I told J. Edit as we walked back from a concert on Sunday that I was very tired but wasn’t sure why. “Tavaszi fáradtság,” she said to me. Spring tiredness. It was the second time I’d heard that phrase in Hungarian, and I was a bit perplexed by it. I asked Edit to explain. “Oh, you know,” she said to me in Hungarian. “It’s just now spring, we aren’t getting enough vitamins in our food, it’s not fresh, not enough sunshine … ” In truth, I didn’t know. This hasn’t been my reality in a country where I can get any kind of food I want at any time of year, regardless of the environmental cost. But here it makes perfect sense, and I begin to understand an even deeper longing for spring than I have had before. A longing I feel with my body, not just my soul.
So far, March has delivered spring to us beautifully. Today I got very hot walking to the bus stop in Péterfalva, even with my coat unbuttoned, so in Beregszász I just discarded it altogether. I noticed so many people out and about during the bus ride – pruning and plowing and planting and sweeping and walking. In the winter, I often felt claustrophobic. Hungarian/Ukrainian yards are small, many are mostly filled up with gardens, and everything is drab and muddy in the winter. But now, just with one little shift of the light and a few degrees rise in temperature, suddenly every house and garden looks inviting, and I want to be out there in the sunshine with dirty fingernails.
The concert that Edit and I had attended on Sunday was in celebration of a Hungarian national holiday. The whole school marched down to the Culture House in the center of the village.
(That’s J. Edit and V. Edit walking up to the steps.)
The concert was in celebration of the Hungarian people’s revolution against the Austrians on March 15th, 1848, under the leadership of poet Petőfi Sándor. It is indicative of the Hungarian character that, though they lost this war as well as subsequent attempts to free themselves from Austrian rule, it is one of their biggest national holidays and certainly the most patriotic.
There was a youth band visiting from Hungary, and they played several rousing marching songs. Students from our Péterfalva school also performed – a reading, a pantomime, and a song. And various important people talked. A lot. This is a necessary component of a Hungarian celebration – speeches galore. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if they lost the revolution because they wouldn’t stop orating.)
After the concert, distinguished guests came to the school to have a tour and eat supper. We teachers and students had to wait until the guests had finished and left, and by about 8pm many of us were hovering near the doorways. When we finally were permitted to enter the dining hall, we crowded around the tables (which had been pushed into one, long table), said our prayers, and with a heart “Jó étvágyát!” (enjoy your meal), we pounced on the plates of food.
If I were to imagine a medieval feast, I think it would look quite similar to that night. We were ravenous and heedless of manners (Hungarian table manners are different anyway; there are no qualms about reaching across anything), there were all sorts of delectable treats, the air was festive, and we were smushed together around a long table of truly feast-ly proportions. Our menu: stuffed cabbage, deviled eggs, 4 different kinds of meatloaf, two different kinds of fried pork, cabbage salad, carrot salad, mandarin oranges, bananas, (oh, what a special treat these fruits were) 2 types of biscuits, fruit juice, and bread. It was such a satisfying meal.
And there were leftovers. Have you ever eaten stuffed cabbage and meatloaf for breakfast? I have.
Yesterday (Tuesday), I suffered from the worst case of indigestion yet, and I will spare you the details. I’m not sure if it was a result of my feasting or of the incredibly greasy pasta sauce I had at lunch on Monday. Or both. So, unfortunately, my celebration meal rendered me an invalid on the actual celebration day. I didn’t mind too much, since the concert had been on Sunday and the school’s ceremony had been on Monday. And that night, once my stomach had settled a little, I opened my window to let the springy and festive air in.