Polish Pierogies, Auschwitz and Beyond

January Part 2: This post gets to be heavy, so stick in there if you can. I won’t be offended if you don’t get through it all. It is long, but I think/hope it’s worth the read.

1/16/13 – Poland bound. I had a couple days off from Szombathely so I decided toIMG_3388 take a little trip to Krakow. After school I took the train to Budapest and from there an overnight train to Krakow. Sweetest night train ever…also my only night train ever. I really didn’t sleep well with all of the loud stops, but I think to have a mode of transportation where you can lay down and beat box by yourself without anyone listening to you is pretty sweet.


1/17/13 – After 10 hours of joy-filled, yet sleepless adventure, I proceeded my way to the Main Square of Krakow at 6:30am. I had to ask some backpackers that were Spanish where to go because apparently there are no maps of the city at the train station. I stopped by St. Mary’s Church where I prayed and reflected for a while, and realized how blessed I am to see these places. I got to my hostel around 9am (“Mama’s Hostel”) and rested up before the free walking tour at 11am. Little did I know that Poland is on the “Zloty,” not the “Euro” as I had originally thought. So much for being prepared. The walking tour guide definitely talked a lot; roughly 3 hours worth, and by the end I was ready to start a snowball fight with everyone. I met people from all over during the tour. Countries including: Vietnam, Greece, Slovakia, and England. We got to take a picture with the randomIMG_3432 2 lying head sculpture (‘Eros Bound’) in the Main Square.  Later that night I went to a restaurant called “Gospoda Koko” and had the spinach filled pierogie (pictured to the right)which was delicious. Poland is known for its pierogie in case you had no idea. Afterwards, I randomly bumped into the girl from Vietnam from the walking tour and we walked around the city and hung out for a while (I went 4 for 4 being with people each night even though I travelled by myself. Hostels and tours are ideal.)


The rest of the trip (other than visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau), consisted of visiting the Wieliczka Salt Mine where I met and hung out with people from Ukraine, Brazil, Egypt, China, Indonesia and Japan. It was fun hearing so many different stories and getting to share mine in the process. The picture to the left is a room that took 3 workers over 60 years to make. That is a lot of salt.

JewishDistrict        I also met a few nice new friends on the Auschwitz tour; a couple from Northern Ireland, two girls studying in Cork, and a guy and a girl from Japan. They were a lot of fun to hang out and we spent the next two nights talking about life. It’s truly amazing how many different people you meet when you travel. I also took a 4-hour adventure by myself one night, seeing a stunning old gothic style Synagogue in the Jewish district, ‘Heroes Square,’ where the Jews and several others were chosen to stay in Krakow or go to Auschwitz, and I also stopped by Schindler’s Factory, where the movie “Schindler’s List” was based. On my way back to Hungary, I took the bus, which is definitely not my favorite mode of transportation. It was, however, 3 hours faster and much cheaper than the train. Tomato, tomahtoe. Train is better.

You are now entering a more intense part of the trip: AUSCHWITZ & BIRKENAU

1/18/13 – Auschwitz and Birkenau. I really don’t know how to put words to what I saw and experienced…It was powerful, heart breaking, intense and just plain mind boggling how something like that happened and continues to happen around the world. Auschwitz is about an hour drive from Krakow, so I was put in a van with six other people (the couple from Northern Ireland, girls studying in Ireland and Japanese couple). Even though we got along well before, during and after the tour, it didn’t lessen the impact of what we saw. I definitely think it’s worth seeing, but there really is no fun way to describe anything that happened in these places. Proceed with caution.

The cold breeze cutting through my warm jacket, the snow cooling the bottom IMG_3454of my feet through my boots, and grey skies eliciting a grey mood, I started to think what the conditions must have been like in the extermination camps from 1940-1944, especially in the winter. Not enough sufficient clothing, food and shelter; and in the summer, no easy way to keep cool or hydrated. Many victims suffered and eventually died from frostbite, hypothermia, and starvation due to these harsh realities. During the day, the victims/workers were allowed two bathroom breaks with limited water, and endured long, harsh, IMG_3453demanding workdays, often not sleeping much because of cruel punishments. Cleaning the latrines was considered the best job for a couple of reasons. It was the only place the victims could talk to other victims, trade items, and plan guerilla warfare.  Latrine workers also avoided getting flogged by Nazis because of their smell. The entrance, which reads “Arbeit Machht Frei,” translates as “Labor makes you free.” I’m not sure if  another sign could read as a more untrue statement as to what happened here.

Countless numbers of victims were subject to suffocation rooms, standing IMG_3463rooms, hanging, being shot in the back of the head and, the most common method, led into the gas chambers (some disguised as big shower rooms). The gas used, called “Zyklon-B,” was invented by several people, but the main chemists who are credited are Nobel Prize Winner in Chemistry, Fritz Haber, and Walter Heerdt. Strangely enough, Haber was a Jew and contributed a lot to the progress of chemical warfare. The gas was originally intended to combat insect and IMG_3478rodent pests in several countries, but the method was switched by the Nazi’s 20 years later, when the they used it against the Jews, Russians, Poles, Roma, etc. The Nazis filled up the chambers with hundreds to thousands of people. dropped the pellets into the chambers through pipes in the sides of the walls, which then released the cyanide gas when the pellets got wet.  The victims inside the full gas chambers were then dead within 20 minutes.

Before we go further, I’d like to break down how this all started and why this location was used. Poland was considered the Jewish capital of the world before World War II with roughly 3 million people, more than any other country in the world at the time (now it’s home to about 10,000 Jews). Since it was already geographically located in central Europe, it became an ideal place for the Nazis to send Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians, homosexuals, etc. Hitler’s plan was to ‘purify’ Germany, wanting just the Aryan Race to rule the world. This IMG_3484couldn’t be done until all the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, Russians, etc. were ‘gone’. Other reasons such as robbery, fear of Communism, and earlier ‘religious’ prejudices should also not be ignored. The ploy continued and Hitler and the Nazis told these people that they would be ‘resettled’ in Eastern Europe. Sadly, those going to the extermination camps often bought, yes bought, their ticket to Auschwitz. They thought they were going to live normal lives, work, and resettle themselves and their families in a safe place. Some trips lasted as long as six weeks on crowded trains, coming from places as far as Greece and Norway. When they arrived, their suitcases, household belongings, shoes, eyeglasses, clothes, hair, and essentially everything they owned was stripped away, degradingMay_1944_-_Jews_from_Carpathian_Ruthenia_arrive_at_Auschwitz-Birkenau them to what we would consider an animal. After getting off the trains, the doctor pointed them either to the left (death) (the elderly, weak, diseased, etc.) or to the right (to work), which in many cases led to death eventually. Apparently during an Auschwitz tour a few years ago, one visitor recognized a Nazi soldier helping the doctor as his own father. Since the Nazis were organized with documents and records, they were able find and confirm that it indeed, was his dad. This man knew his dad was in the army but didn’t know he was involved with the Nazis. Crazy.

Since Auschwitz had already been used as a Polish concentration camp IMG_3489before the Nazi’s occupied it, they weren’t able to make it any bigger, which led the Nazis to build Birkenau just a few kilometers away. Birkenau was roughly 20 times bigger than Auschwitz and it’s where most of the killings took place. The picture to the right shows a memorial in Hungarian saying, “Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.”

Coming from Hungary, I was shocked to hear that about 400,000 Hungarian Jews were killed within 2 months in the summer of 1944. This was the largest percentage of Jews killed in that short of a time, which if broken down, ends up being 6,666 people murdered each day for two months. Unfathomable. Also, as I work with people who are Roma, I was surprised to hear about 23,000 Roma were killed during this four-year period. So many times I associate the Holocaust with just the Jews which is not true at all. Our tour guide, who did a great job, said that within another 5-10 years, there will be no survivors from Auschwitz left.


       Taking a German film class in college and learning a lot about the Third Reich IMG_3472through documentaries and propaganda films, I remember thinking it was hard to imagine how something like this could happen. Having a chance to be in the actual location where the murders took place makes me even more confused as to why the Nazi’s or anyone could think of killing other fellow human beings; human beings who have souls, who can make informed decisions between right and wrong, who have opinions, thoughts, and are capable of changing the world for the better. What makes this whole thing more scary and confusing is the Nazis thought they were doing the right thing.

As a Christ-follower, I’ve been thinking, “Where is God’s place in all of this?” This is certainly not an easy question. My first thought comes from what the memorial says. “Forever let this be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity…” We must learn from our mistakes, whether they are small mistakes or big mistakes. We must forgive. We must take steps to look out for our fellow brothers and sisters, whether they are black, white, purple, Jew, non-Jew, Christian, non-Christian, homosexual, fat, skinny, or whatever society decides to “label” others. We must learn that the human condition of sin can be a deep, deceiving, and powerful thing. We must also learn we have the power to do as much good as bad. I think we should be crying out a lot more. Just like the memorial, we should let this be a cry out from our souls to something bigger than ourselves. Let this be a cry that we don’t know why bad things happen all of the time. Let this be a cry that we can rise up, toss aside bitterness and judgment, and start embracing forgiveness, love, and standing up for what’s right. And finally, let this be a cry and a prayer for those who suffer from injustice. That world leaders, as well as our own voices, would speak up for those in lower places. Amen.

      He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8


The end of the line…

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So Much Snow…January: Part 1

Here are some tidbits I took out of my journal from the first part of January. Part 2 will be coming soon, which includes my recent trip to Poland (Kraków, Auschwitz, Salt Mines). Stay tuned…



1/3/13 – I tried reading Harry Potter in Hungarian today and then gave up about 2-3 pages later. Later in the evening I read to the kids from a Hungarian book series called “Anna, Peti és Gergô.” They love it.


1/4/13 – Back to school. Liver for lunch at school. Not exactly my favorite, but I tried getting it down the hatch regardless. Good to see the kids at school again. Practiced Hungarian for a couple of hours after school, then read and napped. Watched Modern Family with the fam (Hungarian subtitles). This has definitely been in popular demand this month, which has been great.

1/5/13 – Youth group in the morning, practiced songs on guitar and then had karaoke. I triedImage singing “Rock Superstar” by Cypress Hill, but then I switched to “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” after realizing I didn’t know the verses to Rock Superstar. I realized the pair of jeans I bought in the afternoon didn’t fit well and the zipper was broken…Csilla helped me return them later in the week and get the right size. Thanks, Csilla. I thought I was going to another Szombathely Falco basketball game today but it turned out what I agreed to was actually playing basketball. Thus I showed up at the said location with no basketball clothes and lots of confused looks. I got some clothes from Danny (friend from youth group) and we played outside for a couple hours in the windy cold. Then I watched some ESPN (a rare oddity) with his friend, Adam at his house. On my way back home at night, I had some good prayer/reflection time.  No one was outside, making the city very peaceful and calm and nice to walk around.


1/7/13 – So much snow today, which was great. Took some pictures with my nice camera. Itwas a hard day though. Lots of frustration and impatience just from a combination of things. January is a long month.

1/8/13. I recorded poems on the computer for the poem competition coming up in mid-February. I’m helping some of the students at school, including Anna (daughter of my host family) learn a poem called, “Melinda Made a Snowman,” by Linda Knaus.  I also joined the 2nd grade class at the big sledding hill in Szombathely for a sled session. I also biked down the hill with my bike.


1/9/13 –   SNOWBALL FIGHT with  Roma students.


1/10/13 – I’ve been listening to a book on tape called, “Lonesome Dove,” by Larry McMurtry. It’s 36 hours of pure old westernness. I think I can safely say that after I finish, it will be my longest read. I’ve been working on it for a couple months now.

1/12/13 – Had some broccoli soup and chili. Then Turkish coffee. Nom nom.

1/13/13 – More snow today. Atilla, my host, said, “When it’s winter, you can’t imagine summer. When it’s summer, you can’t imagine winter, but God is still there.” Right on.

1/14/13 – The car got stuck on the way to school. I used my really strong muscles and pushed the car out. I taught the kids today at school and learned a new song called, “Ha én rózsa volnék” (If I were a rose…). A very manly song.

Image1/15/13 – Made a huge snow hill outside with the kids. It reminded me of making snow forts back home. Went to the train station with the family to get a train ticket to Krakow. Benni was very squirmy and was running around everywhere in his new snow boots. Can’t blame him.

Much winter love from Hungary…Thanks so much for the prayers and support!

Stay tuned for the 2nd part of January coming in the next week!

Brand new Corn Talk episode coming soon!


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Adventage December

Today at the Advent Market I was asked if I was the “Ice Man.” Everything at the market  2652449-icemanwas happening so fast, I wasn’t sure how to respond. In fact, I didn’t respond. I kind of just floated away after saying a couple of jumbled up Hunglish words in the big crowd. I don’t know if this woman actually wanted to ask this question or if something was lost in translation, but I had to laugh to myself afterwards, thinking, “Yes, maybe I am the Ice Man,” and that I should go back and tell her. In any case, I went to play Hungarian Advent songs on my guitar with my cohorts Martin and Lazlo as the kids participated in fun little festivities for the big day. And coincidentally it snowed today, thus making Ice Man more relevant.


Adventage December: I have found myself communicating in Hungarian at a more advanced level in the last couple weeks. I can say things like “I’m going to get my haircut tomorrow.” This is indeed false, as I’ve thought this for the last three weeks. I did, however shave my beard yesterday since it’s no longer No-Shave-November.  Here is a picture by popular demand…


Thanksgiving was excellent. I got to see the rest of the
other Hungary YAGM volunteers along with other ELCAvolunteers working in Slovakia. On Saturday Nov. 24th, we got to eat Oven Roasted Turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and all of the other great traditional Thanksgiving foods. We even got to play the “It” game (AKA White Elephant with a twist). I got a giant fake tree that I had to pawn off on someone. IMG_2841

It was great getting to share some of our experiences and hearing how everybody has been doing thus far. There have been lots of ups and downs for the rest of the volunteers, but we’ve definitely strengthened our friendships with one another through our similar cultural experiences, despite our 4 wildly different personalities. We got to explore the city a bit more too, seeing the Smurf Church (crazy blue), exploring the outside of the Bratislava castle, and getting into the Christmas spirit at the Bratislava Christmas market.

IMG_2835          IMG_2868

I had a chance to go to Vienna for a full day with Kristen & Ashley (2 of the other Hungary YAGM volunteers) and see some of the hotspots there after our Bratislava retreat. We saw the Schönbrunn Palace (the second largest palace in Europe, behind Versailles in France) and took part in yet another Christmas market. The Christmas markets are definitely in full force all around here (I believe Vienna has 7). We got to see all the little trinkets, hear the carolers, smell the great smells, and feel winter’s cool breeze start to take over fall’s reign. The markets and carolers made up for the lack of sun for 5 straight days. Also, what I didn’t know is that Szombathely has a big Christmas market in their city square, too!

The Smurf Church               Outside the Schönbrunn Palace

THE SMURF CHURCH                               SCHÖNBRUNN PALACE

As far as teaching at school and working with the youth, I have been in the mode of teaching about American Thanksgiving and now about Christmas….I’ve been tossing in a few Christmas songs here and there to spice it up too. Yesterday, I got to lead the youth group in games, worship, and share my testimony about my relationship with Christ. I also talked a lot about hope in God (now that we are in the season of Advent) and how without hope and trust, we don’t have a whole lot to look forward to. I think they understood most of it… at least I hope so. Talking about God in a different language is incredibly difficult.

Lastly, it was great to hear that Miriam and Jeremy Blyth, our country supervisors, were blessed to bring in Esme Asher Blyth into their family on Monday Nov. 26th (the day after we left Bratislava). Your prayers for them would be greatly appreciated! If you’d like to see pictures on their blog, here they are… http://domavbratislava.wordpress.com/category/ursula-and-esmes-day-to-day/

Next up, my mom will be heading to Salzburg on Dec 13th, where I will be with her for a few days and then I’ll be coming back to Szombathely to celebrate Christmas here. If you’d like to hear a few differences in how Christmas works here, you can listen to the most recent Corn Talk. There are also a few stories that have happened in the last month or so. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/corntalk/2012/11/20/corn-talk-sziasztok

DID YOU KNOW:  Instead of calling it New Year’s Eve, Hungarians call it “Szilveszter éjjel,” which translates to “Silvester Eve” or “Silvester Night”? Hungary has name days and Szilveszter falls on Dec 31st. However, I must state that it could almost be called “Dávid éjjel” since my name day is on Dec 30th.

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Novembeard Greetings

I have found myself inadvertently taking part in no-shave-November after leaving my razor in Budapest a couple of weeks ago. I now have a razor (as of today) but have chosen (by popular demand) to keep my “beard” going until December. I can show a picture at the end of the month…

Attached below is my first official newsletter from Hungary. If you’d like to receive my newsletter by e-mail in the future, e-mail me at DaveLong15@gmail.com. I will have also have another one coming out at the beginning of January, March, May and possibly July?

Hungary Newsletter!

I have done a terrible job at updating my blog in the last few weeks so I will definitely make more of an effort to keep you posted on everything. Hopefully this newsletter will help bridge the gap between now and the last post!

If you’re interested, I have clips from Hungary on my Youtube channel  “Hungaryforayear” (www.youtube.com/hungaryforayear). It’s nothing too crazy, but if you want to see some of the sights and sounds in real time, they are there for you.

Hungarian TV, round 2: (from 4:11-4:40)….http://www.szombathely-lutheran.hu/nyitott-ajtok/nyitott-ajtok-2012-oktoberi-adasa…This was a children’s activity day that happened after church. Once again, they interviewed me, but when you watch, you’ll see I’m not exactly sure what they asked me. This is typical. Entertaining…

When is the next Corn Talk? Next TUESDAY night at 7pm (11/20/12). If you are still interested in listening to the last episode, here it is. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/corntalk/2012/10/11/corn-talk-szombathely-is-listening

Random pictures….

Kids teaching me Hungarian words on a field trip to the museum…

Some of the words:

fűzfa – willow tree

kuka – garbage can

rédőny – blinds

pocsolya – puddle

szamár – donkey



As if me being in Belgium wasn’t random enough…Here is a picture of me and a random guy in front of the giant Atonium Balls in Brussels.

I was able to take a short trip to Brussels and Bruges for a few days from Oct 29-Nov 3rd, since there was no school during that time. It was a fun adventure where I met and hung out with people from all over the world…even this guy.

And of course the puppet show (“Bab Szinhaz”). Who could possibly forget about the puppet show!? This was the open house at the school where parents and their kids came and saw if they want to send their kids to Reményik Sándor Evangélikus Általános iskola.

After the puppet show, kids got to make arts and crafts. Specifically hedgehogs (“sön”) with the fall leaves and snails (“csiga”) with beads and glue.

Here I gave a geography lesson to the 5th grade class about California. I thought that redwoods and surfing needed their fair share of props, and of course me living there for 3 years.

I also put banana slugs, snorkeling and much more on the other board.

Next on the list: Minnesota.


NOV 17th, 2012:  “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart REQUIEM,” concert at the church. It will be good and probably sold out.

THANKSGIVING: I will journey to Bratislava (2-3 hr train ride) and celebrate with the other YAGM volunteers. I hope there will be mashed potatoes.

DEC 1ST, 2012: Maybe read a book, listen to a Christmas song, and shave my beard.

DEC 13TH-17TH, 2012: Visit my mom in Salzburg, Austria for a few days!

DEC 25th, 2012: Celebrate the birth of Jesus here in Szombathely with the host fam!

         “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” — Dale Carnegie

                                            (thank you Katie Kolosso for that quote)

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Two Bike Baskets and Super Bus

“BUS, BUS, BUS, SUPER BUS.” If that song from the classroom was transferred into my Itunes, it would Image read something like “73 plays” over the last two weeks. Minibus says “Hello Hello,” Red bus says, “Beep Beep,” and Green bus says, “Goodbye, goodbye!” So many talking buses it puts The Magic School Bus to shame.

Analogy #2 (proceeding the puzzle analogy from the last post): Going to a different country is like buying and wearing a new pair of shoes. It whomps for a while and then it usually turns out okay…or they never fit and it’s a pain. This is like a new, intense pair of shoes. I’m still getting used to these shoes and I’m working out the aches and pains. Missing home and the transition of not speaking the language is still difficult but it’s exciting hearing more and more words I understand, like “ciki” which is “awkward” or “embarrassing.” It’s also great communicating through funny tricks like Mr. Cappy, card tricks or playing songs by blowing air into my hands. However, when I’m not doing tricks or trying to translate, I like to do something else…

It’s called “My own dubbing,” or “M.O.D.” I sometimes like to dub Hungarian conversation in my head when I don’t understand what’s happening. For example:

Person A: “We need to open    zoo right now.”                   Image

Person B: “Yes and we need four monkeys, 12 sea monkeys and three elephants.”

Person A: “No, no, we need a big giraffe and six mountain lions and a gorilla.”

Person B: “Alright, alright. We can do that as long as we can hire a zoo clown that scares the monkeys and little kids.“

…And so on and so forth. Each line is obviously subject to change based on length of time and tone of voice.

I still have no idea what the layout of this city is like. I bike around on my sweet little red girly bike with two baskets and find myself completely discombobulated after five minutes of riding. Somehow I end up where I want to be, like the Kabab place yesterday. I felt very proud when I bought a gyro by myself and continued to get to know the woman where I get my occasional ice cream (“fagylalt”). I even went into the eyeglasses store to test my Hungarian and see if they could fix my broken glasses. By the grace of God, not only were they pleased that I tried speaking their language, but they fixed my glasses for no fee and it’s as if they’re brand new. In a Wisconsin Sear’s store a couple of months ago all they said was, “Looks like you need some new glasses.”


Did you know? A great way to not talk with people who walk around with clipboards in the city is to simply say you don’t speak the language.

I think sometimes, “Am I living a really intense and weird dream right now?” And I say, “Yes.” In dreams, there are things you can’t dothat you can do in real life. Dial the phone, run up the stairs, scream, read, etc. You can also do things in dreams that you can’t do in real life. Fly, float, and explore places that make absolutely no sense. I feel like I’m living in the bizarre reality of a dream. All familiarity has been stripped away like language, sense of location, and even the air that I breathe seems different.

I think sometimes, “Why am I here and why would God put me here?” Then I’ll get a chocolate muffin from a student, hear someone playing the piano for me, or get to go on a bike ride into a beautiful forested area. Then I’ll hear some stories in good, but broken English about events in recent Central European history. It seems that so much of what has happened in the last 40+ years in Hungary has affected belief systems and how many live their day-to-day lives, whether that’s for good or not-so-good. I continue to see glimpses of hope and a new generation rising up that is no longer held back by the restrictions of socialism. It seems to be a country that is constantly healing from their past, which is true for so many of us. What a great place to see God work.

If you haven’t seen or heard already, I was on Hungarian TV. You can check it out on this link…(11:15-13:00)… http://www.tvszombathely.hu/nyitott-ajtok/nyitott-ajtok—2012-szeptember-20    I might be on again next week!

I will end with a quote that I just read from the book, “A Country Full of Aliens,” by Colin Swatridge. For me, it’s a great description of coming into a place not knowing a language and being swept into a new culture and family that continues to provide in so many ways.

“We were, all of us, playing part in an ancient, unscripted drama, in which it was the role of the residents to provide unstintingly, and it was ours to express unbounded delight and satisfaction.”

A big thank you is needed for those who have continued to support me through this hard and crazy time. Whether that’s through thought and prayer, financial support, kind words, inspiring quotes and verses; I thank you. Thank you to the people of Szombathely for taking me in so generously and showing God’s love in so many ways.

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All the Way to Szombathely

As of Thursday the 13th, I have been in my new home in Szombathely (Sum-bah-tay)! I am living in the basement of my wonderful host family, who has been so incredibly kind and generous. Their kids are amazingly cute; Benny is 3 and Anna is 8.


Shortly before this picture was taken, we played some Frisbee and I got to eat some figs from their fig tree. It was definitely one of those, “Oh yeah…figs must come from somewhere” moments. According to my host dad Atilla, they didn’t have fig trees here 10-15 years ago because the climate wasn’t warm enough. Now, for whatever reasons you may or may not believe in, the fig trees are growing in Szombathely. Crazy.

The last two weeks have been another whirlwind. Last weekend we drove about six hours from Szarvas to Lake Balaton (or ‘Balaton’ to the local folks). I unexpectedly was introduced to the ENTIRE staff of my school and church from Szombathely. It was great and overwhelming. Here is a picture of Balaton.


Friday the 14th was my first day at school. It is incredibly hard not being able to communicate with 98% of the students and teachers. We sang the “Super Bus” song roughly 20 times and now it’s been stuck in my head ever since. The kids seem great (even though I have no idea what they’re saying) and most seem eager to learn English. It was an awesome experience getting to play worship songs on guitar for the 5th (grade) class and hearing them practice speaking the Lord’s prayer in English.  I’m hoping this next week will have more of a rhythm to it.

“What is learning a language like?” you may ask? Good question. It is like putting together a 1 million-piece jigsaw puzzle. Putting together one of those things is full of frustration, progress, addiction, stopping, analyzing, stepping back, digging in, trying to fit pieces where they don’t belong, and eventually seeing the final picture. Right now I feel like I have finished the easier outer edges of the puzzle and getting into the meat of it all…

Did you know…?

— Szombathely is a beautiful city. The new header picture on this blog is from a lake I walked around here. Here is a pic of the city square. 

— Hungary takes their dubbing movies seriously. They hire out people to dub over specific actors and actresses. For example, Tamás Végvári almost always dubbed over Al Pacino’s voice in his movies.

— I ate at IKEA in Budapest when I met up with my people from Szombathely. Who would have guessed I would be eating Swedish meatballs in Hungary?

— There is a Corn Talk episode we aired while in Szarvas, Hungary. Listen here. (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/corntalk/2012/09/11/corn-talk-2-weeks-in-hungary)

— A great way to learn Hungarian (or any language) is to watch a ton Disney movies. I watched Shrek and Lion King in Hungarian and I think I will watch them another 49 times to master the language. Hakuna Matata.


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Plum Jam, Bikes, and ABCs

Let’s be honest. I can safely say this has been the hardest transition I’ve ever made. This long journey may only be for a year, but wow, the last three weeks have seemed like the longest of my life.

Going from the beauty of air conditioning, my own schedule, home cooked meals (from a mother who is a food critic), barbecues (from a father who is simply the grill-master), leaving a great community of friends and family, moving all over like I’m a piece of mail that hasn’t found it’s new home, to not understanding a lick of the Hungarian language. How’s that for a slap in the face and a punch to the gut?

In the midst of all of those things including culture shock, I have had to trust God in the big and small things. Some of which include: patience, energy, knowledge, why I’m here, finding food, peace of mind, and relying on those around me even when I want to do things on my own. It’s been so great to have friends and family back home praying for me and supporting me through this hard but rewarding time in life…

Even though the road has been difficult, there have been several interesting things I continue to find intriguing and also make me giggle…

For example,

The first thing I did when we landed in Europe was accidentally walk into a woman’s restroom at the airport.

The Hungarians love their grapes, plums and produce here. We had a super juicy watermelon the other day. We also got to help make some plum jam with some older Hungarian folks. I got to stir the big liquidy jam pot for 30 seconds. YES.

The town Szombathely, which I will be placed, is NOT pronounced ‘ZUM-BATH-A-LEE.’ It is pronounced “SUM-BAH-TAY.” I still call it ZUM-BATH-A-LEE for fun.


Matt got locked into his own room for about an hour and a half last week. It was very entertaining.

ImageHungarian language is insanely hard. My dreams have been invaded by the Hungarian language. I also dreamt that I was in high school again and I couldn’t find my first class and my tuba to play in band. Regardless of all that, we just finished our 6th day of lessons. We have 5 left!

I just got a Hungarian haircut. I purposely waited to get a haircut here just so I could say, “I got a Hungarian haircut.”

There are grocery stores called A-B-C’s (pronounced ‘Ah-Bayt-Say’). It’s a great way to learn our A-B-Cs in Hungarian.

We have a place to swim where we’re staying right now. Bonus points.


Until next time! Viszontlátásra!

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I Wanna Rock

It is hard to stay awake during the day when one anxiously awaits that day the previous night. I’m not sure if that’s a deep thought or not (or if it even makes sense), but it’s true.

Also, I decided today that instead of bring my suitcase (which you see in the picture), I am bringing my Arcteryx Pack. I feel pretty good about it. Pretty…pretty…prettay good.

I heard that they didn’t have Double Stuf Oreos and chocolate chips in Hungary so I had to go get some today. I have also experienced mediocre peanut butter in Europe so I’m bringing good ol’ American Jif Extra Chunky.

I have been scrambling to get things done and see all the people that I can before I go, but it seems like there is never enough time. On the flip side, I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with my family and friends this summer. It was truly a blast and a great time to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate. There isn’t much else to say other than thank you to everyone who made this summer one that I will remember for a long, long time. I’ll lift my glass to road trips, the Rockies, weddings, Lamb’s resort, cliff jumping, the Boundary Waters, Appleton, Milwaukee, Keith’s ordination, babysitting, Twins games, golf (and disc golf), The Naked Foot Run, Miranda Rosalie Long, hot weather, thunderstorms, WI state fair, my family, and everyone else that I care for so deeply.

One verse that I read today that correlates well with everything right now –
Colossians 2:6-7 – “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

I’m excited to see what God continues to do, sad I’ll be away for a long time and miss those that I love so much, giddy to be a part of crazy things that happen, and overall curious about how this all goes. I wanna rock. Twisted Sister style.


The next part of this entry is dedicated to frequently asked questions I’ve been receiving…

Q: What are you going to do with Corn Talk while you’re gone?
A: Corn Talk will continue, however the time and frequency will be different. Since there is a 7 hour time difference between here and the midwest, I will either host the show at 8 or 9pm Hungary Time, meaning it would be 1 or 2pm CST. Every show is archived so if you don’t catch it over the lunch hour, you can still listen anytime. I’m guessing the frequency will be one show every two weeks, instead of the once a week format right now. Whoever listens will gather insight in Hungarian culture, hear Hungarian voices, and hear crazy stories that happen there.

Q: What is the time difference?
A: 7 hour difference from Central time. I bet you knew that if you paid attention to the answer of the last question!

Q: What language do they speak in Hungary?
A: Hungarian. It is consistently listed as one of the hardest languages to learn, alongside Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Polish, and Klingon.

Q: What exactly will you be doing?
A: Short answer: Teaching English at a Lutheran Church and School.
Long answer: I will help teach English classes at the school; assist Roma students in a “gifted Roma student” school-sponsored program; help with the youth program at the church; and additionally, volunteer at other diaconal projects (elderly care, YMCA-type program) organized by the church.

Q: Where are you living and staying?
A: I will be in the town of Szombathely, Hungary, a town of about 80,000 in western Hungary. It is located roughly 3-5 miles from the Austrian border. I will most likely be living in a home-stay situation, sharing a house with a family connected to the church. I will have my own room.

Q: What will you be doing the first month or so?
A: I will arrive in Vienna on Thursday morning (Aug 23), stay for 4 nights in Bratislava, likely at the Theological Faculty (the Lutheran Seminary there). Orientation will start when we get there and we’ll have a chance to worship at the Bratislava International Church and meet all the ELCA teacher volunteers.
We will all travel by train to Budapest on Monday, Aug 26 and continue orientation as we travel. We’ll be driven to Szarvas (southeastern Hungary) the following day, where we’ll be staying for over two weeks for more orientation and language training.
In the middle of our time in Szarvas, we’ll take a weekend excursion to Nyiregyhaza, staying there for a few nights. Friday the 14th is the magic day when we all go off to your sites!
After being at our sites for about a month, we’ll gather together in Budapest for a 5-day seminar run by Phiren Amenca. (You can look up this organization on-line if you are interested.)

Q: What do you eat for breakfast?
A: Cracklin Oat Bran, cinnamon toast, pineapple Chobani yogurt, and a good cup of coffee. No Folgers in this house. This is obviously going to change once I leave.

Q: How do you maintain your stunningly good looks?
A: I shave and run once every 4 days.

Interesting Fact: Szombathely is the oldest city in Hungary.

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Everybody get Hungary

RUNDOWN: It’s 14 days before I head out to Chicago for orientation and what a better time to dive into the world of blogging than now.  This blog will be dedicated to sharing my experiences in Hungary, including the people I meet, the stories that happen and how God seems to be working in a country  that not many people think of when thinking of Europe.

TWO-WEEK SCOPE: I will continue to tie up loose ends, including sending out last minute support letters, going on a trip to the boundary waters, Milwaukee, and finally Dawson, MN for my brother’s ordination.

HUNGARY FACT: Hungary is dominant in water polo. They have won the last three consecutive gold medals over the last 12 years. They are in jeopardy of losing it this year after two losses to Serbia (bordering to the south), and Montenegro (southwest of Serbia…I just checked). Eat your heart out California.

LANGUAGE PROCESS: I have learned three Hungarian words so far. This is going to be interesting.

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