Yes, I am still alive. And I am still in Budapest. And it is, mostly, exceedingly wonderful.
I am absolutely ashamed that it has been a long (yet short!) two months since last we met. It is embarrassing. I promise it will not happen again!
But, there's no use in lamentations at this point. We must boldly move forward!
So... How to even describe the last two months?
There is no way I can do it justice.
For one, I have developed two very dear and wonderful friends who I almost regard as sisters. Luckily, I get to take those two girls back "home" with me... at least until they graduate in June! Oh noes! But my two roommates have been crazy-awesome and I have come to love them immensely. Our room seems to be always filled with happiness and laughter, or else some good heart-to-heart. I have been infected by their speech patterns, I have started learning how to cook thanks to them, I have been enlightened through exposure to Riverdance, I have learned how to do a mean air-violin to Call Me Maybe, and much much more! Even had I not gained anything else from this program, befriending these two would have made my Budapestan adventures more than worthwhile.
But that's not all!
I have gotten to meet even more awesome people while in Budapest. Alas, most of these are people that I *don't* get to take back to Carleton with me. But I have thoroughly enjoyed our potluck dinners, crepe adventures, discussions about connectionist neural networks, forays into Euclidean geometry, disagreements about the value of philosophy, late-night philosophical-movie watching, good-humored teasing, and all the rest of it! I love that I have gotten to know a group of passionate, intelligent, well-read, fun nerds who like to laugh and be silly, as well as to share/discuss/explain/argue about ideas. There are a lot of people I will be sad to leave come December...!
But it's been a good two months, and we still have one more! Huzzah!
I no longer embarrass myself at grocery stores (mostly). I have successfully navigated the Hungarian mailing system. I have befriended a couple of Hungarian students and an absolutely delightful French student. I have gone on two excursions with the program as a whole, which provided lots of good bonding time and pretty Hungarian scenery. I have learned to j-walk like a true Hungarian. I have learned how to put together healthy, delicious, and happy one-pot-wonders. I have come to love Budapest and its glorious river Duna.
I have also gotten to venture outside of Hungary. I went on a weekend trip to Vienna with my roommate Lauren. This was glorious-- not least because I was well-accompanied. I also spent a week in Italy for our break: one day in Pisa and three days in Florence (with my other roommate and another friend), followed by one day in Pompei and three days in Rome (flying solo). Oh my goodness... So, so glorious!
Vienna-- definitely the Albertina, with its jaw-dropping impressionist paintings.
Italy... Oh boy!: Climbing the leaning tower of Pisa. The sculptures at the camposanto at the Field of Miracles in Pisa, as well as the sinopias. Florence's duomo. Michelangelo's David (!!). Pretty much all of Pompei-- ruins and gorgeous scenery both. Passing myself as a Spanish girl from Barcelona while in Pompei... The Roman frescoes at the National Museum in Rome (particularly the four walls of garden fresco... glorious!). The House of the Vestal Virgins at the Forum, as well as the rostrum, Ceasar's mound, and the temple of Romulus. The Colosseum and the Pantheon. Roman sculpture at both the National Museum and the Capitoline museum. Several of the rooms in the Vatican Museum. The art (especially Bernini's sculptures!!) at the Borghese gallery.
I basically discovered during my trip that 1) Medieval art can be hilariously not-that-great 2) David is a piece of beautiful, artistic perfection 3) Roman frescoes/art blow my mind 3) Gian Lorenzo Bernini is (was...) a freakin god.
As proof of that last claim, just look at this. I stole this from the internet (someone successfully violated the no-photo policy of the gallery...), but it is a close-up of part of Bernini's Rape of Proserpine, whose home is at the Borghese.
But it's marble!!!
HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THIS??
Mind: blown. Life is wonderful.
My only point of displeasure is the fact that a number of these beautiful sculptures are supposed to be depicting rape.
...What? Not cool!
There seems to be a disparity between what it is showing and what it is claiming to show. It's weird and I don't understand. So that whole issue curbs my enthusiasm a bit, but... the artwork... and the sculpture itself... is astoundingly beautiful.
Sooo... Italy was amazing. Basically.
A brief note on academics before I must go to bed... It's already rather later than my bedtime...
Our semester is composed of a series of one-week courses, each taught by a different professor and tackling a different aspect of the very broad field of Cognitive Science. Thus far we have had: Intro to CogSci, Cognitive Neuroscience, Cognitive Ethology, Brain Imaging, Philosophy of Language, Cognitive Informatics, Consciousness, and now we're on Embodied Cognition.
The semester started off roughly, with professors who failed to provide texts or supportive materials, did not give very good conceptual explanations, or assumed a non-existent background in their field... but the semester has more or less steadily progressed, which is wonderful. Also, at the beginning, I was quite frustrated by the very cursory one-week structure of the semester as a whole. However, I think my opinion is starting to soften. I wouldn't say that the different classes *build* upon one another- not exactly. But there are certainly overlaps and interesting connections between different courses, and I am really enjoying the conceptual framework that is starting to build across these various sub-disciplines.
In addition to these classes, I am also taking Theories of Meaning, a philosophy of language seminar, "on the side." Much to my delight, this class has complemented my CogSci coursework and my general interests quite beautifully.
So, generally speaking, life is pretty awesome.
I am in a beautiful place with relatively easy access to other amazing and beautiful places.
I am surrounded by warm, fun, nerdy, wonderful people.
I am making connections between concepts and being introduced to seductive fields of study... What more could I possibly want?
Moreover, I feel as though, albeit very slowly and not at all clearly, I am making some sort of progress in life. I am still highly uncertain as to what I want to do, but it's becoming clear that the path I am on can probably take me to wherever I decide I want to go.
So, for now, I will just enjoy the gorgeous scenery.