I’m sitting in a hotel in Kecskemét, Hungary, where the annual Kodály Seminar is held. I’ll be taking pedagogical courses focused on children’s choir rehearsing/conducting for the next three weeks.
Just kidding. Kind of. I do want to loosen up some aspects of my conducting…
Will left the Netherlands today as well, but he went the opposite direction to Spain for a clarinet/bass clarinet course in Avila. We’re no strangers to being apart as we spent two years in different states for grad school, and in the summers we’ve also gone our separate ways for various jobs/seminars/courses. Despite this, it feels strange being apart now that we’ve been married for a year. We never lived together before we got married, so even when we lived in the same area, there was that distance built into our daily lives. Now having established routines as a couple sharing a home, I was caught off guard by how different it feels being away from each other this time. Like he’s supposed to walk in any minute even though he’s on the other side of the continent. Also, it’s too quiet and this bed is too narrow.
You know what else is weird? Brushing with weird Dutch mint toothpaste because my mint-allergic husband isn’t here. I bought it when we first moved and I thought I was in the clear because the tube had a picture of a flower on it (mmm flower toothpaste). It has some kind of mineral salt in it. My mouth feels very clean, but…
This is my first trip to another country by myself. I was pretty nervous, but most things worked out smoothly. I took a train to the airport in Amsterdam, which was surprisingly crowded for a Sunday morning, and then I took a flight to Budapest. I was worried that the Budapest airport would be sprawling and chaotic, but it was actually pretty small and straightforward. My bag came out right when I walked up to the conveyor belt, and right next to it was a currency exchange. I bought a bus ticket from the newsstand, and right when I walked outside, my bus came to take me to the train to Kecskemét, which is about an hour south of Budapest.
Hungarian has a lot of hard-to-distinguish pronunciations, so I had memorized how the bus stop for the train station was spelled and was counting on some kind of screen inside the bus to display the name of the next stop. I did see a screen inside the bus, but it wasn’t working. Luckily, I noticed the sign for the train station outside and was able to get myself and my luggage out the door in time. When I got off, I was confused because there were no train tracks in sight; all I could see was a strange-looking set of stairs that turned into a covered walking bridge crossing over the street. A bunch of people with luggage were going up, so I followed them. A lady at the top of the stairs said something to me in Hungarian, so I tried to ask her if she spoke English (my most-rehearsed Hungarian phrase), but she just looked at my crazy. I think she was telling me that I could have taken an elevator.
In the bridge over the street, there were very train-y looking signs directing me to various stairs down to the other side. All the signs were in Hungarian, but I knew I didn’t want to go to the center of Budapest, so I followed one of the signs going the opposite way. Somehow I got to the right platform. I found a ticket machine, except the display was a touch screen of what looked like a Window’s desktop with two folder icons: one called “group pictures” and another that was untitled. What the heck. I heard a few women speaking English next to me, and they showed me where to buy a ticket from an actual person. They were going to the seminar, too, and it was a relief to have other people to travel with for the last leg of the trip.
I had a little bit of downtime in the hotel, and then I got dinner with the people I met at the train station and a couple other people we met at registration. Everyone I’ve met today has been very friendly and easy to talk to. I didn’t get into the spicy and paprika-laden food tonight since my stomach has felt funny today from the traveling, but I did get a nice turkey dish for 2-3 times less than it would have cost in the Netherlands.
I knew that Kecskemét was a small town, but I’m surprised at how close everything is. The main pedagogical institute, the other buildings where we’ll have classes, and my hotel are all in the vicinity of the main square, and between every place I’ve gone today has been a 5-minute walk, tops. It seems like every time someone mentions a place I might want to go and I ask them where it is, the answer is always, “Oh, just walk about 5 minutes that way!” So if I get lost, I can just pick a direction and walk 5 minutes and probably end up near where I need to be. I got this.
Tomorrow the seminar begins and I’ll be testing into a musicianship class, going to choir rehearsals, learning new singing games, and working on children’s choir stuff. I don’t know the Hungarian word for fun, so, leuk!