Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Movie Madness (and further adventures with my hot water)

First, the continuation of the water saga: for the past few days, once again, my hot water has been working off and on. It finally cut out yesterday, after I had showered but before Laura had. She ended up taking a two-inch bath using water boiled on the stove. Just like a real third-world country!

Today, I decided that official holidays were over, and if my contact teacher didn’t want to be bothered, she should never have given me her cell number. I messaged her, pestered, and she called the school. The vízszerelõ (water mechanic guy, who has been to my house three times, and each time claimed that he had fixed the problem) was unreachable, so the school sent over Páli, the older of the two handymen, who is well used to dealing with me and my lack of knowledge concerning gas, water, and Hungarian appliances. He showed up, tinkered, told me repeatedly how incompetent the vízszerelõ is, explained to me that everything in my flat is old and that's why it keeps breaking, fixed my broken faucet, called up the vízszerelõ to tell him what an idiot he is, fixed my water (for now, at least), and told me to call him if anything else went wrong. Páli is my new hero.

So, about the movies... although Laura and I remained dedicated devotees of MTV (and the newly discovered Animal Planet), we’ve also become great fans of the Turner Classic Movies Christmas Collection, which plays two or three English movies every night. So far we’ve watched the following:

Saturday night: part of The Searchers, followed by Hearts of the West (with link and quotes in the previous entry).

Sunday night: Kelly’s Heroes and Marlowe. The latter included quotes such as:
Marlowe saying to Bruce Lee: “You’re pretty light on your feet. Are you just a little bit gay?” and then Bruce Lee cartwheels off a building in rage.

Thug: Car.
Marlowe: Beep beep.
Thug: Car.
Marlowe: For a guy with a limited vocabulary, you sure do manage to get your point across.

Monday night: Cool Hand Luke and The Big Sleep. I don’t have quotes to back it up, but Humphrey Bogart was hilarious. Mostly due to the fact that racy dialogue of 1946 is still damn funny today.

Tonights is... neither Laura nor I remember. So you’ll have to tune in tomorrow (or whenever) to find out.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Poor Girls' Christmas Festivities, so far

On the first day of Christmas (Wednesday), I spent the day: rediscovering the joy of sleeping in (until 9 o’clock, at least), followed by a midday of collaging and drinking, completed by an afternoon and evening of Christmas shopping with Juli.

On the second day of Christmas (Thursday), Laura arrived for the duration of the holiday. We bought beer and food (including some highly unsuccessful “bratwurst”) and settled down to an afternoon of watching MTV and Animal Planet. We also called and messaged persistently the three unlucky people still in Hungary: Janos, Jenna and Yerik. We convinced the latter two to visit.

On the third day of Christmas (Friday), Jenna and Yerik arrived. As we were waiting for them at the train station, we discovered an amazing secondhand store in the second floor. In Hungary, they sell old clothes by the kilo, and at this particular store, the prices drop each day of the week until Friday (the day we were there), it’s 200 forint. So, for a grand total of 150 Ft (75 cents), I bought two shirts and a pair of pants. Laura made out similarly well.

The couple from NYR arrived. After massive grocery shopping, we came home and made tacos and hot wine. Best holiday dinner yet. In the evening, we headed over to Panorama, where we proceeded to drink, try to play good music between the techno, make fun of the drunken Hungarians (particularly the one who fell asleep on a bench, still wearing a plastic cowboy hat), and try to score free drinks (failed). After a couple hours, when we finally got some good music going, we got up and danced. Then the drunken Hungarians made fun of us. But one of their girls got up on a chair and did a sweet little dance that involved clothing coming off so I don’t think they should laugh too hard.

On the fourth day of Christmas (Saturday), the four of us had further cooking adventures involving the misuse of meat. Namely, some of the saltiest bacon on the face of the earth, and the “bratwurst” from days ago. Even Jenna’s cooking prowess couldn’t save the day. She did make us some great eggs...

Laura and I spent the rest of the day as we do best: watching MTV. We watched the European Music Awards again; just as good this time around. Um... I think we cooked something. In the evening, despite good intentions of waiting ‘til Christmas to tear into presents, we tore most of them open. Then we watched Hearts of the West, a movie which defies description, but contained such wonderful quotes as the following:

Andy Griffith saying about a pants-wearing woman: “Could be that her sexual interests are deviant.”
Random cowboy saying: “I know one tenderfoot gonna get his pecker shot shot off, he don’t turn in.”
Jeff Bridges saying to his girlfriend, after finding another man in her flat: “It’s just like back home - every time we have super supper, I get a peppercorn on the first swallow!”
Mull on that one.

Today, the fifth day of Christmas, isn’t yet over... so I’ll write more tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

I’m free! I’m free! For the remaining days of December, I have exactly one obligation (meeting Erin at the train station). No more school, no more private lessons, no more anything. Just lazing, watching MTV, eating and drinking.

This evening, my school had it’s end-of-the-year-and-Christmas party. We sat at the tables in the teacher’s room, which had been rotated and decorated. They brought out food and poured champagne. We were not allowed to touch either, however, until after students had recited some Christmas poems and played us some music. This was followed by a dramatic reading of a super-long poem, a tribute to Kassai and the teachers. Each teacher was mentioned and his or her various quirks or exploits mentioned. Finally we toasted, and ate. From what I hear, at some schools, the alcohol was flowing: not so at my school. We got one glass of champagne each. It was funny to see the stodgy older teachers get tipsy and jolly off just this. By 7, the other English teachers were standing and saying their good-byes, so I made my exit with them. But not before picking up my gift bags from the school. Everyone got the same selection of gifts, which include: a bag of coffee, a stick of sausage, a bottle of champagne, and a large bag of laundry powder. I pondered the meaning of this last item on the walk home. Is it something traditional? Does it signify the washing away of the old year? Is it a hold over from past times when major laundry was a once-a-year occurrence? In the end, I settled on the most logical explanation: my school is super cheap. But if anyone else received the same present, or has a better explanation, let me know.

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's apt... APT!

As we were trekking from Laura’s flat to the train station yesterday, Yerik made a rather crafty observation: he compared the CETPers to Roma. My immediate reaction (proof that I’ve been in Hungary too long, see below) was hesitation, offense even. But he laid out his comparison cleverly: we walk around in gangs; we drink copious amounts of alcohol; we’re poor; we dress differently; we speak our own language; people frequently stare at us with bewilderment and uncertainty. Really, between us and the gypsies, I’m not sure who the comparison is less kind to.

On a completely different topic, today I got to celebrate a completely inane and pointless event: today was my 119th day here in Hungary. What does this mean? Since last time I stayed for 118 days (yes, I counted), this is now the longest I’ve ever lived in Hungary. What makes it seem so odd to me is the fact that last time, I was already home by now. This time, I’m not even halfway done. If I were in a worse mood, that would depress me. But I’m not. Get thee behind me, gloom!

And because I just killed an entire afternoon reading trivia, check out this website: www.mindlesscrap.com.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Unrelated Incidents

The title is meant as a semi-warning. Just in case you expected me to write continuous, flowing prose: it’s not going to happen tonight. Right now, disjointed paragraphs is what I feel up to.

So how did my second Oxford class measure up to the first? I don’t know, because none of them showed up for class on Friday. Well, Jacek did, but since it was only him, I got to cut out early and make it to Laura’s a whole half hour earlier. It was dark, cold, and snowy. I got about 20 yards (or meters, if you prefer) down the highway and when a car stopped and offered me a ride. I debated with myself, for a good 5 seconds, if getting into strangers’ car, on a dark, cold and snowy night was a good idea. It was, and I did, and I made it to Laura’s. Unfortunately, Laura and Mariah had started walking out to meet me halfway, and neither had their cell phones on them. Long story short, they made it back, we drank, we had Jell-O. I love Jell-O. We called many, many people, some at unacceptably late hours. Sorry, guys.

In the morning, Laura’s bathroom exploded. There was a pool in the bathroom for a while. They shut the water off to the whole building, which was a problem because Laura, Mariah and I (some more than others) were in a certain Saturday-morning state where being able to drink water was crucial. Various town-dwellers stopped by to examine the excitement at the American’s apartment. Eventually, the plumber from Miskolc arrived and fixed the problem. Life went on. Other Americans arrived. We drank, made cookies, watched Monty Python. An excellent weekend.

On the way home, I was on the train from hell. It was as hot as a furnace, filled with people, and many of the windows were painted shut. Maybe the heat fried my brain, because as I was falling in and out of semiconsciousness, for the first time I was hit by a smidgen of Christmas-related homesickness. Part of it was the knowledge that some people (Chad and Gaines) are already home, and that several more are leaving this week. My every-second-Sunday phone call home didn’t help either: I mentioned getting a cat to my mom. She asked what I would do with it at the end of the year. I balked for a second, then blurted out something like, “Oh, well, maybe I’ll stay a couple of years... or maybe I’ll give it to someone else.”

I guess I never realized that she assumed I was only staying one year, because it’s such a given to me now, and to everyone that I’ve met here, that I’ll be staying here pretty much indefinitely. What can I do in the States? I’m not qualified to work as anything worthwhile, I don’t have the money or the scores to go to grad school yet. Here, simply by having had the luck to be born and raised in an English-speaking country, I’ve become a hot commodity. Why would I not take advantage of that?

After that conversation, I banished my gloom by decorating my tree. Yes, I bought a tree, a cheap, plastic, Cora tree. It’s a good size; with the special branches on top, it’s almost as tall as me. I decorated with tinsel and szaloncukor. So it’s scrawny, but shiny. I like it.

Wow, this turned out almost coherent. Good job, Em. I'm amazing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Merry Christmas to me (or, being corny: The Four Christmas Gifts)

In an earlier entry, I think I promised to stop bragging about working at Oxford school. Fair warning, I’m about to reneg on that promise, but I think I have ample justification. Judge for yourself.

Today was the last meeting of my elementary-level class. It was a small class, only four students today; from the four of them I received four wonderful gifts (and maybe this will get cheesy, but too bad). The first gift was the fact that although I felt under-prepared at the beginning of class, we ended up not even using any of the materials I had. We just talked, simple, wonderful conversation, for the full 90 minutes. I told them about my American holidays, they told me about their Hungarian ones. We explained, we shared traditions, we laughed.

The second gift(s) were the physical, touchable kind (edible as well). They gave me sweets, a candle holder, a box of chocolates, and a bottle of Tokaji that Juli informed me was actually quite nice (read: expensive). Looking over the list, it probably doesn’t seem like much, so I guess to me it really was the thought that counted.

Gift three is the humor (mostly unintentional) and kindness they used in filling out their evaluations of me. Overall, their single complaint - and only from two of them - was that I talk too fast. But I was interesting, I was funny, I was nice, I was good. Which leads to gift number four, the fact that the majority of them will be continuing in the new classes next year. Maybe I oversell it to myself, but to my mind, nothing could verify my abilities as a teacher more than the fact that the students would willingly return for more.

All right, that was cheesy. But I won’t apologize. Besides, I can have some cheese now that I have a kick-ass bottle of wine to go with.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another weekend, in Budapest

Well, I didn’t die. I’ll pause for a moment to let the obviousness (yes, it’s a word) of that statement sink in... okay, moving on. My gift turned out to be from the big man himself: St Nick, via Juli, gave me a bagful of Hungarian chocolates. Plus a packet of golden branches, which Juli explained is the equivalent of getting coal in America, only the bad children get them. I got just a small bundle. Hmph, St Nick needs to check his list better.

I also received some wonderful gifts on Friday night. First was the fact that both Laura and Jenna decided to show up together in Szolnok for the Oxford party. The party turned out not to be a drag after all (not that I ever thought it would be, ahem). Actually, I think we might have had a better time than the folks in Budapest, because when we drunk-dialled them at midnight, they were still hanging out, seemingly sober, at Roz’s.

But I get ahead of myself. The first part of the party went off as planned: musical performances, little plays, singing, and Chad’s (and Laura’s and my) presentation about American Christmas. After, Anita assigned each of us Americans to sit at a table of Hungarians and force English conversation with them. Oh, fun. Eventually, people drifted home, and Jenna, Laura, and I spent a good chunk of the evening talking to Csaba, one of my adult students, and his friend Geri. We discussed which country has the hottest people, why Hungarian women don’t drink beer, traded slang for various body parts and functions, and other vitally important things. I was forced to do the Gaines-face several times. It was great. If I were grading these classes, Csaba would totally get an “A.” He also gave me a Christmas card, my first one of the season. Another student, Dávid, gave me a pogacsa, because in the last lesson we talked about food and he remembered my raving about them. They’re my new favorite class.

Even after Csaba and Geri took off at midnight, we continued hanging out and drinking and dancing with Jacek and Dóri. I think this was the point we called the flock in Budapest, or they called us... who knows. When we finally left, Chad and Juli took off before we could hitch a ride with them, so Jenna and Laura and I walked a few blocks before giving up and hopping into a cab.

The next morning, we waited around in Szolnok, walked through the Christmas market, ate more gyros, and finally called Chad to make plans, only to find out that the punk had gone to Budapest without us. We plotted revenge. Eventually, we made our way to the train station, but not before stopping at a csemege to buy booze. Lots and lots of booze. And various other things for mixing. Drinking on the train turned out to be a surprisingly good idea; I think I may have to make it a regular habit. So we drank through the train ride. Drank through the metro ride. Drank through the extremely long walk across Árpád híd and to Roz’s. We were very happy to see everyone there.

The rest of the evening played out pretty much like every other time CETP gets together: we drank a lot. Ate pizza. Went to a club. Danced. Various people made out. Same old, same old. I remember thinking at one point (and, according to Allison, saying aloud several times), “I wanna go back to Szolnok. I’m going home now.” But I didn’t.

Sunday morning, again typical. Lazed around. Eventually, everyone was up and dressed. Janos ventured out and brought back Burger King and beer. Hajni stopped by; it was great to see her again. People took trains out at various times. I ended up on the same train with Mariah, Laura, and Jenna. After drama with the train tickets and reservations, we ended up sitting together in the dining car.

I don’t know what else to report. This entry’s really boring, but what I can I say? Nothing interesting happened that hasn’t happened, to some extent, every single other weekend we get together. Small things, sure, but the basic elements are all the same, since they have been from the beginning: booze, hormones, drama. Just sometimes the order changes. Not that I don’t love it, I really do, in all sincerity. I’m just pissy today. I’ve been feeling ‘twitchy’ lately. I don’t know any other way to describe it: it’s like a continuous caffeine high, like I have too much energy buzzing inside me, like I have to keep fidgeting to keep from exploding, like I want to run away. I don’t like it, it feels uncertain. Usually when I get twitchy, it precipitates me doing something impulsive. Frequently stupid.

This is particularly stressy, because my single December goal (other than various food-related ones) was dedramafication. Jenna and Laura agreed that this is an excellent goal, not only for me but for the world in general. I am failing.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

English Competition: Day Three

Just a quick note about the final day of the competition phase of English week: today was a game for 5th and 6th graders in teams of 4, like a quiz game show or something. There was a complicated scoring system that involved a lot of adding, and which changed frequently. Despite this (or possibly, because of it) one of Kassai’s teams tied for first place. I don’t remember the other school exactly, either Hunyadi Mátyás or Mátyás Király.

I should write more, but I’m too distracted: Juli sprang it on me, just before they dropped me off, that there is some sort of gift waiting for me at Oxford. We played a super-fast game of 20 questions, from which I learned that it is of indeterminable size, left by a male, either very old or very young, who may or may not be one of my students from Oxford, Kassai, or somewhere else, and who Chad met yesterday; that it’s a present just for me, not in return for something I did but just because. And that I have to wait until tomorrow at 10 am to get it, because after I failed to remind Juli that she had something to give me, she and Chad refused to indulge me by returning to Oxford to get it.

If I die in my sleep tonight, it’ll be from anticipation.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kassai Úti Á. I. English Competition: Day Two

If day one of the competition was fun and games, today was all business. Today, the judges - who were myself, Chad (aka “Varga’s American”), and Anita from Oxford - had a solemn responsibility: to determine the best English pronunciation from a selection of 6th graders and 7th graders. There were two in each grade representing Kassai. They each recited one story they had prepared, plus one that they had just been given. We picked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places in each grade. I don’t even remember who got the 2nd and 3rd, because:

Kassai’s students walked away with both First Places.

And just to dispel doubts, I did not rig the jury. Both of the first place winners were just so clearly above and beyond all the other students, and Chad and Anita both independently came to the same conclusions before I even put in a word. So congratulations to Feri and Márton. For the first time, I have a warm and cozy pride-like feeling towards Kassai.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Kassai Úti Általános Iskola English Competition: Day One

I rescind my gloomy statement at the end of the previous entry. I do have something to keep my interest, for this week at least: my school is having a week of various English activities. There are recitals, competitions with other schools, plays and an English newsletter (for which I was interviewed last week, and had mostly forgotten about). And guess who gets to help judge all the competitions? That’s right, yours truly. I think half the reason Kassai organized the events was to show off their native speaker.

This afternoon was plays and poems by the 3rd and 4th graders of Kassai plus three or four (I couldn’t tell) other primary schools. There was no judging, because the children were too young, and they all got certificates of merit for participating. Highlights included:

- the 3rd grade girl in miniskirt and tank-top who recited with a cherubic smile, “I like coffee, I like tea, I like boys and boys like me.”
- when the wolf in “The Three Little Pigs” missed his line and improvised with “Rrrr! I eat you!”
- that Kassai’s 3rd graders chose “Brother John” (“Frére Jacques”) as an traditional English song.
- the big finale of Rákóczi School’s 3rd grade dance number: fire. They gave each little angel and devil (and old man, and granny, and cat, and dog) a sparkler to wave around in the dramatically darkened gymnasium. Amazingly, no one was harmed.

The other highlight of my day was when, in the course of talking about what we want for Christmas, one of my 8th graders offered to be my boyfriend. The conversation went something like:
me: For Christmas, I would like a digital camera, and some new clothes, and-
him: Underwear? A bra?
me, slightly thrown off: Um, yeah, maybe. Maybe my boyfriend will buy me some. I mean-
him: Maybe I can be your boyfriend?
me: I think that might not be legal. Among other things.
him: Yes, yes. I’m only joking.
me: Okay, moving on...

In most cases, this whole episode would make me terribly uncomfortable. Because it was this specific student, it came off as being just sweet and funny.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weekend in Szeged

Having spent the last two weekends in Szolnok, then Nyíregyháza, this weekend I moved a step further towards a real city by visiting Szeged with Juli, Chad, and Janos. Any weekend that can involve such varied amusements as death metal one day and ice skating the next has to be a great one. Highlights, in roughly chronological order, include:

- Gyongyi, the kind and generous friend of Juli’s who vacated her apartment for a night so we could have it. My favorite part was the fact that she forgot to bring extra clothes to her boyfriends, so we had to deliver them to her this morning, and she came out to meet us wearing only a big, blue bathrobe.

- getting Juli to drink alcohol for the first time (theme song: “Californication”)... and having her admit the next day that she liked it.

- the first bar we went to was this cave-like cellar, in which the walls were covered by the scrawlings and doodlings of past patrons. My favorite: “Az alkohol az emberiség ellensége” (alcohol is the enemy of mankind).

- the four giant men sitting hunched on stools like gargoyles, guarding the entryway of the second club we went to

- the Hungarian death metal band with the trombone player... surprisingly good

- when Janos bought me beer in a bottle, just in case I needed to bash someone’s head with it. Apparently I looked twitchy enough to take someone out. I did try to strangle Chad later in the car, but only because he tried to crush my kneecaps.

- Chad trying to cheer up the depressed Hungarian teenagers sitting in a McDonalds at midnight by giving them his Happy-Meal toy and Coke.

- Janos knocking the picture off the wall at 4.30 in the morning, making a huge crash and nearly taking out Gyongyi’s massive towers of CDs

- Chad wearing Gyongyi’s red and black rayon shirt, two sizes too small... and actually letting us take pictures of him, which will be posted here as soon as possible

- seeing the sights of Szeged with Juli as our expert tour guide - namely, the Dom tér (pictures here and here), then walking around, through the Christmas markets, and drinking hot wine

- going ice skating, not falling, having a beer, skating more, and still not falling. Amazing.

- two fantastic lunches: chili on Saturday, followed by Mexican food on Sunday. My usual diet of pasta, bread and butter has lost all appeal.

To be perfectly honest, after spending such a great lazy, chill weekend, most of my normal routine has lost all appeal. Right now, I’m living for Christmas break. Weekends have to keep me sane until then.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A month in review

First and foremost, I apologize again for the cop-out and general poor quality of the previous entry. I have no excuse but to say once again that the feast-booze-lethargy combination fried my brain.

Getting to the business of the day: if you recall (as I’m certain you all don’t), at the beginning of the month (the 6th; you can read the entry here) I created a list of “November Goals.” How did I do? Hm, not great. I would give myself a 3. Or a B-. The goals and results follow:

- Home repairs and interior decoration. Hot water fixed, check. Furniture moved, albeit slowly and painfully, check. Postcards made into wall art, which I look at every day and still makes me happy, supercheck. I’m satisfied that I’ve fulfilled this goal to the best of my financial and physical means.

- Getting a library card. I had a meeting with a new potential private student, and she chose the library as a neutral meeting place. We met in the library entryway before walking to my place. This was the closest I got. This goal: complete failure.

- Making onion rings. I tried. They were okay. I feel they could only improve with practice, so I’ll make that an informal December goal. Note to self: perfect the art of onion rings.

- Collage and fabric. Obviously, rubber cement made my “Thankful List.” Rach, you’ll be happy to hear that I’m back on track. I’ve made two 4x6s, which I’m sure is pathetic next to however many wonders you’re cranking out. Like the onion rings, this is one to continue next month.

- International Driver’s License. Near-complete failure. The only thing I did was take some passport photos. Whenever they get developed, I can move to whatever the next step is.

- And being a better teacher in general. Well, the whole long month of November had been one long downhill for this goal. The first, second week after break I was good. Oh, I was so good. I had lesson plans, I had attentive students, I even had some days when I was excited for my 7.30 classes. Third week, I was mostly back to normal: some good lessons, some bad. Some preparation, some nothing. This last and fourth week: I’m awful. Apathetic. Unsympathetic. Unplanned. I’m hoping that next week, as a fresh week of the last month, I’ll become inspired again.

So that’s it. I’m working on a list of December goals, but so far I haven’t come up with any that are interesting or publishable. Next week.

Monday, November 28, 2005


To continue directly from the end of the previous entry: there was a massive feast. And yes, booze. Way too much. That, combined with an excessive amount of lying around, has effectively atrophied my muscles. Walking up and down, up and down the stairs at school today felt as if I were being beaten. It was a wise man who first proclaimed, alcohol is poison.

Pain aside: an excellent weekend all around. Friday afternoon, Gaines arrived. We did some shopping and catching up (not having seen each other for a whole... 3 weeks? But really, reading blog stories just isn’t as good as having them told in person.) Friday evening, Anita (from Oxford) invited us, Chad, Juli, Támas & Dóri to her house for dinner. Her husband Jacek (who is in my class at Oxford) not only made us a fantastic meal, he also kept the wine, beer, and goldwasser flowing.

Saturday morning, Gaines and I actually made it to our 7.52 train. Chadwick did not, and caught a later one.

...continued the following day (now Tuesday morning):
all right, I admit defeat. Although a typical entry on this blog inevitably falls short of perfection, in this case, it’s just hopeless. Two days of mulling and several false starts have given me no insight as to how to properly record the events of the weekend. Maybe in a week or several I will try again. Until then, I refer you to the storytelling abilities of Jeremy, the elegant prose of Gaines, and the pictures and text of Yerik. Sorry if this is a cop out, but I am a fundamentally lazy person (as home-friends plus my fellow Poorgirl can attest to), and I won't attempt something when three other people have already done it, and done it so spectacularly.

Lazy Girl out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Although maybe it’s a bit cliché, today I can earnestly say that there are several things I am purely and singularly thankful for. In no particular order (except for the first, which is more important than the rest combined), they are:

1) Hot Water! Yes, indeed. After, wait let me count.... after 40 days (and 40 nights, how convenient), hot water has been restored to my humble flat. Oh, the joy of doing dishes. Oh, the wonder of washing my hands with burning hot water. Oh, the exquisiteness of a warm or hot shower - and the ability to choose! It’s beyond description

2) Oxford School. I know I’ve gloated about this before, so I’ll keep it short. I love them. They’re great. Thank you. That’s it.

3) Juli (from Oxford), who has become my new Hungarian teacher. In addition to being generally an awesome person, I discovered today that she is also an amazing teacher. Very patient, which is probably my number-one requirement. She actually told me that when we were “conversing,” I didn’t make a single grammar mistake. I don’t believe her for a second, but it was kind anyway.

4) Art Supplies! (Like hot water, this also deserves an exclamation point) With the help of Item Number 3 (Juli), today I discovered a little art store on Szapáry út. We went in looking for Item Number 5 (see below), and I discovered a whole wonderful world, one I had almost forgotten, of fabric, papers, floss, beads of any shape and form. And paint for Laura.

5) Rubber Cement. Rachael, I think you might be the only one to understand my appreciation for such a mundane item. But I didn’t have it before, and you can imagine my distress at having only glue to work with. Thankful, indeed.

6) Attempts at Baking. I say attempts, because the second batch is yet cooking. And I haven’t tasted anything. It looks a bit sketchy. But smells delicious. And, in the end, I’m thankful that I could successfully cook anything without a recipe, without certain ingredients, without a real oven, and without pans.

7) The traditionals: Family, Friends, and Health. Stop me before I descend into sheer, tearful corniness. But what can I say? Family: it isn’t my first holiday away from home, but I miss you and I love you (in my book, even hot water comes a distant second to you). Friends: the new ones I’ve found here, the old ones I’ve re-found, so to speak, and the home-friends who are kind enough to keep in touch, even though I bore them with the same stories over and over (for you, hot water can be moved back to third place). Last but not least, health, which I am especially thankful for due to my recent recovery (recent being within the last few hours) of a quick-but-killer 48-hour cold.

On that note, now that I’m healthy again, I am ready to go to Nyíregyháza and make myself sick stuffing my face with various goodies. And booze, god willing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Snow, Glorious Snow!!!

First snowfall of the season (not counting the sparse flakes on Saturday morning)! As much as I enjoyed the snowball fight with my students, their complete inability to concentrate, the choice English words written in the playground snow, and the discovery that my sneakers have no traction, I’m tied for my two all-time favorite snow-related sights today:

1 - the look on the face of one of my brattiest 7th-graders when my snowball nailed him square in the chest.

2 - the 3rd-grader who had made an 8-inch snowman and was carrying it around like a baby.

No, who am I kidding? I’m much more spiteful than I am sentimental; number 1 wins hands down.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Being a Real Teacher

I will say right now that most of the time, I don’t take my job at Kassai seriously. I’m trying to change that (one of my “November goals,” if you remember). This past week, I can say with some pride, was a success. And this, despite the fact that in several other ways, it was a disaster. It started on Wednesday, when my 8a wasn’t in their classroom. Having played “let’s make Emily look for us” with them once before, I searched the school for them until eventually, someone told me that they really weren’t anywhere, but had gone to an open house at one of the high schools. I savored a free hour. I should have known it would haunt me - the following day they decided to meet during my normally-free second hour. Which no one told me about until the school’s handyman showed up at my door and announced that I had a class. Yes, right now.

The remainder of my misadventures were due to the fact that the three regular English teachers all absconded on Thursday and Friday to attend teacher training in Nyíregyháza. So what happened to their classes? Like some terrible game of musical chairs, the students were just funneled into whichever class had empty desks. Regardless of subject or level. I ended up with classes of 33 8th graders, 35 5th graders, 20-some 7th graders, and 28 6th graders. Next time, I’m going to insist that I need English training as well.

In any case, in the spirit of being a real teacher, here are some of the activities that I successfully pulled off this week. Some are more time-fillers than they are educational, but they served their purpose well.

Activity: Following Orders

This comes from Penguin English Photocopiables: Pair Work, although I altered it a bit. When I did it, I did all the steps on the board to show the kids what I meant.

1) Have your students draw two grids (A and B), each 5 squares by 5 squares. Try to stress that they shouldn’t draw little tiny squares.

2) Have them write the number 1 in the center square of both grids. After that, they shouldn’t do anything else with grid B; set it aside for later. They should fill in grid A by drawing or writing something in each square. Things to draw could be: a heart, a circle, a tree, a house, your face, a dog, a cat, a bike, a car, etc. Things to write could be: your name, my name, your favorite color, your age, how many people are in this room, a word starting with “m,” your favorite subject, etc.

3) Have the students work in pairs. The goal is to have their partner fill in their grid B with what the other has in their grid A. You can put the following sentences on the board to help them: Start at the square with the one. Start at the square with the face. Go one square up / down. Go two squares left / right. Draw a cow. Write my name.

Variations and other things to consider: you can vary the things to draw/things to write. In some classes, you might want to control this part more (in my 6th grade, I heard one student say, “Go right two squares and draw an Arab terrorist.” When I asked to see his paper, sure enough, this was one of his drawings).

My fifth graders were terribly confused by “go right one square and write ...” So I tried using north, south, east and west instead. This went over better.

With the younger classes (and the ones I didn’t trust to work by themselves), I had them draw one empty grid, and I had one student give the “orders” to the entire class.

I did this activity with several classes, including 5th, 6th, and 7th graders, and they all seemed to enjoy it. I even did it with a combined group of 28 of my worst-behaved 6th graders, and since it managed to hold their attention for 40 minutes, this game has earned a special place in my heart.

Activity: Making Similes

Copied from Penguin English Photocopiables: Top Class Activities. But even without the book, all you have to do as prep is make up two lists of words that the students know. The words should be mostly nouns, but some can be verb phrases.

Write on the board “A is like B because....” and some examples. The one from the book was, “Love is like learning English because both are easy at first.” I don’t think I have to explain too much more; have the students make up, orally or in writing, similes using the words you provide. Some of my favorites, for either their insight, humor, lack of understanding, or all of the above:

A war is like a thief because it is stealing lives.
A fashion like sex because it always change each other.
A friend is like a toilet because you need it.
A woman is like a dog because it always loves you.
The kiss is like the strawberry cause they are both red and sweet. (This one is funny to me and probably me alone, because my normal description of strawberries is not “red and sweet,” but usually “red and toxic.”)
A man is like a zoo, because he is crazy like an elephant.
Just wrong:
Teenagers like pizza because it is delicious.

Activity: Conversation on a train

Again stolen from Top Class Activities. Depending on the level and creativity of the students, you might want to give them a handout. Or you might just go to it. The idea is this: working in groups of 2-4 students, pretend you are traveling on a days-long train ride. You have been on the train several hours and no one has spoken yet. Decide who you are, your background, and why you are traveling. Then make up a conversation with the other people in your train compartment.

The book offers the following characters as possibilities: a woman with a child, a travelling [sic] student, an English teacher, an electrician, a film director, a spy (my students latched on this one), a photographer, a Chinese, Russian, or French person, a prisoner on the run, a soldier going home, someone who is slightly deaf, etc.

I did this with a double class of 7th graders. Since it was mostly boys, the majority of the stories involved a compartment of three spies, with lots of yelling, shooting, and poisoning each other. One kid managed to bust out some Russian-accent English (courtesy of Bond movies, he told me later). Anther story featured a souvenir Kalashnykov. On the lighter side, one group of girls put together a four-act show (the signal for the act change was for them to chant in unison, “Two years later”) with a rather complex story line involving a spy who pickpockets two innocent students on a train, only to be recognized by them two years later on the street, and then dragged through a years-long court battle, ending up in jail while the two students did a celebratory dance.

My own celebratory dance came later Friday night, when I was done with Kassai, done with Oxford, and safely back in my own hallway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lots of hot air, but still no hot water

Twenty-five days. This is how long my flat has been without hot water. I’m not a person easily moved to profanity, but this is fucking ridiculous.

In summary (because despite what you might believe, I do have better things to do with my time than post whiney entries), the week before break, my hot water stopped working. No big problem. I was at Gaines’ the weekend, then in Transylvania. I kinda hoped it might fix itself. I should be so lucky.

I came back from break. Laura and I put up with no hot water while we were here. I took a long, hot shower at her place, and came home to my now-routine of icy, 60-second showers.

On the first Monday back at school, I told Kati, who sent Páli, the school’s handyman, to take a look. He decided that an actual gas mechanic should look at it, and we scheduled him for Thursday. But whatever fiddling Páli had done had temporarily fixed the problem, lulling me into believing the problem was gone and, stupidly, canceling the appointment. Great, I got in one hot shower and one load of dishes before the water went out again.

Although I gripe a lot here in the anonymity of cyberspace, in real life I hate being a complainer. It’s one of the worst things to label a person. So 4 of the hot-water-less days are directly my fault: I waited until today to pester Kati again. She promised to send Páli and the gas man again. They came. They fiddled. They tested the water. They gave me a Look, gave each other a Look, and pronounced everything “minden rendben.” (Everything in order.) They left. I tried the water in the kitchen: lukewarm, then just cold. In the bathroom: lukewarm, then cold. Why, oh why, didn’t I think to try the water in the kitchen before they left?

So I’m back to square one, no hot water. I can manage a lukewarm shower if I keep it under 30 seconds. Lucky me. Twenty-five days and counting. At this point, to end on a hopeful note, I’d like to open the comments for a poll: How Many Days Will Emily Survive Without Hot Water? My own estimate is 32.

Actually, not true, I have something better to end with. My new logo, stolen from an under-the-breath comment by one of my “good class” eighth-graders:

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Let’s go, Olaj, let’s go!

After spending most of the day listening to NPR and recovering from squash, this evening I went with Chad, Juli, Tamás and Dóri to watch our very own basketball team Szolnoki Olaj take on their evil arch-rival, Albacomp of Székesfehérvár. It was incredible. My only undamaged-by-squash body parts remaining, namely palms, throat, and eardrums, have now been battered down by screaming and clapping madly as Szolnok recovered in the final quarter from being 11 points down to win the game.

Having only Beloit to compare with (and Beloit not being what you would call an athletics-oriented school), I am amazed and enthralled by how sporting events here are as much about the crowd as they are about the game. They yell, they scream, they chant (including some things that were so vulgar, Tamás wouldn’t translate them for me. If you know Tamás, you know how serious this is). They blew whistles and noise-makers. They hissed and boo-ed the other team’s every move. They clapped, they stomped, the jumped up and down. They threw things onto the court. They taunted Albacomp’s fans (who were in their own section, behind a net and protected by police). There was no beer sold at this game because they were afraid of rioting. I think if Olaj hadn’t made their spectacular recovery, there might have been violence.

Overall, it was the most fun I’ve ever paid 1000 Ft ($5) for.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Further benefits of Oxford

1) They know everyone. Seriously, between Juli, Anita, and Tamás, I bet they either know everyone of note in Szolnok. For example, last night Juli, Chad and I were having a nutritious dinner at Pizza Pronto, and Juli pointed out that two of out fellow diners were the American and Brazilian members of Szolnok’s basketball team, Szolnoki Olaj (Szolnok Oil; don’t ask me). Chad, being the fearless person he is, immediately moved to their table and introduced himself. And me. And Juli.

2) Free Polish snacks, courtesy of Anita’s husband Jacek, who works for some sort of Polish company which, as far as I can tell, exists for the sole purpose of giving Jacek bags and bags of snacks and candy, which he turns over to Oxford. In theory, these snacks are for the students, but since they exist in the hidden recesses of the kitchen cabinets, they mainly just feed Chad and myself.

3) Squash. Not the snacky kind, the exercise-y kind. I went this afternoon with Juli, Chad, and Dóri (Tamás’ wife) for my first-ever attempt at what I assumed would be a strenuous, dangerous, rule-bound game. Nope. At least, not the way Juli and Dóri play. For those of you unfamiliar with the game (as I was 12 hours ago. Now, after one game, I’m an expert), a squash court is an enclosed room, Chad said like a racquetball court. I wouldn’t know. There are lines on the walls and floor (we mostly ignored them). Two people take turns whacking the ball against the far wall. Hm, that’s about it. I’m sure there’s some sort of scoring involved, but we didn’t bother. The only place where it gets complex is the running around while trying to hit the ball, but avoiding hitting the other person, the wall, or anything else. It was great. Despite having damaged myself slightly, I’m going again on Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Life After Break (or, Pushing the Karma Envelope)

I admit, I thought the first week back after break would be hellish; in reality, this week has been a pleasant surprise. Nothing like diving back in: back to normal classes at Kassai, private lessons, and the new adventure of teaching at Oxford (a private language school, which as far as I can tell has only a tenuous connection at best to the well-known Oxford). I think Oxford might be the best thing that’s happened to me in Szolnok; here’s the deal: they’re paying me 5000 Ft ($25) for a ninety-minute lesson. I’m teaching two lessons a week, which amounts to the fortune of an extra $200 a month (in comparison, I make about $520 a month at Kassai, teaching 19 lessons a week). And what do they expect of me in return? To do some photocopying, follow the lesson plans that Juli makes for me (which are amazing), and teach classes of adults (my “big” class has 9 students). And, just in case you’re not turning green yet, the teachers / directors Juli, Anita, and Tamás are three of the kindest, funniest, smartest people I have met here. How did I get so lucky? God alone knows. I’m going to stop bragging now before I bring 515 years of bad Hungarian karma down on my head.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Poor Girls' Vacation

So Laura and I spent the remainder of vacation hanging out, here in Szolnok and then in her lovely village (or, “willage”) of Hernadnémeti. The major event of our week was Thursday night: MTV’s European Music Awards. We watched MTV in the days leading up to it. We voted for our favorites. We persuaded Mariah (but not Janos) to jump on a train on the spur of the moment to join us. We braved Cora to purchase snacks and jug wine (oh, sweet college memories). We ate, we drank, we danced like fools (okay, Laura and I danced, while Mariah laughed at us). We SMS-ed with Jenna, who was watching the awards simultaneously at home in Nyíregyháza, and Janos, who I suspect had little to no interest in the awards, but was a good enough sport to not turn off his phone and ignore us. Oh, lucky the people who left the country and didn’t get our drunken (or sober) SMSes this week.

Friday, the three of us packed up and headed first to Nyíregyháza to pick up Jenna, then onto a train which dropped her and Mariah at Tokaj and Laura and I at Hernadnémeti. I like her town. Well, village. But a nice place. We watched TV, DVDs, had a walk around town, visited all three grocery stores, and worked on lessons plans. I’m jealous of both her apartment and her organizational and teaching skills. If I were a better teacher (as I should have made it one of my “November Goals” to be), I would be doing lessons plans now. Instead, I’m workin’ on the jug wine.

But seriously, silly as they are, these are my goals for November.
- Home repairs and interior decoration. Especially if I have to live here two years, I want a place that I like.
- Getting a library card. If Chad can do it, so can I.
- Learning to make onion rings. Really, this would make me quite happy.
- Finding collage materials. And fabric.
- Getting an International Driver’s License.
- And being a better teacher in general. More planning. Better discipline. Seriously, I survived college; how can this be that much more difficult?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Clarity, continuation, and conclusion (still Transylvania)

First, some clarity: the plan of exactly what we did and where we went, including map This may or may not be correct; I just took the text from Hajni’s proposed itinerary and modified it to what we did. Or, as best I remember what we did.

1. day: October 26 (Wednesday)
-Budapest and Nyiregyhaza
-Vállaj - border cross
-Nagykáróly - money exchange and lunch
-Kalotaszentkiraly (Sincraiu) – evening program with the villagers, staying with Hungarian families

2. day: October 27 (Thursday)
-Banffyhunyad (Huedin) – the protestant church from the 13th century, “The role of the church in the life of the Hungarian minority” (the minister)
-Korosfo - shopping stop!
-Kolozsvar (Cluj Napoca) – sightseeing, - “The problems of the Hungarian minority and the minority policy in Romania after 1989” (Istvan Horvath, professor of the Sociology Department of the Babes-Bolyai University)
-Torda Canyon - a “short hike”
-Torocko (Rimetea) – the medieval village is part of the world heritage protected by UNESCO, we will stay with Hungarian families

3. day: October 28 (Friday)
-Marosvasarhely (Tirgu Mures) – sightseeing
-Korond (Corund) – the most famous pottery makers live in this village (you can buy pottery if you want), meeting with the most famous artist of the village who will show us around in his workshop
-Zetelaka (little village) near Szekelyudvarhely (Odorheiu Seciuesc) – staying with Hungarian families

4. day: October 29 (Saturday)
-Csikszereda (Miercurea-Ciuc) – short sightseeing
-Gyimes - folk music and dancing program
-that night - no idea where we stayed.

5. day: October 30 (Sunday)
-Gyilkos to (Lacu Rosu) – the “Killer” lake
-Bekas szoros (Frags’ canyon) – 1 hour walking tour in the canyon
-Segesvar (Shigisvara)- sightseeing (and the saxon minority)
-Gernyeszeg – hotel

6. day: October 31 (Monday)
driving and more driving. Really, that’s all.

Next, continuation. As you can see on the plan, on the second-to-last day, which is where I think I left off, we went to the Killer Lake, which was slightly cooler this time, as it wasn’t covered with ice and snow, then the Frag’s Canyon, which was amazing, although sunless and cold. Laura, Mariah and I “linked” (arms, get your mind out of the gutter) and stayed huddled together. After the canyon, we went to collect our two sickies, then onward to Segesvár (birthplace of Dracula). We spent the evening at a hotel in Gernyeszeg. After dinner (and to some extent, during), we started dancing, which eventually turned into a full-fledged dance party in the lobby of the hotel.

The last day was mainly driving, bathroom stop, driving, Körösfö again, driving, gas station, driving, border, driving, driving, and yet get the picture. We watched a lot of movies. People got off the bus in Nyírégyháza, Tiszaújváros, and some other random town (Jeremy and Chad had a Plan. I don’t know what). Laura and I ended up staying at the Kollégium again, with Hajni and Rosemary. They chose a quiet (and warm) evening at home, while Laura and I braved the cold to meet Janos for drinks. An excellent evening, although freezing. And again, we got home at 2 in the morning and got only a few hours of sleep. Then, an adventure in the train station, which involved the concurrence of a national holiday, the time change (daylight savings) and no preplanning on our part. And, of course, not speaking Hungarian. Anyway, there was a long wait, then a longer ride on a slow train. But finally, Laura and I arrived back in Szolnok and have spent the afternoon watching MTV. So what time is is now? after 5. How long did it take me to write these few paragraphs? Way too long for such drivel.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Operating at 90% (in Transylvania)

... and have been since yesterday, when of our original twenty people, two were left behind. Chad and Janos both came down with some sort of incapacitating illness and had to left in Zetelaka for the day. Unfortunately for them, yesterday (Saturday) was one of the greatest days yet. In the morning, we stopped in Csíkszerda and saw something, I forget what. Probably a church. Oh, I remember. We got a late start because the boys had to go to the doctor, then the hospital. So it was almost noon by the time we left Zetelaka. After Csíkszerda, we drove to Gyimes, which is a village of Csango Hungarians. They made a program for us which, as if it were possible to sum it up in a few sentences, which consisted of palinka, folk music, singing, eating, drinking, walking up to see the old border, a hay ride for some of the more daring girls, folk dancing, more music, more food, more drinking, and music, music, dancing, and more dancing. When the official program was over, the bus gave a ride home to the two musicians, Liz broke out the homemade palinka, Hajni and Sandor broke out the microphone, and the party continued with music, singing, and dancing in the aisles. After the musicians got off, the Hungarian taught us a simple children's song, and Liz taught Sandor “I’m a little teapot.”

Friday, October 28, 2005

More Transylvanian stories

Somewhere between Torocko, where we spent the night, and Marosvasarhely, where we are heading. I have to write it down before I forget it, from last night: at dinner, Sandor was pouring us palinka. I was amenable to some, but asked, “Fél?” He smiled, nodded, and gave me half a shot. Laura said, “Én is.” Sandor laughed heartily and proceeded to give her a nearly-overflowing glass.

Right, so the “Death Bed” story. Last time, right before getting to Kalotaszentkirály, we had stopped at a church, where Hajni lectured us about the symbolism in the embroidery. She mentioned, about 5 or 6 times, how things in pairs are a sign of death. So, in Hungary, when you bring someone flowers, you never, ever give them an even number of flowers. Well, we got to this house, and what is on the wall above my bed? Two pictures. Two embroideries. And many, many plates, all in pairs. But now I’ve survived it twice, so maybe it’s only fatal to people with more Hungarian blood than I.

Yesterday, we stopped at Körösfö, which had nothing in the way of tourist attractions other than the dozens of shops and vendor stands lining the single street. We piled off the bus, slightly crazed and drooling over the merchandise. We grabbed, we drooled, we ogled, we ran from stand to stand. We felt, we tried on, we goofed. We bargained, we puzzled over forints, lei, and new lei. Then we ran back to the bus and took off.

We also stopped at Kolozsvár, to hear Horváth István give his speech (third time for me now, twice here in Romania and once in Beloit) and then walk around the time. Wow, that wasn’t what I wanted to say. But I think I’ll leave it, it’s funny. And maybe you get the sense that I’m typing on a bus, looking out the window, one earphone in, the other ear listening to Laura and Harpswell, the music the bus driver playing on the radio, and Andras occasionally throwing out a tour-guide tidbit.

After Kolozsvár, we went to the Torda Canyon, which was amazingly beautiful to walk in. Unfortunately, it’s a canyon, meaning that after you get down into it, you have to get out somehow, which involved an extremely unpleasant trek back up this massive mountain. Hajni said, never again. From now on, only the Killer Lake and that canyon, which has a nice paved road that the bus can take us down. After the trek, out came the homemade wine and I think yesterday I mentioned the potency of that.

The evening was spent, as I mentioned, in Torocko. After dinner, which as you already know involved palinka, we went to the local bar. The adult sector of CETP did the prudent thing and left after one drink. The rest of us stayed. Eventually, the middle-aged farmers sitting across the bar worked up their courage and came over to attempt small talk with us. By us, I really mean myself and Laura. The guys (Andras, Chad, Janos and Jeremos) showed up just in time to save us. Actually, not really, because one stayed and talked to me in Hungarian, mostly through Janos, which I’m sure he loved. I didn’t catch all of the conversation, and I think that’s probably for the best. At on point, Janos told the guy that we were married, and as proof, pointed at my hand, where thank god I was wearing my ring on the appropriate finger to indicate that I was taken.

Overall, a great evening, although I almost couldn’t find the house again. This morning, after wine, palinka, AND beer, when I first opened my eyes I was afraid to move. But I got up, took a walk to the village limits and back, and I feel pretty great now. Actually, kinda hungary.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Drunk on the bus, the first time of many (in Transylvania)

So first of all, please forgive my crappy typringm, because in addition to being tipsy on Liz’s contact’s teachwer home-made wine, the bus is currently making its way down a hell of a mountain on a road that is barely suitbakle for walking. Okay, so thje trip so far: on Tueday, oh, I think I alsready mentioned that I ran the hell out od class to get hjome and sit at home waiting,. David came for the lesson, which I cut short so’s I could get to the bus station. Got to Pest, where the strap on the single bag of luggage which I had managed to limit myself to promptly broke. My great big Ikea bag saved the day. MNade it, shitty luggage and all, back to the Kollégium, where I couldn;t get into the room because Rosemary had taken the key. Long story shoirt, I met with her, Kyle, and Hajni at Marchello, before we all headed back to the Kollégium. We all shared a room , one of tyhe nice ones, so we juit sat around and talked. At some hour, maybe 10, Janos got in and he and I went out for a drink, and a short walk (or rather, a short let’s-walk-it-off) up on Gellért.

The bad part was, we got back at about 2 am, Meaning exactly three hours of sleep before we got up at 5. Ugh. Anyway, we got on the bus and off we got. We stopped at Tiszaújváros and Nyírégyháza to pick up the rest. Included on the trip are twenty total: Hajni, András (who didn’t remember me, but remembered Sydney. Actually, today, the 2nd day, he claimed he remembered me), Sandor (our tour guide) self, Laura, Chad, Kat, Janos, Yerik and Jenna, Ryan and Cailey, Mariah, Harpswell, Rosemary, Kyle, Jeremy, Liz, Rosalind, Gaines, and the driver, who is actually named Peter, but I thought he was Béla for a long time because that’s what Harpswell told me and I was foolish enough to believe her.

So, on the first day, we drove a lot, picked people up, crossed the border, and...hm, obviously nothing else memorable. There must have been something that we did... oh, we stopped and changed money and were let loose in a Romanian town. I went to CBA. Exciting.

We spent the night in Kalotaszentkirály; I was actually in the same house, in the same bed that I was before. It was “the Death Bed” which was become one of my favorite Erdély memories from last time. Tomorrow, when I’m not so drunken, I’ll tell the story. Actually, stopping typing, and just listening to music and looking out the window seems like a great idea right now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Triumvirate of Triumphs

Of a Hungarian nature, of course. I had two of them yesterday. Well, let’s say three, since I am counting the small things.

One) During our Hungarian lesson (which Chad and I are taking together at the same level, micsoda butasag) when he was talking on the phone, I had actual conversations with Gabi. My favorite was when she said “Õ nem tanultott ezek a szovakat” (or however it is) and I said, “Nem, õ nem jó diak.”

Two) Chad was trying to call one of his private lessons to cancel. But instead, he talked to her Hungarian roommate. Instead of asking Gabi for help, he put me on the phone. I managed to understand that Andrea wasn’t there, but she had been earlier, that she had gone to work but the roommate wasn’t really sure when, and that Andrea’s phone doesn’t always work. And there was a lot more which I didn’t get. But every other time I’ve tried Hungarian on the phone it’s been a disaster, so the fact that I understood any little thing at all was amazing to me.

Three) I went to a camera shop to buy a battery. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to look up the work for battery. No matter, because I had the camera with me and just showed the nice older man behind the counter. I also managed to ask for “a legolcsobb” film (the cheapest. I also use this phrase frequently when asking for beer). He told me that he thought my Hungarian was good. I gave my standard answer to this, which is “Kedves, de nem igaz” (That’s kind, but untrue). He asked me how many years I had studied the language. I briefly considered if I could manage, “Well, I was here for a semester a couple of years ago, and forgot a lot since then, but now I’ve been in Szolnok for about two months” in Hungarian, discarded that idea, and mumbled “Egy szemester” instead. He seemed impressed nonetheless

Well, this afternoon I’m off to Bp, then to Transylvania. If I’m not killed by the water, the food, the bears, or any of the other dangers Hajni has warned us of, I should be back on Tuesday or Wednesday with some great stories, hopefully.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

No, no, no, no babe, no, no, no, no don’t lie...

What you gonna do when it all comes out
When I really see you & what you're all about

Oh, Black Eyed Peas rock. And I have to include that song right there: first of all ’cause it’s a great song; second because I’m listening to it now; finally because it factors so nicely into the telling of my weekend adventures. Namely, it was the stunning, dramatic, running-away conclusion to Saturday night.

But let me backtrack a bit. On Friday, Harpswell and Jeremy both made it Szolnok, then made it onto a train to Mezõberény. Laura not only made it here, but made it walking across Szolnok alone to meet Chad, I, and some of the other Oxford teachers in Jazz Pub (great job, Laura. You get a smiley-face sticker). Saturday morning, we got up and made it to the train station; Chad did not. We went without him; he caught the next train. The train ride (and indeed, a good part of the day) was made better by an on-going exchange of SMSs with Janos, mostly on the topic of the circus he’s planning.

After meeting up with Gaines, Harpswell and Jeremos in Mezõberény and being served amazing Mexican food by Gaines (you also deserve a sticker), we trekked to Békéscsaba for the Sausage Festival. We met up with other CETPers Brent (Sarkad), and from last year Matt (Békéscsaba), Brandie (Köszeg), and Guy and Jane, who are a wonderful couple living in Újszasz, 10 minutes from Szolnok. The festival being quite, quite similar to the Gúlyas and Paprika Festivals, we staked out a table in the big tent and sat there for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, drinking, eating, talking, listening to music live and otherwise, and generally having a good time. Later in the evening, maybe 7-ish, we departed in order to walk across the rainy, dark, cold, and rather big city of Békéscsaba in order to go to a bar which was close to the train and bus stations. Good call, because we sat there drinking until we had to go catch the last bus at 10:40.

After arriving safely back in Mezõberény and partaking in a Jeremy-concocted drink of Blue Curacao and cranberry juice, and taking some vaguely dirty pictures with Gaines’ camera when she was out of the room, we headed out to Mezõberény’s one club, the Ipar Disco. The music was some sort of bizarre Hungarian techno. Yikes. But, just as we were starting to lean towards the door, the DJ busted out some American tunes. This became sort of a pattern for the evening: intentions of leaving curbed by the lure of just-one-more-dance. So anyway, we started to leave several times. On attempt 3 or 4, Jeremos had the brilliant idea of having just-one-more-dance, in the center of the dance floor. He led us into the crowd. It was here that I met Tami, (aka Béla II., according to Harpswell). We danced. Jeremy took pictures (which I will include here once they get online). Harpswell and Laura laughed. Tami’s friend high-fived me. Some songs later, I decided that we should run away. Unfortunately, our escape was impeded by having to wait for Gaines and Chad. Tami came outside, sat on the curb and sulked. I offered a broken Hungarian goodbye, he remained silent. Then we all ran away home to the sounds of Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Lie.”

Miért csinalom ez a hülyeséget? Magányos, kétségbeesett, esztelen, erkölcstelen, vagy csak kurva vagyok? Mit kell? A drámat? A figyelmét? És ha igen, kié? Csak hülye vagyok.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Adventures in laundry

disclaimer: the following rant applies only to my own laundry facilities and should not be construed as an attack upon Hungarian laundering in general. In fact, most places in Hungary have perfectly normal and functioning facilities.

I have to admit, for most of my life, I’ve taken laundry for granted. I think many people do the same, so let this entry be a warning for you. First off, I should say that I have been doing my own laundry (and, dammit, quite successfully) since I was about 16. It started in high school, when I was at that particular stage in life where the idea of my mother going through my pockets was both dangerous and deplorable. Since then, I’ve been on my own, and have managed to keep both myself and my cloths at a respectable level of cleanliness. Until now.

Let me describe my so-called “washing machine.” Picture a white metal tube. It is about waist-high and 16” in diameter. If you open the top and peer in, the bottom of the inside is at about knee level. It is made up of ridged white plastic, which, when the machine is turned on, will spin and gyrate like drunken teens at a disco. At the bottom, there is also a hole to allow for drainage. Originally, this hole connected to a narrow, flexible tube on the outside of the machine, which allowed the operator to direct this tube toward whatever drain happened to be nearby. However, this tube snapped off soon after my first use of it. So, I am left with a hole in the inside of the machine which leads directly to a hole on the outside, and no way to stop the water from pouring out. Okay.

So today, being left with two pairs of underwear and one of pants, laundry became a necessity. Steeling myself for a battle, I gathered my darks and marched into the bathroom. First problem: the drainage hole. Solution: I have an unconscionable number of wine bottle lying around; I grabbed the cork from one of them and shoved it in there. Hooray for creative problem solving (especially when booze is involved. After all, I couldn’t just let the wine sit out uncorked). Darks go in the tube. Soap goes in the tube. Hot water, provided by the shower attachment of my bathtub, goes in the tube. Plug in, turn on. Wait. Then it gets messy. Drainage is required. I remove the cork and let the hot, soapy, dirty, disgusting water drain into a bucket. Yes, doing laundry actually involves buckets. What century am I in again?

I repeat the entire above process twice more with cold water, minus the soap. This is my “rinse cycle.” At this point, watching the cold, still soapy, still dirty, and still disgusting water drain into my bucket, I decide that my clothes will never be any cleaner, and to move on to the next step: drying.

But to dry cloths here is a whole ’nother adventure, which I will have to sum up as briefly as possible. Clothes go in the dryer, one item at a time (the interior is approximately the size of a gallon jug). The so-called “dryer” is actually more like a wringer. Basically a tube that spins really, really fast, and shoots the excess water out a hole in its side. Again, a bucket is needed to catch the water. Not that it matters, because this glorious machine has a tendency to leak water all over my already filthy floor. After struggling with the wringer, the final stage of laundry is to lay cloths out on the drying rack and wait two days.

No, I take it back. The last step is to clean up the wet, linty, dirty bathroom floor. But that will have to wait.

So once more, readers, let me implore you: don’t take your washing machine for granted. Be nice to it! Love it, care for it! It is your best friend. Oh, the glories of a machine that drains itself, refills itself, dispenses soap and bleach at the correct times. Oh, for a dryer which would spin my cloths fluffy soft and sweet-smelling!

postscript, added 2006 January 12 - since I've started reading various Iraqi blogs, I've discovered that I have almost the same model washing machine which has become the preferred type in the nearly-waterless, nearly-electricity-less city of Baghdad. Fantastic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The many deaths of Emily

Which include the following: freezing to death, being gassed, or suffocation. All of this, within a span of 12 hours, have been actual possibilities (although the likelihood of each was significantly increased in my imagination from in real life.)

First was freezing. Visitors to my flat in the past two weeks can attest to the fact that I’m not kidding, it was like a tomb in here. We spent a great deal of time huddled in blankets. And since it is October in the Northern Hemisphere, it wasn’t looking up.

Today, I made it my mission to nag my contact teacher into doing something about my mausoleum, I mean flat. Success! She sent one of the school’s handymen over to turn on the heaters. Well, that’s great, one possible death eliminated, but now I’m left with two other options: being gassed by the damn heaters, which are in keeping with the general shady quality of all the appliances; or, according to Kati, I might suffocate, because the flames in the heater will use up all the oxygen in the room. So, she said, I should open my windows. But not all the time, because that counteracts the heating. But definitely sometimes. But just a little.

After consideration, I put aside my worry about the latter death, because in 22 years I have never heard of anyone suffocating in their apartments because some devious heater ate up all their oxygen. The former, however, still worries me. I’ve decided that the heater in my bedroom must be okay, because I took a nap in there and did, in fact, wake up again. On the other hand, the one in my living room, both the heater and the pipes leading to it, make weird noises. And there is a very strong smell of gas in the room, despite both Kati and the handyman’s assurances that everything was “rendben” (in order). I don’t know whether to whimper or scream.

If I die, Hajni, I expect you to avenge my death.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Chill, part II (and the world premiere of: Beerball)

So, it turned out that the reality of the high-school party couldn’t live up to our imaginations. It did involve massive amounts of booze, and certainly a good number of highschoolers, and no one else near the ages of Chad and Janos. It seems like there was some passing out on the floor, missing their bus, and having to take a taxi back at 5 am, followed by some random moments of extreme paranoia on Chad’s part. But there was no drunken debauchery, at least none that the boys participated in or saw (at the very least, none that they felt like telling us about).

Laura and Ros had already departed by the time we got to hear this fantastic tale. Gaines decided to take a later train just so she could stay for it. After she departed, Janos, Chad and I spent an amazing, beautiful sunny afternoon hanging out and drinking beer, mostly in the courtyard of Varga. The afternoon did involve excursions (beer tagged along) to the artist colony, to the roof, and down by the river. At the beginning, Chad had gone to great lengths (read: to the roof) to find a ball so they could play basketball. They played, I lay in the sun. Later, we invented a game called Beerball, which involved the three of us laying, sitting, or reclining on the pavement and rolling the ball back and forth. Overall, a magnificent afternoon. And evening as well - Janos stayed so late that he missed two trains, and had to take the last one, which got him home around 2 in the morning.

After that adventure, I left for Budapest immediately after classes yesterday. Despite being terribly sick (again, what the hell is wrong with me?), it was wonderful to see Eszter and everyone. I love them, they’re like family. Hanna has grown so much, and she speaks so well now. Eszter and her mother took it upon themselves to cure me of my cold overnight, and kept making me tea and giving me various pills and concoctions, all of which I unquestioningly swallowed - that in itself might be an indication of fever or something.

Then today, back to classes, and I still have two private lessons yet this afternoon. So I really should go clean a bit, because my flat is still sort of a disaster from the weekend. But it was still my favorite weekend so far.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Okay. I have slightly less than an hour to record this weekend. After that, I’m going back to teach three more classes; after them I’m hopping a train to go to Bp and (finally) see Eszter es a családa.

First of all, I think I have to declare this my favorite weekend so far. I just had a generally good, chill, friendly time. For that, I would like to thank Chad, Gaines, Janos, Laura, and Ros. And the Academy.

After everyone arrived here on Friday afternoon & evening, with some drama but no too much hassle, we had dinner at Pizza Kert, and since it was pretty late already, went to Jazzclub right after. After a beer there, we moved on to Irish Pub, where we spent the remainder of the evening, drinking Miller (a legolcsobb sör at that establishment) and chatting. Until 2 in the morning. So there was no major drunkenness, no adventures involving random Hungarians, but just a good, chill time.

Saturday, we girls just hung out here and watched MTV and gossiped. Around noon, we got up and dressed to go meet Ros. Later we met up with the boys, got gyros, and wandered around looking for mini-golf. We did find it eventually: a concrete course tucked into someone’s front yard, complete with a small patio to sit and have a beer on. The owner (who had 4 shelves full of minigolf trophies) explained the rules to us. Because we were seemingly having trouble following the rules, he explained them several times. His wife also tried to help. We had decided at the beginning that we were playing for free drinks that evening. Around hole 7, Janos decided that a night of free drinks was the most motivating thing in the world to him, and pulled off a narrow victory. Chad also staged a fantastic comeback to get 3rd, I think, and Gaines was 2nd.

Despite walking about 4 miles to get to minigolf, the walk back to my place was about 3 blocks. We crashed here and made dinner. The boys took off to go to this party that one of Chad’s students had invited him to. The girls stayed here and had a pretty tame evening, which entailed watching MTV, going to Panorama, and Irish Pub, and calling the boys at least 3 times to see when they thought they might be coming back. Sometime after one, when it was apparent that they weren’t, we went to bed. But not before making up a variety of stories and speculations as to what could be so tempting about a high school party as to keep them occupied for so long. The consensus was: high school girls, and lots of booze.

But, just as we had to wait to find out the truth of the party, I’ll have to finish this story later.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Discipline, Kassai Úti Általános Iskola-style

So let me begin by saying this: although I don’t consider myself a disciplinarian, I think that I do a fairly- to moderately good job of keeping my students on track and (with one or two stunning exceptions) quiet. When problems arise, I’m not above asking them who their regular English teacher is and tattling on them. Often just the threat of me telling Kati néni is enough to make them shape up in a hurry (Kati, who is my contact teacher and a wonderful person, is acclaimed as the best English teacher at Kassai, but she is also known as being very, very strict, both with her own students and anyone that she might run across in the hallways after the bell has rung. I’ve “confided” to some of my classes that I’m scared of her too, and that’s the reason I can’t let them out before the bell, because Kati would yell at all of us. They all understand that).

So all that being said, today I had my 7th grade conversation class. This is one of my favorites, because despite their lamentable English, the class is only 5 boys who are all very enthusiastic and usually quite funny. Also, quite loud, which isn’t helped by the fact that we’re stuck in a little closet of a room. One boy, G., is this tiny pixie-like troublemaker who usually alternates between screeching in English and making animal noises at various decibels. Today he decided to be earsplitting. He screamed. He jumped around. I told him to sit, he scootched his chair around the room, or hopped from one chair to another. At one point, Julika néni, the porter, came into the room and told us we were being too loud. G. was quiet for 30 seconds. I threatened him with Kati néni, and he was quiet for a full minute. But then he kept going.

At the end of class, we opened the door to be greeted by one of the older teachers, who immediately lit into G. and A., another boy in the class (who was also being loud, but he’s always loud, and for the most part it was in English). Of course it was in Hungarian, but I definitely understood her say that she could hear him all the way down the hall and with both doors shut. I put my hands on my head and mimed a “what should I do with this one?” sort of thing. She marched G. and A. downstairs, me close behind. Vali néni and Editka néni (the other two English teachers) were summoned to help interrogate G. and myself. A. managed to make an escape at this point, but the rest of us (Vali, Edit, G, and self) were herded into the director’s office. She shut the doors. G. stood there, getting smaller and smaller and stiller and stiller, as the director, Edit, and Vali took turns questioning him, yelling at him, and talking over his head. What I did understand from the Hungarian: they asked what happened. He apologized. They said, yeah right. They asked what we had done in class. He answered. Edit, ever kind, asked if he found the material too hard or too easy. He said it was fine. They asked about his other classes. They talked about how poorly he’s doing in his other classes. At this point there was yelling and lots of “jaj, istenem” and throwing hands up and such. Edit turned to me and asked if it was the first time he had misbehaved. I gulped and said yes. They asked about his home life. It came out that his mother is in Italy, as a domestic worker there. He’s living with gramma. Because the conversation classes are optional, they asked if he really wanted to be taking it. He very quietly answered yes. Why? No answer. They suggested that he give it some serious thought, and sent him out.

The whole dressing-down lasted about 10 minutes, and I think it was almost more distressing to me then it was to him. After G. left, the teachers and the director talked a little more about his home life and how he didn’t seem to care about any of his classes. I feel so bad for him. I really just wanted to give him a hug and tell him not to worry about it. I think Vali sensed my agitation, because as we were both leaving the school, she walked with me a ways, talking. By the time we got to her flat and parted ways, we had gone over the whole situation and I felt a little bit better.

I guess at heart I’m not really much of a disciplinarian at all.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid

My theme for today: the Good, the Bad, and the Stupid. Good things from today: I used my bank card for the first time, to withdraw money from my very first paycheck from my very first “real person job.” Also good: after closer examination of my paycheck, I think they forgot to deduct my 30,000 Ft pay advance. I’m not going to remind them.
Other good things: one of my little 6th-grade conversation class made me a keychain. The woman at the cafe make a cinnamon smiley face on my cappachino. And I met the cafe’s owner, Kati, and talked with her and Chad for an hour or more. I had a lesson with Kristian, which was not only less painful than I had anticipated, but actually almost fun.
The Bad: I had to clean my flat. I had to use my first withdrawal of my first paycheck to buy the utterly unexciting bread and toilet paper (which actually turned out to be paper towels, oops).
And finally, the Stupid, overlapping with the Bad: I missed my 7:30 class this morning, because I could have sworn that Kati told me yesterday that I didn’t have it. Because today is a small national holiday and they had some sort of ceremony in the school. Well, actually the ceremony was during the second hour, so I should have gone to class. Oops. But I guess that fact that I didn’t have to teach them is a Good thing after all.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A list of my own

Inspired by Gaines and several other blogs who have all recently done something similar, I’ve decided to do my own “happiness list”. In no particular order, things that make me happy about Hungary:

1) Valami Amerika. This is the only DVD I currently own, and thank god. It has never failed to make me laugh, and every time I watch it, I appreciate it’s brilliance a little bit more.

2) Some (but not all) of my classes: including but not limited to all of the 4th grade, particularly the trouble-making, non-English speaking, but endearing 4ab. My 6th grade conversation class, who I will always love because they were first class I ever taught. All but one of my 7th grade classes, because they are clever and funny without the attitude & hormones that the 8th graders have; all 5 of the students in my 7th grade conversation class, because although they insisted they don’t speak English, they managed to tell me about all the schools in Szolnok.

3) Coffee culture. Finally, I live in a place where the national culture is almost identical to my own in regards to coffee. The fact that (outside of Pest) I have never paid more than 180 Ft (90¢) for a coffee isn’t bad either.

4) Public Transportation. Okay, this “happiness” is a bit iffy. I do complain about not having a car, both to myself and others, with some frequency. And I have to say I’m not as impressed with the Hungarian system as I am with, say, the German one, which completely and wonderfully lives up to all the stereotypes about crisp, clean, timely German efficiency. Griping aside, the fact is that if, for some reason, I decided to travel to the farthest corner of Hungary, which for me would be Szentgotthárd, 400 km away on the Austrian border: this would cost me 1700 Ft. That’s $8.50. In contrast, if I wanted to travel between Boston and New York, which is a paltry 350 km, my options are: by train ($73), by bus ($35), or by plane ($50-odd). Need I say more.

5) My location, relative to my school. After talking to the other American teachers, it seems like many of them are in one of the following situations: one, they live in their school, in their school’s courtyard, or in some way connected to it. Or two, they live halfway across town from their school. So I would just like to say how thankful I am to live very near my school, literally half a block away, but in a regular apartment building which is in no way that I know affiliated with my school.

6) My location on a one-way street. Laugh if you will, but I truly believe that it makes my life easier not to have to look both ways. Also, I can walk up the street without worrying that I’ll be hit from behind.

7) Internet. Do I really need elaborate? No, but I will mention that my favorite sites today are NPR and Christian's & Scott's Interactive Top Ten List. In fact, the combination of the two makes me so happy, I’m done with this list.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Maybe they treat me like a child because I (apparently) look like one?

To conclude yesterday's drama: This morning, I took a closer look at my windows and discovered that they have some sort of between-the-glass shades. Hooray, hala istennek.

My bitch de jour (and it’s only 2 o’clock) is that I went to Spar today, bought kifli (bread rolls) and wine, and the shop lady carded me! The usual procedure at Spar is for them to ignore you as they slam your items past the check-out, grunt out a price, and take your money without making eye contact. This is one of the reasons I like Spar, because I never have to speak or pretend to understand Hungarian. Today, naturally, I was so shocked at being talked to that I didn’t understand right away what she was asking for, so I got all flustered (or “flustrated”, thank you Townhouse F) and frantically pulled out one ID after another until she accepted, of all things, my health insurance card. In addition to the red face, I also felt a little indignant at the fact that someone would dare mistake me for an under-18-year-old. I think this evening will be spent nursing my hard-gotten wine and watching MTV.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hilarious / Idiotic

Hilarious / Idiotic. These are the two reactions I get from Hungarians. They tend to think that I’m either one or the other. Examples:
The teachers at my school tend to think I’m an idiot. Granted, due to my various apartment-related problems, they have a tiny bit of logic in believing this. But their low level of regard for me goes beyond what is justified. Today, two perfect examples. One, the school’s single tempermental copier was dysfunctioning again. As I was fiddling with it, and having some success coaxing it into working, one of the older female teachers walked by, noticed that I was poking at the machine’s insides, and promptly called one of the male teachers over to help me. Because I’m a poor, little girl, who can’t possibly know anything about machinery, of course. The male teacher, who happened to be the kind and patient computer teacher, András, (who helped me obtain internet, and thus has my eternal gratitude), proceeded to fix the machine, and then stand there and make my copies for me.
The second incident today: we had an eclipse. (Obviously, this was not arranged by my school. Although I did only hear about it 2 minutes in advance, which is in keeping with their scheduling practices.) So as a group of us teachers wandered over to the windows to look, Kati (my contact teacher) literally grabbed my arm, pulled me away, and shouted “Don’t look!” Because, obviously, in American I’ve never been told not to look directly at the sun. Anyway, eventually I looked (through tinted glasses), and it was cool.
Example number three, of how hilarious I am (or rather, how hilarious my attempts at Hungarian are). A freaky little incident that happened today: I was sitting in my living room, watching TV, minding my own business. An elderly gentleman walked past my ground-floor window. This is nothing unusual in itself, except that this man stopped, peered into my living room, and knocked on the window. As I was sitting in plain view, I couldn’t find any alternative than to open my windows and say “Hello?” He responded in a rapid stream of Hungarian. I busted out my standard, “Bocs; nem jól beszelek magyarul” and shrug, to which he repeated his earlier statement. I gathered he was looking for someone named Eva. I managed to convince him no one by that name was living in my flat, and he said he would try the next window down. He ended the conversation by telling me what an “aranyos lány” I was, followed by a hearty laugh. I feel like if there hadn’t been bars separating us, he would have pinched my cheek.
And tomorrow I’m getting a curtain.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

shopping in Szolnok

In other news, this weekend was great, if somewhat tame. Ros came and stayed two nights. Although we were total teachers and went to bed early and didn’t go out partying, we did go shopping on Saturday (neither of bought anything). We made it all the way to Cora, despite having to wait 50 minutes for the bus. The wait involved wandering around the freezing-cold train station, and getting terrible coffee at a bowling alley. But Cora was awesome! Being not only from America, but also from Minnesota, home of the world’s largest mall, I feel that the small, glorified-department store which is Cora shouldn’t really impress me as much as it did. I think after being in Hungary for all of a month now, I was overwhelm by the possibility of actually having choices. Three different brands of laundry detergent? Who ever heard of such a thing? Appliances and clothing on sale in the same building? How decadent! (Although Szolnok does boast a wine-and-childrens-clothing store.)
We also made a stop at Szolnok’s market, which is not as spectacular as Kalocsa’s. But, it is open every day, so that’s the trade off. I’m always impressed with myself when I manage to buy anything. But I think an outsider might not view me as a successful shopper. The main problem is that I usually end up buying a kilo of everything. Sometimes this works: a kilo of apples or oranges is about six pieces of fruit, which is a good number. Yesterday, I bought a kilo of green beans. Not so successful: one kilo makes a massive pile of green beans. About the size of my head. I managed to gift some to Ros, but I think by the end of the week I will be thoroughly sick of eating them.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Some cheese with that weekend plans?

Oh yikes, plans and more plans. I’ve just spent the last hour, literally, trying to plan out this weekend. My final conclusion: IT SUCKS BEING BROKE!! Wow, and the first thing I thought after writing that sentence was, “hm, interesting grammatical structure.” What have I become?
So everyone is getting together in Nyíregyháza this weekend. It’s going to be great. I will be here. Broke and sad.
Okay, it’s not as terrible as I make it sound. Ros is coming to Szolnok, and we’ll hang out, probably with Ági, and go shopping and have a girly good time. And I know it’ll be fun. And I know that in the long run, I’ll get to see Jenna & Yerik later. And that I will be glad that I saved my money for something else (like Transylvania. Or that pesky $1500 I still owe Hajni). But my inner teenage girl hates that there’s a party going on, and I won’t be there.
I also feel awful because when Jenna called, (as Ros and I were IM-ing, trying to plan) she was so sincere and inviting that I got caught up and said I would come, before crashing back down after looking at prices. So I had to call Yerik back and tell him I couldn’t go. Oh, painful. I feel like I let them down. Also like now, I have no right to invite people here next weekend. I want them to come, but I don’t feel like I have the right to ask, when I’ve been so wishy-washy and petty about my plans to visit others.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

enter the Illés family

I had my first private lesson yesterday with the Illés family. Actually, it was only with the son, Ádám (11th grade), because the father and the daughter (8th) were both busy. So the two of us just sat and talked for an hour, and they gave me 2000 Ft. And that’s how it’s going to go, I think. I did meet the other two briefly. The daughter seemed less than enthusiastic, but the dad was nice. Knock on wood, I think it’s going to be a great time.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

weekend in Pest

Well, apparently that mood is persistent, because I still don’t really feel like writing. But I know, from previous experience, that if I fall too far behind, I’m doomed. So for now maybe I’ll just do a quick catch-up; I want to go to bed soon. That’s event numero uno: I’ve been sick. Friday especially was not fun. Between, before and after work, I just wandered around the flat, moaning, “I’m dying” to no one in particular. I decided that being sick is even worse than being hungover. One, because there’s no end in sight. Two, because for me at least, when I’m hungover, mind and body are both muddy; when I’m sick, body is rebellious but my mind still works - and complains, and sulks.
Right, but quick review. Thursday, random guy called me at the school and asked for lessons. We met at Road Cafe to work out times and dates. Okay. That evening, we had Geri and Ági over here and made them dinner. Awesome. But a late night. Friday, classes and whining and moaning. The children were not sympathetic to my plight.
Saturday, Chad and I and G&Á went to Budapest to watch a football game. Met up with Rosalind. We ended up at some house party for a friend of Geri’s second cousin, which was okay but late and cold, and Ros and I agreed that both of us were sick enough and not drunk enough to really enjoy the party. Spent the night at her place. Very nice. I have to say I’m jealous. Today, Chad came back to Szolnok early and, of all things, by himself. He had to come back by noon to have lunch with a student and his family. Ros and I had coffee at Gerbeaud and then visited the new H&M (Hungary’s first), which was great, if small. And more expensive than Germany or the States. I spent too much this weekend. This is ridiculous. I just need to exercise some will power.
That’s going to be my goal this week. And, more importantly, this weekend. Money, money, money, money....money!
At Gerbeaud today, I wasn’t able to convince the waitress I was Hungarian (those women are amazing in their cultural perceptive abilities) but I did fool her (somehow) into thinking I was German. Oh, small triumphs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

short and not sweet

Well, I don’t feel so bad about not knowing the gym teacher’s name, because she kept calling me Evelin. Which, the way they pronounce it, does sound a lot like the way they pronounce Emily. I guess I should have corrected her at some point. Actually, it barely crossed my mind. Anyway, I was wrong about going to visit the family; we went instead to the hairdressers’ to meet her, and set up a time (I suggested Tuesday, they will get back to me, via gym teacher, tomorrow?) Whatever. Uk, I don’t feel like writing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Internet adventure #2

Wow, I can’t believe how fast September is going. Someone, I think it was Gaines, pointed out that last weekend (the one two days ago) was actually our fifth weekend in Hungary. It seems like forever, both good and bad.
Well, speaking of weekends, I’m still not sure about that last one. The sheer amount that I’ve slept on Sunday and since has made the whole weekend seem a bit dream-like, and certainly some distance away. Distance hasn’t given any clarity, though. I keep remembering bits and pieces, both from the drunken evening and the afternoon and morning, and I can’t seem to assemble them into any sort of meaningful chronology. So maybe it’s best left alone.
Last night we went out with Geri & Ági to the Panorama and hung out there for a while. Being with them always cheers me up. Although maybe it’s because I always drink with them... no, but that’s not true. So it must be them. I think this is really high-schooly of me, but I feel like, oh geez I can barely type it, I feel like I’ve bonded with them. Oh, gag. Isn’t there a more adult way of saying that? I suppose I could pull out my Hunglish and say, I am having a close connection with them. Ha!
Today, I think, András and I (and my laptop?) are going back to the internet store, I believe to fill out paperwork and pay. And then sometime this week, maybe before the weekend, the man will come to my flat to install it or turn it on or whatever. There was a bit of a situation yesterday when I had to confess to Kati that I am flat broke (having idiotically used my emergency money on the trip), but now that both she and András know that, I think they will lend me money. They will take care of me. Which makes me feel both secure, but also a bit like I’m five years old. Which I deserve, because what the hell was I thinking not saving some cash for internet. Damn, Emily. From now on, emergency means emergency. Not party money.
I am really looking forward to getting internet. Maybe you can’t tell that from the fact that I think I write about it every single entry. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe soon? No, but yesterday was the first time András or Kati had actually mentioned a day when I might, maybe, hopefully have it. So I’m all excited again. You know, in orientation, Mary said the key to getting through the hard parts was always having something to look forward to. So even if I never get internet, I can always keep myself optimistic by hoping for it.

continued at 5 pm - First, the Great Internet Saga continues, which is to say that, knock wood, all seems to be in order: we went to the store. They took down my info, and will be sending someone (who apparently maybe possibly speaks English) to install the necessary cables on Friday. The money was no problem, as I don’t have to pay until November. To me, that seems so contrary to what would be expected in the US (immediate down-payment, possibly a couple months in advance) but I’m sure as hell not going to complain.
So my other bits of news. The first (actually the last) was that after I trudged home through the mist, in front of the flat’s entrance a little boy (not so little, I’d guess 6th grade) was waiting for someone and said csókolom to me. For some reason, this just made me unreasonably happy.
Also, I got my first mail today, at both the school and the flat! My health insurance card (I think) was waiting on my desk when I came into school this morning; right after the csókolom, I checked my mail box, and something came from “my” bank, OTP. Again, unreasonably happy.
The final thing (which, chronologically, was more like the middle thing) was that the gym teacher today approached me and, through Edit, told me that she had someone who wants private conversation lessons. If I understood right, it is her hairdresser’s husband and children (but not the hairdresser herself?) who lived in Canada for a year, and want to keep up their English. So, cool. Tomorrow after classes the gym teacher (whose name is lamentably escaping me) is taking me to visit them.