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My new house

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to where I’d move, if I had to move. The political situation in Hungary is getting a triffle sticky and the next election in 2014 will tell all. The results will most likely make up my mind for me. In the meantime, like any good scout, I’m getting prepared. If I were to change my address, this one wouldn’t be a bad one to have:

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IMG_1806 (599x800)While in Hawaii, I kept an eye out for places I might consider. I was looking for a bargain. This site apparently dropped from 1.5 million and what the fine print reportedly says is that most of the 71 acres are burial sites and the one lot that you can build on is at the very top, near the road, far from the water. But seeting as my bank account would haven’t that much in it, in forints, burial sites or not, that oceanfront property ain’t for me. The 180-acre lot wouldn’t do either as IMG_1805 (599x800)contrary to what the sign implies, you can’t own a beach in Hawaii. Undaunted, I continued looking, even though I could never live in Hawaii year-round. I’m a cold-weather girl and too much sun would do my head in, literally. Not having a winter wardrobe would drive me mad. I like the cold. I embrace it. And it’s all based on the premise that there’s a limit to what you can take off, but no limit at all to what you can put on.

But to come on holiday for a couple of months every year… that’s not beyond the bounds of reason. Not out the question at all.

IMG_1941 (800x595)I quite liked this one – it sits right on the edge of the beach and if I could get used to having a global beach population traipsing across my line of sight, then perhaps I could consider it. But I think it might play to the latent voyeur in me, the one that’s been held at bay by my not having a television and not being subjected to reality TV. Most of the houses here are built ‘post and pier’ so that the bugs don’t get in and the house has a little more sway.

IMG_1945 (800x600)This one is more in my line – partially hidden from view, I could pretend that the beach populace wasn’t there. But then, who knows what’s hiding in those bushes and trees. Mind you, with my new, refurbished 2013 luck, it could well be a modern man who can hunt and fish and still hold open the door for me all the while listening to my valuable contribution to conversation. Not much to ask for is it?

IMG_1823 (800x600)For views though, this one has them all beat. With a west-facing lanai (balcony), this is where I sat, each evening, and watch the sun go down. I don’t think I could ever get tired of the view. Yes, you have to come down the hill in first gear and while walking down to Ili’ili beach would be fine, getting back up again would give me calves only a cow could love. But the view… the view…

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The Catch 22

 I am not political. I have never been political. The permutations and combinations that need to be worked out in order to decide who gets to sit in parliament, any parliament, are way beyond my simple maths. I have yet to understand the nuances that lie beneath the political rhetoric offered by opposing sides: to me, it all sounds the same. In Ireland, the differences between political ideologies are slim enough to be practically invisible and to my unpoliticised mind, the same could be said of many other countries. The end goal of any party seems to be pure, unadulterated power. And so, for the first time in my apolitical life, I find myself a little concerned. Actually, I’m downright nervous about the idea of one political party, any political party, in any country, having a majority that will effectively allow them to change the Constitution without referendum. For a nation’s people to be so powerless is scary. But then again, I’m not a politician.

Before I cast my vote, I’d like the answer to two questions: Why – in a country that has produced 18 Nobel Prize winners, a notable collection of writers, artists, composers, scientists and mathematicians – are teachers so underappreciated and horribly underpaid? Don’t they hold the future of this country in their classrooms every day? G. K. Chesterton said that ‘without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously’. Now, more than ever, we need our children to be educated to think for themselves, to form opinions, to question the status quo, to learn right from wrong, to forget about how it has been done and to think about how it should be done, to face up to their responsibility as citizens of this great country.

Gullible or naive?

I’ve recently heard Hungarians I know recount stories of faking diplomas, having someone else sit their exams, paying someone to write their thesis or dissertation and then being coached by them to defend it. Any minute, I thought, the candid cameraman will jump out and laugh at me for being so gullible as to believe it all. But he never did. Perhaps this happens the world over…and ‘naive’ is my middle name! But I was shocked. And I can’t help but thinking that if teachers were given the respect their responsibility deserves and paid accordingly, if the disease were treated, and not merely the symptoms, then education might once again be something to be proud of and the future might look a little less bleak.

Health is wealth

That brings me to Question No. 2. Why are doctors and nurses paid so little? Society’s obligation to its elderly, its sick and its infirm surely goes without saying. Recent conversations with doctors, specialists and medical staff have left me flabbergasted. When a man in an Armani suit gets to jump the hospital queue and the little old lady has to wait for yet another hour, there is something not quite right. When families are subsidising their doctor sons and daughters so that they can work the wards, something is wrong. When patients are giving backhanders to ensure a level of healthcare that is their right, something is very wrong. When countryside practices lie empty because those who might have staffed them have gone abroad to countries where their expertise is valued and rewarded accordingly, something is very, very wrong. Who will take care of those left at home?

The buck stops here

To my unpoliticised mind, it’s not the alphabet army of CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, or the politicians who should be earning the big bucks; it’s the teachers and the doctors and the nurses. Those people whose very job it is to nurture society, to educate it, to keep it healthy and strong, and to care for it as it grows older. For only with a strong, educated, and healthy mind, is society in a position to effect change: to right the wrongs, to grow its economy, to take its place on the world stage. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about: a future in which we abdicate responsibility to whatever political party has come up with a majority; a future in which citizens are in danger of losing control of their Constitution; and even worse, where they are too worn out and apathetic to care one way or another.

But the Catch 22 is that in order to accomplish anything, the government needs money. And for this to happen, people need to pay taxes. But for this to happen, the tax system needs to be reformed and the government’s accounting made transparent. A flat rate would be a start, followed by society disowning those who avoid their responsibility as citizens. But hey, what would I know? I am not political.

First published in the Budapest Time 15 February 2010