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A view from above

‘You can’t miss it’, he said. ‘It’s the second-tallest building in Budapest.’ This was what was rattling around in my head as the metro approached Nagyvárad tér. I couldn’t place it. I’d been above ground on this square (tér) countless times but could I remember a really tall building anywhere? Not for the life of me.When I surfaced and saw, I wondered how I could possibly have missed it.  I was looking at Semmelweis University’s elméleti  tömb (theoretical block) and I needed the nineteenth floor.  The lifts are programmed by reception. You check in , state your raison d’être, name your floor and then go to whichever lift you’re assigned. Definitely not somewhere for control freaks.

Naturally enough, the windows on the nineteenth floor open inwards at an angle. Not nearly enough room to climb through and requiring faith and safety straps even to get a decent photo.

I was surprised, and nicely so, at how green Pest is. So many trees planted between the concrete towers, something that is not quite as obvious when you’re walking on the streets. This bird’s-eye view is quite remarkable. I saw buildings I’d never noticed before and once again reminded myself that I really had to start turning left instead of right when I leave my apartment. There’s a whole new world out there. The triangular building is not one I recognise. I’ve passed it on my way to Keleti on the No. 24 tram but hadn’t realised that it had three sides to it. Who’d have known?

From this vantage point, the ‘little Basilica of Esztergom’ on Rezső tér look even more magnificent than it does when you stand in front of it and once again  I made a mental note to self to find out more about this place.

I saw Ferencváros football stadium in the distance, standing in all its glory, empty and alone. It contrasted strangely with the visions I have of crowds of supporters spilling out onto the streets, or as I saw in Nyíregháza, busloads of fans under armed escort.

I wondered briefly what  Nagyvárad tér would look like at night, and decided to stay and find out.

There really is nothing quite like a change of perspective.

Getting far more than I give

I’d sooner wash windows than paint walls and I’d sooner clean floors than do anything in the garden. But when it’s not my wall or my garden … that’s a different story. While I’m no stranger to volunteering, I tend to opt for things I can do on my own as I’m not big into group activities generally (am quite anti-social really, when I think about it). But there’s something quite unique about volunteering with the IHBC‘s Give a Little campaign.

This was our second trip to the Topház Speciális Otthon in Göd (a state orphanage), the first having been voted a roaring success back in July. I’d expected pretty much the same crowd, yet I found that I only knew a handful of those who turned up at Nyugati to cadge a lift down. The majority were students from Semmelweiss University – future vets, doctors, and dentists – all giving freely of their time to paint one of the wards and clean up the grounds.

Given that it was such a gorgeous sunny day, I  opted for the garden duty. We raked leaves, trimmed hedges, dug weeds, planted shrubs, played air guitars on shovels, horsed around on spades, got to use a hedge clippers, rejoiced in our welts and callouses, and generally had a blast. Who would ever have thought that hard work could be so much fun.

I have a theory. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is how I see it. Volunteering for these work crews gives me something I don’t get from my normal, everyday life. I get to go in, work like mad (well, I have a blister or too!), accomplish something, have some fun, and then get to stand back and see the fruits of my labour – all in a matter of hours. Multiply that feeling by the 40 or so people there today and you get a lot of work done and a lot of satisfaction from doing it. That sense of achievement, that reward of almost immediate gratification, are priceless.

Those who live in the orphanage year round don’t have it quite as good. For them, there is no going home or going back to a normal life as I know it. But the staff really seem to care and the lads who are ambulatory laugh a lot. For many, it’s a blessing that they don’t fully realise that they’ve been given up by families who, often through no fault of their own, simply couldn’t cope with their disability.  For me, as a volunteer, it’s a blessing to be able to do something to help. And not for the first time, I’m left wondering who really wins from these days out. I have sneaking suspicion that I get far more than I give.

If you want to get involved, sign up to the IHBC facebook page or website or come support the  Gift of the Gab, the proceeds of which are going towards buying a bed for Norbert.