It is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot
2017 was a year full of change and growth. I found a routine over the last 15 months that includes class preparations, hours of marking, private lessons (which I find very satisfying) and of course LivEnglish homestay.
I made new friends, and lost an old one too, but that sometimes happens when it comes to overseas long distance relationships. I wish I could fix it, and maybe I will find a way to make things right in the future, however for right now I am far too tired from swimming upstream making this new life work. I have to be a little selfish right now.
The summer was full of students mostly from France, and we had little time to rest but fit in lots of exploration. Hungary is far more beautiful living here than it was ever from visiting! I feel like I know it more intimately, as if my connection has somehow deepened.
I will never regret leaving Canada, or France for that matter. It seems each day someone asks me, ‘Why would you ever leave Vancouver, that’s my dream country!? or ‘You left southern France for Budapest? That’s crazy’. But I want to share a little something with all the negative reviews of our latest move. It matters not so much where you live, because wherever you move to, you will still be there. The same you, meeting and attracting the same things in each and every country. Life is remarkably similar once you get past the language, and geographical differences. In all three countries our lives are much the same. We adapt to local customs of course, we learn the local languages too and in fact we have made friends, started businesses, and met many people to learn from in all three countries equally.
The more I know the more I realize that people are people are people. We all love our children, want what is best for them, hold compassion for others, and we all want to feel appreciated and loved. We are in fact the same species despite the naysayers!
Turned 44 late last year, and I can tell you my bones crack just like a deep fried chicken wing from a local pub. (Oh how I miss the Canadian tradition of wing night!) The aches, the pains, the endless tired feeling; oh over forty has so many great things to look forward to! (sarcastic font) However, age does have some rewards…
I feel as though I am heading into a new phase in life. I may be slowing down, yet selfishly I allow myself to read for hours on end; a sinful pleasure that was only left to vacations in the past. I am old, therefore I am allowed to leave things for later. Nothing is really pressing. I now know that the pressure to get it all done is self inflicted.
There is also a steadfast knowing who I am that doesn’t waver with the influence of others. Security and age seem to go hand in hand. I am comfortable with myself and who I have become. I have in fact know myself a very long time now. To except one self is definitely a big milestone.
I look back and would never want to relive any era in my life. Life is now, in the moment, to live in the present tense. I have already been 20, 30, and even 40 before. Bad hair of the 80s, terrible clothes and relationships in the 90s, not my favourite times in my life. I was so young with much to learn. The new millennium brought me my kids and I relish every second of motherhood. However now they are older and our connections are changing to more grown-up bonds; I have the privilege to travel a lot in my life, move house a few times too, and now it seems we are trying to settle down, to root in one place and to develop long term plans. It feels different. I am loving the little things again, making our joy instead of searching for it.
I want to go into the second half of my life enjoying the moments, loving the way I am aging, looking forward to watching my kids grow hitting their own milestones, and seeing where this big old life takes us. Gracefully, like a swan. We all know my legs are paddling at mach speed just below the surface, if nowhere else but in my head.
My personal journey has changed from travelling the physical world to an internal journey. By placing the pieces I have learned along the way together, I hope to put life into better perspective. This next crossing takes me into the inner workings of my own mind, (scary) to connect the dots from one idea to the next trying to make sense of the world I am very much a part of. And of course to fill in the blanks that I may have missed along the way (probably while stuffing my face full of chicken wings.) I am finding ways to incorporate the different cultures and traditions I have absorbed along the way and intermingle them into the tapestry of my new life here in Hungary.
You would naturally think getting older means somewhat wiser but the truth of the matter is the more I seem to learn the less I seem to know for sure. My opinions change everytime I open a book, have a discussion with someone new, or see a sunrise. (Squirrel) If I were to describe where I am today, it would be in the middle of a learning process, where I cannot seem to get enough of the things I don’t yet know. It seems that before my motto was, why is the world so big and diverse if not to explore, goes beyond the existential into the speculative. My journey has altered but I still feel like an explorer.
So why New Year’s Resolutions? For me they work. Not sure why, but I do love my lists. Sometimes I even add things to a list that I have already done, just so I can feel the satisfaction of crossing it off!
I am sure the most productive people in the world must keep lists!
New Year’s Resolution List 2018
#1 Learn how to play chess
How many years has this been on the list I am not sure anymore. I did manage to buy a nice wooden set, learn all the names, and try to play. I had one boy over the summer kick my ass in four moves, it did slightly waver my enthusiasm. I still have hope that one day I will sit down to play a game and win! Like the Rubik’s Cube, I will succeed!
#2 Learn how to make Ili Neni’s duck
Again on my list! AGH! I am so terribly busy, but I will make time to travel to see the cousins in Bakonysarkany alone to spend the day cooking with my aunty. She has this very special way of making duck in a pressure cooker that is very similar to taste as French confit where the meat falls off the bone after cooking in its own juices. I must learn how to make this so I can pass it down to my children. Yah sure, I can look it up online and call it a day, but it is the passing of the information from generation to generation that makes this so special.
There are so few things to hold on to these days. Fewer and fewer traditions as the world becomes smaller and smaller. Like the Junior Mints while going to the movies, there are many things I have learned to live without. So the things that are truly important to me, I must be steadfast, and hold on tightly, the rest I let go of lightly.
It is something like when I moved here from France, and my lovely neighbour brought over a plate of Hungarian Gulyas soup for me to try. She is so sweet, my age, home with her daughter while hubby goes off to work. She probably saw me as the poor Canadian woman that needs help taking good care of her good strong Hungarian husband. Her soup was so different from mine, such a breath of fresh ingredients that I started to make my own like hers, when I realized that her’s was her own family’s traditional recipe and if I changed mine, I would be losing our own family traditions. I went back to my own way of making it, the same way as my mother and her mother before me.
#3 French proficiency test A2
I have been back studying French everyday for an hour. I am also taking two hours a week of French conversation with my friends in hopes to gain my A2 levels. It is such a hard language to learn, even after six years around it. I think it is even harder than Hungarian which to me makes perfect phonetic sense. At least talking and reading is simple, but the grammar and conjugations, well Hungarian is still pretty hard.
I feel French sounds are optional, they vary in so many different ways depending on so many different factors like gender, plural, singular, tense… I think the person who invented French made it especially difficult on purpose so that they can say, ‘It is the hardest langauge in the world, and we know it!’ Said in a very bad French accent, probably my own! I will prevail!
#4 120 credits this year Open University
I went back to university last year and am loving every second o fit. I find myself reading endlessly in my spare time. Being online, I can access my curriculum from virtually anywhere, which makes University far more accessible than ever before. I would never have gone back to school without this technological option. I save hours of travel time each day by being online. The future will only hold more of these opportunities as technology becomes even more available as other universities jump on board. With a few clicks of my mouse I can join an online conference and listen to my professor give a tutorial. I can interact with fellow students on the online forums rooms, and we also chat about study topics and have access to our own personal tutor. Mine is sick of me I am sure!
One negative, I was very surprised that I could not take an extra 60 credits from January-October 2018. The courses I want to take start October – June. I will be doubling up come October 2018, but will not be able to fit in a double this year, which means I will finish my degree in 3.5 years and not 3 years as planned. Of course I am disappointed, but everything happens for a reason. Perhaps this is the cosmos telling me to learn French! Mon dieu!
#5 Work out everyday without fail!
I now have a yoga ball and mat, weights, and an elliptical machine. There is no need to leave the house to work out ever again. My exercise of choice for years is walking, and in our free time Alfonz and I do hours hoofing it throughout the lovely streets of Budapest. It is probably my favourite pastime. The hustle the bustle, the endless languages I hear. The architecture, the history, the way it is situated along the blue Danube… Budapest has my heart and sole. I love it.
I also love yoga which I do everyday in the morning and evening. But I am aging and with age means my muscle mass has gone down, and that I must work harder at staying slim. At 44, I don’t expect to look like I am a twenty year old model, but I do want to feel energetic and look cute for my age. That’s all I want, to look healthy and happy. And it would be nice to go into a store and know that everything will look fabulous on me. I miss that. Until I had my kids, I just grabbed my size and walked out the door. Oh bliss. I miss the convenience of it really.
I started a week ago, and have found my old self ready and waiting to participate in the ‘work’ part of work-out. I recognise this version of myself who is right under my skin, the one who is determined to make the most of exercise, that never tires, that never quits. I am glad to see her so easily return.
#6 Master something physical
I would like to master something over the course of my lifetime. Teaching is interesting, a skill that can be used in every aspect of life, but to master a sport, in the physical realm of development is something that in my youth was always a priority.
I loved going to the gym everyday for years and years and years. I was, by definition, a ‘gym person’, and from that I became a fitness instructor. I know hard to believe, but it is true! I loved getting up early in the morning, and coaching a group of women as to how to lift weights, pushing myself and them along to a new level of fitness. I found it as rewarding as teaching English.
I would love to do something like this again, and to see what my older body is capable of doing. I know what my twenty year old self was capable of, and it is among my best accomplishments. After the kids were born, I was proud to get my old body back in my early thirties. Then after my back rehabilitation I found a new level of fitness that I was certain I would never lose again, but alas, life happens and after I got sick (tumors and hysterectomy), I let myself get out of shape. But all is not lost! I am on the right train!
Slowly I have been back at it, and now I feel that their are no excuses left to make. I have the time, and the finances to make life about me again.
Alfonz took me to see a shock therapist to help me with my back and neck, which was a miracle! I am taller, more energetic, feel positive, and best of all, my pain is minimal.
Let’s see what 44 can look like! Catherine Zeta Jones comes to mind. Curvy and beautiful, aging gracefully. She is my new role model!
But maybe my mastery will not be yoga, as I just started Belly Dancing with the woman on my street! Once a week we get together to learn the moves to a surprise routine we will be putting on for our husbands. I think we are all a little touched, crazy as crazy goes, but we laugh so much that how can I not participate in the madness!
#7 Try to cook new things each week
My inspiration for cooking has really gone down over the last year. I am simply far too busy with work to spend those long hours searching for the right ingredients, planning a party or even having the energy to think about ‘What’s for dinner?’
What we put into our bodies can also be a masterpiece, and giving the time at least once a week to display a colourful and beautiful meal to my family could get me back on track!
I have cut out alcohol for the last four months (who knew I could right?) with the exception of special occasions which brought me down a few kilos. I hope to find healthy, flavourful foods that the whole family can get excited about.
Today I made mushroom risotto and baked wings and they were to die for! After chucking half the Christmas bird, and the big pot of cabbage rolls, I was determined to get the children eating something. We ate every drop I made!
#8 Convince my mother to visit every year
I miss my mom. The children would love to have her closer to us too. Skype has been great, but bad connections and time zone difference makes connecting two very busy schedules nearly impossible. I dream to have her here to cook and bake with us, it will be something very special indeed. I would love to have mom show me her version of Hungary, find those little markets she knows from growing up here, those I would never stumble upon otherwise. It would be nice to reconnect once a year starting this year for a few months to make sure she stays connected to Budapest. I am working on it!
#9 That’s Hamori – try to post once a week
Neglect comes in all sorts of forms when we work too much. My ‘That’s Hamori’ baby has been put on the back burner for the last year. I just don’t feel like I have anything to say these days. I need to try to narrow my experiences down and share Hungary a little more.
My Expat Life Series has always been a passion of mine, and I would like to continue with it here in Hungary. The premiss is to find other Expats like us and see how they make a living. To share their experiences, to interview them as to how they adapt to their new country.
Hungary really is a splendid place to live and work, and I believe that I have a message to share. I just need to carve out a piece of time for it and put it back on my ‘To Do List’!
#10 Take time with the children and help with homework
I am a teacher after all. I help all my students learn in a variety of different ways. But why is it so hard to teach my own children? I need to sit down and find effective ways to help them learn better. Sometimes it feels like the relationship is far too close to solve problems subjectively. However if anyone is worth it, my lovely kids are worth me trying very hard to help them along.
This year we had some challenges and surprises with our son Daniel, but we are finding solutions to break down the barriers of his learning. I feel charged at knowing that there are good, healthy solutions to help all children learn in an inclusive community within our own school. Yup that’s my education talking! 😉
New Years 2017
√ #1 Grow A Thick Skin! I did manage to deal better with my nemesis, and have come to the realization that some people are just assholes no matter how lucky they have it.
I believe with all my heart that it is how we treat the people who are struggling, the new or the weaker that come into our lives, the younger generations that look to us for support, the students we have in the care of our two hands that defines us as people. It really does show what kind of people we are deep down inside, if at every opportunity some push down, take the opportunity to preach or teach them a lesson. We should be helping whenever we can, to show examples of well developed human beings, not using fear or manipulation. It is the most important part of our human existence. I will steal words from the Bible, Do unto others.
√ #2 Not Get Bored
Not bored this year. I have 17 private students in my care, all of whom I see their full potential and encourage them whenever I can. It is a blessing to have so many children around me, connected to my life.
I have two very smart classes at school full of 11-15 year old students. They keep me on my toes.
I have two amazing children and a wonderful hubby too; which I love more than life itself. Boredom cannot touch this. A cat and three fish, a garden, a large home… I will never be bored again!
Although I am sure I meant not to be fickle, to try to stay content while doing the things I love. To not crave change, or change things up just to make things more interesting. Like careers for instance. I want to stay put for a few years and to develop my teaching skills. I know myself well enough, that I will get bored, and will feel the need for change creep in like a long evening shadow. This time I will try to make the feeling of loving this last as long as possible. I will will myself to be content!
√ #3 Promote Business
We have hired a company for the year to promote our business. I am not sure if it is working, but I am still hopeful that it will take off eventually. I still have little plans, commerce connections, word of mouth, our French affiliate…
I still hope to be on morning television talking about how I plan to chance accents and correct grammar points, why we brought our business to Hungary, and how women in business especially teaching is so very important. Can you see me on the talk show, I would wear a sweater set, probably deep blue solid, I would cut my hair short and sassy…
I have obviously thought of this far too long…
√ #4 Promote New Life through House Hunters International
House Hunters is great to share a new business, start a new life, share a good story. All very fun, but it is the last time I will ever be on a TV show again where we are the stars. I am not a Spring chicken any longer, was mortified watching the final cut, I looked like a middle aged idiot. I will leave that stuff for the young and beautiful. NOTE TO SELF: No more reality TV
√#5 Diet until shoot Done, but I am too old for TV.
No matter how good I feel, I never look as good. C’est la vie! Turn page!
√#6 Get My Degree via Correspondence
Went back to school finally! I am working hard on my teaching degree and loving every second of it! Wish I did this years ago, but I would have ended up doing something else, so I am glad I waited until I was sure of exactly what I am passionate about.
√#7 Finish decorating the house
It is never really finished, but we did the major work and to hang the past few canvasses this last year showing our life in three countries on our walls. I think it turned out great, but of course for me to look at those countries reminds me of the all the people I have been, the connections I have made, and it makes me feel so full. I wish everyone could take a few years and travel around. The rewards are endless, the experiences priceless.
I am back at it, each day, but Alfonz also found me an elliptical trainer which I started on Christmas day! I am on the right path towards healthy.
My cousin Bori teaches hot yoga and Alfonz and I want to do this together early this year. I am looking forward to taking some time and doing this together. Going to the gym with him was not so fun. His workouts last 20 minutes tops, and I have an hour of the elliptical each day. By the time I hit the weights he was always long gone. Maybe this is something we can enjoy together.
x #9 Making Hungarian Duck like Ili Neni
My weeks fly by and I cannot seem to manage my time to go back alone to make duck with my Ili Nene! It makes me sad, but i will have to wait for my mother to come here and we can go together.
√#10 Not cut my hair for the entire year! Starting after my haircut today!
I have managed to let me hair grow and grow. It looks awful. I did colour it dark, and am thinking about getting hair extensions again. Alfonz says please don’t. It does seem like a bit of a grab towards the fountain of youth. A cheap version of beauty that seems artificial, and Alfonz hates anything unnatural. We will see, life is long, perhaps my hair will never be! I am thinking about this cut and colour!
x #11 Take the Hungarian proficiency test
Not so interested in this anymore. I am working towards a French proficiency level being that I work at the French private school. I feel that I am losing the little I already have, and that I must continue aggressively to it. Notime in mastering another language right now. We live here, so it is only a matter of time that I improve through osmosis.
x #12 Learn how to play chess!
I keep imagining myself learning Chess from my students, but our schedule is so crammed packed full of activities that I never seem to have the time. I must make the time this year!
√#13 Be Happy
I am always chasing this dragon. It seems happiness for me comes with self growth, to always be reaching for something above my head, to take every opportunity presented to me, and to make the most of it. I strive, I fall, but it all changes me, and it is this change that forces me to learn. And with learning comes growth and happiness. Pursuing happiness is impossible, it doesn’t exist without the rest of the equation. It is the searching inside and outside of myself that I find who and what I am. It is here that I find some kind of peace and contentment.