Hungary Makes The News

Standard

A friend from my semester in Budapest posted this video to our Facebook group. The video shows the metro station underneath Keleti train station, which runs service west to Austria and Germany, as it looked on 9 September. He said the news about the “Migrant Crisis” in Hungary feels really personal to him. I feel the same way.

Keleti was the closest station to my school, and the closest Metro 4 to my apartment. It was the area where I went to the post office, where I bought train tickets, where I drank espresso and did homework. It was home: how can it not feel personal?

In stark contrast to the video above, this is a photo I took of the station one year ago:

IMG_0816

The station was brand new; it felt way too modern and way too enormous. It was eerie and echo-y, built for far more people than used it. There were about three or four homeless people who regularly slept in this station, who would come in at night and be gone by morning. The difference between the Keleti I knew and the Keleti in the video resonates deeply with me.

I don’t want to make any real political comments on the “Migrant/Refugee/Immigration” “Issue/Crisis/Problem/Question,” but I will say that I’m not surprised it’s being dealt with so poorly by the Hungarian government. I’m not surprised that what is finally putting Hungary on international headlines is a barbed-wire fence, a kicking camerawoman, and a closed train station.

Hungary is the kind of place where it’s illegal to be in public without an ID, and if you’re annoying the police they’ll actually ask you for it. It’s the kind of place with no diversity: where 92% of the population is Hungarian, 99.6% speak Hungarian, and everyone is white. It’s the kind of place where the international immigration process literally involves a man sitting behind a desk using a glue stick to paste eighty dollars worth of postage stamps to a sheet of paper. Literally! A glue stick!

The Times described the political environment:

Hungary is not explicitly a poor country. But it is a frustrated, and frustrating, place — with its “seen better days” culture, antiquated manias and obsessions, barely functioning bureaucracy, tepid economy and corrupt politicians. (Noemi Szecsi, NYT)

I love Budapest, despite its problems. It is one of the places I still consider home, and I’m watching the news with a full heart.

From Hungarian Friends

Quote

IMG_0603

“Denial of past actions is the habit of dictators and stubborn preschoolers”
–at Memento Park.

Since my program was only for American math students, I spoke with Hungarians infrequently during my semester in Budapest. But when I did, I was fascinated by what they would tell me about their lives, their friends, their work.

Here are a few of the things which stuck with me most, in their words as much as possible:


On Minimum Wage:
“Budapest is cheap for Americans, not cheap for Hungarians. Minimum wage in America is so high. Here it is somewhere like 3 dollars an hour! I cannot live on that.”
Male, age 22, Temp. Jobs

On Homelessness:
“When I was in the States, I’ve seen the people sleeping on the streets. I thought, `In this country which is so rich and developed, how can they let other human beings sleep in the street?’ But now look at Hungary, look at Budapest. Since we have no money left to put into welfare, the same things are happening here.”
Female, age 50, Teacher

On Guns:
“I live in the ghettos in Budapest. It’s okay, it’s safe for a guy like me. I mean, if you’ve got a problem with someone else, you just fight him. Physical stuff. With your hands. You take him, he takes you, and you get it all worked out. But in America, everyone’s got a gun. You got a problem with someone, you don’t know what they’re going to pull on you. That is what scares me.”
Male, age 23, Student

On Language:
“Growing up in Hungary, I learned very young that not everyone speaks my language. I learned very young that after travelling just two hours, if I wanted to be understood I had to learn to speak something other than Hungarian. You feel like a child when you are in Hungary, having to do hand motions and speak in small words. Me, that is how I feel everywhere that is not home.”
Female, age 26, Medical Secretary

A completely incomprehensive list.

Standard

I leave my home in Bp for my home in the States in three days. (three days!) I’m sad the semester is over.

I made a list of some things–excluding friends and family– that I will miss from here, things that I won’t miss from here, and things that fall into both categories.


What I love about Bp:

Turo Rudi.
The most brilliant snack/dessert every invented. Yet impossible to describe in a way that makes it actually sound appealing.

Turo Rudi even has a CAR! It's that good.

Turo Rudi even has a CAR! It’s that good.

The courtyard in my apartment.

IMG_0159

My courtyard.

Being Surrounded by math majors.
Sometimes I make math jokes by accident and I’m not the only one who thinks they’re funny!

Hungarian.
Some favourite words: cica (kitty), Jó buli. (good party), igen fun (not a real Hungarian phrase!), egészségedre! (cheers!)

Parliament, the Chain Bridge, Gellert Hill lit up at night.

Parliament at night.

Parliament at night.

Espresso.
What is drip coffee but a dilution of deliciousness?

The baths.

Everything cherry (meggyes) flavoured. cherry jam, cherry yogurt, cherry pastry, cherry beer, …

Ruin Bars.
Carrots, anyone?

Travel.
Being able to get to Vienna in three hours.

Vienna.

Vienna.

Grid-ruled A4 paper.
It’s everything I could ever ask for in a sheet of paper!

The Danube & Margit Island.

Forints.
Their colours. Their funny pictures of men, The novelty of carrying thousands and thousands of forint in your wallet. Being able to say “Dude. You owe me some forint.”

The freedom of not knowing what’s going on around you.
Freedom to J-walk like a non-Hungarian. Freedom to look at a stature and make up its story because there is literally literally no way you will ever know. Ever.


Things I miss about home:

Lunchmeat.
Please, please, let me have something that is not a derivative of sausage!

IMG_0713English.
I am tired of not being able to ask for what I need, tired of being laughed at or glared at when I don’t know what someone is saying to me, tired of “speaking” in a mix of *broken English* and charades.

Cell phones.
No more “Meet me on the left side of the statue of John Calvin at 5:53pm, standing directly under his arm. Wear your red Rudolph hat so I can see you. If we don’t find each other by 5:57, then…” (JK. Sort of…)

Not being surrounded by math majors.
See: sometimes I make math jokes… ;)

0.5mm pens.
To go with my A4 paper.

Finding the info you need on the internet.
Information that is online, in English, and actually correct? No way.

Not enough drying rack.

Not enough drying rack.

Dryers.
For nights when I realise I want to wear something that seriously needs washing.

Soup/pasta/bread without sour cream!

Vegetables that are not pickled!
I had no idea that I would miss SALAD. Who misses salad?!

Home. <3

Home for Chsistmas. <3

Why I edit Wikipedia, Three Reasons:

Standard

(1) Because I want to.

I think this is the most important reason, really. I find editing and being a “Wikipedian” fun! Wikipedia is generally one of the first links that comes up in a Google search for anything, and is the first link many people click to get quick information.Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 13.30.45

It’s really exciting for me to think that when someone does a web search they are looking at information I’ve added, sentences I’ve copyedited, and photos I’ve taken!

(2) Because of Living in Hungary.

Being in Hungary has opened my eyes to just how dependant on the Internet I am.

Back home in the States, if there’s something I don’t know, I Google it. The opening hours of the teahouse down the street? Google it. The formula I need for my physics homework? Google it. The winner of yesterday’s midterm elections? Google it.IMG_0713

Here, in Hungary, there have been so many times when I have tried to find information I need that simply doesn’t exist online. The chances of a webpage both existing and being accessible in English for a store or cultural attraction in Budapest are quite low. The best information tends to come from second-hand sites such as budapestbylocals or TripAdvisor. Otherwise, you have to get your information the “old-fashioned” way: by going to the store and reading the sign for their opening hours, etc. While I expect every “mom & pop shop” in the States to have a webpage, it’s an exception in Budapest if that’s the case.

Further, while trying to learn about monuments, history, and culture of Hungary, the information just isn’t there on English webpages the way it is for American culture. In particular, the Wikipedia pages for Hungarian topics, if they even exist, are severely lacking in information in English.

Compare the Wikipedia page for St. Stephen’s Basicialla  in Budapest, cited as the third-largest church in Hungary, to St. Paul’s in London. The article on St. Stephen’s is tiny, and frankly, not very helpful or informative. It shouldn’t be the case that I can’t get information on St. Stephen’s online, just because the basicialla exists in a country where I do not speak the language.

I realised that Hungary is something I know about and care about that most people don’t. So I do the opposite of what I would do back home: instead of searching about someplace before visiting it (since it won’t be helpful), I  go on Wikipedia after I’ve visited and update the page with the information I’ve learned and photos I’ve taken.

I love this city and this country, and I want to help make it more accessible to other English-speakers.

(3) Because of the Gender Gap.

For me, simultaneously editing Wikipedia and lessening the Gender Gap is just sort of a cool side-effect.

Mind_the_gap1

Image: “Mind the gap1” by London Student Feminists

As of 2011, it was estimated that only about 11% of Wikipedia editors identified as female (Cohen, Define Gender Gap?…). This is a serious problem because the content that is available on Wikipedia is completely reflective of the volunteer editors who take the time to add it. If the editors are primarily male, then the information is skewed to what men stereotypically know about. This is unacceptable for an online encyclopedia which is consistently one of the top ten most-visited websites in the world.

I think Wikipedia is really cool, and I’ve realised there are so many places where my knowledge, experiences, and interests are helpful to the online community. For me, I think it’s sort of similar to blogging, related in the way where blogging is like the op-ed section of a newspaper while Wikipedia editing is more fact-based journalism.


If you want to start getting into Wikipedia editing, I highly recommend trying the Wikipedia Adventure game. It’s a little bit silly, overly cute, and has some bugs, but it’s a fun and simple interactive way to learn the basics of the Wikipedia syntax as well as the rules and regulations of Wikipedia culture.

The Secret Pre-rec to BSM

Standard

Hands down, the course I am most thankful to have taken before coming to BSM is my Discrete Mathematics course.

I’ve been really surprised at how much I am relying on the things I learned in discrete math. The only official pre-rec to BSM is having taken either Abstract Algebra or Real Analysis, and that’s really just to ensure you have learned enough math and are at a high enough mathematical level for the courses offered.

Yes, I’m very glad I took Real Analysis– I use the thought processes developed in that class all the time. Real Analysis was the first math course I took in which I genuinely struggled; it taught me how to work through confusion and persevere. It began to teach me what it actually means to do math as opposed to just learn math.

But I use the topics covered in Discrete Math every single day at BSM. After this week, I have officially done some degree of graph theory in ALL FOUR of my math classes! My friend’s response upon hearing that from me was simply: “Welcome to Hungary.” (:

For example, in Abstract Algebra, we’re studying and doing problem sets on the symmetires of graphs.

Every single bioinformatics model I’m studying is a type of graph.

The matrices I am researching are bipartite directed multigraphs.

Our game theoretic models are…yes…graphs.

I knew that Hungarians were famous for their teaching of combinatorics, but I couldn’t have anticipated the extent to which graph theory is utalized as a mathematical tool here in Hungary.

I’m finding myself doing proofs in which I need to interpret the problem as a graph, then use graph theoretic theorems to solve it! I learned how to do this in discrete math; I would really be struggling if I hadn’t taken that class. And discrete is actually not even a direct requirement for my math major back home.

Some other discrete math topics I’m so grateful to know:

    • Counting, counting, counting: I use a lot of combinatorics counting arguments in abstract algebra. For example, last week we needed them to answer the question that there were, of course, 7 choose 3 divided by three times 4 choose three divided by 3 all divided by 2 unique cycle permutations in some group. I found the counting argument much more difficult than the algebra part of that problem!
    • Modular Arithmetic: Many of the groups we use as examples in Abstract Algebra utilize modular arithmetic in some way. We did a short lesson on it in the beginning of the abstract course, but it was incredibly helpful to already have an understanding of the properties of the operation and to have practice adding, multiplying, finding “fractions” and using inverses in modular sets. Even though we did a small unit on modular arithmetic during this course, our homework sets require a more through understanding of modular arithmetic than was covered in class and one that I only have thanks to my discrete math course back home.
    • Set Theory: In Game Theory, we are constantly using power sets, and everything is turned into a set of actions, a set of player payoffs, etc.
    • Probability: My bio research professor told me that many American students he meets seem to fear probability. “It’s just some value between 0 and 1. That’s it.” In my research group we’re working with uniform probabilities– we are using lots and lots of Markov Chain Monte Carlo processes, and I wish my probability background was stronger than it is.
  • LaTeX: It’s actually just coincidence that I learned to use Tex in discrete math, but I’m going to include it on this list anyway. (: I TeX all of my problem sets for Game Theory. It’s by far not required, yet by far the preferred method of receiving problem sets by my professor.
    Additionally, there is this social hierarchy that exists in the math community surrounding the use of LaTeX (just see #1 on “Ten Signs a Claimed Mathematical Breakthrough is Wrong” for proof). For us, it’s an unspoken understanding that the students who regularly turn their problem sets in using TeX are the ones you’re trying to measure up to. The math world is a learn to typeset in LaTeX or be an outsider kind of place.

I am using all of my previous math knowledge in some way this semester: sequences and series sometimes come up, properties of the real numbers are important, I might (rarely…) take a derivative, matrices are great, but, I am currently thanking the math gods that I’ve had a semester of discrete mathematics.


I am still updating my BSM Tips page! Don’t forget to check it out if you’re considering spending a semester or two at BSM.

Mi furcsa Magyarországon? What is peculiar in Hungary?

Standard

 

 

I have been living in Budapest for three weeks now, and really it’s been a lovely city to be living in. It’s easy to get around, beautiful, safe, and a fun place to live. I’m enjoying it a lot despite the difficulties of living in a city where you do not know the language.

Here are a few of the things I have encountered in Budapest that were culturally so different and surprising that I stopped to take a photo:

1. Okmánybélyeg

 

IMG_0210

 

These pictured are 18000 Forints worth of… postage stamps! Somewhere around 80 USD! In tiny pieces of paper!

In order to apply for your residency permit in Hungary, you must pay for it in the form of okmánybélyeg. You need to go to a post office and purchase them, then bring them with you to the immigration office. At immigration, you give the officer the payment who then pulls a glue stick out of the desk and pastes one by one them to your application.

In Hungarian class, we did an exercise in which the prompt was ,,Mi furcsa Magyarországon?”/”What is pecular in Hungary?” My response was the okmánybélyeg. My teacher said they were kind of a strange thing for Hungarians, too. :)

 

2. So. Many. Puppies!

 IMG_0241

 

I thought this puppy was absolutely adorable. :) I walked past him downtown waiting for his owner at a restaurant. Budapest is known to be a “dog city” rather than a cat city. There are always people on the streets or in the park walking dogs and it’s not uncommon for them to be tied up outside grocery stores or restaurants. Dogs are let off their leash a lot more than I’m used to in the States, too.

3. “British” Secondhand Stores 

IMG_0245

 

I think this is just something that I personally haven’t figured out yet. Almost every secondhand store in the city is marked by a British flag and the designation ,,Angol.” I have no idea why secondhand stores must also be British. But it was helpful when I was trying to find one last weekend! Look for the British flag!

4. Light Switches

  IMG_0213

The very first day I was in Hungary I was confused by the light switches. They’re so square and enormous compared to the ones I’m used to in the U.S. I kind of like them now, though. There’s a bigger surface area to hit when you’re trying to find the switch in the dark. :)

5. Eggs

IMG_0247

Two things about eggs: one, they’re not refrigerated in the store. I walked up and down and up and down the refrigerated dairy section in Spar before I understood they weren’t there. Two, you might find some feathers in your carton of eggs!

6. Parking on the Sidewalks

IMG_0211

A lot of the parking in the city involves parking half of your car on the sidewalk and half in the street. When I was dropped off at my apartment the day I arrived in Budapest, I thought the driver was just confused and had hit the curb. But, no, he was actually just pulling all the way into the parking space. :o

 

 


Ma volt az első nap az egyetemen tanulni mateket. Volt jól. Az tánarok nagyon kedves vannak. Most ismerem sok diák.
Today was the first day at the university to study math. It was good. The teachers are very nice. Now I know many students. (I need to learn a lot more Hungarian! Thankfully I am planning to take Hungarian II this semester) 

The first day of math was exhausting, but really good. I am excited to be back in the math classroom with a lot of really great students and professors who are very passionate about mathematics.

 

 

 

on the tube with my Hungarian dictionary

Standard

I am on the plane on my way to Budapest. It didn’t really hit me that I was ACTUALLY, REALLY, TRULY (!!!) going for my semester abroad until a week ago, as I attempted to balance my suitcase on the digital scale, praying that it was under 50 pounds. Logically, I knew I was going, but emotionally it hadn’t quite hit yet that I was leaving home not to return until Christmastime.

I spent the past week in London on holiday with my mom and dad. We had a great time, and I absolutely love that I am already over the major jet lag and time change that comes with a trip across the Atlantic! If you were in London last week, I would have been the young woman on the tube studying my pocket-sized Hungarian dictionary at every possible moment. ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few photos from the trip:
IMG_5867

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though I’ve been to London before, I’ve never actually taken the classic English telephone booth photo. Finally got it.

 

IMG_5857

 

 

 

Ceramic poppies art installation in front of the Tower of London by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper to remember the 100 year anniversary of WWI. There are thousands of poppies surrounding the tower.

 

 

 

IMG_5849

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the London Eye from the Thames, rainy as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0111

 

 

 

We visited Blenheim Palace. I know this was not the main point of the tour, but our tour guide made sure we took a look at Winston Churchill’s favourite one-piece outfit he liked to wear around.

From Wikipedia: “…the siren suit was invented by Churchill as an original leisure suit in the 1930s. He played a large part in popularizing it as an item of clothing during World War II, wearing it regularly, including when meeting other important people such as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower and Stalin.”

 

STB_0127

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hyde Park at sunset.

 

IMG_0149

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, finally, something everyone should remember when riding the Tube/bus/etc. :)

 


 

Update: I am in Budapest and trying to figure everything out! So far things are going really well and I am slowly trying to find my way around my apartment and the city. There will be some notes about logistical things for future BSMers located on my new page “BSM Tips.”