As C3PO said in “Return of the Jedi,” “Here we go again!”
And, once again I have rounded myself up, collected my scattered courage and plucked up my strewn-about wherewithal. Somehow I have landed in Budapest, Hungary.
Y’know, where they speak Hungarian.
And somehow I’m supposed to teach 3rd and 4th graders how to speak English goodlier.
That’s a terrible joke.
But let’s start at the beginning shall we?
In July of 2015 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. If you’re not aware what that is, here is a brief run down:
Immune system: “Brain Myelin Bad!”
Brain Myelin: “No guys, like, I’m on YOUR side!!”
Immune System: “Brain Myelin Bad! *Om Nom Nom*”
Brain: “Scars” by Papa Roach
Body: (Is in the “Charlie Brown” phase of the “Cha Cha Slide” permanently)
*Side note: Myelin is the protective coating around your brain and spinal column. When damaged your neurons start to misfire and then so does your body.*
My neurologist emphasized to me how my incredibly stressful lifestyle *cough cough work* probably triggered the initial onset of symptoms. Not only that, I was not eating well or exercising. It came clear to me that my lifestyle would have to change.
Therefore, in lieu of changing my diet and exercise patterns and maybe finding another job… I decided that leaving the country and starting a whole other life would be far less stressful!
But c’mon now. None of us really know how much time we have left on this go around. If any of my future should include disability (specifically the inability to perform basic functions like feeding myself and walking), then I reasoned I couldn’t wait any longer to start living my dream life.
As a little girl I always imagined myself as a global citizen. I would travel the world and speak many languages. I would be sophisticated, educated, and well-to-do. Most of all, I dreamed of all the places I would see and the great feeling of history and art that would sweep me up in a life-long romance.
I’m still trying to reach that dream. Somehow that person is lost in translation, probably hiding underneath one of my enormous bosoms, latched underneath the double-reinforced underwire and lace cage that polite society refers to as a brassiere. She is hidden in this rather large outline of myself, which in my brain still looks like a country bumpkin, wearing carhartts with empty pockets (except for the loose hay and sunflower seeds).
And in a more poetic way I am trying to carve out the person I saw myself as a little girl. I’ve dropped the carhartts and opted for some slightly more elegant options that include polka dots and heels. But if want to get down to “brass tax” I’m here because I simply couldn’t change the things I thought I needed to at home. It was too difficult to overwrite all the programming I had hardwired into me and I wanted to know who I could be without it.
So yeah, this blog is all over the place. I’m having a very difficult time focusing my writing. After this diagnosis I have found it incredibly nerve wracking to round up my thoughts. I’ll be trying to process a complete thought and suddenly I’m in a Chernobyl size panic attack with my heart leaping into my throat and the inability to breath or not vomit. Activities that used to bring me peace such as writing, or reading, have now become as stressful to me as navigating the 2014 health care website.
So yeah, yeah, I’m taking some “crazy pills” for this problem now- along with my newly diagnosed depression. I believe the shrink called it “Major depressive episode with anxious distress.” I’m sure someone could make a catchy jingle for that. Honestly though, this leads to my next point and that is:
Take your crazy pills. They’ll probably help.
(*Side Note* I don’t think depression/anxiety medication are actually “crazy pills,” but I call them that because it makes ME feel better about taking them.)
I have a hereditary disposition to depression- as well as having MS, being a female in the reproductive age group, while also suffering major life changes. Statistically put, “Never tell me the odds.”
But my crazy pills help a lot. I can tell a major difference between myself now and myself 5 years ago, even before the diagnosis. It’s as if I am a better me. Granted, I’m still anti-social and kind of whiney, but I’m better at that too. I can tell you just in terms of anger control, it has taken me from Kylo Ren status to Luke Skywalker at the end of Empire.
God, this is full of dumb Star War references. I should make like Darth Mal and split.
I’m so sorry.
Okay so let’s go back again. I’m in Hungary and I’m so excited to be here and psychologically speaking, I may be more ready to be here than I was in Germany. On the plane ride over from Frankfurt to Budapest, I made a vow to myself that I would not shelter myself from people or culture. When I lived in Germany, I was absolutely miserable the first few months because I didn’t force myself to go out and make friends or get involved in the culture or community. So on the plane ride here, with our German stewardess, I collected my courage and asked, in German, if I could have another glass of orange juice. For any of you who have not lived in a non-English speaking country, this is a big deal. Speaking in your non-native tongue is frustrating and intimidating. But this was my vow to myself, to take my crazy pills, and to ask for some orange juice in any other language besides English.
I’m not doing it by myself of course, so that helps, but I think these crazy pills have normalized my brain enough so I can actually enjoy it here. Although I am still using quite a bit of brain power to appear to others like I am normal, well-adjusted and not melting into self-inflicted neurosis.
It’s pretty bad. I am not naturally out going and so anytime I go out with new people I spend three-quarters of the time trying to think of appropriate things to say, while still listening attentively, and seeming non-nonchalant and cool. I basically want to make it seem like any minute I’m going to hop off on my Vespa; head thrown back; and in a sporty, chic way call out “Ciao!” before motoring off to my obviously swank, Italian getaway.
I think what is actually happening though…. I zone out inside my own headspace, trying to think of how normal people interact with each other and then fall completely silent as I stare off into eternity and it stares back at me.
As the love of my life frequently says, “It’s not great.”
He doesn’t say that about me by the way. Just things in general that he deems unpleasant, which can range from pneumonia to mass shootings. He doesn’t let things get him down… the twerp. I’ve taken to calling him “House Boy,” which doesn’t even rate a “not great,” just a mild, tongue stick out.
But anyway. Budapest, right?
I love this city.
My aunt asked me a few days ago what my favorite thing about living here was. Honestly, the food is pretty good; the architecture is amazing; and the people don’t believe in small talk- so that is doing wonders for my ability to leave my apartment when the neighbors are outside on our shared entrance balcony.
But I think the best thing is that there is something new to discover every day. I used to think this would feel exhausting, but after we got settled in our curiosity was peaked. We wanted to know what was out there. Obviously there are the big things like the big buildings and the restaurants and clubs, etc. However, to us, the most exciting thing has been exploring the grocery stores. Our curiosity about what was available, what things cost more, where we could find things to satiate our food lust was and is of major importance to a couple of gluttons like ourselves.
So far we have had the most fun in the mega stores like Auchen and Tesco. They are kind of like Walmart super stores, but I hazard to say a little classier. They are essentially stores that are malls.
Beyond that though, since we are still new, we are still mapping out the fastest walking routes to our school. What buses can take us where. What surprises did the former flat tenants leave behind? (They left a 1D pillow in case you’re interested.)
At our school we are still learning new things every day. I still don’t know all my students names (there are many girls named Fanni, Panni, Dorka & Borka) and a lot of boys named (Bence, Gergo, Attila, Zsombor). Essentially, I know the kids names who I have to tell to “stop talking” the most. I am still learning how fast my co-teachers go through materials, and how quickly (or not so quickly) the students pick it up. Today I learned that I need to make sure the chairs are put in my room at the end of the day, or I will get angry notes from the cleaning staff. (Whoops!)
I am having mostly good experiences though. My co-teachers are very kind, very supportive, and very helpful. As of right now, I feel like I can go to them if I am having any sort of disciplinary problem, or don’t understand how something works. Although, I must say, I feel like I am far from understanding how everything works, so I am learning how to cope with half-knowledge.
We are also making new friends, despite my brain’s best attempts to socially cripple me. It helps that I have the social butterfly, Dana, wiggling around me. Together we are discovering new stores, new foods, new people, new methods of transportation, new places. Even something that is familiar like milk, is just a little bit different.
People, it comes in a bag.
It tastes different too.
But it comes in a bag.
That’s what’s important.
Anyway, Dana and I are doing well here.
Yes, I am exhausted from teaching every day. Yes, my MS is still active and bitching at my body. Yes, I am sometimes scared and lonely from missing my cat, friends and family, but I am okay. I love it here and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity. I will keep trying to ask for orange juice without English.
Until next time, I am on a continent far, far, away.
Sunset View from our flat in Ujpest.