Travels With Myself

A Personalized Periodic Update, just for my family and friends, of the Ongoing Adventures of Your Favorite World Traveler

Name:
Location: Budapest, Hungary

After nearly 30 years in the financial industry in the US (mostly California and New Mexico), I decided it was time for my second life. I sold my house, sold my car, sold all my furniture, took a TEFL course and moved to Budapest to teach Business English to the business people of Hungary. Amazing mid-life change! I taught for about eight years, then pretty much retired. Now I travel extensively, and have been to more than 65 countries. I have had six books published, mostly about my travels - see my author's page on amazon.com. I have made friends from all over the world. Becoming an expat is the best move I ever made and I plan to continue my travels indefinitely. Come join me on this blog and enjoy the places I've been and the people I've met, past, present and hopefully in the future.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pre-Trip Jitters

Well, the new year started off with a monster round of dinners, parties, gatherings, etc. Kicking off 2007 was an invitation to see Die Fledermaus at the Erkel Opera house. My friends Krisztian and Kati, who know one of the lesser cast members, got us all in for free - and we even had 5th row seats. Cool.

I had previously told my landlady I would be moving out by January 20, 2007, so I had to begin my move to buddy Andrew's place in the Eighth District. After several trips, I was finally all moved in by Jan 15. For those of you who don't know, the old Eighth District is not the best in Budapest. It still has quite a bit of trash in the streets and a lot of homeless and lower class population, but Andrew's flat is nice, recently remodeled and just around the corner from Rakoczi Ter, the former park hangout of most of Budapest's hookers. The clientele these days is mainly older people and homeless, but a covered market is adjacent to the park.

After the opera it was party, party, party until I dropped. Kicking off the festivities was the monthly meeting of the Viking Club at the Caledonia pub on Jan 4. Dinners and parties then included: dinner at the home of some Hungarian friends; a birthday dinner at Pampas Argentinian steak house; dinner with my doctor and her friend; a sushi party at Hiroko's new flat (she's the concert pianist mentioned in previous Blogs); Friday nights at The Stage (of course); a sojourn to Fat Mo's with some newbies in town; preparation of some long-promised New Mexican red chile for my newest roommate and another friend; drinks with some former students at Caledonia; a special (Robert) Burns night at Caledonia (complete with pipers and haggis); a Bon Voyage party for me at For Sale pub, the Stage, and Irish Cat II; the annual Little (Robert) Burns supper at the Scottish Mission; another Viking club on Feb 1. Whew!! I think I need a vacation.

A couple of interesting points. My doctor's friend, heavily into astrology, informed me that countries also have Zodiac signs, something I never knew. So, if you live in a country with your sign, you should be very happy and well-matched. Turns out that the only two countries in Europe having Sagittarius as their sign are Spain and Hungary! Yep, I've made it home. How about that! Also, on a sadder note, Fat Mo's has been completely remodeled into a nice, new, modern restaurant and music club. It's pretty, but has lost every bit of atmosphere and ambience and character the old venue had. Too bad - even the Hot Jazz Band members don't care for the new decor. Of course, they now have to wear ties when performing, and there's no place for the young followers of the band to gather, so we probably won't be going there as much anymore. What a shame.

I am now down to only two English classes, which meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, so I can sleep in for a change. Nice. I also finally closed my Hungarian company, since I'll only be teaching for cash from now on. My new residence permit is based on my being a retired person rather than a businessman. Ah, well, all good things... Also, for those who are interested, please check out www.budapestfunzine.hu for my expat interview. There's even a fairly decent recent picture of Your Favorite Blogger.

Ooopps, I almost forgot! How could I possibly forget something of such significance? My fourth book is now available from Authorhouse.com, and will soon be on the other Internet booksellers, like amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, etc. It's a cheapy, but fun nonetheless - I hope! Anyway, for those of you who are on my around-the-world path, and who have recently purchased this newest effort from the pen of Yours Truly, I WILL personally inscribe any copies, with my own pen, and (one hopes) in a reasonably sober condition. I just keep churning them out! And Number Five is on the drawing board!!

So, my final week in Budapest was spent getting ready for my trip. I was READY to hit the travel trail again.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Last of 2006

So, this update will take us through the end of 2006. My next Update will probably appear in April 2007, and will include the details of my Around-the-World Trip. I’ll be departing Budapest on February 3 for Los Angeles, to visit Morgan and Tony and to meet my grandkids for the first time. I leave for Australia on February 17, and will visit ex-Budapesters in Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Next, a short stopover in Singapore, and on to a week in Bangkok. Finally, nine days in India, including a personalized tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. Should be a good trip.

Anyway, upon returning from Sofia in November, the fall party season kicked into high gear. Stuart and I did another Pub Quiz at the British Embassy Club, then attended a really difficult Quiz given by the British Women’s Association a week later. General consensus was that ours was better, although the prizes in the latter far outstripped the bottle of champagne offered by the Club for the winners of our quiz.

Next came the annual St. Andrew’s Day celebration, this time at Caledonia, appropriate since Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. The Pub had cardboard kilts for us non-Scots, pictures of which I will show only if you are over 21. The Pub did us proud, with magicians, Scottish/Irish music and a Scottish pub quiz. The party season was definitely ticking over.

Late November was enhanced with yet another visit by Frances Crossen, one of my Irish friends, from Dublin. He even brought me a giant cardboard sheep named Seamus, which now occupies pride of place in my flat. We discussed the possibility of my teaching some classes for his language school in Dublin next summer, and the prospects look bright. More on that later. Frances even joined us at the Caledonia Pub for too much fun, including karaoke with Stuart and his staff from Interrelo. Good group, and some really good singers.

Early in December I decided to visit the Vienna Christmas Market, as I had heard it was bigger than ours and had lots of fun stuff. So, at 5:30 on a cool winter morning (the weather in Budapest was the mildest fall and early winter for 500 years!), our bus took off for Vienna, me and 65 eager Hungarian shoppers. Naturally, I was the only one who had to have his passport checked at the border. We debarked in downtown Vienna around 10:30, and got a one-hour walking tour of the tourist areas, finally to arrive at the Rathaus around 11:45, which was where the main Xmas Market was. We were told we had to be back at the bus, about a 15-20 minute walk, by 2:00. Hmmm, not a lot of shopping time, but I raced through the many booths and gave it my best shot. On the walk back, I also visited a few other markets, and even had time to pick up a Sacher Torte at the famous hotel of the same name.

I thought it would be a short shopping trip, but the bus then took us to Schonbrunn Palace, where we found yet another Xmas market and an American Gospel Choir in full voice. We even got a tour of the Palace, which was great, as I hadn’t done it on my previous visit. Back to Budapest around 9:30 PM, satisfied and shopped out.

Mid-December saw me finishing up most of my classes for another year, although this time many of them would not be returning, as I gave them to another teacher friend of mine (Keith Andrews), preparatory to my “retirement” in 2007. I’ll keep a couple of classes for the time being and when I get back here in April, then we’ll see. I’d like to “retire ”more fully in 2007 and travel more extensively and stay longer in places I visit. At least that’s the plan.

Our 4th Annual Sagittarian Birthday Party at The Stage Pub was another hit on December 8. There were six of us Sagittarians in attendance this year, and our karaoke buddies even honored us with a recording of Boldog Születesnapot. Everyone joined in and we easily passed again from one year to another.

Several more Xmas holiday parties and dinners peppered the remainder of December, including: a “real” Indian food extravaganza organized by a friend of Stuart’s; a holiday dinner given by the language school I worked for since 2000; and drinks with several former students. Finally, some of us stranded expats gathered for Xmas Eve Brunch at the Corinthia hotel, all you can eat and drink of really excellent food and mediocre champagne. Four hours of that and we waddled away satisfied and not a little inebriated. And I ask for nothing more in a Christmas celebration.

Having drunk enough for several revelers, when I got home I decided to make some calls. Got ahold of Morgan and then Stephanie, who were surprised to hear from me. No one else I called was home, saving me lots of money in phone bills. I joined Tracy later that night for yet more wine, and after our first bottle we were surprised by a call from Mark Wills in Ohio. Good to hear from him, and he promises to try and visit us in Budapest in May 2007. We were in such a good mood after his phone call, we decided to try and get hold of Matt Bresler in Kazakhstan. We woke him out of a sound sleep, it being 3:30 the next morning out there. Oops, sorry, Matt, forgot about the time difference. All that wine. Anyway, good to catch up on things with him too, and he also promised to try and get here in May for a short visit. We’ll alert the bartenders.

Christmas dinner with John McMahon and Aniko, which was nice. New Year’s Eve promised to be anti-climactic. The Caledonia Pub hosted its first Szilvester celebration for a mere 4,500 forints, a bargain compared to the minimum 10,000 forints (50US) charged by other bars in Budapest. The crowd was lively and a good time was had by all. I took off around 2 AM, and slept until noon that day.

The first few weeks of January were spent cleaning my flat. Yep, I am moving from my great little bachelor pad in the 5th District to Andrew Barak’s place in the 8th District. I’ll be living there when I’m in town, which should work out OK, as Andrew travels quite a bit for work. And since I’ll be staying in apartments for several months when I visit other countries, I really don’t need a full-time flat here. So I’ll save on expenses and still have a base in Budapest, plus Andrew gets a little extra money when I’m in town. Everyone wins. Anyway, my new address as of January 20, 2007, is:

VIII. Vig u. 18, 3/1
1084 Budapest
Hungary

(No telephone landline at the moment.)

OK, eager Blogsite Readers, that’s it for 2006. Another banner year. Can’t wait to see what 2007 will bring. Check back here around mid-April to see what adventures I experienced on my around-the-world jaunt. Hope everyone had a great holiday season and that 2007 is another fantastic year for you all.
Gary