While listening to a Hungarian Christmas song on Youtube, I suddently received a wave of memories from the distance of time: the Christmases of my childhood. It’s something undescribable, just like the way Christmas Eve was always celebrated in my family. As far as I remember, it was never about the externals but something you can only see when you draw back and take time to feel it. It was totally about magic, smelling the scent of the tree, being with my family while knotting Christmas candy in white wrap on long strings to hang on the tree, listening to Christmas music that was mainly about the birth of Jesus Christ and going to play in a nativity scene in the church and a local pensioners’ home… and in the evening entering the room where all my family and presents were while lightening all the sparklers on the tree.

But even well before Christmas I prepared for it for a long time, my family would make an Advent wreath every year and we would light one more candle every Sunday – I was amazed how the power of one single candle could bring so much light into the dark room and as more and more candles were lit I was told it’s just the way how the soon-to-be-born Our Lord brings light to the world, the light of love to where it is dark and cold and grief. We’ve had a figure of Baby Jesus lying in a manger and I prepared a dress for him of paper every year. We cut small pockets on it and every time I did something good I could fold one pocket on his dress. “The more pockets you fold, the warmer he will feel” said my dear grandmother and I did my best to act as good as I could during Advent time.

I read quite much as a kid and I found some children books about Christmas, written at the beginning of the 20th century when celebrating Christmas in a happy and prosperous way was mostly the privilege of the rich. The characters of those stories were mostly poor children who dreamed of a warm flat and a Christmas tree –  instead they were happy with whatever small things they would get and give. The stories have revealed how strange traits happiness had – sometimes it appears in situations of need and discomfort, soothing troubled souls, healing broken hearts and uniting families torn apart, at least, in spirit. Probably these moving pieces of children literature motivated me later to offer my help before Christmas to as many people as possible. I’ve been keeping touch with a family in need for years and I’ve been sending a Christmas package to them in every December, not because of the actual value but the human factor, because I’ve been hoping I could bring happiness to them. One more memory I’ve had is purchasing a handmade postcard once from a woman on the street right before Christmas. I still remember how she told be that her husband had just lost his job and how I thought she needed compassion from people the most, even if that means strangers. Yes, these inspirations are those that make Christmas still the most beautiful and touching holiday of the year for me.

Sometimes I hear people saying that for them, Christmas has lost its appeal and now they don’t find it anything else than a holiday coming with duties, spending money and dressing in a fake happiness to mime you are feeling totally content. Maybe the stories of our inner children are dying and the real meaning of Christmas might forever be lost… We are now living a too developed, happy and comfortable life and we have no chance for that strange kind of happiness that I experienced in my childhood readings. We don’t decorate our hearts anymore – “why would we? for the sake of a stupid religious holiday?” some may ask. Still, I’m afraid that with the sense of Christmas one dimension of the human spirit may also disappear.

And now this is the question – how can I save the essence of this human spirit to my yet unborn children? I have no videos from my childhood, only photos and the record of the Christmas music (luckily I could buy it some years ago on CD). And the books I’ve been reading.  I think however that the main thing I should give my children is the sense of wonder around this holiday. I would like them to feel what I felt, I wish they would bring the news of the great joy to the world and that they would understand that it’s a time of the year when others are more important than we are. And I’m hoping they will believe that the newborn Jesus really is born in our hearts every year when we love each other and the whole world on Christmas Eve.

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Last weekend was fantastic…  Earlier my mum and I decided to go, this year again, to the place my great-great grandfather and his brother (Marian and Florian Bilicki)  used to make our famous and beloved Tokaj wine. Actually it was a harvest festival, as in every year, in Hungary, all the wine-producing villages and towns organize events with concerts, a procession with folk costumes, folk songs and dances etc. But before, I found out that there would be three girls from Poland to visit us that weekend who, when I asked whether they wanted to join us became so excited about it. So we decided to go together wih them. But I didn’t tell them, before the arrival, the fact that the grandfather of my grandmother and his brother, whose cellars we were visiting were also from Poland…

We were lucky to be invited by the woman who owns some of the vineyards and cellars of Florian – her kindness was endless: she offered us a walk in the yards, made us visit the old cellars and we also had the chance to taste her wine.  The next day we attended a mass – such a mass I’ve never attended before, it was generally a celebration of the wine with the small church being decorated with grapes, the wines being blessed and the priest talking about the Polish-Hungarian friendship and “wine relations” 🙂  Besides this, we went to see the town of Tokaj which lies south of Abaújszántó and is maybe the most famous of all villages and towns in this region. While driving there we saw the gentle landscape all around us, with huge fields of grapevines and green hills in the far distance. After returning to Abaújszántó, however, I realized the view from there is definitely nicer than from Tokaj 🙂 At the end of the day we met a group of pilgrims who were visiting the statue of Virgin Mary that looks over and guards the vineyards, we picked the very special and very sweet grapes from which our Tokaj wines are made of.

I believe it was one of those things that make life more round and more complete… Now I feel I have a great fire in my soul, a great love towards this corner of the Earth and I have a dream to find out more about the story and spread it so that Florian’s soul could be reborn again.

Some pictures to show you what I felt there:

So… Summer. Wandering around some parts of Europe, trying to fulfil my dream to see foreign lands, feel foreign feelings. Finland, Estonia, Latvia and then finally back to Lithuania once again. It was so wonderful, can’t really find words for it – and do you know what the greatest thing was? Discovering these countries from a completely different angle than from tourists do. Swimming in a lake in Finland by night, picking blueberries in an Estonian forest and standing at the very end of Saaremaa island was something that I could describe best as “uplifting” but even that word isn’t enough for that.

And then – Lithuania. The feeling I missed the most – being a part of a multinational community that is there for the same reason but is a mixture of many different cultures and ways of thinking – was totally present here. The worries I had – that being in the same country for the second time will disappoint me or that it will lose its wonder – disappeared from the first second I put my feet on Lithuanian soil. Really, really, there are so many things to discover there, even a life isn’t enough to get to know it… There were some places I visited for the first time this year, some others I revisited. There were some people I met for the first time, some I met for the first time this year. And there were people I wished to meet, but either one of us didn’t have time for that or they were staying far away from Vilnius.

And then came the terrible few days before my Business French language exam when I almost died from being exhausted and totally nervous… but I did it, and I think I also passed the exam (but I don’t want to feel happy about it too soon)

Now I’m more relaxed and balanced, but also stuck in Hungary for at least six months. But I like my internship place. I just feel the urge to escape once again from here.

Months go quickly, very quickly… And I don’t even feel how quickly I’m changing, too. At the same time, I feel that the end of my stay in France was either so long or just a few days ago. Soon I’m going to a new adventure – 4 countries of which there is 2 that I’ve never been to and another one I have only visited for a mere day.

Adventures… Yes. So many of them. I’m constantly being out of my comfort zone. You know, your comfort zone is the area where you feel the most relaxed, most “at home”, you are the most passive and so on. Some years ago I’ve heard from a girl that your personal development really happens when you get outside of your comfort zone. But now, I could say that I’ve been out of my comfort zone for months, if not years… I really should slow down a little bit. Well, I’m only saying this in relation to the future… For now, I have arranged the most crucial things for my shortest plans, but unti I got here, I had some tiring periods.

Let’s hope though that I can get over the difficulties and continue to be open for new adventures.

As a continuation to my last log, here are some pictures of the wonderful day when I met Natalija in Balatonföldvár 🙂

Thanks, Nat and Shadi, for some of the photos! 🙂

Tihany, my favourite place in Hungary:

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The Lithuanian cake! (Well, the choice of this cake was – believe me or not – totally unintentional! We only found out about the colours after having it on our table :D)

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The calvary of Tihany:

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…and the abbey:

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Hungarian king Andrew I (who founded the Tihany abbey) and his wife, Anastasia from Ukraine:

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Some traditional houses 🙂

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A part of old Hungarian folk life: the oven called “búboskemence” 🙂

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Picking some lemongrass to go with my lavenders I had collected before (Tihany is famous for its lavenders):

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The lake:

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After taking the ferry and arriving back to Szántód on the southern shore of the lake, Nat decided that we could hitchhike our way back home… 🙂

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This was already on the shore of Balatonföldvár. You can see such sunsets from the southern side, while those on the northern side get the sunrises 🙂

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Two of us, while the Iranian guests of my neighbour were also attending our sunset-watching session, talking, laughing and having a good time 🙂

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Me with the beer and birthday wishes 🙂 (as I had my birthday on that very day :))

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Black Daemon and Blonde Cyclone. Interesting names for beers…

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And as a finish for the day, we went to the centre of Balatonföldvár to sit in a bar (and listen to variable quality karaoke singing :D) I have never sung karaoke and I tried to convince my friends to form a choir (I was too afraid or sober to go alone :D) but I had no success… maybe next time! 😀

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I’ve been thinking how to sum up some of the most memorable moments of the past few months (I’m talking about positive moments of course) And later I realized that the best way would, probably, to share some of my pictures instead of trying to explain this period by words. (In the future I might write captions for some of the pictures though :))

So, look at them and enjoy!

I am no longer a slave of tests, exams, projects, etc. because I am all done with them. Gosh, from all the semesters I have done so far, this was by far the hardest. I still can’t believe it’s over, and I totally forgot how it felt to be totally free.

Well, I still have some things to do, like talk to some teachers, arrange things connected to my internship at ITD Hungary, but these are minor things and don’t require my attention 24/7. I also need to buy some new clothes, shoes, a new notebook and some other things I can’t recall now.

Now I can feel free to be excited, distracted, bored, sleepy, lazy, hyper, you name it 🙂

I don’t really have inspiration to write anything here, because there are so many things to write about that it’s hard to talk about just a few of them.

But I promise that in my next post, you’re going to see a small photostream about my last semester in France 🙂

These days I spend a lot of time sitting on suburban trains and while the train is dashing along the tracks sometimes I get flashes of memories – from my childhood and teenage years – in my mind. They are complete memories, I see pictures, feel scents and sometimes flavours, I can feel “effects” – the sunlight or the wind around me, I hear voices from the past years, each belonging to a family member or friend, or even to me.

I remember myself, the troublesome sleeper, building up Budapest every day with Ádám, from kindergarten, when all the kids, except us, were sleeping after lunch. I can smell blackcurrant tea and yellow roses and I know the joy I felt when I saw that those red trumpet-like flowers, climbing up the fence, started to bloom. I see myself trying to get little pebbles out of my sandals and in the winter playing with one of my classmates in the early winter evenings in the primary school garden, glazing at the round shaped lamps that spread their supernatural glows over the empty street, while our parents were meeting the teachers inside.

I recall the flavour of those fruit-based ice creams and vanilla cream waffles I used to eat on the Balatonföldvár lakeside and the mysterious 20th August nights when we were walking to the harbour to watch the usual fireworks, looking at the people and the stuff the bought: flashing horns, wands and pins to show off their jolly spirit, maybe as a contrary to the dark indigo coloured water that was calm, as always. As a little girl I know how proud I was when I could leave the house alone for a walk, those times I always went to sit on a bench near a small grassy area, to watch people passing by, and also I went to shop for some yoghurt to a nearby small shop (that has closed since then). I still feel the smell of new pine furniture and that of the OBI in Siófok that, me having turned older, we visited often after building up the new weekend house. “Natural” smells just as that of the paints and wet soil in the gardening section mixed with the joy I felt to see the house turn prettier.

Whoosh. Then my soul feels again the ample and warm feeling that I felt after summer holidays began. The first days I always started in a dizzy kind of euphoria like a lunatic who isn’t even aware of herself. I rambled around the streets of hotness-struck Budapest, sitting on the metro, going to IKEA… a lot of familiar impressions, colours, smells and sounds yet it is so hard for my mind to recall them exactly.

But maybe the silent irreality of autumn can make me remember more… The first autumn when we were in Balatonföldvár, in the new house. We had no electric heaters back then, so we used those with gas and oil. I went to collect branches for our Advent wreaths (or maybe that was in another autumn?) to welcome winter and the birth of baby Jesus for whom, many years before, me and other children sang “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” so often and so purely in our church.

And not to forget about recent years – high school days passed and I graduated. The graduation ceremony passed, with lots of flowers, singing “Gaudeamus igitur” and “Bravo, bravissimo”, just to be followed by Maths, Hungarian language and literature and History exams (I had already done the English and the facultative one – I chose Geography – in 2005,  one year before)

I could of course continue this to eternity – with listing those music pieces that bring the most memories out of me, writing about my childhood travels and then about my wonderful visits to Germany (Cologne) and Poland… but that’s not necessary. Most of them are feelings anyway and as they are feelings, they cannot be transformed to characters nor a post very easily. But maybe, maybe… if you are doing such things – seeing flashing pictures in front of your “inner eye” – think of me if you remember this post. 🙂

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And I haven’t written anything since that post from Hungary! But well, I can of course solve this situation with my present post.

Those 13 days in Hungary were great. It’s weird, before that I didn’t really miss my home but now that I returned, and saw my “normal” environment, I started to plan right then about what I am going to do after I arrive back. And usually where my dreams are, I am there in my soul, too.

After Easter, we went to Balatonföldvár just like all the time (but if there is a place in the world I never get bored of, regardless of how many times I visit there, that’s Balatonföldvár). I incredibly loved those few days, even though I didn’t do anything else than sleeping, walking, biking, eating and gardening. And lying in the sun, a lot. About the gardening part, to be frank that was only on the last day, but I worked very hard – I re-planted two hibiscus bushes (one of them was taller than me), a redcurrant bush and a rose bush, I dug out a small tree that just grew wild and that we decided not to keep, and I planted some gladious bulbs and “Scottish wildflower seed mix”, the latter I bought in Scotland of course.

We had some fun experimenting with the Cassis de Dijon and the Calvados that I brought from France, we made Kir Royal (Cassis+champagne), “normal” Kir (Cassis+white wine), however once it turned to be too sweet, once too sour, we just couldn’t find the right proportions! Next time I got to buy a book of cocktail recipes as the other solution – having a skilled mixer in my family – just can’t work out…

Now I have been back to France for quite a while and I need to work on 3 presentations of which 2 are in French. I have already suffered a lot with them but the bigger part of the work is still to be done. Well, at least now I have got an idea so the work is going to be faster from now, I hope.

And so I am in Hungary for almost two weeks, celebrating Easter with my family. I am over a very tiring time and I hardly can believe this country I am being now is my homeland. 😀 (If you reading my blog have visited home after a period which is longer than one month, you will understand me!)

My flight has an interesting story as well. In France I got to know someone who had worked for Air France before and for this reason could provide me with tickets at a reduced price – which, as a result of a code share agreement, could be purchased for Malév (Hungarian Airlines) flights, too. But as it was the day before Easter, there was of course over-booking for almost every flight and it wasn’t even certain that I could enter the first flight in the morning. But I managed it, thank God 😀 – and, top of this, I got a seat in the business class… 😉

It was already weird at the airport where I saw all those signs in Hungarian and when I entered a Hungarian supermarket. And it was embarrassing, too… Because in France I found out that swearing aloud (in Hungarian of course!) was a good way of relieving stress of being in a huge crowd approaching the metro in the morning. And one time something fell off my cart and I forgot about myself… do I have to say more? :S Well, I really need to drop this habit as I usually don’t have a dirty mouth. 🙂

On Saturday evening there was the usual resurrection mass of Holy Saturday that I attended, and yesterday it was the day of celebration with my family. Later today we are going to Balatonföldvár, the town which I adore to our house which I adore. 🙂 So no Internet for a few days.

So, see you later! And enjoy the spring if you have it right now where you are. 🙂

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“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there” and “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”

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