Thursday, 30 November 2006

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.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

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.

Monday, 27 November 2006

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.

Monday, 20 November 2006

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.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

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.