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.
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.
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.
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.
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.