On orientation in Hungary

Jó napot kívánok! Good day! Nagyon jó! Very good! Jó étvágyat! Bon appetite! If there’s one word I definitely remember in Hungarian, it’s “jó”, which means “good”. Here are some other useful phrases:

Hogy vagy? How are you?

Beszélek egy kicsit magyarul. I speak a little Hungarian.

Beszélsz angolul? Do you speak English?

Mennyibe kerül? How much is it?

Hol van a toalett? Where is the bathroom?

Nem tudom. I don’t know.

Hungarian has been fun to learn so far, but the vowel pronunciation is tricky sometimes. I think a couple of hardest words to pronounce are “csütörtök” (Thursday) and “töltött” (stuffed, as in stuffed cabbage). We have learned numbers, fruits, vegetables, meats, places, things around the house, directions, colors, and a few verbs. During our time in Révfülöp, we would have a 3-hour lesson in the morning with our teacher from Budapest, Terri, and we would have another session in the afternoon with Rachel, our country coordinator, or we would have the afternoon off to relax and study. One afternoon, 3 other YAGM’s and I hiked up to the Millennium Lookout tower above Révfülöp, which offers a gorgeous view of Lake Balaton.

Millennium Tower
Millennium Tower
Lake Balaton from Millennium Tower
Lake Balaton from Millennium Tower


On Thursday, September 10, we went to Budapest by van. We all stayed in an apartment in the inner city near the Hungarian National Museum. Over the weekend, we had a 2-day workshop with Phiren Amenca, an organization that aims to connect Roma and non-Roma youth through dialogue, events, and activism. On Saturday morning, our session with Phiren Amenca opened with a simulation called “take a step forward if…” We all were given different characters, and from the same starting point, we would take a step forward if our character was able to do something. A few of the statements were “if you feel safe in your community” or “if you can vote” or “if you do not live in fear of your government” or “you can marry whoever you want”. My character was the 20-year-old son of the leader of the Hungarian party in Slovakia, and some other people were the leader of the majority party, a homeless person, and a young Roma person. Some of our characters could step forward for every single claim, but for my character, I had to make many assumptions about what their life would be like. I have little knowledge of the current political situation in Slovakia, what it means to be ethnically different than the dominant race, or what it is like to be male. It felt like I was restricting my character to a tiny box because of the stereotypes and assumptions I placed on them.

What I took away from the Phiren Amenca workshops (and all of Chicago orientation, too) is to challenge stereotypes and biases. I am coming in to this year with my own experiences of the world and my own views and beliefs, but everyone else I encounter also has their own experiences and their own views and their own beliefs. Pretending that we don’t have these biases usually ends up hurting the situation more. One of the main themes of Young Adults in Global Mission is accompaniment: walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. As I begin to live this year-long journey in Hungary, my constant prayer is that I will be open to the people who I will meet and open to how God is working in my life.

While in Budapest, we had some time to see a few sights around the city on Sunday afternoon. It was fun to explore, and I would love to go back sometime this year!

Worship at an English-speaking Lutheran congregation on Sunday morning, with the good 'ol LBW!
Sunday Worship in Budapest at an English-speaking Lutheran congregation on Sunday morning, with the good ‘ol LBW!
Heroes Square: there was a half-marathon finishing at the park nearby, usually there aren't ropes set up
Heroes Square: there was a half-marathon finishing at the park nearby
Inside St. Stephen's Basilica
Inside St. Stephen’s Basilica
St. Stephen's Basilica
St. Stephen’s Basilica

On Chicago orientation

Beginning on August 19, all of the 74 people volunteering with Young Adults in Global Mission gathered for a week-long orientation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. This time involved fellowship with other YAGM’s, staff, and alumni, worship, conversations, and sessions. Some of the topics included presentations titled, “Called to the Journey”, “Religious Pluralism”, “Self Care”, and “Engaging Global Issues as People of Faith”, among others. One session on Saturday was solely about logistics and policies, which can seem boring to some people, but I was relishing in it. After a couple of days of conversations on tough topics and many unanswerable questions, it was good to have some concrete details and rules. We received our plane tickets on Saturday afternoon, and it finally became real: I am going to live in Hungary for an entire year (I said this to myself over and over, but put emphasis on a different word each time).

On Saturday night we had the chance to eat Polish food (it’s hard to find specifically Hungarian food) as a country group with the two alumni who had served in Hungary in past years. Sunday was our “free day”, and we were encouraged to go to worship at local congregations. Although our country group had talked about attending a Hungarian mass at the St. Stephen King of Hungary Church in Chicago, we decided to spend our final Sunday in the States at an English-speaking congregation where we could take Holy Communion. Later that day, I had the chance to eat deep-dish pizza in Chicago and explore Navy Pier. I would love to return to the city and explore more of the museums and public parks, Chicago seems really unique!

Our domestic orientation ended on Wednesday, August 26, as we departed as a country group at various times throughout the day. The 7 of us going to Hungary had an overnight flight to Amsterdam, landing in Budapest on Thursday afternoon. Rachel, our country coordinator, and Miriam, our outgoing coordinator, met us at the airport, and a staff member from the Hungarian Lutheran Church diaconal office picked us all up from the airport. Currently, we are in the process of our in-country orientation at Lutheran retreat center in Révfülöp, and begin our language training next week. I’ll include more about the language training next time, but it has been fun to explore the town a bit, and go swimming in Lake Balaton.

The Hungary crew hanging out in our layover in Amsterdam
The Hungary crew hanging out in our layover in Amsterdam