Szervusztok! (Howdy ya´ll!)
I've made it to Budapest in one piece. I landed yesterday at 7:30 pm and was met by a BSM staffer named Peter who took me in a taxi to my flat. By the way, Im typing this from an internet cafe near my apartment since I need an additional grounded adapter to plug my laptop into the wall socket. I tried to type a quick email on it, but it quickly ran out of juice and died. This is fairly hard to type since the Hungarian keyboard is so different from the American one I am used to. For instance, the y and z are switched, and there are about seven different characters that we dont have that have their own key, such as ő ú ű á í ö ü ó. To compensate, the usual characters that are in those places can now be selected by hitting shift and tapping the numbers and a few of the letters in the middle of the keyboard. There is also an anti-shift, which selects the character that is written below the main character. Therefore some of these keys have three different characters on them. Regardless, this is tricky.
Im pretty sure that we are not very far from the center of Budapest. We are also right on the subway line which takes you to the center. By coincidence, I hope, our flat is literally right next door to the Budapest Holocaust Museum. I plan on checking it out soon, though since today is Saturday everything seems to be closed. Ive been walking around for the past 30 minutes and the only stores that are open are the grocery stores, gas stations, and this internet cafe. As soon as my suite mate, Mike, wakes up from his nap, we are going to take the subway to the other side of downtown where there is a mall. There there is a store called Media Mart where I can buy the adapter.
Figuring out the currency is a small problem for now. The Hungarians use the Forint, which has an exchange of 186 forints = $1. So 1000 forints is about $5.38. In case you were wondering, the interent at this cafe costs 155 forints for 30 minutes of use, which comes out to $1.70 an hour. I clearly wasn't ready for this when I took out money at the ATM. I took out 10,000 forints which is $53. Mike and I went out to eat last night and found a pizzeria a few blocks down the street. A 28 cm personal cheese pizza cost 690 forints, which is $3.55. I paid the woman who worked there, who spoke zero English, the smallest bill I had, which was a 10,000 forint note. She had to practically clean out her cash register to give me change, which came in three bills and seventeen coins. Now I have a lot of change. The pizza was terrible. It makes me glad that we decided not to go to the Chinese buffet closer to our flat. So far I've counted three Chinese fast food restaurants near our place.
The phone is another issue. Since our apartment doesn't have a built in landline, we are provided with cell phones, though we have to buy our own minutes. My flat is for three people so we had three different cell phones and chargers. There was only one of the phone manuals for us to look at, but it was all in Hungarian and for a Sony Ericsson, except that we had two Nokias and a Samsung. Only one phone, mine, had the number for itself written down. So.... problem solve. Mike called my phone, so now we have his number. However, we have only figured out how to call each other and no one else. Another person in the BSM program posted their number on facebook, but for some reason I can't reach him. I just hear a recording of a guy speaking in Hungarian on the line. Maybe now that I have bought more minutes, it might work. (Wow! Ya think?)
Speaking of which, I bought those minutes at a Shell gas station that I found while walking around. Out of the two employees there, one spoke a little English. I managed to get 5000 forints worth of T-Mobile minutes. The way it works is that there is a little keypad at the counter. The cashier enters the amount of money you want to put on the phone. Then you type in your phone number on the keypad, which includes the two digit carrier number (30 for T-Mobile, 70 for Vodafone) plus the seven digit personal number. In five minutes, I got a text message confirming the transaction and telling me how much money I had on my phone.
My two-week language course begins on Wednesday. Peter showed me on the map where it is, which is close to the famous Dohany Synagogue, the biggest synagogue in Europe. My math classes are at a seperate university, which is a little farther away from downtown, but still a relativley short commute, I think.
I'm excited to be here. The weather is cold right now, in the thirties Fahrenheit, but I'm trying not to think about it, which is hard when I can't feel my face from the wind. I'll post some pictures and map when I can.