just random thoughts while in Aachen

I’ve been in Aachen Germany for two days…missing my family. For one reason or another, we didn’t succeed in talking on the phone yesterday. So I tried again this morning, and it was a breath of fresh air to hear the sound of their voices. Aachen is an amazing city with tons and tons of history. From what I understand, around 800 AD this was Charlemaignes primary seat of power for all of Europe.

There are only 1 or 2 million books on my reading list these days. To quote Laci, “so many books, so little time.” One that I have just cracked open and am quite excited about is “Slaughterhouse 5” by Kurt Vonnegut. I think it is a book which you must be prepared to read. I also think it is a book that makes you think about language and the use of words.

Language is such an amazing phenomenon. There’s nothing more fixed, sure, and concrete than grammar (though all grammars do seem to leak a little over time), yet there is something infintely changeable about language. Through poetry, story, and oral tradition, there are innumerable ways to piece together words, ideas, meanings, and messages. Language is alive.

The homeless as a mosquito

The following is a recent newspaper article about homelessness in Budapest that my friend Kristof translated. I highly recommend reading it, as it will shine some light on societal challenges in general. Thanks Kristof!

Article:
“For the simple and natural question that “Out of two problems which one is bigger?” two simple and natural answer exist. 1. The bigger is bigger. 2. Mine is bigger. The former one is the answer of evident (or implicit) solidarity, the latter one is the answer of evident selfishness. Both of them are life-like and realistic, but one of them leads to a different quality of life.

Let’s take a simple example. It is obvious that tolerating the presence of homeless people if easier than tolerating homelessness itself. There is nobody who likes to walk in – neither clean nor fragrant – underpasses, but it is also impossible to find someone who would rather sleep among homeless than pass by homeless. Nobody will be gladsome by seeing lowlife or depraved, dissipated-looking wrecks but there is definitely nobody who would accept such advice as be depraved, be dissipated-looking; once you get depraved you won’t see the difference and the scenery won’t be embarrassing.

So every non-homeless knows that his problem is not the bigger one, but still vast majority of them believes that his demand with a higher priority goes without saying. His demand against the organs of the government, state institutions, officials and authority is to give way of his misery and make the homeless and their appurtenances disappear or go somewhere. Go to shelter, frost or hell – minor importance.

Everybody has a good reason to call for fellow-feeling when he vindicates public sanitation, because the clean, tidy and civilian circumstance that he produced, got used to and would like to use becomes estranged. Becomes estranged because it is inundated with filth and squalor.

But something is wrong with those who call for this fellow-feeling. Those who call for a solidarity of this kind refuse help and solidarity itself with total insensitivity from those who would really need it. From those who are chained to misery from all those self-sacrificing activists, social workers or publicist accepting unpopularity. These people who call for this evil fellow-feeling sometimes turn against the benevolent, to whom the tragic state of the mass is more important than the discomfort of some consolidated bourgeois.

The government whose orders to make public benches insuitable for lying on them shares this opinion and identifies public welfare with the followings: Those have the right to the bench of common who have a bench at home. Who has no bed to bow his head on it, should not lower there as well.

We published this last week: from the HEV station at Margaret Bridge the police upon request of the citizens turned all the homeless people adrift. They took away their blankets and their sleeping bags that those miserable people previously received from the Baptist Charity Organization. As a result a woman, who otherwise would have a couple more days left on the ice-cold ground, had frozen to death. There were several other attempts from the police to deport homeless under the sky, but these attempts in winter-time it were almost as hopeless as inhuman.

It is not the question whether the comfort-feeling of the aforementioned bourgeois should be a view-point and a subject of consideration or not. The question is whether it should be primary or secondary to the view-point of those who live in much more dramatic circumstances. As per the people who say it is secondary they notice that the awkward personal underground-experience will undergo some change only if the surrounding situation changes, to that extent as the surrounding situation changes which means there will be a change only if the main issue, the homelessness changes; These people form the better group out of two bad. These people at least ask and care about what could be done, what could they do, what could the elected officeholders and support-seeking civil organizations do to prevent, cure or aid homeless life. For instance to make homeless shelters a bit more attractive / comfortable / bearable at least for those who are not yet ingrained immovably into the forest- or streetlife.

On the contrary the other bad group of the consolidated plebians – who would choose evident selfishness rather than evident solidarity – can only tone in their self-interest with their self-esteem if they look at the homeless society as something inferior. Because what else could justify that not the bigger problem shall be the bigger? Undeniably the mosquito’s problem is bigger if I slam it than mine if it bites me, however I can certainly kill a mosquito, because I consider myself an out and away valuable creature. For a person like a piece of homeless something is equal to a mosquito. A person like this refuses to accept knowledge of reality that people living on the streets enjoyed life with equal security and welfare and was as sure as rates that he can at no time get in such a miserably situation.

And the story goes on. People who expect to restore universal peace and order in the topic of homelessness by denying and concealing it, the same expectations and manners will apply in all other topics concerning a country or the globe. In the eye of these people not only homeless will be mosquitoes but every poor, starving and diseased, too.

a legnagyobb hóembert

Here’s my first (short) Hungarian post about the biggest snowman.

Ma reggel mi gyerekeink nagyon vidám látni a hó a földön volt. Persze én is. De, szeretnék a nap sütni. Mi kimegytunk játszani a hóban, és kell épitni egy hóhaz és a legnagyobb hóembert a világon. Tavasz fog jönni, és mi kell bejárni a hegyekben minden hétvégen és kirándulni. Nem várhatok!

5 years old

Seth turned 5 years old a couple weeks ago! It’s hard to believe it. He’ll be shaving soon. I have to say, he is the perfect big brother for Jacob and Nathan, and the three of them are becoming good friends. They usually operate like a train in the house, going here and there, room to room; Seth is the train-engine and Nathan the caboose.

This has been an amazing year for Seth, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. He moved to another country and into a new apartment, started preschool/kindergarten, made new friends, learned to ride a bike without training wheels, and started learning a new language. He’s been surprising us with an occasional Hungarian phrase like Segitség which means “help!”

Seeing Seth learn to write letters and numbers has been so amazingly cool. And lately, he’s really in to dinosaurs! Oooooh I’ve been eagerly waiting for dinosaurs to enter our world. Seth has 8 plastic dinosaurs and he’s given each of them names. The Stegasaurus’ name is “Maggie,” the Triceritops’ name is (use your bottom lip to say this) “Pfdbludd,” and the Megaraptor’s name is “Fluffy.” And then, of course, there is Treeman. He’s our resident superhero flying to save people, and he has an engine on his back with fire shooting out of it. Seth loves a good story, and he tells a good story too.

We took Seth’s name from the beginning of the Bible (Genesis chapter 4). When Adam and Eve gave birth to Seth, their society/community was destructive and hurting. There isn’t very much written about him, but when Seth was born, things changed, and people began to re-experience life and peace. So we have hopes and dreams for our Seth. It’s a dream everyone has really…to be life-givers and peace-makers. Humanity is part of a big story, a big messed-up story, and perhaps Seth can help write (or rewrite) peace and life back into the narrative. I think Treeman is a good start!

lid-less

Kristof and I have had a couple good conversations lately about the homeless here in Budapest. Coincidentally, there was an insightful article in the newspaper yesterday on the topic, and Kristof offered to translate it. When he is finished, I’ll post the article here. I think it will catch your attention.

The Hungarian word for “Homeless Person” is hajléktalan. Literally, it means “without a lid.”

OOOOPS!! Correction: I got my terms mixed up. The word for “Homeless” is hajléktalan but it means “without refuge.” Many homeless people try to sell a small magazine on the streets in order to make some money. The name of this magazine is Fedél nélkül, “without a lid.” Thanks Kristof!

Police Escort

It was a cold morning, full of sun shine and the anticipation of a great Hungarian language class. Laura and I arrived at the Astoria Metro Station and climbed the stairs to get a hot cup of tea at a small Cűkráda. We only had five minutes to get to class, so we began walking down Muzeum Utca toward the zebra crossing.

As we walked, we noticed that the entire street was blocked with police tape. This went on for 100 meters or so. When we reached the zebra crossing, we noticed a dozen police across the street, with gates blocking off Brody Sándor utca. Our light turned green, and we crossed the street. As we approached Brody Sándor, the road which leads to our laguange school, 7 police officers surrounded us.

The police presence didn’t shake me. I pulled out some of my best Hungarian and said, “we’re going to the Hungarian language school.” I felt confident until he said, “which school and what address?” I said, “that one” and pointed. He said, “give me your passsports.” After studying them for a moment, he called someone on the radio and told them our names. A minute later, he said, “follow that officer.” So we did.

As we walked with the officer toward our school, I noticed 20 expensive black cars arriving in front of the National Muzeum, a few meters away from us. The officer said, “Russian President Putin is arriving now.”

We weren’t technically allowed to look out of our windows for security reasons, but we did, and we saw 6 or 7 guys that looked just like Putin standing next to black cars. After the cars and helicopters left, I learned that Putin is the fourth most well protected man in the world. Do you know who the top three are?