Back home again in Indiana...reflections

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Another summer day has come and gone away in Paris and Rome, but I wanna go home...another aeroplane, another sunny place, I'm lucky I know, but I wanna go home...I've had my run, baby I'm done, I've got to go home." - Michael Buble, Home

I made it back to Kokomo in time for Fr. Arbuckle's first Mass. At the reception afterward I was able to reunite with all of my dear friends from my home parish and the newly ordained Deacon Dominic, who exercised his new deaconly powers to bless all the religious articles we could pull out of our pockets and purses. The pile we came up with was rather impressive, as you can see below. St. Joan is my home away from home, so my homecoming wasn't complete until I knelt down in one of the purple-cushioned pews (it's perpetually Advent or Lent in there haha) and looked out at the sea of familiar faces :)

St. Joan of Arc's finest
Getting his blessin' on
After a week of dinner dates to catch up with friends, it's back to some semblance of reality, though most days I'm still in post-Europe la la land as I sort through my suitcases, souvenirs, pictures, and the accompanying memories. Yesterday my credit card bill arrived with all the flight and hostel charges on it from my Eurotrip. Ouch. Totally worth it though. I haven't experienced much reverse culture shock yet like I was expecting. I've heard from several sources that often the reverse shock is worse than the initial shock. I segued back into American life rather seamlessly, though there is still that four month gap where I don't exactly know what was happening at home, at IU, or in my friend's lives. I still find myself reaching for a button on the top of the toilet to flush and I look for flat light switches on the outside of rooms. It's nice having so many wide open spaces and green fields, but I do miss the urban sprawl of Budapest. The biggest culture shock so far was seeing that gas is $3.70 something a gallon. My transit pass in Budapest for the metro, buses, and trams all together was $14 a month!! I also miss the Danube. I walked past it almost every day to get to class, sometimes stopping afterwards to sit on the banks. There aren't really any large bodies of water in Indiana.... In Hungary I could tune out all the conversations and noise around me since I don't speak Hungarian (I know just enough to fool shopkeepers), but now I can understand everything around me and life seems much louder. I got used to zoning out during Mass during the readings and homily since I couldn't understand it anyway, and now I have a hard time focusing/paying attention at Mass in English since zoning out became a habit. So if you are sitting next to me at a Mass in Kokomo and begin to see my eyes glaze over, feel free to pinch me ;)

Speaking of the metro, on my LAST day in Budapest I got stopped by a ticket kontroller for the first time. She noticed my student i.d. had expired (we were supposed to renew them every 60 days), which I had totally forgotten about. You have to show a valid student i.d. in conjunction with your pass to get the discounted student price. I had been traveling on an expired metro pass for about a month previously, and no one had noticed, so I couldn't believe she saw the fine print on my i.d. with the issue date from March! I had since gotten a new pass for my last month in Hungary so I couldn't figure out why this lady was hassling me. She wrote me a ticket for 2000 forints, about $10, and told me to go to an office somewhere to pay my fine and get a new student ID. I tried explaining that I was leaving the country the next day and not coming back, so she really didn't need to write me a ticket and take down my Hungarian address. 43-45 Raday Utca, 1092 Budapest. Yeah, I got the last laugh on that one! Liz: 1, Hungary: 0.

Quick story on my Hungarian: I took a beginner's magyarul class at my university. It was basically a survival language course so we learned greetings, numbers, times of day, food items, and how to conjugate a few essential verbs. During one of my last days in Budapest I was shopping with my mom for souvenirs in a market in Buda near Matyas Templom/Matthias Church. I threw out a convincing jo napot (good afternoon) to the shopkeeper. As my mom looked as some traditional Hungarian kalocsa embroidery, I asked in Hungarian how much the items cost - hany forint?- hoping to get a better price. Well my jo napot and hany forint must have been spot on because for the next few minutes the shopkeeper explained all of her items to my mom and I, alternating between angolul and magyarul, English and Hungarian. I caught a few words here and there as she described colors, prices, and sizes. Finally she began trying to explain something to my mom but couldn't come up with the right words, though her English was good. She spoke to me in Hungarian and looked at my expectantly to translate and explain to my mom. Busted. Sheepishly I admitted, "Sajnalom nem beszelek magyarul...beszelek kicsi magyarul!" I am sorry, I don't speak Hungarian, I only speak a little bit! I was pretty proud that I was able to keep the ruse going for so long - szuper! :)

You always want want you can't have. It's so ironic that when I was in Budapest all I wanted was to be back in Indiana. Now that I am back I am thinking of Hungary, what time it is in Budapest, and where I would be or what I would be doing if I was still there. I am happy and thankful to be home and I am not bored of Indiana yet, but I am sure eventually it will happen and then I will really start to miss Hungary and Indiana won't be so cool anymore. I've been keeping in touch with my good Hungarian friend Fruszi, so I still have a connection to Budapest. I do have some fun things planned for summer though so I should stay preoccupied and enjoy myself until I move back to Bloomington.

Now that I am back I am not sure how much to share about my experiences in Europe. Some people are eager to hear my stories while others tell me upfront they don't want to talk about it too much because they will get jealous.  I keep getting the question, "How was Europe?" That's not a question I can answer with one word, or even a few sentences. I am still processing and reflecting over the past semester and how I've changed, matured, and grown as a result. The past four months have been indescribable: fun, new, hard, challenging, lonely, eye-opening, exciting, formative, rewarding, crazy, scary, beautiful, and grace-filled. When I was preparing to leave my pre-departure booklet said that spending a semester abroad is akin to a roller coaster, full of ups and downs and highs and lows, varying from day to day and week to week. I can vouch and say for myself and fellow students on exchange that it's totally true. There were days I hated Hungary and wanted to come home and days I loved Hungary and never wanted to leave.

I know I spent a good part of the past four months focusing on myself, and this blog is basically a testament to that, so thank you for putting up with me so graciously :) And when you get tired of hearing stories that start with, "When I was in [insert European city here]..." just let me know and I'll try to shut up, though I am not really sure what else to talk about since I have been out of the American loop. When I was talking with Deacon Dominic last weekend I mentioned it felt like I had been gone for five years. He replied that I probably had five years worth of stories and experiences to share. I thought about this quite a bit and he is absolutely right, which is why I think it's so hard to answer the "How was Europe?" question. How can I summarize four months and five years worth of memories and experiences? The answer is I can't, at least not concisely, and replying to that question with "Awesome!" or "Amazing!" just isn't fair.

In closing, thank you thank you thank you! to everyone who prayed me to and from Hungary safely, who sent mail, and who offered love, support, and advice when I was freaking out about living 4,000 miles away from home or how to handle new experiences. I am so so grateful and humbled. Please know I prayed for you all many times in front of the Blessed Sacrament or at Mass, thanking God for placing such wonderful people in my life and asking Him to bless you, as you have all blessed me! +

So there you have it, my reflections on returning home from an indescribable semester in Eastern Europe. That's all she wrote, folks!



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