Oh, to pack

Packing is just this really horrible thing. I’ve never been a very effective packer. I don’t think I have the foresight to prepare for things I will need down the line. I’m a very immediate person, and packing for a year is quite long-term.

I’m leaving for South Korea today and I’m terrified. Yes, this is a new experience. Yes, this is an adventure. Yes, this is the convenient escape from home that I’ve been anticipating since September. But I am terrified.

Right now, I have reached a place of blind panic. Leaving is petrifying. Staying is impossible (and horrible). Packing is disastrous. Procrastinating is just irresponsible. I keep thinking: there’s no way I can survive. There’s no way I can go to this whole different country and live by myself and actually survive.

But the more I sit here with all this stuff, the less I realize I actually need. When talking to people, I’ve been telling them my new mantra: one friend. They take it to mean that my goal is to make one friend and they laugh because they think I’m bizarre and crazy. And I say “one friend,” but actually, it means something a little more, a little different. It means all I need is one friend to bring me in. One friend to understand me and accept me and love me despite my absurdities. One friend to provide comfortable refuge from the unfamiliar. Maybe not even a person. I just need one thing to be constant and comforting and familiar. I think if I have something like that, then I can probably do this.

So right now, I tell myself that if I take a deep breath and stop thinking so much and quit living in the worst case scenarios of my head, I can probably do this. I can probably make it out alive.

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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.

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And we’re off!

Nearly two years have gone by since I traveled around Europe. Two years is too long. I’ve been itching for some good travel.

The last time I was in London, the Traveling Trio joined forces with C-Carlz Morla and the infamous Patrick Shin. It was lovely and wonderful and all too short.

Now, well… now the company has changed dramatically. I’ve traded a small gang of good friends for a strange, but lovable mother with a timid opinion of independent travel and a belligerent, but hilarious sister who is wildly entertaining when she’s not screeching at me for one thing or another.

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Budapest, Hungary

My memories  of Hungary come back in flashes. Now and then, I see something that reminds me of Budapest. Fond memories and bittersweet nostalgia rush through my head in waves.

For example:

It is dark. I am walking across the street towards Costa Verde. I look to my right at the bright lights of the cars heading towards me. They slow to a stop. It is cold.

Normal, right? There is nothing particularly unique or interesting or memorable about this moment. But for me? There are times when this, for me, reminds me of Hungary. It reminds me of crossing the street at Oktagon Ter, of the nights I would walk home because it was too late and the trams had stopped running and the buses were full. I would look to my right and look into the lights that lined that street leading to Heroes square. What was it again? Andrassy utca?

It has been too long. I can barely remember the names of streets I used to see all the time. I have forgotten the words to Hungarian songs I used to sing and I have lost all sense of what it was like to feel real cold. I used to walk through cold air so cold that it physically hurt. Now I get chilly and whiny at night when my jacket isn’t thick enough.

It does not happen as often, this surge of old memories. Right when I came back, it happened all the time. Half of me was still in Hungary, reliving its paths and remembering the people I loved there. But now that they are all back, now that I am back (and have been back), I am beginning to forget.

All I have are these flashes, few and far between. And I welcome them fondly each time they come.

It’s not like I’m not happy with things here. It’s not like I want to go and live in Hungary. It’s more like I’m looking back and remembering another life. It’s happy and sad, memorable and forgettable, all at once. It’s been so long, I’m starting to wonder if it was even real. And in spite of everything, I love remembering Budapest and everything that happened there.

It wasn’t always like this, though. To put it all in perspective, this is what I felt when I was there. I figured I had to post something, just because I haven’t in a while. It was the beginning of the program and, in my literature class, we had to write something about our Hungarian experience. This was mine.

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Up, up, and away!

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C’mon, it’s more than the art.

2467832972_46b82e56acI am a museum girl.

That may sound awfully bland, but I adored Prague because of it. And I loved Vienna more because of the Leopold.

I agree that they can easily become overwhelming– room after room, frame after frame. And maybe you can appreciate one piece of art, or one sculpture. Maybe you can see the importance in this display or you can really love that exhibition, but the rest just blends together. Paintings melt into other paintings, swirling into the blank walls; halls fold into each other and become one long walk stretching past miles and miles of artwork that you can’t distinguish and doesn’t really matter to you anyway. It’s like in the movies, when you’re standing still, staring at something. No one knows why you do it, and everything else moves past you twice as fast, but you’re still just standing there.

Museums are a little dizzying, but I like that feeling.

Call me crazy, but I am a museum girl. I mean, not all museums are great. I got to see Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” in the Lower Belvedere, but to be honest, the whole thing was a little too hyped and a little too rushed. Everyone was just herded into this building, and of course, the crowds pool around this one painting at the end of the hall. I was shuffled and shoved, and it didn’t feel like a museum at all. I didn’t particularly care to see the Sistine Chapel (well, besides the fact that it was the freaking Sistine Chapel and one of those “things to do before you die” sort of things) because it was all so controlled and crowded. It was impossible to just stand there quietly and admire it.

The truth is, most museums are tiring. They wear you out– the watching and the walking and the thinking. Some of them are even exhausting, but there are those great ones, the ones that let the exhaustion creep up slowly on you so you barely notice. Sometimes exhaustion can be thrilling. I love just standing there, looking at something. Quietly, silently, patiently waiting to see something extraordinary. And if you don’t see it, you move on. But when you do see it, you just want to stand there a little longer and smile because you saw something remarkable. And it feels like you saw it first.

I feel like this in bookstores and libraries. Sometimes art galleries and aquariums. Still, that’s another story. Back to museums. Let me tell you, there are some great museums out there. The National Portrait Gallery in London, the Franz Kafka museum in Prague, the Upper Belvedere in Vienna. You name it.

My last was the Leopold. I loved the Leopold. I wish I could’ve stayed there all day. It was funny because Meg and I didn’t really even intend to go there. It was a toss up between the Leopold or some exhibition on Dennis Hopper. Don’t get me wrong– I love Dennis Hopper. I’ve done writing assignments trying to mirror some Dennis Hopper.

But I’m glad we settled on the Leopold.

I love how really great museums can just steal you away. I still wish I could go back and walk those halls and wander through those rooms.

Jen Gotch

There is something really calming to me about being in a museum. You can enter with a group of people, but in the museum, it’s like you’re alone. Everyone wanders off on their own. You choose the right corridor and your friend takes the left. You go through these massive rooms and pass through those long hallways, and you just take it in– that you’re alone and you’re looking at these pieces and you’re just waiting to see something brilliant in them. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t, and you move on and you move on. You see your friend waiting for you at the exit and you leave the museum behind and you walk out those doors into the street and it feels wonderful.

One thing I learned while I was traveling alone was that it has the potential to be painfully lonely. Maybe that’s why I’m a museum girl. In museums you always feel alone, but you never feel lonely. Now, isn’t that funny?

I’m still trying to find that sort of peace without having to drive all the way to the bookstore or search the internet for new galleries and exhibitions. It’s a strange and lovely feeling. I can’t explain it. I don’t even think I understand it. I can feel it when my footsteps echo, loud and even, through those empty, open rooms.

I am a museum girl, and it brings me so much joy.

This is my life.

OMG.I stop by the gas station on Madera Road to fill up my tank and get my car washed. It desperately needs both. I have been driving on empty since Burbank and my car has been accumulating dirt and bird poop since I got back from Hungary (that’s right– 6 months, people). I go through the automated car wash, compiling my trash into one bag and listening to Michael Jackson sing “The Way You Make Me Feel.” A minute or two later, the machine tells me to drive through–my car is clean.

Summer has officially begun and I can finally see through my windows. Yesss. I’m thinking it’s a good day.

I see this man in red sweat suit standing on the curb waving at cars. I think, hello strange man, it’s a good day. I exit out of the gas station and U-turn to get on the 118-east. The man is waving his arms and dancing. It’s a little odd, but everyone’s different and if he wants to dance in the street, I’m thinking he should be able to dance in the street. I’m still waiting for the light to turn green so I can head back to San Diego. The man crosses the street and walks right past the front of my car.

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