Monday, December 18, 2006

My neighbor the whore

Okay, she’s not exactly a neighbor in the sense that we share a wall. But I live in a block of flats at entry-door number X, and she lives at X+1.

And she is most certainly a whore, six thousand forint for half an hour. I know this because a couple weeks ago a friend of a friend visited her. And then dished about it.

But hey, whatever. As long as the law doesn’t get involved (ahem), we’re all adults. The disturbing part of this knowledge is what I overheard in my 7th grade class last week:

Boy 1 - ...and I heard that you can go for different times, it depends what you pay.
Boy 2 - Really? Like how much? What can she do?
Boy 1 - I don’t know how much, he didn’t say. But it costs more if you want to do more, of course.
Boy 2 - Right, of course. And near here?
Boy 1 - Yeah, Kolozsvári street, right next door to Emily.

I don’t know what disturbs me more - that my 7th graders know where a whore lives, or that they know where I live.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Extemporaneous English

I walked into my 7th grade today and found two students fighting. The girl had the boy pinned, bent over the desk, twisting his arm back and shouting insults at him... in English:

girl: You are hot boy! You stupid! You are ugly!
boy: Ackh! I am die!

Ah, I love it when they speak spontaneously.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cell phone

Today I actually had a student correct me when I said “mobile phone.” “No, Emily,” he said with his typical lascivious half-grin, “You’re American. Say ‘cell phone’.”

Leery students notwithstanding, I did get a new cell phone last week, and have been so preoccupied playing with it that I haven’t got around to giving it the full post-of-praise which it deserves:

(2007.July.6 - I took down the picture of the phone because people searching for it were screwing up my stats. Anyway, if you're the curious / bored type, you can still find what it looks like with this link)

Sony Ericsson W300i

Featuring (according to the brochure):
- Walkman telephone
- built in camera w/ 4x digital zoom
- video recording and playback
- MP3 player, stereo FM radio
- 20 MB built-in memory plus 256 MB memory chip

and other cool things that I don’t know technical-type words for, like:

- the ability to make Gorillaz’ 19-2000 my ringtone (although that might be a bad thing; it makes me not want to answer the phone so I can hear it play)
- being able to take a picture and have it be my wallpaper
- ridiculously easy transferring any kind of file - MP3, video, pictures - both onto and off the phone (mostly that’s not ’cause of the phone itself, but due to the fact that I’ve got a Mac. And everything is easier with Mac)

So in short, I’m in love with this phone. It was totally worth the price. And mentioning price... I saved the best part for last:

This phone in American costs $230 (that’s 44,000+ forint)
This phone in Australia costs $313 (that’s 47,000+ forint)
This phone in England costs 139 pounds (that’s 51,000+ forint)
This phone in Western Europe costs 220 Euro (that’s almost 58,000 forint)

I got mine from the T-Mobile office at Interspar in Szolnok, Hungary for 25,000 forint. I don’t know who’s responsible for this miracle of capitalism, but yay, Hungary! Yay, Sony Ericsson! Yay, T-Mobile! I love you all.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On the difference between men and women...

I cut my hair today. It went from being just below shoulder length to a chin-length bob. Not that it matters, because I’m a big supporter of the ponytail. Still, the wispy bits in the front were noticeably different. Or so I thought...

I met up with a male friend, we’ll call him M. He helped me out with some business/paperworky things, and we went out for a beer afterward. During the two hours we were together, I asked him several times, in several forms: “Hey, guess what I did today? It’s something I’ve been talking about doing...” I eventually resorted to asking this while insipidly twirling a lock of hair, scratching my head, and playing with hairpins. Nothing.

In the street I met a female friend, let’s call her F. Our greeting went as follows:

Me: Hey F, how are you?
F: Oh, did you cut your hair? It looks great!

I love it.

A Key Victory

It came to my mind a couple weeks ago that it would be good for me to have extra copies of my house keys. Given my perchance for losing things, it’s amazing I haven’t locked myself out already.

I knew that my school had an extra set. They asked for them over the summer, so that they could go in to clean, fix things, pick up the mail and, I suspect, just poke around. The logical thing would be for me to ask the school to give me the extra set. After all, it’s my flat and there’s no reason they need the keys now. Still, it took me a couple weeks to work that thought firmly enough in my mind to override my reluctance to begin what I knew would be a major production... over the past week, the drama unfolded:

Me, after explaining the situation: ... so do you think I could get the keys:
Kati: Why?
Me: You know, just to have an extra set. In case I lose mine.
Kati: But you’ve been here two years and you haven’t ever lost them.
Me: But just so I don’t have to worry...
Kati: Are you sure the school has them?
Me: Yes, remember you were with me when we made copies?
Kati: Um, yes I maybe remember something like it...
Me: Right, so...
Kati: You need them for this week? Or the weekend?
Me: No, I mean, I need them to keep. You know, forever.
Kati: Okay. By when you need them?
Me: Just whenever... (realizing that I need to set a date)... this week?
Kati: Okay, I’ll ask.

Some hours pass. As I’m leaving for the day, the handyman, Pali, and doorwoman, Juliska, corner me. Imagine the following conversation in Hungarian:

Juliska: Emily! Emily, come here. I heard you’re looking for your keys? Let’s ask Pali.
Me: Okay...
Juliska, to Pali: Pali, you know that Emily -
Pali, to Juliska, pretending that I’m not standing next to them: Emily? Who’s Emily? Oh, hm, I think I’ve met her once or twice. Nice girl (winks at me).
Juliska, hitting him on the shoulder: Stop being silly. What do you know about her keys?
Pali, to me: Right, I don’t have them. You know, whenever I have to go into the flat - (and why was this in present tense? have they been going into my flat recently while I’ve been teaching?) - into the flat for some reason, you know to fix things, or whatever, I have to ask Luca (the school’s financial secretary) for the keys. She has the keys.
Me: Fantastic!
Pali: But she’s gone today. And tomorrow, so you’ll have to wait until Monday.
Me, wishing for a job where I get to have three-and-a-half day weekends: Whatever, still fantastic. Okay, I’ll ask. Bye.
Pali and Juliska: Bye.

Fast-forward to Monday. I don’t see my contact teacher but I leave a note on her desk reminding her to ask for the keys. Then on Tuesday:

Kati: So I asked about your keys.
Me: Yes?
Kati: Luca doesn’t have them.
Me, slightly indignant: Um, yes she does.
Kati: No, she said she doesn’t know where they are.
Me: Wait, she doesn’t have them or she doesn’t know where they are? She must have them, Pali told me she has them.
Kati: Pali told you?
Me: Yes.
Kati: Hm. She said she would look in the safe.
Me, hopeful again: Okay, that sounds good. When?
Kati: Eeh, maybe today?

On Wednesday:

Edit, one of the other English teachers: Kati, have you seen (some book)? I need it to sub for Vali’s class.
Kati: I don’t know, check her desk.
Me: I see it, it’s right there.
Edit: Oh, good. Hey, isn’t this (some other book they’ve been looking for for weeks)?
Kati: Is it!? Vali said she’d never seen it.
Edit: Well, here it is.
Kati, to me: It’s always the same. Whenever you lose something, just look in Vali’s desk.
Edit: Maybe your keys are in here.
Me: Yeah, hey! By the way -
Kati, hurridly: Is that the bell already? Let’s go to class.

But she must have done something - actually, she told me later that she had taken our case, as it were, to the director of the school. This morning:

Director: Are these your keys?
Me, thinking "why, how many sets of two house keys and one mailbox key do you have lying around in the school’s safe?" : Yes, thank you. Thank you very much.

ps. And I’m sorry about the awful, awful title. Truly. I don’t know what I was thinking... except that I was too lazy to think of anything else.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


This morning in my two hour break between fighting the 5th graders into submission and coaxing the 6th graders into using a single word of English, I was sitting in my bathroom (it being the only room in my flat which can be heated to a temperature which doesn’t require two shirts and a sweater) reading Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s Guests of the Sheik, and I came across one of my favorite passages:

As my Arabic (read: Hungarian) improved, I could occasionally get the drift of conversations and understand occasional fragments. It seemed to me that many times the women were talking about me, and not in a particularly friendly manner. If I could have been certain they were talking about me, and understood exactly what was being said, then I could have dealt with it, replied to the comments and brought it out in the open. But the terrible thing was that I could not be certain. Were they talking about me or not? What errors in etiquette or custom had I committed? What in heaven’s name were they saying? My uneasiness grew in this atmosphere of half-hearing and part-understanding.

If I ever get around to writing my book about life in Hungary, I’m totally plagiarizing that. I mean, more than I already have here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Even when I understand, I don't understand

Not that I’m making the claim that I really “understand” Hungarian, just... I’ve noticed that recently, even when I understand the words someone says, I still miss the point.

For example, today in Spar. I put my bag of cleaning powder on the counter. The girl says, in perfectly understandable Hungarian, “Do you know what this costs? Two hundred something?” I, being the helpful person I am, say, “Just a minute,” run to check, and report back: “Two hundred ninety-nine.”

“Two hundred ninety-nine what?” says the girl blankly.

“The powder,” I reply, slightly confused at her lack of short-term memory. “It costs 299.”

Except it turned out, as she patiently explained to me, that she wasn’t actually asking how many forints it cost, she was merely remarking how cheap it was. In question form. Just like I would say in English: “Wow, do you know how cheap this is?!”

Lesson learned: in addition to processing the words I hear, I should also think for a second about how literal the speaker is being.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Emily and the terrible, horrible, not-so-great, mediocre, okay, not-so-bad, actually pretty good day

I woke up this morning not hungover, but actually still drunk. My house was cold, filthy, and smelled like cigi smoke and cat shit, both where the cat had gone and where it had been tracked all over the house. I got an email from home that our dog had to be put down. Then my phone died.

You could say it wasn’t shaping up to be such a good day.

But I went in and taught. I came home and slept, ate, drank a lot of water and miraculously escaped a hangover. I cleaned my flat, not to the level where I would let a stranger see it, but at least to where I don’t feel like I ought to just move to a trailer somewhere. With some help, I went to the T-mobile shop and, despite my determination to simply buy the cheapest model and walk away, I ended up buying a super-new flip-phone with digital camera and video recorder, MP3 player, FM radio, and 256 MB memory card. I suspect it’s also capable of cleaning my house and bringing me breakfast in bed. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s such a new model that it won’t go on sale until next week. So I’ve got a loaner phone until then.

You could say it turned out to be an okay day after all.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Certain places, such as Tesco and Cora and others whose income is based on shopping, have been promoting Christmas since the last week of October. I kid you not.

About mid-November, Szolnok city began setting up lights along the streets and in the public trees. Tonight was the first time I’ve seen them on. Combined with the preternaturally creepy fog we’ve had for the past 48 hours straight, they were stunning.

My students have also been getting in the mood of the season. Today especially they were exceptionally nice (to me, at least - to each other they were just as bratty and violent as ever). They worked good-naturedly on their assignments and proudly showed me their finished work. They showed off work from other classes and told me about tests that they’d recently aced. They offered me candy and pogacsa. They complimented my hair and clothes. They complimented my lesson (one that wasn’t a game!). They approached me after class, just to chat in stilted phrases about random things. They offered to lend me books and burn me CDs. They walked me part way home en masse.

Is it possible that they’ll continue to be so good for the whole Christmas season? Or is the other shoe about to drop?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Monday night: a comedy in four acts

Last year, when I was traveling almost every weekend, I began the tradition of spending every Monday night home alone, relaxing. Even with significantly less traveling this year, it’s still nice to be able to anticipate one night a week to myself.

Not that I mind breaking the tradition, when a worthwhile event comes along. What happened this Monday night was that four events came along, one after another. Some planned, some unplanned.

Act One: Drinking in the train station. Supporting actors: Attila, random men coming off work, several bums, but this time none of my students. As the level of beer dwindles in our glasses and I cool off from my mad dash to the station, I add layers of clothing: from t-shirt, to shirt, then sweater, and finally jacket. The scene ends with me running to catch my train and ending up all flushed again.

Act Two: Dinner in Újszász. Supporting actors: John and Donna, plus another teacher from their school, Gabi. Good food (of which I wish I could have eaten more), good drinks (of which I wish I could have tasted more), good company (with which I wish I could have spent more time), and good conversation (of which I wish I could remember more). Ends with me carrying a bag of leftover spaghetti and speed-walking to catch my train back.

Act Three: In my flat. Supporting actors: Petra, and the kitten I’ve apparently just adopted. While she makes use of my internet, I pour litter, food, and water into their respective containers and set the kitten up in my spare bedroom. Scene ends with us abandoning the kitten in my flat and going to find a drink.

Act Four: Drinking at Panorama. Supporting actors: Petra and Zoli, a man I’ve met exactly once in my life, the best friend of my then-(now-ex-)boyfriend. With the intention of speeding up an awkward encounter, Petra drinks a beer faster than she ever has in her life. Ends with me home safe in my own bed, alone... except for being smothered by a mewing, needle-clawed little ball of fuzz.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Explanation for the Assignment

So, one weekend, two nights. Both were good. One was kind of boring and ended bitterly; the other was fun like I haven’t had since high school, and it helped some to restore the loss of balance I’ve been feeling recently.

Speaking of losing things.... I promise, my mind is still firmly attached. The first part of the “assignment” post I wrote late at night (and, ahem, a bit bitter). I decided to leave it up, for no other reason that I find it funny. But I had to add the second part. Um... just because.

Normal posts to follow this week.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Your assignment is as follows...

I’m tipsy and pissed and I’ll probably remove this post later. Or not, we’ll see if it still amuses me as much tomorrow morning as it does right now.

I have an assignment for you. The next time you’re out with a group of people, observe the group dynamic as they speak to each other. Specifically note eye contact as distributed by the person speaking.

The second half of the assignment, a bit more difficult: go out with a group of people where your language is not the one spoken by the majority. Observe the same occurrence, i.e. eye contact. At some point, you will observe the following phenomenon: the majority speakers will cease to include you in their conversation, simply by denying you eye contact. This phenomenon is more noticeable in smaller groups.

You may indulge in the following recourse: disassociate. Drift away in the fantasy of your choosing. So long as you sit with a half-smile smirk on your face, as if you were deeply involved in the insipid conversation happening around but not including you, no one is the wiser. In fact, by the end of the evening they will congratulate and admire you for being the wise, all-knowing but silent type. And you will smile your Mona Lisa smile and pretend that you understand them telling you about how well you understand everything.

I’m telling you, it’s fucking amazing.

Update to the assignment, Sunday: Upon the successful completion of the preceding experiment, you are permitted to move on to Experiment Two. X2 embodies the search for the inverse situation as the one described above.

Proceed as follows: gather a group of people who, like in the first round, are speakers of a language other than your own. Excluding oneself, the group should be made up of no more than one of the same people from the first experiment's group. It is vital that the group dynamic be different from the first round. Because if so, you will observe the in X2 the opposite of X1: that is, the minority speaker will be included in the conversation. The group will interact well and equally, a good time will be had, and the world will be slightly more harmonious.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Leaving school one afternoon, I was cornered by two six-grade girls. Apparently, outside the school fence I become a fair target, because after the standard “Hello-Emily-how-are-you?” “I’m-fine-thanks-and-you” they proceeded to berate me in rapid-fire Hungarian: Why are your lessons so hard? Why don’t we play more games? Is it this cold in Minnesota? Where did you buy your coat? Don’t you think so-and-so is ugly/stupid/silly? Why aren’t your clothes more colorful? Are you wearing socks or tights? Why? Why are your shoes so ugly? Why are you like Mr Bean?

To which I could only look puzzled. I’m like Mr Bean? How?
Because, Emily, you always walk around and look like la-la-la (waving hand in front of face, mindless expression on face.)

Hm. Very astute for a sixth grader. I suppose I could have tried to explain how in a foreign place, where one doesn’t speak the language, it’s just too easy to escape into your own head and ignore the outside world.

Instead I went home and found my trusty copy of Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s “Guests of the Sheik” (which should be required reading for anyone living in a foreign culture). In one of my favorite passages, she talks about how it was only after many months of living in El Nahra that she began to have enough linguistic skills to participate in conversations:

Many months later Laila told a visiting Iraqi friend of mine that in the early stages of my residence in El Nahra the women had wondered whether I was deaf and dumb, or just not quite bright, because I smiled but often did not seem to hear what was said to me. Afterward, reported Laila, I had come to life and my company had improved immensely.

Sometimes when I’m walking with a Hungarian friend, I look at them and wonder enviously what it’s like to understand the world around you, and when I’ll be able to. I always took it for granted before.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Imagine this scene from school yesterday: I’m with the 7ab, who despite being made up of 3 girls and 11 boys is still a pretty good class, both in behavior and skills. They’re finishing up their assignment and I’m sitting at a student desk in the middle of the room correcting and marking their work. As they finish, they cluster around me, standing. It’s a bit claustrophobic, but not unpleasantly so.

The bell rings. In some classes, this is the cue to disperse like dandelion fluff in the wind, but this class actually stops talking and looks at me for instruction.

“Okay, if you got a mark, you can go. If you’re finished, leave your notebooks here for me; if you’re not finished then it’s homework. Goodbye.” I hastily continue correcting the notebook in front of me as they pack their things and lay their uncorrected notebooks on the table next to me.

Suddenly a notebook comes down directly in front of me. Not in the way they normally are, slapped down sideways held carelessly by one corner. This boy stood directly behind me, held his notebook open with both hands, and brought it down over my head, his arms around my shoulders. Like a hug from behind.

For a second, half a second, half a split microsecond, it was cozy. Then reality struck, my shoulders hunched in, the boy dropped his notebook on the pile, a couple students snickered, and they all ran away to their next class.

The best part? I don’t know who it was. I had a vivid memory of two skinny arms clad in a dark blue long-sleeve tee - but no face to go with them. Eeeeccchhh. I feel all warm and fuzzy and dirty.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Why I don’t speak Hungarian, the simplified version

At least once a week, I have the following conversation (or some variant) with a student:

Student: Emily, beszélsz magyarul? (Do you speak Hungarian?)
Alternatively: Emily, érted? Érted magyarul? Érted amit mondok? (Do you understand? Do you understand Hungarian? Do you understand what I’m saying?)
Me, always: Yes.
Student, always: Akkor miért nem beszélsz magyarul velünk? (So why don’t you speak Hungarian with us?)

I never have a good answer, at least not one that I could explain to them (“Well, children, I do understand about 90% of what you say, because my listening comprehension is about a 5th or 6th grade level. My speaking abilities, however, are closer to 1st or 2nd grade, if not kindergarten. I think it stems from lack of confidence...”)

Last week, one of the students finally answered for me:

Student 1: Emily, érted amit mondok?
Me: Yes, just like last week.
Student 1: Akkor miért nem beszélsz magyarul?
Student 2 (in Hungarian, of course): Because, stupid, she’s not allowed to! She has to speak English because the school pays her to teach English!

Apparently, this explanation spread around the school at the speed of light, because I’ve heard it now several times in the past week. And the incessant questioning of why I don’t speak Hungarian has tapered off. Well, slightly.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lazy, so lazy...

The new DVD player and microwave seem to have exponentially increased my already innate laziness. If I get any more sloth-like, I... um.... I won’t be able to finish simple sentences. Eh, oh well.

I’ve got a new goal. Although I’m too late to join in the awesomeness of NaBloPoMo, I’m declaring myself an unofficial member. Meaning daily posts for the remainder of November. Um, starting tomorrow. And excluding weekends. Some other terms and conditions may apply.

In the meantime, here’s a list of topics which I’ve been too lazy to write full posts about in the past week:
- I discovered that several of the teachers at my school speak English. And they discovered that I speak (or at least understand) Hungarian. This miracle of modern communication came about from the students getting lectured about drugs, which led to scheduling nightmares, which led to many a frantic conversation about who was teaching which group when and where. Fun!

- I found out that I’m getting a digital camera for Christmas. A nice one, almost as nice as Gaines’, and instead of coming from a grandma who only shows love by buying things, it’s coming from my parents (who love me, in addition to occasionally buying me things).

- In a second camera-related story, I successfully (so far) translated between John and Camera Shop Lady both the purchase of a new lens and the repair of the camera’s switch. My favorite part was when I went into the shop the second time and the lady called into the back room, “Zoli, the lady I told you about is here, the one who speaks Hungarian rendesen (properly), not like the gentleman (i.e. John).” So if I can just find some beginner to preceed me everywhere, my Hungarian will always look spectacular by comparison. Hm...

- In an attempt at culture (ha! it must go along with my new sense of respectability (the comments thread)), I spent consecutive evenings last weekend at an art show in Újszász and a play in Szolnok’s Szigligeti Színház. Both were interesting, and I wouldn’t mind repeat performances of either. Don’t worry, both events were followed by boozing it up in a way no one would call cultured.

I guess it’s always good to end with booze, culture, or some combination thereof. More to come tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What happened on my holiday, part II

About midweek, I lost my ambition of getting cleaned, dressed, and out of the house every day. I managed to rack up the following Accomplishments:

- Monday night, I did make carrot cake. It was awesome. I might make it again this week; I need to start building a layer of fat for winter anyway.

- Tuesday I went up to Budapest for the afternoon, just because I could.

- Wednesday I stayed inside, watched random things on TV, and frequently looked outside and thought how thankful I was to not to be Hungarian and have to go tramp around a cemetery honoring dead relatives in such grim weather.

- Thursday I... did nothing. Well, that’s not completely true, I made coffee cake. And watched the MTV Europe Music Awards, which were no where near as entertaining as last year. Although this year, I was missing Laura, Mariah, jug wine and Varda drinks.

- Friday I’m sure I did something... if I can’t remember, it was either something really good or really bad. I’m not feeling any sort of regret, so it must have been something good.

- Saturday I got up early (not by choice, but rather because someone was poking and singing at me) and went to Budapest. I can’t decide which part of the trip was better: A) running into my students as we were boozing it up in the train station at 10 am; or B) the fact that we went to Budapest and spent the day no more than 500 meters away from the train station.

- And Sunday: since it was the last day of break, I devoted the entire morning and part of the afternoon to some serious lazing around (after all, I won’t get another chance until... next weekend). And in the evening, following a trip to MediaMarkt, I watched DVDs on my new DVD player while eating microwave popcorn fresh from my new microwave (which together, including cables and wiring, cost 18,000 Ft, or about a fifth what I would have spent on a traveling vacation).

All in all, it was in no way the vacation I would have planned. But I wouldn’t have changed anything (except to make it longer, that’s a given).

Monday, October 30, 2006

What happened to my holiday, what happened on my holiday

So here’s what happened to my holiday, namely what happened to all my grand holiday plans: it turns out that for my opportunity-laden 10-day vacation from teaching, I will be traveling... nowhere. I was a little peeved about it, but eventually my good-naturedness won out, as it usually does, and I began to see the humor in the situation, specifically a phenomenon which I’ll dub “Emily’s Law:” if x = days until vacation and y = miles to planned destination, then x and y will decrease in equal fashion. Here’s what happened:

At about T-minus four weeks, when we began to plan (planning ahead like good citizens), we talked about going to Tunisia or Egypt. There wasn’t anything cheap, and after a few hours cruising the internet we got distracted and forgot about it.

Two weeks before vacation, we decided to try to go to Croatia. These seemed pretty feasible for a long weekend: drive down on Friday, enjoy the scenery for three nights, and come back on Monday. Unfortunately, both the car and the long weekend fell through, so that idea was out.

The last-ditch effort on Saturday (T-plus two days) was deciding to go to Debrecen. Our mistake was deciding to go the next day, because by the time Sunday rolled around we were half sick, half lazy. And it was raining. So, meh.

Anyway, what happened on my holiday: instead of doing what I do best (aka being a sad-sack, sitting around the flat all day, lolling in bed watching MTV and obsessively checking blogs), I decided to make my break all about the Accomplishments. Meaning, that I would do/make/create/discover one thing to write home about every day. Most specifically, one thing which involves getting myself clean, dressed, and outside of the house.

Friday: Tesco. Actually, you can read about my Friday adventures in the drunken entry below. The extended story is, I discovered (okay, remembered) that Tesco has a free bus (’cause it’s way outside the city) and made the effort to navigate the all-Hungarian website in order to discover that the point of departure for said bus is none other than my own Várkonyi tér, not 50 meters from my front door. This made me happy, even if the Szolnok Tesco is the devil’s version of K-Mart and I couldn’t find a single one of the things I wanted to buy.

Saturday: Mexican food. For some reason, mid-Saturday afternoon, making Mexican food became an all-important objective. This necessitated a trip to Interspar for ingredients, and since we had to walk past the Mexicana bar on the way there and on the way back, it seemed only right to stop for a beer on the way there. And a beer and tequila on the way back.

Even slightly tipsy (and later, more so), I still managed to channel my inner Gaines and whip up some awesome burritos for Saturday supper. And, since I’m incapable of cooking in small portions, they also served as early-Sunday-morning snack, Sunday lunch, and Monday brunch and lunch.

Sunday: ha, me, work on the Lord’s day? Frankly, my biggest accomplishment was getting clothes on. Damn straight.

Monday: After reading 5penny’s Carrot Cake Recipe, I was feeling ambitious and decided to try it myself. This involved a trip to Spar for various ingredients. Sidebar: I think I’ve written before about how much I can love food shopping in Hungary. Especially for in-season fruits and veggies, because they’re ridiculously cheap and that appeals to my New England stinginess, I mean thrift. Today: a kilo of apples for 199Ft and a kilo of carrots for 79Ft (which at about 4 forint per carrots makes them cheaper than baking soda, ha!)

I also bought what I thought was a 9 x 13 pan (okay, 22 x 32 cm), but when I got home and opened the box, I discovered I had actually bought three pans, nestled sweetly inside each other. The excitement of this discovery, combined with the cheap veggies, nearly blew my mind and I had to go calm down by reading blogs... um, all afternoon. Well, there’s still this evening to actually get around to baking.

But I did do one thing that needed doing, which is washing my quilt. Since I decided that the living room fold-out is a better place to sleep then the board in the bedroom, I’ve been eating, drinking, napping, drooling, and everything else on, under, between, within and near this quilt. So it was bath day. And if you don’t see how washing a quilt is an Accomplishment, I challenge you go find a quilt - not an afghan, not a duvet, not a comforter, not a bedspread and not a blanket (and if you don’t understand the difference, stop reading this blog right now and don’t come back until you’ve looked it up) - right, where was I? I got distracted from one rant by the other one... so, if you can’t see how washing a quilt is an Accomplishment: go get a quilt, get it sopping wet, and then try to lift it onto a drying rack at approximately shoulder height. Ouch. I’m sure the groans emanating from my bathroom provoked a raised eyebrow or two among my neighbors.

Whew, long entry. This is what happens when I have too much time on my hands: I become too easily amused by boring things in my own life, and then feel the need to share them with you. Watch out, more is coming.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Today, for the first time in a long time-

- I didn’t work (on a weekday, at least, it’s been a couple of months)
- I went to Tesco (it’s been at least four months)
- I vacuumed my flat (who even knows)
- I ate tuna noodle casserole (again, who knows)
- I met Juli (it’s been more than a week)
- I talked (messaged) with Mike (it’s been more than a month)
- I painted my toenails (it’s been 6 months or so)
- I became genuinely angry with, I mean justifiably pissed off at, another person (it’s been 11 months)
- I questioned the path my life is taking (it’s been a year, maybe?)
- I considered going back to America (at least 6 months)
- I got drunk to solve, or at least avoid, my problems (it’s been at least 12 hours)
- I blogged drunk (first time for everything!)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Remembering 1956

If you’re looking for an objective history of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, I suggest Wikipedia. Or the hungarian language version, which has better pictures.

If, on the other hand, you just want to know what I did yesterday to celebrate, continue reading:

I fought my own battle against the Communist presence in my midst; namely, that damn washing machine. Like the ’56 freedom fighters, I also lost (i.e. it’s still broken).

To commemorate those who trekked miles across forests and swamps, in freezing cold in the middle of the night to escape to Austria after the revolution failed, I trekked an entire half a block in the sunny afternoon to the non-stop to buy WC-papír.

In memory of the circles of cloth cut and burned from the center of Hungarian flags, I made onion rings. Yes, they were burnt and bitter, but I savored them anyway. Which I think is an apt analogy for how Hungarians savor their burnt and bitter history.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Things I blog, things I don't

So I’ve been falling down on the regular blogging lately. I don’t have an excuse, I don’t have an apology, and I don’t have a pointless promise that it’ll never happen again.

In the past few weeks, I’ve written many entries which I didn’t finish, or decided not to publish, for various reasons - I thought it was boring, I thought it was too personal, or too incoherent.

Anyway, because I’m feeling guilty, here’s a list of all the things I’ve written about since the beginning of August (when I returned to Hungary) and didn’t publish:

- about the topic of ‘home,’ written in the Atlanta airport on my way between that home and this one (unfinished)
- about how my students changed over the summer (boring)
- about how I almost left Szolnok and moved away to be with someone I thought I loved, but realized that I’m incapable of loving anyone but myself (too personal)
- about my brief tenure as an illegal foreign worker (incoherent)
- about reconnecting with old friends in Szolnok (boring) and connecting with one of them in a more meaningful way (personal)
- about running into the Varga students I almost/kinda slept with last year (personal, not to mention one of them reads this blog...)
- about problems with school, problems with contact teacher, problems with classes, problems with students.... (repetitively boring)
- about drinking, why I do it and what it does for me. I’ve been doing it a lot, thinking about it a lot, but somehow I could never write clearly about it (incoherent)
- about how funny my students are. Especially the horny 8th grade boys, in Hungarian, when they think I can’t understand them (unfinished)
- about taking stock of my life, and realizing that at the tender age of 23, I’m scores older than my contemporaries, in one pathetic, sad, shameful, dangerous way (too personal)
- and about my students again. What can I say, you can see what occupies my mind most frequently.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Moziba (to the cinema)

It happened several times last year that I would go to class, only to find no students waiting for me. I would trudge back to the teacher’s room, track down an English speaker (sometimes) and ask where the students were. The range of answers:

- They went to the dentist.
- They went to Balaton.
- They went to the doctor.
- They went to get ice cream.
- They went to the cinema.
- They went home early.
- They went to another class.
- They went to another school.

In only one case was I informed ahread of time, and that was because I went on the trip with them.

So today, as I was killing time at my desk, the English teacher who sits across from me was muttering to herself in Hungarian, the usual, “most hol vagyok... hol a könyvem... jaj, gyerekek... ma moziba-” and my head perked up. “What now? Who’s going to the mozi today?” Edit looked confused for a second (either she didn’t realize she was talking aloud, or didn’t expect me to understand her), then explained that this afternoon, the entire 5th and 6th grades are going to the movies. Tomorrow, the entire 7th and 8th grades.

So I have two fewer classes this week. Go figure, both of them are classes I actually like (which are few and far between). But a) I’d never complain about teaching less, and b) I’m proud of myself for figuring out that the classes would be canceled. I mean, figuring it out ahead of time. In Hungarian!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Hungarian Lessons, Part II

(read the whiney first part here, or below)

Okay, so I gave it a weekend of thought. After sulking, moping, puzzling, discussing, pondering, and planning, I came up with a strategy for my attack on the Hungarian language. It’s a four-pronged assault:

One: Vocabulary. Just like my darling little English learners do, I’m keeping a dictionary with lists of new words. My plan is to collect 25 words a day (that’s one page worth).

Two: Grammar. Including the internet, my grammar books, and Juli’s old textbooks, I should be able to find enough grammar exercises to fill half an hour every day. Alternatively, I’ll work on translations.

Three: Reading. Including the internet, my vast variety of Hungarian books (really, I don’t know how I got so many), and news and magazines, I should be able to find enough reading material to fill half an hour daily.

Four: Listening. Oh, my favorite part of the plan - watching an hour of Hungarian TV daily. I mean, an hour minimum.

And where, you may ask, is the speaking component? Well, you don’t go from couch potato to marathon runner overnight - I’m saving speaking for next week. Um, or the week after.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hungarian Lessons

... ‘Hungarian Lessons,’ by the way, is the name of Kat’s blog, which I highly recommend reading, along with the blogs of Laura, Sara, and Nicolle (they being my favorite Hungarian-American bloggers who update on a regular basis...)

Anyway, hungarian lessons have been on my mind recently, mostly because I’m not having them. Instead, I’ve been having random moments which point out my lack of them, and, in fact, my lack of Hungarian language skills.

It began a couple weekends ago; Attila, Jori and I were walking home. Attila and I were having a conversation in Hungarian. Which I don’t remember, because I tend to black out memories when I’m, ahem, tired. But Jori told me all about it the next day, adding that she was impressed with herself for understanding almost all of the conversation.

Well, I’m impressed with her too, since she’s been learning the language for all of one month. But a little disgusted with myself, if my level of Hungarian after 16 months is still that elementary.

No, I lied, actually it began almost two months ago at orientation. As Laura and I were greeting and settling the newbies, one of the most frequent questions was, “So, after a year, how much Hungarian do you know?” To which I repeatedly gave the modest and vague answer, “Enough.”

Until one girl, who shall remain nameless, twirled her hair and asked us ingenuously, “So, wait, after one year you guys aren’t fluent yet?” Which made my blood boil just a little bit. But the more I thought about it...

And the three things I am so sick of hearing:
1) “You’ll just pick it up.”
2) “You’ll learn it if you get a Hungarian boyfriend.”
3) “You’ll learn if if you’re motivated.”

To which my responses are:

1) Really? Is it like osmosis? I’d like to see some statistics to back up this claim. For example: with what degree grammatical accuracy can I anticipate ‘picking it up’? What percent and which topics of vocabulary will I ‘pick up’? What is the ideal level of exposure for maximum ‘picking up’? And, most importantly, when exactly will this phenomenon lead to a noticeable improvement of language skills? ’Cause I’m still waiting...

2) First, I laugh heartily. Then, choking through the laughter, I reply: if this were true I’d be at least three times as fluent as the average Hungarian. Plus some.

3) First, I sigh tiredly. Then, I have another drink and wonder exactly how motivated I have to be. In one year, I could be a citizen - how much more could I want it? When does motivation become real? What will push me over the edge, from, ‘yes, I desperately want to learn Hungarian’ to ‘yes, I desperately want to learn Hungarian and will make an active, sustained, regular effort to do so?’

I guess, for the first time, being fundamentally lazy is becoming a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Kicking and Screaming...

... is how I’m going to have to be dragged into fall.

The weather the past few weeks has been amazing. Kat wrote about it elegantly on her blog. I guess I still half-optimistically hoped that it could last a few more weeks... mid-October, at least...

So it irks me to be sitting here, glaring out my window at a scene which is gray, cold, drizzly, and already at 5:30 getting dark enough for me to close my blinds. I hate it, hate it, hate it.

... continued two hours later... Okay, maybe I was too hasty before. The drizzle (and hopefully the dark as well) turned out to the the forerunners of a thunderstorm. So now, filled by food, wine, and the knowledge that I have a semisolid lesson plan for tomorrow, I’m feeling significantly better.

I don’t know what it is; lately I’ve been on edge. Cranky, then content, then aggressive, then lethargic. Disjointed.

Speaking of disjointed, can I go off off on a slight tangent and state for the record how much I adore Lily Allen (it’s not really a tangent, her new song came on just now). Her first single, Smile, is a couple months old, meaning it came out at a particularly relevant time for me:

At first when I see you cry,
It makes me smile, yeah it makes me smile
At worst I feel bad for a while,
But then I just smile, I go ahead and smile

la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la, la la la la

I think I like her because the songs are so upbeat and cheerful. And the new single today (LDN, that means London) is no exception:

Sun is in the sky oh why oh why?
Would I wanna be anywhere else
Sun is in the sky oh why oh why?
Would I wanna be anywhere else

When you look with your eyes
Everything seems nice
But if you look twice
You can see it's all lies

It’s beautiful, I tell you, just beautiful.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Negotiations, I Mean Conversations

Don’t get me wrong, I do like my contact teacher. She is grudgingly helpful, she’s an amazing teacher, and I know she’s under a lot of stress right now. She really is a good person.

Having said that... we seem to be unable to communicate, and I don’t think it’s a language problem. A typical conversation for us:

Me: So, am I teaching this 6a class today, or not? (I knew full well that that correct answer was ‘or not,’ I was just looking for confirmation)
Her: How many classes do you have a week?
Me, thrown off by the change of topic: Um... Twenty. Well, now 19. Why?
Her: Oooh, it’s not good. You should teach 20.
Me, becoming irritated: Why?
Her: It says in your contract that you should teach 20 classes a week.
Me, scoffing, said quickly and under my breath: Huh, well, my contract also says that my classes should only have 15 students or fewer, and that’s sure not true.

She looks puzzled, so I repeat myself.

But, the class with 20 students, is only because this 6a class is switched. Because these students can’t come any other time.
Me: I know, and I don’t mind about that one class. But almost all of my classes have more than 15.
Her: Yes...
Me: (staring, waiting for her to continue)
Her, said firmly and in a tone indicating the conversation is finished: Yes.
Me, sighing: So I’m not teaching this 6a class today, right?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tuesday Trifecta

In the spirit of good weather, classes being canceled, and being talked into happy hour between classes (my arm was twisted), I give you three completely unrelated tidbits:

1) False Friends...

...(also called false cognates) are a topic close to my heart - I once forged an entire thesis’s worth of research about false friends in German and English. If you don’t want to click the link, the short explanation is that false friends are two words in two languages which look or sound the same, but have different meanings. Like, how ‘kuki’ does not mean ‘cookie.’

Today I discovered that the Hungarian word ‘harmonika’ means... what do you think? It means ‘accordion.’ Of course it does!

2) Kind Colleagues

Typical situation at my school: I go to teach a class, and only one girl is there. I know that I should just send her home, but trying to be professional (and save myself from a scolding later), I look for one of the other English teachers to confirm it. They’ve all gone home.

After I stood in the teacher’s room for a while, clutching my books and looking forlorn, one of the older teacher/administrator/secretary ladies took pity and tried to help me. It was interesting, because our only common language is German, despite the fact that we both speak German at about a 4th-grade level.

Not only did she give me official permission to go home, as I was leaving, she explained to me that on Thursday there’ll be a fire drill. This is the type of thing that people (ahem, contact teacher) never tell me... and which inevitable leads to me looking incompetent. So I really appreciated her making the effort.

3) and Ten Little Geniuses

Today I had a realization about my 6b class. Not only can they put sentences together (the 6a can’t even do ‘There is...’ ‘There are...’ yet), but for some reason these ten kids have near-perfect accents. Really, it’s amazing; they’re better than any other class, any other grade - better than some of the English teachers. I have no idea how this came about. But I plan on studying the phenomenon further.

And having a class I look forward to always makes the week better.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Weekend Debris

My flat looks like a tornado hit it. My body feels the same. The living room is covered with blankets, clothes, dishes, food, misplaced furniture, CDs, papers, ATC-making supplies and ephemera. Do I have a floor? My kitchen is filled with food, but all of it half-eaten and/or been sitting out overnight (or longer). The dirty dishes make such a pile that it escapes the sink. There’s bags of trash behind the door. The only cold drink in my fridge is an overlooked half-can of beer. I feel like I just ran a marathon (which is some sort of twisted karmic irony, considering I spent the majority of the weekend in bed). I’m dirty, I’m bruised, my hair looks like straw, my skin is blotchy, my throat is swollen, and I’m so tired I can barely stay upright.

It was a good weekend.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Great Minds ...

Or maybe it would be better to forgo the claim to greatness and say, Like minds think greatly. Here’s what happened: imagine me sitting in my flat, yesterday afternoon, pondering what I was going to do with myself on a lonely Friday night. I figured everyone already had plans, but on whim I sent off an email to John and Donna asking if they wanted to come to Szolnok for dinner.

Five minutes later John smsed me, “Dinner?” and we made plans from there. We ended up, them plus me plus Larry (the new teacher in Varga), in some trendy-ish place by the creepy communist ‘water tower’ (if you’ve been to Szolnok you know what I mean). All around, a fun evening. After much squabbling, they finally let me pay them back for their hospitality last weekend.

But here’s the catch - it wasn’t until John and Donna got back home later that evening that they even got my email. Like I said, great minds.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Freedom's Fury

The only people who read my blog are those who already have some sort of vested interest in Hungary. So no doubt y’all are up on the latest Hungarian political scandal, and there’s no need for me to recount here how beloved Prime Minister Feri G was caught on tape talking about how his government has absolutely nothing for the past four years, unless you count the difficult job of lying to the public ‘morning, noon, and night.’ Oooh, savory.

And you’ve probably already heard about the riots and protests which resulted Monday night in Budapest, when several thousand right-wingers converged on Parliament, and proceeded to harass police, flip and burn cars, and take over and loot the MTV building before finally being ‘subdued’ by the police (read: they ran out of booze and matches, got tired, and went home). On the plus side, they did desecrate that hideous Soviet statue on Szabadság tér... so there’s some good in everything.

And I’m sure you’ve already heard about the newest movie commemorating the 1956 revolution: Freedom’s Fury, A szabadság vihara. It’s the story behind the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games’ ‘Blood in the Water’ water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union.

So I guess I can’t tell you anything new. Except to say that last night, as I was sitting in the cinema watching Freedom’s Fury, protesters were gathering on Szolnok’s main square. As we left, the street was being blocked off and the mist in the air made it look smokey. We sat some blocks away at an outdoor cafe and had a long conversation about politics in our loud English-speaking voices. It was surreal. Unique, and just a little unsettling.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


This week, I should do a lesson about adjectives. Specifically, adjectives to describe people. How many ways can one person be described? Well, let’s see - recently, I’ve been called all of the following:
But my favorite description came from John, who said I was like a “soft-spoken sponge.” Meaning, I look sweet and innocent... until I soak up all your beer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Excuses, excuses

So I do have a couple excuses why I haven’t been posting lately. Please choose from the following list the ones you would like to believe:

- I got busy spending my days planning out every single lesson for the remainder of the school year. Complete with charts and worksheets, and everything together neatly in a binder arranged by month and grade level.
- Having never properly registered with the police, I was technically an illegal worker. Therefore, I was trying to lay low and not call attention to myself.
- I became drunken with such frequency that even ‘sober’ moments were still hazy. No drunken blogging allowed.
- I was on vacation somewhere sunny and warm.
- After a very minor ‘incident’ with a student, I was forced into the Hungarian version of community service.
- I got really sick, to the point where I couldn’t eat for days, which of course led to further sickness and weakness and other unwellness.
- I got really lazy.
- The pipes in my wall finally exploded, and I got to spend the week in a hotel while they fixed it. Nice, but unfortunately a hotel without internet.

So which are true? Let’s just say, about half.

Monday, September 04, 2006

First Day Teaching

This morning at 7:30, still schedule-less but armed with lesson plans for any eventuality, I reported to school. My schedule (see entry below) was sitting on my desk, and it turned out I had two classes, first and second hours.

With my lesson plans in hand, the classes were relatively successful. There was the usual first-week confusions about who should be in which class, with which teacher, in which classroom. There was the problem of me forgetting to speak Hunglish (“What did you do this summer?... I mean, what you do this summer? You go to Balaton?”).

But overall, a good first day. It’s hard to think of the students as one year older. In my mind, 6.ab still means the class with Hella and Krisztina and all those loud boys, not this new 6.ab with Akos and Virág and the Vikis. It’s funny how the class changed, or didn’t. Today’s 6.ab is exactly the same loud, clever, not-so-bright but well-intentioned group that they were as 5.ab last year. On the other hand, the former 4.a - 26 munchkins running around the classroom, jumping on desks, shouting and playing football - has transformed into a 5.a of diligent, notebook-and-pencil-carrying, attention-paying students. I can’t wait to see how / if the other classes have changed.

Wait, did I just say I’m looking forward to teaching? Wow, maybe I’ve changed too.

My Schedule

I got my teaching schedule today. It’s, um, interesting. They made some changes from last year:

First, I’m not teaching fourth grade (unless they’re going to spring that on me later). I’m a little disappointed, because I was looking forward to a fresh crop of kids, a group I can start from scratch with. But I guess it’s for the best. I did spend all of last year wondering out loud what possible good it was for me to teach 4th grade... who knew someone was listening?

Another change: you can see on the plan red lessons (“compulsory lessons”) and blue lessons (“voluntary lessons”). These voluntary lessons sound like a great idea: kids sign up for an extra hour, and we do something fun (movies, field trips, etc). In reality, I’m afraid they will turn out just like last year: remedial classes for the kids whose parents decided they needed extra English. And this year I have a lot of these lessons.

And the worst change: starting every day at 7:30 and finishing everyday at 2. I don’t care about the times, I understand that life in the real world often includes less-than-perfect work hours. But the gaps in the middle of the day always feel like wasted time.

But because I’m being positive this week, I’ll end with the upsides: First, I don’t have to teach the “voluntary lessons” until next week. And second, most importantly, this won’t be the final schedule. Far from it - last year they made three or four versions. So there’s always room for change.

Friday, September 01, 2006

First Day of School

As it is everywhere in Hungary, September 1st was the beginning of classes at Kassai Úti Általános Iskola (Kassai Street Primary School). You can see this is a short entry; that’s because it was a short day, especially for me: I went to the school. My schedule wasn’t ready. I chatted with the other English teachers. I mentioned that I’m planning on leaving in October. They asked who would replace me, but not why I was leaving, or where I was going, or with who. Hm, priorities.

Then they left to go teach their osztályfõnök classes (the only classes of the day), and I went home.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Lesson in Conditional

After I wrote this, I hesitated to publish it because it’s so complaining and whiney. But I promise I won’t complain anymore after this... for at least a week or two.

Things I would like to do:

- I would like to spend some time outside. But I’ve been kept in by the nasty, cold, rain-spitting weather. Apparently, autumn has decided to come hatefully early to Szolnok.

- I would like to take a hot bath. But I can’t, because of the viscous orange goo dripping from the ceiling pipes into my tub.

- I would like to watch some TV. Part of my Hungarian-learning plan was to watch an hour a day of Hungarian TV. But I can’t, because the TV has sound but no picture.

- I would like to do laundry. Actually, that’s not true - I’ve gotten so used to the washer being broken, that I’ve accepted the fact that laundry involves either hand-washing in the sink, or a trip to Juli’s flat.

- I would like to know who in Szolnok reads my blog.

- I would like to vacuum up all the spiders in my bathroom. For that matter, I’d like to vacuum the entire flat, it sorely needs it. But I can’t, because the vacuum has no suction.

- Alternatively, I would like to squash-and-flush all the spiders in my bathroom. But I can’t, because my toilet doesn’t flush, at least not without plunging and poking.

- I would like there to not be puddles on my bathroom floor. Unfortunately, they occur every time I use the sink. Which I kind of need.

- I would like to know my class schedule. It’s kind of difficult to spend the weekend planning for classes on Monday, when I have almost no idea what or who I’ll be teaching.

- I would have liked to go to my school’s opening ceremony. But I only learned when it was one hour after it happened. And only then because I had to ask my contact teacher to tell me when it was. Kind of her.

- I would like to leave this cold, dreary city. I would like to finish. I would like to pack my things, orient a new teacher to Szolnok, and then get on a plane. I would like to start anew on a sunny Mediterranean island.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2 Weeks, 200 Words

It’s been two weeks since I posted. I could write in detail about all the wondrous adventures I’ve had since then; about meeting up with the old teachers who were brave enough to stay a second year (even if they copped out and moved to Budapest); about how my Balaton trip failed but I had a great holiday anyway; about how Laura and I ran all over Budapest helping Hajni with the 37 new amcsi teachers, plus two dogs, plus one three-year-old-child; about how great and diverse the new group is; about orientation, both the official one and the after-hours one; about the drama which led to me being the only American teacher in Szolnok, as well as allowing me to raid Chad’s old flat and steal most of the books he left behind; about how I came back here to find my flat in disarray (new shower head installed, but TV, internet, pipes and toilet not working); about my reunion with Juli and the Oxford school, in it’s fabulous new location.

I could write about any of these things in detail. But I’m lazy, so I won’t.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Woke Up This Morning...

...and got myself a gun.

No, not really. But it’s a good song anyway.

I woke up this morning at 11, after sleeping terribly since about 4 am. I’m still trying to fight my body into submission on the jet-lag thing. It’s not working. I kept dreaming that strangers were in my flat.

I walked (stumbled) into the bathroom. Orange water was dripping down the wall from the pipes above the tub. I stumbled into the living room. I tripped and hit my head on the door. I turned the TV on. Sound, but no picture.

Here’s what still does work in my flat: My cell, my computer. My backpack, my legs, and my front door. So my plan is: I’m running away*. I’m packing some clothes and hopping the next train to Pest. And godwilling, I won’t be back until the end of the month.

*And if you think I’m irresponsible for going away and leaving the dripping pipe? Too bad. I hope it does explode, and the flat floods until water flows out under the front door and the neighbors complain. Because if someone else complained, maybe it would actually get fixed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

ID Withheld

Generally, when my phone rings and displays “ID Withheld,” I don’t answer it. There are only three possibilities who might be calling, only one of them good:

1) It might be family calling from America. But this happens pretty infrequently.
2) It might be a wrong number, which inevitably leads to me having to explain in broken Hungarian. Although now I’ve just started using English. Hey, if you can’t dial a number properly, I don’t have to attempt your language.
3) It might be my contact teacher Kati. Which is who it was this morning. Three times.

The first time she called, it was to remind me that I needed to go reregister with the police. Actually, I was supposed to do it within 2 days of returning, oops. She’s leaving on holiday today and suggested I go alone, reminding me that the man at the foreigners’ registration desk spoke English. Diplomatically (especially considering that I hadn’t had coffee yet), I refrained from pointing out that before getting to the kind English-speaking foreigners’ registration desk, one has to navigate á la Indiana Jones The Seven Terrifyingly Brusque Hungarian-Speaking Gates of Entry into the police facility. Instead, I mildly said that I’d rather not go without a Hungarian speaker. She sighed and said she was going to call the school.

The second time she called, it was to tell me that her husband would accompany me to the police, tomorrow. I said (truthfully) that tomorrow I’m going to Pest. We decided to forget the whole thing until later.

The third time she called, it was to tell me to gather up my passport and papers and run over to the school, so that the secretary (Secretary Ági) could take me to the police, right now. I gathered, and ran. After loitering in the hallways and making stilted Hungarian conversation with the principal and the portás for fifteen minutes, Secretary Ági burst around the corner and greeted me with, “Ma nem tudom meg menni. Szia.” (I can’t go today. Hi)

She and Principal Éva suggested we go later; I haltingly explained that I’m leaving Szolnok tomorrow and not coming back until the 28th. They sighed dramatically, and asked me if this was a Hajni-program or my own program. Not that it’s any of their business, but I answered yes and yes. They stared at me and made me write down where I planned to be for the next two weeks. I wrote it (Balaton, my program; then Budapest, Hajni program), along with my phone number. And then I scurried away home.

So I don’t know what the plan is, although I suspect it will involve me ditching the Hajni-program for a day, training to Szolnok on my own forint, going to the police with whoever gets stuck taking me, and then training back to Pest again. Love-er-ly.

I’d almost forgotten about Hungarian bureaucracy. Oh, I missed it, I really did. It makes life so troublesome for my school but so interesting for me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What Kassai Did, part II

So I spent Thursday and Friday pestering my contact teacher via sms, until she called the school and sent over Pali, the school’s handyman. I like him because when he talks to me (in Hungarian, of course), he doesn’t really expect me to understand anything, but he still slows down and repeats things, and acts like a proud father if I do catch on to something.

In about two minutes, he had the gas and the boiler turned on, and everything up and running. I mean, as ‘running’ as anything gets in this flat. Then he launched into a long description about why the shower doesn’t work, of which I caught about every third word. This is a classic example of my understanding of Hungarian:

What I did understand: “Kassai... Lucza... pénz... mint a bojler... fal... régi bérház... komplett rossz. Azt érted?”

Which translates as: “Kassai school and Lucza (I think she’s the owner of the flat) are fighting about who’s going to pay for the repairs, just like they fought for months before someone gave in and paid to have the boiler replaced (and only then after I was almost gassed to death) but it probably can’t be fixed anyway because the problem is inside the wall which is made of concrete block, and these flats are just too old, the whole thing is bad. Understand?”

So I’m back to where I left the flat last June: almost everything impossibly broken. But fun to struggle against. Home sweet home.

What Kassai Did

It’s pretty easy to explain what I did this summer: nothing. On the other hand, it takes a whole blog entry to describe what Kassai (the school where I ‘teach’) was up to these past two months:

* They did clean my flat. They cleaned almost everything, so I can’t complain about that.

* They didn’t come meet me at the airport and help with my massively heavy suitcases. Suitcases which were made massively heavy by being filled with teaching materials. Teaching materials I had to bring from home because Kassai provides me with neither materials nor money to buy them with.

* They did turn my gas off. I guess I can understand their logic, it might be dangerous to have it on all summer in an unoccupied flat. But...

* They didn’t turn my gas back on. Thus, I have no hot water and no stove.

* They didn’t fix any of the following: the coffee maker, the vacuum, the oven, the ‘washing machine,’ the crappy paint job, the peeling wallpaper, the shower, nor the leaky bathroom sink.

* They did unplug my fridge for me, and they did clean it, but they didn’t remove the various condiments nor the food in the freezer (the reason I’d left the fridge on). And they didn’t clean up the explosion of mold left by the thawed and decaying freezer-food.

* They didn’t pay my bills, neither the ones they pay normally (like gas, water and cable) nor the ones that I normally pay for (internet). In June, I gave them 6000 forint to pay the internet over the summer... and yet today I got a bill for more than 11,000 forint to because the bill wasn’t paid last month.

What I’m going to do about it:
* I’m going to whine about it on this blog.
* I’m going to whine about it to anyone I corner face to face.
* And I’m going to hope for a short school year.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm Back

That’s right - after 24 hours of travel by car, plane, foot and bus, I made it safely from one home to the other (it took 36 hors going the other direction in June. But I only had three flights this time instead of four).

It wasn’t a happy homecoming. Instead of trying to describe it, I’ll encourage you to read Kat’s post about the happiness of returning. And then imagine it’s opposite. And that was me, yesterday afternoon and evening. For the first time ever since I’ve been in Hungary, I would gladly have hopped on a plane and left.

But it passed. After wallowing in depression for a couple hours, I got up, went shopping (possibly hunger was adding to my general crankiness), re-messed-up my flat where the cleaning ladies had organized it, enjoyed having MTV and high-speed internet again, skyped and sms-ed with people who cheered me up, and then slept for almost 12 hours.

But it really hit me this morning, as I was washing my hair in ice water (the gas isn’t turned on, and my contact teacher isn’t answering my smses) and drinking my cup of lukewarm instant coffee (coffee maker is still broken): yup, for better or worse, mostly the latter, I’m home.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Would You Rather... ?

I think we’ve all played this game at some point in your life. The questions range from the culinary “Would you rather eat a dead snake or a live bug?” to the romantic “Would you rather kiss a frog or be kissed by creepy Mr. Dovin?” to the morbid “Would you rather die in a car crash or by drowning?” to the philosophical “Would you rather be happy for a lifetime or rich for a lifetime?”

Last night I had a dream, and in my dream someone had published a book with the following title: “Would you rather live without a soul for one year or live in Budapest for the rest of your life?”

What does this mean? It means I’ve been lazing around my parents’ house too long, am bored out of my skull, and am having weird dreams.

Friday, June 30, 2006

School's Out For Summer

... which means I'm at my parents' home in Minnesota, and since life here is dull and not part of the Hungarian Experiement, I prob'ly won't be updating. See you in August.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Good-byes, Round Two (and the paperwork of leaving)

Thursday was the last day of school. Or I should say, the last day of teaching. Therefore, Thursday night seemed like the perfect opportunity to go out and celebrate. Under the guise of celebrating, it was also a good-bye party, because it’s the last time we’ll all be together.

It was an excellent night, and not only because I didn’t have to pay for drinks. The night started with just Geri and I at Tisza-mozi (although the two of us had both started the night by ourselves, earlier. Much earlier). Ági joined us, and we moved to Jazz. We sat down with Nancy and Ann, two former CETP teachers who are back for a visit. Mike and Cori came over from Jazz 2. Juli and Chad finally showed up, so it was a complete group. We ate, we drank, I received presents (funny to me, because I’m coming back in less than 2 months). We stayed until Jazz closed, then drove two blocks up the street to Irish, where we met two former students of Nancy (or Ann). When exactly we left is a bit hazy in my mind. Or why we left. Or the ride home.

What I know is that when my alarm went off at 8:30 this morning (I had the foresight to set it yesterday before the drinking commenced), I thought I might die. But I got up, took some steps, and realized that by some miracle, not only was I not hungover, I felt okay. No headache or nothing, just tired.

I walked over to the school for what I assumed was a short meeting at 9 o’clock. Actually, it was a short meeting. I thought I was going to get yelled at for the debacle with the marks and the naplós, but no. Now that school’s out, everyone’s relaxed, so they just kindly reminded me to be more thoughtful about the marks next year.

The meeting lasted 10 minutes. Then my director announced that I needed to go to the police station. Why? To register me. For next year. It had to be done today, because I’m leaving super-early morning Monday. Long story short, I did not get to go home and go back to bed. Instead, I spent the next six hours (yes, six) following my contact teacher around to the police, to get passport photos taken, back to the police, waiting for the police, filling out oodles of paperwork, and making copies of my keys (in theory to clean my flat while I’m gone and take care of my mail, but I half think they’re going to rent out the flat while I’m gone. They mentioned wanting to). And then back to the school to drop off the keys and sign another bajillion forms. I couldn’t tell you what, probably they’re selling me into slavery next year.

Monday, June 12, 2006


It finally happened. I’ve been waiting all year, just dreaming and wishing and hoping. Today my prayers were finally answered: my 8b boycotted class.

Okay, I could be less dramatic. First of all, it’s a small class - ten students officially, usually around 7 show up. And this afternoon, 3 or 4 of them had a legitimate reason for not coming to class (they were at some awards ceremony to which I was neither invited nor informed of beforehand. Typical). But still - that means that somewhere between 3 and 7 students, individually or as a group, decided NOT to come to my class.

This is a victory for me. It shouldn’t be. But, let’s face facts, any day when I get out of teaching 8b (or 8a, or the other 8a, or several other classes), it makes my day a little better.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

First Round of Goodbyes

My second-to-last weekend in Szolnok was remarkably similar to the first weekend I invited people here, way back in September. Gaines came, as did others. There was lots of good cooking, drinking, going out, and way too much TV. It’s funny, I went back and read what I wrote in my journal about that first weekend, and mostly it was complaining. Things didn’t go right, I had no money, I was stressed from teaching, it wasn’t like “home” at Beloit.

Which is about right opposite from today. The weekend was sad, but nice. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my last full weekend than with some of my favorite people (plus one complete stranger).

But it was hard to say good-bye. Luckily, I’ve avoided saying good-bye to most of the leaving Americans. But having to see Gaines off at the train station did bring tears to my eyes.

It also made me realize that, 8 days from now, I’ll be back in America. And frankly I’m a little bit terrified. I don’t want to go. I want to stay here. Better or worse, this is my home. There are dozens of things I’m looking forward to in America: shopping, books in English, driving my car, granola bars, nice weather, mum’s cooking, seeing friends, and the most important, seeing my family. But what I’m also looking forward to is August 8th, when I fly back to Hungary. In fact, if it weren’t for family, I wouldn’t go back at all.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Teacher's Day

So, I’ve had a pretty miserable week. Although, maybe “week” isn’t the best word; in reality it’s only been about 48 hours I’ve been home. Yuck, it feels like forever.

Anyway. There was one good thing this “week,” one thing that made Tuesday almost bearable. Teacher’s Day! The official holiday was actually Sunday (because every teacher wants to celebrate a day without teaching) and on Monday was no school. So on Tuesday, all the teachers got showered with gifts and bouquets of flowers. My own loot included flowers, chocolate, food, candles, and a kitchen canister. I received something from all of the grades I teach, surprising because I know the 8th grade hates me. The fifth grade was especially nice and generous. Lucky for them, Tuesday was the day I wrote their final grades in the napló.

After getting it wrong at Women’s Day, this time around I knew the procedure: after the students presented me with their gift and mumbled something like, “very love... for you we teacher... boldog teacher’s day,” I thanked them and gave them each the kiss-kiss (puszi). I love this tradition, but it’s still strange for me to kiss a student. Maybe it’s strange for them too - it was funny watching three 7th grade boys and one girl giggle and and push each other as they argued about who would present their gift to me.

Anyway. Kids: you drove me nuts for 10 months now. So it’s nice that one day a year you can show your appreciation for me. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


[palm tree picture]

So I’m sure that none of my three regular readers noticed my absence last week. After all, 5 days is barely a long time to go without posting. Five days is actually a very short time. And it seems unbelievably too short when I spent those five days on holiday in a sun-drenched island paradise.

Imagine this: it’s Wednesday afternoon. Szolnok is cold and rainy. I hate this place when it rains; it emphasizes the ugliness, the concrete flats, the unending pavement, the garbage, the miasma of unpleasant smells. So I finish teaching, and get to Budapest. At midnight, I hop onto a plane, and within three hours the scene has completely changed: I’m standing on a beach, the sand still warm from the previous day. Waves crashing. Palm trees, orange trees, lemon trees. As we leave the airport, the sun is just starting to make streaks in the sky. We drive along the coast. On the right, distant lights from small villages in the hills; on the left, the dark emptiness of the ocean. We arrive at the flat and sit out on the balcony. As the sun comes up, the ocean changes color - from pale gray, it begins at the horizon to become bluer and richer. By the time the sun comes above the buildings, the entire ocean is deep blue, streaked with sky blue and green. The sky is clear but not yet blue, it’s still white from the sunrise, and the first breezes of the day are already warm. We talk for a long time before going inside to nap. When we wake up, it’s like a whole new day beginning.

But that was only the first few hours.

In the interest of discretion, I’m not going into all the details. Enough to say each day was better then the one before. We drove all over the island, saw the cities, got lost in the villages, took short-cuts and long-cuts, ate in restaurants and at home, drank on the beach and on the balcony, swam in the ocean and sunbathed on the beach. It was amazing, in every possible way. Even the things that went wrong resolved themselves eventually.

With one exception. There’s still one problem that I can’t fix: there’s no happy ending. How can there be? The holiday ends, we go back to normal lives, and real life is just weaker and colder and emptier and more boring and more colorless by comparison. There’s nothing now to look forward to; even going ‘home’ (back to America) in two weeks isn’t exciting. I don’t know what to do. I’m hoping the post-holiday lethargy will wear off soon. Otherwise, it’s going to a long, long summer.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Due to various class trips, sicknesses, and lethargy, some of my classes have been small this week. One class of eighth-graders had only three students. This is a class that is unmotivated at their best, and knowing that they were the only three stuck in class wasn’t exactly firing them up. Grasping at straws, I sat down with them at two tables and we wrote circulating stories. We each started with one piece of paper and wrote the first sentence before passing them on. Quick and simple. And I let them go ten minutes early.

We ended up with four stories of varying quality and interest. They voted the following one as the best. The stars are where the writer changed (all grammar and spelling are original):

Noémi and Pusi’re love each other. They went to the cinema. * After the cinema they went to a park and * sat on a bench next to the Tisza river. The night was very dark, and * boring, because they * didn’t find us. * It was very hot, so they decided to go swimming in the Tisza, * but Pusi don’t want take down his clothes. * And when Pusi saw Noémi, Pusi is, * and then they went swimming. But the water was very cold. When they stopped swimming, their clothes were gone! * And Pusi said: I want to go home. * But Noémi don’t want so. * So they walked to a pub. * And they drink alkohol. After they’re go to the hotel. * And, * they went into a room. * And Pusi said Noémi - I haven’t got any many [money].

And, thankgod, that’s when it ended.

Just a side note - Noémi was one of the students missing from the class. The 8th-grade class. And I believe Pusi is her 20-some year-old boyfriend. I love Hungary.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Great England Experiment (Take Two)

My History: one previous trip to London for two days, two years ago. It was interesting, but too short and too expensive for us to see and do much.

The General Plan, this time around: an 8-day field trip to England with 38 Kassai students (5th through 8th grades), the four other English teachers, myself, one guide (Anna), and two bus drivers. And one really big bus.

The Details:
Day 1 - leave Szolnok at 3 am. Drive all day. Sleep in Belgium in a cheap hotel.
Day 2 - cross the Channel (by Chunnel). Arrive in London. Walk around the city, go up the London Eye, and visit the British Museum. Meet out host families.
Day 3 - excursions to Shakespeareville, aka Stratford-upon-Avon, and Warwick Castle.
Day 4 - excursions to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle, and Hampton Court.
Day 5 - visit London Tower, Westminster Abbey, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Day 6 - bid farewell to host families. Visit Leeds Castle and Canterbury before hopping on the ferry to France. Sleeping in another cheap hotel.
Day 7 - Disneyland Europe, all day. In the evening, back on the bus. And driving all night.
Day 8 - another day of driving. Arrived back to Szolnok about 3:30.

Things I Learned:
- that Kati, my awesomely fierce contact teacher, is still awesomely fierce at 3am. And during the whole vacation.
- that 38 kids, 5 adults, 1 guide, and 2 bus drivers actually can pile off the bus, use a crowded bathroom, goof around, buy snacks, take photos, and be back on the road in the allotted 20 minutes.
- that despite being surrounded by one of the world’s richest histories, in a country filled with castles and museums and gardens, kids will inevitably head straight for the Labyrinth, the Ghost Tower, or the mummy exhibit.
- that I’ve become used to being in Hungary. So much so that I try to speak Hungarian to shopkeepers and people on the street, and that I imagine I hear people speaking it all around me in London. I wonder if the same thing will happen in America, and if so, for how long?
- that the word “hypermarket” isn’t some sort of weird Hunglish - it’s British. It’s a real word, who knew?
- that if you take loud, obnoxious students out of the classroom, away from their friends and partners-in-crime, they’re just kids. Cute, funny, insecure, normal teenage kids.

The Family Stay:
In theory, this sounded like the coolest part of the trip: in groups of two, three, or four, the students spend nights living with English families. They eat breakfast and dinner together, and the families give them a packed lunch for the day. Having only our family stays in Romania to compare, I expected the best.
In reality, this might have been the worst part for many of the kids. The 2 Edits and I lucked out and stayed with a wonderful woman named Sandra who stuffed us full of food, gave us two plush rooms to stay in, and sent us off every day with lunch bags bigger than my head. Unfortunately, no one else’s experience was similar. There were problems with all aspects of the stay: the rooms were small or unclean; the food was terrible or scant; they didn’t get a lunch bag; they didn’t get anything to drink; they didn’t understand each other; the families were unfriendly. There were also problems getting between the bus and the houses, because after the first day the students were expected to walk alone to and from our drop-off point to their families’ houses. Yikes - some of them are in 5th grade! If I had a child that old, I wouldn’t let them walk a mile though London traffic alone.
Long story short, the family stays were less than perfect. I hope the kids got something out of them.

The Hungarian and the English:
Overall, I think I spoke and heard more Hungarian than English the whole week. I’m not sure how much English any of the kids actually spoke outside their families, although it was gratifying to hear a few of them mumbling English phrases to themselves to practice, or having stilted conversations with each other.
Some of the students decided to spend the week teaching me Hungarian. Walking around castle after castle, we played endless rounds of “Tree?” “Fa.” “Yes. Bird?” “Madár.” “Good. Castle?” “Kastély.” “Good. Um... grass?” “Fü.” “Yes! Oh, you is very clever. Camera?” “Um... fény-something-gép?” And then giggling. They also tried to explain some grammar, but that stopped when they got to '-ban, -ben' and the concept of vowel harmony.

The Conclusion:
As I was talking to Jeremy yesterday afternoon, he asked me, “So, was it worth it?” For a second, I didn’t know what he meant, because I had completely forgotten about all the griping I did about the expensive. So, yeah, I guess it was worth it.
Money aside: I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I hope I can.
I’ve got a couple more stories, which I’ll post if I have time. I’ll be kinda busy, you know, between the Oxford party tonight, the Beer Festival this weekend, and my next vacation starting next Wednesday. Oh, I love my life right now.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Field Trip!

I know I griped a couple of entries ago about how terribly expensive London is... specifically, how my school semi-conned me into being a fee-paying chaperone on their trip to London. So I won’t bitch anymore about the money, other than to say after paying the 40,000ft down-payment, the 47,000ft remaining fee, plus 2000ft for insurance, plus 100 pounds, plus 25 euro... I am now broke. And ready to go to London.

We leave tomorrow. At 3 in the morning, actually, so I plan on scraping together my remaining change and going out tonight. There’s no point of trying for 8 hours of sleep anyway, so why bother.

I’ll be back next weekend, hopefully with stories. I mean, good ones.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Life in the Real World

My sweet alma mater, Beloit College, was both very small (my graduating class: 296 people) and very insular. Against the ongoing animosity between Beloit-the-College and Beloit-the-City, we developed the “Beloit Bubble.” The Bubble kept us together, kept us safe, kept us isolated.

Then there was graduation. I’m sure you can see the metaphor coming: the Bubble burst.

I don’t know how other people feel about their graduations, but I feel like at Beloit, it was made out to be this big scary thing. We had spent the last four years preparing, in theory, to leave and face the Real World, but everyone seemed to have doubts about our ability to do so. Even the speakers at graduation played this up: our student president gave a speech about our “characteristically uncharacteristic” students, focusing on how Beloit was the only thing in the world tying us together. The commencement was given by Alain Destexhe, former Secretary General of Doctors Without Borders, who delivered a terrifying speech on the topic of genocide. I’m not kidding. It was half an hour of what an awful, frightening place the world is... and how we were about to enter it.

My point: one year ago today I graduated. I entered the Real World. And despite Beloit’s best efforts to alarm me, it turned out that the Real World isn’t so bad a place. It’s doable. It’s livable. I like it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's Over, All Over

... basketball, that is. More precisely, Szolnoki Olaj basketball.

Both of my regular readers know that since my first game, I’ve developed a small obsession with Szolnok’s basketball team, to the point where I ended up hanging around in Szolnok on my precious weekends, just to go to the games. But what can I do, the games are spectacular. And if regular games are like this, I assumed the play-off games would be even better. They didn’t let me down.

But first, a recap of the situation, for those of you as unenlightened about Hungarian basketball as I was two months ago. The Szolnoki Olaj are one of 14 teams. Having managed to win an entire 50% of their games played in the regular season, Olaj was granted one of 8 spots in the championship. Namely, the 8th place. And only barely. But never mind, they got in.

In the first round of the championship, the quarterfinals, the 8 teams are paired up and play for the best of 5 games, so until one team wins 3 games. The Olaj, being in last place, were matched against Paks, in first place. The first game was in Paks; we lost by 6 points. The second game was in Szolnok and we won by 2 points. The third game was in Paks, and we lost by 20 points. The fourth game was in Szolnok and we won by 5 points. Maybe you see a pattern here? Which brings me to the sad conclusion of tonight: we played in Paks. We lost. By 36 points. That’s just painful.

So it’s over. No more basketball. But I hate to finish on a sad note, so here’s something I’ve been meaning to post for a while: some of the chants that are routinely screamed at the games. Plus translation. All courtesy of one of my also-basketball-obsessed private students, thank you:

The cheers:
Hajrá Olaj! Olajbányász! {go, Olaj!}
Gyerünk, gyerünk, Olajka! {let’s go, Olaj!}
Mindent bele! {also like go, Olaj!}
Mindenki, szolnoki! {everyone szolnoki}
Álljatok fel! {stand up!}

The insults:
Cigányok, cigányok! {“gypsy” isn’t a good insult in my book}
Fasszopó, fasszopó! {but “cocksucker” is}

The taunts:
to the refs: Mennyibe kerül? Mennyibe kerül? {what did it cost? (the bribe)}
to the losing opposing fans: Indul a busz! Indul a busz! {your bus is leaving}
to Paks in particular: Paksi Atom, szopd ki a faszom! {Paks Atom (the team name), blow me!}

And the songs:
Favilla, fakanál, fatányér, {wooden fork, wooden spoon, wooden plate}
Meghalok a, meghalok az Olajért! {I will die for the Olaj}
Ha meghalok majd eltemetnek, {if I die, to the funeral}
Oda is csak Olaj-szurkolók jöhetnek. {only Olaj fans are invited}

Ha meghalok, a mennybe jutok, {if I die, I’ll go to Heaven}
Nevetnek rám az angyalok, {the angels will smile on me}
Szent Péter mondja: “Hajrá Olaj!” {St Peter will say “Go, Olaj!”}
És mi vígan szopatunk! {and we’ll happily get sucked off}
(clap x3) Szopatunk! (clap x3) {yes, sucked off}
Mi leszünk a bajnokok! {we will be the champions}
(and start again from Szent Peter)

...because nothing goes together like basketball, death, and oral sex. I’m gonna miss it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Three Yellow Flowers

As I was walking back from school this morning, still a bit dazed after the first round of teaching without coffee, I walked past the back of apartment building, where my windows face, and I noticed something funny. On the windowsill outside my bedroom window, someone had left three yellow flowers.

On Mondays, I walk back and forth to and from my school 6 times. The flowers didn’t move. They were still there when I made my last trip home this afternoon, so I brought them inside and put them in water. They’re small, yellow, like a tulip but more wild looking. They were cut, not plucked. They looked like they had been arranged on the windowsill.

So, I see three possibilities:
- it’s something really sweet, like a secret admirer
- it’s something really creepy, like a stalker
- it’s something absolutely coincidental and I’m a drama queen.

Anyone want to offer any other theories?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Yet another weekend spent in Szolnok, but that’s hardly worth mentioning anymore, it’s become typical. What was atypical about this weekend was the barbecue-cum-graduation party on Friday. That afternoon, Chad and Mike bought a grill at Cora. They parked it out in the Varga courtyard and invited everyone we knew, which boiled down to Juli, Tamás (Oxford teacher), Dóri (his wife), Tami (their adorable son), Zoli and Kati briefly, and a large bunch of Varga students. Many of whom were graduating the following day, early-ish. I had intentions of getting up and going to watch the ceremony, but I slept too late.

Great food, great company. Good booze, too. I of course had been keeping my Friday afternoon ritual of sitting at home with my bottle of wine since about 3. Then there was beer at the barbecue. Then there was champagne, because we were celebrating. A surprising number of Vargans did the prudent thing and stayed soberish, but there were enough who weren’t worrying about a hungover graduation to make for a good time.

The whole evening had a bit of a poignant tinge to it though. Chad’s 12C class showed up and sang to him, as departing classes do for teachers here. It was sad. They sang some Hungarian tunes; I was waiting for “Graduation (Friends Forever),” or something similar, but their English selection was “Come As You Are.”

But all-in-all, a fun night. Although I’ll only be here a few more weeks, I’m anticipating more barbecues as weather permits. Not to mention, I suspect at the end of the week, when Varga and other gymnasium students finish their finals week, the city will explode in a riot of parties. I have absolutely no evidence to support this suspicion.... I’m just really optimistic.