The second best part of any summer break (after sleeping in of course) is going on vacation. Most summers instead of going to some exotic, tropical, locale, my family spend 2-3 weeks in Hungary, the small, land-locked, country in Eastern Europe. While noticeably lacking in both palm trees and pina coladas, Hungary is special for our family. Hungary is where I was born, and where both my parents lived before deciding to move to the US. All of our extended family, grandparents, uncles, and an absurd amount of cousins still live here, so we try to come back as often as possible. These past two weeks I’ve been splitting my time between my grandparent’s apartment in Budapest, and their summer house at the Lake Balaton.
Trips to Hungary are always chock full of programs, imagine trying to condense seeing all your family members and friends whom you haven’t seen in a year, into the span of two weeks. It can get a little bit overwhelming, but at the same time keeps us on our toes.
The biggest program scheduled for our stay was my grandfather’s 80th birthday. A well-known journalist, his garden party was the first time all of his grandchildren had been under the same roof. It was an exciting event for sure, and the catered traditional Hungarian food* certainly didn’t hurt.
Soon after the birthday celebration, we went down to spend a week on the Balaton. Despite being only an hour away from the hustle and bustle of a major city like Budapest, life at the lake is a complete 180. Everything there moves at a much slower pace. If you say you’ll meet someone at the beach in half an hour, in Balaton terms that means you’ll end up starting the walk three hours later, after a large lunch and even larger nap. Definitely not a bad way to live.
Aside from being together with all the family, my highlight of the summer was the Kek Szalag, a regatta I took part in for the first time on my uncle’s boat. Having limited sailing experience (none), I was a little nervous to be taking part in a race that on average takes about 30 hours to complete. Under extremely stormy conditions, we were able to finish the race in only 15 hours, 7 of which were spent completely soaked. Sailing was like nothing I’d ever done before. My uncle’s boat was small enough that given the strength of the wind, every passengers’ body weight made a difference in how the boat sailed. For 15 hours we had to run back and forth across the boat, looking for the optimal balance point. Being “on” for 15 hours straight was certainly tiring, but it was also a thrill I’d never had before. While sunny weather may have been preferable to being drenched by the rain, the race was worth getting wet.
If anything, one of the hardest parts of being away at Hopkins is being separated from my immediate family. As an immigrant, that’s an everyday reality with my extended family. Getting to finally be together with everyone, a rare occasion, means the world. It’s not the big events that matter the most. It’s not the large family gatherings that stick with me. Rather the smaller everyday interactions that I miss out on. Waking up and eating breakfast with my grandpa, going grocery shopping with my uncle, it’s the little things that I don’t get over the course of most of the year that really make me feel at home.