far far away

I departed the country a bit over a week ago en route to a far away place. The country of Ukraine is a great physical distance from home, but quite possibly even more distant culturally. Kiev, the capital and largest city, was a tad touristy. Seeing nearly every church and monument in the city was a bit exhausting.
... you've seen one gold dome, you've seen 'em all.

But, only a day was spent here, as the purpose of this trip was not to be a tourist.

I tagged along with my step-dad Jere and some other members of the Friedman family in attempts to trace some of their family roots to a small 'shtetl' in the western part of the country.
The 4 brothers at their ancestors' hometown - Verbovetz

It was quite eye opening. Meeting possible (and probable) long lost cousins who's family somehow slipped through the cracks during the mass murdering of Jews during WWII was very moving. These people who barely survived were still barely surviving. Living on next to nothing by our standards was plenty.
Cemeteries and mass graves filled with Jews were visited. It hit me hard.

Off to another Ukrainian city we headed, back to being tourists. We stayed at a very nice hotel, equipped with complementary awesome breakfast and spa amenities for only 175 grivna ($22!) a night! That gives an idea of what people earn around here. I learned that a medical doctor earns only about $200/month.

More churches, temples, monasteries, and castles were seen in Kamianets-Podilskyi.
From western Ukraine, I took a train to my new home, in eastern Hungary. A distance of only 600 km or so if one was driving wouldn't take terribly long. However, due to gross, dirty, smelly, slow, rickety Soviet trains, travel time to my new home neared 20 hours.

Debrecen, pop. ~200,000, is the second largest city in Hungary next to Budapest. A nice city centered around a university known for great medicine, and leading research. I am staying in a neat little hostel/hotel/dorm nestled to the north of the university right up against the forest.

I already made it to Budapest where I had to send my mother off who embarked on the adventure from Ukraine to Hungary with me. Though I was a bit overwhelmed by the things to do and places to see in Budapest, it seems quite worthy of a return trip. After all, 2.5 hr train ride is nothing after some of the traveling I've done lately!
After my second night on my new, firm mattress, I feel good. I don't like feeling like a foreigner, but I can't control that I am. I feel that not knowing any Hungarian language besides hello, thank you, and counting to 10 is a little pathetic. Even the most sheltered Hungarian can say a few more words in English. Hopefully that will change a bit as time goes on.

BA - out

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