A View of Kecskemet

Trip Start Nov 01, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Here I am back in the cozy library of the studio reflecting on my last few days. I look outside and it is raining.... the weather much like a Sonoma winter. Having been here for two weeks now I have a good sense of the little town called Kecskemet. The studio is located right in the town center so everything I need is within 5 min. walking distance. I usually get up in the morning and head for the gym.

Hercules is located right behind the hotel casino, off the hotel parking lot, which is two blocks from me. I pass small shops all along the way. They are tucked into every nook and cranny of the buildings along the streets. Sometimes I take a different turn and I find a few more stores or cafes in the most odd places. What seems like a small town is truly bustling in its own way.

I enter Hercules always with a stomach churning feeling. Much like when you give a speech. I get many stares for being not only new, but because I think they have all caught on that I am not Hungarian. I immediately turn right into the small closet of a locker room. A few cubbies for lockers, a shower, a toilet, a sink, and enough space for two people to change, that's it. Somehow I managed to get my own locker (I think the trainer thought it was easiest so that I didn't have to ask for a key like everyone else in Hungarian). I emerge, bandanna and ipod on, and I head straight for the cardio equipment, two bikes, two stair climbers, two elliptical machines, and three treadmills crunched into the corner. I climb over a few weight lifting machines to get there and then I settle in to an hour or so of mindless exercise and reading. I have now figured out the best times to go so that I keep stares and attempted conversation to a minimum.

After a good sweat I figure out my weightlifting strategy and get started. The main room is a rectangle, cardio equipment in the far end, free weights and a multi-joint cable unit in the middle and edges of the room. A small room off the backside is home to the bench presses and a few leg machines. Then past the bar-like trainer desk/reception, up and over a couple stairs, you find and even smaller room filled with a cable machine and a couple other leg machines. It is an old fashioned, Hungarian, body builders dream. Signed posters of famous body builders and past Olympians hang on the wall and American 80's music resonates through the speakers. I really feel at home here.

After my workout I gather my things and head for the market. Its about three blocks down from the gym. Directionally I am making a square from the studio to the gym to the market and back home. Behind one of the supermarkets is a small warehouse filled with farmers selling everything from breads to meat and eggs to vegetables. This is where I do the bulk of my shopping since it's the cheapest and freshest. I also get to practice my Hungarian, which is coming along rather slowly. The ladies are sweet with their pink cheeks and cheery smiles. I figure out what I want, hand it to them and say Leirna Kerem or Write it down please, so I know how much to pay. This brings a bigger smile and giggle as they eagerly try to ask me where I am from or my name. Not much communication happens, but I have a rush of accomplishment run over me as I say Koszonom Vizlat (thank you and goodbye). As my morning work time is creeping away from me I head back to get showered and started in the studio.

Walking around Kecskemet I remain very observant. I definitely stick out like a sore thumb with sunglasses on (no one seems to know what these are!), either workout clothes or studio attire, and the long red hair (yes its getting long again). There are very few if any natural red heads here in Hungary. Many women walk the streets with what looks like a dreaded attempt to achieve a reddish color, they look at me with envy :). As for the fashion sense, it is not something I care to indulge in. Women with knee high boots, tucked in jeans, messenger bags slung over their shoulders, all staying warm in their parkas. It's really not that cold. They are always dressed to impress, men included, something I am definitely not doing. I know Europeans are always dressed like their trying to attract that "someone", but "Come on people, they eventually have to see you with no make up on!" I remain my usual self, not really wanting to succumb to this lifestyle and not having the clothing to try anyway.

The streets are like a grid, its easily navigated around the town and I find my way back to the studio without any hassle. I try to take a different route each time and end up finding something new and interesting along the way. Doctor's offices, apartments, shops, all nestled into the same buildings. At times you don't really know what your passing. Last night I walked the streets (its very safe) and just indulged in the quaint cobble stoned streets and churches ringing their bells and people bustling by holding hands (it was Valentine's day). Rather enjoyable European town.

I make it back to the studio before the next rain hits and get going on my work. Its painstakingly slow, very technical at this point with much trial and error, but each moment is great. Right now I am the only artist in residence as Kira left yesterday. There is an exchange student from Turkey, but he is so very quite that we don't speak much and being 21 he is out at night till who know when and sleeps in. A very different schedule from myself, therefore it has become very quiet here with absolutely nothing to distract me...sometimes a little too quiet. More artists will be coming in March, but until then it's just a few staff members and me during the day. I blast the radio in my studio and sing to myself as I work meditatively with my clay.

If I am loosing your interest just hold on, as it is about to get way better.

Being yesterday was Valentine's Day and I didn't have a Valentine (except for those wonderful friends and family who sent me e-cards) I decided to treat myself to a present. You might think flowers, chocolate, clothes, but no I went for a leg waxing. I heard that in Hungary it is extremely cheap to get done (actually these women really know how to beautify themselves so its no surprise it would be affordable). Therefore when I arrived in Hungary I stopped shaving and two weeks later the legs were ready (longest I have ever gone without shaving in my life!). Emeshe took me to make the appointment and to my surprise one woman spoke English!

Now I have never had this done, I knew it would be painful, but never thought to this extent. MAN it hurt! But for 7 dollars (Can you believe how cheap??) I don't have to shave for 6 weeks. Eat your heart out cycle boys! So where is all this going? well during this time the women was asking what I did for fun. I told her I liked to workout of course and that I missed those grueling spin classes. To my surprise she knew what I was talking about as she took them herself!! "WHERE?" I asked with great enthusiasm. She told me the name and pointed out, as best she could, the right direction, not far really. That night I went walking the streets to find this Metamorf fitness studio. Walking up and down the streets I had no luck. I came back and started my investigation online and finally came up with an address.

This morning I had Emeshe write on a piece of paper questions about classes in Hungarian just in case and headed out in search of this studio. I was determined to spin again! After half an hour of being told this way or that I found I had been walking past it the whole time. In the basement of the medical center, through a narrow door and hallway, was the spin room full of beautiful, majestic, kick-your-ass, Lemond bikes! I almost wept with joy! I purchased the 12-class card (three bucks a class people!!) and was signed up for my first class that evening. You register online at home (something park point should consider). The time couldn't come any quicker.

It was now 1700 hrs and class was at 1730 hrs. Wanting to arrive early to get a bike in the back, I left hurrying along in the rain to the medical center. I got a locker, found a bike, and started warming up. It is a very small room with 14 bikes squeezed in, but nothing could deter my longing to spin again.... it has been four and a half months now! A few people came in, but total there were only 5 including me. It was now just coming up on 1730 hrs and who walks in but Erik. No not really Erik from Park point, but dye his hair brown and it could have been. Tall, lean, Legs like a women, bike shorts and Nike top with his spin shoes.... oh yeah and he was coming just in time to start! (Sorry Erik I couldn't resist!). He sets up quick and off we go.

Now this was called Intensive spinning on the list of classes. Not sure what that means, but figured it was harder than beginner, but not sure I was ready for triathlon yet, remember 4.5 months of no spinning folks. All right so I am now spinning in Hungary. He of course says something to me that I figured was like "hi, your new?" but I just said Angolul (English) and he understood right away that I didn't speak Hungarian. He said he new a few words and that is exactly what he new, a few. He put in a CD and the warm up started. I am gathering that Hungarian music is not very popular because everywhere
I go it is English pop music. Spinning was no exception. He had a good selection, but had to keep changing tracks on a CD, annoying, but still he was rather entertaining even if I didn't understand him.

The warm-up starts with the strangest upper-body stretches I have ever seen. Neck bends to the beat, big and little arm movements up and down side to side.... I really cant do justice describing these movements, I just know it wasn't what I would recommend for stretching and why so much upper body stretching? I was to find out very quickly. 5 mins in and we start getting warm so he moves on to the next song. At this point I am in the back smiling trying not to laugh, not because it's bad, but because it's so not what I expected.

We start out standing (actually most of the class is out of the saddle) then we start doing push-ups on the handlebars to the beat. Imagine standing over the saddle, arms spread out on the handlebars doing push-ups in an up middle down middle up sequence. Now I understand the upper body warm up. 10 mins in and my arms are burning. I had to work really hard to keep my back in proper alignment with all this up and down. We spent a lot of time doing this in different sequences and different hand positions, sitting for a few seconds then getting up and running without moving the upper body, then pulsing up and down again. Honestly thought it was hilarious at first and then it started kicking my ass! 45 mins later, two soaked towels and singing to the Bee Gees and Kasey and the Sunshine Band, he switches Cd's ... I knew i was in for it when "Pump It" by the BEP came on! A sprint to the end with more out of the saddle running!!! I made it through, my heart rate didn't get too off the chart, and I found it very entertaining. We finished with 10 mins of more strange lower-body stretches and then I said my good-byes.

A few more of these classes and I might have to come back to Park Point and teach at least one Hungarian style class. Get Ready Everyone!

Now I am way past my bedtime and exhausted from the Hungarian Spin class. Hope you enjoyed this chapter as this weekend I am going to Budapest and will hopefully have another chapter to write about. Thanks for reading.... till next time.
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