Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More, More, More…The things I remember (1)

Andrew Sutton encouraged me to share more memories of my years in Budapest, this time focusing on time spent at the world famous Peto Insitute. It is difficult for me to separate it from other experiences of my childhood. The books I read, the people I met, the things I’ve seen on TV and movies, all I was looking forward to then back then seem to blend in and intertwine. You also need to remember I was very young when I went there.  But I shall try.

I remember kids were assigned to fixed groups. In a fashion similar to a class in an elementary school I saw the same faces throughout my time there. Rarely you’d see anybody added or taken away. A few children from Israel joined us for a couple months. I started on the red floor. Walls, frames, cabinets  of which each one of us had one  for our belongings, had one dominant color, different for every level. At some later point, when we aged I assume, they moved us up and everything was orange.  What I liked is that it looked nothing like a hospital. There was none of that cheesy, amateurish paint job on glass windows depicting scenes from fairy tales you see in children’s wards. We’ve had oversized  Donald Duck comic posters. There were no hospital beds, in fact there were no beds at all. We called the Conductors “aunts”, something that rehabilitation wards in Poland soon adopted. The Hungarian ones felt like “aunts”. The one back home were nurses like the rest of them no matter what they called themselves.  If you recall my experiences in hospitals you can understand why this new safe atmosphere was essential and therapeutic.

I remember that within the group the kids were subdivided. We all did our rehabilitation together, but were separated during school time after morning exercises. Non-Hungarians stayed in the chamber we slept in for more individual exercises with a Conductor, mostly walking around in braces. Younger Hungarian kids studied in the room we ate in, while older had a separate classroom.Accordion door closed at class time separated the sleeping and dining rooms. Although, correction: none of these rooms really served a single purpose. We slept on plinths, which is also where if I remember correctly we did our first exercises of the day. To the people who don’t know what a plinth looks like, it’s very much like a wooden table with enough space between planks for you to comfortably grab them. We would sit up and down, make some other repeated movements and slide up and down the plinth.  Mostly routines from the laying down, sitting up position and getting on and off it. Kata Szvoboda, the Gainesville Conductor explained that the dual functionality of the plinth was part of the design. To have us become more familiar with it.

We were all wearing shorts, so with our bare skin sliding against the wood you could imagine this got painful at times. The uniforms came from the Institute, they were all pretty generic socks, t-shirt and shorts with the  MSI logo stamped on them. They almost never gave us long pants.  The Conductors were strong fierce women. They were dropping the plinths and tables, moving them and stocking them away in the corner in the upright position, like they were blocks. After the plinth exercises we had a session when we did routines standing up, after they’ve put them away. We used the funky  looking chairs with grab bars to reach up, reach down, bend over. They were very light. Few kids fell down hitting their head, myself included because these things tipped over to the side easily.  Then we would separate for class time.


  1. My eldest son attended the Peto on numerous occasion and my youngest son attended a well known independent prep school in Somerset, talk of 'aunts' 'shorts throughout the year' wooden furniture and logos could so easily be applied to both - the strict and some people may call 'harsh' routines at the institute are not that distant than that of certain prep schools - except many parents expect the Peto to work miracles - however do not have the same expectations of schools in the uk