The Market: Kilograms and Forints

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Pazmany Peter Setany 1c, University Math Building
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Auditorium Chair at Eotvos Jozsef Gimnazium

I have less than three days left and what do I do? I go to the market. The market is dangerous when you have a short time left because there are vegetables and meats and cheeses to buy, but you are alone and who is going to eat it? I have created a monster for my last few days. I bought popcorn and oranges and tangerines, and sausage and bacon and Brussel sprouts and onions and tomatoes. All of these things are great, but as I said, who is going to eat it? I wanted to buy eggs and cheese, but seriously, why. I also purchased some favorite desserts to which I have become accustomed. I have paid anywhere between 3200 to 1000 forints for this dessert, but today, at the market, the favorite dessert–Somloi Galuska was only 320 forints. I bought two.

Every interaction with people in the market is affirmative and engaging. I do not know Hungarian, and for the most part, they do not speak English, but we figure it out. I learned after only two months in Hungary that when it says Kilograms and you are trying to figure out if the price is right, that 1 pound is approximately 2.2 kilograms. Now I think I knew this before, but when you are in another culture, and you don’t speak the language, you forget about your school math and work double time to figure out forints to dollars and pounds to Kilograms all at the same time. The merchants could have been swindling me, but they did not/ When I give a merchant 5000 forints for something that cost 230 forints, which means I should have given the person the 500 forint note, they could just take my money and move on. They could take advantage of me, but they do not. I spent another 10 minutes trying to figure out that I did not want a blueberry extract for 6000 forints, but before I knew it there were four different sets of people trying to help me communicate that. I learned a little more about forints and kilograms today and nice Hungarian people in a market off the 4 – 6 tram and the number 19 bus.

I will remember, with affection, the experiences in the community, probably more than I remember the school visits. We have many possibilities for which we can assist our youngest and oldest students to connect better with math. I am in awe of the resilience exhibited by the Hungarian people over the last 100 year, war, fascism, communism, and democracy. They are doing yeoman’s work to figure out democracy, and so are we in the United States.

The market is where I go to learn about the culture and myself.

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