If you were one of the people who saw my old website, you may be wondering what the heck happened. If you are one of the fewer who actually tried to access it, you know a bit more. The full story is that something went horribly wrong with the Arvixe server that this website is hosted on, and I didn't practice very good backup management. However, by a bizarre miracle, I did not lose any of the actual article text. Specifically, my grandmother apparently made print copies of everything. I'm not complaining. Anyway, the article proper:

The foundation of family - that's where it all begins for me.
-Faith Hill, who I didn't remember existed until I had to go to BrainyQuotes to find a good frontispiece for this post.

Budapest, Day 86

When I came here, I expected to be dropped into a new family's way of life. That was part of the plan. Getting kicked out a month-and-a-half later wasn't. Maybe I'll tell the full story someday, but not now. Now I'm just going to cite "Philosophical Differences." The family and I had incompatible expectations, and by the time I figured out what had happened the damage had become irreversible. So on the morning of Friday, October 9th, I was told to pack my bags. I was unceremoniously dropped off at the AFS office, and told that I would be staying with a volunteer for the weekend, then shipped off to a temporary family while they looked for a permanent placement.

I remember that night. I remember the guilt, the pain, the anger, and, worst of all, the crushing void that consumed the majority of my senses. On some level, I'd known for weeks what was going to happen, but I wasn't prepared for the reality of it. I remember, for the first time since I met my original host family, stepping out into the night with no idea where I was going to end up. A taxi pulled up, one of the volunteers slipped some instructions to driver, and I was off. The journey was made in numb silence. So let it stand that not once before or since I reached my destination have I been so glad to see that someone ordered pizza.

Staying with András, the former chapter leader, was a breath of fresh air. I had time to decompress and talk about my problems with someone further down a similar road - he had had issues with his original host family in Denmark. Suddenly, I no longer hide for fear that more of my imperfections would be exposed. In what was, in retrospective, fittingly symbolic, he even showed me a sight I'd found suspiciously missing since I came here, a proper marketplace. Open-air stalls, boxes of fresh fruit, the works. Soon enough, though, I moved on to my temporary host family.

It's funny how little discussion of host family changes I remember from my pre-trip orientations. The narrative I managed to pick up on was that it was an emergency measure, not something common. Things changed once I got here. I heard second-hand that about half the exchange students that came into the country ended up changing families. At this writing, I'm the second of three US students to switch families, and there are only five of us. Take that as you will.

Returning to the narrative: my first temporary assignment was with the family of one of the AFS volunteers, Doloresz. The family meaning her mother Zita, and sometimes her mother as well. The father isn't dead or even divored, apparently he just lives in a different part of the city. Spoiler alert: they're also my (hopefully) final family, but no one knew that a month ago. The accomodations aren't quite as luxurious as what I fled, and I've yet to duct tape together a door substitute for my room, yet I'm far more comfortable here than I ever was with my original host family.

Three weeks ago, when I went to my second host family, things were far less certain. Apparently it's standard to have a week break from school in late October here, and Doloresz and Zita hadn't planned for me. So I hopped on a train bound for an entirely different city: Székesfehérvár. There, I would be staying with an elderly couple - the same one who usually hosts the AFS St. Nicolas party. Székesfehervár is no Budapest, but it has a charm and significance of it's own. The old royal seat of Hungary, it now hosts museums, ruins, and at least one very good ice cream shop. While there, I visited the local lake and a cave system, but not before passing back through Budapest to climb a mountain with my classmates. At the same time, I waited tensely as AFS-Budapest pushed the date for finding me a host family further and further back. As my time in Székesfehérvár came to a close, I was presented with a choice. I could return to Zita and Doloresz, or face an uncertain future as AFS continued to attempt to find me a family. My course of action was clear, and only became more so when one of my friends lost his host family.

So here I am. I've settled into a new family, my SAT Subject Tests have come and gone, and I find myself juggling. Every minute I spend writing this blog is a minute I don't spend studying Hungarian, writing college or scholarship essays, resting, or studying for school here. I know there's a reward on this road, but it is one that must be earned. For now, I take time to witness the beauty of autumn. The wind blows up torrents of variegated leaves, clouds rush through the sky like sheep fleeing a wolf that's had it's legs replaced with really slow tank treads, and people keep trying to convince me to start wearing coats. Though none of the local Game of Thrones fans have reminded me of it, winter is coming.