Thursday, January 29, 2015

A change of focus

The big news since I arrived in Kuching three weeks ago is that my application to become a resident of Hungary – specifically, Budapest – for at least the next five years was successful! It all happened very smoothly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for me to decide to put down roots in a city in central Europe I'd never thought to visit before September 2013. Now it feels like home. In fact, it will be a base for all of Europe. Being a resident will mean I don't have to keep an eye on day counts within the Schengen Zone, so I'll be able to explore more widely and not have to carry everything I own with me everywhere. I still have a foot firmly planted in New York, but I'll be spending less time in Asia after next month.

It's always great to see Min and Sam, Ivy and Swee, Emily and other friends here, but it's not really been a very social visit. My workload has been heavy, and it's been very wet, so we haven't run much. It's been fun to be present for my Friday Night Flicks movie screenings at the Batik, now in its second year. I've also had another complete wellness check: there's nothing physically wrong with me that wasn't wrong with me last year, which is good news!

Kuching is getting ready for Chinese New Year, with decorations going up all over town.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Terminal 2B or not 2B?

Twice within a week a Hungarian taxi driver asked me if I wanted terminal 2A or 2B at Budapest's international airport. The second trip had long been scheduled: a return to Malaysia; the first was a spur-of-the-moment excursion.

My cousin Kylie broke her ankle at a very convenient time for me, if not for her! I was able easily enough to change my plans and fly to Berlin to meet her the day her bus tour ended. (She had been one week into her two-week bus-about holiday when she fell on an icy road in Slovakia the day her group was due to travel to Budapest. I saw her there, where she decided she could continue on the tour after I offered to help get her and her luggage from Berlin to Amsterdam the next week. The alternative was to cancel her holiday and fly straight back to Australia... Not fun.)

So, I flew to Berlin to meet Kylie on January 2. Once she was organised in our hotel I walked over to see my friends from Malta, Norbert and Marisa, who have a gorgeous pad on a street that was once divided by the Berlin Wall. We had a lot to talk about: I hadn't seen Marisa since I stayed with them on Gozo in 2007, and I hadn't seen Norbert since he stayed with me in New York in 2010 or 2011.

The next morning Kylie and I took the train from Berlin to Amsterdam. This was the challenging part of the journey, but we finally found our seats and got all our bags together in the one place. I then disappeared into my book for the day.

After we checked into our hotel in Amsterdam we went to a hospital to see what was needed as follow-up to the treatment in Budapest. They basically said there was no point in doing anything until the Monday (it was now Saturday), so I spent Sunday catching up with people: Sarah, a cousin from New Zealand I'd never met (this time on Dad's side) and her partner Simon for a fun brunch at Paper Planes; and Susan, a runner friend from New York, for an exhibition of Vivien Meier's photographs at Foam Museum. Kylie managed to rest her foot and have fun in her own inimitable way.

Monday morning I had to head back to Budapest, and Kylie went off to hospital where she had an operation and an overnight stay over the next few days, in time to fly back to Oz at the end of the week (yesterday).

In Budapest I had a terrific meeting with Orsolya and Zsofia from the Hungarian House of Photography to discuss an idea I've put to them and Albury Art Gallery. That night I took Miki, Jules, David and their visiting friends Lori and Ted to dinner. I'm leaving some things at Jules and David's, which is a great help.

And before I knew it, the taxi driver was asking me yet again if I wanted 2B (or not 2B)...

I'm now back at the Batik Boutique Hotel in Sarawak, where I have my Kuching routines, including running in the predawn with Min and now also Swee.