Monthly Archives: February 2018

Where Do I Live?

On Tuesday I said tomorrow I’ll post some pictures and a tour of where I live. Well, tomorrow has finally arrived!

Where I Live…in the City

I live in Pest, on the Eastern side of the Danube. This is the most densely populated part of the city. As a rule of thumb: Buda is known to be more green and wealthy, while Pest is urban and compact. My apartment building is located in District VIII, here:

From Google Maps, we can see my language school and College International, which houses BSM (about 15 minutes away walking). I’ll also point out the Parliament, Buda Castle, and City Park, where you can find the Szechenyi thermal baths.

Zooming in, my apartment is between Astoria and Blaha Lujza tér metro stops. I usually mention these two when I explain where I live. In general, people here  describe the locations of landmarks in relation to metro stations, which makes sense, because nearly everyone here relies on Budapest’s notoriously good public transit. I shop for groceries at Spar (pronounced shpar, remember from the Liszt lesson!) and the Rákóczi Market Hall, and my favorite coffee shop is the Magvető café.

Mmm, Spar

The Maveto café is wonderful–looks like it’s straight out of Portland, right?

…in My Apartment Building

At this moment, however, I’m at home, in this building:

Up on the third floor, I go along this open-air hallway to my door.

   

…and in My Apartment

You can look at some pictures of my apartment at the bottom of this page, but first…I want to point out a few features of the flat that I think you’ll find interesting:

#1  Extremely high ceilings. I’ve mentioned this before in our apartment, but I didn’t realize at the time how prevalent 10-12 foot ceilings are throughout Budapest. While a definitive explanation has been elusive, architect Witold Rybczynski suggests that it may be a combination of the fact that taller windows allow light to penetrate deeper into a building and pure aesthetics. It also may not cost significantly more for many buildings to be constructed taller, he says in a Slate article. Another commentator suggests that smoke—from both heating and tobacco—made taller ceilings more comfortable around the turn of the century. Due to Budapest’s restrictive construction laws, few buildings in the city center have been rebuilt, so they keep their high ceilings.

 

#2 Drying racks. Since there are no dryers in Hungary, apparently (it saves energy, certainly, but I still think that it would be a good investment) we rely on racks to air-dry our clothing. Some of our racks can be set up on the floor, but my favorite one takes advantage of the high ceilings and a pulley system:

     

I love little design features like this. And this rack is awesome to have. Not as awesome as a clothes dryer, but cool nonetheless.

 

#3 German shelf toilets. For those of you who haven’t been to Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary, or one of several other nations with this amenity, I have the honor to introduce you to the shelf toilet:

     

Both of the toilets in our apartment are shelf toilets. I had heard about them from Seth, a friend studying abroad in Berlin for the year. Despite the warning, I don’t think I was prepared. If you’re wondering why this toilet is shaped in this way, let me just tell you its alternative name: the “inspection toilet.” The Germans, I must say, are in tune with their bodies.

A word to the wise: these toilets are much better suited for those with healthy digestive systems.

If you are curious for more information, consider this pro-German toilet perspective, or this piece entitled “Terrifying German Toilets.”

~ ~ ~

And as promised, here are the photos of our apartment (with models) and my neighborhood:

 

The Semester Begins!

Classes started yesterday! After two exhausting days, I must say: BSM is truly a mathematical smörgåsbord. I’ve ended up running from class to class without any end in sight:

  • Mathematical Problem-Solving
  • Introduction to Combinatorics
  • Discovery Learning: the Pósa Method (about how to effectively teach/learn math)
  • Commutative Algebra
  • Quantum Probability and Logic
  • The Philosophy of Math
  • …and Hungarian language
  • (more to come!)

The somewhat austere building that houses BSM, McDaniel College, and the overhead bus cables

It’s a lot, but I’m excited because I wouldn’t be able to do anything quite like this back at Whitman. The BSM program is different because it has implemented a unique registration policy to allow students to visit classes and explore as much as possible. Students are not required to formally register for their courses until the third week, so these first few weeks become a “shopping” period, when professors expect BSMers to take on much more than they can handle and revel in the sheer quantity of mathematics courses available.

Once workloads reach crushing levels, students commit to the classes they would like to keep and drop the rest. But even then, nothing is set in stone. BSM allows students to leave courses without record until a week before finals, or audit a class after the course is over.

I appreciate this policy, because I feel that the instructors are looking out for our best interests. The emphasis is on exploration and curiosity rather than requirements, and I think that is how it should be. They simply want students to be excited about math.

It reminds me of the point in our academic orientation (a simple, two-hour affair—you can rely on mathematicians to be efficient) when the director of BSM, Professor Dezső Miklós, reviewed information about textbooks. Most courses would use handouts and lecture notes rather than textbooks, he told us. For those classes that did have an accompanying textbook, BSM had a small bookstore. But the texts are expensive, he noted, and several required books were not there. He told us not to worry. “Perhaps,” he wondered with a smile, “this could mean that these books can be found elsewhere, by…other means.”

In more ways than one, they have our backs.

Well, it’s been a good day, and I wish you a good night! Tomorrow: some pictures and a guided tour of where I live!

Nathaniel