Journal (As I Remember): Day 2

June 9th 2022

I wake up around 6:30 from dreams of being here and walking around the neighborhood with family. 

I write my dreams, and then scroll. I learn that a family friend from lopez had family who came from outside Budapest once upon a time. 

I do my watercolor journal for yesterday, open the window, close it when a fly comes in. I lean out on the sill and look down at the park, the street, the buildings and people. I get dressed, wash my face, brush my hair. Make the bed, fold the laundry from yesterday. 

I make lemon ginger tea and vow to get something caffeinated today. Practice Hungarian online till my points run out because of all the errors I’ve made.

I ink my watercolor journal, check my bank account. 

Margaret gets up around 8:30 and we talk about how the night went and where we are in the city (on the Pest side) and plans to get groceries and a bus pass.

I iron uncle franks shirt and pants from last nights wash, and sort of putz around. Jaci comes over, and we make tea and coffee and toast. The tea here in the Airbnb is oat straw and chamomile. I love finding my friends by surprise like this, and the fact that they’re here as sort of a generic tea. There is a coffee maker here too, the kind with little pods, like one might find in any Airbnb in the states, but here there is this tea too. And not just peppermint or plain chamomile, it’s an intentional mix, made with the knowledge of these plants. I am proud, suddenly, of this place that I come from. And I mean the place, the land and the plants that grow out of it. Not focused, in this moment, on the culture, in which many of the words and ways of long long ago have been forgotten in the change to christianity. I mean the tenacity and strength of the plant spirits who live here, who have lived here much longer than a long time. Their presence has continued alongside my people, through thick and thin, and they continue to show up, even in a chic Airbnb in the middle of the city. 

Around 11:30 we go with Jaci to the market, only a couple minutes away on bus and tram. We get bus passes. 

The market is an incredible building, with intricate stone work and a tile roof. It is multiple floors, and rows on rows of booths. It is right before the river Danube on the Pest side, and across it we can see the Hotel Gellért and this amazing green hill rising up, mostly trees and cliffs and Mediterranean verdance.

The market is overwhelming with dry goods and beautiful produce and textiles. We get szalonna, kolbasz, and lard spread for Uncle Franks morning bread. We get white asparagus, lettuce, cucumber, paprika (both white and red), tomatoes, apricots, strawberries, watermelon, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, milk, cheese, eggs, rétes, and these chocolate orange cottage cheese ice cream bars that Jaci insists we eat on the spot before our blood sugar drops. 

She is alive with kindness, and the twinkle in her eye. I love her so much, even though we’ve only really just met.

After the market, she tells us how to get back, and promises to meet us at our place around 6 and make some soup.

 We take the bus for five stops until the Urania stop, and then get off, walk up the street, and turn left. 

When we make it back Uncle Frank is on the couch watching soccer on TV and passed out with his head back. He wakes up a couple seconds later, delighted that we are back and excited like a small child about the food. We eat a delicious picnic style lunch of all our market bounty and I clean the fruit, most of which was bruised because it was so ripe.  After a day of sun, it clouds up outside and begins to rain and thunder. The windows in our kitchen face the middle of the apartment building, and are level with a raised roof that protects the small courtyard on the ground floor. The rain is falling so hard and in such big drops that they bounce from the roof to our windowsill a few feet away. We open the doors and windows to listen to the resounding downpour, knowing that it will be fleeting.

After, we go out for the groceries we forgot. The sky has cleared, leaving only puddles in memory of the deluge. We can’t find ice or bar soap but we end up at a big second hand store (all fast fashion), and I find a really cute pair of shorts there, sort 40’s style. 

Then we realize it’s almost 6, and Jaci will be at the apartment any minute if she isn’t already. We go to the liquor store right next to our place for beer, wine, water, and palinka. 

When we get back to the apartment Jaci is at the stove starting soup.

Uncle Frank and I chop white asparagus, and then Margaret cooks it, and we pour lemon garlic dressing on top. Jaci makes a delicious carrot curry soup with fried garbanzo beans. We have palinka before dinner and a glass of chilean chardonnay with it, and then there is rétes for dessert. It’s layers of pastry, thinner than paper, around thick filling. There is apple, cottage cheese, cherry, and poppy seed. My favorite, by far, is the cherry. 

After dinner, Uncle Frank tells me stories about his coin collection, the trouble he and Apa (my grandfather, his younger brother) got into as kids, deep breathing techniques, hiding in the tunnel during WWII under the hotel Gellért, and how he helped all his family when they needed it, except Apa, who he only sort of helped once when he was building his roof. He tells me about how strong Apa was, how he was the strongest one of all 10 children, and how they used to walk arm in arm, buddies and brothers and thicker than thieves, and how heartbroken he was when he learned that Apa was dead. We wipe tears from our eyes. Someone brings out old pictures to look at, including a family portrait from the 1930s in Kunágota, where my grandfather and great uncle were born. 

 When he pulls out the picture in front of the broom corn house in Kunágota, he names everyone, and then swipes his finger across all but two, him and Gyuszi Bácsi, his youngest brother. All of them, he says, they’re all dead. We’re the only two left. 

Back row, L to R Kalman (Married to the woman in front of him, Teres), Istvan (the oldest boy), Zoli (second oldest boy), Mihaly (third boy). Second row, L to R, Kato (oldest child), Teres (second oldest), Manyi (Teres and Kalman’s oldest), Nagymama Katalin (my great grandmother), Karcsi (Koto’s oldest), Nagypapa Istvan (my great grandfather), Ilonka (third oldest). Front row, L to R, Uncle Frank (third youngest), Gyuszi (youngest), Laszlo (my grandfather, whom I call Apa, second youngest)

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