Friday, April 27, 2007


This week, I looked at my calendar and realized that I only have 6 more weeks of teaching, and only 3 of them full weeks. This happy realization prompted me into a fit of lesson planning, wherein I managed to plan almost all my lessons for the rest of the year. It goes without saying that I was pretty proud of myself and my work.

This morning when I opened up the plans, they were ruined. I don’t know why, but both files, a spreadsheet and a text, reverted themselves back to very, very early versions. All my work is gone.

And the worst part is, I don’t understand why. I saved both files as I was working on them, frequently. So what’s my motivation for recreating my work if there’s a possibility of losing it again?

I’m not a happy person. The only thing keeping me going right now is... well, coffee. And the ever-so-slight hope of being able to enjoy the upcoming 4-day weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Two happy stories

After reading Kat’s most recent post, it occurred to me that for some strange reason beyond my comprehension, the last few weeks of teaching have been... strangely normal. It’s almost like (dare I even think it???) I’ve finally gotten some control over the kids. And (surely I won’t finish this sentence without the finger of god reaching down and crushing me) not only that they’re under control but.... actually.... learning.


I don’t know what caused this and I doubt it’ll last, but while it does I’ll celebrate, and pass the love on by sharing two good student stories.

Story one, Robin: A bunch of the students have my msn address, and message me whenever I’m online. Emily how are you? Emily what’s your favorite color? Emily what are you doing? Emily do my homework for me. Emily Emily Emily hi hi hi. The same things every time.

A bunch of 8th graders just added me as a friend recently, so when someone unknown started messaging me the other night, I assumed it was one of them. I didn’t recognize his picture, but his English was pretty good. He asked thoughtful, well-written questions, albeit slowly, and gave full answers to my questions. We talked about me living in Hungary, how he would like to live abroad, how difficult living away from family is, how learning a foreign language is hard but fun, etc. Finally my curiosity won out and I had to know who I was talking to. How old are you? 12. Where do you go to school? Kassai, my class the 5b. My blood went cold. 5b is the terror class, the class that prompts meeting after meeting where all the teachers ponder desperately what is to be done with this group of ignorant, disobedient monsters. And then I asked his name: Robin. The leader of the monsters, or so I’ve only heard - he’s in the lowest level English class, which I don’t teach.

We continued chatting, and I continued to be amazed at this boy, who I’ve never met but have heard horror story after horror story about. Amazed that these stories could be true about a boy who I had mistaken for one of my polite, well-spoken upperclassmen.

Story two, Dávid: I’m always thrilled when the students use English when I’m not forcing them to. I overheard this jewel as I was leaving a first-period class (after which there is only a five-minute break; they're always worried about being late)

Imi: Dávid, várjal csak (wait up)!
Dávid: No, Imi! I no lating because you!

It made my day.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Working for the weekend, again

Q: What’s worse than getting up at 6:30 AM to go teach on a weekend?

A: Spending a sleepless night tossing and turning, half sick, heartsick, stressing and worrying about every possible conceivable thing, falling asleep for a few minutes of twitchy nightmarish dozing, and being woken by a text message at 6:14. Oh, what a glorious day it’s going to be.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Two unrelated stories

I was going to post these two things separately, but I realized that they go together somehow. Or, I’m just too lazy to push the publish button twice.

Story One: For some time, I’ve known that the Szolnoki Fõiskola has an English club which meets weekly. I’ve been meaning to go, but like my ever-present good intentions of making lessons plans, cleaning my flat, getting my life in order.... somehow I just never went.

This week, I finally coaxed Petra into going with me (I’m too much of a coward to go alone). Then she backed out, but after a couple of hours of debating with myself, I decided to go anyway. I checked and re-checked their website to find what time and where. Then I overslept (or over-napped) and woke up with 10 minutes to get fixed up and run over through a windstorm and under a heavy, cloudy sky. And for all my stressing, what did I get when I arrived? A sign on the locked door, announcing a postponement until next week.

Story Two: I mentioned above how somehow, my lesson plans are never finished? Well, on Thursday afternoon when I should have been making them, I was instead watching episode after episode of Spongebob and dozing like a cat in the afternoon sunlight. At one point as I rolled over and stretched, it occurred to my sleep-fuzzed brain how awesome it would be if I had a Spongebob pillow.

Fast-forward a couple hours, and what do John and Donna bring me? A Spongebob bag, into which I promptly stuffed a pillow form.

The moral of these two stories (to be taken with a large grain of salt, of course)? That English-speaking Hungarians let you down, but Americans will always come through for you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Spring Break in Cyprus

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. That being true, and I being extremely lazy, I present to you Cyprus through pictures, with limited captions, and links to more info courtesy of Wikipedia:

No trip should begin without a beer at the Szolnok train station. Followed by a beer on the train, a beer at Kobanya-Kispest, a beer outside the airport, a beer inside the airport...

Donna and I at our villa's dining table, planning out our first day.

The villa was well-equipped with a full kitchen, comfy couches, coffee-maker, flat-screen tvs, etc etc etc.

And a pool table. We played several times, for various stakes....

... which included the loser taking a dive into our slightly-above-freezing pool.

The market in Nicosia, very similar to the market in Szolnok except for that watch tower.

Walking down the street in Nicosia (the last divided capital in the world, according to Lonely Planet) we suddenly came to one of the streets blocked off by a wall of barrels.

Donna and Attila in Lefkora, a tiny village which is famous for it's lace and silver.

Myself and Attila in Lefkora.

The Roman ruins at Kourion.

More of the ruins.

A typical road in the Troodos Mountains. I successfully navigated our way in and out of the mountains, driving an unfamilar right-hand-drive car on the left side of the road. (Just in case there's a single person left on earth I haven't mentioned it to yet... I was the only driver in our group who managed to avoid hitting anything. John and Attis both whacked the passenger side mirror, while Donna wisely refrained from driving.)

The mountains. I wish I had better pictures of the tiny villages and narrow roads through them.

At the top of the mountains, we abandoned the car and took a horse-back ride through the woods.

The last shot, a sad picture: me leaving our villa complex at 1 AM to go catch the plane home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Two Conversations

I’m working on updates, namely on stories from Spring Break: Cyprus, and I promise to get that up as soon as I get the accompanying pictures. In the meantime, two conversations that happened my first day back after break:

One: my plane-bus-train combination was running late. I would arrive in Szolnok at 9:45, giving me about 20 minutes to sprint across town, dump my luggage, and run to the school. So I lazed out and smsed my contact teacher that I wouldn’t make it.
About 10, having gotten no response, I called her:

Me: Hello, Kati?
Kati (sounding just thrilled to hear from me): Yes, Emily. Hello?
Me: Did you get my sms?
Kati: Your sms?
Me: Um, yes, I sent you a message?
Kati: Oh, yes, I saw that you sent me something a few hours ago, but I didn’t read it (I almost banged my head against the wall) because I didn’t know if it was important or not (I actually banged my hand against the wall.) Why, was it important?
Me (deep breath): Um, yeah, kind of. My train is late, so I don’t think I’ll make my class this hour. At 10.
Kati: You will come late? We will start the class and you come later?
Me: Well, I could do that. Just, I don’t have any idea when I’ll be there.
Kati: So you will be late?
Me: Um, right. I don’t know how late.
Kati: Hm.
Me: Maybe it’s better to just cancel the class?
Kati: You have classes later?
Me: Yes, at 1 o’clock. I’ll be there for that one.
Kati: Okay, bye.
Me. Bye- wait, what?

So I didn’t go to class, and didn’t get in trouble for not going, so she must have covered it somehow. Seriously, who on earth gets an sms and doesn’t read it??

Second conversation, with a brilliantly perceptive little 6th grader:
Balázs (very politely, as always): Emily, help?
Me: Yes, what is it?
Balázs: Hogy van angolul shblahblah?
Me, confidently: Dragon.
Balázs (after thinking for half a beat): No, nem ‘sárkány,’ hanem ‘sátán.’
Me: Oh, Satan! Sorry.
Balázs: No problem, Emily.

The fact that I have students who can switch quickly enough between English and Hungarian to recognize my own mistranslation is amazing to me.