Sunday, October 24, 2004


So there's been a change in plan: I can't leave this town. It would hurt too much. There are some things I will need to figure out, but I can make it happen.

And I can't give up on this language. Not now. Studying Hungarian is like this you see:

You see a lush island in the distance. Someone tells you that there are succulent mangoes for eating and lithe dark island boys (for eating) eager to massage white womens' feet. Your imagination takes root on this island and compels you to start swimming. You're young. You're strong. You've got time. So you start off flushed with the excitement of adventure and challenge.

You've been swimming for a really long time, so you pause to check your destination. Funny, the island doesn't seem any closer. But you keep swimming. And swimming. Your arms and legs are getting kind of tired, but you knew it would be difficult, so you persevere. But the island still doesn't seem to be getting any closer. In fact, the brackish water is all in your eyes, and now you're confused: did you even see an island when you were standing on the shore, or was that a mirage, some trick of the sunlight reflecting off the water? But by now you are so spent, it would be pointless after all you've invested in time and effort and perseverence to turn back now. You can't face the possibility that you may have spent all these resources for nought. You've got to believe that the island and the mangoes and foot massages are real.

So you see I have to stay.

I will still go back to the States to see my family, for Thanksgiving, and for a very dear friend's wedding, but after that, I will be back in Pest amidst dark buildings and slushy December streets.


At 7:32 AM, Blogger undrentide said...

Kedves Irma!

Nagyon örülök, hogy fog maradni Pesten!!


At 8:28 AM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

Köszi Yuriko!

En is nagyon örülök. (Nagyon jol irsz magyarul!)


At 11:01 AM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I admire your bravery in going head on to conquer the Hungarian language. What fascinated me most about Europe is how the languages of the Indoeuropean family all have some degree of relatedness. You can recognize words and concepts here and there whenever you pass through a place with a different language.

The exceptions to this are Hungarian and Finnish, distantly related, I believe. But how? It always fascinated me, wondering where these languages came from. My first months in Germany a girl from Finland tried to teach me some simple Finnish words, like table and chair, but I kept mixing them up. She could only laugh. Learning Spanish in college was easy. Picking up German was no problem. I even know some Dutch. Am also confident that I could pick up Italian, French, Danish, Polish, etc., because there's a framework of familiarity to build the words into as they are learned. But Hungarian (or Finnish)? That's a real challenge. Bravo to you!

At 5:12 AM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...

how exciting! bravo for keeping going. Of course the Buda and the Pest are wonderful, so really how can it not be a blessing. And Hungarian. Agreed, what a strange, strange language. I feel similarly about my learning of reach a place and you just want to reach a little further. You are a cypher for a world hidden in the open for us non-speakers. Again, how exciting. Say hi to the "Oktogon" tube stop for me. I look forward to continue to read about the highlights of your Magyar life...

At 5:22 AM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Irma Vep said...

Caro Indeterminacy,

Yes, there does seem to be quite a bit of inter-relatedness amidst other European languages. Hungarian is the exception. Hungarian is part of the Finno-Ugric language group. According to scholar Istvan Kiszely, Magyar and Finnish ancestors spent three generations near each other in the Urals, and he believes this is the reason for their linguistic similarities. But the truth is that really no one knows the origins of the Magyars or their language.

It's really not brave of me though, Indeterminacy. I'm just sort of slogging through, hoping for a crumb here and there.

-a-n-d-y-, why should I give your regards to Oktogon? I'm happy to do it-- I pass by there most days, but do you have a story? Please share.

Are you in a Japanese class? Are you studying on your own? Is it pure interest or would you like to live there?

At 5:35 AM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...


I have studied japanese off and on for i guess 9 years, having lived there for two. i would love the chance to live there again! at the moment I don't know..hopefully three months there in the spring is the scheme I'm working on....

and Oktogon. no particular story. i just love the mosaic tiles of the underground in Budapest, and for that station in particular. I remember once getting off there and being somewhat lost, having to walk quite a ways to make it to the Danube...

ps. i also heard there is a paprika shortage in Hungary currently -- could this really be true?


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