Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Almost Arrested.... Go Figure!

Yes, that's right. I did get in trouble with the police. The first of our group. Shocking! I will explain more later in the blog, but I want to go in order of our day. The day started as usual with a shower in our barely functioning shower stall. The santa sock we have wrapped around the hose is starting to not work so well, so showering is such a treat! Then Regs and I went down to breakfast. Today it was yummy scrambled eggs with cucumbers, tomatoes and orange peppers. Reagan ate eggs and a cookie. Then we headed off to class for more language and classroom lessons.

We had a short lunch break today, so Reagan and I booked it down the hill to find something quick. Reagan wanted Subway, and I wanted to grab a slice of pizza at a Hungarian pizza joint. We got our food and settled at an outside table right outside of the pizza place. Two bites into my ham, corn and pineapple pizza a Chinese lady came out of the restaurant next door and began yelling at us in Hungarian and shooing at us with her hands. Reagan and I just stared at her, then stared at each other. She shooed some more and then went back in the restaurant. Ummmm??? I am going to assume she was telling us we could not sit there. There was a sign on the table (in Hungarian of course), but we assumed the tables were for the pizza place. So we got up and walked over to the main part of the square and sat on a bench to finish up. Interesting. We get yelled at alot here. Nearly every single day we get scolded by somebody.

Then we had afternoon class and were released early so that we could do a little bit more sightseeing. I wanted to find a store to buy a hair dryer at, but Reagan wanted to go back to the hostel, so she went with Carla and I ventured off on my own. I wandered about a half a mile down the street and stumbled across a little hair supply store that had hair dryers on a high shelf. I walked in and said, "Do you speak English?" to the salesgirl. "Nem". Okay... how am I going to pantomine hair dryer and nail polish remover, (the two items I needed). I did a little bit of charades for her, pretending to remove polish from my hands. She kept bringing out bottles of nail polish, all different colors. Then I showed her my nasty toenails with their chipped polish and she totally got it.

She brought out four bottles of remover. I picked one and then pointed at the hair dryers up on the shelf. She asked me a question in Hungarian and mimed out big or small. I mimed back "big", and she brought down the big hair dryers. I picked one out and she totalled me up. Then she took a paper out of my hair dryer box and began writing all over it. When she was done she showed me the paper (all Hungarian) and said something to me. I kept shrugging at her palms up to show her I did not understand. Finally I asked another woman in the store if she spoke English and she came over to help. It turns out the woman was trying to tell me that I had a two year warranty. Oh for Pete's sake!!! Then I paid her, only to realize I had just paid nearly 90 dollars for a hair dryer. Ummm..... wow.

After that I headed back to the hostel and got myself ready for the night. It is our last night here, so CETP was taking all of us out for a big reception dinner by Hosok Tere (Hero Square). We took the tram and metro over and got some great snapshots of the square. It is stunning. Huge statues lit up against the night sky. Dinner was fantastic. We had another authentic Hungarian meal on a beautiful veranda. The weather was perfect and the company was sublime. I had salmon with carrot and citrus coleslaw, and Reagan had beef medallions with potatoes in red wine gravy. My little steak baby. We had an amazing dessert, sweet golden dumpling with vanilla sauce, and a cappucino that was to die for.

The Budapest zoo was right behind us (literally, through the bushes), and a band was playing a concert that represented songs around the world. It was put on by high school kids. We snuck through the back way (led by your's truly and Carla), and got some great pictures and a few mintues of dancing right behind the band. Very amusing. Reagan kept all of the teacher's amused by playing tag and being the mini photographer all night.

After dinner we all went our separate ways. Reagan and I ventured off with Rachel and Brittany to see Hero Square up close, and then we headed back to the metro to go back to the hostel. Here's where the problem was. When we got off the metro and had to transfer cars, we were stopped by a checker. I did not have my name written on my ticket, which apparently is a huge offense, so he grabbed my arm to stop me and began talking rapidly at me in Hungarian. I told him I did not understand, that I spoke English. He switched to English and told me I had to give him 6,000 forints immediately. I told him I did not understand what was wrong. He showed me my ticket and said, "You do not have your name on this. 6,000 forints right now." I said, "Well can't I just write my name on it now?" He just kept saying no and telling me to give him money. Then he wrote me out a ticket on this orange square of paper. Soooo.... 6,000 forints later I have the best souvenir of the whole group, the very first ticket out of anyone. Hooray!!! It is just so freaking typical I am not even a bit surprised.

Tomorrow morning the vans from our school will come to pick us all up, and we will all go our separate ways. We all feel a little bit anxious, excited and uncertain about what will happen next. School starts on Monday and it is overwhelming and exhilirating all at the same time. My contact from my school is Adrienne, who I have been talking to all summer. She has a daughter Reagan's age, who will also be coming with tomorrow, so the three hour car ride to our new home will be less awkward since we have already been in contact. I don't know what internet access will be like after tonight. Or phone connection for that matter, but I imagine I will be back on here soon.

Still loving it! This is the best adventure ever!



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day Five... Gelato Addiction

Is it possible to be addicted to gelato? I guess so. Reagan certainly appears to be. There are far too many tempting treats on the streets of Budapest. Gelato, pastries, kave (coffee), bread and pizza. Not just any pizza. The BEST pizza. Thin, gooey, dripping with cheese and sauce, capers and vegetables. Delicious. The food here so far has been amazing. I am slowly learning my way around the different food names. Most of the people in the restaurants speak enough English to help you order, and they are happy to practice your Hungarian with you. Sometimes they stare at me blankly when I speak, but I am sure it is the fact that I am butchering the pronunciation, and not their English abilities.

Today we had another long day of lessons. We learned more skills for the classroom and more Hungarian words. I love it. I am certainly a slow learner, but it has only been a few days and I think once I am thrust into the environment with no choice but to speak it, it will come far easier.

Tonight Reagan and I went out to dinner with Christie, one of the other teachers. She is going to be teaching in a town near ours, so I am sure we will be frequent visitors to each other's homes. We went to a little tourist area a few bus stops up from our hostel and ate dinner at a Hungarian restaurant called Fatal. We ordered bean goulash, beef goulash and a fantastic citrus chicken that was served on top of a salad. After our dinner we wandered around looking in shop windows and talking to random people on the street.

I have a ton of pictures to share, so I can't wait to be able to load those onto the computer. Most of the pictures we took tonight were just silly. I did get my picture taken with some random street urchin who begged to be photographed with me. Ummmm.... okay? I look like I am in a headlock with him in the picture, desperately trying to escape. Funny. Not much else to report. Today was pretty chill. I will leave you with a few vocab words.

Sajt (shite) is cheese.
Vonat (voe not) is train.
Pohar (poe haar) is glass.
Visz (veez) is water.



Monday, August 25, 2008

Day Four... Fun on the Danube

Today was another day of training in the classroom. We had a loooonnnngggg and difficult lesson in Hungarian. Difficult for me anyway. So many of the other teachers seemed to be breezing along. Arrrgggghhhh!!!! It is very interesting though, and I am looking forward to the point where it all starts clicking and I can comfortably use the language on my own. For now several of the teachers have been my life savers in answering my many questions.

Reagan was once again perfectly behaved. Class goes from 10:00 am until 5:30 pm, so it is a very long day. Of course we have breaks in there as well. We ate lunch at a Chinese buffet. It was hilarious trying to communicate with the lady in there. She spoke part Chinese, part Hungarian and part English. Reagan and I had lunch with several of the other teachers; Rob, Christie and Steve. Then we walked along the street and tried to read street signs. Steve and Christie both speak quite a bit of Hungarian, so they were able to help me understand some of the signs. Reagan likes practicing her few words on people, saying "excuse me" and "thank you" over and over again.

Christie brought her chihuahua to class today, so that kept Reagan interested. I think the whole class was getting pretty worn out by 5:00 though, so we were excused early to get on with our evening. Steve, Carla, Reagan and I all made plans to go back to Pest to sight see and get dinner. We took the tram into Pest and walked across the Danube to get down by the river cruises. We chose an hour long historical cruise of the Danube and bought our tickets. It was a bargain, really. Reagan was free, and my ticket was only 9 euros, which is about 13 American dollars. I was using euros because I had them left over from Amsterdam.

The cruise took us quite a way up the Danube with the captain narrating what sites we were viewing, then it turned around by this island and went back quite a way past our starting point, and then looped around again. We saw many churches, parliament, statues, historical sites, etc. Reagan and I took a million pictures, which I will add later when I can access my own computer.

The boat had a little bar on it, so I tried a Slovakian beer, Pilsner Urquell, which tasted kind of like Heineken, only skunkier. Not my kind of beer at all. Not that I am much of a beer drinker, but when in Hungary... drink Slovakian beer!!!!

When the cruise ended, Carla ventured back to the hostel, and Reagan and I went with Steve to find some dinner. We ended up at this fantastic little Italian place in a shopping district in Pest. Reagan ordered a pizza with bacon, onions, and capers on it. I ordered a salad and Steve had the goulash. The food was fantastic, and the lattes here are to die for.

Then we took a bus back to the hostel and called it a night. Four days down and totally loving it! Oh and by the way, we solved our broken shower problem by wrapping a sock around the hose. We are sleeping great too, aside from the drunk Hungarians who were singing "We will rock you" until 3 in the morning!

Hungarian vocab of the day... Nem beszelek magyarul. I do not speak Hungarian! Pronounced... nem be say leck mod yo rule.



Sunday, August 24, 2008

Three Days In...

After many, many hours of travel, Reagan and I are safely in Hungary. We actually got in Friday afternoon, but due to jet lag I have not gotten around to writing until now. We were dropped off at O'Hare by my mom, and we ended up checking in and getting through security in record time. That left us with three hours to kill before our flight. Lucky for us we met two nice guys that shared their bottle of wine with me and entertained us with conversation. I love new friends. Thanks Matt and Zack!Our flight from Chicago to Amsterdam was a dream. We had the whole row to ourselves, so we were able to spread out and sleep. The food was fantastic, and the flight attendants were constantly attending to us. We got to Amsterdam and promptly visited the restroom, pay phones and some little shop where we bought a key chain with wooden clogs of it in honor of Holland.

Then we got in line for the currency exchange and watched a man die. Yes. A man died right in front of us. He had a heart attack, the medics came, administered CPR for two minutes and then covered him with a sheet. Ummmm..... they usually do CPR for like 45 minutes on Grey's Anatomy????? A super sweetie from Oklahoma that was in line with us reassured me that they did everything they could. He was a PA, so I guess I will believe him. But still... yikes!!!Then we got on our connecting flight to Budapest, which was very brief. I slept the whole way and Reagan amused herself. We got our luggage with no problem, and met with our reps from CETP or Central European Teaching Program. They got us set in a taxi and we came to our hostel, which will be home for the next week while we have orientation. Reagan and I then met several of the other teachers and went up to our room.

We ventured out on our own for dinner, which was amusing. English is scarce here. It is a game of charades with a lot of pointing. So far we have successfully had a dinner and a lunch on our own, as well as ice cream. The currency is so whacked. It is called a forint, so when I pulled 50,000 out of the ATM, it amounted to like 316 dollars. I have no idea what I am actually paying for anything.This morning was also hilarious because the converter I bought for the outlets apparently cannot be used alone. I damn near electrocuted myself and ended up blowing a fuse. When I went to tell the front desk about it they could not understand me, so I had to play charades, pantomining the whole incident. They were NOT impressed.

We had our reception and dinner with our group last night. Roughly two dozen of us went to dinner in downtown Budapest. It was amazing. The architecture here is gorgeous, minus the graffiti that litters every single thing you see. We had dinner on the Danube River, and a three piece musical group consisting of a bass, violin and accordian serenaded us while we ate. The food was delicious... I had tilapia with a summer salad, and Reagan had a steak. We shared apple cake with vanilla ice for dessert and it was five stars. Super good! Then it started to storm, so we had to make our way back walking through the streets, then the subway, then the tram, then up a hill and MANY steps to get back to our hostel. We were wet but very pleased with the evening. The people are great. A real mixed bag of ages and locations.

I have zero regrets in making this decision. This country has so much to teach us about humility and gratitude. Today was absolutely fantastic. Reagan and I rose early to eat breakfast downstairs in the hostel. It is a very provincial offering... everything is simple, but it meets your needs. The choices for breakfast were bread with butter and jam, thin sliced ham, sausages that looked like hot dogs, plums and cut up tomatoes/cucumbers/orange peppers. Simple, yet plenty. Reagan and I shared our meal with a gentleman named Stan from our group, he is a retired high school teacher, and Ashley, who is a brand new grad from Florida. After breakfast we met the rest of our group, there are about 24 of us total, and we went down the hill to the Collegium, where our classes for the day were. We studied Hungary's history, practical teaching skills, mannerisms and a few words. I successfully went off on my own and asked the person at the front desk where the bathroom was... in Hungarian! Unfortunately they do not supply toilet paper as this is a very, very poor country and the money is simply not there. So... note to self... always carry a roll.

For lunch we went to a local restaurant, and with a bit of help from our rep, managed to order and pay with no problems. We did get made fun of by the guys behind the counter and some homeless guy... which I could not understand until our rep told me to get away from them. Oops! Reagan has been a total dream. No complaints about food, boredom or anything. She is quickly becoming the class pet, and volunteered herself for some activities today in front of everyone. Her resilience is amazing to me.After class we went to the hostel for a bit of a break, and then joined a group of other teachers who were going out to dinner. We hopped on the tram and went to Castle Hill, which has a wonderful view of Budapest, beautiful statues, a huge church and lots of restaurants. We ate at a great cafe off the square. Reagan had cream of asparagus soup and I had a cheese and dried fruit plate. Yes, I am attempting to eat dairy again, and so far it was met with success!Then we rode the tram back to our hostel and we are calling it a night.

I will leave you with a hungarian vocabulary word, the first of many.... Szia. That means hello. It is pronounced .... see ya!

More to come tomorrow..... and before I forget, here is our address and telephone number. If any of you have Skype let me know and I will provide you with my Skype number.

Altalanos Kettannyelvu Iskola
c/o Laura Lawrence
3900 Szerencs, Rakoczi Zs. ter 1..
Phone number: 011361305198378

Szerlem (love),

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Going Away Party

So my very best girlfriend, Lindsey, threw me a going away party in Madison yesterday. All of my best friends were there, as well as Reagan and a few of my friend's kids. We hung out by the pool, drank vodka lemonades and stuffed ourselves all day on a buffet of food provided pot luck style by the gang. Super yummy! Then we headed over to Christy's Landing for some lakeside music and burgers on the grill. Great to see everyone, wonderful weather and a perfect bon voyage for Reagan and me. I love my friends, they truly are the best a girl could ever have!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nobody can resist a girl in a wedding dress...

... or a girl standing alone on the corner of State street, apparently. In the past two days of shooting in Madison, I have had the most random people come up to me and say the strangest things. Clearly a girl standing by herself on a street corner is a reason to approach her. She must need something, right? Like a solicitation for a bartending job... or an offer of a pint of beer... or perhaps dinner at Delmonico's, won'tcha say yes, blondie? Oh please?

Then put said girl in a wedding dress, and all hell breaks loose. I must have had at least thirty guys come up to me tonight checking to see if I was really getting married. What is that about? Am I more or less appealing if I appear to be taken?

I had more drink offers than I can count... and a couple of bitter "congratulations", that quickly turned into cheeky grins when I informed them the dress was simply for a photo shoot, and "no" I would not be getting married tonight.

Oh Madison... I love your random strangeness.

I Did It

Chopped my hair off. Six whole inches are now resting in the bottom of a trash bin at A Cut Above. However.... I am still blonde. Just couldn't part with the blonde hair. Perhaps another day...

I have a photo shoot tonight in Madison. Once I have pictures of me with my short hair I will post them.


Like Mother, Like Daughter

It turns out that my baby girl is a natural at the whole modeling thing. She has been hired to do a stock photography shoot with me on Wednesday in Illinois. Stock photography (for those of you that don't know), is photography that is sold to stock sites, such as, and people can then purchase the pictures to use in their brochures, advertising materials, websites, etc. I have used stock photo sites many times when creating advertising campaigns. It saves companies from having to hire their own models and have photo shoots, which can cost thousands of dollars.

So we are doing a series of lifestyle shots and bridal shots. Should be fun!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nasty grams

I received a very nasty email this morning from a gentleman in Hungary. He does not know me, and I certainly do not know him. He felt the need to take several minutes of both of our time by writing me one of the nastiest emails I have ever received. It was insulting on the highest level. He was raging about stupid Americans coming into their country to try to show off and take their money from them. He wrote this email in response to an ad I posted on Craig's List listing my tutoring services. I was encouraged to do this by my program director, as the need for private tutors is quite high.

Clearly this gentleman did not need a tutor. He was able to insult me quite fluently in English. I truly hope this is not the type of reception that I can look forward to when I come into his country. I guess there are just bad apples in every country. I certainly know my fair share here in America!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

So tonight I had a monkey up my skirt...

Yes, that's right. A hairy, adorable monkey named Farley. Reagan and I were guests at Kathy and Jeff Ihde's house tonight, and we had the pleasure of playing with their monkey. Farley is a monkey that they have in foster care through an organization called Helping Hands. When Farley is a teenager he will be sent to the organization headquarters in Boston, where he will learn how to be a service monkey and help people with disabilities.

Let me tell you, he is all hands! His little paws were scrabbling at my skirt and up my leg! I guess he found something he liked....

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tougher than I imagined

I started packing things into storage bins tonight... clothing, shoes, purses, accessories, etc. that would not be going with me. All of that stuff will be going into storage in my parent's basement. For those of you that don't know, I leased my condo out for a year and have been living at my parent's place for the summer. Hence my belongings being in their guest room. It is incredibly difficult to decide what should go and what should stay. I am having to pack for four seasons. Not only do I have to pack for the seasons, but I have to pack for the occasions. I need to pack outdoor clothing for the freezing temperatures in Hungary. I have to pack work clothes for all seasons, casual clothes for all seasons, workout clothes, pajamas, etc. It is nearly impossible. Three suitcases to fit everything including boots, shoes, books and textbooks. I really do not know how to pull this off.

Then it will be time to do Reagan's bags. Ugh.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Is Nasal Hot?

I am filming two commercials tomorrow in Illinois. The first commercial is for the Internet, so it is a filmed commercial like a television ad, and the client is Campus Coupons, this is obviously a national campaign. It is a pretty lengthy script. The second commercial is a radio ad for Smith Barney/Citi Group and will run in the Chicago market.

Here is my dilemma. I am totally sick still. Last week I was diagnosed with a double ear infection, sinus infection and upper respiratory infection. I blame the pollen that floats around this time of year. I ALWAYS without fail get sick. So the doc put me on meds, and they did not do a darn thing. Just got a new scrip called in this morning, but there is no way it will work in time for tomorrow, so my question is.... Is nasal hot? Sure hope so! Hahahahahahaha!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stuff It

How do you cram 10 months worth of clothing, books, materials, shoes, hair dryer, curling iron, makeup, art supplies, pictures, winter coat, boots and other miscellaneous items into two suitcases? Picture me piling it all in, closing the lid, straddling the top of it and attempting to zip it. I will be lucky if the sucker doesn't explode enroute to the airport. Yikes!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Network to Lean On

Thanks to my new trusty resource, FaceBook, I have managed to get in contact with roughly a dozen of the teachers who will be placed in Hungary along with me. Very cool that we are able to chat, compare notes and become friends before our orientation on the 23rd. Very nice group of young adults. So far there is only one teacher who is my age, otherwise the rest of them are about 23-24 years old. Very welcoming and excited, just like us!

In other news, I made my appointment today with my hairdresser. As of next week Tuesday I will be a ravishing brunette once again. This is actually quite a big deal. I'm scared. There cannot be a massive screw up like last time. I do not want to look like a serial killer with jet black hair again.

I am swamped, swamped, swamped wrapping up final details, working on school work and squeezing in last minute modeling jobs. I have two commercials to film, and seven photo shoots in the next two weeks. Plus add in the last minute dinners, drinks and parties and every second is full. Yikes! Good to be busy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Less than 3 weeks to go...

The clock is ticking now. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by how much I still need to do before Reagan and I board the plane to Europe. Our visas finally arrived in the mail yesterday, so that was a massive relief. We fly out of Chicago on the 21st of August, and land in Budapest on the 22nd. We will be set up there at a hostel with a couple dozen other teachers/reps that are in our program for a week of orientation. We will receive information on the country, safety, communication, resources, etc. During the breaks we will be taken out sightseeing in Budapest and will experience the food and culture. Then after the week of orientation, all of our school's vans will come to pick us up and take us to our new homes.

I am really psyched to meet the other American teacher who will be in our town. I have already been emailing with one of the Hungarian teachers. She has a daughter Reagan's age, so it will be a nice, easy transition for Regs to have a built in playmate. School starts in September, so everything will move along quickly.

The word is that we have a nice spacious two bedroom apartment with a washer and a dryer, which is far more than I was expecting. I was told the school is about a mile and a half from our apartment, which is a nice walk every day. There is no transportation in town. I will not be driving at all for the next year. Things will be so different, but that is exactly what I am looking for.

One of the really good pieces of news is that I will be able to continue my MBA program while I am over there, and will be graduated by the time I come back. I just received a letter in the mail saying I was awarded another scholarship. That makes four scholarships now for this coming semester! I am really happy that my schooling will be paid in full for me this year. My loans are through the roof!

Well, that's it for now. More to come...