Pre-Departure


Just about two hours before I head to the airport for a marathon 18-hours of flying! I’m all packed … actually, overpacked, probably — methinks one of my suitcases is overweight, but I’ll just have to pay the charge ( I know, I know…bad carbon-footprint karma, but oh well). I thought I was so good, at first, in cutting down what to bring, but over the past two days, I have kept sneaking extras in. And at least 1/3 of the stuff is books and Xeroxes (still haven’t made final decisions on the reading for my courses).

Right now, I’m not sure whether I’m going to cry or run around happily in circles like a kid given too much cake. I’m SO excited to get there … and I’m also SO nervous. Maybe the third coffee wasn’t a good idea, after all.

But it’s here now, nerves or not. Next stop: Budapest (well, after Dulles…then Frankfurt…) Szia till then!

As I’m nearing the one-week-till-departure line (it’s 8 days away now!), I’ve hit the usual slew of “lasts,” which always leaves me in a conflicted mood. On one hand, I do love movement, the excitement of some form of change. Thomas Wolfe once wrote: “Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America — that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement” — a sentiment which certainly holds true for me. I’m very happy when boarding a train, buying a plane ticket, even when I hop on the Turnpike and begin the very familiar journey back to my childhood home in Pittsburgh. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the sadness of lasts, either. Particularly at what people are calling “quarterlife” now — those years in the 20s when you are definitely no longer a kid but haven’t yet donned a mantle spouse-house-kids  — where so many things are changing all at once, meeting all the “lasts” felt bittersweet this time around.

First, I had the last day of class with my students at Lord Fairfax Community College,where I have worked as an adjunct since August 2007. As a few stragglers stayed behind to thank me, I kept insisting it was the other way around: I owed the thanks. The LFCC students, combined with my wonderfully supportive department head (who makes sure her adjuncts are spared all the horror stories The Chronicle of Higher Education offers on that life) made for such a wonderful three semesters of teaching, and showed me to a career I love. I also had my last day teaching with (more…)

On Friday, I visited with my friend, Rebekah, who studied in Budapest in the spring of 2003. In addition to helping me conquer some of my worst travel and moving jitters with her effusive praise of the city, the country, the people and all things Hungarian, Rebekah was also able to teach me my second word in the beyond-difficult language that Magyar is: Egészségedre! (which is pronounced, I think, like “egg-ah-shay-ga-dra”).

It translates loosely to “to your health” or “cheers” — the sort of pre-gulp toast when out drinking. Rebekah assures me this will be most useful in making new Hungarian friends.

Getting my visa for Hungary was a surprisingly easy experience. I’ve only needed a visa once before — when I studied in Italy — and that was very official and formal: you had tons and tons of paperwork, a very busy visa office with many workers at the Italian Embassy, and about a month’s wait. The Hungary Embassy here in D.C., however, was extremely laid back — I signed a few papers, gave them my Fulbright letter and a passport photo, and in less than two weeks, I had my visa (word to the wise: don’t get passport pictures taken after a day wandering in the “lovely” Washington summer … I look rather sweaty, sketchy and annoyed in mine.)

But despite the relative ease of this official business, I found myself rather discombobulated as I drove home from the Embassy. Instead of going to my apartment in Arlington, I mindlessly cruised off in the other direction, and was well into downtown D.C. before I realized what I was doing. It wasn’t that I was lost — although, admittedly, that is a common enough occurrence — but rather the fact that I actually had the visa in hand, which made the pre-travel nerves go haywire.  Having the visa, I think, made this whole crazy pick-up-your-life-and-move decision seem very close. And, not a little scary. I’m excited, of course, (more…)