Thursday, July 30, 2009

Louisiana meets Hungary

Almost a year ago (can you believe that?...) I spent a week in New Orleans, visiting a dear friend of mine, Angela Davis, the Yarnspinner. She showed me the city, took me to lots of fun places (e.g. the Laura Plantation and an alligator farm), and of course she told me stories, stories and more stories.
This week, it was her turn to visit me in my home.
All the fun we had!
We told stories together in two summer camps - it was a blast! One camp was pretty much like all the other camps I've ever known: dozens of children running in around, doing whatever they felt like doing, under the supervision of a handful friendly but tired-beyond-measure people. There was music, and food, and a stray dog under the table; few children were actually in the barn when the storytelling started.
Hungarian kids are not used to storytelling, not to mention tales told in English, American style. First, there was surprise, and shyness, and then it just went BANG, and suddenly the barn was full of excited children, crowding around the stage. They were enchanted, mesmerized, and all kinds of long synonyms I can find in the English dictionary for "totally amazed". Angela told her stories, and I translated for her; it felt like riding a tornado, I had to keep up with her rhythm and speed, not to mention finding the right words to give back the shades and details of the original tale. After an hour of telling, I felt like I've been knocked over the head with a hammer. And it felt good :) The kids had a great time testing their English knowledge. As the performance continued, some of them actually started to translate words to the others, and guessing what happened in the tale before I had my chance to translate. It was great fun! When I told my story, they were already on the stage, and not willing to give up what they received from Angela, so I ended up with a whole bunch of cheerful kids around me, acting out everything I told in the story. It. Was. Fun.
The other camp (the one in my former high school) was a lot more organized, but not less fun. We earned a watermelon for an hour's telling :) After the show we were overrun by the kids, each one of them wanting autographs, and our webpages, and our favorite stories. Cuteness ensued.

Apart from telling stories, we also traveled a lot with Angela. First I had to show her around in my hometown, Győr; for that occasion I had to blow the dust off of my childhood's stories and the local legends. It's a very true cliché that you don't know anything about your home until you have guests from far away. I was a tourist in my own town.
We also took Angela to Pannonhalma, the archabbey that's more than a thousand years old, and can be seen from Győr, shining white on the top of a hill. The monks make excellent wine there. And lavender oil. It's a peaceful island of history; the Benedictines have only been there since 996 A.D., but they had finds dating back to the Roman age (which I didn't know, but really appreciated).
We spent one day in Slovakia, visiting castles (Trencsén and Beckó) and telling legends about kinghts and lords and damsels in distress. We tried our best to give Angela an impression of Hungarian history, Medieval life (as we know it...) and bits of history like the Turkish occupation. The story of Beckó has always been the "castle legend" for me (is that an existing phrase? It is in Hungarian. We have a whole bunch of them).
The next day we spent in Austria, where we went all the way up to the Ottohaus on the Rax. It was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Clear, bright, with wild flowers, butterflies, high mountains, pine woods, and (naturally) lots and lots of stories.

We (me and my family) did our best to show Angela a glimpse of real authentic Hungarian specialities like Túró Rudi (dark chocolate and sweet cottage cheese), Hungarian literature (high literature with hints of depression), the puli dog (Hungarian, not Rastafarian), and a bunch of other things I forgot. Hopefully she won't.

All in all, I had a great time.


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  2. Truly inspiring story, I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip. This has made my evening.