New York, New York

I’ve been thinking about what to call this post and thought of many titles that could be a lot more original than Frank Sinatra’s theme, but that’s just about the top song on my list since I’ve been here, so that’s what it’s going to have to be.

My first day in NY was exhausting, but absolutely fabulous. I walked for about 5 hours stopping just for a short lunch in Chinatown. I would like to do it chronologically, but I cannot help letting the Brooklyn Bridge taking the first place in my story. I think it is the most beautiful bridge structure I have ever seen and makes the best model for taking pictures I’ve ever come across.

I started my walk at the World Trade Center to take pictures of Ground Zero. I could not really connect to it when I first saw it, but at the end of my walk I overheard a New Yorker talking about how high and thick the buildings were, which was still hard for my mind to wrap around. I also went to a photo exhibition, which I have to say was touching. Photo-wise, though, not quite as impressive as the whole build-up made me expect.

Once I was done with Ground Zero and then Brooklyn Bridge I headed back into Manhattan over Manhattan Bridge, which was a whole different experience. Simpler, more industrial, and a lonelier experience than the rest of New York. Gray, sliced up by sunlight and graffiti, and resounding with the trains and construction work, it was a great contrast to Brooklyn Bridge. Lone cyclists and gray people not looking into the bridge affair were the only seldom companions on long way over. At the end of it all the graffiti made me feel a little too lone, but it was some of the best graffiti I’ve ever seen. Oh, the bridges of New York – amazing.

From Manhattan Bridge I made my way to Chinatown, where I had lunch with a real Chinaman with a Californian accent. From there, I strolled on into Little Italy, Soho, and then made the final circle by reaching Ground Zero. New York is amazing. Everyone who knows me must have now heard of London, but these are like night and day. Walking through New York is like turning a corner and seeing a new landscape everytime. In half an hour you can go from hearing and eating Chinese, to watching the Godfather live, to Jay Z wannabes, to Broadway, to everything. Walking NY is great on your own and this was the best walk ever. Could I live here? Think I could get used to it pretty quick. NY is a mix of textured energies, colourful streets, and changing lives.

The sentimental shoe

With today’s greater ease in communication I think we all get a bit of a sense of false security as far as maintaining our relationships with other people. Have you or any of your friends moved to a different country? Those who move abroad have to re-do all their homework on who their local friends are, which places they like, and what job or studies they attend, which for most people doesn’t leave much time to maintain the friendships from the past.

How many of your friends have you not seen or talked to in the past year? We all email and call, but in most cases, unless the people on the other end are truly close in some way, you lose touch. After a while you could even ask yourself if it’s still worth bothering to make friends anymore. If you have family abroad things get even more complicated. How often do you visit, talk, or write? How much is enough?

Through my experience of being away from home for the past 3 years, I found that the distance can have a variety of consequences on my relations with people. Some of my relationships with friends and family back home have actually gained in quality, since both sides try to make the most out of the little we have. Others, though, through negligence or having to get on with my life in new places, have slipped away. So since the good ones stay and the not-so-close go, is this in fact a good process, which works as a kind of a filter, where only the relevant ones stay? Not sure.

It’s hard to be there for people and be close to them when you’re away, but it can be done if only you try hard enough. If that’s a kind of a life you live, and you keep going, you end up creating new communities wherever you go – what can I say – it must work, otherwise people wouldn’t really want to live their lives like that, would they? Foreign places, people, cultures, always carry some excitement, freshness, and stimulation. But in all the moving, shopping, and making new friends, we should all try our best to stick to the ones we value and love – in a greater perspective those are few and far between.

Keep in touch, everyone.

This post’s topic was inspired by an article I read in the IHT called ‘Taking friendships with you’. Here’s the link if anyone wants to read it as well:

Oh Budapest…

Budapest is a lovely city, but as every city, it has its little things that can drive an average expat crazy.

  • The sun goes down too soon, just way too soon and it’s not just a matter of the season – I believe that we’re actually in the wrong time zone. I mean, it really doesn’t make much sense for Budapest to be in the same time zone as Paris, all it takes is a look at the map. We’re so much closer to Romania, but I guess their time zone wouldn’t be centrally european enough for Hungary, would it?
  • People don’t move in this city. One of the most frustrating things in this city is getting through the metro system, not only during rush hours. People do not move or stand on one side of the escalators – they all just seem to semi-willingly subscribe to what spot fate gives them as they get on the escalators. All you can do is stand there like a sardine and wait until it’s your turn to wait for the train – yes, wait – since the one you could have made if you walked down the escalators – is long gone. Am I just impatient? Maybe, but I just can’t think why people would want to spend any extra time on the public transport.
  • People smoke almost everywhere. Some places are better, some worse, but there are virtually no non-smoking places in the cafe/restaurant range I like. As I’m sitting here, writing this post, the man sitting about a meter from me is smoking his fifth or sixth cigarette in the last hour. Results? No matter if you like it or not, you breathe with it, you smell like it, your head hurts by the time you get your drink.
  • I don’t know what the noise pollution regulations are here, but whatever they are, they are not in place. The city if full of construction, which means not just noise, but dust and scaffoldings wherever you look. Good for the city, but not so much fun for the residents. Every morning I wake up to some noise – whether it’s the trash being taken out or a wall being knocked down 3 floors down – it’s got to be something. Sometimes this starts as early as 5 am in the morning. Who comes to work that early and then cannot keep himself from making all the noise until at least 8am, I fail to understand. This is not just my block – I’ve heard it all before from friends who are lucky to live in old beauties of Budapest.

All in all, Budapest is great – just not perfect this time of the year, I suppose.

Couchsurfing (this time in Vienna!)

I don’t know how many of you readers have heard of couchsurfing, but if you haven’t – well, it’s time for me to praise it like I should in return of all the travel opportunities it has given me. Members of can travel and stay for free virtually anywhere in the world provided they are willing to put up with staying on someone’s couch and deal with other minor inconveniences.

Personal experience? My history with couchsurfing includes four nights in the centre of Moscow (with a set of keys and a beautiful bedroom) and a night in Vienna in one of the most retro-styled apartments I have ever seen. Everyone I have ever met through this website was welcoming, well-traveled, and honest. This is not to say that I would necessarily be ready to do it on my own with any given member, as this gives a lot or room for error, but I think that if you’re traveling with a friend and find someone who has a very good record – well, for me it’s a why-not kind of thing. When I first used this website I was (and still am) completely taken aback with people’s ability to open their homes to almost complete strangers. I find it truly remarkable that so many people from all over the world have created a network of give-and-take of trust and hospitality.

It’s evolution, baby

‘A New York Times survey last year showed that 55 percent of Americans believed that “God created us in our present form,” while only 13 percent believed that “we evolved from less-advanced life-forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process.” A similar Gallup poll in 1997 placed those numbers at 44-10; in 1991, the numbers were 47-9.’

In the first place, my stance on evolution is that it is not something you should qualify as a belief or a theory, just as the fact that the earth is round shouldn’t.

For those of you who have read the previous post – this is a new one, just with the same title. I decided that the last one was too much about parental choice in education rather than about the evolution vs. intelligent design issue, which is what I wanted to write about in the first place.

So why is it exactly that evolution’s popularity is so low these days? The fact that most scientists worldwide would agree that it is a scientific fact vital to the understanding of the human history, human behaviour, and the natural environment does not seem to matter very much, even today. The right side of the political spectrum has been infected with the theory of intelligent design, or creationism, which is what intelligent design could easily stand for. In the U.S. the creationists have enough leverage in education to have course books emphasize that evolution is just a theory and to always provide the alternative of intelligent design. Well, fair enough, but we’re talking biology courses here.

So why do people find the idea of evolution so unattractive? Are we humans too great to even think about primates as our ancestors – is it our pride that stands in the way? Or, does the fact that evolution contradicts the bible really matter that much today? I mean how many people out there really believe in all the stories and miracles? Another thing that really strikes me is that evolution is such a recent discovery – you would think that with all the great minds that we had in our past, at least one of them would have thought of this solution to our existence.

Also, before Darwin, being atheist must have been a lot less intellectually satisfying. If all everyone knew was that God created us, then well – I guess the only option was to think ‘this can’t be right, but I can’t really do anything but sit and wait until someone comes up with a better explanation’. And then boom, it happened, but things haven’t changed all that much since. I personally find it a little disturbing that people all over the world don’t embrace evolution more. I think if they did, a lot more problematic issues starting with animal treatment to sexuality would be understood and treated in a different manner.

Mind your language!

Since my coming to Budapest I have tried doing just about everything to keep myself busy. I’ve started doing yoga, went to Russian classes at the state university, criss-crossed the city with my camera, and researched the local wi-fi cafe market. I even tried to find jobs, but my corporate side somehow did not want to emerge. I’ve also visited two of Budapest’s international pre-schools, where kids from Hungary and just about every other country are tortured by the never-ending flow of English coming from their carers. Whatever your parents taught you in your native tongue is wrong – sprechen Sie English! And so it goes, from their first confused screams after being left by their parents till now, they somehow master bits and pieces of English. For those of you not up to date, I do linguistics, and thought that those places could provide excellent research spots for my final year thesis, which I can choose to submit next year in London. Drawing on an analogy to slaves, these kids are often from different places and have to get along without a common language but the one offered by those above them. They are not taught English – it just becomes their only mean of survival and socializing when they are left in those pre-schools by their hurried parents.

The Ligress Premiere

So here I am finally getting started with blogging after weeks of reasoning whether I really want to blog and many attempts of getting a familiar, yet interesting sounding url. ‘The ligress‘ will be the place for my some of my thoughts and experiences both here in Budapest and those I will acquire while traveling. I will include more of my photography later on, as well as include links to websites and podcasts I enjoy. I hope this will be a way for my friends and family to know more about my life away from them.

Pictures above were taken while I was visiting my friend’s, Kate Corby’s, class of choreography. Her girls were incredible.

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