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While relaxing from a hectic school-year of teaching English in Hungary, I went to visit my friend's family for a week in July. She had been talking about her family and her home so much that I felt that I already knew everything and everyone, and I decided it was high time to do something about meeting and getting to know these people for myself. So I went to visit her and her family during raspberry-picking season.

In Hungary, the summers are filled with fruit-picking, vegetable-harvesting and crop-maintaining. It's a lot of work, but the result is in the sweet peaches and apricots, the bountiful grapes and the richly-colored peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes that are the staples of the Hungarian diet. I told my friend that I didn't mind helping her and her family pick raspberries; I had done it before and was willing to partake in this work just for the experience as well as for the knowledge that I was earning my keep!

"Buzzy Bee" by Lila Rose Kennedy

"Buzzy Bee"

by Lila Rose Kennedy

We hit the fields my second day in Szerencs, heading out around 6:30 am, a little later than usual since my friend Gabi and I were there. That first session of picking went quite well and I kept up with everyone and did my share. The second day of picking went equally as well. I regaled Gabi and her parents with stories about my family and the United States, while they laughingly told me stories about their family and various adventures. We even sang, finding that we had a few tunes in common from the Beatles and such.

The third day of picking was warm and sunny and I wore a white shirt and denim work shirt over it. We were almost done with the rows when Gabi began imitating the peasant Hungarian speech of the region in a continuing attempt to educate me in the Hungarian language. I knew enough Hungarian at the time to understand what she said, and also to understand what made the accent so incredibly funny. In fact, we were laughing hysterically and playing so much that, when disaster struck, well, no one really realized.

I was standing there, innocently cemented in the mud between raspberry rows, when all of a sudden, I heard a loud buzzing noise coming right toward me. In a split second, I thought of the space between the collar of my shirt and my bare neck. Then, WHAM! It hit. What it was, I'll never know. But I went crazy, because I was convinced the thing was in my shirt! Gabi was looking on rather confused for a moment, because I was so shocked at the pain from the thing on my shoulder (and possibly still in my shirt) that my Hungarian failed me.

Then it came back. Mez! I shouted, Mez! in a rather loud voice.

This means "honey" in Hungarian, but unfortunately, I'd never learned the word for "bee," so I suffered for my ignorance as Gabi stood by and watched me hopping around and stripping off my shirts to prevent the thing, whatever it had been, from exploring any other part of my body. What I forgot in the process of stripping was that I was wearing a golden-colored bra, which barely showed against my natural skin color. Gabi's parents watched passively from afar as the crazy American their daughter had brought home for a week hopped around half-naked in the mud and chanted "honey, honey!" since they assumed that Gabi and I were again joking and playing around. Finally, Gabi realized what was happening as my wits returned enough to explain my pain.

(Afterward, Gabi said that I had spoken gibberish and she didn't even really understand the "mez" until the fourth or fifth time I said it.)

I learned a lot of good words that day: sting, stung, bite, wasp, bee and vinegar. The last one was what we used to treat the big hole left by whatever bit out a chunk of my flesh. No one could figure out what had bit me, since there was no stinger; we all are assuming that it was a wasp or some other kind of flying insect. That story is now told by everyone, including Zoli bacsi, Gabi, Gabi's brother Zoli, and my friends in Nagykoros, who heard all about it. Those silly Americans!

Jennifer Inman is a project coordinator, currently working in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has traveled extensively and credits her travel experiences with sparking her love of writing. Her first poem was a eulogy for a friend who died of cancer. Since then, she's written poems, short stories, fiction and non-fiction. At present, she's exploring children's literature, inspired by her son Christopher, and non-fiction writing about her son, as well as her existential and spiritual search for herself as a newly single mom. She says, "One of my most constant inspirations is Moondance's Ten Commandments of Creativity, which I have posted next to my desk at work."

 

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