Chapter 14, or something like that
I wrote an entry yesterday, not the first time not posting. Chapter 14? I like how it sounds between my teeth. And it is a long entry, all those that failed to be posted recently.
Follows a succession of complaints. A now increasingly obvious addiction to blogging slowly revealed in my mind. When things aren’t written down they look often miserable. And everything could look more picturesque should I find the usb cable for my camera.
The following is from April 7th
Recommencing now with hope to have come to the end of a spring that has inspired us to let it go largely unnoticed ( the spring). I hope we will not be having such distractions in the future. The last time I engaged in some other writing, a blog rather than a seemingly endless writing of essays and online debates was a day short of a month ago. Since…
Ernest has been imprisoned for a brief period of 2 nights. It’s a long story, I should have written it exploiting the emotional heights but I feared to do so.
It is a fear that probably similar in experience of moments when I cannot avoid engaging in ‘communication’ with holocaust denying anti-Semites. Although rationally thinking a foolish fear. It is a different emotional response. Its magnitude however is so great that I stop being accountable, or at least I feel such way, so I make actually a rational decisions to halt communication – with the crazies – and I made the same choice when not telling about the toddlers’ prison. Hospitals here can be
Another emotional moment and the subsequent event came when Liliom hit a car while cycling. Unbelievable luck that it was not the other way around.
In the morning Ernest stood at the table …
…At this point the writing finished until about April 20th
Last week Lili’s grandparents, Elisabeth and Gordon were visiting, from Scotland. They stayed for 10 days, it was a pleasant encounter. We don’t meet often, especially I. This post is not about their staying, I think I am maybe too self-centred now for that.
There was a small incident that describes well this entire year we have dedicated to our Hungarian ‘roots’.
The first weekend our visitors were in Hungary we all stayed at my mother’s house outside of Fot, nearby Budapest spending the days in the city. On Sunday the three of them, Lili, Gran and Gordo we took into town. They were going to take a ride on one of the sightseeing buses of Budapest. It’s a convenient way to have a drive by and description of most prominent touristic sites of the city. The plan was to drive them to the city park dropping off at the stop for the sight bus. The section of the park where the bus would have stopped was closed for traffic. We then drove around to another part of the park from where they could have gotten to the bus or take a subway fairly easily to another bus stop. On weekends the no parking signs on the side streets there are generally ignored for a lack of adequate parking and an obvious high demand. Not that day however, parking tickets were vigorously applied to anyone daring to leave the care unattended. We couldn’t stop there. So as an alternate plan to the alternate plan we had to drive back to the neighbourhood where the end of line subway station is from where they could go into the city centre to take the tour bus.
We spent the entire year like this. Plan, plan B, improvised alteration for plan B, improvised plan C…
I am looking forward to go home, so to speak. I have been talking of Oulu as home sort of half serious but I have come to realise that at the moment it seems home is rather there than here. For some time I have felt that the environment in which we enjoy our lives in Oulu is home. It is largely the people, similar semi-rootless bunch, the progressively inclined department at the uni, but also the way of life which until now, or at least the time a year ago has certainly bore the marks of a tolerant society where being different at worst brought a reaction of polite indifference.
For some years now I have been watching what has been happening to Hungary, the political consequences of the new order. The backlash; how it so eagerly as a society resettles into pitiful hatred, racism, anti-semitism. A path towards nationalist fascism seems to be the preferred response, protection against corporatist capitalism and a reshaping form of sovereignty. I thought it was still important to me somehow, ‘my people’ governing themselves into a form of madness that seemed incomprehensible to come again in Europe. I realised I watched this as an outsider, or rather, as a soap on tv; interesting moral dilemmas but little real significance. Witnessing the elections in Finland helped me to this realisation.
I felt touched, we both felt touched with grave concerns. Is this menace coming there too? Is it really possible? Of course one shouldn’t be surprised if reading the signs beforehand but our gasping for air caught us of guard.
The climate in Szeged, using the word to mark the weather patterns, is just ideal for someone who loves the continental European weather. The cyclic changes of the seasons, the modest, gradual changes are wonderful to experience as the months flow by.
Lili enjoyed being Hungarian for a while and perhaps this time has asserted, or to be more precise shaped a new part of her identity which she wasn’t there before. As a family we have learnt to rely on one and other more than ever, probably. Considering we haven’t managed to make much if any contacts otherwise with locals and outsiders here. I have enjoyed and still do spending time with the kids more than I ever had time for. I am looking forward to spend another year of the same from when we are back in Oulu, more so that we will have a familiar environment, familiar people. At least for me. Ernest and I will most certainly will miss the market. There is nothing that can possibly replace it.
A recent event is an example, I believe of the uncertain life that is probably every day for people who are accustomed to life here.
There is a case running for a minor offence against Liliom at the police. When the offence took place, the police informed us that there will be an investigation (because of the road traffic accident) but they haven’t bothered to tell that she would be charged with a minor offence. This offence is that she was not pushing her bike across the road but rode it. There was a green light for pedestrians which would have given her the right of way but because she was riding, she has lost it and it is therefore the car’s which was turning and almost run her down. Luckily she has run into the car at a slow speed and she wasn’t injured apart from a scratch and a scare.
It was an endless rent but also something else. A first attempt to summarise staying in Hungary. I realise that some of those who call this place home will find it disturbing, as already have had probably often, but I am never easy on the place where I reside and stay, the place that even if momentary is my home. And Hungary actually still happens to be one that I know in most detail. It isn’t personal. Although there may be a degree of frustration over inability to be acultured and content.
As it happens, I repeated the post from April just yesterday intending to post it but ending up not bothering. I will attach it here although it is the same message in a very similar structure and speech. But I think once out there, I can move on the stopping panicking, and getting on to the otherwise wonderful and challenging process of moving our lives now 2000kms north.
May 4th as follows:
I shall begin without promise of joyful happy pretty stories but perhaps still asserting I shall not engage in political blogging regardless of the now obvious unstoppable advance of European fascism.
We are going home in the middle of June – at long last - to a place that may have changed significantly since we have left it. Last time in Finland the university reforms have shown a sign of things to come, in the far future, and we still believed that while bigot conservatism lurks beneath the grass, of a direction where social cohesion is largely enforced rather than negotiated, we believed it was still far out. Recent elections have shown that fascism is on the rise in Finland and the near future registration of the Nazi party shows a rapidly changing sentiment. It used to be a state which prided itself on tolerance. By the time we get home this may not be the case anymore.
Still, perhaps in Finland we still have a fighting chance , making a stand before it’s too late. Here in Hungary, it feels even by the time we got here almost a year ago it was too late. The country now has a constitution that no longer recognises the equal worth of every individual in its political community and one that opens the doors to a constitutionally enforced (and often defined on racist terms) class society. Of course I know that the setting of new rules is always, as in the case of the Finish university reforms, merely an adjusting to the discourse, the sentiment and the practice that is already present and valid (in the sense that society largely functions along such values).
To remain non-political perhaps it is best to turn towards a brief assessment of this past year.
Weeks before we were due to depart from Oulu KELA broke the news to us that staying home with Ernest I will not be eligible the social benefits. I would have been should we have stayed in Finland instead of Hungary but Jen has been sent abroad as a student by a Finish organisation and not as an employee. We lost about 40% of income for this year with a stroke of a pen. Anyone in their right minds – now I think – would have called it off. We didn’t out of some real or perceived duty to grandparents, my parents here in Hungary. After a tight stay in Szeged now we are experiencing the difficulties to raise funds to make it home where we can start raising funds much easier (here we aren’t even allowed to take up employment without losing our Finnish social security).
It has been a most interesting year perhaps in many ways but also a most disappointing. Ernest perhaps the one who realises the least what he may have been losing. Of course, he has benefited from spending more time with my parents, at least with my mother, and hear a lot more Hungarian than he would have otherwise but he didn’t have anyone his own age to hang out with as I failed to make contact with local stay at home mothers. Liliom perhaps is the sole beneficiary of this excursion. She has enjoyed the school year here although Jen and I at times concerned should she spend any more time here she would grow up to have difficulties accepting difference even if spending years at the Waldorf-Steiner school. Jen stated today, she has just wasted a year. Professionally certainly, she has managed to learn barely anything here and as a family we have no longer the resources to fund another exchange studies to universities where they offer courses that are along her professional and personal interests. Returning to Oulu she will have to retake a bunch of courses that were inappropriate here one way or the other. We haven’t managed to make friends in Szeged, I have tried to rekindle old friendships but my developing anti-nationalist and neo-Marxist, slightly syndicalist manners have gotten in the way. Jen I think made fairly good friend with a fellow exchange student also from Oulu. I spent the last year with an amazing array of bureaucratic encounters that I eventually got bored of noting down, dodging conversations that were potentially racist, fascist or at least based arguments on a mix of pseudo-scientific origin myths that on a good day I laugh at on a bad one I bite my tongue. The last year talked openly to Jen only without being concerned of or outright offending people.
The hearing from Lili’s car crash has been today. We thought for some reason that it was going to be tomorrow so we missed it. It was a hearing of the two witnesses, the driver of the car and the person driving behind him. When I was at the police station couple of weeks ago I found out the case will not come to much. The traffic police started the process against Lili for braking some paragraph of traffic rules and crushing into a car causing some 60€ worth of damage. It will probably be a closed case since she is a minor and cannot be made legally responsible for her actions. Although they – the police – thought it was likely that the driver will not accept this and will claim damages on us. Never mind it was perhaps on a split of a second that it wasn’t Lili crashing into his car but his car crashing into a cycling 7 year old. In most other European countries I lived at before, this would be a case against the driver, or at least I want to believe that After all, the accident happened on a pedestrian crossing while the pedestrians had the green light and Lili was perfectly visible to the driver at all times, even before he started moving with his car (as previously he was standing at a red lamp). But this is the country where I spend running in circles, from office to office until I learn better that whatever the state does is perfectly logical and it is its subjects that are out of line.
I right now feel I will bless the day I eventually have packed up house and family. Shipping is on the way and kids are in the car. We are on the go. Maybe a roadtrip, a summer just the four of us, no huss and no fuss will help us to relax.
But honestly, we bought a car. It’s a nice car although good Hungarian paranoia tells me we were cheated somehow and trouble will strike us. It’s hard to believe that the previous owner may have been a mostly decent, honest person telling as everything to the best of his knowledge.
Ernest and I took the car to Szeged yesterday. The process to register it under my name will take a week or so for the car need to go under some examination of origin (making sure it wasn’t stolen or put together from a bunch of cars etc) and after that the insurance papers need to be changed and then the names on the car’s papers can be changed. Before initiating all these I hoped to get a monthly parking pass for the car as I am eligible as a resident in the inner town. I was told I can get that pass only once my names are on the papers and I should not kick up a fuss because it is really just a formality (at three different places which could take days at best). After reading the regulation issued by the City Council of Szeged I pointed out that none of the paragraphs administering resident based parking rights demand that the owner’s name has to be on the car’s papers, only that I either, as a resident have to own the car or have to have rights as permanent user of the car which I wish to park under my name . Since I have the contract of selling the car I have proven ownership of the car. Of course they asserted I was stupid and really just being difficult. I made an official complaint.
About three months ago I made an official complaint and a suggestion at the university library. I was kindly informed they are sorry for the inconvenience and were already working on sorting out the problem at the time of my complaint. Today I could make the same complaint for so far they have not managed to finish that process. Remember to know your place, subject as in ‘object of the authorities’.
But all is well. We have had a royal wedding watched by billions.
I fell now better although I suspect only few, if any have gotten to read the last lines of this post