A Traveler’s Life

Monday Košice, Tuesday Budapest, Wednesday Berlin, Thursday Sacramento.  It may sound adventurous, it may even sound romantic but when I realized this is how my week would look, I just wanted a nap.  Modern travel by train and airplane, as well as the wonders of a close together Europe make this trip very possible.  However, it takes a toll on the mind and body to be in so many different situations, hearing and using multiple languages, interacting with people from various cultures and the stress and mental energy it takes to navigate multiple train stations, airports and taking care of other transportation needs.

For me this is the home stretch.  Just the final few hours before making the trek to the airport and getting on a plane to bring me back to California.  It’s been quite the month of travel.  And now I am tasked with taking all the information i’ve compiled about different people and places and using it to make a decision about the future.  I’m very thankful that I was able to put my feet on the ground, get my hands dirty and see the different cities and work options from a close-up and hopefully more realistic perspective.

At this point i’ve made no final decisions.  I’m going to give myself some space, pray, have a few more conversations to fill in some gaps and see how my heart pulls me.  It’s an exciting yet nerve-wracking time but I don’t think I would have it any other way.

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A Day in Budapest

It was a blustery beautiful day in Budapest.  People were out enjoying the sunshine that was playing hide and seek behind the fast moving clouds.  Since my train was late coming into the city, I got to meet my friend’s neighbor who was kind enough to let me use her phone and leave my luggage as I arranged to get the house keys in the city center.

My friend’s housemate and I met on the steps of the St. Stephen’s Basilica and I was given house keys and turned loose on the city.  I spent the next few hours enjoying the beautiful architecture, bridges and buildings all throughout the city.  And when I got hungry I ate a yummy lunch of hole in the wall Chinese food.  It’s always interesting to have ethnic food in different places, Indian in Slovakia, Chinese in Hungary, etc.

Then I had the brilliant idea of asking the tourist info booth to help me order a taxi for to go to the airport.  It worked and the taxi was outside waiting for me at 4:30 this morning.  After ordering the taxi, I tried using my handful of Hungarian coins to make a phone call to another friend of a friend.  It took about 600 forint (over $2) and a few different calls but we finally made plans to meet.  The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying small cafes and drinking a beer while sitting by the Danube river.  A lovely day in a lovely city.

Slovakia and Hungary too- Another Part of the World

It’s been a few years since i’ve been to Eastern Europe and then it was only a weekend in Poland.  And that weekend in Poland wasn’t in any city but instead with friends at their lakeside cabin.  Now I don’t want to discount or downplay that experience.  It was lovely riding in the train and then walking across the boarder.  Since I was the only American, I remember it taking longer for the crossing official to look through my passport before letting me cross but nothing else unusual.  After we crossed the boarder, I think we took a bus out to where the cabin was and just enjoyed the beautiful nature and everyone’s company.  It was a great weekend getaway but not a super comprehensive view of what Eastern Europe has to offer.  So now I find myself back in this part of Europe experiencing it really for the first time.  Hungary and Slovakia are countries 29 and 30, respectively, on my travel list and together they open up a whole new world for me.

My travel from Budapest to Kosice went without a hitch.  I got about 4 hours of sleep once I flew into Budapest so it was a short night but I had plenty of time in the morning to buy my ticket, figure out where the train platform was and sit on the train wondering if it was the right one before it departed at 6:30 am.  Hopefully, I will get to see a little more of Budapest before I leave next week because as of right now my experiences have been limited to a talkative taxi driver, buying water from a vendor and quite a few people who told me they didn’t speak English as I was trying to figure things out at the station.

Kosice is the second largest city in Slovakia boasting about 240,000 people.  It has a beautiful downtown walking area and good ice cream so it’s been a good first couple of days.  Here are a few pictures of the city.  Enjoy!

Treats in Germany and off to Budapest

Yesterday was another lovely day in Europe.  The sun was warm and most people had a day off because of Pfingsten (Pentecost).  We started the day with a breakfast that included apricots, peaches and pears.  These are fruits that are definitely not available in Papua New Guinea so I was very excited.  They were absolutely scrumptious.  I can’t wait to enjoy more pit fruits this season.  I guess I will miss the abundant tropical fruits but this is a happy change for now.

I have been seeing lots of Berlin so after breakfast we decided to head outside of the city.  Our adventures took us to Potsdam which is not that far but already in Brandenburg.  We walked around the SchlossPark (Castle Park) which lived up to it’s name because of all the great buildings that were residences and summer homes for Kings.  The gardens are beautiful too and if you get off the main paths, there are even some places to sit and just enjoy the day without hordes of other people.  It would have also been interesting to see the inside of some of the Castles but maybe that should be a cold or rainy day activity when being outside isn’t really an option.

It’s amazing how ornate all the buildings are.  The time and craftsmanship that went into constructing these palaces is kind of astounding.  Artwork has obviously changed but the stone carving and metal work is still really impressive.  It was also fun to see that fruits were considered a treat then too.  There were places for figs to be grown and a giant green house to take care of exotic plants in the winter and other fruits like oranges.  For you German readers, here is some more information on Potsdam Park Sanssouci.  And for those of you who don’t speak German here is some less detailed information in English but even you can still enjoy the pictures on the main site.

After visiting the park we walked into downtown Potsdam which has lots of interesting gates and a comfortable main walkway that’s car free and enjoyable.  Since it was warm and we had already eaten a small park picnic, we decided that ice cream would be a good afternoon treat.  I ordered Spaghetti Eis which is literally Spaghetti Ice Cream.  But only in looks not in taste.  It’s vanilla ice cream, strawberry (or in this case mixed berry) sauce and white chocolate shavings.  Delicious.  I appreciate the over-the-top ice cream treats in Germany.

And now today I am repacking for my evening flight to Budapest.  This next week is going to be an adventure getting to Slovakia by train and seeing another very different part of Europe.  But i’m excited to see what will happen.  No doubt there will be some good stories in the making.  I don’t know about my internet connection so we’ll see when I can post next.  Until then I hope you, no matter where you are, get to enjoy some summer treats.

Reminders Before I Travel

This evening I fly out of San Francisco.  My brother and I will drive down, have dinner with Grandma and then I will be dropped off at the airport.  I am all packed and under weight.  42 pounds in my suitcase and it almost rattles because it is so empty.  A lot hinges on this trip.  Maybe I will fall in love with a country, a team and a group of people and know that’s where I am suppose to go.  Maybe I will love multiple places and have a difficult decision ahead of me.  Maybe nothing will seem quite right and I will come home wondering just what God is trying to teach me.  Maybe I will be swept off my feet by some handsome stranger sitting next to me on one of my 12 different flights.  I don’t know, maybe the odds are not in my favor on that one.  But that’s one of the appealing things about travel, the world is literally at my fingertips and anything can happen.

So just a few quick reminders for you my faithful blog reader:

1. Be patient with me.  I will try to update my blog whenever I can but it will most likely be more sporadic.  However, I promise to keep my camera in hand and my ear open for any interesting cultural stories.

2. If you receive an email from me asking for money, don’t send any.  Even if the hackers get the country right this time, I am ok.  Even if everything I am carrying gets stolen and I am lying bleeding in the streets, I have other ways of taking care of myself.  I will ask the people I am going to be staying with, I will contact my bank, I will contact my employer, I will contact JUST my parents, anything besides sending out a mass email asking for a ridiculous amount of small unmarked bills.  And my plane tickets for the return trip are also already purchased.  If this is not making any sense to you, read the post that I wrote after my email was hacked soon after my last trip and DON’T send money.

3. Just to make it easier on the hackers though, here is my general itinerary so you can be praying for me specifically in each place.  First stop, South Asia for a week.  Then a weekend in Switzerland for a wedding.  Second work stop, Berlin for week.  Then I fly into Hungary and get picked up and driven to Slovakia for another week long work stop.  And finally I have a day or so in Hungary before flying back to Berlin and then back to California.  I will be back on American soil on June 7th, a month from today.

4. Please pray!  Pray for the actual travel, all of the flight connections, layovers and airport pick-ups.  Pray for health and safety.  Pray for interesting opportunities for conversations.  And pray that I would gain wisdom and direction for the future.

Richard Rohr once said, “A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else.”  I know I am willing to go somewhere else but I think this trip will help me to figure out where I currently am.  Thanks for being a part of this with me.