We arrived this past Saturday in Budapest. Things went very well and Agi (name switch since we're in Hungary...) did a spectacular job masterminding the logistics of our departure. She is incredibly organized and detail-oriented and she oversaw all our packing and could tell me what was in each of the nine! bags we brought over with us on the plane. She easily could be a supply-chain manager at a fortune 500 company.
At the airport Friday morning, one of our big bags was 10 pounds over the 70-pound limit. Since the "penalty fee" would be $360, we opened up that bag and scrambled around stuffing books and electronic cables in our other luggage. We pulled it off and it was well worth it. (By the way, our rental car had GPS with it on Thurs/Fri and it was fantastic. It would easily be addicting and hopefully with whatever mobile phone I end up with over here, I'll be able to add a GPS module to it).
On the plane I finished off Benjamin Franklin's excellent Autobiography and watched "The Pursuit of Happyness" (very good) and half of a good movie about gang kids in an English class with Hillary Swank ("The Freedom Writers"). Besides the time zone change, I really like flying internationally. Since I like to read and watch movies (and eat airline food actually) I'm content sitting there for the 10 hours. I can never sleep, unfortunately, but that's allright if you don't fly internationally all the time (unlike some of the brutal travel schedules lots of executives have the endure--then you want to be able to sleep).
We flew into Frankfurt and I was tempted to get a Frankfurter just to say I did it. Was struck by how much I like the draconian no-smoking policies throughout the U.S. because a lot of smoke was wafting around throughout the airport despite the specified "smoking sections".
We then flew into the small and classy Budapest airport and were picked up by Agi's brother Miki, and Mom Marie (everybody calls her "Nyusko"), Miki's fiancee Aniko and Aunt Eva and Uncle Peter. Aniko gave us both some tropical "lei" flowers to wear and it was great seeing everyone. We dropped all our luggage into the cozy Euro cars and were off to our new place in southwest Budapest: Peter's place! ("Peter" is pronounced "Pay-ter" by the way, for the full Euro flavor).
Peter, who happens to be an architect, has a sweet place and we are thrilled to be here. Beautiful hardwood floors, gorgeous wood floors, cabinets, stereo linked throughout most rooms and tasteful decorations everywhere. He is incredibly generous to let us stay here for free for as long as we need it till we find a new place. (Agi and I are both extremely appreciative of how both our families have been helping us out throughout the move and transition).
On Sunday and Monday we spent time with Agi's extended family to celebrate Easter--the biggest holiday in Hungary after Christmas. We had a great huge lunch banquet on Monday (a national holiday) which Agi's grandparents also came up to Budapest to enjoy. Every Easter, a fun tradition here is that all the women line up and the men recite part--or all of a poem to them--and then drop a bit of perfume on them. The men get a chocolate in return. I enjoyed getting the women's hopes up by telling them that I was going to recite a poem by one of Hungary's great poets (e.g. Sandor Petofi, or Attila Joseph) but spoke just a line of Hungarian instead... But people love it whenever I speak any. (I'm planning on taking a class starting fairly soon, by the way, to improve).
On Tuesday, Agi and I walked around the city some more and checked out possible places to live and then worked from home for a while with our computers. Working remotely is awesome in so many ways. We're both continuing to work for our old companies and this is great as we transition over here. We both have a laptop (hers is supplied by her company) and technology is so good that we handle basically everything online (e.g., paying our final bills from our U.S bank accounts through automatic "bill" pay). I also love how I just use skype in the evening to call up who I need to in the U.S. for pennies a minute (e.g. I cancelled my U.S. cellphone yesterday via skype).
I woke up early a few days and spend several hours reading a book I got from my sister Melissa called "The Secular City" by a Harvard professor and theologian named Harvey Cox. It's very good and thought-provoking. I'll say something about that later. It's good to be here and things are going well.