” they mean the time they had fun the most, or the time when nothing bad happened, but they’re wrong – “the good old days” means the days you did all you could, the days you remember the most vividly, the days when you learned the most, and I don’t mean learning from a book but learning from this thing most of us take for granted called life. So, I boldly say to you all that these are the beginning of my “good old days.”

I have a limited time left here. I will be back home soon, in the comfort of my own bed. This whole year is no longer surreal to me as it was just 11 months ago, it is now another one of my places. It is a part of me, it will not be separated from my soul as long as I live, and something deep within me makes me very proud to say that. It may not be PARIS, nor DISNEY LAND, nor the Vatican, but I like it nonetheless, and I will be here till the very end, and I’ll look back then and say “oh those were the good old days.”

I just recently went on a 2 week trip all around Southern Europe. Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria. BEAUTIFUL. I went with other Rotary exchange students, naturally, and our first stop was in Thessaloniki. The ancient Greek harbor city was probably the nicest one we got to visit. I say this even though we went to Athens because we arrived too late to Athens due to traffic and got there very late in the evening instead of early in the afternoon. Basically the only marvel we had the opportunity to see in Athens was our 3 star hotel. No worries, one day I’ll be back there. Here’s the cool part. We traveled from Athens to Bari, Italy by ferry boat over night, in the morning we were in Italy. We drove several hours and made it to Naples where we stopped for the glory of Pompeii. I have already been to Pompeii and remember it just as I left it. It carries some heavy feelings with it of the Empires of old long before our existences were even thought up.

A 3 hour drive to Rome made me feel like a kid again. I remember travelling here with my mother several years ago, and I came this time with memories as if I knew these places before, which I did, just not as well as I would like to know them. I remember standing in front of the Vatican and looking at the beauty of it all, and I turned around to tell someone how beautiful it was and no one was there that I wanted to tell. And with a rush of blood to the head I saw their faces light up in my mind. My parents, family members friends from back home and from Hungary and then it dawned on me that I never want to leave these people as long as I have the right to choose so.

I’ll skip the other cities, because I could tell you how beautiful, and overwhelmingly breathtaking they were but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. I think I’ll get straight to Switzerland. I had been looking to replace my watch’s wristband, however I found no good offers. So I thought why not in Switzerland, and I did exactly that: for the price of 60 US dollars I found a brand new wristband. After that, and here’s the exciting part, I bought myself a Swiss army knife and as everyone proceeded to get off the bus after driving for 30 minutes to a botanical garden outside the city of Zurich, I did not get off the bus. I, instead cut my apple into pieces for lunch, and somehow accidently cut my finger in a bad location. I walked off the bus and asked if anyone had a bandage, luckily someone did. By that time the blood had dripped to my wrist and looked like I stuck my hand in a dying animal and the blood still kept reproducing itself out of my finger. Everyone looked at me with fear, which shocked me a little bit and then I said I’m fine and remember everything going black and came to with a bus driver holding my head down and a German girl holding my legs up. I felt really light headed the whole day after that. We drove through Innsbruck where we visited the alpine zoo with exotic animals from all around the world, mostly from the North American wilderness, yet still it was a different feeling than I expected.

I am back here writing this from my desk, and I want to be on Everest, somehow, someway, someday I’ll get there, but I’ve gotten here because of those who supported me. I Love you all.


July 7 Journal

 IT WAS A VERY HARD DAY’S NIGHT. I want not memories of old but oh, such a grand time with them. I don’t want photo albums of the times we hung out at the bar, or at the concert hall or even on the bridge. I want to capture the moments when I learned about them.

I want to capture the moments when Ákos told me about when he thinks you should let your political or religious opinions out to people. I want to hear the echo when I heard about the countless times he helped classmates in dangerous situations without hesitating. I want to remember when Bazsa told me about his father and his medical conditions and how I saw that he tried to overcome it. I want to look back on when Gabor said he was amazingly proud of me for growing so much not just as a person but as a Hungarian. I want to recall the moment they all admitted that they to need to grow up as well and let go. I want them to be by my side when I’m waiting for my language exam results and possibly deciding my future. I want to be by their side when they go to their fencing competitions, when they compete in the Hungarian football league, when they travel to L.A. for water polo. I want to be there until we get sick of each other.

I want them to stand up for me when the teachers bully me. I don’t want the framed photo of the entire class, I don’t want the loving cards I got from them. I don’t want the books, video clips of me and them throughout the year. I want them as my friends to be the gifts. When bad happens I want to turn around to them and hold them knowing I can confide in them. When good happens I want them to be the first that I run to to tell. I want to be able to show up at their homes unannounced as if it were any other ordinary day. I want no fake conversations about teenage drama that means nothing. I want the real thing, I want genuine, I want love, I want to fight back and forth with them because then it means it’s a real relationship; it means we’re being honest. I know it can’t be perfect with smiles and hugs and happiness all the time. And I want that so bad. I want the work to finally pay off. Finally, it has.

I don’t want regrets of not going to the aqua park with them when I could have. I refuse to have “acquaintances.” I refuse to let these people slip through my fingers. I don’t want to want to love them, I want to just love them. However I feel somehow selfish for asking for these things. These wishes of mine are realistic but they make me upset, because with all that I’ve done, more importantly with all that I’ve been given, with all that I have, I still want more. I don’t mean I’m not satisfied with what I have or I’ll be upset If I don’t get what I would like. I’m not spoiled and selfish like that. I mean that I want all this to continue as a life not just a year. I don’t want a photo album; I don’t want fake “acquaintances.” I want a lifetime with them. This year was once a dream and then came true, and when one of your dreams comes true, it makes the other ones seem a little more attainable.

Monday. This Monday was a good day. Monday was my going away party that my friends planned for me. We went to our favorite bar, chatted for a good 2 hours, a good quiet place to chat. Paid our bill, and before we left I clanged my glass and made a toast, “You have such a beautiful country, you have buildings from centuries long ago, your monuments are decorated with history of your people, you have everything in this city….but those are objects, those mean very little, it’s the people that occupy them that matter. If I didn’t have people to occupy my time with, more importantly if I didn’t have you all as my friends I would have been lost, this could have turned to be a terrible year, and for that I am truly grateful, I am honored to know you all and call you my friends.” I lifted up my glass, the others followed as I did, lifted up their glasses, looked at me and I said “To my return.” “To your return” and we left to the concert. Just like a normal day. We partied and danced until we just couldn’t for the life of us anymore. Slowly the night died away… they began to leave me. I didn’t think it would happen until it did. So I gave my hugs and kisses and they gave their wishes and greetings and like that …they were gone. The last group said several of them would come to the airport with me when I leave and got in their taxi and went home. I was left alone but only physically. I went home and slept getting ready for the next day. Today was a good day.

The rest of the week consisted of party after party where I had to continuously say goodbye to people. Friday evening I spent the night at my first family’s home and watched movies, had dinner, played games, did everything as if were a normal day. I slept in my old room; they even made the bed for me. I looked out from the 4th floor lookout as they all said “Goodnight Drake.” I had never been on the roof, so I climbed onto the very top to see the beautiful view of the city that I was going to depart from. It was never so beautiful. The towers on the parliament were lit up over the waves of the Danube, the Budavár stood out distinctly with the medieval roads and homes. It would surely be missed. I climbed down and went to bed. We woke up and everyone went to work, school, camp, as they usually do, only today they said goodbye to me. I would no longer be a part of their activities, their lifestyle, their lives, at least for the time being.

Today is Sunday July 5th. I leave tomorrow morning. I went to church today as if it were a normal day. I went with Kata and Sari, my two former host sisters, who really are my two sisters. I said goodbye to them once and for all at the tram stop. Sari wouldn’t let go of my hand. I told her it was ok and we would meet soon. I watched as the tram left the stop I turned around and found Anna, my eldest host sister, and her boyfriend Marion. We had lunch scheduled and discussed basic, everyday, normal day topics over chicken sandwiches and salads. I looked at them both and remembered the very day I shook their hands and how I would never forget it. “Hi. I’m Anna. I’m your host sister.” They held each other’s hands and weren’t looking at each other but they were looking at me. Then they paid the bill, we lifted our glasses and toasted, “To my return.” They hopped on the bus and left me alone, still physically.

I was beginning to write this journal when I was called into the kitchen for dinner. I was surprised when I stepped in. My host family made a delicious going away dinner for me. The food was out of this world. It could have been crud for all I cared - it’s the thought that counts. They gave me their gifts from every one of them. I sat down, they did the same and poured me a glass and we cheered together. “To my return,” I said, “to your return,” they echoed.

I am home, in my room, still in Hungary with complicated mixed feelings going around in my head. All I need to do is take a couple deep breaths and I’ll be fine. So I close this journal like it’s any other ordinary day, at least for the time being. I will lift my glass and toast, “To my return.” I will get my lifetime.

“People so seldom say I love you. And then it's either too late or love goes. So when I tell you I love you, it doesn't mean I know you'll never go, only that I wish you didn't have to.” - Unknown

P.S. We really are such fools professing to be wise.