Learning Hungarian – EUCO Budapest Tour Part 1

The Edinburgh University Chamber Orchestra Tour was both a blessing and a curse.

Blessing: I had the joy of travelling to another country that I had never visited before, with friends as well as a group of students I didn’t know very well. There was the music of course: Beethoven Egmont, Glazunov Saxophone Concerto and Beethoven 7th Symphony. The weather (25 to 30 degrees). I travelled.

Curse: Returning to school straight afterwards was, to put it metaphorically, like exhaling a huge amount of breath. A big, disappointed sigh. The tour took me away from the reality of schoolwork, the final days of secondary education, giving me a taste of life after school. I experienced the freedom and simplicity of life: having fun. The foreboding rehearsals, exam and concerts at the other end of the continent together formed an unfriendly welcome home.

I miss Budapest very, very much. This photo summarizes the atmosphere:

 photo DSCN3623_zps35f75888.jpg

As you can see, I have titled this post EUCO Budapest Tour Part 1. Instead of writing a very lengthy piece on my experiences, I thought my time would be better spent revising for my A-level Music exam next week and practising violin and piano. The size of the piece would also be very tiring to read and I would be more sensible if I were to make concise ‘chapters’ that had more focus in their content. Learning from my previous travelling-writing attempts (see Baltic Sea Cruise tag), cramming everything into one is not worth the effort.

(Not that this is a valid excuse, but Photobucket is being a complete pain in the a*** because it only uploaded a fraction of my photo collection.)

Hungary was a new country for me. I didn’t know where I was going and knowledge of Hungarian was 0% at the time. To start things off, I downloaded a ‘learn Hungarian’ app on my phone. The founders of the app seem to think that most important aspect of language learning (other than the basics of Hello etc) is the ability to flirt with the inhabitants of that country.

In this subcategory, you can learn how to say

I’m a dolphin trainer

because, as you know, a dolphin trainer is the most popular occupation in this day and age. Other hilarious phrases included

You have a sensual voice.

Soon I realised this app was as useful as a toothpick would be for eating a steak.

I learnt my Hungarian from a stranger I met at Heathrow airport. On the bus from the plane to Terminal 3, I met eyes with the lady sitting in front of me and I complimented her earrings. She didn’t seem to know much English so I had to do an awkward point to her ears and ‘thumbs up’ to show my appreciation.

Coincidentally she was taking the same flight as me, heading to the her homeland. I saw this as my opportunity to learn Hungarian; and since she had little English, she also needed me to guide her to the gate. So we made a mutual (unspoken) agreement to stick together during our waiting time of three hours.

Starting the conversation was tricky. I had to embarrass myself by using Google Translate in my efforts to explain to her that our gate would be announced after two hours. There were moments where I thought,

Oh lord this was a bad idea… I should never have complimented her earrings.

Luckily our understanding of each other’s expression grew more competent and we established a ‘game’ of some sorts. On a spare piece of paper, I began to draw and write; she would then say and write the Hungarian translation or definition. This developed into a sort of sight-see around the terminal building, through a number of shops. We’d walk into Gucci and I’d ask what ‘handbag’ was in Hungarian and she’d tell me. She’d ask me how much a £300 purse would be in dollars; I would do my best to act as a device for converting money. We walked through Harrods and I taught her the word ‘expensive’.

I told her I played violin and she taught me the Hungarian word: hegedu.

After the flight I had to dash off to the hotel and meet the rest of the EUCO lot and stupidly forgot to say goodbye, thank you or ask for her name.

I will always value her kindness, help and teaching. Now I know how to say apple in Hungarian! Alma! I even took the chance to say it when I bought the ice cream in that photo. Apple ice cream. Yum.

I’ll write more on Budapest later but now I am going to bed in order to get up nice and early tomorrow. Fingers crossed.


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