Well, the weather has been disgusting here. It’s sort of how I imagine Cincinnati or Georgia is in the summer. Okay, maybe that’s not fair. Don’t get me wrong…I love rain! But pouring rain mixed with almost 100% humidity and 25+ degrees (80-ish Fahrenheit) and zero wind makes for humid classrooms. Fortunately, the high school classrooms have lots of large windows, but there’s still not much airflow. Basically, for the last three days, I have been sweating while wearing a thin t-shirt and exerting almost no effort in class. The lightning and thunder has been pretty cool though.
But I digress…
My after-school task today was to go to the train station and purchase some tickets for Friday. We will be going to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia for the long weekend. It is supposedly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have heard about it for years and am very excited! But since we are usually in a slight rush to meet our train, sometimes I will pre-purchase.
To set the scene: The hourly weather forecasts showed rain all throughout the morning, but as of 1pm, there had been none. My rain jacket and umbrella went unused. And before I set out on my journey, I decided it was warm enough to switch into shorts. It was also warm enough for a t-shirt. And when I looked up and saw a blue sky, I decided the meteorologists must have taken the day off: I would take my leisurely stroll to the train station without my jacket or umbrella. More on this later…
At the station, two ticket windows were open. Thankfully, the international ticket window was one of them. I went up and began a conversation which I think was my best purchasing experience in Hungary so far. I should point out, though, that there was no line. I would have probably been noticeably more stressed if a crowd was forming behind me.
I greeted the lady and asked if she spoke English (no). I said I only speak a little Hungarian and tried to correctly say the few key words I knew: “I would like two tickets… Zágráb Horvátországbe… pénteken…” This transaction took about ten minutes, because in Hungary, paperwork is paperwork! No typing “zagreb” in the computer and waiting for the ticket to spit out. No–this involved, carbon-copies, looking in binders, stapling, stamping, all those good things we are used to by now. In those ten minutes, I stood patiently, looking around, reading the memos and announcements on the wall. My economics mind was stimulated when I saw the sign stating that international tickets can be purchased in Euros at the fixed rate of 295 HUF per euro. My mind enjoyed thinking about the arbitrage possibilities and ways to take advantage of a fixed exchange rate….again I digress.
The absolute best part of this whole experience was that we conversed several times. Specifically, she asked me a couple questions, and told me a few things, which have never come up in a conversation. But I knew the words! And she understood my responses! For example, I understood her asking if I was entitled to a discount, if I wanted to use it on the domestic portion of the journey, that the round trip discount was cheaper than splitting the ticket up and using my teacher discount, and that the first train has a direct car which will continue to Zagreb attached to the connecting train. And,of course, when I accidentally left out a digit on my pin code, I explained that to her, so she could re-do it.
The tickets are an awesome deal: 15 euros per person, roundtrip. She gave me the tickets and I used my first “nagyon szépen köszönöm,” which is “thank you very much.”
Leaving the station, still no rain. Heading to the Muller (like a Rite Aid, kind of) to buy some notebooks and bottles of water, still no rain. This was the first time ever that the cashier didn’t stuff everything in a bag (this stores gives free bags, almost forcefully) but I didn’t both asking and just carried the stuff in my hands. On the way back, I passed the main square, where a childen’s 3×3 streetball basketball tournament was going on. I watched for maybe 30 minutes…saw some of my students playing, and others watching. Then. boom! A downpour of rain. The boys kept playing, while the girls (?) and the adults ran for cover. Me too.
We waited it out for 5 minutes and the rain stopped. Then games resumed and about 15 minutes later, another downpour. This time I found a dry patch under a tree, but it didn’t stop. I was about 3/4 of a miles from home, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, no jacket, no umbrella, and carrying newly-purchased notebooks of paper…which are now drying on the table, by the way. Eventually I felt hopeless and decided I should just head back in the rain, because it might be raining for the next hour and I didn’t want to stand there that long.