May 18, 2003 - Amazon: Over the Hill in Hungary by Virginia White

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Hungary: Peace Corps Hungary : The Peace Corps in Hungary: May 18, 2003 - Amazon: Over the Hill in Hungary by Virginia White

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, May 18, 2003 - 11:19 am: Edit Post

Over the Hill in Hungary by Virginia White

Over the Hill in Hungary by Virginia White

Over the Hill in Hungary
by Virginia White

When the Soviet Army that kept Hungary's communist government in power for 40 years marched away in 1990 they left an economically despondent heavily polluted country whose dispirited people had become cynical and embittered by too many broken promises of happy tomorrows in exchange for hard work and sacrifice today. Their life expectancy was among the world's lowest and their suicide rate among the highest. By the middle 1990's, Hungary was being hailed as "The economic miracle of post-communist Eastern Europe." The transformation was observed by Virginia White and chronicled in Over the Hill in Hungary. At an age when most people are planning their retirement or may be already retired, she went to Hungary with the U.S. Peace Corps and taught English in a "gymnasium" (high school) where she shocked the Head Master and other faculty by insisting that the adolescent students call her "Virginia" and inviting them to her apartment once a week where they washed down English vocabulary and grammar with Coca-Cola, potato chips and other junk food. "In twenty years, your generation will be running this country!" she told them, "And I want you to do a good job!" With grandmotherly firmness, she added, "The Russian language was mandatory in Hungarian schools for 40 years, and I have not found anybody in this country who speaks Russian. Now, I don't want to come back here in 40 years and find none of you speaking English. "

White also visited former-communist neighbors of Hungary. In Yugoslavia, she shared a compartment with several young men, among them a recently demobilized Serbian soldier who, during the Bosnian war, had been fighting at Sarajevo and Mostar.

The confused border guard in the three-month-old country of Slovakia did not know what to do with a busload of people from Hungary who wanted to pass through his terrain to reach Poland; they belonged to an organization with "Corps" (sounds military?) in the name. The guards who, sometime after midnight, entered her sleeping car between Hungary and Romania, reported to be one of the toughest border crossings in that part of Europe, gently awoke her enough that she could reach under the pillow and hand them her papers. With scarcely a glance at them or at her luggage, they stamped the papers and returned them, whispering softly, "Now go back to sleep." Those and other experiences suggest a new connotation for the expression "over the hill." She found that on the other side of the hill there was adventure excitement, and yes, fun too!

About the Author
Virginia White was born and raised in the State of Virginia and has lived in California, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Washington D.C., New York City, Tokyo, Japan and The Philippine Islands. She now lives in Budapest and New York. Her professional life has been as varied as her places of abode. She was a science administrator at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and was the first Associate Director of the Woodrow Wilson International... read more

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Story Source: Amazon

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Hungary; Writers



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