Paige's Return to Deutschland!

Hallo Berlin! This blog will be a place for friends and family to get very occasional snip-its on Biggs' life in Germany.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A day in the life...

I learned a very important lesson tonight; don’t go out for coffee at 9 pm. For most people that would be obvious. But I just started drinking coffee when I moved to Europe, so this is all new. Thus, I am channeling this caffeine high into a little blogging action. I will give you a day in the life of Paige here in Pecs.

5:45 Wake up. Huh? What possible reason could I have for waking up that early? It all started with Adrian’s small going away dinner party. We got on the subject of exercise, aka Adrian trying to explain biking in the best non-nerd lingo possible. Arpi, the pastor, said that he and his wife, Andi, used to run but they just kind of fell out of it. We decided to start running the next morning. The next day was a Saturday and they said, well it's Saturday we can sleep in a bit, how about 7:30? Dah! On the weekdays we meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7 am. I leave the house at 6:20 to ride up this monster hill, Andi and Arpi arrive by car, and then we run around hiking trails together. I am also sometimes swimming with my roommate Ivette at around 7. Hello? But it gets me home before 8 am so I can start "researching".

9:00 Most of my time is spent sitting in front of my computer, wearing pajamas, and trying to resist the temptation to look up random facts on wikipedia. I do a lot of literature review on google, sending people emails to meet up, and checking in with Sue about next steps in the thesis process. I should probably explain the thesis a bit more.

I am writing about the health visitor system here. In Hungary when a woman finds out she is pregnant a vedono, or health visitor, comes regularly to check up on the baby and help the mother with pregnancy and child health tips. The visits continue until the child is three years old.

Most of Europe has some type of visiting system but Hungary has a super system with tons more visits than any of the other EU countries. Hungary is also the only country in central/eastern Europe to have this program. In general, everyone thinks primary health care, aka stopping the problems before they start, is a good thing. But the health statistics, like maternal and infant mortality rates, aren't impressive which could mean that the védönök program has some problems. That's what I am trying to figure out while here.

12:00 I must say that one of my proudest accomplishments here is getting my roommate Lili hooked on Mexican food and eating vegetables. There has been a major decline in white bread with cream cheese consumption in the apartment. I usually cook something in the middle of the day that makes the two of us happy. Lili is also at home working during the day. She is an artist and makes beautiful hand made cards for a living. She sells some of them in fancy card stores in Budapest and Pecs. She also sends some to churches in the US to sell. I have already asked her to do the wedding invitations whenever that day comes. Adrian and I have been two of her best customers. For Adrian, she customized some masculine looking thank you cards with a little bike on the front. They were a crowd pleaser.

PM Pecs has been named the city of culture in 2010, so there are always concerts and all sorts of things going on. Most recently there are a lot of peaceful protests but before there were concerts and fireworks. Two of my buddies, Krista and Peter, do a ton of organizing city events so they are my connection to all cool things happening in the city. Last Friday we went out to this club where the Hungarian Barry White impersonator was singing. Oh, he even sang a little Tom Jones. Yeah. Krista and Peter gave me the nickname Blinkie because I am always wearing my blinking lights when I arrive by bike to hang out. Finally, a nickname that is family friendly.

I think it is safe to say Pecs is now another home away from home.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Contact Info!!

I now have an address. Horrah! Well, actually I am considered a guest so you have to send the mail to my roommate. You can just write my name on the back and she will give it to me.

Farkas Lili
Pécs 7632
Kerényi Károly u. 2/b

My cell phone is my own:
011 36 20 200 7837
It's a little pricy for you to call, if you use skype out it's 22 cents a minute. It's free for me to pick up.

The address and cell phone will be good until late October. Then I will be in Amsterdam for a month. I will probably get a chip to put in my phone so I will have a new cell number. We'll see about the mailing address. As always skype and email are unchanged:

Skype name: paigecbeckley (really creative, I know)
email: ...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My my how the tables have turned...

I am going to write a lazy quick post because some major things have happend around here. I will start with the good news and then ease into the not so awesome news. The highlights are I now have friends, a new place to live, and a thesis topic. I met some new buddies at the international student orientation at the university. I just kind of showed up and started exchanging phone numbers. I then found a place to live through my new church. I live with two Hungarian girls, Lili and Ivett. Both are super friendly and speak excellent English. Also through this church group I found a thesis topic. Here in Hungary they have a unique system of women protectors called vedonok. The vedonok check up on the pregnant women and then follow up with the child for the first three years of life. Now it is my job to do some more research and develop a descriptive thesis.

Remember in that last sad blog where I said most of the reason I am staying here is because of Adrian? Well, turns out that Adrian is leaving Pecs for good on Saturday. He has a race in Salzburg and then he is moving to Florence. You can check out his blog for the details about his contract. The short story is that switching to an Italian team is an excellent career move and a great opportunity. I have decided to stay in Pecs. I feel like I have enough stability here without him and if I moved to Italy I would have to start all over again. Our hope is that maybe I can get rides to Italy with the coach every once and awhile so we can see each other occationally. Long distance relationships are not so fun but this time at least we are on the same continent. That’s life in two paragraphs. :)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Hungary: not Germany

I just passed the one month mark of being here in Hungary. Adrian mentioned that yesterday then immediately said, “maybe I shouldn’t have reminded you of that.” The problem is I don’t have much to show for my one month stay in the way of speaking Hungarian, understanding Hungarian culture, or more importantly, for my primary purposes for being here: finding a thesis topic or internship.

The first hurdle I encountered was that my main contact here was gone until the 20th of August, so I had to wait a few weeks before meeting with him. Ultimately he was very friendly and even brought his daughter along so I could have a friend, but then told me that I should talk to his assistant—who was gone on vacation but would be back in ten days—about further work. I met with her last Friday and she said that basically there isn’t much I can do since I don’t speak Hungarian.

To clarify, the problem isn’t so much that I lack a firm grounding in the history of Hungarian literature; it’s more that I’ve been here for a month and can’t even count past ten. It’s embarrassing and not like me. But, I just poured myself into German and it’s almost like I am so bummed out to be starting from the very beginning again that my mind won’t let me learn. During Adrian’s four-day race in Budapest I even spent most of the off time looking at the Hungarian phrase book. In the end I don’t really remember anything. I think you have to love a language first, or at least have a couple friends you want to talk to, before you can honestly take a stab at learning it. I really wanted to be able to speak German to my parents’ friends and to my German housemates. Spanish was always my first love—the music, the food, the literature, everything. But Hungarian hasn’t yet made that connection with me.

I do like Hungary though. I feel comfortable here even though my communication is very limited. I thought there would be more people who speak English or German but have been surprised that most (at least in Pecs) don’t speak anything but Hungarian. Women seem better at languages here than men, which I guess helps me a bit because female friends are easier to meet. But in the end you should bear in mind that all my insightful commentary about Hungarian culture is based on observation rather than interaction.

One of the things I like most here is I never have to worry about how I am dressed. That might seem like a silly thing to say, but in Nicaragua women have to swim in their clothes, while women here dress pretty scandalously wherever, whenever. I don’t think I would ever get to the extremes of the corset-shirt-things that I see some of the women wearing here, partly because that is the fashion for Berlin prostitutes, but I do appreciate not worrying about wearing tank tops or super long/short skirts. The only people that dress conservatively are the frumpy Mormon missionaries (particularly women) we sometimes see wandering through town. Adrian says they look like salespeople from electronics stores.

Another thing I appreciate is that Hungarians come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I got to the point in Germany that blond babies started to look ugly—there was just no variety—all blond curls, blue eyes, and rosy cheeks. I think pretty much anyone who comes here could pass as a Hungarian. Except if you wear crocs like me and everyone thinks you are wearing gardening shoes. Ha. Oh, and did I mention I like Gulyash and Galuska?

Hungary has still been a challenge though, maybe my biggest one yet. I have never left home to move to another place and then honestly considered returning. A few weeks ago, Adrian left me alone for a night in Pecs because he had to travel to a race. He told me before leaving the team would spend a few weeks in Italy this September. At the time, it appeared that I would have many days and nights alone in Pécs in the future (It turns out he will be here for most of September so that is no longer a problem). When he came back, I had all but packed my bags. He eventually convinced me to give it more time. My main reasons for wanting to return were to see my grandparents and go to a wedding, but Kate’s wedding was the Friday before last and my grandparents will be leaving Eugene next weekend, so I’m here to stay. I guess the filing will continue to pile up at my mom’s and dad’s offices in the mean time.

So why am I staying? For starters, it would be a little ridiculous to fly home for a few weeks then fly back to Europe in late October to start school again. But honestly the main reason is Adrian. It’s important for us to hang out now because after this time in Pécs it appears that we have at least another year apart. Adrian will be in Italy starting this November for at least a few months, then once racing starts he’ll be constantly traveling all over Europe. That’s great for him, but working in Italy doesn’t count towards the nine months of work experience necessary for my Master’s. Thus, I will be taking classes through March and then will start to look for an internship abroad.

I also apologize to all the people who would be thrilled to just hang out and float along—my brother for example. I think Connor would love just hanging out in Hungary, walking around the city, and not doing much. In fact, he has been known to just chill in towns, namely Missoula, that while cool are not half as interesting as Pécs. There are also many people—mostly women of past generations (plus a few stalwarts in modern times)—who would be happy being the bread-maker for the bread-winner. But I am not so great being a house girlfriend or a full-time cheerleader, and not just because I am a lousy cook or because we don’t have a washing machine.

In fact, I think that maybe Adrian would be happier following me around. He is better at cooking, much better in fact, and he can reach all of the stuff in the kitchen. His blog ( now even has a following, which is a good sign because he’s always thought a writing career could happen in the future. That would be great because he can do it anywhere and it makes people happy, especially me because then I’d get a live-in cook. HA. I am going to keep encouraging him because I think it is good for his brain to get some exercise along with that body.

More about Adrian now. He’s also much better at chilling. In fact, he asked me yesterday if I had a Buddhist phase. We agreed that most kids of our generation in the States have one during high school. I kind of had one around 15 but was too into Jesus to start burning incense and talking about the “journey.” But part of his Buddhist phase was realizing the difference between people who are happy simply by “being” and those who are happy only when “doing.” It turns out that I’m better at doing and he is better at being. We decided I’m a “do-er,” because unfortunately I have no job, friends, or a stable place to live, and I’m not succeeding as a “be-er.” The other side of that is Adrian is probably the happiest person alive right now. He has the job of his dreams, interesting teammates, and a little cuddly blonde that lives with him. There are some ups and downs of course, it’s just funny how content he is when things are weird for me.

Ultimately, things with Adrian are good. And that’s good, because if they weren’t then I’d have no reason to be here. The best part is that I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like something is missing, which is how I felt when we were apart (although I would like to wake up not on the floor). Also, living with an athlete has perks: good food, naps, free equipment, etc. But the down side is Adrian sleeps like a toddler—ten or eleven hours a night or whines like a toddler. In the future he’ll go to sleep and then a few hours later I’ll find my place on either the floor or bed—depending on the rotation—and sleep my appropriate amount. Oh, and we aren’t being puritans about the sleeping arrangement, but as luck would have it, our bed is actually smaller than a dorm bed… it’s kind of like one of those beds they have for little kids that fits inside a race car. But alas, minus the race car. It wouldn’t be a problem if we were living separately as planned, but it’s only two months and finding housing here is like finding a Hungarian radio station that doesn’t play rock ballads.

So, there was some candidness about what’s going on in my life. Silence on the blog, email, or phone conversations is usually because I’m busy. Unfortunately, this time it was because things weren’t going so well. Hopefully the next update will be uplifting and include tales of interesting jobs, friends, etc. But if not, at least I am learning a lot, working on some future projects, and spending time with Adrian, all of which are important. I was always told in college that one learns more outside of class than in. Well, the good news is with no class or job I must be learning a ton.