Fringe Benefit Of TEFL #4: Visiting Other Cities You’ve Worked In

budapest-hosok-ter-2.JPGI recently traveled to Budapest for a day to practically and mentally prepare for some different things I’m involved in – my more intrepid readers will remember that I worked in Budapest for a time. It was great to be back.

While living in Sarajevo, eight hours from the bustling metropolis of Zagreb and four from Split, Budapest (12 hours or so by overnight train) represented the “big city” where I could get stuff I couldn’t find in Sarajevo, such as – don’t laugh – felafel mix, instant Vietnamese noodles, a good selection of second-hand English books at the Red Bus, coffee to go and – shh – McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. Fortunately, given some of the other places I’ve now lived, the importance of many of these things has declined. But Budapest still has charm for me, as well as one thing that I, perhaps rather oddly, appreciate in a city: occasional seediness.

Seediness is certainly not everywhere in Budapest, but it’s not hard to find. In proportion, I think it gives a city character. There are cities I’d like to visit specifically because they are known at least somewhat for being seedy.

Another thing that struck me was my newfound appreciation for Hungarian language. I’m not kidding when I say it’s unusual and difficult for English speakers … well, any speakers…to learn. I had free lessons for a time and tried to take advantage of them (and mostly succeeded); I think of it as a credit to my elderly yet communicative native-speaker Hungarian teacher (who, incidentally, introduced me to this excellent activity) that I still remember a few greetings, the numbers one through twenty and some foods.

For some reason, it struck me more in Budapest than elsewhere how much some memories are tied to places. I doubt this is unusual – it’s just surprising to me that I notice it more in one place than in others. Walking down a particular street, I recalled hurrying to a private lesson; passing a restaurant I remembered a meal I’d had there with co-workers.

In short, Budapest is great! Go if you can, even if you don’t have memories to recall or Hungarian phrases to use.