“That will be 80 euros,” the airline dude says nervously.
Airline Dude’s very sweaty brow is reflecting off the fluorescent lights hanging above us and his attempt at feigning any last ounce of authority is more or less transparent. Poor guy probably gets reamed at on the daily for telling people they have to pay 80 fucking euros for luggage. It is literally some Utter. Fucking. Bullshit Vueling is trying to pull here.
It’s 9:30AM and I’m standing in Budapest airport with the world’s dirtiest ponytail, reeking of pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy), and half my consciousness intact. We’ve been milling around in lineups like cattle for the past half hour. If I wasn’t still drunk from last night, I would be gratuitously casting dark gazes, making snarky comments in my head, eye rolling at conversations I’m not invited to, and being an all around salty asshat. But because I’m still mildly intoxicated from last night, I’m just floating in a vapid daze. We got home at 5AM last night, slept for 45 minutes, then booked it to the airport.
It’s been quite the night with the Hungarians.
“80 euros?” I sputter in astonishment/in my barely conscious stupor.
“That is very expensive.” I say slowly, as if he isn’t already aware and because I’m really hungover.
I stare at him, “That is very expensive.” I assume I’m repeating myself because I’m currently lacking the brain capacity to say anything remotely comprehensible.
The lady next to me starts laughing at me. She’s caught an earshot my unintelligible efforts at adult conversation. If there’s impaired driving, this is impaired negotiation.
“Fuck,” I whisper exhale and hand over my 80 fucking euros for my fucking stupid ass backpack. This is what Winda and I get for thinking we could get away with bringing our backpacks as carry-on. This is what we get for fucking with budget airlines.
Last night was such a mess. We meet Hungarians. More engineers. They buy us a lot of pálinka and we are then subsequently required to shout “Pálinka!” every time it’s consumed. We get our asses handed to us in foosball–after grabbing Winda by the shoulders and looking her dead in the eye and saying, “Don’t worry, I’m really good.” I am not really good at foosball. We go to a lot of bars. Hungarians have a way of making just about anything into a bar–twinkly lights, patio furniture, overhead projector with the FIFA World Cup on display, miscellaneous food truck, a tiki-ish bar, et voilà. Then there are the infamous ruin bars which, imagine a dirty, old, crumbling abandoned building, add various types of garage sale furniture, hang a fishing net over the ceiling, and serve alcohol. We drink Somersby apple cider, and I am extremely pleased. We almost get taken to a random flat (keyword: almost.) Hungarians are kind of romantic–I get told my beauty is like stars in the night sky, that I’m a Hungarian princess, and that this guy would marry me if he could speak English. Winda gets a stalker. I get a guy who doesn’t speak English (not the same guy who said he’d marry me.)
Winda resumes her role as Monica Gellar and I’m Phoebe in that episode where Phoebe is dating a diplomat who doesn’t speak a lick of English, and Monica is dating the functioning translator. I say this multiple times throughout the night. Loudly. The guy I’m with just looks at me and smiles very often.
“Oh. My. God.” I say, about fifty times throughout the night.
We stumble less than gracefully through the front entrance of our apartment building at an ungodly hour and laugh loudly/regretfully at the ridiculousness that is our night. In hushed tones we both agree to not say bye to James because he sucks and our time to escape is now.
Next stop, the Eternal City.
The Incarnation of Snark Can Speak
“Hi, I’m James*,” he says. “I’m from Singapore.”
James lives with us. He has a very distinctive Singaporean accent, bangs so uneven they make you cringe a little, is tall and lanky, and dons a football jersey of an unidentifiable team (unidentifiable to me at least) as leisure wear.
“Oh, you’re watching FIFA?” Winda asks out of sheer affability.
“It’s called World Cup.” he replies matter-of-factly.
James is really not that bad–he doesn’t steal from us (which does in fact happen later on in our trip), lie to us, or eat our food–he’s just really annoying. Being embodiments of our country/before discovering what an Intolerable Troll he is, we are cheery, welcoming, and friendly. Although, Winda and I are generally very cheery, welcoming, and friendly (trust me, you would love living with us. We are nothing but delightful.)
We invite him for a drink and an explorative walk around the neighbourhood. We chat. We get to know one another. Winda and I giggle a lot, because we giggle a lot. We get the sense that the Intolerable Troll thinks he’s too smart for us due to our relentless giggling–which when you think about it, is quite the uneducated guess. He tells us about his intense mancrush on John Mayer–the dude waited like ten hours in layover to Heathrow just to see him for one night. I get slightly creeped out. After discussing his promising career in mechanical engineering, he insults Winda’s major majorly on our first night:
“You know what I think the most useless major in the world is?” he offers. I’m not sure if anyone had asked.
“Something in the liberal arts?” He seems like the uppity type that would think so.
“Business,” his voice drips with disdain. “The absolutely most useless major out there.”
I clasp my hand over my mouth to avoid laughing too loudly. Winda keeps her composure because she’s a classy lady, whereas I burst, “Winda studies international business!”
The Intolerable Troll gets somewhat flustered, as he’s just embarrassed himself in front of his new roomies. “Oh.. oh…”
“It’s okay,” Winda is polite–graciously forgiving–of his recent outburst. She doesn’t delve too far into his last comment because obviously he’s one of those hopeless elitist pricks.
Like I said, we are pretty friggin’ delightful. As the Intolerable Troll is traveling alone, we invite him on our excursions for the next day: breakfast, baths, a walking tour, and etc. He doesn’t like baths. Ooooh, quelle fucking surprise, didn’t see that one coming. He agrees to meet us at the communist walking tour. It’s all starting to make sense now.
Can I Just Live Here?
First of all, can I just live here? Just leave me behind in our second week of backpacking and let me revel in all the splendour that is poolside lounging–or when in Budapest, bathside lounging.
The baths are ridiculously ridiculously good-looking: an oasis of marbled perfection, Art Nouveau that feigns living in a different era, delicately staine glass, ornate mosaics, and the classiest of fountain statues. The atmosphere is basically my calling–relaxed, half nakies, the sweet sound of waves crashing (in the wave pool), some fine ass surroundings, and hot, hot heat. Budapest, you kill me slowly but so sweetly.
We are internally freaking out over just how palatial this place is, whilst being surrounded by Hungarians who do this on the daily. They’re sauntering about, all unfazed and ready to chill the fuck out on this hot summer’s day. Then there’s Winda and I ruining everything.
“I think there’s a cut on my foot,” Winda says for the 158th time. Symptoms of her particular form of OCD is being very much concerned with her feet. It’s special.
We’re sitting in the outdoor heated pool. It is super serene in here–cute old people are outlining the entirety of the pool, draped beside us in a languid daze, and bearing their tanned leathery skin to the heavens. There’s even the simulated sound of cascading water coming from...somewhere probably equally majestic as this entire establishment.
“Let me see,” Being the good friend that I am, I fully accept Winda for who she is. And I need her to stop talking about feet before I start hating her. So you can imagine my displeasure at what she does next.
She raises her foot in the air towards me. “You may kiss my feet,” she says jokingly and laughs.
Lo and behold, a circa 1997 (6-year-old Kaylynn and Winda) splashing war wages out between us because rude. We are in no survivors mode and are splashing the shit out of each other–as well as the previously unperturbed bath patrons encircling us–in the crazed way you would only behave in a girls versus boys water crusade. We really should be arrested for disturbing the peace.
Our pool fight eventually dissolves (after lots of girlish screams and Hungarian frowns), and we have to rush to make our communist walking tour. We contemplate staying and skipping the tour altogether, but James. We fucking have to go meet with James.
Because A Communist Tour Sounds Fun
We find James. We embark on the communist walking tour, and subsequently leave five minutes into it because the contemptuous vibes are cramping our style. We do a shit ton of walking despite not actually being on a walking tour. We drink out of public fountains because you can do that in Budapest. We visit the parliament buildings. We have Hungarian food (potato-ey as well). Winda nearly falls off an ocean edge and into a pit of rocks. We take a lot of pictures and indulge in Tumblr-approved novelties.
James conveniently reminds that our names are unconventional.
“So do all your friends have funky names too?” James asks.
Winda and I exchange glances.
“What do you mean funky?”
“Yeah funky like how?”
Clap your hands because James has reached the peak of his quest for self-actualization–he has fulfilled his identity as an incarnation of snark, the Intolerable Troll. With an onslaught on snide commentary during the whole damn day, remarks laden with condescension, and repeated belittlement of our enthusiasm…
We’re just so tired of his shit. God damn it, James. Winda and I exchange a telepathic agreement that we will no longer bless James with our simply delightful presence. We’re tired of your shit, James/will see you at home later.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying.
If you couldn’t tell already, Winda is the ringleader of all things organizational. I occasionally call her Monica–as in Monica from Friends–to shine light on her particular OCD-ness and to purposely grind her gears (she’s not too fond of Monica–the word hate is often used when I bring her up), but for real–God bless Winda and her incessant need for order.
She is the reason we have yet to be kidnapped and then human trafficked as a limited time Asian commodity. She is the reason why this trip exists. She is the reason why I get up in the morning–because, quite literally, she is the one near-violently shaking my shoulders and going, “Kaylynn! We have stuff to do today! Get up.”
As a personal challenge to myself (and possibly a means of amusement for Winda), I am given the reins upon our arrival in Budapest. It is my sole responsibility to find shelter in this foreign country. Our European adventuring vitality is in my hands.
“Go, Kaylynn.” Winda nods to what’s ahead of us. It’s almost 9PM in Budapest, the sun is beginning to set, and we’ve arrived in what looks like a neighbourhood where panhandling is its main source of income.
I pause and look at her with the uncertainty of a child. We have just taken a bus from Prague to Hungary, and it was sooooo relaxing: cappuccinos were flowing and righteously handed to us; we were all happily nestled in plushy leather seats and basking in non-stop air con.
Now I’m holding a fucking map. I hate maps. Don’t give me a map. I’m not in Vancouver anymore–there are no mountains indicating where north is. I’m so confused. And sad. So very sad.
Winda crosses her arms and gets increasingly tight-lipped as we venture back and forth around the subway station. We walk one direction. We stop. We go the other direction. We stop. The walking aimlessly continues.
We are padding along the dirty sidewalk with our massive backpacks and a look of perpetual bewilderment plastered on my face. I know the Monica Gellar that resonates deep inside her wants to point us in the right direction/wants to yell at me for being a navigational aberration.
I stall a little. I’m hoping to awaken the OCD beast within her.
“Ummmmm,” I bite my lip and pretend to read the street signs. It’s all in Hungarian. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore. We venture towards what looks like a very dirty, spray-painted red, and audibly abandoned nightclub.
I get really sad for about ten seconds and wonder if I accidentally booked us a nonexistent/located in a shithole Airbnb. I had one job.
Winda’s now irritated and muttering under her breath–because I’m clearly leading us towards a Hungarian drug lord or a room full of money launderers.
I smile at her innocently, “Maybe it’s this way?” I offer despairingly, banking on any ounce of sympathy.
She doesn’t answer.
“Okay! I DON’T KNOW ANYMORE! Winda, help me!!!”
She snatches the map out of my hands and subsequently gets our shit in order. We arrive at our destination (it was five minutes away, in my defense) and meet our lovely Hungarian host. We also meet the most annoying person on the planet. And he lives with us.
We arrive in Prague. I’m recovering from an allergy attack, but am ready to bask in all the presence that is well-preserved buildings and el cheapo beer. We have heard rumours of Prague. Mainly that it is party central, dirt cheap, and that the ice cream is pretty legit. So we roam. We have dinner. Czech cuisine is particularly potato-ey. Winda and I are huge fans of their potato soup, and their beer is bubblier than expected.
It is fucking roasting in Prague, by the way. Stickiness is at an all time high, we are panting 95% of our time here, and it is a no-pants nation. As the sky dims on our first day in Prague and hordes of young travellers congregate in preparation for a night of debauchery (synonymous with Prague’s pub crawl), we wander into Prague’s Old City Square. It is très nice. The rumours are true–this is the equivalent to Helen of Troy–it is like standing in a fairytale come to life.
Face-To-Face With The Degenerates Of Our Country
We meet a fellow Canadian on our first night, and spoiler alert! I fucking hate him. As we’re seated having drinks on a patio–the evening air is all nice and serene, and with the Old City Square bustle in full view–we can hear his douchebag drawl from a mile away. “It’s called yellow fever in Canada,” he says knowingly to his friend, “Just go up to them and ask them how they are, and where they’re going tonight,” He’s purposely speaking very loudly. Homeboy’s got a case of unashamed, self-proclaimed yellow fever/most likely objectifies women on the daily. I obviously have to destroy him.
Canadian Douchebag is sitting with friends (which baffles me till this day, because really? He has friends?). His nice Hungarian friend asks us to take a picture of their group. Hungarian Friend explains that he’s here with his brother and his brother’s new wife (cue awww), and with his friend, Canadian Douchebag. He asks where we’re from, “We’re from Canada,” we say. Canadian Douchebag interjects–all slouched in his seat and oozing a perceived coolness about all things–“I’m from Canada too. Toronto.” No one fucking cares.
Hungarian Friend joins us, and we really like him. He tells us about his search for true love (I am dead serious, as is he), his struggle to find love while working in Germany due his issues with German and Hungarian women alike (no German wants to move to Eastern Europe, German women are hard to get, etc.) This man’s got a torrid love affair with media’s depiction of true love, and we sympathize for him.
His friend, Canadian Douchebag, however, is suuuuuch a colossal douche. He waddles over, uninvited obviously, and sits down next to me. An aura of ickiness immediately clouds over us.
“You Viet? You look Viet.” he nudges me, while simultaneously paying tribute to all panda fever stereotypes everywhere.
Is this flirting?
“No.” I respond dryly. Levels of unamusement are rising at speeds never seen before.
“What are you girls doing tonight?”
“We’re going out–”
“Can I come? I’ll pay,” Ignorant, sexist, and talks over people! We have struck Yukon gold here (pun-intended).
“No. We have our own money.”
“OK then, you can pay,” he throws his head back laughing, holding his stomach–fully absorbing the pronounced hilarity of his joke.
His presence continues to severely irritate me. He drones on–with the most pitiful attempt at flirting in the I’m-an-asshole-but-you-like-it approach.
I want to tell him he’s not remotely cute enough to pull that off. Instead, I whip my head to look at him dead on, and say, “You need to leave.”
His eyes widen in disbelief at my blatant lack of decorum, “Are you serious?” he stutters.
“You think you’re ahead right now, but I’m telling you, you’re not even in the running.” Not even.
Winda bursts into laughter from across the table.
The look on his face would make any feminist proud.
“You think I’m joking, but I’m not.” I add, shutting down any suggestion that this might be some flirty kind of witty banter.
He’s still staring at me in shock. “Wow,” he over-enunciates the ‘o’ in a dramatic attempt to make me regret my audacity. “Wow.”
He gets up to leave and turns to his Hungarian Friend, “This one’s a bitch,” he lowers his voice but not so that I can’t hear him. He wants me to hear his last stab at self-preservation.
Thank God, we got rid of that one.
Besides getting Canadian Douchebag to go the fuck away and befriending his Hungarian Friend, we resume our night of indulging in cheap beer and asking our server for fun facts about the Czech Republic. We love fun facts. We learn that Škoda (car brand that saved our life in Iceland) is from the Czech Republic. We eventually venture into Prague’s nightlife district, and subsequently fall asleep at a club.
The constraints of jetlag has produced the following napping milieus: public spa room, in the parking lot of a Taco Bell, at our hostel in Germany instead of going on a pub crawl, and now a club in Prague. Yes. It is possible to completely doze off while eurotrash techno reverberates off the walls. Our bodies have failed us. We go home with our heads hung in shame, and pray for a better, less sleepy, tomorrow.
20+ people at our annual Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve! A combination of the best — our Chinese side of the family x my uncle’s Italian, Hungarian, and German side. I’ve donned it my Chinese Italian Fusion Family.
Featuring marzipan everything–chocolate covered, as tart filling, in the shape of Christmas paraphernalia, as garnishes in novelized shapes, as a bar, topped with candied fruit..
My aunt’s boyfriend’s dad who is Scottish (and whose name is Alistair–like how fucking badass is that?), brought some of his homemade eggnog and oh my God, I should really curl up into a small ball and hide in shame because it was literally 80% bourbon, 20% eggnog and I could not handle it. Alistair laughed at me in his badass entirety and claimed this was his lighter recipe (just imagine this interaction in a heavy Scottish accent.)
The fibre optic Christmas tree from my third dinner — my aunt clearly doesn’t fuck around.
I almost ate the plastic decorations on this yule log cake, because unlike everything else on the freaking table it was not actually made of marzipan.
Opened a damn cookie factory in my girl’s kitchen.. She made like four dozen cookies, while I made mango sago (quite successfully actually), and then reverted back to helping her turn sugar cookies into tiny Santas into regular cookies into chocolate stuffed cookies into.. just too many kinds of cookies. We were near hysterics during those few hours because we were both so tired and the cookies were not looking like they did on Pinterest.
And the free-flowing wine at my family’s Christmas dinners is how I know we’re all related.