Bible on Acid

When I went into work on Friday, after our most recent Fulbright event, I had the normal “What ridiculous thing did you do this time” convo with my lab mate that went a little something like this:

Attila- How was the musical last night? (We had gone to see Joseph and the Technicolor Coat in Hungarian this month)
Me- Idk, it was kinda weird.
Attila- Was the singing good? Because usually in Hungary only one cast member has a great voice and everyone else is bad.
Me- I mean yeah the singers were really great, it was just an odd performance… The only way to really explain it is: Try to imagine hearing a bible story, on an acid trip… And that sums up what I saw last night.
Attila- Ah
Me- It was wild.

I still completely stand by that statement, when I left the theater last thursday I was blown away by the madness I had just seen take place on stage. (Mind you I had no prior experience with this particular show.) (Much like churches I avoid religious musicals at all cost because of the fear of spontaneous combustion.)

The best way to describe to you how weird the experience was for me is by telling you what I saw in a spark notes kind of way.

The performance started off with the normal, now kids let me tell you this wonderful story taken from the bible, by this teacher-esque character.
Then we went back in time and Joseph and his brothers appear and went about their normal story business.

And then all of a sudden after they gave Joseph to the Egyptians, things took a turn for the weird. (almost as if they had given you the dose of acid in the beginning and you sat on a couch waiting for the purple dragons to appear.)
I started to notice something weird when the ever present teacher lady continuously would disappear backstage and then reappear with less clothing on. (I was CONVINCED she would be naked by the end.) (alas, I was wrong.. It stopped eventually)

And almost directly after the lady stopped taking clothes off, suddenly the remaining 11 sons of Isaac were celebrating Joseph being gone by turning into cowboys and dancing around on stage like an old western movie. (As an American it was particularly hilarious to see).

The weirdness just continued after this point, with an Elvis scene, a tango in Paris, a Mariachi band, an eighties dance sequence, and it ended with a giant pride flag and the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album cover on stage.
And to top it all off, the weirdness of the experience was totally exacerbated by the fact that I understood nothing that came out of the actors mouths. (Although there were English subtitles, sometimes, but there would be periods of 10 minutes were whoever was controlling the titles fell asleep and left us clueless… And after the pride flag was broken out then the titles which might have been there was completely covered.)


The final oddity of the night was the difference between Hungarian closings of shows and American ones. In America, for a really great performance, the cast might get a standing ovation and may do a little extra singing or another round of bowing.

Well, here, ends of performances are a really big thing.. Because instead of standing ovations, everyone claps literally FOREVER in unison while the cast does at least two encores (complete with choreography and costume changes) and several rounds of bowing. (Seriously, I think we clapped for 15 minutes straight.)

All of this combined together left me leaving the theater with a sense that whoever curated that show must have taken a lot of liberties, because it was nothing like ANY of the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows I had seen previous.
However, once I went home and youtubed the original cast, I discovered that this show is simply meant to be incredibly crazy, and the cast here in BP did a great job. (Bravo)

The next day the theater experience continued, because we had the current manager of the theater show us around backstage and such.

It was a long tour, but very cool.

At the beginning of the tour the Hungarian Fulbright version of a Mom (Annamaria), stopped us all outside on the street and appeared to simply be talking to some rando in a car. But upon closer inspection we noticed that she was talking to the member of the cast who played Joseph.

So, basically a celebrity.

And you could completely tell how excited she was to be graced by his presence. She, normally being a relatively calm and stable kind of woman with little showing of her true feelings, was in complete fan girl mode and spent the rest of the tour talking about how excited she was about meeting him.


After we made it inside, we were shown everything from the mechanics of the stage, to the dressing room, to the people practicing ballet for the next performance.

I will spare you the details of the tour, because it was so much information, but I will tell you two of the funniest parts.

As the guy, who didn’t speak any English, showed us around all of the high tec aspects of the theater. (Think cutting edge moving parts and sensors and lighting and such)

One of us eventually got around to asking about the stars we saw in the previous nights performance. To which he responded that the method for that was incredibly old fashion and was just LED sewn into a curtain.

We insisted we wanted to see it anyways.

And much to his disappointment, it was our favorite thing to see. We took a bunch of pictures by it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. (Easily amused… what can I say.)

The other kinda funny thing was later in the tour the guide was talking about a piece they planned to release on the smaller stage that had the music which is colloquially referred to as “The Anthem of Suicides”

And of course, the kids we had with us naturally started asking questions about it. (Because kids have this unnatural talent to pick the worst possible stuff to hone in on and talk about.)

I happened to be the closest adult (I use this word in the loosest sense possible) to the older boy of one of the Fulbrighters, so I was unintentionally nominated to answer his inquiries.

Kid- Does listening to this anthem really cause people to kill th-
Me (nervous to let him even entertain the thought)- No of course not, it’s just a really sad song with lots of despair.
Kid- Oh cool, I want to listen to it.

Me (thinks I should probably mention this interaction to the parents)….
This is probably the only time I would insist on a child taking advice from me, because other than on this occasion it is most likely a terrible idea.
The tour ended with all of us going to one of our houses and eating and drinking together the rest of the night. What a good day.

On that note, I must go pack for Berlin tomorrow. The next two weeks for me will be very crazy!



So, for the last three weeks I have been trying to reunite with my airport friend Ibolya, because when we parted ways in Budapest I remember her telling me „You saw my name on my ticket, come visit me.” Before walking away.

Well, even though I had remembered what her name was, finding her (she works at the university building right next to mine) proved more difficult than I could’ve ever imagined.

It all started about three weeks ago when I decided one day that I would try to go find her simply by walking into the building during midday. (How hard could it be finding the analytical floor, and then probably the oldest working chemist on the floor?).

I soon discovered that it was very hard, because after spending an hour aimlessly wandering the halls of ELTE, and worrying that someone would stop me and ask what I was doing, I realized that I had not even found the right floor successfully.
So defeated, I gave up for the day.

Naturally the next day I brought up my adventures during lunch, and after a few laughs the Hungarians looked her up on the professor directory and told me that she was int he old building (not the one I went to) on the second floor, door 244. Armed with this equipment I was sure that the next time I would try I would definitely be able to find her.

Fast forward to last Friday on my second attempt to locate my older Hungarian friend, and I finally located her office.

It was not hard to find it once I knew where I was going, especially because she had the only door in the hallway that had decorations. (Normal grandma eclectic knick knacks, like a porcelain egg and a bunny decal) Smiling about how cool and different she was I excitedly knocked on the door.

She was not in. (This became readily clear when I realized that her windows were also dark.)

So I began rummaging through my backpack for a piece of paper to leave her a note telling her I had finally found her.

And that’s when I was approached by another, clearly high ranking, older, professor emeritas. (Stuff is about to get real).

Grumpily he comes strolling over to me and asks me what I wanted in Hungarian.
And in true, I’ve lived here for many months but still have no grasp on your language, style I say „Uhhh, Bocsánatot…. Angolul?”

He just looks at me like I’m stupid, and says “Of course I speak English, what are you looking for?”

A little relieved I smile and in my happy/ditzy way (when I’m trying to seem friendly) I say “I’m looking for Ibolya! She’s not in right now, do you know when she will be next”.

And based on the look on his face, it was in that moment I realized I had done something really wrong. In a manner that can only be described as theater drama he drew back with one hand on his heart (although on the wrong side) and scoffed as if I had personally insulted his mother to his face and spit out. “You mean DR. MOLNAR? DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH HER?”

Unsure how to placate this clearly offended professor (informality after undergraduate here is definitely not a thing.) I say “Well, I’m not a student… I just met her at an airport and work nearby so she told me to come visit her sometime.”

And then, as if Dr. Jekyll was standing in front of me, he switched to Hyde and relaxed and chuckled at me “Oh my goodness, well then. Iboyla, as you know, is old and doesn’t come in every day. Here! Let me get you her email.”

The older man then proceeded to take me to another lab, and told me to tell them my funny encounter with her and gave me her email. Confused, I accepted it and quickly made my escape and proceeded to email her about my attempts to find her.

Around 5:30 am on Monday morning she emailed me back and told me basically she would be in today and come see her at 2:30. She ended the email with a cute “We meet soon”.

So, determined to finally see her I walk over to elte after work around 2:30 and immediately went to her office, which this time was illuminated inside, and knocked.

No answer.

Laughing to myself about how difficult any one person can be to locate, I try to find someone on the floor to ask if they had seen her. Naturally, I found the grumpy older guy again. He received me better this time and told me that she was probably in her lab and gave me the number.

I basically ran away.

Upon finding her lab I felt a certain sense of pride for finally getting to this point as I knocked and opened her lab door.

There was no one inside. (Clearly the gods did not want me to see her, ever.)
Unwilling to give up, and probably breaking many rules of lab safety I explored a few more labs until I found her excitedly talking to a younger scientist, looking at GC-MS sample data.

The next two hours she spent taking me between her lab and office and talking with me about all manners of life. And it’s really funny, because while she clearly speaks English fluently, she has a really hard time hearing what I’m saying (think normal old person, but with a language barrier), so about every ten minutes the conversation would trip over a word or two and she would glare at me and aggressively say “I do not understand you!!!” (As if I was not speaking my own language right.)

While I was there she forced me to eat many cookies and gave me a cup of coffee while we talked, and it was an absolutely wonderful time. (Even if I had to eat five gingerbread cookies, which I hate.) We talked about our families, and funny enough she asked me about what my brother wanted to do with his life. I told her that I thought he wanted to be a state police officer, and thus would attain a degree at a local college. She asked me where I lived, and immediately decided that he was obviously going to Columbia for this degree, because what other options are there than ivy league. (I just laughed to myself and said sure Iboyla.)…

Overall, even though everyone in my lab thinks I’m crazy for it, visiting her will be one of those things I remember fondly about Hungary.

Iboyla was not the only reunion I had this week, Nate also returned to this side of the ocean to continue the adventure for our last three months here (OH no only that much time left…. SAD!!!) And with his return I realized how much I missed him in the last month and a half. (No I was not paid to say this, just forced.) (Kidding) (Sorta, because he wanted his regulars to see he still gets shoutouts on my blog.) (So here you go Leigh! 🙂 )

Just kidding, it’s truly wonderful to have him back and we have lots of adventure in store for us in the very quickly upcoming spring and beginning of summer.

THIS is your idea of “fun”?!

About three weeks ago Bianka asked me to go to something that can be translated into „Relaxation night” at the nearest school gym, and she described it as a night of yoga and told me “It will be fun!”

Naturally, because she’s one of my closest friends here, I tell her I’ll go without truly considering what the night may entail.

So fast forward to last Friday (yes, I know it’s once again late but I have a reason now! I spilled half a can of coke on my laptop keyboard trying to reprimand the rabbit.)

At this point I know that my night will consist of three hours of yoga. Now, call me American, but three hours of any type of exercize sounds more like torture than fun. (But maybe that’s just me).
Equipped with water and a towel for sweat we enter this large room lit only with candles around the edges of it.

And this is where I knew it was about to get interesting, because following yoga instructors in your own language, in a well lit area can be challenging enough, but without it it may be damned near impossible.
But at this point I’ve already paid for the experience, so I was ready to try it anyways.

The evening was designed that we didn’t do the same type of yoga all night, but instead three kinds in hour sequences. The first hour we chose something called „Body art” (which I spent the whole week joking was where we all got naked and painted pictures on each other), then we signed up for something called aerial yoga, and decided to end the night with stretching.

To my great disappointment the first session was significantly less exciting than I expected, because it was simply a very beginner course of yoga. The most entertaining part of it, for me (and probably no one else), was trying to figure out what to do while not understanding any directions or being able to clearly see the instructor.

Honestly, for those who believe in it, it was probably a very spiritual experience. Hungarian, spoken in the hushed “I’m trying to relax you” voice and the very ambient light created this air of solidarity and mysticism, much like many seek for ritual praying.

For me, in my head I conviced myself that I was performing some type of ritual that inevitably sold my soul to a Hungarian cult. (If I suddenly have facial tattoos and speak in tongues randomly, you’ll know why.)
Aside from my internal entertainment, the first class was too easy for both Bianka and I, and we worried that we weren’t actually going to do any exercize in this three hour ordeal.

And then came aerial yoga.

The contrast between the two rooms in which we participated in could not have been bigger. The first room seemed to be designed for relaxation and meditation. This room was really bright, music bumping, and a ripped instructor standing in the front waiting for people. (Seriously, I had to teach Bianka the word jacked to describe her in English)

And I knew I was in for an experience when I noticed that there were no mats in sight, only long loops of fabric hanging from the ceiling.
And boy, for once, I was right. The easiest way to explain to you what we did is: think of all of the beautiful things acrobats do with fabric at the circus. Okay? Now think of the least graceful, most pathetic way to execute it possible.
That was us.

Example: our instructor tried to force our bodies into a split while hanging upside down from our groin, and then (as if that wasn’t laughable enough as is) she pushed us into grabbing our ankles while maintaining the split.


By the end of that hour segment my body told me that it was done with exercize, potentially for the rest of my life. (Don’t forget, one more session to go).
Thankfully, stretching for an hour was exactly what I needed to regain feeling in my limbs (even if the feeling was pain). And the night ended with quite a nice surprise that I won one of the door prizes which included a free months pass for the gym aerobic classes. (You already know I’m going back to aerial yoga on Tuesday.)

I would like to say the rest of my weekend was more normal than that experience, but I would be lying if I did.

The next morning I had an appointment with Telekom to come and fix my internet (because it had been super spotty and dropping for hours at a time for no forseeable reason).

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Jasmine, don’t you have a rabbit? Maybe he chewed the cord!!!

Yes, but prior to calling the repairment I had already thought of that, and checked (what I thought) was all of the cord.

Well around 10 am these two older gentlemen show up, not speaking a lick of English, to fix my stone age situation.

For the next few minutes, they plugged their tools into both end of the internet mechanism (router and wall outlet), returned to me shrugged and said „Work”.
Then they decided to pull the cord that connects the two out from behind the cabinet and couch to inspect it.

At this point while they did this, I looked at the rabbit and in the quietest but most threatening voice possible and said „If this is you fault you’re getting cooked tonight.”

Seemingly unphased the rabbit looked at me and did his happy dance (which he does when I talk to him), he is perhaps too stupid to realize the difference in my tone.

Sure enough, from behind the couch, they retreived a piece of wire that had a been chewed through 75% of the way. (How the HELL he even crawled under the couch is a wonder to me).

Seeing this I glared and cursed at the rabbit, and he continued to eat his hay as if he saw nothing.

The two men, however, thought this was perhaps the funniest thing that was going to happen to them in their jobs, because they bust out laughing, walked over to the cage with the wire and went “Ho ho ho, nyusziiiiii….” while shaking their fingers.

NooNoo just ate up the attention. (Great.)
Thankfully, (I think because they loved him), they didn’t charge me for the visit.

Because this whole interaction held me up from the rest of my day with Helen and her austrian friend Ellie, right after they left I immediately grabbed my converse and left in a short sleeve under my winter coat.

It took about 10 minutes to realize that I was not properly dressed for anything outside for the day.

But don’t worry, we are only going to ride on the Children’s train, with heated compartments, right?


When we got to the train, we were rushed on without tickets so that it could leave. And we were put into a small freezing compartment waiting for one of the kids to come up and sell us a ticket. My feet already began to suffer.
The Children’s train for those of you who don’t know, is a little railway ont he outskirts of Budapest where most of the happenings of the train are manned by kids aged 12-14. (Except driving of course). It’s apparently a big deal here, and not considered child labor, to the point that when a kid has his shift he automatically gets off school for it.

I spent most of the ride hoping that this is the coldest I would get for the day, because I wasn’t entirely sure I could handle more without having to worry about my circulation causing a problem for my fingers and toes.

Naturally, like all other legs of my Fulbright, I was wrong.

About halfway through the ride, and before we successfuly bought the ticket from the kid (he kept running away from us), we decided to get off and go up the ski lift to the highest lookout tower in Budapest.

Except, the ski lift is on the other side of the mountain, and only trails lead up on this side. And unlike inner city Bundapest snow stuck out here to at least a foot. (Convenient reminder of the converse situation).

Well, because there would not be another train for an hour, and we had already left we decided to walk up the hill. (At this point still hoping to run into the ski lift.)

By the top we realize that we were on the wrong side of the mountain, and I realized that amputation of several frostbitten toes may be a possiblity. (Joking, sorta.)

By some grace of the deities, there was a lodge right near the top with hot chocolate and a FIRE. For a moment I even considered practicing for eternity and jumping directly into it, but refrained because there were plenty of Hungarian spawns running around that may follow suit.

The rest of the day was quite lovely, once I was no longer a popsicle, and the view of my city was almost worth not being able to balance properly the rest of my life.

Moral of the story, check the weather before leaving the house, always.

Criminal Minds: Lab Edition

You know, I always assumed I am the clumsy, accident prone one of the lab. (Trust me a fair share of unfortunately placed glassware have found their premature demise from my hands)

But this week, it seems as if everyone else in the lab has been taking on my title of “Science gone wrong”, and I thought it would be entertaining to talk about it because of how differently they handled it compared to what I would do.

As I have said many times before, Organic chemistry is not an easy subject, to study or to research. Many students have fallen prey to the puzzle like questions on exams where you have to figure out how a single carbon transforms into a ring with substituents, and under what conditions. And I’m positive, with the cute little DANGER signs on everything I work with many have fallen prey to the carcinogenic, blinding, poisoning, CNS attacking, coma inducing affects those little molecules may have on us. (It’s their way of revolting against the cruel scientist forcing them into positions they don’t wanna be in).

However, on top of all of these wonderful aspects of the life of a scientist, there is also one little thing that can throw more chaos and trouble into the mixture… A little something all of us fondly blame little differences in the data on, human error.

Yesterday, Attila and I were working on what seemed like a stupid reaction procedure we had found online (2 reagents, no solvent, at 210 degrees C), with little to no hope that it might actually produce what we actually wanted. (Because unless you’re looking for tar, nothing at that temp is likely to work well… if at all) (Think of what happens to your soup when you let it boil without stirring while you use the restroom)…. Anyone else? No? Only I have ruined an entire pot of chili this way? Cool.
Anyways, so we went about the reaction sequence, exactly as prescribed, and we were left with a black goop pasted to the sides of the wall of the RBF. (SHOCKER). What the point of this entire set up is to illustrate for you what a temperature that I can reduce two very hardy molecules to…. Now imagine what that temperature can do to your skin.

Well actually, you don’t have to, because I’ll tell you… Water boils at 100 degrees celsius, the silica oil we were using to heat the reaction was double that. Water doesn’t necessarily stick to your skin, like for example…. Grease does. (SIlica oil has a similar consistency). Now, your nice little body cells are tempermental little guys, and generally start dying off in heats much much lower than their water content’s boiling point. So needless to say getting this incredibly hot oily substance on your skin is probably a no go.
Unfortunately, for Attila… the oil bath had other plans. When he was attempting to clean off the RBF with a towel, because of the set up of our clamps and their inevitable sudden release, his middle finger was suddenly covered in roughly 200 degree C silica gell oil.

This was not the strangest thing that happened. He reacted so calmly to the whole thing, by just kind of exhaling an little “Oh…”, that me… (Who had only seen him flinch a little out of the corner of my eye, which I thought was from the glass still being hot) said “Yeah watch the glass might still be a little warm.”

Not knowing that he had potentially seriously burned himself.

Thankfully, he realized what happened much quicker than I had, and somehow managed to remove the oil before it had caused any real damage. He promptly wiped it off and shoved his hand in cold water bath we have sitting nearby (the rotovap bucket.)

Had that been me, who was unfortunate enough to have a clamp release unexpectedly and accidentally touch the oil in result, I probably wouldn’t have spared the ears of anyone in a 2 mile radius of what can only be deemed a sailors mouth. I probably would’ve called off the next day for mental recovery and used at least three bags of peas to calm my flaming skin. (Joking, sorta.)

He merely complained that the ice hurt more than the actual burn, what differences.

And as much as I wish this was the most exciting thing to happen in the lab this week, the new guy decided he would not allow Attila to outshine him in dramatic accidents, and today put on a live rendition of “Criminal Minds: The case of the rouge graduated cylinder”.


Imagine, a single day after the terrible strike of the oil bath, people are calm, reactions are going as well as any other day (they’re not), and I am standing by the fridge, attempting to find my molecule in my poorly organized box. When all of a sudden there’s a SMASH in the hood directly to my left.

*glass shattering* *Hungarian cursing*

I look up, mostly unconcerned, because it would be just another poor tortured item to join the box of “This may be fixed one day, but lol never will” cemetary on the other side of the room

I notice on the hood and floor that this particular shattered item contained what appeared to be a nicely colored red dye.

I thought, “pity, all of that wasted product.” and glance up to see how Marci is taking his first Glassware vs Scientist defeat and wonder if he’s think about trying to salvage it by extracting the molecule from the shattered glass on the floor.

AND THEN, I notice he’s dripping the dye, clutching his hand, and rushing to the sink.

So in another moment of eloquent observation, with much of the same grace as yesterday I say “Oh wait, are you bleeding?”

To which he replied with a pretty cool and collected “Yes.” (He even took the courtsey of speaking in my language in his moment of panic.)
And in that moment I realized two things, he was really bleeding. A LOT. and I had absolutely no idea what the protocol was in this lab or where any first aid things were located.

Thankfully, Szandi was close to the sink and turned the water on, and Attila came to the rescue with the med kit.

I promptly decided that it was best for me to simply sit this one out and let those who could communicate effectively and without having to explain things in their non-native language handle it.

Although, it didn’t stop me from watching and pleading with him mentally to take his other glove off, because god knows what he could be introducing into his bloodstream on those.

As everyone buzzed around him, I offered the knowledge that I could when there were seconds to spare. (The bleeding will slow naturally if you raise your arm so it stops gushing.) (Maybe looking for something more than gauze might help, like butterfly strips to hold the wound a little more closed.)

But soon enough he was doctored up well enough that it was apparent that he would not bleed out in the next five minutes, and like any good person, plugged into social media and documenting things would do, me and my labmates started taking pictures of the carnage.

And naturally, as scientist, we also started dripping things on the little pools of blood to see what would happen (Mainly hydrogen peroxide). Because, why waste an opportunity when one presents itself?

After all of the documentation was handled, and I stopped day dreaming about guessing the severity of the cut from the blood spatter analysis. (Thanks Dexter for those hours of useless information research I did) I asked them where the stuff to clean up the biohazard materials were.
They all looked at me like I was crazy. Naive me, thinking about how as RAs we were provided with specific things to clean up vomit and bags in the first aid kits to deposit things that can’t just go in the trash, thought that an institution with multiple science floors and many medically applicable things happening would have a procedure for such silly inconveniences.
Because as the Hungarians said “Come on, we are in EASTERN Europe” (Ha they admitted it)

So we ended up mopping up the floor with cold water, and left it as is. (Here’s to hoping that no actual murders happen in there any time soon, because luminol will show much more than that evidence. On second thought though…. Perfect time. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA watch out Hungarian “friends” :P)

Hopefully this week your job was less of a health hazard than mine is on most days!

Update: Ironically, after I wrote this yesterday, I came in today and everyone was like LETS MAKE LUMINOL TO SEE THE BLOOD. (Because who really wants to do actual science?)

So we did, and we did indeed see all of the blood left by our terrible cleaning. But we also saw literally everything else that can trigger the reaction of luminol on our floors. (Which, because of the all of the things we work with, this lab would be the perfect place to hide bloodshed. If anyone is truly interested.)

Also, the UV lamp is just to enhance the color for my terrible phone camera, luminol and blood chemifluoresce, meaning it doesn’t need extra help to glow..  Just a dark room.

Damn fluorescence chemists.




Meeting the Meat Lady.

Last Friday (yes I know I’m a day late), there was another Fulbright event that included a fancy 4 course lunch, and Dr. Kele was invited to join as my host in the country. For whatever reason he could not, but for me it provided a good conversation to illustrate this week’s topic: more small disagreements I had with the people I interact with on a daily basis. (Usually of the humorous nature).

Me- Why don’t you want to come to the Fulbright event? I heard the lunch would be really good, multiple courses and free drinks.

Him- I told them that I already had other arrangements that I didn’t want to change (in the tone that suggested that he really just didn’t want to come, even if there was free food).

Me- But free food though….

Him- No.

Me (thinking)- Idk as a broke college student I would rearrange my own funeral for free food….

Joking aside, that day actually turned out to be lots of fun and the lunch was very fancy and very good. The event for this month was a private tour of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences private collections of old manuscripts and texts from all subjects around the world. We saw lots of very interesting, and assumedly pricey books, and surprisingly got to handle a lot of them. (When they showed us one of the original english copies of a science journal, I had a moment of pure and intense NERD).

The topic of the books we saw brings us to the first event of two events this week where I truly held a different opinion than the Hungarian I interacted with. In the final room of the tour they showed us a selection from their collection they self proclaimed as “Rare”. And honestly, they were definitely not something an average joe would see in a day.

The collection we were shown included things like, original research notebooks of famous mathematicians, an original copy of Hungary’s smallest printed book ever, and a page from one of the original Gutenberg bibles.

Now, for those of you who don’t know… A single page of one of those bibles is worth 1 mil, so keep that number in mind and times it roughly by the 17 books we were shown in that part of the tour while I tell you how they were handled.

As an American, I would expect something like that be placed behind glass, and generally untouchable by any of the modern population, and if, for whatever reason, it did need to be handled, it would be in a controlled environment by someone with gloves and preferably a mask or something.

That is definitely not what happened. The guy who showed us these books quickly discarded his gloves, was touching his face and then the books, and then at the end offered for everyone else to handle them, I just about died at the idea.

And that wasn’t even the moment that made me have my first mini heart attack.

Picture this, I’m sitting in the small audience, silently dreaming of ways to National Treasure that Gutenberg out of the room, because it could pay off all of the student debt of those present and then some.. When the instructor asks one of the children of the Fulbrighters to hand him a photo frame. So the kid gets it and walks it over to him, and goes to set it down RIGHT ON THE GUTENBERG.

Collective gasp in the room, and I nearly jump out of my seat in panic and softly yell “No no no, don’t set that down there.” Because in my head I can see the 1 mil being burned in gasoline, joker style, because of the tear that frame would inevitably make on the page, and legitimately died a little inside.

The guy’s response to our collective reaction was as follows (no I am not joking): “These books have survived hundreds of years of wear and tear, you’re not going to do anything to them” And then threw the frame on another equally as old book.

Well I never.

Fast forward to the second encounter of the week were I felt a philosophical chasm between me and a Hungarian, on valentine’s day. Now this one is less of a dispute of opinion, and more of a dispute of placement.

So, for Valentine’s day because we are thousands of miles apart, Nate and I decided to skype cook and consume dinner together, and we settled on making a pot roast with mashed potatoes.

Easy enough, right?

Nope. For those of you who don’t know, different countries cut up cows in different ways, according to was is perceived as desirable to that culture. (So no, Jasmine, you cannot walk into spar and pick a prepackaged rump roast, better luck next time.)

And I realized, with sinking dread that I would have to have my first encounter with a butcher. DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

So prior to leaving the lab that day, I spent a good half hour studying the regions of the cows and how we cut them up, and trying to locate where on earth that might be on a Hungarian cow.

I settled on the cut fehér pecsenye.

Armed with my desired meat name on a piece of weigh paper, I set out for the nearest interspar. I spent the majority of my time there leisurely picking out everything else I needed in order to delay having to approach the dreaded meat counter.

After I could spend no more time picking between 200 identical cases of eggs, I approached the counter, and to much of my delight I discovered that there was a younger Hungarian working behind it. (Younger=more english. Direct correlation I swear). And based on the makeup of the line I was bound to get him as my helper.


That is, until it was my turn and he said next customer please, and this ancient 4’9, cotton ball haired devil of an older woman pushed me out of the way with her cement filled handbag and immediately started barking orders at him.

I turned and looked at  this unwelcomed newcomer with the best, non confrontational, WTF face I could, and she merely looked at my chin (because she couldn’t see any higher) and started saying the old lady equivalent of “what are you going to do about it?”

Shocked at my sudden demotion in line, I didn’t even heard the other counter assistant (another ancient old lady) ask me what I want, until she raised her voice and shouted across the counter at me.

Naturally, this was no longer going to be easy, so I attempted to say what I wanted, and slid the paper across the counter to her with my written expression of what I desired in case she didn’t understand me.

Somehow miraculously, she still didn’t understand what I was looking for. (I think she decided that, in that moment, american handwriting is completely illegible, no matter how nice.)

I spent the next five minutes aggressively pointing to the hunk of meat I desired, and repeating 1 kg. After she finally put her hands above the one I wanted (like some demented claw game) i happily exhaled *IGEN*.

And then she put it on the scale… It was pretty well over 1 kg, and she knew it, and I knew it, and she knew I didn’t want that much, but I also knew she wasn’t going to cut it for me.

So knowing that I didn’t understand what she was saying, I think she also said the equivalent to “what are you going to do about it?”, printed a label, and threw it in a bag before tossing it at me and dismissing me with a “NEXT.”…

You know, as a customer service worker myself, I get it… People are annoying and eventually you get used to doing little things to get back at them for basically existing. But come on. I DIDN’T WANT AN EXTRA POUND OF MEAT, AND YOU KNEW THAT LADY.


Hopefully you all had more harmonious interactions than me this week people!

Nights in Sarajevo

For any of you who have known me for any extended period of time, like pre-college to now, you know that I run my entire life on mostly whims. I went back to regular public school because I was bored, I applied to LVC because I heard about it in passing from a friend, I chose to get a PhD because I liked the idea of being called Dr., and I threw together an application for the Fulbright because I had friends in Hungary I wanted to spend more time with.

None of these things were really planned parts of my life.

So needless to say, it shouldn’t be surprising if I tell you that, when I travel I am exactly the same way.

Which brings us to the topic of this post, my weekend in Sarajevo. (gonna be a long one folks but there’s pictures.)

One day in the end of January, I decided that I wanted to go out of Hungary somewhere around my Birthday. (Because I have been really gung ho about hitting thirty countries before age thirty) (God, I don’t even want to think about it)

Thus, I began researching flights. Now I’m not going to lie to you I started with places I actually wanted to go, saw they were incredibly expensive flights, and somehow found a 25 dollar roundtrip to Sarajevo. I roped two of my American friends into going with me, and off we went to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On Friday at an ungodly hour, we departed. And during the quick 50 minute flight to the smallest airport I have ever been in, I realized that I had not researched a single thing to do in this country, per my usual. Thankfully I pick my company well, and the always prepared Helen came with a list of sites to see and the creative Tanya had museums covered. Basically all I ever worry about is eating good food, so we were set.

Once we landed, Helen told us that there was a really important attraction within what seemed like walking distance of the Airport, so naturally we wake up with coffee and head out.

The man who served us our coffee was incredibly sweet  and taught us our first Bosnian word, the word for thank you.

Because we are stupid Americans, what we heard and what he said are two very different things. So for the beginning half of the trip we went around saying Koala, giggling to ourselves and saying bear under our breaths. (New flash you morons, it’s actually Hvala, disgraceful fulbrighters.)

I knew how interesting the trip was going to be when we walked out of the airport and were confronted with no signage and absolutely no clear way to walk off of the premises. (Yes, I know… Like the horror movies that probably should’ve been our sign to stay there).

We ignored it and followed the gate in the general direction we wanted to go until we found a highway, with no sidewalk. Undeterred by the cars wizzing past us about 15 cm from our bodies we began trekking through a pretty sketchy run down little village.

It was pretty clear, from the disrepair, guard dogs, and bullet holes, this area was not somewhere you would let your two year old skip down the non-existent sidewalk.

But like any other white person in a horror movie we ignored common sense and scurried on. (Although I did have a moment of worry that I had never checked the gun laws of the people who could be seeing us as trespassing on their property. It was either road or grass so we had no choice).

About a half mile away from the Airport, Tanya (seemingly out of pure attempt to make conversation), mentioned that she read that BaH had a severe wild dog issue.

And as I chuckled to myself that she seemed wary of one of my favorite creatures on the planet, we ran into a pack of five very wild, very not fluffy dogs.

We turned around, thus abandoning the Tunnel of Life museum we wanted to see.

Being that I have travelled with my Aunt Mary, I like to think of myself as a pretty open minded, not quick to judge an area kind of person, but I have to tell you the outskirts of Sarajevo are scary. It looks akin to a CoD map because all of the  buildings still have the wounds of war from the 1990s

And it didn’t help that there was absolutely no signage anywhere about bus schedules, stops, or directions. So my fears weren’t much settled when we found this nondescript area where older people were congregating and we entered the first bus that came.

And after about six stops the bus we went on stopped, and everyone poured out. Confused, because we weren’t in Sarajevo, we kinda just sat there until the bus driver turned around and said “Finished, bye”.

Thankfully, because something in the universe realized we did not have this together on our owns, there was a lady dressed in a shocking pink shade that beckoned us to follow her. (Here we go again horror movie.)

Even though she didn’t speak a lick of English, she did manage to get us to where we wanted to go instead of murdering us, so thank you older Bosnian woman. (Don’t worry this isn’t the last chance Bosnia has to murder us).

So now that we are finally in the city we can start doing our touristy things, starting with a Traditional Bosnian Coffee.

Now Bosnian coffee is basically a really really strong single brewed shot of expresso that comes out in a special pot, with the grounds in the bottom. And magically the Bosnians make that shot last hours, by drinking it through the medium of sugar cubes or Turkish Delight. (They dip it in and take a bite of the cube, rinse with water and repeat.)

Even though I’m not a fan of strong coffee I had to try it.. And I have to say I’m not the biggest fan. Although I will chalk it up to my own inability to properly pour this coffee, my single shot of espresso had the consistency of sludge, and I accidentally ordered rose flavored Turkish Delight to go with it… So for me it tasted like licking a grandmother after putting what’s left over after you brew a pot in your mouth. But hey, to each their own.

After we were all successfully strung out on coffee we ventured into Old Town Sarajevo. And for me, it was especially cool because it seemed like something right out of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. (Which for obvious reasons I probably won’t visit soon).

The streets were cobblestone and there were several mosques and minerettes in the area, it was so different from anything I had seen before and it was beautiful.

Entranced by it all, we decided to do two very touristy things and tour the public mosque in the middle of old town and take a guided walking tour.

Here’s a quick dose of reality that I experienced, and thus feel the need to share with you…

In both the mosque and the guided tour the Bosnians said something that really stuck with me, and I have a feeling they said it specifically because there were Americans present.

In the mosque the imam gave us a demonstration of one of the prayers, and made sure to highlight what the words really mean to those in the faith who don’t share the radical ideals that are often portrayed in our media. He said “these are words meant for worship of our one god, not for fear or harm. I need you to see that.”

For a second I felt really ashamed of our country making this man feel that he had to justify his religion and make it “safe” in our eyes. Especially since, generally, people who are not of the faith are meant to take part in their prayers.

Although that shame was nothing to that I felt when the woman who showed us around town kept saying, in different manners, “we are an important country, we matter.” And this sentiment stems from the fact that when the siege happened, and directly after, the world was concerned for the fate of the bosnians. So many countries, came, intervened, and left nothing but mostly ruins and a precarious peace in its place. And many are still suffering that effect. No people should have to feel like they have to prove to Americans, or Europeans or any other country in power, that they matter….

Anyways, rant over….

After those two experiences we closed an incredibly busy day with wonderful food, (BAKLAVA). And the final funny happening is we asked our waiter to direct us to the nearest supermarket to buy breakfast for the morning.

And in another wonderful display of American ears we ended up at Horse shit. (Horsh)

The next day was about as eventful as the last, because we woke up bright and early to take a guided tour to the tunnels we attempted to find earlier, and the Olympic bobsled in Sarajevo.

The morning started out with a particularly interesting event for me, because our bus driver hopped out and introduced themselves as Jasmin (Yazmeen), and  they were a dude.

Now, I have never really considered my name masculine at all, but apparently someone else did.

Yasmeen successfully got us to the bobsled track, which was nothing short of a miracle because the fog was so dense you could barely see the road. And when we got there our tour guide told us to hop out, because we were walking down it.

As you all probably know, I’m world renown for my balance and ability to navigate flat surfaces without falling… (NOT). So when we stood on top of the bobsled, in freezing rain, with snow on the track, I knew the 20 minute hike down was going to be hilarious.

I actually made it through it without injuries, although other members of our group were lost to the sled or muddy ground. (RIP)

After we spent all morning trekking through abandoned areas of the mountains, we returned to old town and decided we were ravenous.

Cevapi was on the menu for lunch (stone fired bread with minced meat sausages and raw onions, Bosnian special.) And anyone who has travelled abroad, it is especially hard to gauge the amount of food you’re ordering because of the difference in currency and economy.

Total, each of us spent around 6 BAMS on lunch (1 $: 1.5 BAM) by ordering a small portion chevapi and a side salad. What I expected was a small pita-esque bread with tiny sausages and a dinky little salad…….

What I got was a personal pizza pan heaping with cabbage, tomatoes, and dressing and a full sized meal with bread the size of my face…. It was absolutely delish, but can you say FOOD COMA. And the Bosnian people we interacted with told us, if we don’t gain weight by the time we leave, we didn’t do Sarajevo right… It appears to be completely true.

After we recovered from the meal, we went back out to drink, instead of having dinner really because we were full. So we spent the night at the Sarajevo brewery (which has a touching story if you’re interested) and at a cocktail bar.

For the sake of not writing a novel I will tell you only about the cocktail bar. It was a really interesting, hole in the wall kind of place, decorated like a classy victorian hoarder owns it. The drinks were iffy at best (American is apparently the only country with a proper handle on cocktails) but we had lots of fun there, defacing American government property. (Bad boys, what’cha gonna do….)

The tables in the place had about a quarter of an inch from the table to the glass topper, so people did what people often do and stuck stuff between the layers. Mostly international currency. For whatever reason, there were no dollars and I happened to have one… So we spent the rest of the night turning good old GW into a party lad and gave him the quote “Party in the USA” (to hide how drab it is in reality right now.) Fake it until you make it right?

Of course the night cannot be over with that, so with a nice buzz on the walk home Helen decided to expose us to our third potential brush with death, by throwing a wrench in our already planned out and tested walk home.

Let’s just say there was a fork in the road on our way home and until that point we had ALWAYS turned left…. And just then Helen decided we needed to be spontaneous (12 am on a Saturday night) and turn right…

INTO A CREEPY ALLEYWAY, with a gang of people dressed in black ready to jump on unsuspecting, “spontaneous” girls.

Thankfully we made it back safe, no thanks to her. (We made fun of her so much that she automatically chose left from there on.)

Which brings us to the final day, kinda uneventful compared to the others.

We decided to spend the entire day shopping for souvenirs and going to museums, because it was snowing and too cold to really stay outside.

The first museum we hit was the national museum of Bosnia… However, we were delayed entrance for 20 minutes because they had shut down the entire street in front to film some new war film about the siege… (We stood there and watched a car zoom past) Unfortunately, none of the bulky bodyguards knew enough to tell us what this might potentially be in the future. (But if anyone sees three awkward af Americans in some famous international film, I’ll be happy to sign autographs. 😉 )

The museum itself was interesting and kinda disjointed, and their science section was downright hilarious. All of the mammal specimens seemed to have been stuffed by the same black market taxidermist, who was really kinda terrible at his job, because it looked like he had glued stuffed animal eyes on an eerily real body. (They looked like they had seen some shit in their lives.)

After we were done laughing at those creatures, we made our way to one of the only contemporary art museum in Sarajevo… And I use the term museum loosely and cautiously, mostly because none of the pieces were hung up, they sat on the floor, and none of the walls were drywalled… Now, this may be what they were going for, because… ART. But it really looked like they had gotten relatively famous artist’s works and plopped them on the ground and threw a label on them..

Funny enough the oddest part of this experience was not the art…. It was what I saw transpire at the art museum.

I was walking with Helen, still laughing about the poster where two raw chickens were laying on top of each other “clucking” (visual rendition of choking the chicken), when all of a sudden I saw the unmistakable flash of a gun barrel being slid into one of the only other people’s pockets in the museum. (Given to him by another guy.)

For my hungarian friends, because of the state of America, I knew it was a gun because my internal and evolutionary radar went off… *PING GUN INBOUND*  I was not being paranoid.

Anyways, so I say quietly to Helen, “Did you see that gun???”

She assured me that that doesn’t occur in Europe and I was just seeing things…. (I swear at this point I heard it cock.)

So I politely and determinedly walked over to Tanya who was in front of us and calmly started conversation, until she, worried… mentioned the gun too…

AND that’s when we noped right out of there, because my guts are not about to become a new installation.

Later we determined we had witnessed an international arms deal. (Bad ass).

To end the day, we ate our fill of baklava (specifically the queen’s type.. You should look it up) and bought lots of souvenirs from slightly to extremely pushy sellers. (One guy tried to convince us to buy the more expensive version of what we wanted by physically destroying the cheaper one… I walked out)

Overall, that was an absolutely awesome girl’s weekend for the books, and I cannot wait to adventure again! Sziastok!


Birthday Weekend!

Me with Helen at an Itailan style pizza restaurant (Mid-decision if I should order the Panna Cotta or not)

Me- „I wanna say it’s my birthday and why not, but that was yesterday and I can no longer use that excuse”

Helen- „One of my best friends has a birthday week where she uses that excuse all week, but it’s a step down from her mom’s concept of birthday month. I say do it.”

Me- „How does one define a birthday week? Does it start or end with your birthday?”

Helen- „You can define it however you want, although in most cases it turns into birthday 2 weeks”

Me- laughing, orders the panna cotta.

I think I have a new philosophy to adapt for future years since birthday basically suck after 21. I told my parents this year that I’m ready to opt out of the aging and celebrating getting older thing.

This birthday was a bit different than the rest, mostly because I didn’t wake up the next day hungover with random bar friends texting me about the previous night, with my cousins somewhere in close proximity laughing at whatever stupid thing I did.

No, this birthday was significantly more quiet (and a bit too adult for me), but I figured I’d tell you about it anyways (desperate for content here people.)

The most notable aspect of my weekend was how my friends were really great the entire weekend in making me feel special.

Friday was the biggest formal celebration I had, because Gergő, Bianka, and Attila treated me to a birthday dinner, presents, and naturally shots (because they are Hungarians after all).

The evening started out with us goinng back from the school to Gergő and Bianka’s to talk and kill some time before our reservations at 6. During this time I received doughnuts, loose tea (because I love it), and the most adorable little handcrafted Yoda plush (courtsey of Bianka).

Naturally, I consumed the doughnuts the next morning (thank god for my metabolism), and hung Yoda on my fridge with tape (Because I didn’t have magnets).  (Also keeps him from being anywhere in NooNoo’s vicinity who is currently humping anything that lays on or near the floor.) (My poor winter hat).

After I awkwardly opened everything, it was time for us to go. With no idea of where we were actually going, I decided to ask what they had chosen.

And this is when I discovered they listen to most things I say, even though I offhandedly complain or comment on everything, and took me to a nearby mexican restaurant that I wanted to try.

Of course, like anywhere above texas in the states, mexican cuisine isn’t going to be anywhere near authentic, but because Hungary is so far removed from Mexico I was interested in seeing what their rendition of the food was like. (They take tequila shots here with orange and cinnamon, I went in with no real expectations).

The girls ordered fajitas and the guys ordered mole pablano (I already knew that was likely to be super interesting). Our fajitas were pretty good, even though Bianka refused to eat it all together. It was adorable to watch her eat the sizzling food, followed by the guac, followed by pieces of shell.

But I have to comment on the mole, now for anyone who has had mole, you know that it is a very deeply flavored and rich sauce accented with dark chocolate. It’s spicey and sweet and very complex. The mole the had, however, tasted to me like hershey’s syrup poured over chicken.

Despite that mishap, which was combatted with having a really nice looking older waiter (Bianka agreed!!), the night was fantastic, and I couldn’t express more gratitude to my friends here ❤

On my actual birthday, though…. This is where things got interesting.

As  I mentioned in my previous post, guys generally treat me differently without Nate around. And this weekend was no exception.

Now, because my actual birthday present to myself is going to Sarajevo tomorrow (woo! one more country for the list), I decided that I wasn’t going to do much on my actual birthday, other than eat out somewhere.

I decided on brunch. SO around 2 pm I made my way to a well rated restaurant called Cirkusz.

Now, it’s not widely popular in the states to eat alone, but here it’s even less popular and kinda frowned upon because of table space. On this particular day, their solution to this problem was to sit me on the other end of a table with two guys. (Whatever, I’m just here for food).

And moments after sitting down I realized that they were speaking English. I knew that once I ordered they would also be able to tell I am not a native Hungarian.  (And in my head I began to debate if I should pretend that I don’t speak Hungarian or English well, so that I didn’t have to interact or get hit on.)

Forgoing that option, I order by dundering through a little Hungarian until the waiter switches to English anyways, and even though I didn’t see it….. I could feel their ears perk up.

OH MY GOD ANOTHER AMERICAN. (I do it all the time, I probably look like a moron staring in the direction of wherever I hear my native tongue in public.)

After a few weird introductions, and actually getting past the awkward „Do we have to talk in this instance stage”, I found out they were both pretty cool and here with some program, other than the Fulbright, teaching English.

They seemed to enjoy my company enough that one of them asked me if I wanted coffee afterwards, and because I was excited by the idea of not being alone for my birthday I said sure. (Making sure to mention Nate at some point in order to not get any confusion in intentions)

If any of you have had the pleasure of watching me eat, you probably know that I get incredibly nervous the first time I have to eat or consume things around anybody. Be it a resident, a date, or new family. And when I feel really anxious, I say or do really stupid crap and get really clumsy.

Even though we had made it through breakfast relatively unscathed, I dropped my silverware and couldn’t eat toast properly, but that’s an above average performance for me. This lemonade/coffee hangout was no different.

And the most notable thing I said was „Oh yeah, I was at the Vatican before it was considered it’s own country”

Foot in mouth. Obviously, not what I was trying to say at all. But mid-explanation why I didn’t initially put in on the list of countries I had been back when I visited my brain combined the two sentences giving an actual explanation of my reasoning, and I said that. Which, for those of you who don’t know the Vatican has been a country since 1929, so unless I’m a Twilight esque vampire, that’s entirely impossible.

Other than that, it was a nice surprise from the universe that made my otherwise lonely birthday quite enjoyable, and I made a new friend, further proving that I can be a functioning human in society.

Naturally my day could not end there, and I decided to go seek out a pastry shop for a birthday cake of sorts. And this is where I had the less pleasant interaction with the male species.

I honestly must wear a big sign on my forehead, please harass or interact with me, because this happens to me more often than anyone else on this trip, I swear.

Anyways, I went to the more touristy part of the city for the shop after nightfall to get sweets before meeting up for a drink with Helen. And the second that I walked into the square I knew it was a party night, which also seems to mean trouble. Alcohol plus already awful people is never a good equation.

And I was right.

As I was standing on the side of the street these guy started talking at me. And I knew this time I had to put on my French ignorance. They wouldn’t leave me alone and I just kep praying that the light would turn. And thankfully it finally did, and one of them had the nerve to grab my hand and another grabbed the strap of my purse.

Absolutely disgusting.

I ran across the street and went into a shop and waited for them to leave. I hate being touched more than anything else, especially by strangers.

There’s a lot I could say here about the complex that drives men’s ability to think that is even remotely okay, but I won’t. I have to go pack for Sarajevo! Lots of pictures next week!