I’ve always been interested in living in the Pacific Northwest. I love the green trees, cool climate, mountains and artsy hipsters in Seattle and Portland. After my sister Melissa moved up here about seven years ago, Ivy and I have been visiting her regularly and always having a great time. After we found out this summer that we’ll need to spend at least six months of each year outside Hungary to avoid being subject to worldwide income tax there, we decided Portland is where’d we’d like to be in the US.
For the past two weeks we’ve been staying with my sister, her husband Mark and their two kids Jacob and Will where they live on the outskirts of Portland. I’ll paste in a picture below I took of the four of them for their Christmas card. If anyone knows of a more handsome family let me know! Throughout our stay here (we’ll be here through Christmas), Ivy and I have spent a lot of time looking around for condos. Since Ivy works for a credit union, she’s able to get two percentage points off our mortgage rate (it’ll go up when she leaves the company–which hopefully won’t be anytime soon) and this helps us make our dream of owning two small places in the US and Hungary a reality.
The great news for us is that we were able to get a very good deal on a two-bedroom condo just a five minute walk from my sister’s home. It’s a new development called “Timberland” and we like all the green trees, walking trails and parks nearby. Another big bonus is that there’s both a nice supermarket and library in walking distance as well, along with a homey cafe and a drug store. Downtown Portland is a very quick ten minute drive down the hill (we’re in Northwest Portland) and a very cool walking street with restaurants and shops is right there to enjoy. Our friends Kalen and Melissa F visited us last weekend with their little baby and we had a great time cruising the city with them for an afternoon. One of the highlights was walking over to Powells City of Books–the biggest bookstore in the US (used and new).
We've moved into our new place and are close to being settled. We're only "close" at this point because our kitchen hasn't been put in yet nor our blinds. We saved some money by being willing to close on the place before everything was fully finished. Not having a kitchen is something of a hassle but we're borrowing a mini-fridge from a friend and we can cook with a little hot plate and water boiler, so it hasn't been a big problem.
More importantly, the internet and our router has been working well and we've continued to be able to work remotely. Speaking of working remotely, we met a Canadian guy named Tomas–of Hungarian ancestry–who has successfully been living on two different continents on a regular basis. (Which is what we want to do too of course). He and a partner run a construction subcontracting firm based in New York, but Tomas travels regularly in Europe. He bought a flat several years ago in Budapest, and spends approximately 4 months out of the year here (and traveling around) and continues to do his subcontracting job without real problems. He answered his cell phone twice when we were with him and the calls from people calling him at his New York number, which is forwarded overseas to him. Pretty amazing all in all. I also just bought recently a "skype-in" number that is based in Portland, OR that Agi and I will mainly use for people calling for our business. I tested it out and it forward to our cellphone as well.
Tomorrow we're moving into our new condo/flat and are pretty excited. Agi's mom hooked us up with some nice furniture so we're starting out from a position of strength. Agi and I have agreed that she should take control of the interior decorating and she's pursuing kind of a minimalist, open look–I'm all in favor of it! We still have to figure out a lot but we've picked out a cozy black leather couch from Ikea that will be a key part of our place. We're going to have it delivered. Even if we had a car here it'd be nothing like the monsters in the U.S. One of Agi's family cars growing up was a jetta.
I also wanted to mention that Agi rented a very funny dvd of a Hungarian comedian/ex-journalist (kind of like a Stephen Colbert or David Letterman). One of his recurring themes or sketches is to bring on old, communist-era products that are unbelievably bad quality and usually from Russia. The first I wanted to mention: a clothes-spinner (which was separate from the washer) that was so powerful–but still somehow ineffectual–that it would literally dance all over your bathroom. This comedian brought out three of them and had them "race" across the stage. It was very funny and they did make their way all the way across. The second funny–and rather nasty Russian product–was a coffee grinder and vacuum combo! That's right, you can grind up your coffee and then attach a metal arm and vacuum your floor with it (it's unclear whether they have separate chambers for the coffee and debris…). As an international political science major, it feels good to bash the Russians a little–especially these days with relations chilling up with them.
The past week went by very fast.
Monday through Friday, I spent all day training my replacement and it was enjoyable being the authority on various topics and being able to teach and give input on how best to do things. The young woman who is the new in-house lawyer admitted to being a perfectionist and this explained why she was somewhat dissatisfied when I explained that many questions she had didn’t have a clear answer. She then asked, “but how will I know I’m doing a good job unless I know which way is correct?…” Of course, a lot of things simply come down to using your best judgment and experience. But I believe perfectionists make great lawyers and I think she will go on to have a great career because she demands excellence in her work product, just as a doctor or accountant–or any “professional/expert”–should. One of the good points I pulled out of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” book is that most good professionals are the type of people that business owners want to hire!
I had a fabulous time meeting up with a number of great friends for lunch and dinner and I enjoyed some things that aren’t in Hungary: boba tea with pearls and starbucks and peets coffee (Budapest has excellent coffee houses, but I haven’t seen them do a caramel macchiato Starbucks-style yet.) I also had to laugh when I went to pick up my rental car the company provided through Hertz and it turned out to be a Hot Orange convertible mustang!… I had my dad take some pictures of it before I dropped it off on Saturday up here near El Dorado Hills where my parents live. I had fun cruising in it–top down of course–with my younger brother Matthew on Saturday and I could tell we got all kinds of envious looks as we drove around…
I’ll be heading back on Tuesday from SFO and arriving Wed morning in Budapest (via Paris–too bad I won’t see anything but their smoky airport while I’m there!…) We also recently closed on our new condo and Agi picked up the keys just last week. We’ll start moving in within a couple weeks and it will be fun to pick out some furniture. We want to keep things minimalistic and spacious and we have a big Ikea store nearby to browse in-depth.
Here's a quick update on what we've been up to recently and I've also posted in some videos from the Rome trip. (I'm still trying to find the right balance when taking videos with my digital camera–not too long so that it'll eat up my memory card, but not too short either. I think my next videos will be longer because we now have a second gigabyte of memory).
- New condo: we did a walk-through of the place this past Friday and it is looking good (we negotiated to have them take out a wall in kitchen to open it up into the living room.) Also, Agi in particular has enjoyed picking out the type and color of the cabinets for the kitchen with her mom. A suggestion that Uncle Peter has for us that I think we'll probably implement: replacing the normal toilet with a bidet. I used one of these in Japan and definitely liked it. We'll start moving in to our new place the end of June when I return from my brief trip back to the U.S.
- 24: Started watching the second season of this amazing show. I love how we can choose when we want to watch shows and movies these days–even years later than when they're broadcast.
- Walk: We really enjoyed a great walk on Saturday all over Margaret Island– a nice big island park (no cars allowed ) in the middle of the Danube with a spectacular view of the Parliament building. Lots of runners, euro-football players, and picnic-ers. There has been lots of thunder and lightning (with occassional rain) the last week or two and it's lots of fun to be outside and feel the storm.
- "Man Purse": Yes, I'm looking for a bag that I can carry my stuff around in (Fabio referred to it as a "man purse" but he said lots of Italian guys have these so he's just joking around…) It's a great way to carry a camera, a mobile phone, a book, something to eat and a water bottle too. For people who walk a lot, it's a great way to go. So it's more of a camera bag/delivery guy's bag than a "purse"…
Here’s an update on a few things:
- We’re pumped (especially me) to have found the Hungarian version of Netflix: filmdirekt.hu An interesting–and mostly understandable–twist on their service is that you have to always have 10 different films selected in your “queue” but THEY get to choose what to send you. Kind of keeps things exciting for the customer (this is the proper perspective…)
- We’ve found a condo we’re going to buy and are very pleased with it. It’s on the outskirts of Budapest and in a pleasant, green area with lots of trees near some foothills and a lake. We realized that after looking at a bunch of properties throughout the city–even if many are near a park–that we prefer being out of the hustle and bustle. A tram conveniently stops right in front of our development which can take us into downtown. We’ll be moving in late June or early July and I’ll get some pictures up!
- I’m actually coming back to California for over a week starting on June 8th and leaving on June 19th. (Agi will be holding down the fort here). I’m training my replacement in San Jose for the week and it’ll be a great chance to see family and friends. I’ll keep you posted on possible meet-up times. I’m also starting to put a list together of a few things I want to pick up (e.g. boba tea mixture, which hasn’t yet made it out to Hungary).