Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

In the morning, I woke up and had a bit of a panic. The couchette had six berths, two top, two middle and two bottom. The two top contained our luggage, I slept on a middle, and Ivan slept on the bottom. I looked down this morning, and Ivan was gone! His small bag, gone. His mattress, gone. Did the Austrian secret police “disappear” him as I slept in the clutches of sleeping gas?

No, apparently, I’m just a log when I sleep. During the night, Ivan got tired of the bumpiness of the bottom bunk. He got out and assembled the ladder, took his mattress and his gear, climbed up the ladder, moved all the baggage around, re-made his bed and went back to sleep. But I’m still convinced that I was gassed.

Our conductor came in and brought with him some homemade Kolbasa (like polish Kielbasa). It was greasy, spicy, chunky and wrapped in intestine. In other words, a Frenchman would have passed out at the thought of it. But for me, it clinched it—I was going to the right country! He also recommended a good restaurant, but said that it might not still be very good. The owners often take profits out of a good restaurant and sell it to go run better restaurants, so the excellent midrange places are always changing.

Dora met me at the station. She picked me out of the crowd from my picture on the web site at , yet another small proof of the Internet making our lives a little simpler. Only 5 years ago we would have had to waste a piece of cardboard by writing the name smith on it with a magic marker, but now complete strangers can gawk at my funny hairdo without having to meet me in person.

Dora took a picture of me wearing my full travel garb: front and back packs, one large bag in each hand, and my camera bag at my hip. My keyboard was strapped to the outside of my bag, making me instantly recognizable as a nomad in search of an ethernet jack.

We took her car in the raging hot 25?C (90?F) weather and went looking for a place to park so she could run an errand. I stayed with the car and watched the local candy store attract flocks of women in odd clothing. Odd came in all varieties. There was odd leather, odd purple flowery thing, odd Donna Karen business lady looking out of place, odd transparent in places you’d normally want only your doctor to see, odd ‘80s tube shirts and odd piercings revealed. It was as though a hot day had come to Budapest and females of all stripes had thrown fashion sense to the wind, or perhaps they’d had to raid the back of the closet for clothing they had bought for a tropical vacation in 1986. The overall effect was pleasant but eclectic.

Dora drove me then to Peter’s place with a harrowing mixture of boldness and timidity—boldness when it came to cutting in front of people, but timidity in terms of deciding where to drive next, be it left right or straight. I got the sense that the rental companies are right not to allow rental cars into Hungary. The traffic was extremely dense, and we forced our way through a construction project to get to Miklos’ neighborhood. Peter and Miklos were there waiting, and Peter left immediately to run another errand. Miklos showed me the guestroom. He admitted it hadn’t always been a guestroom. In fact, until recently, it was a storage room, but it was nicely done when I saw it. I unpacked and called Eva Eiler, the woman at the World Services for Expats, who was going to help me find an apartment.

Eva had e-mailed me, but I’d been on the train, so she had me already scheduled to see some empty places. I rushed off to the metro with a map, a pad of paper and my Carte Orange, which I dissected while standing in line for a ticket so that I could reuse the photo in my new Budapest metro pass.

Eva and a real estate agent named Ilona showed me a few apartments, in the $350 - $600 range. Eva then had to go meet her daughter, so Ilona took me around to a few more with another agent named Marianne. The one I liked the best was without cable Internet access, so I was a little bummed. That’s a must have. I’ll look more with Dora on Monday. However, the apartments were all super cheap—$400 is a fully furnished one bedroom in a place with good security and an elevator. $600 is a Hilton Suite-like room about 1 block of Budapest’s main square in a place with enough ethernet jacks to run a small office!

We talked a lot about how things are in Hungary: the Mafia, crime, politics, and what those double lines on top of some vowels are.  I can’t even show you on the keyboard here, but there’s a o, and a o with two dots (an umlaut in German).  There’s also an o with an accent (an accent grave in French) and an o with two accents.  The best descriptions I’ve heard so far is that they’re sticks.  A O with two sticks, I’ll say from now on.  The accents give the “o” or the “ö” a longer sound, so “o” is “oh” and “?” is “oooh”

We also determined how small the world is in that I got Eva’s name via Tim Richardson, who I met because of Elizabeth Passey, who is an English woman that I really barely know as well.  Tim Richardson now lives in Budapest, and gave me Eva’s name.  But Eva also knows Zsofi Copeland, the wife of my boss.  Oooooh indeed.

I was dropped off back at Miklos’ place and met Marie Eve. She’s an environmental engineer who met Miklos while he was studying in Canada. She’s French Canadian. They did the long distance relationship thing for a frustratingly long time, and were married two years ago. She and Miklos had spent a good part of last week canning tomatoes for the upcoming winter because the prices would be so much higher later. She made her own wedding dress and cooks a disturbingly good squash, soy and cheese dish. I say disturbingly because I like to live by simply credos, such as meat yummy, vegetable ick. However, my time in France showed me that meat can quite often be yucky, and now I’m almost coming to accept that vegetables can be amazingly good as well.

We talked for a long time about Hungary, politics, our histories, Pressflex and the neighbors. I downloaded a new program for Miklos via ISDN, and started to defrag his hard drive. Eventually, we all went to bed.


“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?




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