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.



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.



A Weekend in Barcelona

You may have noticed some changes to the blog. It is getting a new look and a new name. Hope you like it!

Last weekend, I had an amazing time in Barcelona with 3 wonderful girl friends. One of our first stops was the food market with fresh juice, meat, fresh fruit, breads, and other delicious treats.




We some amazing sites in Barcelona on a beautiful sunny day: Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Los Ramblos, Gaudi’s art and the beach.

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What a great time! Delicious food, great friends, warm sun and a beautiful sunset.

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November 1 is All Saints Day

All Saints Day is the celebration of the Christian Catholic saints. The date of Nov 1 was chosen in 835 AD to counteract All Hallows Day commemorated in the non-Christian Celtic world. “According to Celtic traditions, on All Hallows Day the barrier between the world of the living and the world of the non-living becomes thinner so that the worlds can communicate with each other.” See (Halloween in Budapest) or (All Saints Day)

Hungarians celebrate All Saints Day by going to the cemetery to remember friends and family who have passed away. We have heard that it is quite amazing to see a cemetery on November 1 in Budapest. This year, November 1 fell on a Saturday. Niall and I were having a lazy Saturday and we had no big plans. We had just finished lunch with some friends and were heading back home when we thought we might go to one of the cemeteries in Budapest. We looked up some information and found that the most famous cemetery in Budapest was Kerepesi Cemetery. It is the largest cemetery in Budapest and one of the oldest cemeteries in Hungary (Kerepesi Cemetery). Burials ceased at the cemetery in 1952.

We started driving to the cemetery. It was not hard to spot once we got close since it was so large. We saw a long stone wall beside the road. We had some difficulty finding the entrance so we had to turn around eventually. As we were coming back we turned down a road that looked like it went along the cemetery wall. This road turned into a small path beside a tram line. Eventually we got to the end of the path/road and stopped. We had noticed a man riding a bike that we had passed a few minutes earlier and we also saw a few people standing next to an entrance that was across the tram line. The man on the bike eventually came up and spoke to the people standing by the entrance and they seemed to start moving into the entrance so we got out of the car and walked over. We found out that this part of the cemetery is not always open to the public but we could get in it right now. We walked in and did not find what we expected, which was all the people and decorated graves that we had heard about. Instead we found an old, somewhat decrepit and broken down cemetery that was very quiet and empty. Many of the graves were broken or falling over. There were also some huge, decorative graves and tombs. Some of the tombs doors had been broken or moved. It was an eerie feeling going inside the cemetery, not a ‘creepy’ cemetery feeling, but rather because it was so old and quiet. It felt like we should respect and remember those who had been buried there so long ago. We had a great opportunity to walk around a little bit and see some of the graves. We did not stay long and when we drove away down the road and turned back on to the main road we passed the main entrance that we were originally looking for. It was much busier with people and looked more like what we would have expected!

Later we were talking to some of our friends about our experiences and we found out that the part of the cemetery we were in was the Jewish section. This section had been neglected for a long time. Here is some more information about it:

KEREPESI: Address: BP. VIII. Salgótarjáni út. (Salgotarjani Street) “The Kerepesi cemetery, opened in 1874, was the Jewish section of the city’s monumental cemetery, where many national heroes, politicians, and cultural figures were buried. The Jewish cemetery is a separate part of the 55 hectares of The New Public Cemetery ( Új Köztemeto) opened in 1847. The Salgótarjáni út entrance was built like the entrance of a castle from designs by the famous architect, Lajta Béla, in 1908. The entrance building includes function rooms and a caretaker’s flat . Until recently, the Kerepesi Jewish cemetery was abandoned and totally overgrown despite its many magnificent tombs. From the entrance was wild vegetation. The former pre-burial house decorated with Oriental-Mesopotamian reliefs is abandoned with a collapsed roof. The last burials were in the 1950s. Recently, part of it has been cleared of brush, freeing some of the most important tombs — tombs of industrial magnates, Jewish noblemen, and other prominent figures, including the poet Jozsef Kis. Bela Lajta, one of Hungary’s most noted architects, who designed more than half a dozen tombs in the Kerepesi cemetery.” source:

Kerepesi ut Jewish Cemetery (Neolog)  Address: Budapest, VIIIth district. Salgotarjani ut. Phone: 314-1269/ Attendant: Borbála Baros. The cemetery was founded in 1874. It is eternal home to many representatives of the pre-war banking and industrial aristocracy, as well as to outstanding personalities of the contemporary cultural life of Budapest.



Here are a few pictures we took in the cemetery. Here is also someone else’s blog post on visiting the same section with a more pictures: Old Jewish cemetery in Budapest

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October 23 in Budapest

My goal will be to share present and past travel experiences throughout my international teaching experience. I would like to give insight and information into the places I have lived and travelled for the people close to me and to anyone else who would like to know.

I will start with the place I am current living, Budapest. The past week was a holiday in Budapest. October 23 is the day that Hungarians celebrate the 1956 revolution against Soviet occupation. Here is an article that explains a bit more about the meaning of the day: Hungary’s October 23. 

Budapest is an incredible city. We have been living here for almost three months now but it already feels like home. It is easy to become familiar with the city and moving around it. Transportation is simple by either car or public transportation such as trams, buses, and metro. The beautiful buildings and amazing character of the city is easy to fall in love with.

In my experience, the Hungarian people are good group of people. I would not like to suggest that they are very friendly or outgoing but I believe they have good hearts. In my experience in not speaking Hungarian, most of the time when I start speaking English in public places, Hungarians will apologize for their “lack” of English, despite it being quite good. I can never understand why they would apologize when I should be sorry for being the person who only speaks one language in their country! Another way that I have seen the “heart” of the Hungarians is with our puppy, Hamish. He is an adorable puppy and wherever we go in Budapest, people will stop to pet him and gush over him. Hungarians are the not most unfriendly people but when they see Hamish they completely change into big softies.

Budapest is a city of festivals. Since we have arrived here, we have gone to at several festivals, including a music Festival, aBeer Festival, a Wine Festival, and a Palinka and Sausage Festival. We have not had much chance to see many of the sites in Budapest because we are often going to these events that are only here for a short time. Many of the festivals come back year after year. (Palinka is the Hungarian alcohol. I do not know a lot about it but I know it comes in different flavours, such as cherry among others, and that I have not heard of one person who likes it that is not Hungarian, and that it burns!)

There will be much more on Budapest and Hungary in the future! Here is a picture of Hamish to show why he is so popular!