Tooting All Horns

Natalie at Spinoza

Natalie, Ryan and Ron at Spinoza Cafe

In 2002, Dr. Susan Katz, from the University of San Francisco, was here on a Fulbright scholarship. Being a graduate of the university, my dissertation advisor asked that Ron and I help her navigate her way around. Though she was in Pécs, we did quite a bite together. Through her, invitations were provided to us to many of the Fulbright events over the course of her stay. This in turn led to meeting many of the other Fulbrighters and forming bonds.

Jennifer Norcross was also a Fulbrighter exchange teacher at the time. We met her separately at a banquet hosted by the State Department’s Regional English Language Office. She has turned into a lifelong friend.

When this group left for home at the end of their grants, Ron and I had a new type of empty nest syndrome. At the end of the summer, we requested a list of the incoming group from the Fulbright office. We offered to be the unofficial cultural liaisons. Some years, we had a joyously delightful plethora of people who crowded our kitchen on a weekly basis to play cards, games, or just drink wine and talk. Other years, people in the group were less enthusiastic about hanging with other Americans; instead, they chose to immerse themselves in their projects. The pendulum swings back and forth.

This year, like all years past, we sent out our letter to all the new people coming to Hungary. Not all stay in Budapest for their grant time, but are stationed all over the country, depending on their needs. We had four of the Fulbrighters reach out for assistance: reading a lease (the English version), guiding them in getting a SIM card for their phone, and opening a bank account.

One of the early arrivals, Natalie Douglass, maintained e-mail contact beyond the initial note. She will be spending her time in Kecskemét at the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music. Natalie is a doctoral student in music, specializing in French hornthe French horn. Although she had performed internationally, one of her primary interests is in music pedagogy. Her project while here is to develop French horn lessons using the Kodály method. Her timing is excellent with the institute celebrating its 40th anniversary in October.

We did not learn all of this and more about Natalie through e-mails. We had the sincere pleasure of meeting her yesterday. After the obligatory apartment tour, we took her on a short walking tour highlighting some of the Jewish landmarks in our district as well as a walk through in Szimpla Kert before settling in at Spinoza Café for lunch.

After spending a few hours with Natalie, we have to say, we are really feeling a bit gloomy that she will be in Kecskemét, not Budapest. She is a charming, exuberant young woman who lifted our spirits just being around her. This is not to say we were in poor moods before she arrived, but having her around definitely can upgrade your temperament another octave or more. Had we not all had other obligations, we could easily have continued to enjoy the day in her company. We wish her the best and hope we see more of her, especially her performances.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.