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December 27, 2012

Local Voices from Around the Globe: Pig slaughter not the best experience

By Grace Heneghan
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Last time I wrote I hadn’t had much to say, but I feel as if so much has happened since then.

At the end of November, I had to stay with my councilor in Zsámbék, which is about a half an hour drive outside of Budapest. This was a great opportunity to get to know my councilor and for him to get to know me. During the three days I was with him and his wife we went to the spa, a local market, sight-seeing and a pig slaughter. Yes you read right, a pig slaughter. This next paragraph may be too vivid or gruesome for some to read, but hey, at least you weren’t there.

When my councilor told me in the morning what we where going to do for the day, he couldn’t find the right words to properly explain himself. So as you may be able to imagine the state my stomach was in when he found the thesaurus. He was throwing around works like killing, murder, slaughter and bloodbath, and at breakfast time no less.

We arrived at a small house down the road around noon to a dead pig hanging in the backyard. This didn’t bother me as much as I thought, but the sight still wasn’t pleasant. The worst part was when my councilor took me into the barn and told me to say hello to “Mr. Brown,” the next victim. I had my picture taken with it before and after even as I tried to refuse politely. There was blood everywhere and a lot a squealing. I don’t feel like replaying those memories of that particular experience, so I will spare you anymore details.

Don’t get me wrong, I still had a nice time. The funny thing is that I forgot about Thanksgiving after that.

Besides my joyful excursion with my councilor, I spent a lot of time with my fellow exchange students over the month. I spent a weekend in Szolnok and had a Rotary orientation in Gyor. I have grown to love my crazy group of inbounds, despite only knowing them for three months. Gyor is northwest of Budapest and a two-hour train ride. It is a beautiful city with a culture of its own it seems. 

We participated in an interactive science museum, toured a monastery, and went to Parapark. Parapark is when a group of people are locked in the room and have to escape in a certain amount of time. I will admit, it was terrifying and I really enjoyed it. Sadly my team and I didn’t solve the puzzle in time to be successful.

I will be changing families very soon, a transition that I am ready for. Probably by the time you are all reading this I will have had already moved. I admit that I didn’t get along with my host family very well. We have had our differences in opinion and a few misunderstandings. If I’m to be honest though, I’m being very politically correct. I appreciate what they have done for me, but it is time for me to move on. The sad part of this is that I will have to be changing schools along with my next family. I am moving across the city to live in Pest. For those who don’t know, Budapest is cut in half by the Danube River. I am currently living on the Buda side and it would take me at least two hours to get to school everyday. I will be leaving my friends behind, but I still plan to keep contact. I think I will do better with this next host family because I’m not as preoccupied with everything being new. I can focus on properly building a lasting relationship, something I regret not being able to do with my first host family.

As Christmas neared,  I was really home sick for a while, but I am out of that rut. When Rotary prepares you for exchange and tells you your emotions will be like a roller costar, they mean it.  As of writing this, I still needed to buy presents for family, friends and secret Santas, a chore I find relaxing. Many Christmas markets have sprung up all around Hungary and I love to see all the tourists and things being sold. The smell of cinnamon Kürtőskalács and forró bor is tantilizing and gets anyone in the Hungaran Christmas spirit.

Something I have learned throughout my exchange that I think is very important is that not everybody will like you, but to also be OK with that. I do feel as if I have matured in these past months in ways I could have never imagined. I would be lying if I said exchange was a walk in the park and great all of the time, but I still recommend students to consider doing it. It opens up your world to all sorts of experiences, people, and places.

Grace Heneghan is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student who traveled to Hungry. To read more about her adventures, visit her blog at