On the Road 2009: Day Three

May 27, 2009

By hammersmith

Each summer the Flinn Scholars Program takes an entire class of Scholars to Budapest, Hungary, and neighboring Romania for a three-week seminar on the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe. Here’s a day-by-day account.

Lara Cardy (’05):

I cannot believe that this is only the third day of our program!  We have seen and experienced so much in only 72 hours and, as a chaperone, I must have counted, recounted, and counted our group of Scholars hundreds of times.  In the morning our group of high-acheving students participated in self-analysis of their academic behaviors and attitudes with Marta Fulop, an expert in academic competition in the United States, Japan, and Hungary. 

Our left-brains were given a rest and our right brains were kicked into gear when we stepped into the Ady Endre Museum, the last home of Hungarian poet Endre Ady. Geza Kally, a jolly man who looked remarkably like a cross between Santa Claus and Philip Seymour Hoffmann, shared with us the details of Ady’s life and several of the his poems.

Ady was born in part of Austria-Hungary that is now in the Transylvanian region of Romania and seems to have been quite the character.  He was a skilled journalist, a Budapest newspaper correspondent in Paris, contracted syphilis early on in life, and had an extended affair with the married Leda, his poetic muse.  We heard a number of his poems, including “The Hackneyed Carriage” and “The Lost Horeseman.”  Ady did not lead a happy life, and throughout, most of his writing spoke poorly about the Hungarian people, referring to them, for example, as “illiterate.”

As Kallay put it, poets are not made but simply exist through the divine inspiration of God; poets cannot supress their talent, but rather may be dragged to the depths of hell at the insistence of their unrequested talent.  God has given me no signs that I’m a poet and Kallay’s description of a poet’s obligations make me quite glad I do not carry that burden.

Although I’m certain I don’t have the divine inspiration that defines a poet, each of us did get to try our hand had writing a short piece while at Budapest’s Central Kavehaz.  Kallay gave each witing pair inspiration with a set of four rhyming words. The trip’s other chaperone, Devin Mauney, and I created this masterpiece, clearly inspired by both dragons and Michael Phelps:

And then the dragon went upon his ship,
And in his mouth he placed a fattened sheep.
A dentist dragon would not his dentures pick.
And Phelps the Michael now has reached his peak.

A number of other equally creative poems were read aloud in the famed coffee house, where writers would set up shop in the mid-afternoon and, supplied with paper and ink by the waitstaff, would stay into the wee hours of the morning. 

One of the true highlights of the day was a visit to the workshop housing Leonar3Do, a personal three dimensional simulator and the creation of Daniel Ratai and his father Janos.  Leonar3Do is unique from other virtual-reality programs in that it is compatible with a PC monitor and intended to be released to market at reasonable cost, making it more accessible than current multi-million-dollar systems of unwieldly size.  We all got to try our hand a the program by wearing a special set of glasses and using a “bird,”  similar to a 3D mouse.  We could easily see the potential applications of this technology: my immediate though was the use for protein-folding and protein structure, while other students were excited about the animation and physics possibilites.

After ending the afternoon with gelato (more correctly, stopping at two gelato stands on our way back to the hotel), the students each met with Hugarian hosts for the evening for their first homestay!