Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hungary Adventure, Part 2: Work Days

Tuesday and Wednesday were primarily work days. Erik participated in sessions during both days, but did not have a formal presentation until Wednesday afternoon. However, he was able to talk with many of the visiting scholars, including two Georgians interested in elections and political parties (Erik's favorite topic).

After Tuesday's work session, many participants wanted to watch the inauguration. Of course, it was not difficult to find coverage of the event, and the beginning of the Obama administration (and end of the Bush administration) was a part of many dinnertime conversations. A scholar from Azerbaijan is coming to the US to research the role of religion in politics (especially campaigns and elections); she and Erik talked about many issues at length (among the topics were board of education elections and the issue of intelligent design, the role of prayer in the inauguration ceremony, social conservatives and the Republican Party, and Mormon politicians on the national stage and in Utah).

The volume of food at dinner was reminiscent of many grand meals that Erik has consumed in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. He noted this observation to his mealtime companions when they complained that there was simply too much food. They acknowledged that hospitality can get a bit out of hand at home, too. In addition to soup, an appetizer, and a main course - all of which were the size of entrees - everyone had some of the struedel that was prepared for us by the pastry chef and owner who not only demonstrated the technique, but invited us to try our hand at preparing the dough. If Erik had not been sick, he would have volunteered. But, he decided that coughing on the dough was not a really good idea. However, one of the Uzbek participants took a turn with an apron and did a reasonable job creating a thin coating over the work table (the dough becomes so thin that you can read a piece of paper through it!).

Wednesday was a rainy day, and the session lasted until the late afternoon. Erik's presentation was well received, and he made many contacts for the future. Wednesday evening was dedicated to travel preparations. Apparently, airport workers are on strike, requiring even earlier hotel departures than usual. When Erik arrived on Sunday, he noticed some oddities such as the failure to use any of the jetways (instead, passengers were off-loaded from the rear door onto buses). In his travels he often encounters such quirks, so he just assumed that it was part of the regular routine in Budapest. It turns out that the second terminal was actually closed due to the strike, but the plane had to park next to it. With last year's three-day return from L'viv still fresh in his mind, Erik hopes for the best tomorrow!

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