“Thanks for the giving”

After I left the nest for college 12 years ago (I cannot believe it’s been that long) Thanksgiving has been a contested holiday for me. Seven of those Thanksgivings I was in college or grad school, making the timing of Thanksgiving right before final exams every fall semester. I would drive home in a half-daze and spend most of the trip thinking about the fact that I had to leave my home–where the presence of my family gave me comfort and support–and go back to school to spend days and nights toiling over final projects and tests. It made for a bittersweet Thanksgiving experience. Christmas was always the better holiday because I knew I had more than two days to spend with family.

This year, however, I firmly duct-taped my rose-colored glasses onto my head and became a Thanksgiving freak. I have never wanted to celebrate the holiday with so much fervor. I suppose being so far from the poeple and the things that are familiar to me made me nostalgic for the turkey, sweet potatoes and pie. Luckily for me, nobody here in Budapest has any Thanksgiving baggage to sour the concept of the holiday, so our new friends were nothing but excited to learn how the Pilgrims in Jamestown were saved that first winter by their new Native American neighbors.

You can imagine the slightly confused looks on our Hungarian friends’ faces after we told them that story. “But…didn’t the new English immigrants sorta, you know, treat the natives in America ‘badly’?”

“Well, yes, but at least they waited until after they thanked them and gave them a national holiday!”

Okay, sorry about that. I just had to say it. Back to the gorging on massive amounts of food in front of near strangers:

We had about 15 people

We had about 15 people come from my office and from KIBU. Plus, we were hosting three artist friends from Minnesota, so we made LOTS of food.


Written by Laura in: Slide Shows | 4 Comments »

The Significance of Food.

Obviously food is important in the biological sense, i.e. if you don’t eat food you will die. However, food is also important because of the beautiful cultural variations in the way it is served, the way you eat it, and the way it can break down barriers. Food is so much more than food–it’s an experience. When you go on a trip, one of the first things people ask you when you get back is usually, “How was the food?” The types of food cooked, the way it is cooked and how people eat together says a lot about the culture.

I’m not even going to pretend I know anything about Hungarian gastronomy at this point, but I would like to show you a few examples of the great experiences I have had with food here.

First, let's talk coffee. Coffee is so much more of an experience here than in the U.S. where getting your caffeine is more of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am sort of event. Here, you order your drink, and along with the incredible coffee, you get sparkling water and a cookie to top you off. This way of serving coffee may be the single reason for me never leaving Europe.


Written by Laura in: Slide Shows | 5 Comments »

Walking to work

One of the best things about living in Budapest (or any other cool European city plus New York–my favorite place on Earth) is that I can walk just about anywhere. Everything I need is within a 15-minute walk of our apartment. And I love that I get to walk to work. No more sitting on a smelly bus with “all of God’s creatures” or driving in traffic for 30 minutes each way. I get to leave my apartment at 8:55 and arrive to work at 9:00. Here’s what I get to see as I walk:

The front door to our apartment building.

The front door to our apartment building. 30 Raday Utca. It's not pronounced in any way you might think.


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Trajectories: Architecture Edition

(A bit of a warning: this post is going to contain a lot of nerding out over “design.” I won’t take it personally if you get bored and skip this post…)

I have only been in the “design field” for a few years. Before then I didn’t even know what the design field meant. But, as any of you who are also in this field know, it is one full of egos, geniuses, wannabes, world-changers, and rock stars. You could probably say that about a number of professions, but, dang, designers take themselves seriously (myself included at times). Of course, you have to take yourself seriously if you are going to work the long hours that many designers/landscape architects/architects work. Who would work that much if they didn’t believe in what they were doing? I have been to MANY exhibitions on design and architecture over the last three years, and seen a lot of work that I know took many hours to complete. But I have never been to one of a such grand scale until Saturday night. These crazy people took over a condemned 8-story office building and put a single architecture model in EVERY room. There were probably over 100 models in this place. And, I have to say, I saw all types of egotistical, genius, wannabe, world-changing, rock star ideas.

So, let’s take a little tour of some of the highlights:

This model was done by the architects in my office.

This model was done by the architects in my office. They used a 3D printer to create the light-colored portion. Cool, huh?


Written by Laura in: Slide Shows | 2 Comments »

Sunday, Blessed Sunday

Chris and I have some friends who are Jewish and over the last few years they reintroduced us to the concept and imporatance of Sabbath. They have a strict set of rules of what they will and will not do beginning at sunset on Friday through sunset on Saturday. It means they don’t work on anything related to their jobs or their apartment. They read books. Go to movies. Take a walk. This is the real, Bible-thumping, Leviticus-loving Sabbath that they are practicing, and they swear by it. Well, okay, maybe not swear, since that may be a problematic activity on the Sabbath, but you get my point. They say it makes their relationship with each other better as well as preventing the stress of life from eating away at them. They may have a tough week, but they can always count on the meditative practice of Sabbath.

Chris and I tried doing this a bit during grad school, but things got a little tough and we fell out of practice. Now that we aren’t in our respective studios 20 hours a day, we have decided to try it again. Sunday is our Sabbath day, being the Protestants that we are, and we’ve done it for two weeks here in Budapest now.

This past Sunday was what you might call idyllic. It was a beautiful fall day and we decided to go to a nearby Calvinist church that I had read about. We knew we wouldn’t be able to understand what they were saying, but hey, maybe it would be cool. What we should have thought about before we went was that Calvinists are notoriously fatalistic. All that Predetermination stuff can make you pretty somber. The building, however, was lovely, and in a way, not being able to understand anything allowed me to meditate and ease my mind for the first time in a while.

I didn’t get any photos there, but here is a few from one of the loveliest walks I’ve ever had. Besides the fact that I was wearing totally inappropriate shoes and my baby toe turned in on itself and became instead a large fluid-filled blister. (Sorry to those of you with weak stomachs. I’m just here to report the facts.)

First stop: Bangkok.

First stop: A Thai food restaurant. And Christopher's La-La Land.


Written by Laura in: News,Photos | No Comments »

Foreign Relations

Well, folks, we all knew it would come to this at some point–I finally had to do more than sit around plucking my eyebrows (one word: caterpillars) and messing around on my labtop all day writing posts on my blog. The reason: I got a job. I haven’t shared much about what was going on regarding the job situation, mostly because it was way more fun to post embarrassing photos of myself than to tell you every day that “we are still working out the details of my employment.”

Well, now that the deets have been worked out, I have a job! I’m working in a landscape architecture/architecture firm that has been doing some really amazing work here in Hungary and abroad. I am quite excited about it. The best thing about it is that their office is a 5 minute walk from our apartment. Every morning, I get up and leave about 6 minutes before 9:00 AM and arrive perfectly on time!

I would be lying if I told you that it’s been an easy transition. Not only have I been on what felt like a 2 month vacation, rendering my ability to sit still in a chair for any length of time nearly impossible, but working in a design firm where everyone speaks a different language has been difficult. While everyone there speaks at least a bit of English, for anything to get done it only makes sense for them to speak the language that offers them the biggest arsenal of adjectives and synonyms. That’s what I would do too. And what I wish I could do now. So, it’s been a challenging week, and I’m already working long hours, hence why I haven’t posted AT ALL.

In light of the fact that I didn’t take a single photo all week, I am going to share a bit about my week using images I found from random Google searches. I entered a word that summed up how I was feeling that day, then picked an image I found on the first two pages of the search results (I was going to use just the first page, but I just couldn’t help peeking on the next page). This is an experiment, folks, so bear with me. This could be slightly entertaining or a total disaster. So, here we go:

Monday I was feeling NERVOUS

I went to bed early on Sunday night to get a good night sleep for my first day on the job.

I went to bed early on Sunday night to get a good night sleep for my first day on the job. Instead of sleeping, however, I simply lied awake waiting for morning to come. Lucky for me, it did. And the world was rainbow colored.


Written by Laura in: Slide Shows | 6 Comments »

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