Talk to the Lángos

I was a little worried that the more used to things I become, the less exciting this place will be.  That's just not true.  I'm far from used to it here, but I keep having more fun.  I keep experiencing things that are better than I had hoped for.  But I still don't speak Hungarian.

I was tired this weekend, teaching in a foreign world is a challenge!  Fortunately, there were two festivals here in Békéscsaba, so I decided not to travel anywhere.  I was able to sleep in and enjoy my town.  The festivities started Friday night, but I was too tired to do anything.  I walked around and saw a crappy band play.  It started to look like I should've left for the weekend.

Then came Saturday.  One of the festivals was by the mall here.  It had a stage, and about 12 booths selling things.  I think nine of them sold alcohol (beer, Hungarian wine, and Pálinka - so at least there was a selection).  There was one jewelry booth, a few candy ones, and two food places.

One booth was selling Lángos, which is a Hungarian street food that I've been dying to try.  After I ate it, I just felt like dying.  It's a thick, frisbee shaped piece of dough that is deep-fried.  It's topped with fatty deliciousness and you dig in.  I went with the healthy version and only had cheese on mine.  But the people who ordered before me went all out. Theirs had thick cream (similar to sour cream) smeared on, about a pound of shredded cheese, and plenty of salt.  It was all topped off with some lard wiped on with a brush.  Mine tasted good, but was way too big and I felt sick by the time I finished.  I can only imagine how those other people felt.

While I was eating it, a guy came up to me and practically put his face in my Lángos.  Then he asked me a question in Hungarian and the only word I understood was Lángos.  I answered (in Hungarian) that I don't speak Hungarian.  He stared at me for a second like I had just said the most ridiculous thing in the world.  "You don't speak Hungarian?  Yeah right, and the planet's round."  Then he stuck his face back in my snack and asked it the same question, in Hungarian, ten times louder and slower (I thought this was a uniquely American tactic).  I figured he probably wanted to buy one too, so I pointed to the stand hoping that he wouldn't just decide to eat mine because it speaks Hungarian.  He went back, told his friends, and they all walked by looking at me with pitying looks thinking "He must have some sort of mental disorder if he doesn't speak Hungarian, he doesn't deserve that Lángos.  Probably didn't even get extra lard smeared on." 

Then, in a moment of great irony, I looked up and realized there was some sort of beauty pageant going on.  They were gorgeous Hungarian college girls parading around on the stage in bikinis.  The fascinating part was, they spoke Hungarian, but had clearly never eaten a Lángos.

After that trainwreck of a meal, I decided to go back to the other festival that was focused on quality foods and healthy living.  Besides, it was in a nice park, not on a crappy street.  I had been by earlier in the day and this festival had a bunch of food stands and only one or two beer places.  It was all quality food like cheeses, breads, honey, and other things that were probably locally produced.  I couldn't talk to anyone though so I hadn't stayed long.

When I went back, I saw the lady who I'll be giving private English lessons to.  She's the one who organized the event and the person who told me about it.  She gave me a glass of their homemade beer, showed me a tent that was a replica of how the ancient Hungarians lived, and tried to convince me to try Hungarian folk dancing.  It didn't work, but I really enjoyed watching it.

There was a large room that looked very Hungarian.  It had white walls and a green ceiling.  The ceiling had all sorts of ornate woodwork built for both support and looks.  Outside was just dark woods in this park, so I suddenly felt as if I really was in a remote place in Hungary.  There was a band of a few stringed instruments and a man with a drum (who was using some sort of drumstick and a stick stick, he probably broke it off a tree on his way in).  The music was traditional Hungarian music, and everyone there seemed to know the traditional dance that goes along with it.

The really fascinating part was the people.  There were all ages from 2 to 70.  Some of the people the most into it were high-school or college aged kids.  In America, kids this age wouldn't be interested in anything called "traditional" or "folk", and wouldn't want to do any dancing in front of their parents.  But here they loved it.  There was even a competition of sorts.  There was a lot of thumping the feet at specific times, dancing in circles while holding hands with others behind the back, tapping the feet, moving the feet quickly, and smacking the legs and the feet with the palm of the hand.  I'd love to learn how to do these dances. 

I was very impressed and became tired just watching.  Now I know how they burn off all the extra lard.