April 23, 2010

Old News

So, I suppose that I have not really made a secret of the fact that it was my intent to leave Buadpest this year, and, as always, I have held off writing anything on the blog until it was all definite and sorted. As I finish the first week of my final term at school, I guess that it is all over now bar the shouting. I handed in my notice a few weeks ago and have decided that I am off back to the UK after 7 years living abroad.

Now, I'm not rich, not even what you would call 'well off', and this year is going to be a real struggle financially. But, it is something that I have wanted to do for a while so I will take the hit and live off beans on toast for a year. In September I will be returning to a Northern University to study for my MA in Theology. This is so far away from the day to day routine of workinng that I am both excited and terrified about having a year as a student again.

So, while I wait out the last few months in Budapest, I am buying course textbooks and telling myself to save every last penny I have while I still have the chance. As with every time I have decided to move on from a country, the place you will leave suddendly takes on a sheen that you have never noticed before. Budapest really is gorgeous in the Spring and Summer and so the blue skies and greenest of trees start to open the spirit of Hungary and make me miss it before I have even left. 9 weeks of work to go, and a week in the middle of that in France and Germany, I'll be back in the UK before I know it and all the culture shock that will entail. I've been away for a long time now...

April 16, 2010

A Billion People

Before I visit some-where I read a lot about it, buy guidebooks, look on the net, ask people who might have been there already. I've read a great deal about China, am aware of their human rights record, am appalled by their treatment of the Tibetan nation and have seen movies from The Last Emporer to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I think that travelling all around Europe, a few Muslim countries, and the US, I have never really under gone what I would call 'Culture Shock'. I had a friend who went to Mumbai and spent the first 48 hours in her hotel room as she was just so amazed and confused by the noise, smells, and crowds she saw when she arrived. Obviously, my trip to Beijing was not that extreme, but I did find myself simply staggered by the scale of the city.

The first moment came when I stepped onto Tiannamen Square. The scale is out of this world and images of mass rallies came sweeping trhough my mind. I was surrounded by huge groups of Chinese tourists, apparantly, it is very common for villages or towns to make pilgrimages to see Mao, and see the Forbidden City. In my youth I used to frequent rock concerts, seen Guns 'n' Roses, Metallica and been to summer festivals of a hundred thousand people, and yet shuffling through the square felt massive on a scale I have never seen. Follow this up with a trip on the Metro on a random Wednesday afternoon worse than Paris in rush hour, and you get an idea of simply how many people there are around you all the time.

Beijing is almost too big to explore, you couldn't walk from one end to the other. But it is exactly this that made it such a fascinating place to visit, huge spaces, a self contained secret city that took hours just to walk though, streets that have been there for years, some that seem to have popped up in a matter of weeks, it's all there. It took me a few days to get my bearings, there are so many taxis, metro changes and buses to get anywhere it seems like you are travelling across country to get to anything. I still don't know if Beijing is heaven or hell, but I know that it was a wonderful experience, one that is going to leave me thinking for a while. In the mean time, Budapest seems so much more friendly, more walkable than ever before.

April 15, 2010

April 14, 2010

Jet lagged

I was desperate to blog when I was in China. I sort of knew that blogger was banned in China, as is facebook, but it was still strange after all these years of having instant access to posting my thoughts online to not be able to do so when I had so much to say. China was confusing, incredible and bewildering. I have always been desperate to travel and while I consider myself to have seen a great deal of Europe, trips on the long haul have not seemed to be that frequent, and visiting cultures which really are amazingly alien has eluded me thus far.

My trip to China was unusual from the outset, as I was staying with my brother, sister in law and nephew. It made the whole experience both familiar and other worldly at the same time. I have a familiarity with Chinese food, culture and language through my family ties there and some things I felt quite connected to. There were other aspects of my trip that simply blew my mind. Seeing the Great Wall of China was one, it didn't matter that there were tourists of all nations around me, I just couldn't believe that I was standing on there, gazing over centuries of feudal rule.

I have a lot more to say about this trip, but most of it will have to wait as I am so tired, so behind on my sleep. I know that the one reason that I haven't planned trips like this before is because I don't like the idea of long haul flights. Ten hours on a plane seems like an eternity, and I still can't believe that the flight home is over, it was the journey that lasted forever. Mind you, it can't be that bad as I am starting to think that this going to huge life-changing travel stuff may the way forward, Easter 2011...India anyone?