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Imi was born and raised in Europe, Hungary. After finishing his school years, he moved to Canada to search for a better life. He lived in Toronto for 13 years and currently resides in Vancouver. He is a romantic at heart with a strong desire to always do the right thing. He would like to give hope to the Chinese and Asian ladies with his story and send a message that love eventually finds everybody.
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Under the Old Oak Tree, Shadows Hold Tight (Part 1)    

By Imi
1957 Views | 17 Comments | 4/13/2019 1:43:53 PM

After learning about my upcoming trip to Hungary, someone asked me if I could take some money to her mother. The bank fees were too high, she told me, and the amount in question wasn’t enough to pay a hefty fee on.


I was sitting in a restaurant when she walked up to me. She was a waitress I’d known for years, and I’d worked with her in the very same restaurant when I’d just moved to Canada. Of course, I didn’t see any problem helping her out. Though I have to say, her request was a bit surprising, since she was the aunt of one of my ex-girlfriends. Anyhow, apparently holding no resentment against me for breaking up with her niece, she gave me a hundred-dollar bill and the address I was supposed to deliver it to scribbled on a piece of paper. She then wished me a pleasant trip and generously paid for my lunch herself. A nice gesture for a small favor, I suppose. But later, two days after I had arrived in Hungary, I received a phone call from her.


It was early morning, and I had just woken when she called. She asked me when I was going to take the money to her mother. Her tone was kind of critical, as if delivering the money should have been the first thing on my list after arriving in Hungary. I felt that I was in no position to say anything in my defense, since I’d promised to do this favor for her. I took her criticism silently. Still, after hanging up, some of her careless words overstayed their welcome in my head. Like water trapped in one’s ears after swimming, it took me a while to get them out and continue my morning unscathed.


To fulfill my promise, I went to see the waitress’s mother the next day. The city, or rather the village, I’d say, was only a couple of hour’s drive from my mother’s house in the same province. It was a hot day. My rented Opel didn’t have a cooling system built-in, so I had to roll all the windows down. Passing small farming communities, I got whiffs of freshly-plowed soil mixed with the pungent smell of animals in the hot, humid air.


It was a boring drive other than stopping at a memorial halfway to the village. There was a hillock on the side of the road on which some fifteen or so wooden totem poles stood. They were raised for the battle between the Hungarian army and Mongol hordes back in 1241. It was a horrible defeat for the Hungarians, the script stated on the center pole, and only the Hungarian king and his bodyguards survived the massacre.


Driving on, I wondered how the battle might have ended if Magyars—Hungarians call themselves Magyarok, the name of the nomadic tribe we originated from—hadn’t converted to Christianity but had stayed a nomadic tribe, using the same fighting technique that the Mongols had adapted from Attila the Hun (we have no proven relations to the Huns) and utilized so effectively against us—archery from horseback and lightning-speed ambushes.


I was still immersed in Hungarian history when I got to the address the waitress had given me. The village was a small settlement of a few hundred souls. It had mostly dirt roads with deep ruts and potholes. The place kind of gave the vibe that I was back in time, somewhere in the eighteenth century. I was greatly surprised I didn’t see any horse-drawn carriages in the streets to reinforce the atmosphere.


When my car came to a stop in front of a massive iron gate, I expected a red-roofed family house, which is very much standard throughout Europe, to come into view. However, when the cloud of dust that the tires had stirred up cleared, I was immediately taken aback by the magnificence of a few-hundred-year-old mansion. Puzzled, I rechecked the address, but it was definitely the right place. There was no mistake about it. I got out of the car and stood in awe for some minutes, observing something that wasn’t just an outstanding architectural achievement but a piece of history as well—a glorious nest on the tree of my ancestry.


Even though I had left Hungary for Canada decades back, I was filled with overwhelming national pride. I couldn’t stop admiring the place. I was absolutely mesmerized and let the site move something inside me. It must have stirred something significant because I began to see the building in detail with childlike, innocent eyes and felt the very same excitement that I’d felt in my very first encounter with the hidden secrets of the female body. My eyes were huge, dying to know. Nothing could escape my interest.


Beyond the gate, enclosed by gigantic oak trees, was the object of my admiration: an old yellow building in a style I was unfamiliar with. Falling pargeting only made the time it had gone through tangible. Looking at it stretched my mind back to ancient times and made me reflect on history again. It was a U-shaped building, and in the middle of the U was a fountain that seemed to be out of service. The statue—a fish standing on its tail—sprayed no water. In all fairness, the building itself looked more like an inn than anything else. From carefully counting the windows, it must have had at least thirty rooms on two floors.


Something didn’t add up. I was in a tiny village of a few hundred souls. The streets were worriedly damaged, full of potholes. Dust devils patrolled the streets like highwaymen throughout and outside of the village. They ran after cars, cyclists, villagers, rare visitors, and animals alike. No exception. Everybody had to pay the toll for entering the settlement. Dust was in abundance, covering everything and everybody. The rainy season must have been even more taxing with all that mud on the streets. Why do they need a hotel? Who would come here?


I rechecked the address. The note read the same as before. The street name and number matched what I could read off the gate.


Utterly baffled, I tried to find a sign or placard on the fence that would have said more about the place. Unfortunately, I found nothing. Instead, beyond the fence, I saw a man who swept the cobblestoned walkway and shamelessly stared in my direction as if trying to decide whether I was really there or only an apparition. How long he’d been at it, I had no idea. He seemingly appeared from nowhere. Dressed in red overalls, he had to be the caretaker or someone of that ilk. Realizing I was aware of his presence, he stopped sweeping and, holding his battered besom in hand like some kind of weapon, walked up to the gate. He politely greeted me and asked about my business there. I explained to him what purpose had brought me and showed him the address I had gotten from the waitress.


“Aye, this is the place, all right,” he said, squinting into my face and studying it for a few seconds. “I’m sorry; it must be my failing memory that I don’t remember you. Who’re you looking for?”


I gave him the waitress’s mother’s name.


“Yes, I know her. Are you a relative?”


The caretaker didn’t seem to run out of questions. He was more thorough than border agents in some western countries. Holding his beat-up besom like a soldier would his rifle at a parade, he stared into my face guardedly and suspiciously, missing none of my unique features.


I gave him my story, slowly articulating, wanting him to understand everything in one spurt: where I’d come from; who had asked me to come there, and my relation to that person.


After I was done, the caretaker needed a few seconds to process everything I’d said. Eventually, he looked satisfied, gave me a faint grin, and unlatched the gate for me.


“O.K., go to the office, straight ahead. Someone will help you in there,” he instructed me, nodding toward the building and closing the gate behind me.


I thanked him and did as I was told. I began to march toward the building some sixty yards away, following the winding of the cobblestones. On both sides, the oak trees, each with a park bench under it, winnowed the sunlight and gave me long-awaited relief from the baking sun.


All in all, it was an entirely different world inside the gate: an oasis, in the middle of a dusty, failing village. The grass was green and lush and manicured. You could see no dry patch, fallen leaves, or dog feces on its greenly billowing carpet. A flawless green sod it indeed was. I just couldn’t imagine what the place might turn out to be. I should have asked the caretaker, I thought, but he was already gone as I turned around to look for him. He disappeared as if he’d never been there and his battered besom and red overalls had only been the figments of my imagination.


I ambled on and enjoyed the front view of the building. It was indeed magnificent. Even as I got close to it, I couldn’t say in what century it was built, let alone in what style. It’s not that I would consider myself an expert in historic buildings. It was only that I wanted to know. I wanted to know, just as much as a man wants to know the name of the attractive woman who smells incredible and looks beyond belief in her tight dress as she passes him by on the street. My interest was piqued with every step that brought me closer to it.


When I reached the fountain, however, I stopped and checked out the fish statue. In all honesty, after all that good impression of the place, I had mixed feelings about it. I didn’t understand why the fountain in the center of this perfect, emerald refuge had ceased to give life. It was dried out and filthy. Coins were scattered all around the bottom, some of them already rusting away. The fish’s open mouth was covered in bird crap and gave me the impression of screaming for help more than anything else—but, of course, no sound came out. The fish suffered a silent end, like a dry leaf falling to the ground when autumn arrives. No one seemed to mind. No one seemed to care. To me, it symbolized nothing but the inevitable and unpreventable end.


When I finally got to the front door and could read off of a weathered plaque what the place, in fact was, my mood drastically worsened.


Almost Heaven Nursing Home.


The place was a nursing home with an insensitive name. I honestly felt that the building deserved more than just being one of those store-away places for old people. A heritage site or museum came to my mind easily. Yet, it was the last stand, the last bastion of aging people fighting for every one of the remaining days of their lives. I’m not saying elderly people don’t deserve to live in such a nice place in their twilight years, don’t get me wrong. It was only that . . . it was Vertigo Mansion in Forgotten Village. The Grim Reaper’s castle. An embellished, enormous, beautiful wreath.


I opened the front door and walked in crankily.


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2019-04-13 13:31:14 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

This is the first time I've ever read anything that made me want to travel halfway around the world to see a nursing home. I have developed an interest in traveling to Hungary recently, but not so much for the history, the architecture or the art, but for the populist nationalistic ideology being practised there, which I much admire. But now you've given me added incentive to make the journey.

I am curious to know if the picture you included is actually the said nursing home or is it merely a reasonable facsimile?

I was more than a little miffed that someone thought sending you on a 4 hour return trip to deliver $100 for her during your trip home, let alone thinking it should be your top priority. Has she never heard of Paypal or Western Union?

But in the end it seems maybe she was doing you a favor by sending you to visit such an interesting place. Of course maybe in part 2 we'll discover it was no favour at all.

I'm looking forward to finding out.(beer)

#2019-04-13 18:12:14 by Imi5922 @Imi5922

John, it is only a facsimile, but it's close enough. Budapest, the Capital, is filled with this style of buildings.  


To put it simply, the woman had always been cheap. Let's rephrase that sentence. She wasn't as dumb as me to pay $30 on $100 as a bank fee. I don't use Western Union, but I think you need to pay a fee there too. But you're right, who sends $100 to someone? Even if this story happened 15 years ago. Personally, it was almost an insult. Or she didn't trust me with more money. Who knows. But this story is not about the money. You'll see.      


I didn't mind the drive. When I'm in Hungary, that's what I do. If you ever go to Hungary, I recommend visiting Medival fortresses. Eger is a favorite city of mine in Hungary. It's a historical city. In 1552, 2,000 men stopped 100,000 Muslims from going all the way to Vienna.       

#2019-04-14 08:38:17 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Fascinating. Even more so because by the time you 'arrived' at the gate, I already knew this was a nursing home.

How? I have no idea, but it had to be, otherwise why would you be asked to deliver $100 to the owner of such a place?

It's a shame you didn't take photos and include them in this blog - I would have loved to have seen it.

#2019-04-14 13:49:23 by Barry1 @Barry1


A very nice story, thanks Imi.

Though as I read it, I kept expecting you to reach the following punchline:

"Suddenly I heard a noise that awoke me from my sleep.  I then realised this entire tale was nothing but an elaborate dream, a dessicated sandcastle built upon the heaving beach, with only moments left to survive".  (giggle)


#2019-04-15 13:15:54 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Imi5922 - I intend to get to Hungary in the next couple of years, maybe stopping over there for a month on my way back to China.

#2019-04-15 19:11:15 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


I've heard the food's good - especially if you are 'hungary' :-)

#2019-04-16 14:16:49 by Barry1 @Barry1


"I've heard the food's good - especially if you are 'hungary'"

Congratulations Paul, you've just told possibly the worst joke that I've ever heard so far in my life!     |(


#2019-04-16 14:45:33 by liquidmetal @liquidmetal


"Her tone was kind of critical, as if delivering the money should have been the first thing on my list after arriving in Hungary. I felt that I was in no position to say anything in my defense, since I’d promised to do this favor for her. I took her criticism silently."

You have very good temper.You agreed to help someone,but that didn't give her a right to call you in the morning and being rude to you.I am a bit surprised to see you accept her criticism silently. If I was you, I will tell her: "Sorry,am I your employee? I have my own business to do first in my trip.I will keep my promise to help you,but don't tell me that I have to do it right now.One more push,I will return the money to you, and you will have to send it by yourself.Be polite, ok?"  

Sometimes, you don't need to always be the patience one, speaking for yourself, let your true feeling out, and it will help the people aroud you realize better where the line should be. 

Just my thought. Hope your trip was a pleasure one.

#2019-04-17 12:48:34 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


Really? Wow, thanks!

Of course, I could have compared it to other countries too. The food is cooked very quickly if the chef is Russian; the fowl is pretty good in Turkey, but a bit oily in Greece. (rofl)

#2019-04-17 13:04:36 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

C'mon @Barry1 - Paul has told many jokes that were far worse than that one. Like the 2 he just offered in response to your comment. Your memory must be slipping.

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