Today the whole BSM group went together to the local Hungarian Immigration Office to get our residency permits. We had all applied for and received visas from the Hungarian Consulate in New York before we had left, but now we needed to get the proper documentation that made our 5 month stay in Hungary legal. We went to the math school at Bethlen Gabor Ter at 8 a.m. to Anna's, the BSM student coordinator, office to print and fill out any last remaining paperwork. We left the school at 9:30 p.m. to hop on a bus at the nearby Keleti Train Station to go the immigration office in Buda, across the river and on the other side of town. There were about 30 of us in the pack and the first 10 people were able to catch an earlier bus while the rest of us, including Anna, waited at Keleti for another bus which came in 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Anna got a phone call from Brittany, who had gotten on the first bus. Apparently, for whatever reason, the public transit employees had ordered everyone off the bus after just one stop. The Hungarian passengers started yelling and cursing at the employees while the Americans walked off the bus confused. Anna laughed at this information, but wasn't surprised. "This happens from time to time," she said. We met up with the rest of the group and took the tram to the immigration office.
The immigration office wasn't such a painful experience. There were only three other people in line when we arrived, so we took up essentially the whole office. Anna did a great job talking to the immigration officers and handling all of the paperwork. All we had to do was take a seat and wait for our name to be called. They had plenty of comfortable chairs and tables so it wasn't a problem. Some people read, others conversed, a few twiddled Rubik's cubes. Not a big surprise there; turns out several of the BSM'ers can solve a Rubik's cube. The real question is how fast can they solve it? or have they ever done a 4x4 cube? Ranjan, from Philly, said in his prime he could solve a cube in under 25 seconds. Today he did one in about 35 seconds. I have never solved a Rubik's cube, or even solved one side. While we waited, David Stapleton, from Minnesota, quickly taught me how to do one side. Once you know the right way to manipulate the cube, its surprisingly easy to get one side. I felt like I had earned half of my math degree right then and there. After struggling to finish solving the remainder of the cube, I asked Kira, who was sitting next to me, if she had ever solved a Rubik's cube. She said she had not, so I let her try to finish it. She quickly solved 90% of the cube without hesitating. I said, "I thought you couldn't solve a Rubik's cube?" "I can't" she replied, "I can never get the last few pieces." She still was a helluva lot better than me. David, Kira and I fiddled with the cube for while longer, solving it then making a few turns and trying to fix it. The experience makes me want to get my own cube and try to solve it. It would be appropriate since I'm living in Budapest, the home town of the inventor of the cube, Erno Rubik.
After getting my residence permit, I headed home where I collapsed on my couch for an hour long nap without taking off my shoes. When I woke up, I headed outside to check out the Holocaust Museum next door. I had received my International Student ID Card yesterday and I wanted to use the discount to finally visit the museum. There were nearly no other people in the museum besides a handful of employees. The museum itself is very new, modern and well designed. The complex is built adjacent to an old existing synagogue, which was donated to the museum in 1999. The entire area is about half of the small city block, which is relatively little space compared to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and especially Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Its amazing, though, how the designers were able to pack so many meaningful exhibits and monuments into such a small place without feeling cramped. It had snowed all week making the courtyard a clean blanket of white powder, and the high walls of the complex prevented outside traffic noise from seeping in. I was completely alone in the snow. I had read about what had happened to the Jews in Hungary before, but I had never learned about it in this way. I wasn't looking for it, but the exhibits and the building itself forced introspection onto me. Even without a tour guide, just wandering alone through the exhibits provided insight and was a very worthwhile experience. Here is the link to the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Center, and here is another link within that website that talks about the building.
It's late and I have to go to sleep. Here are the pictures I took today. I also went to the State Opera House to see Tsaikovski's Eugene Onegin. It was another amazing experience that I'll relate tomorrow, but feel free to check out the pictures.