My Life Plan

January 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Hello friends!

By process of elimination, I now know what I will be doing with my life…next year.  🙂 Many of you may know that I was accepted into Teach For America last year. If I had not won the Fulbright, I would be teaching music in Mississippi right now. But, since I was able to go to Hungary, I deferred my acceptance until the 2011-2012 academic year. I had to resubmit my subject and region preferences, because it’s a new year, with different job openings, corps members, etc. This year, they placed me in Alabama as a elementary teacher. (General education, not music) Sad day! I asked them if they could switch me, they said no, and that settled that. So, my life plan so far is that after Hungary, I will not be teaching with Teach For America. Instead, I will be teaching somewhere else!

The new year’s resolutions are coming along okay. My friend Yasmin, who is greek, and I have been going to the gym 4-5 times a week. There is a Curves here in KecskemĂ©t! It’s really fun, and it’s a great way to get out of this place on a routine basis. I’m not saying I don’t like living in this beautiful 250 year old monastery…don’t you worry…but, since I live and go to school here, if I’m not careful I can go days without going outside. Nem jĂł! I’ve been keeping up with school and my Fulbright project much better this semester. The combination of fewer classes, and less play is definitely helping the situation. 🙂

That’s all for now, folks!


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Back to School!

January 17, 2011 at 9:43 am (Uncategorized)

It’s a new year, a new semester, a new me! I’ve got big plans for my last 5 months in Hungary. I can’t believe my time here has gone by so quickly…I knew it would go fast, but WOW!

Over Christmas, I was talking with my Dad about New Year’s Resolutions. I said, “Dad, what’s the point? We never keep them. I feel like I’m just constantly starting over. It’s so annoying.” And he said, “Everyday is a new day. There’s nothing wrong with always striving to be better.” So even though I have felt defeated every year from having not kept my New Year’s Resolutions, I decided to go for it:

  • Work Hard
  • Be nice
  • Eat Right
  • Exercise
  • Explore
  • Use your brain
  • Just be
  • Look for the good things in life

I proudly presented the list to my dad, and he said, “That’s good…but don’t you think they should be a little more specific?” HA! He was right. I won’t bore you with the details, but each of these resolutions does in fact have a subcategory that lists all of the specific actions I will take when following these guidelines…(UT friends, wouldn’t Dr. Duke be proud? 🙂 ) Anyway, I’ve decided to recite the short list to myself daily so that they will be fresh in my mind every morning. Maybe that will increase the likelihood that I will actually follow them…hopefully?

Now, in my last two posts I hinted at the fact that things sort of went downhill towards the end of last semester. It’s true! At the beginning of the semester, I had enough free time to travel on the weekends, but after fall break, things sped  up in a mildly dramatic way, and I didn’t know how to adjust my social life. So, I of course got behind in school. Now, I didn’t fail miserably in everything (or anything), I just didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I am completely fine with that! I needed some time to enjoy Europe, make friends, and just let go for a while. I only hope to be more balanced this semester…

I have a plan: Friday is my one day of the week to totally relax, and I will only take one trip a month (at the most). After talking with my dear Fulbright friend Kate, I have come to the conclusion that this year is about me being in HUNGARY. I will travel when I can, but I want to make the most of my experience HERE.

Kate-Me-Tracy, In the gardens behind Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna

I also made my life a little easier for myself. When I started school here, I was taking all of the courses required to receive a diploma. There are a LOT of courses required to receive a diploma. My reason for doing this was because originally I was thinking of staying here for another year to get the masters, and I would need those courses anyway. I have since decided that I don’t want to stay here another year, and therefore there’s no reason to kill myself with all of the classes! Yay me. I am now taking only the courses that I think are relevant to my development as a musician and teacher, which leaves more time for my Fulbright project, and spending time with anyone, anything, and everything, Hungarian!

Last Days of Break

I arrived in Hungary on January 4. I was sick for a little while, and I was jetlagged for even longer, but these last few days I have been happy, well rested, and able to really enjoy the remaining time before school starts. I went to the local synagogue here in KecskemĂ©t on Friday night for an alternative Hungarian rock concert. (Today the synagogue is a lounge/bar/museum) It was great fun! The band is called Heaven Street Seven. They were more popular in the 90s here in Hungary. I loved the show. Here’s a link to one of my favorite songs by them.


Yesterday I went into Budapest to visit my Fulbright friends, Kate and Blase. We also went to a concert, but it was more traditional than Heaven Street Seven. There were lots of different artists, but my favorite group was a Roma group called Parno Graszt that played traditional gypsy folk music. Here’s a link to some info about them.

Alright that’s all for now. Wish me luck as I embark on this new semester…I’ll try my best to update you on my life more regularly. And maybe when there’s some downtime I’ll fill you in on Lady Gaga and Vienna, as promised.

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Lederhosen, Day trip to Serbia, and Two Nights on a Bus

January 9, 2011 at 6:06 pm (Uncategorized)

Lederhosen September 24-27, 2010

Turns on the cheapest way to enjoy Oktoberfest, is to go there by bus: $50 (10 hours from Budapest), and sleep in a tent while you’re there: $50…so that’s what we did! The bus ride there went as good as can be expected…which is horribly. I don’t think I slept a wink on the overnight trip, and it was a full house too (probably because it’s the cheapest way to get to Oktoberfest…).

We arrived just after 5am, and sleep deprived, hungry, disoriented, and wanting to avoid the rain, we decided to just hang out at the bus station until we felt inspired to figure out how to reach our campsite. BUT, we were quickly informed by an experienced German Oktoberfester, (in Lederhosen, I might add) that on Saturdays, the tents closed at 9, so if you wanted to partake, you had to arrive at 7am at the latest! Thank goodness our bus arrived so early! We scrambled around, trying to find our way to the campsite so we could drop off our stuff. When we got there, we couldn’t find a place to check in, so with our stuff in tow, we made our way to Oktoberfest.

Inside the tent

Once there, we immediately saw why the experienced Oktoberfester warned us we needed to arrive early – there was a massive mob surrounding us….and they all seemed to know where to go. We would have followed them, but there were too many of them. So instead we were carried by them. The crowd literally moved us to the entrance of the tent. However, once we got to the entrance, we were told by security that we couldn’t bring our bags inside. We knew that if we were to go back to the campsite, we’d never make it back in time before they closed the doors…so we took out what was important (passport, money, etc), and left the rest in the rain. Sad!

Getting our first 8am!

German from our table in the traditional leather pants, Lederhosen

We went inside, made a table full of friends from America, Canada, and Germany. They started serving the beer at 8am…which was quite an experience, and also led us to head back to the tent around noon. 🙂

I think that’s it for all of the exciting parts of the story…oh, and my bag miraculously made it to lost in found, so I actually got my stuff back! Here’s a my favorite night shot of Oktoberfest.

Day Trip to Serbia Early October, 2010

The title and reason for this trip are far more exciting than the trip itself. Yes, Subotica, Serbia is close enough to travel to and return from in one day. But it doesn’t leave much time for anything else, especially when you forget to plan…it seems I’ve already forgotten one of the things I’ve learned so far. What was it again?

Anyway, For the sake of Que and Tracy not getting kicked out of the European Union for being illegal immigrants, we took a day trip to Subotica, Serbia. They needed to renew their 90 days in the European Union because they didn’t have visas, and because Subotica isn’t in the EU, going there and back was a way for them to do this. At the end of the day, the mission was accomplished…but we didn’t really do much in Subotica. We were only there for a few hours, we hadn’t planned anything to do, and everything but McDonald’s shuts down on weekends, so we mostly just walked around in the rain (after grabbing lunch at McDonald’s…)

Town Hall

Two Nights on a Bus Mid-October, 2010

Prague. Is. Amazing. Despite the fact that we took an overnight bus there, and back (the next night), and didn’t plan, (now…how did that happen again?) it was an absolutely perfect trip. I can honestly say Prague is my favorite city that I’ve been to thus far, in this lifetime. Go there.

We arrived in Prague around 6:30 in the morning. We looked at each other, sleep deprived, and once again, disoriented…and suddenly we all had the same revelation: we don’t have a plan, we don’t know where we are in the city, no map, no money, we don’t speak the language… and we don’t have a plan. Just about the only thing we knew was that we would be getting back on the bus at 11:30 that same night, so whatever we were going to do, we only had the day to do it.

No worries! I brought my European travel guide! We figured out the metro system, and found our way to heart of the city and into a coffee shop, where we proceeded to plan like crazy over breakfast and a much needed caffeine boost. I was named travel guide, and Que and I wrote up an itinerary for the day. We were out the door before 9am with a game plan, giddy with excitement and a pretty dopey from no sleep.

Old Town Hall

Best shot of the city

View of Prague Castle and the city from the top of the Old Town Hall

View from Prague Castle

Like I said, Prague is my favorite city. It’s beautiful, and the perfect size. We were able to see everything in the short time we were there. At this point, school was still going really well. I was doing great in all of my classes, feeling challenged but not overwhelmed, and obviously making time for travel and relaxation on the weekends.

Stay tuned for Vienna, Lady Gaga, and a night on the town in Kecskemét.

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Yeah, I know it’s been a while…

January 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

Yes, some of you might have thought that my blog died – Truthfully I also thought it had. But I have found myself back in Hungary, with a terrible cold, and I feel it is a good idea to catch all of y’all up.

I left y’all at orientation, which was early September (SO EMBARRASSING). Let me see if I can recall what came next. To those of you who frequent facebook, this post may be a bit redundant….ah yes, I was going to show you around KecskemĂ©t and tell you about the folk festival.

So, here is Kecskemét.

Kossuth tér

This is KecskemĂ©t’s main square, which I am fortunate enough to live on. I literally get to walk on my front door and step into this magical scene. Wee! It never gets old. KecskemĂ©t has a population of about 115,000, and is an hour and a half away from Budapest. It sits in the heart of the “Great Plain,” between the Danube and Tisza Rivers.

The Kodály Institute



This is the Kodály Institute, where I live, work, and play. KecskemĂ©t is Kodály’s birthplace, so I guess that’s why they decided to put the Insitute here (although he only lived there for four weeks…). The building is 250 years old and was once a monastery. I live in a monastery! And it is beautiful.

My room

Now on the the folk festival. Every Autumn, KecskemĂ©t has a folk festival. Folk artists bring their crafts and set up little stands where they sell their goods. Every night there is live music, and some people wear traditional folk costumes. On the last night, Besh o droM, one of my friend’s favorite bands, came to play. The music was great, and when it started to pour down rain, we just kept right on dancing. It was so much fun. After the show we went to a traditional Hungarian folk dancing lesson, to further improve our moves. What a great night!

Besh o droM

New friends, Tracy and Q










That’s all for now…up next is Oktoberfest, Serbia, and Prague. Oh right, and a little update on school. It’s hard! But manageable. At this point in the semester, I was flying high, going to class, making friends, working on my project, doing my homework, and traveling on the weekends. Stay tuned for more!

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Two castles, an abbey, a porcelanium, and laundry!

September 14, 2010 at 4:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m finishing up an amazing week of orientation at the Kodaly Institute. We went so many places!

On Monday, we went to Budapest.  We toured the beautiful opera house, explored Castle Hill, and ate a truly amazing lunch.

On Tuesday, we visited a super old abbey, the Pannonhalma abbey, built in the 11th century! It is still a working monastery. The view was absolutely amazing.

Next we went to the Eszterhazy Palace. Eszterhazy was a nobleman of the 17th century who liked to throw huge parties for the people in his town, Fertod. He built the palace in response to Versailles, saying that he could have anything as fine as the emperor! But the people of Fertod loved him, and came to his parties, puppet shows, and musical events. Joseph Haydn himself was employed by Eszterhazy for nearly 30 years, and called the Eszterhazy Palace his home.

That night we spent the evening at a beautiful hotel in Sopron, near the Austrian border. We also got to drink some homemade palinka, which is a sort of fruit brandy that is a traditional part of Hungarian life. It is so delicious, but very strong, at nearly 50% alcohol. We were all thoroughly satisfied with only a single shot.

The next morning we left for Herend, the home of the Porcelanium. Hungarians have been making handmade porcelain here since the 18th century. Some of the original designs are still popular today. We got to see artists making the pieces first-hand, and were each given a little piece to take with us. Here is the dinner set we got to eat with! It’s one of the oldest designs.

After the porcelanium, we went to Lake Balaton. Oh, by the way, it was FREEZING, and raining. So, we didn’t get the best view of the lake. The lake is really popular during the summer, with lots of swimming, boating, and fishing to pass the time. Too bad we went on such a gloomy day.

The next day, we toured Szeged, which is a wonderful city on the Tisza River. Right away I could tell it was a college town, there were so many young people walking around. The most interested thing about this city is that in 1889, (if I’m remembering correctly) there was a great flood that wiped out the whole city and they had to completely rebuild it, at a higher level. For this reason, it is a really well designed city and all the buildings are really beautiful. I’m going back in a few weeks with Fulbright, so I’ll take pictures then. My battery was dead!

Possibly the best part of the entire orientation week, was that my friends Q and Alex here at the Institute backed me a birthday cake… a chocolate, cherry, brandy cake with a chocolate glaze to be exact! It was sooo delicious!! It made me feel right at home. Everyone here in the dorm came and celebrated with me.

Now, laundry at the institute is a really special experience. 🙂 The first time I did it, I actually almost lost my hand! Seriously! These washing machines don’t stop when you open the lid, they keep going, so when I stuck my hand in….let’s just say it was a close call. So the process goes like this:

#1 Put a tiny amount of clothes (4 kg) into the washer.

#2 Dry them in the spin dryer something like 1.5 kg at a time. This doesn’t really dry them, it just removes all the excess water.

#3 Put them in a bucket to take them to the drying racks.

#4 Put the nicer clothes on the drying rack.

#5 Place jeans and t-shirts in the dryer.

All in all, assuming I don’t have to wait hours for a free machine, the process takes about 3 hours…except for the clothes on the drying rack, which take at least a day to dry! I had my friend Tracy model the process.

Well that’s all for now… Orientation is over, and the testing has begun. One test down, two to go. Once the testing is over, I’ll FINALLY know my schedule for the fall, and classes will begin. I promise I’ll tell you more about life at the Institute very soon! There’s a folk festival this weekend which should be full of lots of music in dancing. I’m excited. Talk to you soon!

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Things I have learned since embarking on this journey…

September 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm (Uncategorized)

1. Always double check your itinerary online the night before your flight.

Because I did not double check my itinerary, I was not aware that my flight had been moved up by half an hour. This led to a very stressful goodbye to the parentals. Despite the stress, a very frazzled version of myself was able to make it through security and board the plane with a few minutes to spare.

2. Make sure you look at the correct boarding pass when boarding a new plane.

Because I looked at my boarding pass from D.C. when I was actually in Frankfurt, I of course sat in the wrong seat. I was told by a moderately cheerful old man that I was in his seat and needed to move. After double checking my boarding pass, I noted that he was correct, and apologized very loudly. Before I knew it, a plane full of Germans and Hungarians were staring at me, the confused American, and proceeded to watch me as I pushed past those in my row and disrupted the flow of traffic in the aisle. 🙂

3. Take a taxi when you have too much luggage to carry by yourself, but then make sure you actually have the address for your destination.

Fulbright had only reserved four nights for me at a hotel in Budapest during orientation. I wanted to stay an extra night so that I could go folk dancing with friends, so I had to find a place to crash. I decided I would take the tram to a friend’s house. I brought ALL of my luggage down to the lobby, checked out of the hotel, and made my way to the tram. I walked up and down stairs, with all of my luggage in tow. Fun. Once on the tram, I realized it wasn’t actually going to lead me to my friend’s house. I then got off the tram, and got back on the tram in the direction of my hotel, where I call a cab. This seemed like a great idea because my shoulders were really starting to hurt. The cab picked me up shortly thereafter, and we headed for my friend’s house. It turns out that without a proper address, the cab driver and I were both pretty lost, so he drove me back to the hotel where I surrendered and paid for another night. Then, I went dancing and tried to shake away my frustration.

4. Ask for help when you need it, and take the time to plan, especially when no one you know has a cell phone or access to the internet.

This really hit home. I will always make an effort to make good plans. Everything would have gone much more smoothly if I had been patient enough to make proper plans. It’s actually frightening how many opportunities there were to make plans that made sense, were convenient, and would have led to a much happier ending. I will also ask for help, demand for help, cry for help, when I know I really need it.

This may not be the glamorous introduction to Hungary you were hoping for. It certainly hasn’t been for me. Fun, yes, but glamorous and carefree, no. The Fulbright orientation was really great, and I now have a handful of good friends in Budapest that I can visit when I need a break from Kecskemet. I made it to the Kodaly Institute yesterday and am happy to finally be settling in. I think I’m going to like it in this quiet, Hungarian town on the south end of the Great Plain. Enjoy the pictures of Budapest below!

Oh, and by the way, this blog was meant to humor ya’ll, and was in no way a cry for pity. All replies must likewise be lighthearted, not pitiful. I love and miss ya’ll!

The opera house

More to come, I promise! I will soon post pictures of Kecskemet, tell you all about the Kodaly Institute, and detail the events of my upcoming tour of Hungary.

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August 16, 2010 at 1:26 am (Uncategorized)

I’ve decided to use wordpress instead of blogger because I think it’s more user-friendly. Sorry to those of you who have already gotten emails from me regarding my blog on blogger.

I think it should be much easier to keep ya’ll up to date using wordpress. If you subscribe, you will receive email notifications every time I post something. To subscribe, simply click on “comment.” Then, under “post a comment,” type in your name and email address. Most importantly, check the box that says “notify me of new posts via email.” You’ll then get an email confirming your subscription. In that email will be a link. After clicking this link, you can choose how often you want to receive email updates about my new posts (i.e. immediately, weekly, daily, etc).

Let me know if for some reason this doesn’t work.

🙂 Ellie

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Got my visa!

August 16, 2010 at 1:17 am (Uncategorized)

I received my visa on Wednesday! I’m really excited about this – mostly because it’s right on schedule, which is not what I expected.

The fact that I now have my Visa is yet another stepping stone to me finally realizing that this is really happening. I actually have permission to stay in Hungary for more than 90 days now. EEK!

Many of you may want to ask, “How’s the packing coming along?” “Are you getting better at speaking Hungarian?” “Do you know what you’re going to ship ahead of time, and what you’re going to take on the plane?” I say, “Why worry about such practicalities!? I have loving Austin to worry about!”


Barton Springs

That’s right, I’ve spent the last two weeks enjoying Austin as much as I can, and hanging out with my family and the wonderful Bartley. I’ve gone to Barton Springs at least four times in the last week. I went to Second Sunday Sock Hop at Shangri-La on Sunday, and danced the night away. I’ve enjoyed frozen yogurt at the super yummy Yum Yum Frozen Yogurt, twice this week. It doesn’t stop there! I saw Virgin with 10,000 Arrows, a play by Austin playwright Jason Tremblay, at Austin Playhouse, ate at the spectacularly delicious P. Terry’s, grabbed a drink at Red’s Porch, and enjoyed every moment of Circle Mirror Transformation at Hyde Park Theatre.

I guess you could say I’m already getting a bit nostalgic, so I’m trying to spend as much time enjoying the great city of Austin, Texas as I can. I’ll worry about packing later…

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