Wednesday, August 31, 2005

First day of "work"

And why aren’t I at work, you may ask? Well, I went over for a few hours yesterday morning; Kati showed me my desk in the teacher’s room and one of the other English teachers, one of the two Edits, showed me around the school. They seem to be very laid-back about the whole scheduling and planning thing. I kept asking questions: When do I get my class schedule? Eh, who knows. When do I start teaching? No clear answer. Shouldn’t I be working on lesson plans? Oh, don’t worry about it. Okay. And Kati vaguely mentioned that sometime this afternoon we would go to the police to register me, but that there wouldn’t really be much for me to do this morning. But I’m planning to wander over there a little later maybe.
So after that thrilling morning yesterday (actually, it was great to see what materials Daniel had left for me) I hung out in my little flat, watched Valami Amerika, went grocery shopping, and called and SMS-ed people. Kyle, Laura and Jeremy seem to be having fun. Harpswell was a little more reticent. Liz seems okay but I only had a brief message from her.
In the evening Chad and I hung out here and cooked dinner, and split a bottle of wine. We had a coffee at the Road Cafe, his new favorite place, and walked around a bit. Oh, I meant to say that at the beginning, we met up at the Plaza mall, because not only had he remembered that I wanted to buy shoes, he offered to take me to the store where he had found a nice, cheap pair. Score one point for Chad.
Anyway, after dinner and walking around considering the merits of various sörözök and beer gardens, we ended up back at his place where we had a couple of beers and watches his only DVD (he also has an iBook, a 14”) Wet Hot American Summer. I liked it; especially because it’s one of those movies that appeals to a very odd, specific sense of humor, and the fact that we both like it bodes well for continued civility in the American sector of Szolnok. I think the plan tonight is dinner at his place and then Valami Amerika (my only DVD). We’ll see what he thinks of that one.

registering with the police

I did eventually go into work, where I spent two hours (maybe less) helping Kati put posters up in the English rooms. Then we went to the police to register me. That was an experience - imagine everything you can about the stereotypical Eastern European, old-school Communist-holdover bureaucracy, put it into a clean, new building, and add a wait of almost two hours, and there it is. At about an hour-and-a-half, Kati let out a little mini-rant, but other than that is was quiet, clean, and cold. Like a tomb. But despite Kati’s expectations that they would make us find more paperwork or pay for stamps, they decided that I’m not going to blow anything up or cause (too much) trouble, so I got my residence permit, or whatever it is, and godwilling we will never have to go back there again.

Monday, August 29, 2005

it's just after 9 am...

...and I’m watching Third Rock From the Sun, dubbed in Hungarian. I love TV so much.


So here I am in Szolnok, my home for the next 9 months. I don’t know how much I can write in the next half hour (until I plan on going to bed), but here goes. I guess chronologically will be best, and if I were smart I would separate the pure description from the emotional mumbo-jumbo, but I said “if”.
I have to start two nights ago with our little room party. I started another prediction list. At first just myself, Rosaland and Harpswell were working on it, but then I cornered Janos and quizzed him. And although the list, in all it’s gossipy, petty drunken splendor appears in full in my personal journal, I feel that to publish it online might seriously damage the CETP friendship-vibe. I will just write that the categories were as follows: most likely to hook up, most likely to go home early, most likely to get in trouble with the law, most likely to find true love, most likely to stay for a second year, most likely to be friends forever, most likely to be friends for a year, most likely to learn fluent Hungarian (of those with no previous experience), cutest couple, most likely to be the best teacher. And that’s all I’ll say about The List until June, when we’ll see just how clairvoyant Ros, Harpswell and I really are.
So anyway, I think now I can get to last night, 24 short hours ago. As our farewell party, CETP paid for dinner at Bagolyvár. After dinner, some of us (self, Janos, Laura, Martin (Rosemary’s visiting son), Brent, Liz, Yerik and Jenna, Brandi, and Chad) decided to go to a beer garden that Janos knew of near Astoria. Holdudvár, for future reference, very nice. There was this huge party and parade and musicfest going on on Hõsök tere. Crowds of people, broken bottles and trash everywhere. I was really frightened that I would be trampled. I haven’t been in very many situations like that where I felt that I was so not in control that my life might be in danger.
So we got to the beer garden and hung out there for a while. On the way home the night buses were so packed that we were separated into two groups. Being literally cheek-to-cheek with various young people out on the town, we (I) was invited to Zöld Pardon. It’s amazing the English people will pull out when they want something from you. And how much my attempts at Hungarian amused and delighted them. By the way, I have to tell an interesting experience I’ve been having. Usually the first or second thing out of my mouth is “nem beszélek sok magyarul,” but as soon as I say another two or three words, they start teasing me about how “oh, sure you can’t speak Hungarian. You speak perfectly, etc”
So that’s the end of my factual account. The emotionally, purely self/internal part of the story continues with this dream I had last night, which I have to say kinda screwed up my day today. I don’t remember much of the dream, just that I was hugging somebody, and when we stopped I felt this incredible sense of sadness, loss and aloneness. I had a similar dream last year in Germany sometime about Martin. This one was better in the sense that it didn’t have that creepy, mixed feelings, but-Martin-is-just-a-friend-REALLY, but it was still so soul-shatteringly sad that it was certainly not a good start to the day when I have to leave and start a new life. I think I may have been having little panic attacks throughout the day as I remembered the feeling.
But back to facts: my contact person, Kati, and her husband Árpád came to pick me up at 10:30, surprisingly on time although they said that they had gotten lost. We stopped for lunch somewhere so got to Szolnok about 2 and came almost directly to my apartment, which was filled with people, including the director of the school and some other official, I forget who, the person I am subletting from and her husband, and of course self, Kati and Árpád. The flat is kind of a trip. The appliances are all gas, the washing machine is certainly Soviet-era, the furniture is a nice 70s brown and the walls are a light floral, and the kitchen and bathroom are about on par with what I expected from eastern Hungary. But it’s four rooms and four keys which are all mine, and will soon fill up with kitsch and junk and my own things. And hell, it’s free.
I did almost kill myself with the gas once, though, so maybe when the heaters are turned on it will be problematic. There’s a little flame in the water heater (which is in the bathroom) which is NEVER EVER supposed to go out. Well, I knew that Kati had told me something important about it, but instinct prevailed and I don’t believe that actual fire should be a regular part of a heating system, so I blew it out. Then I thought maybe I should call Kati and confirm what she said. Anyway, she came back, her husband came back, and although I was embarrassed and I’m sure she thinks I’m an idiot, she took it pretty well. She made a few jokes about pointing out the heaters and gas meters and I pretended mortal fear of them, also when she teasingly pointed out the gas company building. We had a little drive around town and she finally left me on my own (I don’t mean to sound rude, but I don’t know another way to phrase that) around 5. I SMS-ed some of the others and called Chad, and we arranged to meet later. Laura called me and we talked for half an hour. I like her. I found out that she commented to Harpswell that the more she talked to me, the more she liked me. That was so ego-boosting for me. Because I really need my ego inflated, right.
Now where was I? Right, after Laura, I walked to Chad’s. On the way, Jeremy called me to answer my message, which asked if he had seen any tractors yet (according to him all week long, he was living in a town with strong agriculture, and he had this fixation on tractors). He told me that, yes, indeed, from his window he could see one. Nice.
It’s quarter of 11 now and I keep getting more and more off-track. So I’ll just say, I met Chad, saw his place (I like his better, he likes mine better), we ate ice cream and walked around a lot. He really, really likes it here. So far, I am not persuaded either way.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The infamous "Palinka Evening"

Well, that wasn’t exactly a satisfactory ending to yesterday, but that’s about where it ended, so... Last night was continuing the ascend into drunken revelry (although I think tonight won’t be as bad (or good?)). Hm, and yes I do have to say I’ve been thinking of it as an ascend, maybe something like, the continuing increase in level of intoxication.
Now I’ve gotten way off-track. The facts: last night, right after classes, we decided to go to Ikea, and off we went (self, Rosaland, Kyle, Gaines and Jeremy; the latter two were “Ikea virgins”). I think a good time was had by all, and I managed to restrain myself to buying chalk (for the classroom, of course), colored pencils, and a mug, all of which came to about 1200Ft, I think. The same group ended up going to some little vendéglõ near Vista, which was nice. Afterward, we found a little 24-hour store and bought palinka, which we brought back to the Kollégium. On our way down to the garden to drink it and some wine, we ran into other groups of people on their way out, all with different plans and all under the horrible, democracy-based American idea that we should go out together and all be happy about it. After much to-do and the kind of wavering that I hate to deal with, we just did the logical thing and each person chose for themselves where they wanted to go. We (I can’t even know who, maybe 7 people) ended up in the garden for a few minutes, and when it started drizzling, back in our room. I think about 10-15 (the best estimates of Gaines and Liz both fell in here) people eventually, until about 2. We just sat and listened to music and drank and hung out. It was wonderful; somehow it felt very cathartic for me. Does that make sense? I can’t explain it any other way. You know, the other night when Liz, Jem and I were walking around, someone said something about how there has been a relative lack of drunkenness so far this trip. To the point of abstaining, even. Yes, to me that seemed like something was lacking.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

My evenings are spent studying Hungarian

Just a little break between classes, but I’ll take any chance to write. We have a long classes schedule, and the breaks are too short to do too much, and since classes go from 10 to 6, basically, there is too little free time. Note to self, future CETP assistant: schedule the orientation with more free time and more field trips. I would rather have a two week orientation and not have to cram everything into one week.
So, my evenings have been taken up by dinner and other activities. Let me think, Tuesday was Fátal (with Gaines, Harpswell, John, one of the couples, hm, some other people but I didn’t know names so well yet; 9 people total. Okay, Gaines says also Kyle, Liz, Ryan & Caley are the couple) and then watching The Dark Crystal with Laura, Harpswell, Kyle and Gaines in the former three’s room; Wednesday was soup here in the kitchen with one bottle of wine (with Kyle, Laura and Harpswell), then another two bottles later (with Harpswell, Laura, and the married couple from Minneapolis, Yurik and Jenna); yesterday, Thursday, was Marchello (Kyle, Rosaland, Gaines, Yurik & Jenna, John, Liz, Jeremy), which everyone said was an excellent choice (my recommendation, pat-on-the-back), followed by a stroll in Pest for ice cream and fresh Duna air (Rosaland, Jeremny, Liz and John), then a trek through Buda to find somewhere still open and selling wine (down to myself, Liz, and Jeremy), and complete the evening with the drinking of aforementioned wine in the garden here (Gaines also came down and joined us after we yelled up at her for the corkscrew.)
Good times.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

First Impressions

Well, I know that you are always supposed to start with something clever, but I’ve got nothing. So let’s dive in. Here I am in Budapest, Hungary, in the same Kollégium where I was two years ago when I did my student exchange. I arrived yesterday, although it already seems like I’ve been here at least a couple of weeks. Although it seems silly to write why I’m here, because of course I know the answers, I’m here as part of the Central European Teaching Program, and in a few days (on Sunday, after a week of orientation), I will be going to Szolnok, where I will spend the year teaching English to fourth- through eighth-graders. The adventure begins.
So here I am. I’ve already become thankful that, unlike some of the other teachers, I have some background with both the Hungarian culture and language. For example: last night, we went to the Vigado restaurant for the dinner. One of the girls asked the way to the bathroom, and the other explained it as, around the corner and then it’s the one with the women’s faces on it, not men’s faces. At the time, I just assumed that that meant the bathrooms weren’t labeled, as part of the restaurant’s wishfully-trendy decor. But today during the language lesson, someone asked about words for bathrooms, and I realized that the bathrooms of course were probably labeled, but “nõi” and “férfi” mean nothing to the English speaker - if you saw them out of context, how would you even guess that they were genders? I’m so thankful that I know basic things like that. Although I haven’t kept it a secret, I’ve downplayed the fact that I was here before and that I know a bit of the language (a very small bit, despite Hajni’s frequent statements otherwise). Who likes a showboat? Although I love being able to help people do things.
Which is very good, because Hajni remembered what I said about becoming her assistant, and she’s serious about it, as am I. Apparently she’s talked to Mary about it and it might actually happen next year. Hajni is still planning on adopting a child soon (within the next year) and Mary seems to think that the program is growing enough to deserve a second person. But of course, it’s Hungary, so who knows? As Hajni would cheerfully tell you, we might all be dead by then.