Friday, June 22, 2007

Indroduction to Varga

After blowing my first appointment at Varga on Tuesday, due to a way-too-long bus ride, we resceduled for Thursday and I made damn sure to be on time. After all, first impressions are everything.

And I can only hope that that's true, because if so the following year teaching at Varga Katalin Gymnasium (their website, unfortch not in English) is going to be heavenly.

I walked into the school, some minutes early, and up to the teachers' room. I stumbled hesitantly into the next office down, which was labled Igazgato / Headmaster. Oh bliss to be somewhere TRUELY bilingual. Although the secreteries in the front office didn't speak English, they knew who I was and directed me to Laci, the principal. What followed was a meeting with him and my contact teacher Marianna, which turned out to be the most efficient and well-planned meeting I've ever attended in Hungary. We went over paperwork and numbers and details, and chatted. After, Marianna and I sat in the teachers' room and she explained everything about what classes I'll be teaching, which books they'll use, what my goals will be for each group; she even gave me a packet she'd made up with several pages describing the school, how it works, procedures for grading and discipline... pure well-organized bliss. I didn't know schools in Hungary were capable of planning ahead more than a few days.

We finished by making plans to meet again Friday morning, finish up paperwork, and go to the Immigration Office. That, of course, is a whole seperate story.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Good-bye, but wait, Hello

Today was graduation for the 8th graders at Kassai. Not much to say - they paraded in, there were long, boring speeches and flowers and balloons, I had to wear heels, and in an hour it was all over. In the teachers room my contact teacher cornered me (heels = can’t run fast) and we had the following conversation:

Kati: Oh, it’s over.
Me: Yup.
Kati (in that tone I know so well): Emily, I wanted to tell you, we didn’t say good-bye to you.
Me (slightly touched that she cared): Oh, um...
Kati: I mean, we didn’t say good-bye to you because we will see you again.
Me (for a split second, I actually considered they might be inviting me to a farewell dinner or something): Really?
Kati: Yes, we will see you next year.
Me: Oh, of course, I’ll visit-
Kati: No, you will teach here.
Me: Whathuh?
Kati: Yes, Éva (our principal) talked to Laci (new school’s principal) and he says he cannot find enough hours for you*, so you can teach some classes here too. Fifth and sixth grade conversation.
Me: (slack-jawed amazement)
Kati: Okay, I must go.

So, apparently I’ll be teaching some classes at Kassai next year. I’m sure glad they consulted me about it - although sarcasm aside, I should probably be amazed that they’re coordinating it now and not September 1st.

But why would I teach the 5th and 6th graders? Why not the upper classes, who are preparing for English exams to get into good high schools and beyond? Instead, I’ll get in 6th grade this years 5th, one of my most terrible classes, and in 5th grade this years 4th, with whom I’ve had no contact. Sigh. I was so ready to leave Kassai on a good note - instead I’ll be not leaving on this bad one.

*which I later learned isn’t true, I could have had enough hours at Varga. Kassai just shanghaied me.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Goodbye Hello

Someday when I write my book about Hungary, I’m going to call it Goodbye Hello. Just so you know.

So a group of Americans (and a Spaniard, some Hungarians, etc) converged on Szolnok for one last weekend. In some ways it was similar to many other weekends; I could cut and paste what we did from any number of other entries: we lazed around, we drank, we ate lots of food, we wandered around aimlessly, we lay in the sunshine, we played in the water, we slept in piles, we made ATCs (rather, Sara and Bridge and I made them until the boys got fed up with us), we sat in bars, and outside of bars, and we talked.

But it was in the chatting where there was a clear difference to this weekend. Instead of talking about teaching, we talked about home. Instead of planning future weekends, we talked about summer jobs and grad school and flight prices. Instead of comparing lesson plans, we talked about American restaurants and stores.

In the end, it wasn’t a real goodbye anyway; almost everyone who was here I’ll see again, next week or in the summer. Still, it’s such an odd feeling for me now to look around a table and see both the past and the future: one year ago, I was sitting in a restaurant saying goodbye to a group of departing Americans. One year from now, I’ll be in the exact same place, sitting at another table with another group of departing Americans. It’s an unfriendly feeling that they’ll always come and go while I remain a static point.

Anyway, onward to new adventures, namely: moving. How the hell I accumulated so much junk (and heavy junk, lots of books) in less than two years is beyond me. How I’m going to pack it up and move it to the new flat.... sigh.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


The strangest thing happened to me Sunday morning in a bathroom in Balatonfüred. I was sitting there at about 8am, surrounded by a hostel-full of slumbering Americans (and Brits and Aussies, etc). And it suddenly hit me how at peace I was. Everything in my life has just come together:

- although Kassai (my current school) finally let me go officially, within an hour I was offered a position next year at Varga (the super-nice, way prestigious gymnasium). So next year, if all goes to plan, I’ll have a cushy job teaching near-fluent teenagers, full pay, and free flat.

- having finally kicked my two-month stomach flu, I’m completely healthy. Maybe better than I’ve ever been. I’m just glowing with good health.

- for once, I’m completely at peace with all relatives, friends, boyfriends, and colleagues. No drama, no fights, just harmony. Too bad all but one of the Americans are abandoning me.... sniffle.

- I got a bike (inherited from one of those sniffle-inducing leaving Americans)! I’m still way too scared to actually use it on the streets, but... someday.

- Hungarian lessons are going well. I might actually be learning something. In any case, at least I’m thinking about it every day.

- the Balaton weekend was good - much better than I would have thought, given that hanging out with large groups of foreigners in a strange place is my personal idea of hell. There was a minimum of drama and a maximum of hanging around drinking and enjoying the sunshine.

- thanks to Bridget’s curiosity, I’ve gotten back into making ATCs, and having a creative outlet again has made me so much happier and more productive feeling.

- as much as I love my school, I’m accepting moving on. I feel bad about leaving my students because, next year, they likely won’t have a native speaker, but I’ve already got plans to offer them cheap private lessons or some sort of English club.

- not to mention, the majority of the kids are gratifyingly disappointed with my leaving. Today, one class stayed 10 minutes extra just to hang out.

Anyway, that’s it... coming up roses. And in the future, look for more frequent updates, since I’m about to embark on a whole new teaching adventure, both over the summer and in the fall, AND on a whole new adventure in my personal life...