What would Zoltan do?

I know that I’m not Hungarian and that spending 6 months in a country certainly does not make you part of it, but I still can’t help but feel emotionally attached– even now.

When people belittle or insult it, I become angry and insanely defensive. When they compliment it, I share their praises. When I see things that remind me of it, I can’t help but smile. It was only 6 months, but there are so many memories attached to this one place. Some that are slowly fading, others so permanent that they’ve become part of me. Fond memories to cling to, less spectacular ones that I leave to be forgotten.

The sad reality of things is that I will probably not return to Hungary. Not for a long time, at least.

It’s difficult for me to describe. It’s like, a part of me wants to repay it for my adventures and experiences. Like I owe it some sort of allegiance… allegiance, which I happily and freely give. I know I have no legitimate claim or connection to the country or its people, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling this strong, personal attachment.

The recent sludge spill has got Hungary looking like a toxic war zone. I hate it. I hate when bad things happen to things I love. I hate when bad things happen at all. Makes me sad and sick just thinking about it.

On a side note, it is a strange experience to be reading the news and see my professor giving a statement to the BBC. It’s odd to think they refer to him as “Environmental State Secretary,” even though I know he is. Because, to be honest, I just think of him as Zoltan– the funny, occasionally creepy, stout man who took us on a weekend field trip to toxic waste sites around Hungary, then threw in some alcohol and called it “wine tasting.”

Zoltan: the one they call Green Rambo, the one with the overly used catch-phrase “Thanks God,” the one with those damn powerpoints and that incriminating screensaver.

I remember being in that tiny corner of the university every week and listening to Zoltan talk (and talk and talk). Szabi falling asleep at his post. Powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide. Honestly, I can’t remember learning much. I can’t remember listening much. I doodled a lot. And wrote notes to Lars and Izzle and Christine a lot.

Still, there was this one lesson that really struck me. We learned about the cyanide spill in 2000, how it devastated the Tisza and then the Danube and all the areas those rivers touched. We watched a video. I actually paid attention that time. I remember thinking how horrible it was and hoping that things were better and thinking that nothing like that would happen again.

And so with this thing, I can’t help but think about that day in class. It was probably raining, but I can’t be too certain because the details are hazy.

Hungary is not a particularly affluent country. It really doesn’t need any more shit happening to it. The extreme right gaining power and Hungary taking a hard hit economically and now this? My heart is seriously breaking. This is a lot to take. Hungary is pretty resilient, but this is a lot to take.

I got to wondering, though… is it the country that musters up such fierce loyalty? Or is it just the memories? Do I really care about what is happening in Hungary or am I just worried that the sludge will tarnish what I’ve preserved so carefully in my mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be sure.

Oh well. I’ve grown to love this country and I’ll praying for it still.


About Booki
"Somewhere man must know that self-perception is the most frightening of all human observations. He must know that when a man faces himself, he is looking into an abyss."

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