After finishing my studies in 2008 I thought its time to jump right into my first big adventure. I applied for year abroad with "Initiative Christen for Europa" having in mind that they have spots in England and France and Portugal - all those fancy western countries everyone dreams of working in (at least I did). When I received the letter after the job interview it was quite a surprise getting an invitation for Vác instead, a tiny town about 40km north of Budapest. It wasn't what I was hoping for but I was still adventurous enough to give a go anyway.
And so my year in Hungary started!
Whomever I told I'm going to spend the next 365 days in Hungary was laughing at me, because Hungary is known for its diverse use of capsicum (also bell pepper, paprika - call it as you like, its disgusting in any language :D). So no surprise there were even bets on if I'd eat capsicum by the end of the year or not. Let me tell you - they lost :).
Prior my this trip I received a two week language class. As much as I learned to like hungarian throughout the year, its quite a difficult language. It took me about 4-6 month in the country to master it well enough to hold a decent conversation (that goes beyond ordering a drink or measuring the blood pressure of patients ;)). Maybe its difficult because there are just two words that a similar to german - banana and ananas (pineapple). Guys how many times you need those words. Exactly...hardly ever :D.
The two weeks were quite fun though. We spend some time in Germany and Mariánské Radcice (a pilgrimage side in North Bohemia). With "we" I mean young adults from Germany (going to Hungary or Romania) and Hungary + Romania (coming to Germany). It was a great opportunity to test the new learned language on locals and asking everything one wants to know.
But of course, at some point we had to say good bye and start the next adventure, taking the overnight train to Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Budapest is one of my favorite cities in the world. Its the combination of the old buildings, the rich history, the dominating Danube and the surrounding nature. The city has a flair I fell in love with right away. Lucky me Vác is just a short train ride up north the danube so I spent quite a few weekends in Budapest ;)
Vác, a little picturesque town right at the eastern bank of the Danube river with a history of german settlements, was going to be my home. I worked in a hospital for elderly run by the Maltese.
The first few weeks I did mainly nursing tasks such as cleaning beds, helping with personal hygiene, handing out food, measuring the blood pressure and things like that. My hungarian wasn't good enough yet to start working as an Occupational Therapist. Ambitious as I am I put a lot of effort into learning quicker though. I bought the hungarian version of Harry Potter and wrote my own dictionary for it, I watched movies, I visited a language class in Budapest and talked as much as possible with my colleagues at work. Soon my language skills improved and I started doing some therapy related tasks such as help with physical disabilities (handling the wheel chair, help with walking, fine motor training), teaching self-care skills, aiding in emotional and social adjustment as well as guiding relatives in how to help.
Working in Hungary has been a very unique experience. The hardest thing getting used to for me has been the social and hygienic standards that are very different to the german ones. The clinics I worked at in Germany were modern and clients were provided with all sorts of equipment to improve their life. In the hospital in Vác everything was very basic. Some clients were lucky enough to get a room with just 3 others but there were also rooms with up to 10 clients with no privacy at all. There was no social interaction with clients apart from the nursing parts, so it must have been quiet boring for them. My friend Ronja and I started to offer afternoon activities such as playing memory, making music, going for walks, playing board games or just having a get together for talking. As volunteers we had the freedom to do so whereas our colleagues had too much work to do.
After a few months I needed some change in my daily routine though. Thats when I started working once a week in a home for disabled people close to the Slovakian border in a village called Ipolytölgyes. There I helped a physical therapist and treated my own clients with physical disabilities.
I could keep writing until...I don't know but for a long long time and I'd still be not done :). So many happy memories, some not so happy memories, heaps of pictures, friends to be mentioned...But there are still some other countries waiting.
I might continue at some point, telling little stories and encounters I had during the year. For now that should be it though :)
Below some last impressions when family and friends visited me :)