We made it! We are in the country of Hungary on the continent of Europe! It was a twenty hour travel day, but the journey to this point has been well over a decade if you count the years of commercials, industrials, day players, and supporting roles it took Matt to be prepared to actually inhabit the role of Stevie Taggart, a reformed, murderous, street thug in the 1800’s with a New York accent.
It wouldn’t be a proper blog post without details of some of our mishaps so here are a few! At the Atlanta airport where we arrived buried under six suitcases, carry-on bags, and our passports, the check in lady asked us where our Visa’s were. Record scratch!!!!! (Millennials, google it). A Visa!!? I explained that I didn’t think we needed a Visa as no one from production had ever made a single mention of needing one and they are on top of things like this, but she insisted. After some more back and forth she disappeared behind the curtain to speak with Oz. Matt and I looked at one another uneasily and I said a quick prayer that went something like, “God! Budapest! Fix it!”
Then just like God inhabits Octavia Spencer in The Shack, He chose to inhabit another British Airways employee, who happened to walk up to the desk to ask what our hold up was. We explained, he pressed a few magical buttons on the keyboard and said that we did not, in fact, need a Visa at all. Just a passport. Despite the original lady’s protests, he calmly tagged our bags and walked away. As we gathered our remaining carry on bags, original desk lady said to fellow desk lady (sotto) “What was he even doing out here?”, which means that normally he would not have crossed our path! Divine intervention for the win!
Our next snafu came at boarding time. If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, you know of the inviolable Lintz “right hand” ritual (for more on this, see “Sepulvatory”). However, on international flights they require you to show your passport one more time as you enter the actual plane. So my right hand was otherwise occupied as I boarded. In order to complete the ritual, I would have had to shift everything to my left hand, and take an additional few seconds before boarding while everyone behind me wondered what the heck I was doing, WHICH I ABSOLUTELY DID DO, but in an abbreviated way. My usually well thought out prayer of “God, please do not let this plane crash into the Atlantic because that would really suck,” turned into more of a “SHMFRMOEF!!!”, while Matt was only able to blurt out a mental, “Please G…..!!” Fortunately, God understands strong non-verbal sentiment….because here we are.
This next incident is painful. Without me knowing, and somehow clearing Atlanta security, Matt had packed his BRAND NEW Rodan and Fields Unblemish Skin Care regimen in his carry on bag, and the vigilant security workers at Heathrow in London confiscated it. This regimen costs well into the $200 range so you can imagine the heated mother/son dialogue that took place where once again it was determined that even though it was Matt who had packed liquids over 3 ounces in a CARRY ON BAG (how many planes have you taken, son?), it was still somehow all my fault. (can I get an amen from mom’s everywhere?) In a fit of extreme irritation, I leapt up onto the metal bag examining table and shouted for an audience of hundreds, “THIS IS THE DUMBEST RULE EVER! WHY CAN I NOT TAKE LIQUIDS GREATER THAN 3 OZ. ON YOUR DANG AIRLINE!? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!? HIJACK THE PLANE WITH TONER? DEATH BY EXFOLIATION!?” The woman thwarting us matched my ire, holding aloft a long staff that she borrowed from Gandalf and screamed, “YOU SHALL NOOOOOOOT PASSSSSSSSSSS!”
Mother of God.***
FINALLY, 20 hours later, we arrived in Budapest. It’s been…..………daunting, not gonna lie. The cast and crew are lovely, so no worries there. Matt will have a ball on this project. The people of Hungary are friendly, kind, and accommodating. But living in a foreign country where we do not speak the language is overwhelming on a good day. Everything is so different, which isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just uncomfortable. The following issues have already made me yearn for my motherland.
Everything is small: Like for small people. When Matt and I tried to fit into an elevator at our hotel with our 6 suitcases, the elevator barely fit the cart itself, let alone Matt and I. I was squished behind it flat as a pancake (thank GOD I’ve been using Plexus) and Matt was basically suctioned to the ceiling like Spiderman. In our suite, the stair case is so narrow that I had to turn the suitcases side ways to fit. We have Anne Frank’s staircase. And there is no actual room in the bedroom to FIT said suitcases. They are in the hallway. I mean, what is the DEAL Europe? Could you be a little more roomy maybe? I honestly think this is why Christopher Columbus went to America. He was like “Good lord, I cannot MOVE here. All the big boned people, come with me!”
The shower: Our shower points straight down from the ceiling. There is no getting your body wet before your head. You have to either bend at the waist to keep your head out of the spray until you’re ready to rinse or turn backward and do a sort of sun salutation. This is not all bad as not only do I get my shower out of the way, but I also experience a complete yoga class at the same time.
Electronics: Ok, so you know how in America you are always hunting around for your computer or phone charger and cursing about it? (Just me?) Well, here, you also need an adapter to convert American power to European power. So not only do you have to keep track of the chargers, but the converters. This is simply a recipe for disaster in my case, and I’m going to learn to curse in Hungarian so I can express myself when necessary.
(Additional appliance note: American hair dryers do not work over here. Apparently, they are powered by NASA and cannot be converted to European electricity without burning down the entire hotel, which might not be a bad idea, to knock a few walls out and make more room. The ones in our hotel do not have an on/off switch. They have a button that you have to mash down the entire time you are drying your hair. When you let it go, it turns off. This can be quite tiring if you have long, thick hair. If you have arthritis, time to drip dry. Let me just ask you, Hungary…….why? Unlike curling irons, no one in the history of the world has ever left a hair dryer on all day long.)
Grocery stores: I was told that this would be the most challenging aspect of our journey at first, which is absolutely correct. I walked into the local corner store, and immediately started sweating. Kroger, it was not! Nothing was in English, of course, but I thought I would at least be able to recognize certain products. When I stumbled upon a box that actually said Kellogg’s Cornflakes, I grabbed it like a 13 year old grabs for any member of One Direction. I don’t even eat corn flakes, but I was so happy to see something I recognized that I bought it anyway. The only way I knew that the milk was milk was from the cow picture on the front of the carton. Most things I couldn’t recognize what it actually WAS from the picture on the front, and I couldn’t find any of my usual items anywhere. I honestly was stumped at what we were going to prepare for ourselves. I did find Activia yogurt, and Jamie Lee Curtis patted me on the head and said not only won’t you starve, but you’ll be super regular.
Our apartment again: Doesn’t have an oven. It has two stove top burners and a microwave. This may not be a problem as I cannot find anything at the grocery store to cook anyway.
The language: While many people do speak English, especially those in the hotel and tourist industry, this does not include people that work at the local grocery store. I could communicate absolutely zero with my check out girl which proved to be a problem when I realized they did not provide bags. I did not know how to ask for a bag, so I just pointed and said bag in a Hungarian accent (BEG), hoping that would suffice. It kind of did, in that she gave me one, but ONLY ONE, and then began checking out the next person leaving me to BEG about half of my groceries, and then figure out a way to juggle the rest in my arms for the walk back to my hotel. I looked completely ridiculous and all of Budapest mocked me.
It is clear to me that Matt and I are going to have to actually learn some of this language to at least appear polite. We have downloaded a Hungarian language learning program and one of the set P.A.’s is set to give us daily short lessons that won’t make us cry. Because this language is HARD you guys. I can’t even pronounce half the stuff they say. But we are resolutely immersing ourselves. There is just no other way.
While I am overwhelmed, and a little homesick already, there is much to be grateful for. So in closing this “initial impression” essay, I do want to list some things that seem awesome about this adventure.
- Budapest is beautiful. Budapest szep!! Matt’s eyes were agog as we drove past a castle in the middle of the city. They call Budapest the hidden jewel of Europe and we are looking forward to having the chance to explore it for ourselves. Not to mention the surrounding countries. I can get to Rome in 2 hours. Whaaaaat!?
- The food is actually pretty good! It’s fresh, and tasty! I haven’t eaten anything yet that makes me gag.
- Getting back to this job, to say that we are grateful to be here is an understatement. As a family, we have always wanted to break into the international scene, and this is easily the most international project we’ve ever worked on. There are actors from Germany, Ireland, England, Belgium, and America. They have built an entire back lot simulating six full blocks of 19th century New York City that took our breath away. TNT is calling this their Game of Thrones.
In the last 18 months, Matt has screen tested nine times and received nine no’s. Then, when finally he was cast in a movie, it was shut down two weeks into production. To have him actually be the “chosen one” this time, on what promises to be an enormous period drama is vindication at the end of the rutted road of disappointment and despair we have traversed. We literally feel like we’ve climbed Mt. Everest. Or maybe the Alps, where we are standing this very minute, hands on hips, satisfied looks on our face, staring off into the distance. The difficulties of life in Budapest……I can handle.
I know the Alps are not in Hungary, just go with me.
***A big thank you to Rodan and Fields and our consultant Marci Smith, for agreeing to send us a free replacement regimen as a one time courtesy. Matt’s skin is saved.