I recently re-connected with a few people I went to high school with. I started looking around for some of them on Facebook because it’s been 49 years since I graduated, and I thought that if any are left standing, they would be planning a 50 year reunion. Sure enough, I found a few, as well as a facebook page and a website where said reunion is being planned. I’ve had to answer a few questions, because I actually haven’t seen or had contact with the few people that I remember and have found online from my graduating class in 49 years. So I’m going to write a little here about where I am and what I’m doing here.
While I have good memories of my high school days in White Bear Lake High School, my connection with White Bear Lake more or less ended a few days after graduation. I left on the first of many trips around the country and around the world and pretty much never went back. I’m not going to go into how I got where I am now or what transpired along the way, (maybe on another day) but somehow 49 years after leaving White Bear Lake SHS, I’ve ended up living in a small village in Western Hungary, not far from Lake Balaton, and on the shores of Kis-Balaton (Little Balaton). The village is nearly surrounded by a national park and wildlife area, a major breeding ground and stopover for birds.
I live with my partner in a nice little house, with with a terrace overlooking the garden (I suppose Americans would still call it a yard), a dozen fruit trees, and some fields and forests beyond.
Our village has around 400 people, a shop, a post office, a church and a pub (where a glass of local wine or a ‘fröccs’ – soda water and white wine mixed, a popular and refreshing drink in the hot summer here – will set you back about 50 cents), and that’s about it. The surrounding countryside is beautiful, with a mix of lakes forests, fields, hills and vineyards. A poor man’s Tuscany.
And if we need city life and a bit of action, we’re about two hours by train or car from Budapest, one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world. We have a flat there, many friends there, and I go several times a month. Due to my advanced age, I qualify for almost free public transport anywhere in the country – It costs me around $1.20 to take the train 200 kilometres – 140 miles to Budapest.
And we’re only a half hour by car from the Croatian and Slovenian borders, in the middle of Europe. We travel frequently (I was in 15 countries on 3 continents last year). We sometimes take longer trips, but we frequently make short trips the neighboring countries as well as Ireland (I lived there many years – another story).
One more thing – we may be mad, but we have just bought a second house in the village. It is much bigger than our current house. There is large brick barn and other out-buildings, and it has a view of the lake . Our intention is to turn this property into a small conference and retreat center, and perhaps a cafe to cater to the hundreds of cyclists that pass through during the summer. The house will be the conference centre, and we will convert part of the barn into a mini theatre, meeting room and the rest into a residence for us. Although it’s structurally sound, it needs a lot of renovation everywhere.
There is also has a big cellar underneath the house – originally used for wine making. I’m seriously considering getting into making some wine myself! Or at least, building some good wine racks and storing up some of the wonderful wines from this region.
So that’s what I’m up to these days. White Bear Lake Senior High was a big school. I wonder where the nearly 700 kids I graduated with ended up?