"Wow okay I regenerated weird today."

"See this is why I normally wear a suit and gloves instead of painting this stuff on."

"I was hotter when Ryan Reynolds was me."

(Pic credit: Tamás Teknös)

Budapest és Balassagyarmat, 222-dik nap

Those from my home will know of JCS's traditional intramural competition: the Clash of Colors. The school is divided into three teams: orange, green, and white, and near the end of each year, the teams compete in a variety of games. Naturally, this leads to yearly jokes about how difficult it is to come up with battle cries for my team ("white power!" just doesn't work) and the traditional end-of-competition debate over which team actually deserved the win.

It turns out the Hungarians have one-upped us in this respect, however. As it turns out, several Hungarian schools have a traditional NON-STOP, an intramural competition combined with a school-sponsored all-nighter. Well, an all-nighter in theory anyway. In practice, I did, in fact, sleep at both NON-STOPs I attended. Yes, plural. The pictures on either side of this wall of text are from the one held at Bersenyi, but through AFS, I was also, through AFS, invited to one at Szent-Györgyi Albert Gimnázium in Balassagyarmat. Though the two school's traditions shared a name, they involved very different sets of activities. The pictures directly above and below this next are from the Bersenyi NON-STOP, and feature one of the main attractions and what I actually spent my time doing, respectively. The focus was on team competitions in basketball, football (not the one with touchdowns), and volleyball, but I unsurprisingly didn't have a team. In the absence of such a commitment, I ended up leaving a bit after 8pm when things started slowing down.

After that strong precedent, I took the bus out to Balassagyarmat the middle of the following week. As you may be able to tell from the map above, Balassagyarmat is right on the border between Hungary and Slovakia. Apparently a while back some Hungarian soldiers decided to stick around and hold on to the town, and the evidence of their results is plain.

There's also a Slovakian town on the other side, as I discovered in the easiest border crossing of my life. Represented by a cluster of unoccupied governmental buildings, border security was less than token. The picture below was shot from the Slovakian side of the river. Unfortunately, the closest supermarket was apparently back in Hungary, so I quickly returned.

Each of us who attended was assigned to a different class and temporary host sibling. For me, this represented a single-letter shift from class 11c to 11d, which I proudly represented by getting face-painted to look like Deadpool. This was the sole instance in which I actually represented my class during the NON-STOP, but getting to wave a katana around in front of a hundred or so people was very much worth the half hour it took me to get the paint off. After that, the event continued in the auditorium with games and dances, while the classrooms were decorated and populated by the students. Considering that this made the school the town's hub for highschool students with alcoholic beverages, the school building suffered surprisingly little from the night, with the aftermath of the late-night shaving cream fight marking one of the worst excesses. I'll take that over a pile of vomit any morning.

After I got home, Spring Break and the Easter holiday began. Pictured above is a traditional Hungarian Easter lunch. Personally I find it rather lacking in vegetables, but that might be my 17 years of vegetarianism talking. The sauce has a very odd sort of spice to it, the kind that apparently makes my entire head spasm. Then again maybe this was all subtley getting back at me for pouring water on every female in the house, but to be fair that's also a Hungarian Easter tradition. The practical result of this is that they all ended up saying "thank you" in the same tone of voice they'd normally be yelling at me for pouring water on them in. Apparently the symbolism is that women are flowers who need to be watered. I'll leave the commentary on that for the feminists in the audience. On an unrelated note, apparently my host family bought 3 times as much ham as they needed for the Easter lunch, so apparently I'm going to be on a meat-heavy diet for a while. This would be balanced slightly by the eggs, but most of the remaining ones seem to be chocolate. How disappointing.

Actually that makes me wonder how much money could be made injecting chocolate into real eggs. I mean the real egg insides, not just stuffing a real eggshell with chocolate. This doesn't seem like a good long-term plan because after a couple weeks a the customers would realize that this really is a terrible idea, but I figure there would be a period of morbid curiousity and related income. Maybe a candy company could do it as a limited run. And yes, this is the thought I'm ending this post with.

What do you mean it's not January?

Budapest, 200-dik Nap

124 Days Until Departure

While, as you may have inferred from my lack of an Instagram account, I do not regard myself as a student of the art of photography, I have apparently seen fit to fill an entire post with unedited barely-culled shots from my iPod camera. Those with faith in me will note that there must be a purpose to such an endeavour, and they will be correct. My stated purpose here is that thus far, this blog has focused on the big events and neglected the regular sights of living in Budapest. My other stated purpose is one I don't think I'm supposed to actually state officially, which is that I haven't updated in a month and need content. So, without further blather:

Szabadság Híd (Liberty Bridge)

The Budapest Great Market, shopping center for hungry people and tourists alike, and home to no shortage of curiosities.

Erzsébet Híd (Elisabeth Bridge)

Not all of Budapest is glamorous. This photo was taken in the building we use for AFS chapter meetings.

I really don't see how these are American. At all. They're good, if somewhat strange because the strongly-flavoured bits are scattered within the creme filling. I'm just not seeing the branding. The white's there, but the red and blue are conspicously absent. Then again, considering how excited some Hungarians I met the other day were when they found out I had real US dollars with me, perhaps I'm overthinking this.

I don't think I can really add to this.

In the background is Nyugati Pályaudvar (West Train Station)

Oh, and here's that cryptic teaser image I wanted to have a month ago.

 

(Don't worry, we cleaned that up before anyone from the Catholic school saw it.)

 

 When all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads; - Oh, who the hell am I kidding? There were no stockings, the building has no chimney, the presents were opened at midnight Christmas Eve, and I think the process of writing this out was the first time the word "sugarplums" entered my head this month. I'm not sure all of us were even asleep at the same time at any point that night!

 

Budapest, Day 128

 

A chill breeze blew threw the streets as the absence of snow descended in non-existent waves of colorless and intangible insubstance. Brilliant lights cast their purpose against intricately-carved stone walls. The moon hung in the sky like a blazing coin, always laying the same face upon the people of the Earth. That's certainly an accurate description of Christmas-Time Budapest, but serves equally well as a scene-setter for the latter half of my trip to Vienna.

I awoke with a start that morning 8 days ago, a direct result of realizing that I had slept through two alarms and woken an hour behind schedule. It was with great haste that I travelled to the Metro station, and some disappointment when I arrived to find that the next train would not be departing for another 9 minutes. I now quote my chapter leader precisely on the meeting time: "Meeting: 5.30am at Blaha!! Dont be late! (We are not waiting long!!!)"

I arrived at 5:45am. The bus left at 6:30am because one of the volunteers was late. Good start.

A few hours of quality bus time later, we arrived in Vienna proper. Our first stop was a yellow castle shrouded in mist. We spent more time trying to obtain tickets than actually exploring the place, though the tour itself was well-worth it. I can only imagine the mindset of the painters who spent years working on each of the huge crowd scenes that adorned the walls. Easier to grasp were the flaws in our hand-held audio guides. Each room was helpfully labeled with a number, and one could hear the relevant audio by putting that number into the guide's keypad. This included an abundance of audio recordings that faithfully recounted "Please Proceed to Room 10" or whatever room was next in the sequence. If any future museum workers are reading this, take heed.

Soon, we reached our main stop. Given directions to reconvene in five hours, the students of AFS-Budapest and a few others were unleashed upon the streets of Vienna. As the heavy fog faded into the night, we wandered the chilled, lit streets while coming to grips with the knowledge that none of us actually knew what there was to do in the city. I did find some excellent mango cake, though. As for the rest, I will let pictures struggle to capture it:

 

If you want another perspective on the events of the day or just want to watch me do stupid stuff, check out my friend Chris's vlog on the same subject.

And now, in my typical fashion; the titular and lesser part of this post: Christmas! A time for family gathering, colorful lights, and full stomachs. It was a chance to see the beauty of the city in its literal darkest hours, whether by boat or by the city's signature holiday-exclusive Fény Villamos (Light Tram).

Though our tree is small, the holiday runs long - four days and counting, though my host mother was at work for two of them. In what would be seen by many Americans, but evidently not Hungarians, as an expression of impatience, presents were opened on Christmas Eve at midnight. The investments were well-made, as I can say with near-absolute certaintly that I will make adequate use of my new shampoo and shaving cream. Sleeping in late and dancing deep into the night, we remain together - I haven't left the house in days. Bonds and fractures become apparent, then fade from awareness. Whatever the march of time unveils, a few nights of warmth help ease the year to its conclusion.

A year ago, I had just returned to my first home. A year from now, my life will have changed beyond my ability to anticipate. But what is here, now, is once and once only. Let that fact be recorded here before it is washed away.

 

My completely accurate depiction of Icarus, done during Art class.

 It's lit!

-Chris Wilson

Budapest, Day 170

154 Days until departure.

It's been an eventful month-and-a-half. As the Christmas season came to a close, the Budapest New Years' celebrations entered full swing. Though Budapest lacks an organized central fireworks display, there was no shortage of color in the sky as varied groups haphazardly sent their explosive purchases skyward. The streets swarmed with drunk people in masks and flashing sunglasses. It was a night for sobriety to be a curse. On the bright side, it only took us two hours of walking and one incorrect bus to find a club. More luckily, Chris somehow failed to attract any undue attention despite spending a solid hour yelling about how he wanted a fight and swearing at passerbys in three languages. The club itself sits as a loud rainbow pile of blurred sketchiness in my memory, and so I am forced to conclude the story by simply confirming that everyone in my group made it home safely.

Furthermore, I am happy to report that I have transitioned to writing "2016" on things without incident. Also, though Christmas was mostly just cold, snow eventually did come to Budapest - on more than one occasion. I celebrated by nearly freezing my hands off more than once, and by taking photos like this:

 It was on such a snowy day that I began my decidedly non-illustrious skate icing career. I would be happy to report that I only fell down twice, but that is mostly the result of the efforts of three other people helping me maintain my tenuous grip on balance. Eventually, after three different sets of instructions culminating in the advice of the friendly local competitive ice-skater (Chiara from Italy), I was able to achieve basic competence at icing skates. Perhaps I would have progressed more quickly had I not fundamentally misjudged the motion involved, but the point is moot.

I'm definitely wasn't using anyone for balance in this picture. Nope, that is not a thing I did.

As per usual, the titular event is the final one in the actual article. Last Wednesday, I was at a concert from the UK pop-punk bands Trash Boat and ROAM. Having barely listened to the artists in question beforehand, I wasn't sure what to expect. My absence of expectation was soon superceeded by the reality of the sound. Though the music was outside of what I ordinarily listen to, I found the sound design to be exceptional. It came as a surprise when the band called me out for exceptional dancing, as I hold my limb hurricane technique in no such high regard. Well, it is exceptional in that most sober people don't dance like that, but I think everyone who didnt know me assumed I was drunk. In reference to the title I am forced to note that I did not observe a single mohawk or spike jacket, and the shirt I bought carries neither. Though I certainly got my money's worth, my greatest praise for the night is that I did not regret it the next morning.

With the halfway point of my journey having come and gone, I must savor nights like that. For all I have accomplished this year, my Hungarian language skills and social life are falling behind my original objectives. I have a few big plans for the next few months and beyond, such as the card game I've been prototyping on school time, but it remains that I have quite a bit of work to do this year.

In the absence of a concrete plan, I can't really leave a cryptic teaser here like I want to, but here's an experiment I did about a month ago:

(Make that an anime title.)

 

* seth removed the FPS counter and ran the program to see how much speed that would save
* seth is an idiot
-Ludum Dare IRC

 

Budapest, Day 120

The last nine days have been all kinds of interesting. The train ride there was relatively uneventful, the mechanics of trying to buy tickets in bulk not being especially entertaining (the relevant AFS staff, at the time of this writing, still owe me money.) After the train ride, we were distributed throughout a number of host homes. I returned to my old temporary family / host grandparents. Well, actually, only the father, as Rita was in Bangkok visiting one of her past exchange students. About an hour after I arrived, my other housemate turned up. His identity was revealed to be Gabór, a Thai boy I played frisbee with back at the gathering in August, and who's name I only remember by my own inability to pronounce it. It being late at night and the city center being a ways away, our meeting with the rest of the group was delayed until the next day.

The gathering began with a typical display of competence. The US students decided to meet in the town square, and meet me did - it only took us over half an hour to get everyone in the same place. Surprisingly, it took far less time to assemble everyone for the actual AFS party. Somehow, AFS managed to get enough food in one place that even an entire country's worth of exchange students could not consume it all. This excess of food was matched by the student performances, which went on for hours. Most people did not watch them in their entirety. You may view the Budapest chapter performance here. Things heated up again near the end, as the lights went out and the dancing began, a spectacle only marred by the DJ's apparent aversion to every song I like. The evening technically closed with some pub-hopping, but I decided that the time was better spent trying to fix the phone that lacked, and still lacks, the ability to actually call someone to pick me up. Also, drinking isn't the most compelling of spectator sports.

 

The following weekend, also known as the one preceeding the time of writing, I was in attendance for an event of an entirely different character the Ludum Dare game jam. The objective is deceptively simple - make a new video game in 48 hours. My experience served me well here, as I had already succeeded in the task on three occasions. Now I count four. The community judging is still underway, and I remain unsure of the merits of the game I made. Thus far, reviews have been mixed. I mean, "the game was easy to pick up and play" and "I couldn't figure out the controls" are showing up on the same page of comments. I may write a more detailed reflection on the process later, but for now, here are some highlights from my devlog:

 

Dec 12 - 8:07PM: Naming all my button graphics "plaque_______" was a terrible idea.


Dec 13 - 2:21PM: Main track is named "Bleeding Ears." I'm so funny.


Dec 13 - 3:32PM: Trying to get a real bossfight into this thing.
Dec 13 - 3:39PM: WHY WON'T THIS THING DIE? (I need to add a health bar.)
Dec 13 - 3:54PM: Turns out it wouldn't die because a bug was giving it 100x as much hp as it was supposed to have.
Dec 13 - 4:10PM: Boss killed me with boredom.
Dec 13 - 4:37PM: The boss is cool now. I wish all my players good freaking luck though, because it's still insane.
Dec 13 - 4:52PM: For the first time, I actually killed the boss.


Dec 13 - 9:59PM: Facepalm moment of the LD: wrote pause function that displayed pause screen, but did not actually pause game.
Dec 13 - 10:03PM: Made every keypress pause the game. I'm evidently too tired to code.

 

You can try the game out for yourself here.