Néptánc (traditional dance)


Jumping around to reggae music wasn’t the only dance-related program from a couple of weeks ago.  Panka also had a recital for her dance group at ovoda (preschool).  Each week she goes to a traditional Hungarian dance class pankagreti(néptánc) for 1 hour, and her group was part of a big program featuring children’s dance groups from all around Budapest.

Panka and her group had a lot of fun.  They gathered in a classroom at the school where the recital was held and all dressed up in their colorful outfits. They played and ate and did there hair, and when the time came, kids and families all made there way to the activity room for their chance to perform.  The kids danced for about 5 minutes — lots of twirling, spinning, clapping, kicking and stomping (no injuries were reported).

Introducing: The Orrszívó Porszívó


Matthew had an ear infection last week and was all stuffed up.  Like most 2-year olds, he refused to blow his nose properly, instead sniffing the snot back in most of the time.  However, we’ve solved the problem — Dora went out and bought what I believe to be the greatest invention of all time: the orrszívó porszívó.  To describe the orrszívó porszívó, it is best to start by translating a couple key words: orr = nose, porszívó = vacuum cleaner.  And that’s basically what it is: an attachment that you can insert into your vacuum cleaner hose to suck the snot out of your toddler’s nose.

I know this sounds terribly uncomfortable, but it is not as bad as you would think and it works like a charm — much more effective than those nasal aspirator bulbs that we had in the US.  The vacuum isn’t overly powerful when you hook it up and fire up the vacuum cleaner; I think they may have engineered a few leaks into the system to avoid pulling too hard.  Still, toddlers don’t generally like it (though I guess they don’t like people poking anything in their nose or ears).  The ads show a baby smiling with his orrszívó porszívó (see the picture at the top, or this official youtube video, where they somehow found a small kid that would use it on himself). This youtube video, where a mother demonstrates her restraining techniques, is closer to reality. In our case, the mere sight of the orrszívó porszívó sends Matthew screaming, “No porszívó” and running in the opposite direction.  As an added benefit to adopting the orrszívó porszívó, after a couple of rounds, Matthew has suddenly “remembered” how to blow his nose properly!

Edinburgh with a Small Child

As I mentioned earlier, our trip to Edinburgh was with Matthew (age 2) in tow.  Because most of the main attractions in Edinburgh are more appealing to adults then children (the castle, Holyrood palace, etc), we were careful to pick out a couple of programs that would engage Matthew too.

SNM racecar

Matthew at National Museum of Scotland

One was an afternoon outing to the National Museum of Scotland. This museum has an extensive science and technology section with lots of hands-on exhibits.  Matthew especially liked the race cars.  There was even a Formula 1 race car simulator that you could drive.  Matthew and I tried it out; I controlled the pedals while he handled the steering.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of time crashing into walls.  Hopefully he does a little better when he turns 16.  The museum also had a nice exhibit about animals, as well as a room of activities for small children.  All in all, it was a nice place for Matthew to spend a couple of hours.

On the last day, we decided to spend the morning at a museum near the castle called Camera Obscura.  I wasn’t sold on the plan at first, since it really doesn’t have much to do with Scotland specifically, but we (Matthew included) all had a great time.  The museum was filled with optical illusions, 3D holograms, and other interesting exhibits and interactive games.  We especially liked walking through the dizzying vortex tunnel and trying to get through the mirror maze (where all the walls are mirrors).  At one point in the maze, Matthew got a bit panicked and sprinted face first into one of the mirrors.  It was also nice that we adults could take our time and look at lots of the pictures and exhibits, because each area seemed to have one interactive part that could occupy Matthew for an extended period of time.

What my students have often wanted: my head on a platter

What my students have often wanted: my head on a platter

Matthew and I "play" soccer on an interactive video floor

Matthew and I “play” soccer on an interactive video floor

Bicycling to Szent Mihály Kápolna

With the harvest finished last Sunday, the family was able to spend the morning on a bicycle trip.  This trip took us 10km along the Balaton bicycling path to Szent Mihály kápolna (St. Michael’s chapel), a small church atop a hill at the edge of lake Balaton.  The trip was pleasant; as you would expect the path along the lake is flat for the most part.  At about half way, we stopped for a break at a small cove by the lake that offered this pleasing view:

You can see the Badacsony hill, our previous bicycling destination, in the distance.  Part of the path we rode upon is shown here, with a glimpse of the chapel atop the hill in the background:

Once at the hill, we pushed our bikes to the top.  Here are a couple of scenes from in and around the chapel:

Harvest (szüret)

As I mentioned last week, the grape harvest at the lake was last weekend.  Overall, it was great fun, but also a lot of work.  Here’s a not so short recap of how you start with grapes and wind up with a barrel (or more of wine).

First, obviously, you must cut down all the grapes.  The have some clippers that you use to cut the bunches of grapes (you can see Panka holding a pair in the first picture).  The kids (especially Panka) loved helping with this part.  The picking was 2/3 done when we arrived on Friday afternoon, but we finished the rest up that evening.

When the bucket of grapes is full, it is taken to a machine that grinds up the grapes.  The bucket is poured in the top and then when you crank the wheel, it basically just smushes the grapes and also separates out most of the stems. What is left is a large container of grape soup with peels and a few stems floating around.

Before the end of the evening, nagypapa checked the sugar content of the grapes to determine how much sugar he will need to add to the barrels at the end to get a good fermentation (this is your chemistry lesson for the day).  We also got to enjoy some of the juice.

The next morning (Saturday) we began loading the smushed grapes into the press.  Bucket by bucket we carry the grapes and load them into the press.  Most of the peels and remaining stems get caught up in the wooden slats of the press while the juice runs down, goes through a strainer, and is collected in a bucket. Once the press is full, a wooden disc and some blocks are fitted on the top and you can begin to press the grapes.  This takes a while, since once it becomes hard to press any further, you can wait 5 or 10 minutes and the pressure diminishes a bit allowing you to press further.  The whole operation took 5 or 6 hours, and once the first pressing was done, all the remaining grapes were loaded on top for some more pressing.  At the end, all of the remaining grape material feels solid, but spongy, sore of like an eraser.

In the middle of the pressing, we enjoyed my favorite Hungarian meal, bableves (bean soup), thanks to nagymama.

During and after the pressing, all of the collected juices are taken to the cellar and poured into barrels.  This harvest produced over 300 liters of juice.  I’ll try to report on the quality of the final product (the wine) next year!

Weekend at the lake

Last weekend, we traveled from Budapest back to Lake Balaton for a couple of days while the weather is still nice.  We started out on Saturday morning and drove to Fonyód, a nice village on the south side of the lake that has a market on Saturdays.

The market had lots and lots of stuff, everything from your typical flea market goods to homegrown produce.  Most of it is open-air, but here is one scene from a building devoted to selling meat.  Unfortunately, the picture fails to capture the aroma of the building…

The kids also got some treats.  Here are Dani and Panka enjoying kürtőskalács, a warm, fresh spiral bread coated with sugar and other flavors (in this case, one vanilla and one with nuts).

The kids also became official Europeans, acquiring their first soccer jerseys.  Bonus points award to anyone that can identify the two players (answer will follow toward the end of the post).

Once we returned to Balatonederics, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of grilled pork, complements of the “grillmaster” nagypapa (Hungarian for grandpa).

On Sunday, we went for a short hike in the hills near the house.  Here are the kids in the forest.  Also, you can (almost) see the answer to the earlier quiz: Frank Ribery of France and Wayne Rooney of England.

Our destination was a lookout tower atop a hill the overlooks the lake.  Here Dani at the top of the tower, with the omnipresent Badacsony looming in the background.

After our hike, it was back home for dinner, then to the beach for a quick swim before heading back to Budapest.

Ready to Depart!

Well, our adventure in Hungary is rapidly approaching.  We’ll be leaving on August 1st and will fly from Newark, NJ to Warsaw, Poland and then on to Budapest.  I’ll use this blog to cover many of the highlights of our year-long journey, including:

  • Living in Budapest.  We’ll stay in a small apartment on the Buda side of the city in the same building as Dora’s parents.
  • My work at Eötvös Loránd University. I’ll be working with Zoltán Novák, on a photochemistry project trying to use dye molecules to harvest light energy and initiate chemical reactions.
  • The experiences of our children, Daniel and Panka, in the Hungarian school system.  Daniel is 7 and will be in the 2nd grade.  He’s been working with his mom on his Hungarian, but isn’t fluent yet.  We expect that will change quickly.  Panka is 5 and will be in the equivalent of kindergarten in Hungary.
  • Our travels in Hungary and the rest of Europe.
  • Two of my students, Tai Nguyen and Rachel Denny, will visit and work with me at the university in the Summer of 2013 as part of the Arnold Experiential Grant Program and Lebanon Valley College.

If you are looking for pointers on what you need to bring with you when traveling abroad with a family of 5 for a year, this picture should give you an idea:

…and here is (some of) the stuff we left behind: