From nineteen to twenty-one, I had the opportunity to live in Hungary. Let me be clear, Hungary was not my choice. I was assigned to labor there. When I opened my call, I wasn't even sure where Hungary was. My bewilderment morphed into trepidation as I began two months of intensive language training. I learned Hungarian is one of the most complex languages for people to know, and I had severe doubts about my ability to master it. I'll never forget sitting down on the Hungarian Airline, Malév, in New York City as we prepared to take off. The airline Captain made an announcement in Hungarian. I understood one word, Köszönöm (thank you).
I couldn't hear when one word ended and another began. After two months of studying twelve hours a day, I knew very little Hungarian. My knees shook as I exited the plane in Budapest. Fast forward sixteen months, I sat on a streetcar in Southern Buda, passing the Gellert Hotel. I was holding a conversation, entirely in Hungarian, with an older Hungarian gentleman. He asked me where I was from. "America," I told him. He raised an eyebrow at me. "Really? I thought you were Hungarian." My feet never touched the ground for the remainder of the day. I was aware of the transformation that had taken place in me, but I didn't know how obvious it was to others until that day. Two years in Hungary changed me. It gave me the confidence that I could do hard things and survive. It's now been twenty-two years since I left Hungary and returned home. Every day since I've tried to build upon that confidence I developed there. I love to read and have dreamed of writing a novel. One day, five years ago, an idea popped into my mind as I drove home from work. That idea is the story of Vanished From Budapest. Because Budapest changed my life, it was only fitting that it should be the setting for my first story. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for reading. P.S. the photo below is of my beautiful wife and me in Budapest in 2002.