Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Killing Some Time


Has anybody ever seen TETRIS built into the menu on your standard Television?

I Made a “D” in Anthropology and Psychology (from Aaron)

(alert, you have to read all the way to the bottom to get to the video)

I took both of these classes in college as electives and they were both uninspiring, way out of my interest range at the time.  However, I am always interested to learn more about the people in the areas that I have travelled in the last couple of years.  I guess it’s back to the history buff in me again.  This part of the world has seen their share of invading armies, Communism then Democracy, revolutions failed and successful.  Have I mentioned that the people here seem unfriendly and depressed?  Please remember, March 15th is a Hungarian Holiday called "Revolution Day" which celebrates the day a revolution started in 1848, yet the revolt was unsuccessful.  Is it asking too much to stumble into a conversation with an old timer who can “spin a yarn” about wars past?  Trust me, I have the time to listen.  I thought maybe being American would be a novelty to some here that would lead into conversation, but when I tell people I mostly get rolled eyes.  And there aren’t a lot of Americans that make it to this town of 20k.  The English on some of the signs and the menus are for some of the Brits that make it over here.  You can’t get a hello, smile, head nod, even eye contact when walking down the street.  Even on the Sunday morning stroll to church.  The birds are chirping, the sun is out, it is a beautiful heavenly Sunday morning, and granny won’t even crack a mini smile or a “Jo Reggelt” (good morning)?  I really would like to make a friend who can give me a little background.  Maybe the Priest?  What about a city elder who owns the local butcher shop?  Nothing yet.

There is an attractive, young, tall brunette who works at the beer and wine store a stone’s throw from the apartment.  I have been in there half a dozen times pricing beer or wine, and every time she forgets from the last time that I am not Hungarian.  She will tell me the total in Hungarian then when I say “English” or “American” she rolls her eyes and flips the cash register display around to show me the total.   I have made a big impact. 

Even the kids playing at the playground and at the indoor Aqua Palace are having kind of a subdued fun.  A lot of gentle wading and occasionally an accidental splash, which draws a scowl from their mom.  Kimbo has noticed it also, and I promise even though I have noticed it the whole time, I just now googled “unfriendly hungary” and there is quite a bit of documentation to back me up.
DISCLAIMER:  George, Adam, and Cornell, if somehow this gets back to you, I want to say that all of you have been very professional, accomodating and very friendly.  These comments are only about the general population in my short experience. 
My uneducated theory, remember  the “D”, is that it has something to do with communism.  The analogy that keeps coming to my head is a cowering animal that has been whipped up on.  It’s as if they are concerned that as soon as they cheer up, some higher power will swoop in and put them in a gulag, take away their microwave, or make them wait 5 years before they can buy a car.  Early on in the trip a Hungarian told me “Miskolc used to be a big industrial center but some powerful rich man decided to move all the jobs somewhere else.”  Ya, well that is free market capitalism, is what I think to myself.  Distrust seems to run deep.

I did find one young lady in one of the stores who discovered I was American as she reluctantly initiated a conversation.  Turns out she knew limited, broken English.  She did okay, enough to have a 10 minute conversation.  Then at the end she told me that she was studying to be a Certified English Translator to get a job in Budapest.  No wonder she stopped to talk a bit. 
I only go on about this because I miss the, "speak your mind, tell it straight, "Howdy", and friendliness that is West Texas" 

And of course, with the boys……being boned up on psychology or reverse psychology could really come in handy that last few weeks and the journey ahead.  The boys are starting to settle in or “settle down” (they can both say this term clearly) a bit in the last few days.  Things may be taking a turn in the right direction.  We have used a steady supply of “loving discipline” to get them to understand what we are trying to get across.  When we have told them “no” or “nem” repeated times on the same thing and trust me they know we are saying not to do it again.  Then they do it.  When this happens they go into timeout, careful detail to use all the same language during this process so they start to recognize it.  Then there are levels of their crying and madness during timeout, then when they are done, they come over, we hug, then we again gently and softly explain why they were in timeout.  This process seems to have turned especially Drew / Christopher who doesn’t seem to have such ups and downs and mood swings.  And of course he is getting more comfortable with his new parents.  They do consistently call us mom and dad now.  This is heartwarming and encouraging.  Especially to hear Sam say it. 

When we skype with friends and family, everybody says “Hi Drew, Hi Sam.”  But actually we have been calling them “Sammy Hommie” and “Drew Christopher.”  Our theory is that they are probably struggling enough with the language that to suddenly cold turkey calling them something totally different is probably a little too much.  Just today we have called them “Drew” and “Sam” only with marginal success. 

They can say the following words:  stop, please, amen, timeout, thank you, hot, cold, einie menie miney moe, mom, dad, settle down, brush teeth.  They are understanding many many more.  I can tell Drew to “please throw that in the trash” or “let’s brush teeth” and he understands and does it.    

Hungarian Whining at the Playground (part 2)

So Sunday, we took the boys to 10 oclock mass for the first time.  This is a monumental step for everybody.   We plan on raising them as good Catholic boys, so here is the start.  I am apprehensive about taking them to this old church to mass, but then again I think maybe they will understand more of it than I will.  Young people don’t go to church here that I have seen.  In Miskolc and here in Hadjuszobloszlo its all old married couples or widows who are dressed in their best Sunday Furs.  We get there early and get a seat towards the back.  The church fills up quick and then the priest makes an announcement for everybody to squeeze together so that the people standing in the back can sit down.  I am not kidding, out of the 100 to 150 people in mass, there is not one child in the whole church, except for our 2.  There are not even any children altar servers.  So no drama here, surprisingly the boys did quite well, sitting still, getting really stoked when the sign of the cross was made, since we had been practicing it, and they really liked the kneelers and the standing up and sitting down with everybody.  They did so good that we gave them some chocolate afterwards as a reward but I am not sure they made the connection.  I said prayer after prayer during mass asking, “Lord, just keep them content.”

We go to the playground later.  We have been 3 or 4 times since the first go round that I blogged about, in which they were so bent out of shape about something, but I couldn’t tell what because they speak a different language.  They are warming up to it and are enjoying the slide and the climbing deal and the swings and they are really liking the Pommel Chair ZiP Line now, which I think is by far the coolest deal on the playground.  Yes I have ridden it myself countless times.  It’s a little bit warmer today than it has been so there are lots of families out.  Everything is going good, until I get a little too aggressive with the “Push”  of the chair.  What happened next wasn’t good, and all the Hungarian parents around gasped at the violent American visitors.  Unexplained to them is that the Americans are toting around Hungarian kids?  I could see the mistrust in the local’s eyes as we left. 

This is Sam getting a little "extra push" from Dad.  If you are wondering, he got up laughing from this.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hungarian Kid Whining at the Playground (per Aaron)

Haven’t made a journal entry since Monday.  I guess that means things are moving swiftly but the reality is, it seems like time can crawl by.  Actually, from my perspective, the last few days have been difficult.  Harder than the first couple days we had them.  I think that it will be bad or get worse before it gets better, or at least I am prepared for that.  We have gotten into a pattern.  The boys wake up at 6 to 6:30 every morning.  I feel exhausted, and try to get some more sleep as Kimbo tries to start their day right.  Then its breakfast, a trip outside, then back for some Oil Vac work, and playing then lunch, a nap, more playing, trip to the market, supper, Barney, then bed.  It has been cold the whole time we are here.  Between 15 degrees to just about freezing, low and high every day, except today it finally climbed up to 45 degrees. 
Some places and things we have done:

One day we walked to the Catholic Church again, hoping to maybe find somebody who knew some English.  Couldn’t find anybody, but discovered that this little church that we are attending was visited by Pope John Paul when he was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and then again a few years later when he was the Pope.  Why I don’t know.  Poland does border Hungary in the north, a few 100 km’s from here so that makes sense, given John Paul was Polish. 
Close to the church were 3 museums we went in with the boys that cost us about 7 dollars to get into all 3.  One was a 50’s pop art/communism memorabilia museum, another was a modern art museum, and the other was a Hungarian village life from the 1800’s.  Thrilling.  They aren’t like museums we would think of.  They were basically converted houses. 

I have been on a city wide search this week for beef “marha.”  Turns out, not a lot of beef available and being consumed here in Eastern Hungary.  I found some.  I was itching to fry some hamburgers one night and I found the last package of ground beef that one corner store had.  It smelled kind of sweet and a little past its due date, and the cooked burgers carried some of that smell/flavor.  Everybody like them but they weren’t like 80% Certified Angus Ground Beef from Market Street.  Also, I found one butcher shop that had “marha” (beef) cuts.  I couldn’t tell what cut it was but Kimbo needed some for the Goulash recipe.  I asked the butcher if he knew English and he said “yes, vat kan I hep you wits?’  I said “is that marha?”  he said yes, then reached down into the counter and felt of it and looked at me and stated, “it is cold,”  and awaited my response?  What was I to say to this except, okay, “ I will take a half a kilo.” 
Hadjuszoboszlo is known for natural heated mineral waters that come out of the ground, so it has capitalized on this with one of Europe’s largest outdoor pool and mineral public bath (both closed because of offseason) but they also have an indoor water park which is pretty cool.  Because of that, it is sort of a resort town and lots of French, Germans, Polish, and Russians come here for vacation.  So there is a lot of shopping and restaurants, which is one of the reasons they put us here. 

We took the boys to the indoor aqua palace on Wednesday.  They like it, everything was good, except Sam tried to poop in the pool (see Kimbo’s post).  They are tentative in the water, not scared, but not like Gus was at their age, All IN.  I suspect they have not had the opportunity to swim much. 
There is a fruit stand, a liquor store, a bar, and a butcher shop every 100 yards around here.  A person could spend all day going in and finding out interesting things and attempting interesting conversations.  A few times this week, I have ventured out for a half hour and tried to carry on some conversations.  I have had limited success. 

We are only 2 weeks in and I know I am going to be dying to get on the plane as the time grows near.  It doesn’t do any good to count the days or go on about it, because it is still a long ways off and it is what it is.  It has been difficult the last few days.  The boys just don’t seem like they can play peacefully and on their own yet.  This is going to sound horrible, but it’s like breaking a horse or training an animal.  They don’t realize that there is a new, permanent “Sheriff in Town.”  They can’t figure out why these strangers they have been hanging with the last few days are trying to tell them they can’t repeatedly turn the light switch on and off.  However, the oldest one Drew/Christopher is starting to realize it and more than Sam.   A difference in learning curves is starting to develop between the 2.  Which makes sense given that he is older.  He has started to act out the most, object the most, be super happy, then super mad.  And the most heartbreaking, he will start to sob and cry randomly.  That deep kind of cry when it seems like he just can’t catch his breath.  There is nothing really that sets this off, it just happens, and I am sure he wonders why he can’t go back to the life he has known. 
Kimbo and I have eased up on the “strictness” a bit.  Realizing that we can’t make it happen overnight, we can’t “NEM!” everything. 

There are high points, they love practicing the sign of the cross and the blessing before meals, and taking out the trash downstairs and picking things up, Kimbo has written about some also.  And they have started to randomly give a hug or come up and give a kiss on the cheek. 
Today, was warmer outside and to help combat cabin fever, I told Kimbo I would take them to the park nearby for as long as I could.  This I thought was going to be a major hit.  This is a nice playground, climbing forts, swingsets, and even a Pomel Chair Zipline that is really cool.  We started out on the swings.  They liked it for about 3 minutes, then started doing some Hungarian whining that I can’t understand.  One starts and the other one jumps in and the next thing you know they are chewing you out and there isn’t a thing you can do, except look for random translator walking by.  I couldn’t help at this point to think, come on dudes, Gus would be all over this playground, what is wrong with this?  I wouldn’t be able to peel him away and here are these 2 complaining Hungarian style at the rope climb that they should be able to scale without any problem.  I thought for sure they would love the zip line and they rode it twice and then didn’t want to do it anymore.  I then rode it 5 times in row strictly for my own personal enjoyment.  Now they are really getting upset and the older one is in tears screaming at me, and I have no idea why.  The other one jumps in and now people are starting to look.

Sidenote:  As we are in public, locals will look at the boys and talk playfully to them and the boys will talk back, then many times the adult will look at me and speak in Hungarian awaiting a response.  All I can do is smile and say “Amerikai.”  The person then will look at the kids, then look at you and get a “What the?” look on their face.  They walk away thoroughly confused and double taking.  There has been about 3 or 4 people who have realized this and said in broken English, you Amerikai with Hungarian kids?  How?  Then we explain and these few have been supportive. 
Back to playground……..I am trying to get them back to the apartment as they run away and yell at me.  I literally have to drag them across the street kicking and screaming back to the apartment.  By the time I get there I am “fed up” and ready to drop them off and go do my own thing.  When we get back I am venting with Kimbo and describing their actions in-depth.  They are watching me.  Finally, I just sit down and lean back, totally dejected.  I realize they are just standing there quiet, not moving, looking at me and Kimbo.  Then unprompted, Drew/Christopher comes over and gives me a hug, followed quickly by Sam.  They realized I was put out with them and they felt bad about it.  I feel a little more encouraged. 

Good Things

I realize that much of our postings have been negative so here are some things we are impressed with:
  1. Both boys eat really well and the only things we’ve found they don’t like are mushrooms.
  2. They both like to brush their teeth.
  3. They like to wash their hands after using the bathroom.
  4. They like to take baths.
  5. They both pick up their toys and shoes when they are told.  Most of the time, we only have to tell them once.
  6. There is always lots of fresh bread in the grocery stores.
  7. Paksalott Icksalott (Aaron's name for the store) - actually called Palackozott Italbot (Google translates = bottled liquor store).  It's about 50 yards from our apartment and the size of a small closet. 

     8.  We can still find good American music.

Well, I was super excited about the washer/dryer (that’s what George told me it was) but then I discovered that it’s only a washer.  I hang everything up on a drying rack to dry.  Jeans take about 2 days to air dry.  There aren’t any fans here so there’s no air flow to help.  I’m thankful that there’s at least a washing machine.  Aaron and I keep saying how much we will appreciate being home!

Things that are weird – Part 2

1.    The chip bag – please notice how many words are in Hungarian to say ‘Salted Chips’ compared to the other translations.

2.    The allergy warning on the chip bag.  Not only the actual warnings ('made in nut free area, but nuts used elsewhere'), but this is in English while everything else is Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovakian.

3.    Those 4 translations are the most common on products. 

4.    I bought eggs the other day and there are only 10 in a carton and they are not refrigerated in the store.  This is normal here, but it freaks me out a little bit. 

5.    Ketchup in a tube.  You can buy larger containers like at home, but I bought this one because I wanted to make sure we would like it before buying a larger size.  Luckily, ketchup is ketchup. 

6.    Beef is next to impossible to find.  Everything is chicken or pork.  For 2 people who have beef 5-6 times a week, this is very difficult.

7.    The market, supermarket, and grocery store are different places.

8.    Cheetos actually look like hot fries – those weird French fry looking things found in vending machines.  They also come in ketchup flavor.

Updates 2/24 (from Kim)

Ok, we haven’t been very good about updating.  We’ve been skyping with people so I think we forget to post – or we’ve been drinking too much wine at night J.  j/k

This has been really difficult and I’m pretty sure it’s all from the language barrier.  We can’t understand them and they can’t understand us.  I also think the foster parents kind of glossed over some stuff so we wouldn’t change our minds or think bad of them or the boys.  Not that we would but they didn’t want to say anything bad about the boys.
On Wednesday, we went to the indoor water park.  All 4 of us went first thing in the morning.  The boys were pretty scared at first but we got them to go down a big slide, first with Aaron and then on their own.  Upstairs there is a kids area with several pools, none deeper than 2 feet.  There were some slides and water features.  They really liked it.  They stayed pretty close to us and didn’t venture off on their own.  I thought about Gus a lot while we were there.  I knew he would love the park.  We went to lunch and I told Aaron to go back to the room and do some work.  I went back to the park with the boys.  We had been there a couple of hours and Sam (the youngest) was playing on a water slide.  All the sudden he sat down and got this look on his face.  I thought – Oh my gosh!  I ran over to him and asked if he needed to go to the bathroom.  He nodded and I grabbed him and we went to the bathroom.  I went back to get Drew and when I went back, Sam had poop on his hands, swimsuit, the toilet and the floor.  He kept trying to clean it up and was only making it worse.  I took him over to the sink, cleaned him up and went back to clean everything up and then we got out of there as quickly as possible.  This was so unusual for him because he and Drew have always told us when they need to go to the bathroom.  I wonder if he drank too much of the pool water and it got things flowing.  We kept telling them to close their mouths in the water but I don’t think it was translating well. 

These kids can eat like there’s no tomorrow.  Sam even takes bread and scrapes his bowl after we’ve had soup.  Mealtimes are sometimes the only calm parts of their waking hours.  Otherwise, it’s constant noise.  I guess this is something we will have to get accustomed to - they are coming from a house with 7 people (5 kids) and we are used to only 3 people.  They are copying us when we make the sign of the cross before and after praying.  It’s pretty cute and they are trying to say the words.  Sam cheats some times when he touches his shoulders and uses both hands ;). 
These are the only 2 little boys I know who would rather sit in a chair and watch me fix dinner than play with all their toys.  We brought them some new toys and the foster parents gave us some of their favorites, but they have no interest in them.

They like to get their own way and when they don’t, look out!  Sam’s a biter.  He’s bitten Aaron twice and one night, I noticed teeth marks on Drew’s arm when I was putting his pjs on him.  When Sam’s put in timeout, he screams bloody murder, but there aren’t any tears and all the sudden he just stops so I’m thinking it’s more for show than anything.  Drew just glares at us and talks back and balls up his fist like he wants to hit something.  We’ve started taking him in another room and holding his hands, talking to him gently to show him that it doesn’t help to get angry. I know they both miss their foster family and siblings, but Drew is the only one who says anything.
They’ve been waking up at 6:30 am.  Usually Drew wakes up first and then Sam.  This morning, when I heard him, I went out to the living area and had him lie down on the couch.  I figure he has been waking up Sam and that Sam could sleep in some.  Drew lay on the couch for about an hour before Sam woke up on his own.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Booster seat

I know I'm not the only one to use this as a booster seat - redneck booster seat!

NEM! (From Aaron)

“Nem” means no.  And I have said it 5000 times in the last 3 days.  I feel like a modern day Nazi in Hungary.  Both Kimbo and I are trying hard not to be too punishing or lay it on too thick, but we have to start getting through to them that we are the authority. 

Friday the 17th
Sorry about the date jumping but Kimbo and I want to share our different perspectives. 

“Pilsine (pish-ee)” is the Hungarian word for pee and for some reason the boys want to go constantly, like it’s a way to keep themselves entertained so I have started telling them “5 minutes” every time they ask me.  Usually they forget and we go another 30 or 40 minutes before they ask again.  Also, just like any kid their age, they insist on flipping all the light switches in the room off and on off and on constantly.  If we didn’t put our foot down they would just do it over and over and over again.  The hotel had light switches by the bed and they would have played with them for hours if we didn't stop them.  So this has been our first chance to show them we are the authority and when we say you can’t do it, you just can’t do it.  So we are keeping a consistent message with consequences if they disobey.  Let’s put it this way, they know what “timeout” means.  I think it is working. 
We give the boys a bath for the first time on this day and everything goes smooth.  I was a little worried they might get emotional during this because they missed their home.  But they enjoyed it.  They sleep all night and its off to Hajduszoboszlo the next day.

Saturday the 18th
It is a cold, foggy, dreary day on the drive to Hajd and I can hardly stay awake in the van.  But I do notice that we are in the open farm country.  There are many many vineyards and corn stalks and even some corn still standing like they didn’t get it all harvested.  I see a lot of equipment dealerships and some Deere combines and Klaas combines around, and know that Dad and Austin would appreciate seeing this.  Also, I am reading a book right now about Hungary during World War II and in October of 1944, the Russians had made their way to Hajduszoboszlo and apparently for about a month, they fought a hell of a tank battle right around and in this town that we are going to, so it is getting more interesting for me. 

Side note:  I guess I didn’t realize it but Hungary was not invaded by the Nazi’s, they were allies with them and part of the Axis from the very beginning.  In fact, even in 1944 they were still fighting the Russians as allies right around the town that we are in right now, finally the Germans/Hungarians conceded this area and all of Hungary in the late fall of 1944.
After seeing the apartment, which is much bigger as Kimbo mentioned, I feel relief that we will have more room to work and live with the boys.  6 weeks is a long time to be here but I am feeling a little better about the bigger place. 

Sunday Feb 19th
Overall a good day, with finding the church and getting our bearings, but not a real easy day with the boys.  I think they are acting out obviously because they are out of their element and probably missing their regular family.  After supper, I hear Christopher / Drew saying “menjunk haz” over and over.  I knew that menjuk “me-nuke” meant let’s go because they say that even when we are going for a walk.  I looked up the word haz and it means “house” so they were saying “let’s go home.”

This all still seems pretty surreal.  I still think to myself, why are we doing this?  Why are we opening ourselves up and being vulnerable and taking this on?  Then Kimbo reminds me that these boys have had a bad start in life.  It is inevitable that they are going to end up in another home anyway.  Their foster home was not permanent.  And so they are going to experience this at some point in their lives.  They can’t live with their birth parents either.  God has placed them with us regardless of my less than confident thoughts.  I think this will drive me to bring them up as productive men who contribute to society and set a positive example.  We have to raise them to be Godly men who can give back and be good stewards someday.

Feb. 20th (from Kim)

We are developing a routine.  Get up around 6:45-7am, play for 30-45 minutes and have breakfast.  Then we play for a little longer before going outside.  This apartment is too small to be in all day.  Even though it’s cold outside, we bundle up and take a walk for an hour or so.  We head back to the apartment for lunch, play or watch a cartoon then it’s nap time around 1:30pm.  Both boys have been taking a nap every day.  They will sleep for about 1-1.5 hours.  Then we play more before having supper around 6-6:30.  After supper, it’s more play time or a bath before bed time around 8:30pm. 

You might notice we are doing lots of playing and that’s because we don’t have any TV.  There is a TV that gets the local real estate channel, but none of us have any interest in it.  Luckily, I brought the DVD player but we don’t rely on it too much and the boys aren't that interested in English cartoons.  So far, they prefer Barney over Bob the Builder and Thomas the Train.  This is hard for me to watch because Gus never watched Barney – I know, poor kid, lucky me!
I guess this is karma since I complained earlier about having only CNN in English, so for the next 30 days, it’s nothing.

On Sunday, Aaron and I decided to attend church separately since we weren’t sure how the boys would do in church.  Aaron went at 8am and I went at 10am.  The church was built in 1788 but has been well maintained and even has radiant heaters in each pew.  It holds maybe 100 people.  One thing we’ve noticed here and in Miskolc is that the priests enter and leave from a door on the side of that altar, not processing out of the back.  This means that we haven’t had a chance to talk to a priest yet.  We’ve been hoping that one of them will speak English. 
Yesterday we walked around Hajd… but most of the stores were closed since it was Sunday.  Today, they were all open so we enjoyed walking around this morning.  We are just amazed at the number of clothing and grocery stores.  Every block has its own grocery store and the only difference is the size of the store. 

Directly across from our apartment is a small fruit and vegetable store.  I was really excited for it to open today because I’ve been thinking how handy it would be to have it just steps from the apartment.  We all really like fruit.  It was closed yesterday, but we went in this morning.  What a letdown!  Everything was brown or black because it was so old and many items actually had mold growing on them.  The only ‘fresh’ things were the ones sitting out in wood crates in front of the store and even some of it was suspect.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  The strange thing is that I noticed people going in there all day and leaving with bags of fruit and vegetables.  Maybe the store owner kept the good items in the back for the locals.

We also walked to the Aqua Park today.  This is the main reason we moved to this town.  Google the town name (Hajduszobozlo, Hungary) to see what I’m talking about.  We will go to the indoor area, the Aqua Palace.  We plan to go here 1-2 times a week. 

The boys are learning some English faster than we are learning Hungarian J.  But I’m pretty sure they don’t know what most of it means – except “time out” and they don’t like that at all.  They can also count some because we try to count out loud when we do different things, like giving crackers or going up/down steps. 
Tonight I made homemade chicken nuggets for the boys (chicken rolled in crushed corn flakes and baked) and they both really liked them.  We gave them some ketchup and they liked it too.  Both eat vegetables really well.  We were told that they pretty much like everything and that’s true.  They both can eat a lot, way more than Gus ever ate at their ages, but they are only in the 25% for weights. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pictures I like (from Kim)

Drew wearing Aaron's shoes

St. Stephen

Things that are weird – part 1

When travelling outside of America, please be aware of the following items.

1.       The only channel in English is CNN.  I’ve never been a big CNN fan, but it’s the only thing we’ve had to watch for the past week.  All other American shows are dubbed over in Hungarian.

2.       Most beverages are served at room temperature.  This includes water, juices and Cokes/Pepsi. 

3.       The top of the mattresses are about 18 inches from the floor.  You kind of fall on the bed rather than getting in it.

4.       Smoked bacon looks raw.

5.       Some houses have different colored outside walls.  Some of the walls will have 2 or more different colors.

6.       The wording on clothes and jackets is in English.  In the Budapest market, I saw a guy wearing a jacket that had TOP GUN and US Air Force patches.  One of our boys has a shirt with a motorcycle on it and the words ‘Cruising Topless’.  It may not see the light of day in America.

7.     You are expected to bring your own bags to the grocery store.  I knew this so I brought some with me, but I didn’t have enough today so the store cashier charged me 20 forint each for plastic bags.

8.       **Please don’t read this if you can’t handle bathroom talk.**  The toilets – these are reverse from American toilets.  What I mean is that the drain is in the front of the bowl whereas in America the drain is in the back of the bowl.  This causes a ‘flat shelf’ in the back of the bowl. Anything that finds it’s way into the toilet stays on the ‘shelf’ until flushed.   There isn’t really any water in the toilet bowl except a couple inches in the drain.  When you flush, the force of the water cleans off the shelf and forces everything down the drain which is about 3 inches in diameter.

Updates (from Kim)

It’s been hard for me to update because I try not to think about Thursday too much and I know Aaron already covered it.  I will just say that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – Oliver was trying to be brave and not cry, Amanda and the foster mother were openly crying and even the foster dad was tearing up. 

Friday and Saturday have been challenging for all of us.  Not just the language barrier but trying figure out everyone’s personalities and getting familiar with new environments.
We moved this morning to our apartment in Hajduszobozlo(Hi-ju-zoo-bo-zlo).  Try saying that 5 times fast.  On the way, we stopped at a large Tesco to pick up some groceries.  Try buying groceries in a store and you can’t read anything – what an experience!  The boys were well behaved in the store.  We decided to divide and conquer so Aaron took Sam/Hammi in a shopping cart and I had Drew/Christopher with me.  The store has these little pull behind carts and Drew pulled it for me and held my hand the whole time.  When we finished and were driving off in the car, the boys started arguing and George (facilitator) said that they were arguing about what we bought.  Sam said that we bought oranges (he was with Aaron and they picked out the fruit), but Drew said no, we bought apple juice (he was with me and we picked out the juice).  They are funny when they argue because we don’t know what they are saying but we can tell they are arguing, then they stop talking and both cross their arms and look away from each other.  This lasts about 10 seconds before they start looking at each other out of the corners of their eyes.  Then they start laughing and talking again.  We got to our apartment about 1pm and  - SURPRISE – there’s a washer/dryer for me!  Yes, I said washer/dryer because this is one machine that does both.  The landlord said that it wouldn’t get clothes completely dry but that I could hang them up on a drying rack to finish drying.  I’m not going to complain because I think this is a big deal and I know another couple who were just here, and the wife had to wash things in the sink because she didn’t have a washer and there aren’t Laundromats around here.  It’s a small washer/dryer.  I think I can maybe get 2 pair of jeans in it, but I’m not complaining.

The apartment is nice – bigger than we expected.  It has 2 separate bedrooms, a decent kitchen with a dorm-size refrigerator (again, not complaining just explaining) stocked with most necessities, and bathroom.  There’s even a small balcony.  Cornell (driver) and George drove us to the church (Saint Ladislaw or Szent Laslo in Hungarian) so we could find mass times and know the distance before showing us the indoor pool building and several restaurants and grocery stores.  If you want to Google the town name, you will see that it is famous for the water parks.
I’ve been looking forward to cooking for a while so I bought spaghetti ingredients.  It was not good.  The noodles were really sticky and the jarred sauce had a sweet flavor to it.  Aaron was nice enough to eat one helping, but the boys seemed to like it and both used bread to scrape their plates afterwards. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Long Hard Days" and "Names" (by Aaron)

Wednesday 15th              

Another day spent getting closer to the boys.  The mall, then lunch with them in the room.  Think everything  is going pretty good.  Zsolt / Sam is a bull in a china closet, Christopher / Drew not quite as much.  Everybody lays down and takes a nap without too much incident.  When Zsolt gets out of hand, you have to hold him tight to you and just don’t let him go.  He cries for a little bit and then settles down and understands.  He will throw all of his toys and is out of control, we will have to work him out of that. 

When we go to drop them off for the day, we discuss with the foster parents, the items that they have packed for us to take that are familiar to the boys such as outfits, pj’s, toys and undies.  They give us a couple bags packed full of this stuff and it starts to sink in that we are getting them for good tomorrow.  Tonight will be the last they spend with their family of the last 3 years. 

Kimbo and I get back and are feeling sentimental.  Last night as the Sage Family of 3.  We do some blog entries, and I have a couple of beers and catch up with things at work.  Then we decide to go eat at a place we haven’t tried called Kisipi sp.?  The food wasn’t good.  I had bean goulash and some fish dish.  The goulash was okay but not like the other I have had and I didn’t hardly eat any of the fish.  Highlight of this evening however, was the older gentleman who is playing and singing songs with his organ / synthesizer.  He is a friendly old man and not a very good singer.  I am standing watching him and he asks if I am Deutsche? (German) and I say American.  He says he has a special Elvis song for us and so he plays Elvis’ “I can’t help falling in love with you”  I have all 3:32 of it on HD video.  It is a classic.

Thursday Feb 16th and Into early Friday morning
Today is the day we get custody of the boys.  We start out at 7:30 to the town of Szikso (Six-so) about 30 minutes away.  This is where the regional govt office is that is handling the boys’ case.  We spend an hour there, signing papers saying we have spent time with them and everything has been going okay and then we have to give them their new full names.  They give us signed documents granting custody and they say keep them with us at all times in case we need to prove it.  We also find out that they have a savings account in another town that we have to collect for them before we leave.  Drumroll please.   The account has 13000 forint, about $60.  But it is in another town that we will have a ride to so we will probably spend $60 to get $60.  We can’t get it until after we have finalized adoption at the end of the 30 days.

From here we drive straight to Budapest to give these papers to the U.S. Consulate / Embassy to start the passport and visa paperwork.  There we speak with the Vice Consulate for 10 or 15 minutes about how the process is going to work.  He is an American I suspect somewhere from the Northeast.  He asks all the usual questions like “How did you choose Hungary in this” and “Do you know any Hungarian?”  The old city center of Budapest is beautiful and the Embassy is very nice with lots of security of course.  Just about 50 yards from here we go to an old Budapest open air food market.  This looks like family owned farmers market type setup with meats, cheeses, espressos and bread.  Adam wants us to try Mangalica Sausage which is a spicy Hungarian Salami with Paprika made from an ancient Hungarian breed of pig.  It tastes pretty good and Kimbo and I eat quite a bit of it. 
Budapest Open Market

Enyoying the Mangelica Salami

Wednesday Snow

From here it’s on to Keszenyeten village to pick up the boys.  So another 2.5 hrs in the van going to get them and I am starting to feel some anxiety.  We get to the house about 4:30 or 5.  I am feeling how hard this is going to be as we walk in.  All the kids are there, of course Christopher and Zsolt, their older siblings Amanda and Oliver, and the Foster Parents little girl.  Everybody is running around playing just as before, and everybody is talking and in good spirits.  Christian makes us all a Cappuccino, just as before.  There are also plates of homemade donut things with jam and some are stuffed with cream cheese.  I am not hungry at all, but oblige by eating 2 of the donuts.  The foster parents tell us (through Adam) that they would really like some pictures of the boys with their new friends when we get back and also of their birthdays.  You can tell they have discussed it and they will really miss them.  Edina starts to get teary eyed.  Christopher and Zsolt are playing just as usual and they really don’t know what is going on.  We talk for about 15 or 20 minutes and I start to notice Amanda and Oliver trying to hold on and hug their 2 brothers.  They definitely know what is going on.  I notice that they start to cry as they hug the boys and the boys are just trying to get away from them to play.   I realize that Amanda is about the same age as Gus and that there is a chance they will never see them again after this.  Amanda and Oliver will be available for adoption so there is no telling where they will end up.  Adam then says, "OK it’s time to go."  The room quiets up quite a bit from before and then Amanda and Oliver are looking around sensing that we are leaving.  This moment is really starting to tear at me, I start to cry.  I haven’t cried at any point during this yet, but it is finally too much.  It isn’t because they are coming with us, and not for sadness for the foster parents, it is sadness for the older siblings.  I think of Gus and what would happen if you tried to take someone that he was that close to, away from him.

The boys are pretty quiet in the van but I don’t think they understand.  Adam and George drop us off at the room and luckily the hotel has allowed us to use the small adjoining room at no extra charge.  This is very good.  We don’t have any plans for Friday, just be with the boys and see how it goes.  I am looking forward to this because for the last week we have to spend at least 4 hrs a day in the car driving to and from and to and from their house. 

Things are going okay in the room.  I go get some soup, juice, and bananas we all eat and they play some.  They are starting to get tired and we are debating when to try and put them to bed.  Zsolt gets a little out of hand and I hold him and won’t let him go, he cries then settles down.  This works pretty well.  About 9:30 we start getting them into PJ’s and they brush their teeth - everything going A OKAy.  The adjoining room has one single bed and we make it up for the 2 to sleep side by side.  We bring them in and lay them down and start to close the curtains and Christopher starts sobbing, it is heartbreaking to watch him.  Everything was fine and then as we started to dim some lights and pull the curtain he realized they weren’t going to their home to sleep.  This lasts about 15 or 20 minutes as Kimbo comforts them.  They both fall asleep but then Christopher wakes up and says he has to pee (hungarian "pilsilni", yes we know that word now, if you interested to know, "kaka" is for #2), but the good thing is he is calm.  He goes in the bathroom, pees and then crawls right back into the bed.  Over the next 2 hours he gets up 2 other times because he says he has to pee.  Again he is calm and goes right back to the bed.  Zsolt is sleeping the entire time.  Christopher gets up again about 4am and goes potty again.  And then both are up and jabbering to each other at 7am.  They are in good spirits when they wake up and immediately want to start playing.  Kimbo and I are both exhausted and hoping that they can entertain themselves without too much trouble for some extended time, but no dice.  After 15 minutes they are on full go. 
Names (from Aaron)
Thought it might be necessary to explain everybody’s names here because we are jumping around quite a bit.

Younger Sage Boy

Their names now are Fabian Zsolt, (in Hungary, the family name comes first, then first name last). So the little one’s name is Zsolt. We are naming him Samuel Zsolt Sage. But everybody here, including us still calls him “Hommie.” The foster parents gave him this nickname because he eats so much. I mean the kid can eat and eat. They start with“Ham” . So, “Ham,” beget “Hammie” which is pronounced “Hommie.” We still call him Hommie and are trying to figure out when we are going to start calling him Sam. I am thinking it might be an easier transition for everybody to call him Sammy, a smooth transition from Hommie.

Older Sage Boy

His name is Fabian Chistopher Andres. He goes by Christopher and we are calling him that right now. We are naming him Andrew Christopher Sage and we are going to call him Drew. We will see when that transition happens.
Kristian or Christian is the Foster Dad
Edina is the Foster Mom
Amanda is the 2 boys’ older sister who is 10.
Oliver is the 2 boys’ older brother who is 8
George is our main contact and in country coordinator during this entire process
Adam works for George and is our Translator and actually the one we have spent the most time with.
Cornell is the driver.
Hungarian Elvis is the Hungarian Elvis from the restaurant a few nights ago. Ha!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Last night

I’ve already fallen behind on my goal of posting every 2 days.

On Monday, we picked up the boys and went to have their passport and visa photos made.  They both did very well sitting for the pictures.  We picked up some groceries and came back to our hotel room to have lunch.  They both eat really well.
Since it was nice out that afternoon – close to 28°F and no wind – so we decided to walk to the church we attended on Saturday to take some pictures.  The doors were unlocked so we walked into the church.  Aaron and Sam walked over to a side chapel where Aaron knelt down to say a quick prayer.  Sam followed Aaron’s lead and knelt beside him before trying to make the sign of the cross.  He got the shoulder to shoulder part.  I see a priest in the making J.

church ceiling

Church exterior

Front door

George went with us to the foster parent’s house.  Aaron and I wanted to ask them questions about the boys.  The foster parents are very nice and we can tell that they really care for the boys.  I started crying at one point thinking how the boys have spent most of their lives with the foster parents and everything they have done for the boys.  I know they love each other very much.  I am so grateful that the boys were placed with them.
On Tuesday – Valentine’s Day – we visit the boys’ school along with the foster parents and Adam.  They are in the same class. We have to wait for about 10 minutes at the school because they are having a mid-morning snack.  The foster mother points out some of the boys’ work hanging on the wall.  Each child is assigned a different picture to show them where to hang coats, etc.  I notice that Sam’s picture is an umbrella and Drew’s picture is a tree.  I see a little bathroom and peek inside.  Boys and girls use the same room.  It has 3 stalls with curtains instead of doors and 3 small sinks.  I see the sinks are similar in size to the bidet in our hotel bathroom and it clicks in my mind why Sam is always trying to wash his hands in the bidet.  I noticed 2 long shelves above the sinks with cups and toothbrushes in the cups for each child.  The boys immediately find their cups and fill them water for a drink.  Then the foster mother picks up their cups and toothbrushes to take them back with her.  An older lady comes out from an office and talks to the foster mother.  The lady goes back in the room and re-emerges with a camera.  She takes many pictures of the boys and then has Adam take pictures of her with the boys. 

                Now it’s time to go into the classroom.  All the children sit on one side of the room on a large rug.  The teacher is talking to them while Drew and Sam play with some Play-Doh.  It is a light gray color and looks homemade.  Then all the children sing a song to the boys and they play a game with them.  Aaron and I are laughing because some of the children remind us of people we know.  The older lady keeps talking to Adam and then he will tell us that she is apologizing because it is poor school, but it’s really pretty nice.  It is very clean and there are a lot of toys and books for the kids.  It’s a free-for-all for about 10 minutes.  There are only 7-8 girls and 15-16 boys.  Some play quietly but there are a couple boys running around and sliding on the floor.  Finally, it is time for us to leave.  The teachers begin crying and hugging the boys.  Several kids come up to hug or shake hands with Drew and Sam.  As we walk to the car, we hear a knocking on a window and turn to see all the kids standing behind a large window waving and saying goodbye to the boys.  I can see the teachers crying and it makes me cry too.  The boys are subdued on the drive into Miskolc and I think this is the first time that they realize that this adoption is a big event.  We had lunch in our hotel room before playing for a little while and then taking a nap.
Wednesday – February 15th – We wake up to a beautiful snow falling in Miskolc.  There has been snow everywhere, but this is the first fresh snow we have seen.  We go to pick up the boys this morning and the foster mother has several things laying out for us to choose.  We all feel that it will be good for them to have some familiar clothes and toys with them.  The day is much the same – plaza, lunch in room, nap and return.  Aaron and I give the foster family their gifts.  They are so appreciative and the mother cries a little and keeps telling the translator that they are thankful for everything.  I tell her how grateful we are for them.  The boys are very good “little gentlemen”.

                Aaron and I go out to eat and we talk about how much our lives will change in 24 hours.  It will be difficult – we know that.  We are lucky to have the Hungarian Elvis singing and playing keyboard in our restaurant and he provides some comic relief.  It will be very hard to drive away from the foster home tomorrow night – it will be the last time that the boys will see them.  We wonder when they will realize what it means and how difficult it will be when they ask for the foster parents. 
Thursday morning, we will go to the government office to get custody of them.  Then we will travel to Budapest to meet with the US consulate.  The plan is to pick up the boys around 6pm.  Our lives will never be the same.