After fifteen years of turning jump ropes, singing times tables, and wearing my bathrobe on Pajama Day in California public schools, I decided to follow my dream and relocate to Europe. With two suitcases, one guidebook, and zero knowledge of Hungarian, I moved to Budapest in 2000 where I have lived, taught, and torn open care packages from home for most of the last decade.
Before moving to Hungary’s capital I knew nothing about this land of the Magyars except that Zsa Zsa Gabor was a former Miss Hungary, Bela Lugosi had a strong Hungarian accent, and that when a party guest in My Fair Lady tries to determine where the newly transformed Eliza Doolittle is from, he announces that there is only one possibility – she must be Hungarian. The only Hungarian I had ever heard before arriving in Hungary was when Eddie Albert’s wife spoke it to her pet pig on Green Acres.
While living in Budapest, I have survived drinking pálinka (think nail polish remover), braved Hungarian winters (think Siberia), tried to steer clear of local drivers (Remember Speed Racer? He was Hungarian), and can’t count the number of foot-in-mouth moments I’ve had trying to learn the impossible Hungarian language. (Don’t ever say “cookie” to a group of Hungarian kids. It means willy.) Currently, I teach at the American International School of Budapest, one of Europe’s premier international schools. For more information about my books, please visit www.phillipdone.org.