I met ‘Charlie’ (Németh Károly András) a few years ago in a teahouse, since than I have the honor to call him my friend. We had many conversations ever since, but I have never asked him these questions before. He has already seen many places and met different cultures, and he shared some of these with me in our interview.
If my information is correct, you were not born in Hungary. Is it true?
Absolutely. Indeed, it’s true. I was born in Africa – Ethiopia to be more precise.
Do you remember the time spent there? How long was it?
Well, it was about four years, but it was my first four years. I have a few memories that I know are my own, but other than that, there are a lot of stories and photos from the family that can fill the gaps.
What was the background story for this? I mean how come you were born there?
The right question to ask is what my parents were doing there. I was just being born. My parents worked at the diplomatic mission – the embassy in Addis Abeba, and through the “tesco” program – nothing to do with the “every little helps” thing – there were a lot of doctors there from Hungary on an exchange program teaching the locals and helping to build the healthcare infrastructure.
They advised my mom not to make the trip home to Hungary, they could guarantee a safe environment. This consisted of a sealed room at the local hospital, which only the head doctor had a key to. Once I was born, however, it was time to leave.
By the time I was three hours old, I was already bathing at home, because that was far cleaner than the hospital.
What happened next? Did you go back to Hungary?
Briefly, yes. I went to kindergarten 2nd and 3rd grade and the first grade in primary school in Hungary.
The next stop was Norway.
For how long? I guess you have more memories from that time. Can you mention something what you would call typically Norwegian? A story what could not possibly have happened anywhere else?
Wow, great question – that’s something I’ve not been asked before… let me think…
I attended a British school, so I didn’t have any culture shock experiences or anything, but I guess for me the long Scandinavian days in the summer and the long nights in the winter are one such thing, as well as the snow… lots of snow..
We didn’t have snowball fights, we had snowball wars… teams would build castles out of the snow that you could fit in and lay siege to the enemy’s one.
In the winter, we didn’t have regular PE classes during the week – instead, every two weeks, we went skiing all day on Friday.
I guess that’s something you wouldn’t see in too many places.
Maybe in Canada. Have you been there?
Probably, but no, I didn’t go that far North. Stayed in the neighborhood though.
I guess you mean the U.S. Was it the next destination, or after Norway there was/were other location(s), too?
It was right after Norway, no stopping over in Hungary this time.
Only East Coast – to be precise, from New York City all the way to Kittyhawk, NC – you know, where the Wright brothers had their first flight. We lived in DC and moved around in the area when we wanted to play tourist.
Did you attend school there?
Yes, elementary and middle school, as they call it. It was a fun time. We lived in a great apartment house that had a pool on the top – dream come true for a kid. We actually lived in Chevy Chase, MD, literally a block away from DC. And school was easy for me there – which of course made me the hated nerd, but hey…
What is your favorite story from that time?
Well, not favourite, but memorable are the firealarms that we had…massive evacuations, firetrucks, smoke, etc. Trauma for a little boy. The firealarm had the same sound as the bell at school – I had stomach cramps for a week at the end of every class.
You also attended ELTE. Why? I mean was it your choice? Why did you come back to Hungary?
I wanted to come back to Hungary for university – plus you don’t get any kind of status at a diplomatic mission – once your term is up, you gotta go home.
So I came back to BME, didn’t like it, switched to ELTE English – and found it perfect. Afterwards the translator and interpreter training almost seemed natural – and I was lucky enough to have a supporting background to be able to attend these courses.
Which one was your most memorable trip?
Every single one was unique and special in its own way… but I was a teenager in Ireland – first love, first kiss, stronger friendships – I guess that kinda sticks with you stronger.
Which nationality do you claim yours?
Well, by decent I’m officially Hungarian, and, if I ever want to, I can automatically claim Ethiopian nationality. Funny thing is, if I got my facts straight, under US law I’s be considered an African-American…but honestly, I’ve always felt more connected to people than to land or nationality. I consider myself part of humanity, and all other things are just stickers, categories and subdivisions. My stay in China did, however, make me realize that a kind of sticker does apply to me: I think I’m European when it comes down to it, though I still owe myself a trip to my birthplace.
What are your future destinations?
Well, these destinations were never actually planned as such. As a child, I did have a say, but it was ultimately not my decision. China was a few months notice. I think I’ll go where I can be truly happy and connect with people I love and live with the woman of my dreams, and I also wish to live at a financial level where I can provide my kids with at least the blessed life that I got from my parents – if this happens in Hungary, I’ll be glad, and if I find it elsewhere in the world, that’ll be fine, too. Many people believe in many different things, and without adding too much esotheric air to it, I believe that we are here with a purpose (mainly to discover said purpose – and to be happy), I believe that I will always just happen to be guided and I will feel and know where my place is.
That is really nice, good luck for that, and thanks for your time and the pleasant conversation!
The pleasure is all mine!