My Budapest Past

April 24thImage

My first day in Budapest, my only full day until I return on my way back home though thank goodness for that.  We saw a bit of the city, walked to Heroes Square (Hősök Tere in Hungarian) where apparently all tourists go.  It’s right off one of the Metro stops and their underground is sooooo deep!  It feels like you go down forever into the bowels of the earth.  I heard the Communists built it that way, not sure why, but it seems to be working.   This section was built in the late 1800’s they say, although wait a minute, the Communists weren’t there then!  Okay, so this isn’t a history lesson, but it was pretty cool.  And the day was absolutely gorgeous!  I was expecting the mid to high 50’s according to weather.com, ha ha… and instead it’s in the 70’s and gloriously sunny!  I could only imagine my ancient relatives walking around. 

Synchronicity has been my friend. Mr. J, my traveling companion for a bit of this trip, knows a guy who knows a guy and maybe I can find my ancestors!  It’s true, he has a friend here who is a minister who knows the local priest from the parish we believe my grandparents were married in.  He took us out after our day of sightseeing to the little town of Detk and I think this is where my grandparents came from.   We approached the cemetery near the church at the end of the day, nearly dusk and amazingly the cemetery was still open.  The woman who I believe runs the office or the cemetery or something was still there along with the caretaker of the cemetery.  I told her of my story through the translation of my minister interpreter and we began scouring through the graves.  Lo and behold we found about six of them with the same last name!  This could be it.  None of them were my great-grandfather however, but they might be great uncles or aunts or cousins.  The woman was chatting with my minister interpreter when he tells me that she might be related to my grandmother!  Holy cow!  I ran up and hugged her!  We don’t know this for sure and we didn’t research her or her maiden name, but my dear minister friend (he has so become my friend now!  What a nice and generous man) has offered to research my relatives for me so that when I return before I leave for home, I may actually get to meet someone I’m related to.  Is that not amazing or what!  All my wasted hours on ancestry.com where I ran into brick walls looking for more information past my grandparents may all be resolved.  I was standing in a cemetery that may hold the spirits of my Hungarian ancestors, staring at a church that may be the site of my grandparents’ marriage before their immigration to America.  What are the odds?  I felt like Lisa Kudrow on her television show that searches for your ancestors.  I was really here in this ancient land and I may finally find out from whence I came.  I find that amazing and profound and somewhat spiritual.  How many of us know where we come from?  How many of us care?   I have always cared and never known.  My father’s parents both died before he married so our family never knew our grandparents.  That side of my ancestors seemed to be lost forever.  And it only seemed that those wealthy few who were able to fly to whatever their country of origin was were the lucky ones to know their histories.  I am far from wealthy financially.  But I am wealthy in spirit which I believed allowed me to acquire this scholarship sending me of all places to the land of my ancestors.  And I am on the brink of building many leaves on my family’s tree.

Won’t my father be proud?  I hope so.  For I may be discovering information that he never knew.  As a child of 7 who lost his father, he never had the privilege of hearing family stories, consequently he could not pass those stories down to us.  I hope he’s up there looking down and helping this story to move along. 

Far from my little piece of Mayberry but nearly acquiring another one,

Jo

Budapest

April 22nd

The woman at the ticket counter checked my passport and asked, “and your final destination is Budapest? “  Inside my mind I felt stunned.  Yes that was true.  It finally hit me.  I was actually going.  It was actually happening!  It felt like a movie, like somewhere I thought of going, maybe daydreamt about, but not that I would actually go.  And that I was here on scholarship.  Another miracle.  I am so hoping to meet long lost relatives.  Surely some of Dad’s family is still here.  I would love to learn about that side of my family.  My dad never spoke of them, he didn’t seem to remember much when I would quiz him before he died.  And here I was sitting with the possibility of meeting them.  Here I was traveling to Budapest.

I’ve already learned how to say Budapest correctly.  It’s Buda and then Pesht, not pest. 🙂  I’ve been studying with my CD’s but oh is this a hard language to learn!  I’ve looked up the history of both Hungary and Transylvania, studied the architecture and music, read about the early history of Unitarianism and how it came to be and tried to thoroughly immerse myself in Hungarian culture.   The parakeets are at my friend Chris’s house all safe and chirping, the apartment is clean (except I forgot to clean out the refrigerator so food is going to smell bad!), my other neighbor is getting my mail and another is letting a friend stay for a few days to help defray the costs of my rent.  2 of my friends have boxes of things I didn’t want to leave in the apartment in their garages in a safe and dry place.  I feel like all is taken care of.  My passport is here, my itinerary at the ready, I got packed and out of the house in the nick of time.  This adventure has really begun!

It was a quiet night on the plane.  The two year old in the row ahead of me stopped her crying and I watched Hitchcock on the plane in relative peace.  I am blessed with the ability to pretty much sleep anywhere (no jokes please, I am a seminarian you know.)  🙂  and actually got some zzzz’s on the plane.  I arrived in Budapest on the morning of the next day which turned out to be the evening of the day I am now in.  Confusing?  Yeah, my Imagebody thinks so too!  (These scary looking guys are in the Heroes memorial).  I think this is the longest time change I’ve ever experienced.  We’re 10 hours different when I get to Transylvania and I think I’ve only been 8 or 9 hours away in the past.  It makes for adding to the feeling of another world, another place and time.

So I land here with a feeling of excitement and trepidation, not knowing my host families or what is in store for me.  Here we go!  I’ll keep you posted whenever I get Internet access!!!  (And that could be a challenge unto itself!)

Far from my little place of Mayberry,

Jo

The Power of Facebook

March 31st

I know it’s not perfect.  I know there’s a lot being said about the hazards of social networking and how distant it is making all of us in human terms.  But something happened these last couple of weeks that could not have occurred without it.

When I posted on my friend’s page a couple of weeks ago to wish her a happy birthday, I didn’t know then that she was dead.  For all intents and purposes we still had tentative plans to celebrate her birthday.  When I did post my good wishes, it wasn’t she who answered me, but a woman I’d never met.  A sister of a friend of my friend Linda who died, was posting to let Linda know that the memorial of her sister was approaching and she saw my birthday wishes on Linda’s page and messaged me to tell me of the sad news of Linda’s passing.  A woman was posting from a page of her sister who died, to a friend – me – on a page of another dead woman.  And in this bizarre string of events two bodiless beings connected two living beings together in a moment of sadness.  As I reflected on this strange circuitous course of events, I couldn’t help but wonder at this.  Where else could this happen?  In a small town grocery store maybe, in years past, a customer could hear another customer talking about the demise of a friend and learn of a death that way.  But that would entail human connection.  This woman’s name, I will say was Barbara, and she was living her own grief in the death of her sister and here she was comforting me on the shock of learning of the death of my friend.  All through an electronic medium that most use to post political cartoons or angry diatribes or pictures of cute baby animals.  This was something real.

This showed the power of what Facebook can be.  It was a small innocuous stab at reaching out from one human to another to assuage some grief.  She doesn’t know, I don’t think, what an amazing gesture this was for me.  But it gave me information I had not had and may never have discovered.

So I used the power of Facebook to post my yearning to have someone accompany me to give some closure to my grief of my friend of ten years.  And my wish was answered.  I had three friends offer to take me to the site where she died and after coordinating schedules one went with me.

So yesterday my friend Pat drove me down to Fremont to lay flowers on the edge of a freeway where my friend died.   I discovered all the information I needed from the two newspaper articles the woman Barbara had linked to my messages.  I believe she jumped off the overpass onto the freeway and that was her demise.  Speculation had been maybe she walked onto the freeway in the path of an oncoming car, but we just couldn’t see how she got through the fencing and surmised she must have jumped.  It caused my heart to jump to see the spot where she last lived.  We brought flowers with us and a chalice that seemed unable to keep a flame from the winds caused by passing traffic, but the spirit of the flame was there.  And lo and behold, there was a sign on the side of the road.  Maybe her brother left it there or another friend, but I know it was meant for Linda.  At this exact overpass on this freeway shoulder, there could not have been another death at that time.  On a heavy board with a wooden frame was written, “Ciao Bella” and it’s weight kept it from blowing away as I believe it was designed to do.  We tucked our parcels of flowers underneath one edge with the good bye card I wrote to her, I said my heartfelt words of farewell and we climbed back into the car and drove home.  It felt right.  It felt holy.  I indeed received the closure I had expected.  And I remembered some words that were given to me, remember Linda’s spirit as a blessing, remember to keep calmness in my heart, remember to breathe.

And my goodbye was said and completed through the power of Facebook.