Thursday, December 18, 2008

Liveblogging from the strike!

I’ve been meaning to write something about Hungary for a while now…you know, the type of entry that talks about the Hungarian things I’m beginning to love and the daily routines I’ve settled into, with witty anecdotal generalizations about the people and culture thrown in. Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Hungary. For the past semester, I lived at the Central European University, which operates something like the Vatican, as some form of sui generis entity within but apart from Budapest.

If I were to write about Hungary, I’d probably mention some things like paprika (the word is Hungarian, and refers to both the spice and bell peppers, the former which is on every table and the latter which is in every dish). There would probably be some mention of the numerous thermal baths (I can now provide instructions on proper loin cloth etiquette). And then I’d probably wrap up with something about the people, (if you’re a guest in a house, you’re likely to get fed a few meals, if you’re a guest in a restaurant, good luck getting a waiter). Maybe something cynical about the politicians (It’s a very hands-on approach to capitalism, by which I mean their hands are on EVERYTHING…politics: Blagojevitch style!)

Like I said, I’d like to tell you those things. But something else has come crashing so noisily into the forefront daily life, that it cannot be ignored. Transportation.

Now, I can understand that everybody wants a holiday. But recently, the entire transportation industry has decided that it wants its holiday NOW. Airport workers have been on strike since last week. Monday, the national train workers went on strike as well. Budapest public transit workers were clearly feeling a bit left out, so they thought they’d have a ‘half day’ strike this morning, (read: there was a killer party Wednesday night and the boss couldn’t find anybody to work Thursday morning, given that the strike didn’t materialize, I can only assume the party was lame).

On the upside, traveling around Budapest is quite entertaining, erm, I mean safe. Take for instance a tram accident a few weeks ago, when a fire truck was immediately present on the site of the accident. Never mind the fact that the fire truck had been the one to hit the trolley. Unfortunately, the department was a little slower to arrive last week when a bus spontaneously burst into flames. (Nobody was harmed, so it’s okay to laugh).

Luckily, the majority of my daily commute occurs via metro. The upside here is that compared to the numerous people hit by cars every week, it is harder to get hit by a train. It’s pretty obvious where the trains go, just stay off the tracks. (No word yet on how a passenger hit last week managed this feet when they were NOT on the tracks…)

Despite the strike, I nevertheless have made it to the airport, where I am now awaiting my departure for a much needed winter break (so far, we think the plane will depart, despite the fact that the entire ground operations staff is on strike…) My semester ended precisely 55 minutes before I left for the airport, by which I mean I submitted my last paper at 2:35 AM, and then left my place at 3:30 AM. I am on may way to Spain, where I will spend Christmas with Yeshe. To those of you I have ignored for a few weeks now, I apologize; apparently, ‘hell week’ on the semester plan lasts longer than a week, and it really is hellish.

Break should be conducive to more entertaining stories…stay tuned.