I'm An Alien, I'm A Legal Alien, I'm An American In Hungary

Today marks the end of my criminal life.  I'm no longer accidentally breaking the law.  Instead, I have a shiny new Residence Permit stamped in my passport.  Hungary decided I'm cool enough to stay here until July.
(Behind on the story?  Click here to read yesterday's post.)

Let me tell you how it happened.

This morning was the first day I left on a trip in the dark of night.  I was surprised how many people were out and about at the freezing hour of 5:30 A.M.  The Hungarian trains have heat, but the particular one I rode decided it didn't want to use it.  That made for a nice ride.  I stared out the window at the orange moon and wondered if it was warmer there.



An unknown Szeged building for your viewing pleasure.
 The sun was up by the time I arrived in Szeged, but it was still cold.  My school's picking up the tab for this little journey, and they instructed me to take a cab when I got there.  I'm very, very glad they did.

Yesterday, I learned that you sit next to a cab driver in Hungary, not in the back seat.  This is a great idea, because it makes conversation much easier.  I showed the driver the address of where I wanted to go.  It was a good thing I did, because his English was limited to three phrases (that he used a lot):
1. "Oh, Mama!" - Everytime he saw a girl, attractive or not.
2. "One, two.  One, two, three, four."  - Used to prove that he did, in fact, speak English.
3. "Don't panic." - Speaks for itself.  He said this 47 times during a five minute cab ride.

He took me right where I needed to go, plus he taught me Hungarian and German along the way.  It was money well spent.  I'll hunt this man down everytime I'm in Szeged.

Just like every government office, everyone had to take a number and wait.  Everyone, that is, except for me.  I skipped the line and went right in to see a woman who was expecting me.  Hungarians are very smart people, they know an important person when they see one.

I filled out some forms (in Hungarian), signed some forms (in Hungarian), gave her some forms (in Hungarian), and finally signed something with an English translation.  The translation had a grammatical error, and being a teacher, I almost crossed it out and corrected it.  Don't worry, I caught myself.  That could lead to translating and correcting every government document in the nation.  I'd need a much longer expiration date on my Permit.

A cool church.  Please tell me if you know the name!
While the lady went and made the actual sticker for my passport, I sat in the waiting room and waited.  It didn't take very long, but long enough to sell my soul again.  I had watched a guy march in the room with a bunch of papers, come out 30 seconds later to take a number (that he didn't even look at), and then march back in.  Clearly he's been here before - not a good sign.

A few minutes later, the same guy came out and said, "Does anybody speak English."  Sure, why not.  He was doing the same thing as me, but needed another witness on his form to verify where he lived.  The form was in, you guessed it, Hungarian.  After joking that it was a contract in which I would give him all my possessions, he explained what it really said (and said I could verify it with the people that worked there).

This situation made me create a new life rule.  Always help someone who's capable of making a joke after multiple trips to a government office.  Write that rule down.  Besides, what's one more Hungarian document to blindly sign?  Been there, done that.

We had a short discussion while I was doing it.  The usual - where are you from and why are you here?  He was a German studying at the University there.  He didn't have an opinion on the town, because he just arrived and hasn't had time to do anything. I figured it was the first and last time I'd ever see him.

When I was back in the room, the lady was putting the finishing touches on my Permit.  Suddenly, the German guy popped up behind me.  He handed me a piece of paper with his phone number and e-mail address and said, "Give me a call if you want to go get a beer sometime."  Apparently he also has a life rule:  Get a beer with anyone who will sign a document they can't read for a stranger in a Hungarian immigration office.  Write that one down too.

The immigration lady laughed and said, "making friends at the immigration office?"  Maybe that's not normal here.  Oh well, I'm a resident.  That mean's I can make it normal.

Hungarian word of the day:  Tessék (pronounced Tesh (rymes with mesh) and ache (like a pain)).  Remember this one, it means a lot.  Here you go, what did you say, Hello (when answering the phone), what would you like (at a store or restaurant), and many more.