Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Workout update

Today I had a 45 minute bike ride scheduled on the training program. Chris's bike needed air in the tires. Tires are called "gumis" here. So gumiszervis is tire service. I also wanted to get his front light put on the bike so I went to the bike shop before heading to the Danube River. I was looking around at bikes and the cheap bike is still there. One of the guys who goes to English club is going to take me around to find a bike (He's an avid biker) in exchange for going out to pizza with him and his girlfriend so they can practice English. That I can do!

I love biking in my neighborhood around Hero's Square but now that it's spring, there are bugs galore and a few days ago I was getting protein when I really didn't want it. I guess I ride with my mouth sort of open. But then if you try and breathe through your nostrils and keep your mouth shut, you get bugs up there too. So, I wasn't up for a protein breakfast and decided I'd go through the city, then ride along the river. It was great!

I rode about 10 minutes to get to the river. Then I started the Garmin and rode for 10 miles clocking 49:23, about 12.1 miles an hour. I would love to finish the bike section in 45 minutes during the race, but I don't know if that's possible. I would have to add two miles and lose close to 10 minutes! Is it possible? I'm not sure but I'm going to try and shave my time and race faster so I'm ready in July. Next bike ride is scheduled for Sunday, 50 minutes.

Bloody Gimcrack huh?

Language is an interesting thing. I learned today at lunch that bloody is a cuss word for Brits. I didn't know that! I thought it was just slang. I love saying "bloody". I usually like to say "It's bloody hot" or "bloody well then!" just for affect. I don't know if I can give it up and I don't feel as though I'm cussing for one minute. I could say it 100 x and it still means absolutely nothing to me. Yep. Language is an interesting thing.

I remember an experience I had in Capetown in 2005. I was there for almost a month to help start a training school for Every Nation and in that time, one of the main coordinators became ill and had to go to the hospital for a minor operation.
Her husband called and said in his South African accent,

"Hi Jen....Tim here...Kirstie's gone to theater so she won't be joining you today."

I thought to myself, "Kirstie's going to the movies at a time like this?"

But actually in South Africa, theater means "operating room" in a hospital.

Language is a mysterious and intriguing thing and I'm constantly reminded of that fact while living in another country.
Tonight I went with my friend Annet to see the U23D movie. One of the songs they do is "Bloody Sunday" which now brings on a whole new meaning now that I know it probably means both the cuss word and the blood spilled in war. There was also a song about using our words but I'm not as familiar with that song. It was really creative for the 3D part, with letters falling. Besides the fact that I felt I was right there in Argentina for this U2 concert with the best seat in the house, I just love Bono and how he chooses to use his influence in the world. For me, that song "One" is about the reality that we live in a global world and we need to find ways to get past our prejudices and work together. Yes, we are different but we're still the same.

I was originally inspired when U2 came out with the ONE campaign. I signed the declaration and spread the word. The only problem I have with Bono's method is that you can't just raise money and give it away because in some places in Africa, the leadership is corrupt and the people never get the resources that were intended for them. So, I believe that it goes deeper and people must be taught and trained. Specifically as a Christ follower I believe the best way is teaching and training people to follow in His footsteps and build a life of character. This takes time -- maybe even lifetimes in places like Africa.

Either way, I have signed the declaration and I'm committed.

In case you've never read it, here's U2's ONE campaign declaration:
"WE BELIEVE that in the best American tradition of helping others help themselves, now is the time to join with other countries in a historic pact for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of the world overcome AIDS and extreme poverty.

WE RECOGNIZE that a pact including such measures as fair trade, debt relief, fighting corruption and directing additional resources for basic needs - education, health, clean water, food, and care for orphans - would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the poorest countries, at a cost equal to just one percent more of the US budget.

WE COMMIT ourselves - one person, one voice, one vote at a time - to make a better, safer world for all."

The only thing I would add to the list is recognizing human trafficking and making a pact to direct resources that way too. But no one's asking me and I doubt the declaration will be re-written on my behalf.

Oh, back to the topic of language, Facebook word of the day. It's a showy and useless word in my opinion. And honestly, it just sounds really bad. Please take note of how it's pronounced. Can you imagine using this word in a sentence? Ummm. No.
Exactly where do these words come from? And who uses them?

Actually, maybe I'll use it someday and surprise you all after I get my gym membership back. :D

gimcrack \JIM-krak\, noun:
1. A showy but useless or worthless object; a gewgaw.
1. Tastelessly showy; cheap; gaudy.
Yet the set is more than a collection of pretty gimcracks.
-- Frank Rich, Hot Seat
In those cities most self-conscious about their claim to be part of English history, like Oxford or Bath, the shops where you could have bought a dozen nails, home-made cakes or had a suit run up, have shut down and been replaced with places selling teddy bears, T-shirts and gimcrack souvenirs.
-- Jeremy Paxman, The English: A Portrait of a People

Immigration and Paperwork

Actually, I wish I had this passport - good for any length of time anywhere in the world. No restrictions, just come and go as you please. Wouldn't it be great in a perfect world?

Yesterday, Nori and I went back to the immigration office so I could submit an appeal to my visa denial along with other documents and more money. I'll know in a month whether I've secured a one year residential visa or not. Regardless, I have a little insert serving as a temporary visa until the end of July. Atleast I'm "legal" for now.

My friend Lara is experiencing the same challenges in Lithuania. But her Nori is currently training for the Olympics in the states. Lara speaks broken Lithuanian, but immigration language is often so technical and she has no one there to help at the moment. Can you imagine? It's been almost impossible for Lara to fulfill their paperwork obligations and quite a hastle, seeing that all along she has only committed to living in Lithuania for a year. Lara's roommate, Austra Skujytė, would normally be of great help but the Olympics sort of got in the way. Austra won the silver medal in heptathlon in Athens 2004 for Lithuania and she's currently training for Beijing. So Lara is sort of "stuck" trying to figure things out. (Side note: I hope you'll follow Austra in the Heptathlon events which are scheduled for August 15th.) I can't imagine trying to overcome these language barriers without the help of Nori and Peter here in Budapest. Unless you've experienced this personally, you'll never know what immigration exhaustion is really like :D

Seeing that the goal of our work in Budapest is to one day hand off the work to nationals with very few Americans, it's a good thing actually. The best part about it -- besides knowing their own culture so well and speaking the language fluently -- is that Hungarians won't have these "bloody" visa issues! :D

Monday, April 28, 2008

Budapest this Fall

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

I didn't realize that General Patton was an Olympian until reading this quote and looking up some information on his life. How interesting! I'm always amazed at how complex and diverse we are as people. I guess it's just refreshing to read this from a man well known for his involvement with WWII but less known for his athletic prowess.

I'm beginning to look ahead as I train for the sprint tri in July. For me, 2008 is a race year and it's kind of exciting. After July, I've decided on two running races in Budapest. Even though running is my least favorite of the three events in tri, it's growing on me. I've never liked running. I just like the way I feel (healthy) after I do it.

So, the first is the Nike Budapest International half-marathon on September 7th. Next, the Budapest International Marathon on October 5th and within it is a "mini-marathon" - which is completely doable! Looking at the maps, both races start at Heroe's Square, right in my backyard. And both races end with a free ticket to the Szechenyi Baths! Now that I'm over my fear of the baths and have come to appreciate the fact that they aren't filled with old European men in speedos, that is FABULOUS news!

As I reviewed some websites on training for a half, I realized that I can actually start to add in longer runs once a week and keep myself consistently running the smaller distances suggested in training for a Sprint Tri. On one of the training sites, the question was posed --

Why do I want to complete a half marathon?

Basically it was suggested that you need to "dig down deep" and come up with an answer that will get you through when it's tough. Honestly, I'm not that deep. I don't know why really. I don't really "like" running. Free tickets to the baths? I guess when I think about it thoughtfully, I want to celebrate the healthy lifestyle and challenge myself physically. I have feet that can run and a healthy body. Not everyone does. Maybe that's my "down deep." And I guess I also want to be able to tell my kids someday that I ran a few International races in Budapest. It sure is a beautiful city!

Who would like to take vacation in September or October and join me?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Open Water Swim or .......Ice Bath???

Last night, I returned from Lake Balaton where I spent a few days working for an English training course that specifically trains Hungarian business professionals.

While I was there, I managed to squeeze in a swim Thursday morning and a run Friay morning. If you live or train near warm water (Bree in Hawaii) I'm sure you'll be thankful and inspired after reading this post. In fact, you might feel compelled to jump into your warm water and train!! I still can't believe I took an ice bath at Lake Balaton on Thursday!
30 minute swim - Thursday
Apparently open water swimming has a much different feel from training in a pool. That point became obvious immediately for me. It's easy to get freaked out, even by your own shadow in the mirky open waters. I am sure there were creatures below, but I couldn't see them because the water was so cloudy and for that I was thankful. I found out later, at breakfast time, that the lake is indeed filled with water snakes which are harmless. I don't think I would have ventured into the lake had I known that beforehand but in this situation, ignorance was ......almost bliss.

It's less than a three minute walk from the Hotel Aranyas to the lake. I brought my tri-suit and thought I'd use it for the first time. Other than swimming this past summer with my little brother to the Sand Harbor buoys at Lake Tahoe, I can't say that I've done any open water swim training. Yet strangely, I was optimistic.

Perhaps it was the sight of water which has always been medicinal for me. I used to love running at Redondo Beach in California. Just the sight of water does something for me! And if I had it my way, I'd live near the ocean and do nothing but write, drink coffee and exercise along the coast. I guess that's another topic for another day.

In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that I didn't want to be in the water completely alone. Luckily there were a few older gentlemen fishing and I had a captive audience. Honestly, that was the last thing I really wanted (a captive audience) and they were much more interested in catching fish anyways.

I moved far away from them so as not to disturb their peaceful morning fishing adventure. I knew they would probably rescue me if I needed rescuing since every man loves rescuing a damsel in distress, right gents? Unfortunately Lake Balaton turned out to be a lot more shallow than I imagined for atleast 75 meters from the shore so there would be no opportunity or need for rescuing today.

When I first got to the lake shore, I put my feet in and found it was colder than I expected. Actually, it was more like an ice bath than an actual swimming lake. I almost turned back to the hotel. Then, I looked at the beautiful sunrise cascading through the clouds, I looked at the water in front of me and I looked over at the fishermen.

My toes were numb already and I had only dipped them in briefly.
"Am I crazy?" I thought, as I looked back over the water. I dipped my toes in again optimistically but it felt like they were sitting in a freezer box. The temperature hadn't changed and I was back to my original thoughts.

"I must be crazy. Just put your sweatshirt on, Jen, and go back."

And then the fight began and indecision set in for atleast 5 minutes.

"Jump in." I thought. "You need this experience in open water. It's mental preparation. You have to be ready under every condition."

I argued with myself for atleast five minutes before finally jumping into the absolutely, incredibly freezing Lake Balaton water. It took me atleast a few minutes to catch my breath. A few times I thought I was going to get an attack of coronary thrombosis. I was in body shock at first.

Finally, like Dori on Finding Nemo I kept saying to myself
"Just keep swim-ming, just keep swim-ming."

And I managed to stay in that "bloody" water for 30 minutes.
(I've been around a few Brits the last few days so my English has been tainted.)

The water was shallow and honestly I felt as though the swim were more to help me get over the fear of open water swimming than actual distance and time training.

The weather was incredible Friday morning. One of the guys on our team from South Africa joined me on the run. We ran 28 minutes although I was scheduled for 20, which just seems so "weak" to me, but o.k. Like Robyn said a few posts ago, I need to concentrate on distance and speed and not worry about the time slots. It was great to run along Lake Balaton.

Prized possession

Quick comment:
One of the girls on campus can't make it tomorrow to Alexandria. She wanted to encourage me not to worry. At the end of her text she wrote something troubling, "Have fun and break a leg!" No!!! I don't want to break a leg. How could breaking a leg possibly be fun? She was just using her English expressions that she no doubt learned but I wonder who ever came up with that ridiculous saying which translated is supposed to mean you tried so hard you broke your leg. Injuries suck! I'm trying to finish a sprint tri but "NO breaking legs here, please. :D" He he.

I love this image!

I'm using it in my power point tomorrow along with this scripture in James 1:18

"And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession."

Creative Design

Tomorrow at Alexandria Bookstore I will give the second half of this discussion on the topic -- Pop-culture and self-image. I found this you tube clip and I'm going to actually show it to introduce the final point. "Ultimately" is misspelled in the clip but I hope it doesn't take away from the content. I don't know how to correct the misspelled word but hopefully it will be minor.

Basically, the message is which mirror are you looking into for self-definition and is it lying to you?
I propose that there are three main mirrors:
1) the mirror of pop-culture/the world
2) the mirror of self-judgment
3) the mirror of God's word/the Bible

I'm getting inspired and excited. I hope the message comes across tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm going to focus on the third mirror with a brief review of the first two mirrors.

Thanks for your prayers. I appreciate them and I hope that people are helped and encouraged to think about the mirrors they are looking into for self-definition. I like the phrase in the You Tube clip --

"We can change our outward appearance, but can anything we ever do really change who we are?"

Maybe we will all choose to look more to our creator and ask for His involvement and His purpose in our lives. This will change who we are. He's the one who designed us uniquely and with a specific idea in mind. He owns the owners manual. I hope more of us will consult Him about His intentions!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This morning's workout

I'm loving the Garmin watch and all it's cool features. Sometime soon I'm going to try the training assistant again. I tried it once and it kicked my butt so I turned it off half way through that workout last week! I think I set the goal too high so maybe that's why I was so discouraged. Oh well. I'll try again soon against this "virtual" training partner since Nona went back to the states and most of the girls I run with are not doing it to train for an event.

This morning I biked 6.73 miles at 10.9 miles an hour for 37:07 minutes. For some reason, my legs felt jello-y. Starting next week I'm going to be more determined about strength training. Besides sqauts and lunges, which I never consistently do, I'm kind of clueless as to what you can do at home for your legs. I don't have a gym membership anymore so I have to make do at home.
Last night I went to the immigration office with Nori and found out that my visa was denied -- that I need to pay more money and submit another letter and hopefully then I will be accepted for a one year residential visa. My friend Lara in Lithuania is going through the same thing, even though she's Lithuanian and her parents moved to the states before she was born. There's another guy I know who lives in the Philippines who also has had visa issues and he's a pro-basketball player. Crazy! The first year I lived here there was no problem getting a teaching visa with the school. This second year it's been one application after another to try and get a residential visa. I'm hopeful it will work out. If not, my dad's dream comes true and I'll be home for a summer visit.
My papa called last night just as I was thinking about him and my mom. They celebrated 38 years of marriage on April 18th. He's doing good but has to go in for some health things so I'm praying for him. It was really good to talk to him and, of course, he wanted to know when I'm coming home. I actually want to write a whole blog about how thankful I am for my dad but I don't have time for it now so when I get back, be prepared for a long and sappy post about my dad and other faithful men like him!!

Have a great week! I'll catch up with you on the weekend. :D

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lake Balaton

When I got home tonight at 7 pm I was exhausted and it was raining outside. On the bus ride home, I kept thinking maybe it would be fun to ride the bike in the rain. The 35 minute bike ride was actually scheduled for tomorrow but since I leave for Lake Balaton I was thinking I'd get it in today instead. Didn't happen. I pulled out the Pilates DVD and I'm planning to get something in before bedtime. But, I'm still packing, finishing emails, cleaning my house, talking to my friend Lara in Lithuania about life in Eastern Europe, and yep. I'm all over the map, par usual before leaving for a few days.
I started packing a bit last night for Lake Balaton. Included is my tri-suit and flippers. I'm going to open water swim while I'm there, even though I'll have to get up super early to do it.

Excited about seeing the lake and getting a run in there too. Oh yeah, and of course I'm excited to be teaching conversational english in an advanced group of business professionals in Hungary. I always feel a bit intimidated in these settings. I'm a conversationalist for sure, but sometimes I'm not quite as knowledgeable as I'd like to be on a variety of topics. I'll be checking up on all the latest Hungarian, U.S. and world news before I go.

I'll be traveling with two older British women who are driving us. They are hilarious with very distinct and proper British accents. Love it.

My plan was to get the scheduled 35 minute bike in before staff meeting and campus outings today but it didn't happen. I will be logging a bike ride in the evening! I won't be posting until the weekend, but I hope the sun is shining in your part of the world as it is here and I hope you get a chance to enjoy your week, whatever you're doing! :D

Chimera what?

When we were in Frankfurt, I met Aris, a Greek brotha' from anotha' motha'. :D This guy was hilarious. He quotes almost the entire film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I thought of "da Greek" this morning.

Chimera what? Where do these words come from? Oh, it comes from da Greeek!!!I'm a native English speaker and I've never even heard of this word. I don't like this word. I think this word is stupid. Really. I stumbled upon it while checking facebook's application and the....

Word of the Day for Monday, April 21, 2008

chimera \ky-MIR-uh\, noun:
1. (Capitalized) A fire-breathing she-monster represented as having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
2. Any imaginary monster made up of grotesquely incongruous parts.
3. An illusion or mental fabrication; a grotesque product of the imagination.
4. An individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution, produced as a result of organ transplant, grafting, or genetic engineering.

Asa Whitney, with no previous experience and having nothing but his faith and self-assurance to tell him he was not pursuing a chimera, began to outline how he would get a railroad across the vast, uninhabited middle of the American continent to the Pacific shores, where the lure of Asia beckoned, within reach.
-- David Haward Bain, Empire Express

She seems to spend most of the book sobbing, throwing up and generally marinating in a stew of self-absorption while searching fruitlessly for that chimera, her true self, inexpertly aided by astrologers and new-age therapists.
-- "Cutting through fantasies to crazy life", USA Today, December 2, 1999

These "chimeras" can be created because of our power--derived from the recombinant DNA technology developed in the early 1970s--to move DNA from one species to another.
-- Bryan Appleyard, Brave New Worlds

Chimera comes from Latin chimaera, from Greek chimaira "she-goat, chimera."


I don't think I'll be using this word in my conversations anytime soon.

Monday, April 21, 2008

workouts scheduled

At 5:55 am the alarm when off but I actually got out of bed around 6:15 am. My goal was to find another thermal bath house/swimming pool on the Buda side called Lukács Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda. It's cheaper and apparently had a 50 meter pool. Unfortunately, it's located about 20 minutes away from my house but the cool part is I get to cross the Margaret Island bridge which connects Buda and Pest over the Danube River and it's BEAUTIFUL in the morning! You can see Parlaiment and the Castle District.

When I got to Lukacs Bathhouse it was a bit confusing. All the local elderly folk know exactly what to do and are so cute.

I just followed a lady in her 70's to find the swimming pool. Then I realized I forgot a swimming cap. Darn it! They are brutal here when it comes to swimming without a cap. Last year I was yelled at by a lady when I, for the first time, entered the pool without a swim cap! You would have thought I just murdered her dog or something. So, I was on a hunt for a swim cap and finally ended up being led to a "lost and found" type room where the lady made me pay 800 FT (about $4) for a used, stretched out hair cap. I came all that way so I wasn't about to go home and call it a day! A strong reminder to always remember the hair cap. :D

The pool was not 50 meters, but that's ok. According to the schedule I'm using, my swim for today was 20 minutes, but I also had to make up 15 minutes from last week. Everyone was swimming all over the place in the first pool I entered. It was crazy. No real lanes and lots and lots of elderly leisurely swimming. I think it's great, but it just wasn't the tempo I was going for :D So, I moved to the other pool which was quite a bit colder. I was able to knock out laps and time with very little interference. At one point a lady got into the water and said in Hungarian, "You were fast!" (I thought to myself, anything that's moving in these waters is going to be perceived as fast because most everyone is taking their time to enjoy the pool.) Then, I tried to say to her "I'm learning Hungarian. I understand only a little and I speak badly. But, I'm training for a triathlon. Did you understand that?" She said, "Yes." Then she got out of the water. That's one way to clear the pool!

The thermal baths are awesome. I spent only about 10 minutes there because I didn't have a lot of time. My shoulder is doing alright. It still feels sore so maybe next week I'll go see a doctor just to get an opinion on it. I'm able to swim so that's good. I also had a 25 minute run scheduled. So I got back to my flat and headed across the street for a run through the city park. It feels good to follow a training plan. I realized I like plans and organization when it comes to training. I guess it's the next best thing to having a coach!

Have a great week training everyone!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

downloading and new music....

I added a few new songs to the playlist. I mentioned one song a few blogs ago called "sweetly broken" by Jeremy Camp and one called "One sweet love" by Sarah Bareilles. I always get inspired by new music and I can never find enough of it. So if anyone is listening to new music they're enjoying, please pass the details on to *moah*.....

Oh, while we're on the topic of new music and things downloaded, I just found out you can download rental movies through I-tunes for what you would pay at Blockbusters or Hollywood video. How cool is that!! I guess it's a new feature since January. I'm so excited about that! Although, I went to download "Office Space" tonight for $2.99 because I've never seen that movie and so many people rave about it --- and, well, 2 hours later it's still downloading!!

When I was biking tonight, I thought about how I might download a few more podcasts so I can train my brain while I'm training my body. I like that "Intellectual Devotional" about the history of America or Ravi Zacharias will always do. I also like listening to a 2 minute podcast blurb called "Every Man's Battle". Even though I'm obviously not a man, I want to be more aware of the things that are tough for men and how they overcome to be amazing husbands, fathers, sons, and just plain men. I think I know what women go through and hopefully I can encourage ladies in my life to be all they were created to be but I'm not exactly an expert on men. So yeah. I always enjoy those podcasts too. :D

Critical Mass - Budapest

I started following a training plan for the sprint tri in July and today I was scheduled for a 45 minute bike ride. I also had a 15 minute swim to make up hanging over my head from earlier in the week. I decided I'd tag on the 15 minute swim to a 20 minute swim I have scheduled for tomorrow and that I'd just do the bike ride today. I ended up doing 59 minutes and a total of 11 miles.

The funniest part about my workout today is that for about two minutes on the ride home, I joined "Critical Mass" in making the statement that "bikers rule" as we took over a few main roads in Budapest. I forgot that today was "Critical Mass" day - a day the city sets aside for bikers to basically take over and make a strong point about biking as a form of transportation. It's really cool because you see families with their kids; small, medium and large Hungarians out for the ride. The ride starts at the city center and ends at the city park near Hero's Square, just outside my front door. I've always ended up outside biking whenever they have their main event, but never quite joined them.

Here's a small you tube clip from last year's event. (Oh, I was THERE on this trail today! Funny)

Again, as I stepped outside my door and saw the massive trail of bikers going into the city park, I was tempted to go with them, but I had a trail in mind for today and the Critical Mass bunch are definitely leisurely riders. It's not really conducive to training. :D I felt like a fish swimming up stream as I headed to the Danube river while everyone else was going in the opposite direction. I pushed myself on 1/3 of the ride and the rest of it I did at a steady pace.

On the ride home, I joined the critical mass for about two minutes, which was kind of fun....I felt like a renegade sort of "sneaking in" to the event...he he. It was way too slow and leisurely and at this point I was thinking about the greek salad and pasta pesto waiting for me at home. But a fun adventure nonetheless. I wish I would have had my camera! That would have been cool. Well, the event is ending now in the city park and I can still hear horns blowing to celebrate the biking community.

To all fellow bikers who use biking as a form of transportation, you have a critical mass in Hungary who also support your aims.

Friday, April 18, 2008

village girl comes to town....

My former roommate, Anna, called me today and wanted to see if she could crash at my flat for the night. No explanation needed but she was going to be visiting a co-worker at a hospital nearby and with public transport not operating, it would mean she would have to hail a cab home. We haven't hung out since Christmas time, if you can believe that -- so it was nice to catch up.

I love spending time with "village girl". She makes me laugh - a lot. I'm proud of her but she's such a show off. She got her name because she loves to mix it with the locals, completely immersing herself in the culture. It's awesome, actually! She's going to live in a village for two weeks this time so she can master the language. She said, "You could go with me but we'd probably be in different groups" and then she busts out laughing because we both know I've been avoiding my Hungarian teacher. I'm mad at myself for letting it go this long but not mad enough to call Gabi . At the same time, I keep justifying my decision that I won't be living in Hungary forever. Yet I wrestle with "shouldn't I learn the language while I'm here?" It's a tough one in my situation as everything I do is centered around English and everyone wants to practice their English. So I'm in a different situation than Anna who is surrounded by language situations in a Hungarian school every day.

** same spot, same table, same everything pretty much **

So, Anna and I met at Hero's Square and walked to our old neighborhood to eat dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, Taj Mahal, on the corner of our old street. The funny thing is the last time we did something together it was in December and we went to the Taj Mahal and we sat at the exact same table. I ordered the exact same thing because why change something that works for you!? So tonight after a delicious, spicy, incredibly filling meal we walked back to my flat which took about 20 minutes. Great conversations about life, God, guys and living in Hungary as Americans. So thankful for Anna, the village girl!
Today I ran 2 miles at 20 minutes through Hero's Square. I'm feeling rather "non-stellar" these days, but the run was part of a 3 month training schedule. I'm going to try and get in all the swims, bikes and runs suggested on this training plan and hope for the best in July.

Another day in Budapest

Today in Budapest we are experiencing another 24 hour public transportation strike. School principals had discretion whether to cancel school for the day. Students from the school in Ujpest travel over an hour on public so it's canceled. Well, today, unless I want to pay for a cab, I'll be walking or biking everywhere. I hope the unions and workers get a better end of the deal through this strike. Proposed service cuts and lay-offs would be tough on thousands of workers. Unfortunately, resolution doesn't sound like it will happen anytime soon.

Yesterday I got in the pool for 30 minutes and swam with only 10 second breathers here and there. It was the first time in almost two months. If this were not exciting enough, the location for the swim was incredibly interesting! Széchenyi Gyógyfürdő is the largest medicinal thermal bath house in Europe and includes a 50 meter heated pool. The place is a hot spot for tourists but it's only 5 minutes walking distance from my flat.

I finally got over my fear of going to a thermal bath house and decided to swim here so that afterwards, I could enjoy the thermal baths. I had a free day, so why not? What an experience! In Nevada, my parents have a membership to Wally's Hot Springs. When I'm home I get to enjoy those hot spring waters and it's a beautiful location. I have NO problem jumping into hot spring waters in that setting. But here in Budapest, for the past 1.5 years I've had this idea about thermal bath houses with old, strange men sitting around in European speedos that was completely repulsive to me and I just couldn't get over it until yesterday. Friends have tried to get me to go and I've held my ground. But something broke and I was ready for this adventure. I was absolutely, pleasantly surprised! When my brother's girlfriend comes next month, I will definitely get her to enjoy it. It was amazing. It felt GREAT to get in the water. I forgot to count laps but it was a 50 meter pool and I know I did atleast 15 laps or about 750 meters without stopping, though I was aware of my shoulder the entire time.

I don't know that I will be going there regularly. It's quite expensive and not a place conducive to swim training but nonetheless, as I was swimming laps, I thought "God, thank you for this time in my life!"

How amazing to live five minutes from the largest thermal bath house in Europe and I'm just now discovering it! Can you imagine that they also have a medical hospital which uses the medicinal property of the waters located on site too. If you ever travel to Budapest, it's a must see/must do experience.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Victor's Russian Experiences....

Kriszta (the Let's Talk coordinator) requested that I come next week to an advanced training at Lake Balaton instead of this week if it wasn't too inconvenient. This means that where I cleared my schedule to go this week, I've now got some time to get organized with other things. I got to sleep in until 9:30 am this morning and have the day to do things. Woo hoo! I'm not complaining. It's nice.
Last night I met Ela and Nona at Ela's flat for a last goodbye. Nona will go back to New York and Ela will return to Warsaw this weekend. Near the end of the night, Ela's landlord, Victor, came by for a drink. He and his pregnant girlfriend live across the building and apparently stop in quite frequently at Ela's place. Somehow we got to talking about his experiences when he was a student in Moscow. We were teasing him that maybe he is former KGB because his stories were a little outlandish.

For example, while he was a student, there was no food on the streets in Moscow but he realized that he could cut down wood near Siberia, and bring it back to Hungary to sell the firewood in exchange for food, wine, and other consumables. A businessman in the making, he would then bring the consumables back to Moscow, making a decent living as a college student. It sounds like something out of a book or a movie. Apparently, it became quite lucrative so he rented a large working van and loaded it up with wood. One night he and his girlfriend were driving the wood back to Hungary through Belarussia (a country between Poland and Russia) but got really tired and pulled over in a parking lot to sleep. About an hour or so later, a guy tapped on the window with a club and stick and said, "You're going to want to give me money because this is my parking lot." And Victor said, "Why?" And the guy said, "Because look around you." When he did, there were 20 guys with clubs. So, Victor gave him the money and said, "Can we go back to sleep now?" The guy said, "You gave me this money so easily? You must have more. I want double." So Victor said to us "I was a novice then, so I gave it to him." But later he went to the police and because the truck he was using had Hungarian diplomats plates still on the car and the documents in the car, the police took Victor back to the parking lot to get his money back. (Sounds a little fishy to me). The police went back to the area with masks, full protection and basically confronted the guy for the money back. Instead of arresting the guy the police said to the guy, "I thought you were only harassing locals. This is a Hungarian diplomat!"

Man, this guy's life is better than Alias or 24.

After listening to his interesting stories for quite awhile, something came up about the Passion movie that Mel Gibson made years ago. Victor was basically saying it was a really shoddy movie -- bloody and pointless and the slow motion scenes where they hammer the nails into Jesus' hands was ridiculous. He went on and on about it. I could care less about defending the movie, but I thought since he was so engrossed in his comments, I would mentioned that it's not like other blood and guts movies with senseless violence but that for Christ followers, the crucifixion is a major part of Christian faith. It's basically the life that Christ lived and demonstrated to us and then this one bloody act that brought about a new way of living for humanity. Without the death and then the subsequent rising from the dead that Christians believe is true, our faith is nothing. Jesus would just be relegated to another "good man" or "prophet." Ela brought up the point that this movie probably wanted to get the viewer in touch with how brutal a crucifixion actually is since its so far removed from our life and our forms of punishment today. I thought that was probably a good point.

All of this brought me back this morning to some random thoughts.

First, Victor must be former KGB or mafia. I wouldn't be surprised. He invited us to a party on his "island" next weekend located about an hour or so away from Budapest. Who has an island of their own?? OK, some people do obviously. Oh, and he made sure to tell us that he built it himself. He owns property all over and he just sold his "casino" in Romania. Sounds a little mafioso to me. If nothing else, his life would definitely make an interesting main character in a movie or book.

Second, when it comes to my faith in Christ, lots of people think it's utter foolishness to believe that somehow one man could, would or even should be crucified for the rest of the world. I am OK with being looked upon as foolish. Knowing Christ and the power of His love and faithfulness to me all these years is the essence of who I am. It's the substance of my being. There was no harm taken and no harm done by our discussions last night. I just find it so interesting that someone so incredible, so amazing in my life can be relegated to a cuss word or that .... something as significant as his death is laughed at through the guise of a "bad movie." Again, I'm not defending the movie quality. But this man. This mystery. He's incredible and incredibly worth investigating and giving your whole life to.

Third, I haven't listened to Vineyard Worship Music in a LONG time. But I just downloaded "Sweetly Broken" from their More Than Ever: Live from the Rockies CD and it's all about the cross. I'm kind of "over" their style of worship, but a song called "Sweetly Broken" knocks it out of the park for me! I'm enjoying it this morning and reveling in my foolishness. I will be a fool for Him forever. He is an amazing God. Thank you Jesus for being who you are.

"Sweetly Broken"
To the cross I look, to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled


In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

indoor biking too....?

Well, I may have found a cheap bike in Budapest bringing me to a crossroad of whether to actually purchase it or not. Part of my dilemma is realizing whatever I buy here in Europe, I have to either sell, give away or get back to the states whenever I return. So, that being said, less stuff is better at the end of the day. And I have been accused (thanks Gina.....) of never really living up to the minimalist tendencies I'M SURE exist inside of me.

My next dilemma is this. There's the really cool indoor biking option that someone has invented as an indoor trainer for days like yesterday when it was pouring rain outside but you still want to bike. I found two styles of indoor trainers. There may be more.

So, I was looking at the following:
The Cycle Ops AL roller

Or the Blackburn Trackstand.

If you have any suggestions or comparisons on the two or if you know of something as an option, I'd really appreciate your input. Thanks. Can you tell that I'm leaning towards "I'd really like to get one of these indoor things and start using it with a cheap bike?"


Americans give their opinion on self-image behind creature comforts. :D

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Swifter, Higher, Stronger

The Olympic motto is "Swifter, Higher, Stronger" and was borrowed from a French priest who used sports as an educational tool with his students. I love the Olympics and what it stands for -- doing and being your best. This year there is a lot of buzz about no-doping policies and the increase in monitoring that. There's also a lot of buzz over the location, which I wanted to talk about below.

First, let me say that with the Olympic games just a little over 100 days away, I'm getting excited. Last month the torch was lit in Greece and before the Olympic opening ceremony, the torch will pass through five continents and stop in 23 cities around the world. On August 8th, the torch will finally be seen in Beijing. This is better than Amazing Race!

I get so inspired by the Olympics. Yet this year there is a lot of controversy around the location. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about the host country being China. On the one hand, I think it can be a positive historical event in the life of this nation. On the other hand, I personally know people who have or currently are being persecuted in China for their faith. Human rights issues are real there and it doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon in light of events taking place in Tibet the last few weeks. So why should the world help support an economy that is actively violating human rights? Or will it actually change things in this nation to perhaps see a better way when people from all over the world come and bring their cultures with them?

In the 1972 Olympics, there was an event that took place, if I remember correctly from a movie I watched, where all of the Israeli Olympic athletes were murdered. So senseless, so brutal. I remember the coach reminded the US team that the reason why Olympic events were so powerful -- because incredible athletes are gathered from all over the world and spread a positive message about discipline and attaining goals without the use of force or violence.

In Hungary, there is a very unique part of their history centered around the Olympics. In 1956 Hungary had an incredible water polo team. In the middle of training for the Olympic events in Australia, the revolution against the Soviet Union broke out and the athletes weren't sure if they were going to get to compete. Finally, news came that they would indeed go to the Olympics. Once they were there, in the semi-final round, Hungary was pitted against the Soviet Union in what's been called the bloodiest water polo match. It was ironic that they played one another in the water. And what happened in that match was unfortunate as one of the Russian players pummeled a Hungarian and there was blood in the water. Quite descriptive of what was taking place in their nation on a political level.

Anyways, when it comes to Olympics and politics, it's a tough one. Yes, I think it's absolutely right to protest the events taking place in Tibet and in China because they are just plain wrong. Yet, I've got a lot of questions. First, should we be bothered that Beijing is hosting the Summer events? I mean, does it matter that the host city and nation actually endorses and uses violence and force against its law abiding citizens? My gut reaction - yes, we should be bothered and yes it matters. Second, should we mix politics with sports in this way or keep them separate? My gut reaction - nothing is truly separated in this world. All of it touches each other.

All I know is that I'm inspired by athletes in the Olympics and at the same time, I'm inspired by those who care enough about human rights to be a voice. It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.

There's a part of me that wishes I could go to China and see some of the Olympics this year-- specifically Triathlon. And there's another part of me that thinks about my friends and people who are suffering in China because they are Christ-followers. That sucks! And something should be done. It's been 17 years since the bloody democratic revolution in Tianamen Square from China's best and brightest students. I don't know. That makes me angry that people continue to suffer there and we, as a global community, haven't done more to be a voice for those who don't have one. What are some ways to be a voice practically from around the world? I'm curious.

Well, political things aside, in 2012 the Summer Olympics will be held in London, and God-willing, wherever I am, I'd like to get back to London then and see some of the eevents. Some of the rowing events will actually take place at Eton college where I'll be doing the Timex Tri in July. So this July may actually be the closest I come to the Olympics in more ways than one!

"Good morning Budapest"

It was great to wake up in my own bed in Budapest! I was so exhausted last night, I went to bed around 10 pm. After a week spent outside the city and traveling into the city for work, I'm ready to start the new week only a few minutes away from everything here. I said good-bye to the family last night. Here's a picture from last Fall when we were in Krakow. I'm actually going to miss their day to day schedules. Their bickering made me laugh and reminded me of growing up with my siblings. Things that really didn't matter but were worth picking a small fight about usually happened in the morning on the way to school or after school. I'll miss the chaos of family life here just outside the city. It's been fun and it's been real. It's been real fun. :D
On Sunday at Alexandria Bookstore we had our church service in the coffee lounge/shop. Jeff asked me awhile ago if I would talk in April at Alexandria. Talking has never been a problem in my family. I don't know, could be me and my opinion on the matter but ask anyone in our family and I'm sure they won't be at a loss for words. He asked me to talk on pop-culture, self-image and God's thoughts towards us. It was a bit odd to realize the message was being heard throughout a Hungarian bookstore. Bruce helped MC the Q & A time at the end. Someone took a few blurry pics, so here you go.

There were a few people who would wander in, sit for awhile to listen and wander out. The primary points of the discussion was that most of us are looking into one of three mirrors to define who we are-- the mirror of pop-culture, the mirror of self-judgment or the mirror of God's word and depending on which mirror you stand in front of, you may be basing your identity on things that are not anchored in reality. I tried to keep it inclusive for guys too. I was surprised to find while researching the topic that there's actually been a rise of anorexia among men. Surprising, I know. Also, magazines like "Men's Heath" and "Muscle and Fitness" have encouraged an increase in steroid use with men based on the specific pressures they may feel to be fit or "buffed".

I enjoyed the Q and A time as it brought out different elements of the discussion. In two weeks, I will talk on the final part of the topic -- the mirror of God's word and what happens when you look into that mirror to define you. Personally, I have to be reminded of these truths here in Eastern Europe where the women are sooo beautiful, dressing to the hilt just to go to the post office. It's quite obvious they are dressing to attract the attention of ANY man and ALL men. And the men -- well, eye boundaries do not exist. Most men don't reaize they are playing into the hands of these women who want exactly what they are giving -- they want it but don't want it.

They say that body language is about 70% of communication. A lot of the guys here in Budapest are checking out every girl who comes on the metro, bus or tram. A lot of girls are communicating "Look at me." You'd be surprised what I've seen on the streets of Budapest. The worst is when guys are holding and hugging their girlfriends, but still blatantly and openly checking out the girls coming on the tram. YUCK! So, you can see why so many girls are insecure. They want to be the only one in the story. I'll just speak for myself but probably for others too -- it gets old. It's like, come on guys! All I have to say about that is there is something about guarding your eye gaze that actually protects your own soul too, I think. I know that's true for me. When guys are staring at you and you have no place to go on the bus.....then staring at the next girl and the next girl, obviously and openly and sometimes even lustfully, it's like....enough already! It's in those moments that "people watching" (one of my favorite pastimes) gets old and I choose to look out the window. Get me out of this trap!

All that to say, the topic of looking into mirrors -- where you get your identity and what you base your worth on is a desperately needed topic here. They say that when you speak on something a lot of times you are also re-learning whatever it is you're teaching. I think that's true.I have needed this reminder too so it's been good.One of the girls (Oxana) came up to me after Sunday and said, "We should talk about this every week." Well, that would get old, but seriously. I was glad to see a few girls I invited from the university at Alexandria. I think they enjoyed it and church in this setting was not "weird." I like meeting at Alexandria for church. It's so unconventional. I love the fact that anyone can wander in and it's in a bookstore so it's not like you're going to some strange church building. Anyways, it's been an adventure for sure.

Have a great week everyone!

Monday, April 14, 2008

I-pod shuffle

I'm still not really sure how this song got on my I-pod. Maybe I downloaded it off I-tunes and forgot??? But last night coming back into the city, Daniel Doss Band's song called "Great God" was on shuffle. I just added it to my blogspot playlist so check it out! I was enjoying it on the ride home!
Time to get back to a serious training schedule. Less than 90 days and I'm feeling a bit of the pressure that I'm not where I need to be. Last week I had a few brick workouts with running and biking. I enjoyed running in the family's neighborhood. There were horses, long trails and new neighborhoods.

I took my new Nike Free shoes (thanks Noel) but I can see how they won't be good for long runs. My feet did fine with a 4 mile run but it's true. There really isn't enough padding for longer runs. I'm planning to take my swim stuff to Lake Balaton for "Let's Talk" to try and do an open water swim. Nori said it's going to be really cold still since it's April, but nothing can be as cold as the mountain water from Lake Tahoe in the spring! I think I'll survive. I hope my arm does well. I jerked it on the ride home last night holding onto a bus handle! Crazy bus drivers!

the home stretch and kids baseball

It's the last early morning with the kids. Their parents get back tonight. I go to Lake Balaton Wednesday through Friday for "Let's Talk" English Camp. So that's a bit abnormal. I'll take my swimming gear and venture into the Lake before the programs start in the morning so I can try and get an open water swim in. There's no place like home, as much as I like to mix it up with the best of them. So it's going to be great to sleep in my own bed for a few days.

Yesterday, Jefferson had a baseball game after church. This was Nori's first exposure to baseball. So, I was explaining the game and we were laughing as I remember what it was like to watch some sport you'd never seen before and see people get excited about something you barely understand. I think my first exposure was a game of Cricket and I was like, "What's the big deal?"

Anyways, it was a ton of fun for me to watch him play. He's a good pitcher. Yesterday though he had a rough time through some of the game with pitching and walked a few kids. They lost the game, but he kept a fairly good attitude and he had fun. I know he was bummed that he didn't win, but I was impressed by his good attitude. So that's cool. I think that's what matters with kids sports. Of course you always want to win but when kid's whole demeanor changes and they get "pissy" or get an attitude, I just think that's not what sports are about for kids. Or is it? It should be enjoyable and help cultivate discipline. Of course you want to see them win too...but I will never be that nazi parent who goes over the edge about my child's performance. I'm not going to try to fulfill childhood dreams through my kids. My random thoughts on kids sports.

This weekend Jefferson wanted me to see this comedian who rips on kids baseball. So, we watched a few You Tube videos this weekend. The guy is funny, I think. He's also got one on the spelling bee. I posted that one too.

Hope you enjoy Brian Reagan.



Friday, April 11, 2008

another moment....birthday chaos

Charlotte was invited to Yong Bin's birthday party. All week long she's been in a dilemma whether to go to the party or have a friend over after school. Charlotte decided she would go to the party because she could see her friend tonight at the Dodgeball Tournament. The family goes to an International school mixing it up with students from all over the world. It's really cool.

The invitation was a bit confusing so I called the mom but couldn't reach her. It said to meet at the school but wasn't really clear if the kids would be returned to the school. I think parents assumed it would be walking distance to Yong Bin's house. "Everyone knows Yong Bin walks home from school." says Charlotte.

So when I get to the school at 12 pm because it's a half day, I give Charlotte Yong Bin's present and the card she made for him last night. Yong Bin's dad is there with a Ford Escort and he's piling 8-10 kids into the Ford.....Um, yeah. And the kids are excited! And dad looks a bit.....overwhelmed....And the kids are talking over one another excitedly! Um yeah...It was getting real squishy in there.

So I offered (See the need, take the lead??) to follow him with half the kids. I was just as surprised as Charlotte when we piled into the van. Charlotte told two of her friends "Hey, this is my car! And this is our friend Jen. She's staying with us this week." and then at the last minute, a teacher brings another little girl and says, "Oh Natalie is going too..." As if it were planned that I would be taking the kids to Yong Bin's party. So I said, "OK, Natalie, just take the front seat."

"Awwweee, not fair!" I hear chiming in perfect unison from the backseat. All three girls had front seat envy.
"I never get to sit up front."
"In all my years, I've never got to sit up front! Hmh!"
"Yeah, my mom never lets me sit up front."

(I wasn't about to say it's probably because there are safety laws. What would they think of Yong Bin's dad?)

At this point, Yong Bin's dad is driving away and I must follow with half the birthday party. No time to be road safe, but apparently that wasn't a problem to begin with......:D

I'm sure Natalie's parents would be happy to know that atleast she's in the front seat of the van and not crammed into the Ford. I don't think Yong Bins parents expected that many kids. Funny!

the force

One of my co-workers is called tweedapedia because he's a walking knowledge bank. I envy people like that. They read, hear, research details and then actually remember random facts. I read, research and hear details and then think in generalities, not specifics. I usually can't remember all the details......Am I the only one or have you ever tried to tell a joke and you mix up the details so everyone's just looking at you like...huh? :D After botching a joke I usually think well, it was funny to me!!!! I've done it with blond jokes. Oh well. You live and learn. Or you just live.....
Maybe I'm feeling a bit inadequate from last night when I was called upon to help a few of the kids with homework. Tasks included math and english. My poor mother. I remember how hard she tried with all of us but no parent is handed a PhD in all the subjects before parenting. Man it's rough. Then again, your called upon to sharpen skills and re-learn things along the way.

The youngest of the 5 kids in the house is a FORCE to be reckoned with! Her mom said in her final instructions to me, "If you don't know what's going on, just ask Charlotte. She can tell you." We both understood what this meant because this little girl is a powerhouse. She is 7 years old and bosses her 17 year old sister around! LOVE HER. "Charlotte, help your siblings with their homework!"
That was going to be my next plan.
Here's a picture of the FORCE. Love this little one.

Sometimes, even when I'm telling her the truth, she goes, "Nutta, Jen. Stop it." And then she swats me! "Nutta Jen. STOPPP it." **Swat**

"What? I'm telling you the truth." And then she has to be convinced. Can you tell she has older siblings who may tell her things just for the fun of it? Poor girl. It's tough being the youngest with the only one to pick on being the dog.
Before the dreaded homework hours, Jefferson, Charlotte and I went in the backyard to toss around the baseball. Jefferson is pitching for his league game on Sunday so he wanted to get in some practice pitching and throwing. He set up a target and he's pretty good! Anyways, we had fun along with Charlotte who caught a lot of pop-fly balls. I started to get the itch to play...It's been atleast 5 years since I was on a softball league in the states. Spring weather and baseball go so well together! Hope it stays sunny this weekend.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

If you were a dog.....

If you were a dog, which dog would you be?

Amber is the family dog here in the house where I'm "family-sitting". She's an old, yellow lab with the most amazing personality. I LOVE her ways. I think it's because she's older so she just is so relaxed. Her ears are so soft, she loves to hang around but is also content to do her thing too.

I am not one of THOSE people who knows dog types or cat types or plant types or flower types. I couldn't name most of them to save my life. I'm much more like "You know, the dog with spots" or "the dog that looks like a rat?" or the flower with a long green stem and it's white..." Ha! Well when Noel and Andre were visiting a few weeks ago, we were talking a lot about dogs. The question was posed,

"If you were a dog, what dog would you be?"

We agreed that I would be a labrador. I've always loved labs too so that's cool. I heard it said oftentimes when you look at a dog it will look like its owner. I've seen that a few times and it makes me laugh. I don't think it's always true, but it's definitely a theory worth pursuing. And while we are on the topic of dogs, I just have to give my two sense worth. I'm sorry if you have a tiny dog, but to me, I think the saying applies here...."Go big or go home." Why get a dog if it's more like another animal, say a rat? I'm sorry if this is offensive because I'm sure if you have a tiny dog you probably love it. But in my mind, a dog is a dog ....medium to big sized dog. And that's all I have to say about that!

So, Amber, the family dog is a lab. Here's what I read about the lab, which made me like this type of dog more and made me realize that if I were a dog, I might actually be a lab.

"a versatile working dog, able to rescue drifting nets, bring back shot waterfowl, and haul the catch to market in jog carts....In this one breed are combined a smattering of all the attributes needed in a family dog for an active household. He is kind to children, friendly to most people and other animals, energetic, easy-to-train, anxious to please, fun to teach tricks and games, and an easy-keeper. He'll play fetch for hours or lie quietly on the family room floor, content to serve as a pillow for a toddler. Well-bred Labs have a stable temperament suitable for work as a guide dog for the blind, an assistance dog for a handicapped person, or a sniffer dog for contraband at airports and border checkpoints. And he is a fine dog for those interested in competition events such as obedience, agility, rally, or hunting tests or trials. Although the Lab is the epitome of family dogs, he needs a fairly active household to satisfy his need for exercise and work. Daily walks, romps in a fenced yard, and games of fetch keep his mind and body in shape. Unless these needs are satisfied, the Lab may become a wanderer, a digger, or a chewer. Discipline should be gentle - no screaming at the pup or smacking with a newspaper, as these reactions to misbehavior are counterproductive. Labs are generally eager to learn, so firm but gentle guidance and discipline pay off in a strong bond with family members. Older Labs enjoy the couch and the fire; if fed too much or not given enough exercise they will fatten up rather quickly.

So, if you were a dog, which dog would you be?

Last night at Bible Study we continued through an interactive topical discussion of "Who is God?" and the topic came up as God, the creator. We talked about being specifically designed and created for a purpose. There is a place in the Bible that talks about how we've been specifically designed and created as new creatures in Jesus to do good works. And then we started talking about Steve Hawkings, the intelligent Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, who holds a seat that Sir Isaac Newton once held. Hawkings actually has "Lou Gehrig's disease," a progressive deterioration of the central nervous system, but manages to communicate through incredible devices that hae been developed to help him.

Anyways, we talked about black holes and the theory of relativity and how Steve was still a student in the 60's, when he and another Mathematician developed mathematic proofs that if general relativity is true on the smallest scale, then the entire universe must have come from one singular event. We talked about how the Bible says that God spoke into the darkness and created -- something from nothing. Perhaps the big bang? And that His light continues to advance and hasn't stopped since He spoke, even as we barely understand "the speed of light" or "the speed of sound". Amazing. I was SO encouraged and inspired once again to realize that God holds my life in His hands, that He cares about the smallest details. We also talked about how we, as Christ followers can join God by echoing His truth and His love through our lives and in our world where we live. The power of God speaking one word to us can change our darkness too. Wow, encouraged and inspired. It was great!

This afternoon and evening I am on family duty and Nori will take my place at English club and Bible Study. I'm going to make chicken enchiladas and oatmeal butterscotch cookies for the family. One thing is sure. I may have the tendencies of a labrador dog, treating myself to chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal butterscotch and anything else that's tasty. No juicer here and I'm not complaining! So I need to get in enough exercise too. :D The family has a plethora of bikes, so I'm hopping on one this morning to get a good bike ride in. 93 days before the tri-event. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

First few days on shuffle....

First few days driving and shuffling four little lives and their schedules along with mine went off without a hitch. While driving last night I only got lost for a minute and little 7 yr old Charlotte was with me. We went to pick up her older sister from drama practice and I missed a turn. But Tuesday morning's crash course on how to get back and forth from school to the house in a minivan happened early, so I think I did well, all things considered. Thanks for your prayers :D

These are the random stops on the first few days of shuffle:

Whose doing what when? Check the schedule. Pizza money in Charlottes bag. Carpooling. Early morning choir practice. Let the dog out before you leave. Spelling words practice. Enough bread for lunch sandwiches AND garlic bread for spagetti tonight? Homework. Was the dog fed? Family life and dinner around the table. Drama practice. School project. Dodgeball tournament? Making chocolate chip cookies. Uno with 7 yr. old to keep her entertained while brother and sisters do homework. Breaking up "spits". Baseball practice. Breaking up "spats." Invitation to Friday's birthday party. Chores. Kids old enough to DO chores....beautiful.

This morning was an early morning. We were out of the house by 7:25 am. Whooosh! But after dropping them off, I had a few hours to chillax (read, sip coffee, exercise - I was able to run for 43 minutes) before jumping into the other schedule of high school and college english stuff and my last salsa lesson, which was a blast. I think I might continue in a few weeks. Nori covered the schedule on the "home front" this afternoon and evening while I was in the city. I got back to the house around 11:20 pm.

The weekend is going to be busy, but great. I think we can do this until Tuesday! Lots of kudos to all moms and dads who do this to some degree every day. :D

Monday, April 7, 2008

Running in the Rain

My sister, Noel gave me a brand new pair of Nike Free shoes that didn't fit her when she came to see me. Wow. Talk about being really thankful for misfits! I desperately needed new runners with little change to spare for purchasing thanks sis. You would think with these new trekkies I'd want to hit the pavement all the time. But the weather has been so yucky that I've had no desire. Well, before packing to go to Jeff and Ana's tonight, I decided I WOULD get a run in even if the weather was bad. I WOULD run even if I didn't FEEL like running.

20 minutes into the run and I hit a wall. Not sure what happened but usually I drink fresh OJ or eat a bit of a banana to jump start the run and I didn't do that this time. Maybe that was it or maybe it was the potato wedges I ate last night. Man they were good and I sure ate a lot of them :D

Well, after walking for about 5 minutes in the rain, I started talking to myself like "What are you doing, Jen? Get out there and get some mileage." So, I picked my feet up and started running again. The wind and the rain actually stopped and the sun came out briefly then it started to drizzle. Now that I'm back inside, it's pouring out there. Well, I put in 45 minutes but I'm embarrassed to give the mileage. Let's just say I pushed through and stayed out there, running in the rain when I would have MUCH rather been inside drinking coffee and checking emails. So, for this, I'm proud of myself.

I'm going to finish packing up a weeks worth of life to stay with Jeff and Ana's kids. They live about 45 minutes outside of Budapest, which means in addition to their early early morning schedules, I have to factor in extra travel time to and from appointments and meetings this week. Although I'm not looking forward to extra time on the buses and trams, I am glad to report that public transport is up and running again as of this afternoon. I've canceled my workouts scheduled with some of the girls at Margaret Island and Hero's Square this week just because it's going to be too complicated. So working out this week will be in a new neighborhood outside of Budapest. Looking forward, as always, to mixing it up.

Never stop exploring! Hope you have a great week.

Today in Budapest

Trade unions representing Hungary's public transportation workers in Budapest are in negotiations with BKV (public transport) as BKV is looking to decrease services city-wide by 10% in the near future. This means less tram, bus and metro options for people and lay-offs for workers. Workers and unions have been planning a strike for April 7th for awhile now. We shall see how long it lasts. BKV employs about 5,000 and over 3,000 of these workers are drivers. Unfortunately, some of the buses break down. It's not often, but there have been complaints. Last fall there was a strike too, so this is not new in Budapest. Just inconvenient. I do hope the BKV and unions can work something out.

Personally, I think the public transportation system here in Budapest is fabulous. For $45 a month, all my transport needs are covered. It sure beats what I would be paying in the states for car insurance and gas every month. Maybe by the afternoon things will be up and running again, but for now I'm biking or walking.

Yesterday afternoon I was so tired and so .....lazy! I didn't want to leave my flat, so I didn't. I guess I could have been out running or biking but I stayed inside, made homemade french fries from potato wedges and onions while reading through about half of the Bourne book. I got sucked into the drama for sure and didn't want to leave my comfy loft bed to venture outside into the cold weather.

Today is not looking any brighter as far as weather is concerned. I wanted to run this morning but it's been raining like crazy and doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon. But I'm thankful that today is the start of a new week. I will be running in Jeff and Ana's neighborhood. I'm not sure yet if I will have access to a bike. My arm is feeling really good so I hope to start swimming next week. Three months until show time. I hope the weather gets warmer here quick. I'm ready for sunshine around the clock.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Bourne Identity

So my sister brought over the first in Robert Ludlum's "Bourne" trilogy and I'm loving it. The major motion film productions of this book series are some of my favorites! I would also stick "The Italian Job" in that category.

It's thrilling to see how Matt Damon discovers his identity and all the crazy skills at his disposal -- like numb chuck skills -- oh, different movie. Anyways, this kind of action and suspense keeps me on the edge of my seat. I LOVE it. I'm only into the third chapter but I'm hooked. The book is much different from the film, but that's to be expected. I think it's rare nowadays that a film producer keeps to the book.

Normally I enjoy reading biographies, autobiographies, "how to" books or inspirational books of some sort. So it's quite surprising how much I'm really loving this book. I'm going to order the other two in the trilogy and have my brother's girlfriend bring them with her when she comes to visit me in May. I'm officially hooked.

Soccer moms

Last night we had an English Club socializer at Bruce's flat. We played the Cranium game "Hoopla" while eating pepperoni lovers Pizza Hut. Can I just say that I LOVE American pepperoni/salami? I remember the shock the first time I went to grab what looked like salami and found the taste to be OH SOOO different. But pepperoni pizza at Pizza Hut is what I'm talking about! Well, I digress.

Playing Hoopla was a lot of fun. I didn't realize how "American" some of the terms are until playing with internationals. Funny! One of the words was "soccer mom" and Luca had to draw the word. She did a good job.

Speaking of soccer moms, a soccer mom is exactly what I'm gonna be this week, aka shuttle service. While Jeff and Ana are at the Eastern European Conference in Krakow, Nori and I are staying with their kids (and their dog Amber) to make sure everything keeps running well. So Monday night I will spend the night and go with them in the morning on their kids school route. Yes, it will be my first time driving a car in Budapest after almost 2 years. I'm a little nervous about that, but just praying that I'm wise as I drive and that I'm protected from all harm as there are some crazy Hungarian drivers!;D

I'm sure it's going to be a blast. It's fun to "play house" and get the reality check that the grass isn't greener on the other side. My favorite saying "The grass is green where you water it." One day I'll be driving my kids around and I'm sure the novelty of it will just come down to being "soccer mom" but until then I'll enjoy other people's kids and their schedules and then graciously hand it back to them when they return. I just hope Nori and I can juggle everything because we still have a normal schedule too.

Jeff and Ana have two high school girls, a boy in middle school and one of my favorite little girls in Kindergarten. Anyways, everything from drum lessons, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball, fundraisers, babysitting jobs and sleepovers. I think of that very old baseball comedy "Who is on 1st", "No, What's on 1st, Who's on 2nd". Or something like that.....Used to make my dad laugh. All I know is I can foresee that Nori and I will be talking in circles in our conversations this week, trying to keep track of everyone. Maybe not, but then again maybe. We're gonna have some fun! I'm hoping all goes well-- no accidents or injuries and just lots of fun!

Kudos to all soccer moms out there. :D

Friday, April 4, 2008

The old world part II

Although we actually drank Starbucks coffee while in Frankfurt, I had to get a picture of a lil' spot where they were serving up the Italian coffee phenom. We also drank Starbucks in Vienna. And can I say, who pays almost $10 for a cuppa Starbucks in Vienna? Never again. Never again.

A Venetian sunset.

The "streets" of Venice.

One of my favorite memories - getting "lost" in a Venetian park. We sat there for a few hours as the locals played with their kids. It wasn't entirely picture perfect I'm pretty sure the guys we had take the picture were doing a drug deal or making a green cigarette or something. We didn't let that stop us from enjoying a picture perfect day in Venice.

Pipe smokers

Let me just say that I'm not a pipe smoker and I never will be. I gave up smoking along time ago.

But on the last day in Budapest, these pictures were taken in a novelty shop near Vaci utca, a touristy part of Budapest. Andre, Noel and I were drawn in by their crafty display from the street of things including colorful clocks that were made in the form of firetrucks and unique, hand-crafted boxes and trinkets. In the back corner was a section full of pipes. Noel and I were posers on this one but it was a moment. :D

One of my favorite authors was a pipe smoker. Here's a few quotes from C.S.Lewis

Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.

Miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature.

I gave in, and admitted that God was God.

I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.

If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way."

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

So as you contemplate life this weekend, smoking a pipe and reading a good book, here's to your goals and dreams. May they not be "pipe" dreams! :D

This morning...

Lucca and I went running on Margaret Island this morning. We did 38 minutes once around the island. Lucca seems to think that she can only run half the island and then stop. So, we walked part of it at one point but I pressed her to keep running and we did. The island is about 3.5 miles around. (In the future, I want to work my way up to doing it 4 x around, the distance of a half-marathon) But that will take awhile.

I forgot we had a staff meeting today. Laura called about something else while we were running and said "Oh, getting a run in before your meeting, huh??" So glad she called! We don't normally meet on Fridays so after the run I hopped on the tram and made it just in time, albeit in sweaty clothes. I told Chris that I have to keep Jeff guessing so they can't quite figure me out. :D

Wearing sweats in public is just beginning to catch on over here. It's not the norm to go places in your workout clothes whereas in the states, you can go to the store in sweats and a t-shirt. But here, people barely wear sweats in public even when it's on Saturday and you just want to run to the store. Instead a trip to the post office will find the ladies dressed up in stiletto heals. Dressed to the hilt just to mail a letter. Oh well. By 12 pm I was still in my sweaty clothes but I got the chance to come home and shower before going out again.

I love the spring weather and I think MAYBE it's here to stay this Spring in Budapest although you never can tell. When the sun is out and shining on your back, birds are chirping, the crisp air keeps your mind alert, I find myself at my best and in the best state of mind as well. I love the sunshine!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Salsa lessons....

Last night after English club and Bible Study I went by metro to Keleti Train Station to meet Dori, a big group of Hungarian and American students and my dance partner, Kyle, for salsa lessons. Kyle is an American student doing a math internship here in Budapest until May. He reminds me of my little brother Jeremy. I'm so thankful that Kyle is like me and just having fun with it. At the same time, we are helping each other out with the moves and it's not weird.

Salsa is actually a lot of fun, but some of the moves are a bit too sensual for my taste when it comes to dancing with someone who is not your spouse. But Kyle has helped keep that awkwardness to a minimum and for that I'm thankful. I think if you were going to lessons with your spouse, it would be different. You'd feel a bit more liberty to be yourself. But in this context, I'm just learning salsa because I wanted to take dance lessons in 2008. And Kyle just happens to want to learn it too. I'm just glad he hasn't made it more awkward in those moments than it could have been.

I biked 10 miles in 53 minutes today. My arm is a bit sore and I have to balance the bike up and down the stairs on my left arm since my right one is still recovering. It makes me that much more thankful for good health.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

13 weeks to game time

I just looked at the calendar and realized I've got 13 weeks until the Sprint Tri in July. The only part I'm worried about is the swim with my shoulder. I need to get my arms and shoulder strong again and ready for it. I'm going to give myself another month before I venture into the swim training and I may go see a doctor soon if it doesn't continue to heal, but I do feel it's getting better.

I ran 40 minutes today with the new Garmin attachment and I'm loving it. GPS didn't pick up until half way through the run, so the pace and distance are off but I can't wait to use it in the future and actually see what I'm running and biking per mile. My goal is to increase 10% on the run each week getting up to one hour. On the fourth, eighth and twelfth week, I will pull back for rest and recovery.

I can't wait to track the biking miles too. I was thinking of biking tomorrow. (Chris is letting me use the bike still and I'm SOO happy about that!) My only problem is getting it down the stairs. It won't fit in the elevator and I used to carry it up and down the stairs with my other arm, the one that's not strong now. Well, I hope to figure it out and get on the bike too.
I miss my family. Time with my sister Noel was too short. So much can happen in just one week of life. I hate the fact that I'm missing out on things and I never want to have regrets either way. I know that when I do the things I believe I am supposed to do, I will not have any regrets in this life. I want to be a part of their lives more than I am now. It's hard from a distance. I know I made the choice to be in Budapest and I do feel as though I'm fulfilling things in my life that are meant to happen here. So I don't regret being here, I just wish both worlds could mesh. I especially feel it with my sister's kids. They change so much and that bothers me. I wish I were closer. Some people probably think, well then, just move back right now. My uncle once said to me, "What did we ever do to you that you would go so far away?" He's missing the point. It has nothing to do with that. For me, it's about living a purposeful life with the things that have been placed in my heart and nations have always been a part of that since I was in high school. I'm still asking God to reveal what that will look like in the future. Nations come to the U.S. too and there are many ways to get involved internationally. What I need is God's wisdom as to His next step. Yes, I make choices but God also directs me. I believe this. Anyways, I'm rambling now but the point is I try not to think about missing family and that part of this journey and just do what I'm supposed to do here. I know if I seek God first with all my heart, He will add all things to my life and it will be a blessing.