Hello friends and family ~ I hope this posting finds you well. The first thing I have to mention in this post is my utter thankfulness that SPRING HAS ARRIVED in Budapest. I have never been so glad to see spring as I was this year. It was a long, cold winter in D.C. and Budapest this year, both having usually harsh winters this year. Oddly, it turned to spring here literally overnight. I woke up Thursday morning and birds were chirping, the air was mild, the sun was bright and shining, birds were chirping, street stands selling flowers and pussy willows had popped up on every corner, and all the cafes had there outdoor tables out. I am not exaggerating that all these things happened in one day! It was incredible.
Thursday was also a special day because I was privileged to be able to help out all day with some missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ working here in Hungary with high school students. A new friend that I met here recently invited me to go with her and a few others to a local high school to help the students practice their English. We visited 5-6 classrooms for about 45 minutes at a time and introduced ourselves, played games with them, and then broke the students into smaller groups to help them practice having a conversation with us in English. We then invited them to Campus Crusade's weekly meeting for high school students. I had such a good time! It was so amazing to get to visit a Hungarian high school and meet the students. It was such a blessing to me to be able to serve them in this way by helping them with their English and just loving on them for a bit. I was thankful for the time I spent in Athens doing youth ministry yesterday, as I was calling up many skills I learned during that time yesterday. I also met some great folks working with Crusade and was thankful to make those connections and spend some time in fellowship with other believers. I had a great day!
Last weekend was a long weekend here in Hungary, with Monday, March 15 being a holiday here. The best way I can describe the holiday is that its the Hungarian version of Independence Day. On March 15, 1848, the Hungarians staged an uprising against the Austrian Hapsburgs that ruled their country. While the uprising was not successful, to the best of my understanding, it represents the resilient spirit of the Hungarians. Also, I think that the uprising was the start of a more balanced relationship with Austria that eventually led to the co-ruling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by both the Austrians and Hungarians later in the 19th century. If you want to know more, you will have to "wikipedia" it. On March 15 every year, the Hungarians have lots of political rallies, demonstrations, etc. The tone is much more serious than our July 4th holiday (no crafts, fireworks, or BBQ that I could see). These rallies mostly take place in Budapest right in our neighborhood. The reason I mention it is because we thought that we were coming back into town on Monday afternoon late enough that the "festivities" would be over. However, we ended up witnessing it all firsthand, which was pretty cool actually. After driving around the city for about an hour trying to get to our apartment with no luck (we rented a car for the weekend), we finally decided to abandon our car across the Danube in Buda. All the roads leading into our neighborhood were blocked off by police. We saw a parking spot become available (the first open parking spot we'd seen during our hour of driving around) and quickly pulled in. We were only about 100 yards from the Chain Bridge, so we walked across it and were home in about 30 minutes. On our walk home, we were in the midst of huge crowds that came downtown for the rallies, most were carrying the Hungarian flag or wearing a ribbon in the colors of the flag. Lots of families were there. Each political group had a designated space to have their rally - one that we saw had people dressed up in old soldier garb and the speaker was accompanied by lots of clarinets and drums. The bridge we walked across was closed to all but foot traffic and lots of horse & buggies.
We went back later that night at 10:00pm when the bride finally reopened to claim our car. We were both praying like crazy that it would still be there! Thankfully, it was.
I will talk more about our weekend trip in my next post. I think that is enough for now!
Emily & Matt