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Socially Distanced in Budapest: Tamás’ Story

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This isn’t the first time in my 40 years of life that there’s been a recession and major economic turmoil. But this has probably the most annoying because we simply can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, trying to work from home is significantly more difficult when you have a one-year-old and a four-year-old at home and your wife also works from home. Days start early, and they seem very long sometimes. Nights are short, and the importance of time scheduling has been elevated to a different level.

People’s lives have already changed so much—for some more, for some less—but I’ve realized that they are not only bad changes. I want to believe that people will realize our selfish way of life is damaging the earth, and that this will bring us more new diseases in the future if we don’t compromise our needs with sustainability. My biggest concern is that once this quarantine is over, people won’t learn anything from it, and will simply just return to life as it was. But we have been pushed by this invisible virus to do things that we never thought we’d be doing, like teaching kids at home. We’ve also learned to appreciate those who work on the front lines—like doctors and nurses. And we understand how hard it is to be a teacher. I hope these things will stay with us.

I’ve realized how little time I had been spending out in nature before the start of the pandemic. Having grown up in the countryside, it was always important for me to go out cycling, fishing, or just simply jumping into a little boat. I had forgotten about all these. Now we try to take the kids out once every day at least for a short walk (keeping the necessary distance), and we are looking for hidden places to explore where we don’t cross ways with anybody. Forests are perfect places for that, and we have plenty of them around where we live.

In January our little son arrived, so our family had already been a little unsettled. It took us some time to adjust to the brand-new situation, which required a lot of patience. But we have now managed to get into the rhythm and trying to share our time as well as it’s possible. During the day, while both of my boys are awake, we do a lot of playing together … so there are toys all over the place. Our apartment has a small balcony, which has been transformed into a playground, leaving no space for my grill. We have very limited time to cook now, and we haven’t been cooking on a daily basis. We often take advantage of the home-delivery services that almost every restaurant is offering now. But our youngest son still gets home-prepared purees and smoothies six times a day! Sometimes we get care packages from both grandma’s—including some of my favorite dishes like stuffed cabbage (the sour version of course).

One thing the household is certainly not short of is wine! I have a quickly declining stash of wine from previous purchases, and from when I worked in wineries in Australia and California. Those have to go now for sure! But from time to time, we also happily consume some easygoing Kékfrankos made by my father-in-law … which is surprisingly good! The good thing is that my wife and I have different tastes when it comes to wine, so usually two bottles are open at once!

We live north of Budapest in a smaller town—one of the towns often called a “sleeping town” by locals because people usually work in the city, and aren’t around in town most of the day. Nowadays, since the weather has finally turned better, we can smell the hints of BBQ coming from many gardens in our neighborhood. Obviously, people aren’t gathering together in groups, but are making the best out of the significantly more precious time they have with their families. This is one of the best consequences of this pandemic. Last year we purchased a property which was full of bush and weed, and I’ve been clearing this up recently, and planting trees. Our family dream is to create a small tea garden and park to enjoy life away from the noise. We’d also like to do tea tastings so visitors can taste some of our homegrown teas.

I must have had a divination back in February when I ordered some books for myself.  I had been wanting to Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power for some time. Written by John Szabo, a Hungarian-American writer, it is keeping me motivated. I believe you have to keep this love of wine alive, and this book does just that for me. I’m also a great lover of sports, especially basketball, and having no sports to attend or watch is the real Armageddon for me. I’m slowly getting through a book about one of my favorite basketball players, the late Kobe Bryant. Regardless of your profession, you can learn a lot by reading stories by people who are very dedicated to what they do, doing it in a very professional way.  From this book, I’ve learned a lot about leadership and being motivated, no matter what the hardships occur.

I really miss the real connections with people, because our profession is all about that. I’ve been mostly working from home. I drive to the Tasting Table only once or twice a week. We’ve started offering free deliveries within Budapest, and I’ve been enjoying meeting the people who are buying our wine. It’s nice to have a chat with them—even just for short time (and in a safe way). It’s sad to see The Tasting Table—a place that was formerly full of joy and life—go into a hibernated state within a quick week. But I’m certain that life will come back sooner or later. We’ve been working hard to make that comeback strong!

Until we meet again, sziasztok!