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The Wanderer

Getting to know your new friend, the American Gypsy

Seventh century Chinese philosopher Laozi once wrote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It's not a joke, nor is it an exaggeration. There is no question that every journey, be it metaphorical or literal, does begin with a single step in the direction of which one is seeking to inevitably end up. I take single steps daily. Sometimes though, I don't know where my intended destination is. I've found myself lost over the years; Lost in a sea of confusion amid all the other millions of people who either know what they're doing in this life, or exude a certain amount of confidence that one is fooled into believing they know what they want out of life, or what they're doing with it. Some people really do know. They knew when they were twenty - hell, they knew at twelve. How wonderful it must be, I think to myself at times, to know (not just at such a young age, but) in general, what you want to do with your life. To know what you're meant to do, and to actually do it.

I can't say that I've had a bad life. On the contrary, I've had a pretty incredible life - and I'm only thirty. I've lived on three continents, in eight countries, and twenty-six cities (three of which were European capitals). I've learned two foreign languages (three if you count British English - which I kind of do), I've dated a variety of nationalities, swum in some exotic bodies of water, met controversial characters, been on Hungarian television, learned how to make real focaccia, and best of all, I've seen that there is worship for the Lord everywhere I've gone.

It is not difficult to see that I've made my way around the block and have lived to talk about it. There have been dangerous moments, boring moments, romantic moments, whimsical moments and, dare I say, even memorable moments. There is hardly a day that passes me by when I don't feel blessed or at the very least lucky for all the experiences I have had over the past ten years of my life. I've been able to do things that most people might spend their entire lives dreaming about, and for this, I am eternally grateful for all that I have, all that I've had, and all that I'll have in the future.

Now, that's not to say that I haven't had my bad days. What is important to remember - and what most people tend to forget while gazing vicariously through my vast amount of photos on Facebook - is that anywhere you are in the world, there you are. It's nice to think that if you lived in Rome you'd be spending all day, everyday at a cafe sipping capuccino in front of the Trevi Fountain. If you did that, you'd have to be working for the Mafia though, as that is the only way you'd have free time to be sitting at the cafe, and the money to spend drinking coffee from a cafe in front of one of the most famous monuments in the Eternal city all day long. It's nice to daydream that if you lived in Budapest, you'd be walking down to the beautiful Danube River every evening, and look out at the famous "DunaPart" lit up at night. It's easy to imagine yourself going to Venice every weekend if you lived just around the corner for nearly two years. But these are fantasies. The reality of living in these places, or any place really, is that you work all day, and therein you aren't able to go wherever you want during the day. When you finish work, you're tired and hungry and want to go home, eat dinner, and soon after, go to bed. Life is not as exciting as that album that gets posted on Facebook makes it out to seem. There are nine to five days everywhere in the world. In some cases seven to ten, or eight to eleven, or seven to four - depending on your schedule.

Which brings me back to those people. Those people who know what they want out of life, and make their way in the world to achieve it. From the time I was a child, I always wanted to be an actress. That didn't really happen. So, when I found myself in Europe at the age of twenty, and without a job, I decided to get my teaching certificate and do that temporarily. I figured it was a good way to get an apartment, have some spending money and travel. I was young, and the world was my oyster. It was fine for the most part the first year, teaching English as a foreign language at two elementary schools. Boring, yes. Annoying, yes. But I got a free apartment, and a monthly income that never fluctuated. Nice, yes.

I lived in a little town in eastern Hungary, the population of which was one quarter gypsy. The year before moving there there'd been a lice epidemic, as the gypsies never bathed. As popular rumor has it, the government stepped in to try and force them to wash up; after refusing to do so they turned around and sued the government citing that they were not allowed to tell them what to do, and subsequently won the lawsuit. How much of this story is true, I really don't know. Knowing the gypsies, and knowing the liberal Hungarian government as well as I do, though, I tend to believe it more than I disbelieve it.

I had no internet in my apartment for the full nine months that I lived there, but somehow I survived. I took up jogging as a pastime, and with diet and exercise, losing weight become my hobby that year. I turned on the TV roughly three times the entire time I lived in that place, and one of those times I was horrified to discover that what I thought was a raunchy Hungarian soap opera on that night, turned out to be a porno on local cable television. Tiszavasvari, or as I later re-named it, T-town, was my first, but definitely not final year as an English teacher. Little did I know that would be my title for the following eight years - and not just in Hungary but in multiple European countries. I soon discovered, that English teaching was not what I wanted to do with my life, but it had somehow been self-foisted onto me. I envied the teachers with whom I worked who claimed to have always wanted to be teachers, that this was their dream and that they were fulfilling it. They loved waking up in the morning to teach irregular verbs with a smile on their face. They enjoyed explaining the difference between "present perfect" and "present perfect continuous", to people who could barely even say "my name is". They also loved telling me what I was doing wrong, and how to fix it, or how shocked they were that I didn't know how to explain this or that in my classroom.

I didn't love my job, but it wasn't all that apparent. I continued to look for teaching jobs though, as that was the only thing I could think to do to keep my head afloat in Europe. I was an Au Pair six times, all from which I was fired, with the exception of two; I was a beer wench and waitress at a restaurant in western Hungary very briefly; I did some video editing work on the side for a fashion photographer in Italy; and I was a reporter for a Baptist organization in Israel. But, I steadfastly kept my title as English Teacher throughout all of these other positions, all of which inevitably came and went.

And now, as I write this first blog, I find myself in a darkened room at 1:35 AM in eastern Hungary once again in my life, desperately trying to stay optimistic for the future, as I don't know where it will lead. Hoping, and of course praying, that the Lord will open the doors He wants to open for me. I, as many people my age now do, look for work on a daily basis, pinch and save where I can, and while it's difficult to do so, tell myself there's something out there for me in the days ahead.

I can't complain though, can I? I mean really, how many people out there can actually say they've had a nervous breakdown while on the French Riviera? Not many I imagine. How many people can say they know that an emergency room in Tuscany is much nicer than one in Veneto? How many people can honestly tell you the difference between a friendly Hungarian and an unfriendly one? That one right there is rather tricky.

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of stories. I have a lot of memories, and I have a lot of pictures. Ha, ha. So what if there are people out there who have had it all figured out from the time they were fetuses? So what if they enjoy their jobs, or at the very least make other people believe that they do? I like my life. As crazy and up and down as it may be, I like it. I like that I don't know where I was yesterday, what I'm doing today, and where I'll be tomorrow. I like the unknown. Perhaps I've become a creature of habit, and traveling is my home, and there I find my heart. Perhaps any amount of stability would be too much of a risk to my psyche at this stage in my life. Or perhaps that is the fearful unknown: Settling down, whether that means with one person, or one place.

Herein ends my first blog. Entertaining stories, anecdotes and photos to come soon.

Posted by ameripean 15:09 Archived in Hungary Tagged italy hungary english traveling american teaching blog italians hungarians

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