Which is harder, leaving the life you've built for your entire life for a year, or leaving the life you've built in a year forever?

Budapest, ???-dik Nap

Departure in 8 Days

The months since my last entry have been a bittersweet whirlwind. My last AFS orientation, my last chapter meeting, the end of school here, and my graduation from highschool all signified endings. Yet I remained and remain active in this country, attending both my Hungarian language exam and a trip to visit my host grandmother in Kazincbarcika. Even as the summer heat seeks to drain my remaining energy, and even as the end is in sight, I must not lapse into acedia.

The final orientation, from June 3-5 saw us returning to where we all began, the camp I described in my very second blog post. However, the people themselves were far, far removed from who they were ten months before. That was not just because of all the new people and all the people who either previously left the country or failed to attend the orientation, either. At night, the camp drowned in a tide of alcohol (despite the bags having been searched) and I once again found myself hiding away with the poker crew. Thus I failed to witness the actions that resulted in a broken bench and a broken door.

Drunkeness aside, the orientation organizers did one big thing right; the scheduled activity for the last night of the orientation. Instructing all of us to remain quiet, the volunteers ushered us to form a circle in the dark, a distance removed from the camp. Group by group, we were silently pulled away from the mass and through the camp. Maintaining our muteness, we were brought past re-enacted scenes from throughout the year, before finally reaching the entrance to the dining hall. After receiving the judgement of an imposing-looking man, we were brought into the dining hall, which was wreathed in darkness except for the lights of dozens of candles. One person, one candle. So we waited until all were present. Then, one by one, each and every one of us gave our thanks to someone, or something.

In direct contrast, my final chapter meeting took place entirely under the light of the sun. Yet I think my sight must have been clearer in the dark, because I knew barely a third of the people there. I knew I had become distanced from them to a degree, but the sheer number of new volunteers seemed in excess of what I expected. On the meeting, I have but one further comment; that I find it profoundly interesting that, on my journey to the final meeting of the Budapest chapter, my bus passed a "you are now leaving Budapest" sign.

 Not only have I graduated highschool, I have earned an unusual distinction: I slept through my own graduation ceremony. In fairness to myself, it was at 4 in the morning my time. I cannot, however, claim that my need for emotional closure with my schools has not been fulfilled. I obtained that with JCS spending hours recording the videos for my senior project presentation and graduation speech. I even got to FaceTime in for the presentation, but I couldn't see or hear much of anything so I spent most of the time making dumb faces at the camera. In contrast, my exit from my school here was relatively understated. After the last day of school, I slowly walked away to the metro stop, willing myself not to look back. This would have been a more emotionally-significant moment, but I think it was somewhat undercut by the fact that a couple weeks later I got called back to discuss grades.

My Hungarian exam went about as well as I could have expected. I still don't know how well I did, but perhaps if I did I'd now be complaining about the dishonor of picking the easiest test available and somehow failing anyway. There are a lot of reasons that I did not learn the language as well as I could have, and I do not wish to go into them in this text. Being used to the rigorous procedure of the SAT, I found the ECL rules to be relatively lax, but that may be a symptom of the country and not the test itself. I applaud those who attempted the more advanced tests, and reserve further comment on the subject.

After I missed it on the 10-day trip, my host family demanded that I go to their hometown, the city Kazincbarcika, near Miskolc. So I stayed for three days in the punishing heat, exploring the beauties of the two cities. Miskolc (pictured above) may not have the most impressive downtown in Hungary, but those who search will find Miskolc University, and other beautiful destinations.

Also, I visited multiple caves, a welcome relief from the summer. From hordes of stalactites to an underground concert hall, the caves near Miskolc have much to offer.

When I returned to Kazincbarcika, there was a festival of sorts. The phoenix and witch dancers pictured were among several other attractions, including a stage magician, a concert, and my personal favorite, fire dancers.

Since then, I've been scrambling to make the most of my remaining time in Budapest. From the dark and moody depths of the Terror House, a memorial to the horrors of the Nazi and Soviet regimes in Hungary, to the brilliant view from Buda Castle and the entrance to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest has so much to offer. Granted, I would have had a better experience with the latter if I hadn't come up 40ft short of buying a ticket into the gallery, but such is life. Also I maintain that the Warcraft movie was severely underrated by critics.

I suppose I'll be writing again pretty soon with my final thoughts about this exchange year. Maybe I can get the creepy hooded guy with the scythe to stop following me around, as well.