Monday, October 29, 2007

Twenty-four hours

That’s how long it took, from when we left Szolnok at 3am Saturday morning, to when I arrived at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport at 9pm Saturday night. Random thoughts from along the way:

Friday noon: I just now started packing. What can I bring? I can’t get over the feeling that this is like so many weekend trips, that I’ll just going a couple hours, a couple hundred kilometers away, and I’ll be back on Monday to my normal life.
This is the first time I’ve ever been scared to fly. I mean, scared to die in some horrible accident. Is my life really so great now that I’m scared to lose it? Apparently.

Friday afternoon: Everything in me is pulling me against this trip. I don’t want to travel. I don’t want to be in Minnesota. I don’t want to see my parents. I’m trying like hell, but so far there’s not a single real thing that I’m looking forward other than coming back to Szolnok. The closest thing I’ve got is that it’ll be fun to shop for gifts for people.

Friday evening: Is it strange that in the school today, almost everyone who wished me a good trip ended their wishes with “and come back!”? I’d like the know the story behind that. I mean really, what the hell, who didn’t come back??

Saturday morning, way too early: Standing in the first of many lines, the Budapest customs. I stand in the wrong line for ten minutes before moving to the non-EU passports line. The woman behind me is going crazy with the wait, and repeats “Hát, az hihetetlen” dozens of times, accompanied by repeated trips to the front of the line to harass the poor customs workers.

Saturday, Frankfurt: I’m sitting in a lounge, waiting the three hours until my next flight will be shown on the monitors. There are two flights listed back to Budapest. I wonder how easy it would be to change my ticket. I wonder what would happen to my checked luggage.

Saturday, several hours later but still in Frankfurt: Jebus, I’d forgotten how much security you have to go through on America-bound flights. After being patted down, none too gently, by a surly security guard, at the gate I am questioned within an inch of my life by the American Airlines security. They ask me all the normal questions (who packed your bags, have you accepted any gifts, what electronics are you carrying) plus some bordering on too-personal: where did you spend last night, who was with you, who drove you to the airport and how well do you know him, what nationality... etc. The man questioning me sweetly keeps apologizing for being so personal, but also tells me how it’s happened several times that bombs have been found on board. Gee, how reassuring. All I can think is that after all this trouble, I’m going to be DOUBLE-pissed if this plane goes down.

Still Saturday, and again several hours later, now in Chicago: how is this possible: I’ve gone through security three times, for two international flights, including the American Airlines Super-Security. But boarding a one-hour domestic flight from Chicago to MSP is where they finally confiscate my water bottle, and the first time I’m asked to remove my shoes. The man asking me to take them off uses a voice like, “duh, haven’t you ever flown before?” and I want to snap back with “Look, idiot, I’ve flown farther today that you’ll ever travel in your sad state-bound life, and what the hell makes you think anyone would choose to target this poor excuse for a puddle-jump flight? Get over yourself, you self-important bastard.” Perhaps I’m starting to get a bit testy with jet-lag.
PS - sitting in the waiting room for the Chicago-MSP flight, I am so the skinniest person there. Seriously, I look like a model next to these people. Ha ha ha, sweet.

Yet still Saturday (almost over), finally in Minneapolis/St. Paul: I arrive on time. I recognize my family (good thing Sam’s a head taller than everyone else). We drive home and already I’m slipping back into Minnesota. Still not sure about this. We’ll see.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The kids aren't alright

I can think of several stories which would fit that title, but... here’s today’s:

This morning, Varga had it’s October 23rd Commemoration. Because there’s no room in the school big enough for everyone, they held it Szolnok’s Cultural Center. At the end of the ceremony, the announcer concluded with, “So, it’s about 9 o’clock now. At 10 o’clock classes will begin; everyone please collect your coats and bags and meet your class teacher in the lobby to walk back to the school together.”

Which I thought was a bit dumb - these are high schoolers, after all, they don’t need their class teachers to chaperone them back to the school, four blocks away. Most teachers just let their kids go.

Problem: the unsupervised students had one hour to walk four blocks. Solution: they popped into a couple bars on the way. My first two periods were hilarious: students still dressed to the nines, slightly cross-eyed, and reeking of booze.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October Update

So for once, I have a legit reason for my lack of posting (not that it really matters, since all 6 people who read this blog see me on a regular basis anyway), that reason being that I’ve been hella busy. In addition to my 20-plus-one hours a week at Varga (the high school) and 4 at Kassai (the primary school), there’s also the 4 hours a week at the college. Plus private lessons. Plus, starting this week, I’ll be taking Hungarian lessons again (after a little spat about my Hungarian skills/lack thereof, I hotheadedly decided to take the Magyar mint idegen nyelv exam to prove him wrong. Yikes).

Plus, about mid-last-week when I was floundering a bit, I decided that it would make my life infinitely easier if I made out a complete set of lesson plans for the entire semester, until January. No doubt it will make things easier... once they’re finished. Right now, it’s just a lot of work.

But by all means don’t think that I’m complaining. I like keeping busy; it keeps me sane, which will be more and more important as the winter pushes down. Plus, I don’t have time to get sick of one group before it’s time to go teach another.

Anyway, right now I’ve got a free másfél óra until classes, and instead of spending it relaxing.... 9th grade lesson plans!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

20 years away

Conversation overheard today between two of my adorable 5th graders. Imagine it in Hungarian, of course:

Ádám: Do you know German?
Balint: What? This is Enlgish class, stupid.
Ádám: No, but do you know German?
Balint: Um, no, why?
Ádám: You know, you have to speak German to get into high school.
Balint: What?
Ádám: You have to speak two languages.
Balint: Ádám, who cares? That’s like 20 years away.
Ádám: You mean 5 years.*
Balint: Whatever, what color are your eyes?**

*Actually, it’s like 3 and a half years.
** What he readlly said, in wonderful Hunglish, was “Mindegy, milyen az eyes-ed?”

Monday, October 01, 2007

How I got into college...

So starting tonight, I’ll be teaching at the Szolnoki Fõiskola (Szolnok College). It seems like it’ll be a good job - teaching 12 pre-intermediate students twice a week, 90 minutes each lesson. And for this endeavor, 3 hours of extra work a week, I’ll be making 60% of what I make at my full time job.

I have to share the way I got the job, because it was very typical of how things work in Hungary: at my part time job at Kassai Primary, the other American teacher is a guy named Oscar. His main job is at the Waldorf School in Szolnok (I think). Another teacher there is a German (possibly French? Dutch???) guy named Stefan, who has some as-yet-undiscovered-by-me connection to the college. So Stefan recruited Oscar to teach there, Oscar took the advanced group and passed the pre-int on to me, et viola, here I am about to embark on another teaching adventure.