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.