Budapest Sun Article – “It’s never too late to start over” February, 2002
The truth is that a career and a new life after someone has stepped over the half century border line isn’t something we are used to. Carol Ann Hontz has dared and won. Her approach to life – the title of one of her books is Infinite Potential – is that it is never too late. Hontz is an educator dealing with dyslexia, stress and the like, and helps people to get out of their self-made prisons by relieving symptoms and teaching them techniques to live by. Her history isn’t an everyday one either. The girl from Pennsylvania spent 23 years of her life as the “perfect little wife and mother of three”, following her husband, a project director of Exxon, from Venezuela to Sicily.
She has a Master’s Degree in Education and taught prior to her marriage and even sometimes during her globetrotting life. In Venezuela – with her own children aged one, four and six, she opened a Montessori school for 35 children in her home. But a career of her own was only a distant dream, as was the place of her nostalgia, Central and Eastern Europe. She remembers that as a little girl she used to play the Blue Danube waltz on her piano and was “homesick” for countries she had never seen.
After more than two decades of marriage, with her children grown up, she did what very few women dare to do. She gave up a good, safe marriage and left her home. She turned her back on a lot: ‘a 13-room house, 12 acres of mountaintop land, the white picket fence, the happy family life, the language and the whole American dream’. And for what? To live in newly freed up, confused and confusing countries with languages she didn’t speak. But she had a mission. Even Carol didn’t expect that, a very few years before she reaches 60, she would have a network of schools, seminars, conferences and books all over Central and Eastern Europe. Her children, who visit her often in Budapest, say that they are very proud of their Mom’s success and that she dared to become who she really felt she was. Her first visit in 1991 took her to Russia where she was honored to lecture before many academics, doctors, at universities and pedagogical institutions. She had workshops at the Black Sea, Magnitogorsk and Moscow. In 1992, she gave her first lecture in Budapest for 1,200 people – it was also televised – on dyslexia. Then she started lecturing in Slovakia, Prague and Warsaw.
In May of 1993, Carol started her own company and foundation in Budapest. Then in 1994 she opened her first Montessori pre-school. The teaching method focuses on early childhood education via discipline and respect in a playful, happy environment. She opened schools and stress release classes in Warsaw, Bratislava, Kosice and Prague as well. Her schedule became more and more full, flying between Prague, Warsaw, Budapest and Moscow, visiting the family in the States, taking on a 35-city, multi-country tour with three lectures a day and television appearances. Not to forget the yearly conferences for education all over the world. Just showing me her diary, I got dizzy and stressed out. Mind you, with this type of schedule she is more relaxed than anyone and during the interview she never pressures me – her phone was taken off the hook – and she seemed to have all the time of the world.
“Are you a workaholic?”, I asked.
Her answer came fast. “I wouldn’t use this word, since my work is my passion, hobby and vocation at the same time.”
Still, 14-hour work days don’t leave too much time for other hobbies or to play. She showed me something I hadn’t noticed in her brand new, perfectly arranged little apartment until now, the piano. She jumped up and played and sang for me for a few minutes – she has a lovely voice – then showed me her saxophone, which she has played since she was 10-years old. Recently she started to take harp lessons as well. It is quite obvious that under the feminine, elegant exterior and soft voice, there is a man’s will and drive. “How can anyone look so daisy fresh with that amount of work?” I thought to myself. She said she exercises only a few minutes every day, but eats and drinks only healthy things and even that with great discipline.
After years living globally, in rented apartments from Prague to Warsaw, Carol decided that she wanted her own home and that it should be in Hungary. She didn’t go for small-time solutions, but bought a pied-a-terre in Budapest and then her dream place, a baroque castle in Acsa, built for the Pronay family by Italian architect Carlone in 1735. The almost 300-year old construction needs extensive restoration due to 50 years of neglect. Hontz has to invest $2 million, including the fee for leasing it for 65 years. She said it playfully, “There will be enough time for me to enjoy it and do what I really want”. Even the gardens will regain their 18th century design, but the tennis courts, pool and stables will add more modern conveniences. Acsa will be Carol’s home and an International Educational Centre for teachers and people who want to change their lifestyle in a serene and beautiful setting. This, of course, opens the door to a wide range of people who are stressed out and come from all over the world. Interestingly enough, not only physicians and educators, but also a great many politicians are her “students”, taking the stress release program. The Hungarian Ministry of Culture is also supporting her plans.
Carol’s work seems to be going in many different directions: Teaching, treating dyslexia, defusing stress, workshops, conferences, etc. But really, it all comes under the same umbrella, that of servicing human needs. She doesn’t seem to have any fear of unfamiliar or new languages. Instead, she has a team of interpreters and staff in each country where she works. She has come a long way since she started the first seminars 10 years ago from the little savings she had. The real question is what’s the compensation for giving up the safety of the well known: The family, the home, the language — at a time of life when almost everybody else is seeking security. “The vocation, the call to create my own reality pays for it all. I am not religious, but spiritual. My work is focusing on dreams and trust and not being intimidated by fears and limitations. That is the real compensation” she said.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Since our first meeting with Carol Hontz a few years ago, she has become much more centered in Hungary. In those days she was very often in Prague and Warsaw. Nowadays she concentrates her work much more in the Montessori Schools in Budapest. She opened a new class in Buda so now she has two schools in Budapest. She is primarily involved in teaching pre-school teachers to correct stress and dyslexia. She is teaching them that they have to correct themselves first; only after that can they deal with their pupil’s problems. Her main staple of work is specialized kinesiology, which she introduced to Hungary in 1992. Hontz is still going to Prague a few times a year and sponsoring classes to teach a new method of specialized kinesiology. She teaches this same method on her several yearly visits to the USA as well. In Hungary she does classes, private clients and life coaching.
Carol is very active in clubs and at this point in her life has more friends in Hungary than anywhere else in the world. As far as her dream castle in Acsa is concerned, it is on the back burner for the time being, but the dream is still very much alive. For Carol Hontz, Budapest, where she lives full time, has become home. “Europe in general is much more home for me than the USA. The values, the life style, the culture is much closer to me and I have more connection with the people. At home in New Jersey it is too provincial. I love the international atmosphere and my lifestyle here” she said. Carol went through a great tragedy in her life recently when she lost her youngest child, her only son. But her personal pain did not diminish her positive outlook, her will to help and her spunk in life.”
(from It’s Good Everywhere but Better Somewhere Else by Lang Judith Veronika)