Friday, February 3, 2012

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Currently Not in Budapest....

I miss Budapest... especially the summer weather!  Emily and I are back in DC awaiting the grand entrance of our our first child, Abigail.  We miss the ice cream you can find every 10 feet in Budapest.  I mean seriously, where in the US can you get lemon ice cream like this:


The last trip Emily and I took without little tag-a-longs was to Pecs, Hungary in the middle of June.  We also did some wine tasting (well I did some wine tasting) in a nearby town called Villany.  It was a nice relaxing weekend and we found the elusive Hungarian flower-balls only found in the southern part of the country.


Pecs was declared the "European Capital of Culture" in 2010 which is quite the title.  It was actually a very beautiful city with lots of cool sites like some 1st century Christian burial sites (they looked pretty old).  Even the kids were having fun.


Emily officially went "full term" today at 37 weeks.  Not sure why the due date is 40 weeks if the little one could come any day now?  We can't wait for the new adventure to begin!  Any advice on the birth/next 18 years?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weddings and Musings

Have you ever been to a Hungarian wedding?  Me either as of two days ago....  Weddings are one of the last remaining formal rituals in the US and it is interesting to compare to other cultures' rituals such as the wedding.  We had the honor of participating in our first Hungarian wedding last weekend.  It was somewhat cheating, our DC friend Jeff met an awesome woman back in DC and asked her hand in marriage and she happens to be from Budapest!  The wedding ceremony was in a very old Catholic church near our apartment in Budapest.  The kind of church Americans go visit when they are touring Europe.  It was somewhat odd that I was sitting and participating in such an important event than photographing the flying angel baby statues....
 The ceremony was not that different from an American wedding (besides the Hungarian spoken).  The main difference I noticed was the underemphasis on the wedding party.  Both Jeff and Judit had their sibling as an attendant but they did not have bridesmaids/groomsmen.  It was refreshing to have the focus on the couple and the covenant and not on the entourage and costumes (the American custom to wear a "dress" that a woman will only wear as a bridesmaid or to a Halloween party still baffles me) .  The bride did throw the bouquet of flowers to all the single women.  I haven't deciphered the culture link on that particular activity....

Hungarians know how to party!  Dinner started at 7pm after an hour cocktail and went until 10pm!  The food and wine kept coming through the whole reception and food was still be served at 1AM.  We had a full 4 course dinner (with dessert) AND they had a wedding cake which was cut around 12AM.  I was surprised all the guests stayed almost till 1:30AM including kids and grandparents.  It was a very neat contrast to American paced wedding receptions. It seems like with our fast paced American culture that we do not know how to soak up an important event.  Most American weddings we are in and out in several hours and call it good.  This wedding people really seemed to be really enjoying the event and the other guests.  One of my favorite surprises was the waiters bringing straight-up Jack Daniels at 12:30AM.  "Why yes a shot of Whiskey sounds pretty darn tasty right now..."
We are very happy for Jeff and Judit!  Look at this beatiful couple... :)


Love knows no boundaries?  I think so.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Slovenia and Fatherhood

The dark cold season of winter is finally retreating in Eastern Europe, which is to say the least, is very exciting.  I have not looked forward to Spring this much since 2001.  Hungary has the lovely winter combination of Minnesota cold and Washington clouds.  The weather recently has been pretty nice, lower 60s and sunny.

Emily and I went on our first European road trip (if you don't count the failed Croatia trip last July (see earlier post)) this month to Slovenia.  To be perfectly honest, I did not know the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia before arriving in Budapest.  Slovenia is the Slov country that was formally part of Yugoslavia.  The country ROCKS!  Seriously, it reminds me of Colorado with all the cool mountain towns but with European charm (did I just write charm.... better than "cute").  The people are very friendly and welcome foreigners.  We visited two mountain lakes, the first is Lake Bled which is a famous vacation site and the second is Lake Bohinj which felt pretty wild with no roads around most of the lake.


We hope to go back to Slovenia before we leave Hungary.  Our next trip will probably be next month with our friends Kam and Lauren when they come visit!  We are loving being able to travel around Europe.

FATHERHOOD..... its becoming more real every day now that Emily is showing more.  We have started deciding what "baby items" we "need" to buy.  Emily bought me the book for expectant fathers titled "My Boys Can Swim" which is a pretty funny book.  One of the chapters is about the baby stuff and says "beware of the baby peddlers".  I have to admit, some of the stuff is pretty cool.  "Pack'n Play" sounds deceptively lame, but who can't see the usefulness of having a portable crib/playpen.  

Emily and I have tentatively worked out our plans for the summer.  We are coming back to DC to have the baby and will be there from August 1st - Sometime in October.  I'll be doing a month of training in August and then will be waiting for the little millsling to make an appearance.  Anyone reading this wants to come visit, let us know!  

Any fathers out there have any advice on what baby items we actually need or any other advice, let me know!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Geneva With Friends

Last weekend Emily and I hopped on a plane and made our way back to Western Europe.  This particular trip took us to Geneva, Switzerland!  I did not know much about this city besides it being the location of several international organizations (WTO!!) including the League of Nations (thank you President Wilson).  I was pleasantly surprised that this was a beautiful city with very friendly natives.  The first day we took the train up to Lausanne which was farther north on Lake Geneva.  The second day we spent the day with our good friends, Mitch and Michelle (they are getting married in May, woo hoo!).  They spent the next week skiing about an hour outside of Geneva.


On Saturday morning, we were walking to the train station on our way to Lausanne and saw this guy.  How many times have you seen a guy with a light saber, cape, Russian cap, and sun glasses?  Oh, and he was rambling in indistinguishable Arabic (well... all Arabic is indistinguishable to me, but I swear it was gibberish).
  
We loved Lausanne!!  It is a not so small town northeast of Geneva on Lake Geneva.  It has a wonderful lake front area where you can see the French Alps on the other side of the lake.  The Saturday we were there, the lake had a fog over it which limited the visibility of the Alps, but it did make the sailboats on the lake seem like they were floating.

There was also a very cool old medieval part of town which had a cool church and castle.  In that area was lots of shops and we ate at a wonderful French restaurant which was awesome!  Its a serious social faux pas to show up to dinner before 7:30, but if you're ok with breaking social conventions, you will get the whole restaurant to yourself.  We arrived at 7:15 so we had the whole restaurant to ourselves... for 15 minutes.   Sunday we spent the whole day with our friends exploring Geneva.  There was a very cool church on the hill were we got an awesome view of the city.


We then took a closer look at that cool fountain and then took a boat tour which we got to see the city from the lake.  We then had an amazing dinner where the only choice you had was how rare you wanted the steak (rare or REALLY rare).  The steak was amazing which was a treat because the beef is not so great in Budapest.  We had a wonderful time in Geneva with our friends and it was awesome to spend some time in Switzerland.  One funny story about the bathrooms in Geneva.  Many of the restaurants have codes on their bathroom doors.  We went to McDonald's because Emily really had to use the WC (that's bathroom in Europe...).  I went to order and she went to track down the WC.  She came back immediately and said she needed the secret bathroom password.  "What?"  We asked the McDonald's burger giver and they showed us that the secret password was on the receipt.  "Of course....."  We ended up at Starbucks the next day (we collect the city mugs now, thank you John and Jamie).  We found the WC had the same secret code so we asked the caffeine pusher what the secret WC password is and his response was: (insert funny British accent) "There is no code, just push the door. If it does not go, push harder."


Thanks for reading, if you want to see the rest of our Geneva photos, click the below link.

Geneva Photos

Blessings,


Matt and Emily

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DC here we come!

I am sitting in the Budapest airport waiting to fly to DC for two weeks. The trip has gone very smoothly so far. The taxi ride was quick, they did not charge us for a third bag, and we bypassed the security line with our diplomatic passports! The extra time at our gate has allowed me to reflect on the season. Emily and I had a wonderful Christmas just the two of us in Budapest. We got our very own real Christmas tree which we dragged through the metro system. They did not even charge us a ticket for the tree! We went to the nutcracker last week, my first time. We went with our good friends, the Blochers. Their two boys loved it too! Emily made lots of Christmas treats and the traditional Scandinavian Christmas dinner of meatballs, pickled herring, riced potatos (yes, I said riced), and lingon berries. One interesting result of being in a community of ex-pats is that most of our friends stayed here and did not have family fly in. Who really wants to visit Budapest in the winter (besides the Christmas market lovers)? So they were our seregate family this holiday! I also got to play my favorite boardgame, Twilight Imperium, twice! I highly reccomend it if you are into galactic empire building. We are so blessed to have a comminity here now. Relationships really are what is important in life. Well, we are about to get on the plane. I wonder if I will have reverse culture shock.... Free refills in restaurants? Sweet!















Location:Ferihegy II. Terminál Indulás,Budapest,Hungary

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas 2010

Dear Family & Friends,

Merry Christmas!!! I hope that this season of joy finds you all well.  We have so much to be thankful for and celebrate this year.  At the top of our list are our friendships with all of you, so thank you for being such amazing, faithful friends to us! With this post, we just wanted to give everyone an update on our first year here in Budapest and reflect on what this year has meant to us. I hope it is encouraging to you!

Emily:

This year has been eventful to say the least.  When I think back to where we were one year ago - in D.C. preparing for our big move and spending time with friends & family before we left at a frantic pace - I can't believe that that was only one year ago.  I have come a long way from where I was a year ago!  For me, this year has been about the Lord teaching me that my worth as a person is not in my occupation but is in my identity as a child of God.  I thought I knew that before we left, but I definitely did not!  After a tumultuous time where I was unsure of everything - what I should be doing day to day and even whether we should have stayed in the States, I am now at a really sweet place where I am enjoying life more fully than I ever have.  I am loving having time to meet with friends, keep our household running, bake and cook, and just generally enjoy life!  This fall, I started volunteering with a Christian organization called Campus Crusade for Christ.  Here in Hungary, Campus Crusade has a ministry for high school and university students in the greater Budapest area.  I am working with the high school ministry, where I am meeting regularly with a student, Rebeka, and attending the weekly gathering for the kids (sort of like an American youth group meeting).  I love the Hungarian kids so much, they are all so precious!  I am hoping to begin meeting with several more students on a regular basis as the year progresses.  My other endeavor of late has been to take steps toward starting my own catering business here in Hungary.  I am very excited about this prospect and am hoping to be in the position to start accepting small jobs soon.  I am researching, gathering recipes, and trying to spread the word amongst the embassy community and other friends that we have here.

Matt and I have really had such an amazing fall, we have meant so many dear friends here in the last few months, which has been such a huge blessing to us.  Most of these new friends are missionaries with Campus Crusade, and we have just had a blast becoming part of that community here. 

Our other big highlight this year has been all the traveling we have been able to do.  In May, we spent a weekend in Paris, and this fall and winter we have traveled to Munich, Athens (Greece, not GA!), Vienna and Stockholm.  It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to see Europe at a leisurely pace.  We love to visit new cities and compare them to each other.  We especially loved Munich - the food and beer helped! - and Stockholm.  Visiting Sweden at Christmastime was such a special time for me, as my family is Swedish and I grew up with lots of Swedish traditions at Christmas.  I felt so at home in Stockholm, it definitely did not feel like a foreign country to me at all!  I can't wait to go back and spend more time in Sweden!

Finally, this year has been for us about becoming an aunt and uncle!  Our precious nephew Alexander was born in January and it has been a great joy of my life to watch him grow this year!  In August, I was able to spend about two weeks with my sister Lisa and her husband Justin and baby Alexander and it was such a sweet time.  We can't wait to visit with them again in January!  

Matt:

I have the paradoxically feeling that the last year flew by and took forever. One year ago Emily and I were busily getting ready to leave our friends and home in DC. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into! Picking up and putting down roots in a foreign city has been both frustrating and rewarding. We did not love Budapest when we first arrived (that was a sentence cloaked in understatement). This city is more “foreign” than most of the cities we have visited in Europe. The language is unique and the people are a hard nut to crack. However, we have grown fond of the Hungarian food, culture, and people.


I work for the US Government! Specifically, I work for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Like all government agencies, there is bureaucracy and we have an underlying suspicion that people in DC have no idea what’s going on outside of the beltway. However, I have very much enjoyed my job. I am blessed with a great boss who mentors me on how to be a great Management Officer. It has also been interesting working with the US Embassy staff and learning what goes on in a US Embassy overseas. I feel more strongly that diplomacy and development are very important to the US’s long-term national security (read this if you are interested in the US’s strategy link).

Marriage! It’s hard! It’s totally worth it! I forget sometimes that Emily and I have only been married 19 months. We have grown together so much through our overseas experience. We have learned to rely on each other and (more importantly) God since being outside the comforts of living in the US. I recommend any married couple to try it, Peace Corps takes couples of all ages!

We have been very thankful for our new friends in Hungary. Community is very important to us and it was VERY difficult to leave our community in DC. One of the new developments in Hungary is most of our friends here have kids. This has been super fun hanging out with the little tykes, Emily and I have babysat on several occasions.

Emily mentioned travel and how blessed we have been to romp around Europe. We came to a discovery on most recent trip to Stockholm, we really are food travelers. We love trying out the local food! Munich may be my favorite city based solely on the pretzels, beer, and sausages. However, the fish soup is pretty awesome in Stockholm and the French really know how to do bread. I would say the best wine so far is actually found here in Hungary.

Emily and I will probably be here until the summer of 2012. We are not sure what the future holds for us. But isn’t that part of the adventure of life? Please come join our adventure, if for only a short time. We have a guest bedroom and bathroom in the heart of Budapest. Regardless, we would love to hear from!

Blessings,

Matt and Emily



In Paris
                                                          
Seeing iPad for first time in Paris
                                                    
On top of Acropolis overlooking Temple of Zeus

 
In Ancient Corinth
  
At the Parthenon


Warming up in Stockholm!