Struggling with cultural immersion

“I call the police.”

Those four words came at me from a man whose accent was so thick that he might have worked for the KGB at one point in his life. I was filled with terror, riding along on the bus in Hungary, or as they call themselves: the Magyar.

I was scared and alone. I had taken the bus by myself that morning because I had to be there earlier than usual. It was only the ninth day of mine in this foreign land.

Surprisingly, I shed no tears, although I felt them coming.

The fare inspector—the man standing over me—he didn’t understand! And I couldn’t make him. In desperation, I pulled out my new Hungarian student ID and tried to show him my legitimacy.

My stop was way back in the dust. I just had the wrong ticket. It was a simple, honest mistake. But the former agent of the KGB was ominously writing me a green ticket and telling me I needed to pay 11,000 Forints. I complied, hoping that I would still be able to make it to class on time.

Breathe. Take another deep breath now, slowly. That was yesterday.

Ah! The things we take for granted. The common language I am developing a much deeper appreciation for. This important cultural tie that binds us, yet we often don’t even see it. It cannot be seen. But it can be missed.

It takes only one unnerving scenario like this to wake me up.

I love you, English—every single word, preposition, pronoun and adverb. Because without you, I am helpless.

I am helpless. Yet I am fortunate, sitting here writing, jotting down my wandering thoughts at this Kávéház, on the first floor of the Klebelsberg Library here at the University of Szeged.

Because they are playing American music—Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5 and some popular female artist whom I can’t remember the name of. So there are some words, lyrics, a song or two that I am able to understand. And that take me back home, if you will. “There’s no place like home.”

Dorothy, The Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. More cultural ties that bind (through the medium of film). Ones I was completely unaware of until this moment.

Ah! The things we take for granted. The movies, the lines, the songs.

What now? My rather unpleasant rendezvous with the law is in the past. And as alarming as it was at the time, each day that passes allows me to chuckle at what actually transpired between myself and the authorities.

I am looking forward to the days to come, to the melting snow, the spring and all it holds, further language learning, further cultural understanding, and of course, the unknown. Uncharted waters to sail across, metaphorically speaking, of course, and not without my English/Hungarian dictionary in hand.