They are right here, down the street

Last night I went to a train station here in Budapest. Maybe you have seen the news about the people who are coming to Budapest from war torn countries like Syria and who are trying to get to safety. If you haven’t heard, check out this article from CNN: Europe migrant crisis or this article from Daily News Hungary: Authorities not allowing migrants…or this one from CBC: Migrant crisis. These human beings are so desperate to get to safety that they are willing to risk their lives. They are dying. Then they are removed from one place, a train station, that they would like to sit down and sleep until they can keep going to get to real safety.

There are several stations here in Budapest where migrants are staying. One of those stations, Nyugati, is about a 15 minute walk from our apartment. There is an organization called Migration Aid who has been helping the migrants as they come. They post a list each day of the needed items of food and other things that are needed at each of the train stations. Niall and I gathered a few things that we had and bought and brought them to the station.

Behind the train station, there is a camp set up. There are tents set up sitting open to let the air in with bedding arranged for the few people who get to sleep ‘inside’. Children are running around. One girl is playing with her little brother and they see Hamish as we walk through the ‘camp’. She smiles and shows her brother. He is a bit nervous of Hamish and hangs back but also smiles. We ask some other volunteers where we can find the Migration Aid office to give our items. We walk past a group of men playing with a ball. Around the corner is a shipping container that has been converted into a storage place for donated items. We hand over the small bag we brought with a few towels and some food. The volunteers thank us and continue moving and rushing around with a million things to do. The refugees are standing around waiting for the things they need. One man gets one of our towels and then asks for a few more for the rest of his family. A young boy comes past with a couple ice cream cones from McDonalds, which is right next door to the train station. He sits down on the ground next to about 10 other men who are all charging by plugging into two extension cords on the ground. Dinner is served at 8pm and after that other items will be handed out. Some volunteers are taking other donated items to Keleti Station, the one that was closed by the authorities. There are many more people there. Eventually, we leave. We walk back past the portable toilets where people are lining up and the outdoor taps where people are doing laundry. We are shocked. We are sad.

As we walk home, I think about how fortunate we are. I am grateful that I can go home to my comfortable bed. I am grateful that we live here where we are safe. I am thankful that we have access to good medical care and facilities. We have access to more food than we will ever need. There are a lot of things I worry about in a day. But getting a good night’s sleep in my bed is not one of those things, and neither is eating a good breakfast or needing a towel.

Those people…the people who we talk about and pray for from a distance…they are right here, 15 minutes from where I live. Maybe you are reading this from Canada or from somewhere else and you have seen the news. You see the stories about that faraway place and those faraway people. You may think, “Wow sad! That is so terrible those people have to leave their home. What a shame.” I thought the same thing…until yesterday. But now, I can walk down the street and help them with a few items. Obviously they need so much more than I can even hope to give. But I cannot sit in my house and think about that news story I read and carry on with my day…not anymore.

 

 

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Laszlo or Zoltan…Baby Gibson’s name?

There is a list of girls names and a list of boys names in Hungary, about 2500-3000 names on each list. Parents that have children are only allowed to name their babies names that are on these lists. The law is quite strict. If parents try to name their child with a name that is not on the list, they will be prevented from doing so. There is a whole government ministry dedicated to researching and checking names for these lists. Each year about 10 names are added to the list. For example, Laszlo is one of the approved boys names. My Hungarian language teacher’s name is Laszlo and his nickname is Laci (pronounced La-tsi). The “c” in Hungarian is said like a “ts” in English. Zoltan is another common Hungarian name, nickname Zoli.

The Hungarian language is similar to NO OTHER language in the world. It has about 1000 words that are kind of similar to Finnish. Yes, the Finnish language that is spoken in Finland. Hungarian is considered an old Asian language, somewhat like Finnish and Estonian. But it is has been influenced by Slovak languages and languages in Siberia apparently. Today in language class we got a history lesson on the Hungarian language. I also learned that knowing no other language in the world makes it easier to learn Hungarian. Hungarian is all on its own in the world of language and it is not an easy language!

I am currently in my third and final week of my Hungarian language course. And I actually really like it. It is challenging and sometimes confusing. I often wonder if I will ever be able to string together a sentence with pausing before every word. But I am enjoying it. I like using my brain this way. It is much different than the way I have been using or not using my brain for the past 10 years of teaching and the past 3-4 years of doing my Masters.

Class is every day (Monday to Friday) for three hours in the morning. We do written, speaking, and listening activities. We are constantly moving mentally. As we learn new concepts or “rules” about the language, we practice them and get to know them well. Then we have homework to do. Homework includes all the learning and practicing vocabulary and rules done in class. The school is called Budapest University of Debrecen Summer Language School. 

As I continue to learn Hungarian, my biggest challenge will be to use it. I am shy to try using out in public because A. most of the time the person I am speaking to speaks much better English than my Hungarian and B. I don’t know enough to just say whatever I might need at any given moment. So the next step is to practice speaking and using all the things I have been learning.