Monday, October 27, 2008

Trabant News

The Trabant is a true masterpiece of communist-era, East German engineering - rivaled only by the other automotive wonder from the GDR, the Wartburg.
The Trabant is an icon. It was produced for almost 30 years without any significant change in deisgn. The body of the car was "Duroplast" - a plastic material made from recycled cotton waste and resin.
I'm glad that there are still a lot of these cars around in Hungary, although there are less and less since they are out of production. If I had the money, I wouldn't mind getting an "eastern car" - but not a Trabant, preferably a Lada Niva.
I ran across a few news stories recently about these cars, so here goes:
  1. New Trabants
    A company in the eastern German state of Saxony (where the original Trabant was also produced) is developing a "grown-up version" of the famous Trabi, which will be introduced at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt in 2009.
    The car - called newTrabi will look very much like the original Trabant, but will comply with modern security and environmental standards. The newTrabi will also have a new 4-cylinder engine, and not the same two-stroke engine as the original.
    Click here to read the whole article.
  2. Trabant Boat
    This report was on CNN Video today:
  3. Original Trabant Commercial
    I found this on Youtube:
Long live the Trabant!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Food Coloring

One of Nate's favorite things to do is unpack the kitchen cabinets.
I've had it on my to-do list for a while now to put child locks on those doors, but I haven't gotten around to doing it yet.
Last night Nate found a bottle of food coloring in the cabinet, which happened to be leaky. And it got EVERYWHERE. We tried to get him in the bath to wash it off, but that was no easy task - he was running around naked and everything he touched turned red - his clothes, our clothes, the entire bathroom. And the whole time he was laughing and having a great time.
It was cute, but I've really got to put those locks on the cabinet doors...

Friday, October 24, 2008


Yesterday was a holiday in Hungary - or more like a day of remembrance.
On October 23, 1956 a revolution started in Budapest against the Stalinist government of Hungary and the Soviet occupation.
The revolution started with rallies and protests, but things got violent when the ÁVH (Hungarian secret police) fired on the protesters in front of the parliament building. Militias were formed and people started fighting against the ÁVH and the Soviet forces, first in Budapest, and then in other places throughout Hungary, using Molotov cocktails and whatever they could find as weapons.
On Oct 28, a ceasefire was made, and Soviet troops withdrew from Budapest. The Hungarians thought at this time that the Soviet army was actually going to leave their country, but on Nov 4, the Soviet army rolled into Budapest and crushed the revolution completely and finally.

It was during this time that Rosemary's dad, Frank (Ferenc), along with about 200,000 others, left Hungary as a refugee. He and a friend he had worked with at a mine in Szászvár walked across the border; they slept in haystacks at night along the way, and walked through a minefield at the border. They came to a refugee camp in Austria, and eventually made their way to America, first going to Chicago, where the other man, Ambrus (Rosemary's godfather), still lives to this day.
Frank joined the Army, became a US citizen, and was stationed in Bad Kissingen, West Germany, ironically now defending the western side of the Iron Curtain.
After returning to America, he got a job offer in California, and decided to go west and leave the cold winters behind, so he packed up his car and drove to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, Frank met a woman from Lima, Peru, named Hilda, who had also immigrated to America, and they got married and had two kids - Anthony and Rosemary.

So, for obvious reasons, this revolution is close to our hearts.

Frank left behind some family here in Hungary, who we were able to track down about a year and a half ago, and now we try to keep in touch with them. We found Frank's half-brother, and after searching for Rosemary's family in Hungary for a long time, it was very cool when we showed them Frank's old family pictures, and they had the exact same pictures in their albums too! Now they always invite us over and feed us lots of pacal pörkölt (tripe stew). In case you're wondering - tripe stew is kind of like eating gummy worms which are fuzzy on one side and are covered in grease and paprika...

This is how the dictionary defines the word "revolutionary":
  1. of, pertaining to, characterized by, or a sudden, complete, or marked change
  2. radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc.
When I think about revolution or revolutionaries, to me, Jesus Christ is the greatest revolutionary who ever lived. He brought about sudden, complete change. He taught things that were beyond established procedure, and even today, 2000 yrs later, the things that He taught are so contrary to the way that most people behave, that when a person starts following Jesus, it revolutionizes their life! And we know from history that when more and more individuals start following Jesus and his teachings, it revolutionizes whole communities!
Practicing the things that Jesus taught like forgiveness and unconditional love, revolutionize peoples' lives.
We are still studying through the book of Acts on Sundays in our church. Last week we studied the 19th chapter, where Paul is in Ephesus. And it says that he taught about Jesus every day in a school building, and in just 2 yrs time, it changed both the city of Ephesus and the whole region of Asia (western Turkey), so that people turned away from sin, and started living according to God's intentions.
My prayer is that the lives of people here in Eger would be revolutionized by Jesus Christ, and that as a result it would change our community - that as people turn away from sin not only would their lives change, but the community we live in would change too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Krtek - A Kisvakond

From my experience - and maybe it is just this way in our church and nowhere else - there is almost nothing that Hungarians like to talk about more than "mesék" (tales or cartoons).
Every now and then at church someone will bring up some mese that they used to watch when they were a kid, and then everyone else gets really excited, and they all start talking at the same time about which mese is the best, and which part of it was the funniest, and then they talk about how the mesék these days are super bad, and how much better things were when they were kids.
And it seems that all their favorite mese are from the socialist period, which makes sense, since that's when they were all kids.
Tonight I was driving some people home from church, and they rattled off a whole list of mesék which I "must" watch. I don't remember all of what they said, except something about a Vízipok (water spider) and some other one from Poland.

But recently someone gave us a DVD of one of these mesék, called Krtek, or in Hungarian: Kisvakond (Mole). Its a Czech cartoon from the 50's and 60's.
We had the disc for about 3 weeks before we even tried it out, because we honestly didn't have very high expectations that it would be any good. But one day we decided to give it a try, and now we LOVE the Kisvakond!
Nathaniel loves the Kisvakond too! He has a few other movies, like Baby Einstein, that he gets excited about - but none as much as this one!
For some reason, Nate prefers to stand up while he watches Kisvakond - sometimes on the floor, usually on the couch - and he sometimes just cracks up laughing as he watches it! There is something magical about the Kisvakond that Nate loves.
I guess I understand now a bit better why the Hungarians in our church get so excited every time anyone starts talking about some socialist mese. At least this one is really good. I'll have to look into that Polish one...
Here's my personal favorite Kisvakond video - The Mole in the City:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Répášska Huta

Eger sits right in between two of Hungary's few mountain ranges - the Bükk and the Mátra.
If you are heading north through the town, if you turn left off the main road you will be in the Mátra, and if you turn right you will be in the Bükk.
Even though neither of them are very high, they are both very nice, especially after having suffered through years of living in the "alföld" (the plains) in Debrecen - which for a mountain boy was like a slow painful death on the inside.

This past weekend we went for a drive with Shane and Marianna, through the Bükk to enjoy the fall and the changing of the leaves.
On the way, we visited one of my favorite villages - Répáshuta, also known by its Slovak name: Répášska Huta, as this is one of only a few villages in Hungary with a significant ethnic Slovak population.

In Hungarian, the word "kisebbség" (minority) is usually used as an offhand way of referring to Gypsies, since they are the largest minority group in Hungary. There are however other national minority groups in Hungary, but their populations are quite small.

At one time, it would not have been anything special to find villages in Hungary with ethnic minorities in them. Hungary used to be a bigger place, with many different nationalities.
If you talk to any Hungarian for more than 10 minutes, there is a pretty good chance that you are going to hear about the Treaty of Trianon - a peace treaty made at the end of World War I, in which the Great Powers divided up the teritory of the Kingdom of Hungary (on the losing side of the war). As a result, Hungary lost about two-thirds of its territory, and new borders were drawn according to ethnic lines.
Here's a map of the "distribution of races" in Austria-Hungary in 1911:You can see from the map, that the nations which were formed after WWI, were formed for the most part along ethnic lines - with a few exceptions.
One of these exceptions was the Germans living in what became Czechoslovakia, and the other is the Hungarians who ended up outside of the borders of Hungary, in almost all of the newly formed countries - leaving Hungarians as the largest national minority population in Europe, but leaving almost no ethnic minorities in the new Hungarian state, as you can see in this post-WWI map:
Even now, almost a hundred years after Trinanon, you can go across the borders of Hungary and find significant Hungarian populations in all the surrounding countries. Which, from our point of view is kind of nice, that we can travel for quite a ways outside of Hungary and still get by many times using Hungarian.
These exceptions - the Germans in the Sudetenland and the Hungarians outside of Hungary led to problems in WWII.

And getting back to Slovaks - Hungary and Czechoslovakia were on opposite sides during WWII - Hungary was Axis and Czechoslovakia was Allied. As a result, Czechoslovakia issued the Beneš decrees, which declared the Hungarians (and Germans) living in their country to be traitors and enemies of the state, which led to much of their land being confiscated. This led to a "population exchange", in which about 70,000 Slovaks from Hungary were "relocated" to Slovakia and 70,000 Hungarians from Slovakia were transplanted in Hungary. Thus, a country which was already very homogeneous, became even more so, as most of the Slovak population left.

Today, the estimated population of Slovaks in Hungary is around 50,000.
That's why Répášska Huta is such an interesting place in Hungary - a village where half the population is Slovak and 38% speak the Slovak language as their mother tongue.
Besides all this stuff, its also just a cute little village tucked away in the mountains, and a great place to visit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Blue Like Jazz" in Hungarian

Donald Miller's bestselling book "Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" was released recently in Hungarian, so I borrowed a copy of the book in English to reread it, to figure out whether or not I want to recommend it to our church.

I read this book when it first came out, and now after reading it again, I remember why I liked it so much the first time. The author is so honest, and it is so enjoyable to read, that I always find myself staying up late or stealing a few minutes throughout the day to read it. When I finish a chapter, I look ahead to see how many pages the next chapter is, and think about if I have enough time to read it - and even if I don't have time, I usually end up reading on anyways.

In case you're not familiar with the book, its the author's story of his own frustrations with American Christianity and the sincere questions he had about God and faith - and how God answered those questions, and led him to a real, living faith in Jesus.
He tells about how he came to realize that being a Christian isn't about accepting and following a set of political beliefs and cultural practices, but about truly encountering and knowing the person of Jesus Christ.
He explains how he was turned off by those who misrepresented God, but came to see that their actions don't discount the reality or greatness of God Himself.
He points out that one of the mistakes Christians often make is using love as a commodity that we lavish on those who agree with us and withhold from those who don't, when Jesus simply told us to love our neighbor.

I found his section on loneliness very insightful, his part about social action challenging, and most of all what he says about actually knowing and experiencing God to be refreshing.
I personally know people who have walked away from the church - some even from the Lord - because they have been disappointed by people who misrepresented God, and I think this book has a great message that these people need to hear.

So, I'm probably going to recommend the book to our church. My only hesitation is that, while I know some people will get what he's saying and be totally blessed by it, others might have a hard time getting it, and be confused.

Have you read Blue Like Jazz?
What do you think?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Alternative Holidays

Today we tried to call some of our friends in the States, and were frustrated to find that no one was answering their phones. Then we realized - oh yea, today is a holiday!
Today is Columbus Day in the United States. But, after reading up a little bit on Columbus Day, I came to find that the States are not so united in the celebration of this holiday.
For example, Nevada does not even celebrate the holiday. Other states celebrate different holidays in place of Columbus Day - such as "Native American Day" in South Dakota, "Indigenous Peoples' Day" in the People's Republic of Berkeley, California, and "Discoverers' Day" in Hawaii - rather than celebrate a man who mistreated Native Americans, and whose arrival led to the demise of their culture and society.
Denver (whoot, whoot!) has the longest-running Columbus Day parade in the United States, and it has been protested for the last 20 years by Native American groups, who aren't a big fan of Christopher Columbus.
Also non-fans of Columbus are the Venezuelans, who celebrate "Día de la Resistencia Indígena" (Day of Indigenous Resistance) on this day, to celebrate the resistance to European settlement in the Americas. On the 2004 Day of Indigenous Resistance, activists toppled a statue of Columbus in Caracas. One Venezuelan writer wrote: "Just like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, that of Columbus the tyrant also fell this October 12, 2004 in Caracas."
Interestingly, in the US Virgin Islands the day is celebrated as "Puerto Rico-Virgin Islands Friendship Day," while in Puerto Rico they choose to celebrate Columbus Day. LOL! That seems like a one-sided friendship - like when Person A says they're good friends with Person B, but Person B says they don't even know who Person A is! Good luck US Virgin Islands - don't give up! Maybe in time, you will win Puerto Rico's affection.

In other holiday news - today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada.
In case you think that the Canadians stole the whole Thanksgiving holiday from the United States - think again.
Although the first recorded Thanksgiving celebration in North America was held in Florida by Spanish explorers in 1565, the first Thanksgiving celebration in Canada took place in 1578, in what is now Newfoundland and Labrador province, and was organized by explorer Martin Frobisher to give thanks to God for having survived his journey. The first of the famous Thanksgiving celebrations by the English settlers in Virginia was in 1619, some 38 years later!

So, Happy Thanksgiving to our dear Canadian friends, happy Columbus Day or whatever it is called where you live to those of you in the USA, and to those of you who live in Nevada or most other places in the world - have a nice Monday!

Friday, October 10, 2008

10 Things About Rosemary You Probably Didn't Know

  1. Although she grew up in San Diego, she was born in "The OC"
  2. For 2 months out of the year, she is the same age as her brother Tony - he's only 10 months older
  3. Rosemary has traveled across all of North America by car - including Canada and Mexico.
  4. She has been to every US state, except for Hawaii
  5. She has run 5 half-marathons
  6. Her father was a refugee
  7. Both her parents were immigrants to the United States
  8. She LOVES Spider Solitaire
  9. She has worked as a merchant bank teller, handling very large amounts of cold, hard cash
  10. As of the end of September, Rosemary has been living in Hungary for 10 years!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Rosemary and I have been watching The Office lately.
At first Rosemary couldn't stand it because Michael is such an idiot, but now she's hooked, and always asks me when the next episode is coming out.
Oh, and we're also very happy for Pam and Jim - even though they're only fictional characters...
Here's one of our favorite clips:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sarajevo in Black and White

Back a few years ago, Rosemary and I and two of our friends, Naveen and Sunil, took a trip to Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia.
At the time I was still using a 35mm Pentax SLR camera - from 1983.
Its a great camera - no auto-focus or other automatic settings on it at all, just a simple light meter. I stopped using it a while back, because it jams up a lot, and using film just isn't practical - its a lot more work and a lot more expensive.
Recently I started getting some of our most memorable 35mm pictures digitized, and the first batch we did was the set from our ex-Yugo trip.
Here are some of the pictures from Sarajevo, which despite its sad recent history, is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities we've ever been to.
RIP old Pentax!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bulgaria: On the Road

On our trip to Bulgaria, we flew into Burgas, on the southern Black Sea coast, stayed at the beach for a few days, and then rented a car and drove up through Varna to Veliko Tarnovo, the medieval capital of the Bulgarian Kingdom - a very cool place with lots of history, a big castle, and a bunch of monasteries nearby.
We spent a few days in Veliko Tarnovo, before heading back to Bugas to fly back to Hungary. On our way back we took a different route, going over the Balkan mountains which run through the center of Bulgaria.
I have to say that the roads in Bulgaria were much better than I had expected. A few weeks before we went, I was in Romania, and was on some of the worst roads in my life. Bulgaria's roads were light-years ahead of even the "good roads" in Romania.
Nevertheless, the road trip took a lot longer than we were expecting - almost 2 hrs longer each way.
But the thing that kept us going was that there were plenty of interesting things to see along the way. Here are some highlights:

Nathaniel did a great job in the car!
He slept most of the way, and the rest of the time he kept himself busy with some light reading.

Bulgaria uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which means that most signs were in only Cyrillic
Even the McDonald's sign!
This can obviously cause some confusion, especially for Japanese tour groups:

We saw lots of interesting stuff along the way, including beautiful old stone bridges
Some MiG fighter jets
And an old lady beating some goats

We saw this Trabant, which had a Texas Tech sticker on it, which goes to prove that the Trabant is not only the car of the common worker, but of the Texas Tech University grad too!
Nessebar police drive the same car that we do - Peugeot 306 Break!
Quite frankly, I'm not surprised, as this is the greatest car ever made (sarcasm). I like to tell people that in the word Peugeot, the letter P stands for power, the letter S stands for speed, and the letter R stands for reliability...if you get what I'm saying.

Speaking of police, along the main roads there were these cardboard cutouts of police cars - obviously to make people slow down. They worked actually, except usually you could tell the difference, because the cardboard ones were covered in graffiti.
But my absolute favorite thing on the road in Bulgaria were these signs everywhere, saying "You are now entering the danger zone!", in other words, they are telling people that they are on "the highway to the danger zone?" Its almost as if I've heard that somewhere before...