Hungary! Focusing with children! When the conference was announced, I knew I must go. As time passed, I realized that there was no sense in going all that way and not learning something about this new (to me) country. The conference was four days. I made reservations for two weeks. In October, there I was, in Budapest with a whole week to explore before I left for the conference.
I found Budapest to be a marvelous city, its buildings beautiful yet of a scale that was both impressive and accessible. I walked most of the week, enjoying the wide boulevards, the attractive vistas, the Hungarian people whom I met - and the music! I went to a performance of the Hungarian Virtuoso Chamber Orchestra held under the dome of the recently restored Parliament building, preceded by a tour of the building. I had previously been reminded that Hungary had spent years under the domination of the Nazis followed by years under the Communists. In the tour of the Parliament building I was introduced to the rich pride of the people and to their recognition of how much needed to be done, and their determination to see that it was done. Other musical treats included Otello at the Opera House, a concert by the Budapest Strings in the Liszt Academy of Music and, after the conference, performances of music and dance by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and of gypsy music and dance by their Gypsy Orchestra. All of these were extremely enjoyable and reasonably priced.
Marta Stapert and her husband, Ynse, who organized the conference together with their Hungarian colleague Eszter Kováts, invited those who had arrived early to an evening at their Budapest apartment to get acquainted. It was a lovely evening, getting to know some of the other Focusers and enjoying delicious authentic Gulyas made by the mother of one of the Hungarian attendees. I was the only American present, among many Dutch and Hungarians, all of whom I enjoyed. By the time I arrived at the conference, I felt I had many friends there. Marta explained to me about the importance of paprika, the amazing variety available, and suggested that I go to the late 19th century central market hall, a wondrous construction of steel and glass, to purchase paprika as gifts. (My friends thank Marta!)
A few days later, a group of us were on our way to Salgótarján in a mini-bus arranged by one of the men I had met at Martas. It was a good way to go to the conference.
Salgótarján, about 2 hours north of Budapest, is in an industrial area, grounded in the communist period, which has in recent years lost its industry. The educational conference center of the Ministry of Welfare has been developed to bolster the local economy. This is where the First International Conference on Focusing with Children was held. The center has two main buildings, one with meeting rooms, the other with rooms for guests. Meals were provided by a local restaurant a short walk away. We were all delighted that a waiter came to each person before lunch and dinner to ask vegetarian or normal?"
Of over 70 participants, three were American, two Canadian, and two came from Denmark, 2 from Germany and 3 from Switzerland. There was one from England, one from Iceland, one from Israel, one from Romania, one from Ukraine, one from Czech Republic. And all the rest were either Dutch or Hungarian. Eszter had spent time teaching Focusing to a group of translators - all of whom now want to continue Focusing. It took some time to find the right rhythm for translation and finally the German translation was dropped to save time. I understand that somebody else is writing about the actual conference proceedings. I will just say that it was a remarkable experience, which I would not have missed for anything.
Our Hungarian hosts wanted so much to make the experience a good one for the participants and did everything they could to make our lives pleasant, interesting, rewarding. I made friends with people, who knew not one word of English, while I had not even attempted to learn a few Hungarian words. I also made friends with those who spoke English. Hungary soon becomes one of my favorite countries.
Music and dance became one way of communicating. One evening, a Hungarian group dressed in colorful native costumes gave a dance program, then taught everyone to dance some Hungarian dances. Another day, we all went by bus to the historic city of Eger, where we had a tour of the site. Afterwards, again by bus, we went to the Valley of the Beautiful Maidens, an area known for its wines. There we dined in a wine cellar, accompanied by gypsy music. Soon, the Hungarian members of our group began to sing, then to dance, encouraging all of us to join in, to sing songs of our own countries, to have fun! Eventually, we took over nearly the entire restaurant with a joyous international conga line. It was an evening never to forget. And all the participants in the conference were firm friends.
The whole trip was, for me, an unforgettable experience and I am so grateful to Marta, Ynse and Eszter and to all the others who had the dream of this conference and who made it possible.