Monday, June 15, 2009

In Budapest, in the home stretch!

I've dug myself into a serious blogging hole again. And as in the past, I think the only thing to be done is to make a brief reckoning of the things I have to catch up on, then skip ahead to the present. So, here are all the things I hope to write about soon:

-- Some mop up posts from *way* back in UK and France. A couple funny moments from London, trying to help Bellatrix and the Boxettes win an online talent competition. A trip to Brighton to visit Layth, who's got an amazing beatbox practice regimen and results to match. My Saturday at the Beatbox Academy, and a followup conversation with academy instructor Jes Sadler. My magical first day in Paris. An extended interview with L.O.S. in Angers and brief highlights from my visit to Ezra's trailer
-- More thoughts from Ã…rhus, including the incredible Cosmos show, jamming with VoxNorth people (differences between a cappella jams and beatbox jams), a vocal jazz workshop with Jesper Holm, and incredulity at Denmark's level of English education.
-- A few more posts from the European backpacking adventure. Why the Deutsche Bahn is wonderful. Review of mako!mako concert in Brno. Prague Hip Hop Subway Series. A gypsy music concert in Prague (Deladap)!A look at beatbox in experimental avant garde music in Poland (TikTak).
-- The Beatbox World Championships in Berlin! Reconnecting with friends met all over Europe. Highlights and a summary of the competition results. Online bickering over the judging.
-- Arrival in Hungary. First Roma music show (Romano Drom) and problems with the language barrier. A brief history of 'authentic' gypsy music and the divisions among Roma in Hungary. Athe Sam festival-- a week of concerts every night.

And here's what I'm up to now:

I arrived in Budapest ten days ago and have settled into a very nice little flat in the IInd district, Buda side. Budapest was originally two separate cities-- Pest in the east, Buda in the west, divided by the Duna (Danube) river. They were joined by bridge 900 years ago or so, but somehow still retain slightly different characters. Pest is busier, with more nightlife and a more regular gridded street plan. Buda has more green spaces and a huge castle up on a hill.

I'm really enjoying having my own place to live, something I literally haven't had all year. It's not ideal for pursuing full immersion in Roma culture, but after the amount I've been traveling in the past couple months, a stable home base was too attractive to pass up. I've been struggling to overcome what is probably the hardest language situation I've been in all year. I can't really decipher any Hungarian, and I don't have an English-speaking host to explain everything to me. This often results in comedy. Today I made pasta sauce, which turned out quite nicely. The spice packet I'd bought in the supermarket, however, only had preparation instructions in Magyar. I tried typing them into Google translate, but got very odd results. A sample sentence: "Defecation of the dough after the 50 ml of water is to be set aside to prepare the pesto."

Project wise, I've spent every night over the past week at a festival of Roma music held at a big club in the center of Pest. It's one immediate revelation about this music that, even though it's a folk music and even though Roma people face pretty serious discrimination in Hungary (rising to violence in isolated cases), their music is at the cutting edge of hip. The club was packed over the weekend and pretty well populated even in the middle of the week. I struggled with the reality of being shoulder to shoulder with the musicians I wanted to learn from and not being able to speak with them at all. Roma as a group are very poorly served by the education system, and those who work as traditional musicians are even less likely than most to speak English or another foreign language. For the record, while I've met a couple of people here who speak a little Russian, the most useful language to speak if visiting Hungary, apart of course from Magyar, is probably German. English is a close second.

I did manage to meet a group of English-speaking Roma people-- they're students in the Roma Versitas program. The program supports Roma enrolled in university, seeking to increase the numbers of Roma in skilled professions. They had a 'living library' at the festival where passersby could browse a catalog of subjects relating to Roma culture and then have a student sit down with them and explain a chosen subject. I made friends with a couple of the Roma Versitas students, which will be a great help during my remaining time in Budapest. My new friends are, it must be said, mostly either from mixed Magyar/Roma families or from Roma families that have embraced an urban lifestyle, without much contact with other Roma. Only 1% of Roma end up getting college degrees, so you would expect that 1% to be from non-traditional backgrounds. However, any hope I entertained of meeting an English-speaking Roma person who had close contact with relatives in a traditional Roma community in rural Eastern Hungary now seems far-fetched.

Health-wise, I had a new episode of (what's pretty much confirmed as) staph take over both legs and creep up my stomach. It was pretty debilitating, and I went to the doctor here after just a few days of trying to tend to the boils myself. He gave me a prescription for amoxicillin, though also took blood and a pus sample. The whole encounter cost $266, but the antibiotic has knocked the boils right out, so at least that's better.

More soon! I'm a little engrossed with what's happening in Iran right now, so am spending more time than I should refreshing various blogs to look for updates. However, I'll also find time to update my own (much less important) blog.

1 comment:

Lucas said...

Hi Wren!

In case you don't manage to post all the post you're about to post:
Let's make a book out of all your travel experiences afterwards.
I know quite a good designer from Berlin, who*s willing to make that happen.

I just discovered «AltaiKai» and i totally love it!!!!!!!!

Take care!
Lucas