Saturday, October 27, 2007

The little things

First a little bit of background:
* Apartment buildings in Budapest tend to be nestled in the city, so the door into an apartment building is frequently right next to the door to a shop.

* Locks here are exciting. Sometimes you have to turn the key around 3 full turns to get the lock to open. Sometimes you have to do a half turn in the wrong direction and then a 1 and a 1/2 turn in the right direction. Sometimes you have to have the door handle in a certain position when you put the key in and a different position when you turn the key. Sometimes the door to apartment buildings is so heavy that you can have it unlocked and not realize it if you are not expecting it.

Now for the first story:

One night last week Christina, Kyle, Tom and I went to dinner at the Hummus Bar (a small restaurant with really tasty falafel) . After dinner, we walked back to Christina's apartment and along the way came upon an interesting situation. An old man in a wheel chair was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk and a lady was standing in the door of a shop just staring at him. As we approached he greeted us with "Szép estét kivánok!" and proceded to rattle off a long string of Hungarian that was clearly asking us something. We stopped and tried to explain that we did not understand. The lady standing in the shop door called out to him that we were not Hungarians and I think she was telling him to just not bother, but he was not deterred. He proceeded to continue speaking in Hungarian and gesturing wildly until we understood that he was in front of his apartment, but there was a step that he could not get up, so he could not get back in. Christina and I took his key and figured out how to coax the door to the apartment building open while Kyle and Tom got him up the step. Being able to be helpful makes me happy :-).

Friday night, as usual, we decided to go out somewhere for dinner. Christina threw each of us a guidebook and we thumbed through them looking for restaurants. We eventually decided on an Italian place in Buda that was described as being popular with the local college students. The menu was in Italian, Hungarian and English (by the way, I love the attempts at English translations of menu items, it frequently results in such dishes as "crashed potatoes"), but the staff was clearly not as fluent in English as the waiters on Ráday street. We were able to successfully order and communicate, but it was clearly slightly frustrating on both sides. (I had a cold raspberry soup and lasagne - a huge slice served in a ceramic bowl that it appeared to have been baked in. It was amazing). After dinner I caught the man who did not appear to be a waiter, but seemed to be there to wander around the tables and make sure everyone was happy and told him "Kösönöm, nagyon finom volt!", ie "Thank you, it was delicious" and he responded with a huge grin. Even though I am far from fluent in Hungarian, I am glad I have picked up enough to be able to be polite. :-)

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