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.