Towards midnight on January 2nd I arrived at Budapest Airport, two years to the day since I first arrived.
I remember stepping off the plane that night in early 2010, and feeling the intense cold, and the first months as I tried to get to grips with my work, the city and the language. And thinking that I would only be here for two years.
Yet now I am just starting my third year. So why the decision to stay?
Well, Helen and I had many long conversations about returning to the UK or staying, and these covered many practical issues, like the security of a salary in these uncertain economic times, but another factor was our relationship with Budapest.
During our first year many friends in the UK commented that we seemed to find it a difficult place to be living, and in truth we found that to be the case: the incomprehensible language, the reserve of local people all contributed to this.
However, after Helen had fallen off her bicycle and had been 'confined to quarters' for some months we both realised that we had turned some sort of emotional corner and had now really come to enjoy living in the city. So why is that?
In no particular order:
It's a beautiful city. Every time I walk or cycle along the river my heart is lifted by the beautiful buildings, the shimmer on the water, the light and so on.
We know local people. Through our conversations with Hungarian friends we have started to come to understand some of the reasons why the place is like it is, and so it all seems to make more sense. And I now wonder why when I first arrived people seemed somewhat unfriendly; nowadays most people seem perfectly okay. Maybe it was me...
The language seems a little less impenetrable. Although I still find constructing a sentence nearly impossible, I know enough vocabulary to be able to make sense of the world around me and to articulate important needs in terrible Hungarian.
So we approach 2012 with great optimism, sure that we will continue to enjoy living in this fascinating place.