Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas tree!

Story A: The day after Thanksgiving, actually on the way home from the feast, I said to Tomi that we should put up the Christmas tree. He guffawed and said we would put it up on December 24th like everyone else. In my role as cultural ambassador I explained that in America we put up our trees at the beginning of December. He patiently reminded me that I wasn't in America, and what would the neighbors think? I stomped my foot and declared that my home was extraterritorially part of America, and we would put up the tree NOW. Fighting ensued. After a long debate, we compromised on a date in mid-December.
Story B: Sometime in the first week of December, I said, hey, we should put up the tree. Tomi said, what, so early? I said, yeah, like in America. He shrugged and said, okay, do what you want. I, being lazy, got around to it a week or so later.

Well, which story do you like better? At least one of them is true... Anyway, here's the tree. The first picture provides a lovely view framed by the pipes on the wall; in the second picture you can see the cabinet which was the subject of an earlier post:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We could have been at a pig-killing today, but instead...

Hey Jamie, remember last week, when we ended up at Cora on a Sunday morning. and I swore that I would never set foot in a shop on the weekend in December again? I'm sure you remember me saying that, because I said it dramatically. And repeatedly. And yet somehow it slipped from my mind...

Hungary of course has no Thanksgiving, which means no Black Friday, no post-T-day Official Christmas Shopping Season. But they have a different tradition, which holds that the three Sundays leading up to x-mas are bronzvásárnap, ezüstvásárnap, és aranyvásárnap - Bronze Sunday, Silver Sunday, and Gold Sunday. Shops are open later, hell the fact that they're open at all on a Sunday is a miracle. In terms of the number of people out doing their x-mas shopping, these 3 weekends translate to insanity, super-insanity, and oh-jebus-save-me-jebus-insanity.

And yet I allowed myself to be dragged into it. Actually, it was surprisingly bearable; the only problem is we managed to spend three hours shopping, spend several thousand forint, collect bags and parcels from 5 or 6 stores... and yet only buy one present. The rest - all for us.

Anyway, the shopping adventure was nothing compared to the insanity of the afternoon. Tomi's dad bought a new stove, which turned out to be 5 centimeters shorter than the kitchen cabinets. So either the stove had to be made taller, or the cabinets made shorter. For some reason, he chose the latter. Tomi was understandably a bit pissed about having to dedicate an entire Saturday to helping with this foolish undertaking, but what could he do. Thanks to me, he's pretty well used to people doing stupid things with kitchen furniture (ahem) so maybe the idea of sawing 5 centimeters off the bottom of an entire row of kitchen cabinets seemed feasible. So over we went to help out; being a girl, I was assigned to cleaning. I left when The Men started waving power tools around. But, lo and behold, only 5 hours later Tomi arrived home with all his fingers still attached and a smile on his face - success!

Sweet. Next time I want to do some grand, well-thought-out but ridiculous-sounding project, I can bring this up...

By the way, new favorite Hungarian word: aránytévesztés "loss of one's sense of proportion." I love my dictionary.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

home "improvement"

I'm generally a girl of few hobbies, and most of them involve sitting - reading (sitting), watching movies (sitting), sewing/fabric art (mostly sitting). My most recent hobby, about one year old, is home improvement, which involves a bit more physical labor, or so you would assume. My version of it involves a lot of - wait for it - sitting, reading IKEA and Lakáskultúra magazine, checking design blogs, sighing wistfully.

I think Tomi hates this hobby. Mostly because when I do get motivated enough to get off my bum and actually improve something, improvements take one one of two forms: I got out and buy things (plants, throw pillows, kitchen gadgets, etc) OR I move furniture. Most of our furniture is giant and heavy. Him being an engineer and me being a girl means that I'm disallowed from moving furniture by myself (despite years of injuring neither myself, nor another person, nor any item of furniture while working alone...). He is methodical and gets bossy. I am spontaneous and get cranky. Good times.

So yesterday I decided that the kitchen needed some change. We have a relatively big kitchen, with a kitchen table, sink, fridge, stove - the basics. What it was lacking was any sort of storage or counter space. There was exactly one tiny square of counter between the sink and the stove, usually covered with dirty dishes, or clean drying dishes. The space beneath it is food - flour, spices, cans, potatoes, etc.

In the pantry was a nice big counter unit: shelves below, counter space, and a top section of more shelves above. I decided to drag it out of seclusion in the pantry and put it in the kitchen, where it could be more useful (also, freeing up space for the next improvement project, hiding away all the junk in the living room). Feeling very grown-up and ambitious, I requested that Tomi stay out of my hair and let me work alone. I think he only agreed because he'd just bought a new Mp4 and was immersed in playing with it.

Commence dragging. Sweaty, but successful. The lip of the pantry and the fact that I couldn't get behind it so I had to pull, not push, were the greatest problems, not to mention the nest of spiders I uncovered. But in a relatively short time I had the whole thing in place (and the spiders drowning in Raid). Then problems ensued: the unit couldn't sit flat, because there was a shiv under one side. So I pulled it out again, lifted, and tried to kick the shiv away. No dice, the stupid thing was nailed to the bottom. I asked Tomi if he had any wooden blocks (I wanted to use them to prop up one end so I could fiddle with the shiv and pull it off). He was fascinated with the new Mp4 and vacantly said no. Under normal circumstances he might have asked me what I needed them for, and disaster could have been avoided...

So, no wooden blocks. I used two firm books instead. This in itself was not a problem; it was actually quite successful, as I managed to yank the shiv away from the bottom of the counter, huge long rusty nails and all. Disaster occurred when I lifted the whole stupid thing off the books to set it right again, and... the top part, which had up to this moment been firmly attached to the bottom, suddenly freed itself and tipped over, face first. I caught it before it got too far, but the doors swung open, and ... I may have left a few things inside. Glass things. Glasses and mugs and things. Including several souvenir and memorabilia mugs. Everything ended on the floor with a horrific crash. Glass shards bounced everywhere.

Tomi came running. He took one look at the disaster zone, threw up his hands, and retreated back to the living room after ordering me to put on some shoes and clean up the mess. I nodded meekly.

But wait, there's more! In the process of cleaning, all I wanted to do was shove the counter back into it's corner so I could sweep unhindered. But the stupid thing was still up on the books. I kicked the books out - the counter stayed magically suspended. I looked down to see what the hell was holding it up and found half a broken shot glass. I jerked the counter down... and the top part completely disattached itself and nose-dived forward again. This time there was nothing left to spill out, so it contented itself by knocking the microwave off the fridge onto the floor.

Again there was the horrible glass-falling sound, this time accompanied by screaming, yelling, crying, and a bit of hysterical laughter (thank god our neighbor on that side is deaf). Tomi came running faster than I've ever seen him move. He helped me move the top cupboard off my arm and onto the floor in the hall, then prudently went outside "for a walk" while I swept up all the glass. He kindly asked me to try not to kill myself or damage anything else while he was out. I seriously considered trying to lift the top part up again (because I wanted everything nice when he came back) but in the end I waited. Mostly because if I had damaged myself or something else...

So he came back, we lifted the damn thing up, and I put everything to rights. And long story short: it looks quite good now, don't you think? No sign of the disaster of yesterday. But I do have to buy a new microwave. And I guess all of my home improvements will be of the buying kind from now on.

Epilogue: This whole episode happened on a Saturday night. Sunday, we inherited a new-used microwave. Monday, I discovered JYSK, which is like a Danish version of Ikea, and spent a lot of money. Everything back to normal ;)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful, non thankful, kinda thankful

Things I'm thankful for:

- Two days off work. This is the first time since I've been working in Hungary that I've taken the Thanksgiving days off, and it's been worth it.

- My awesome contact teacher, for insisting I take the two days off. She basically decided for me that I needed them... maybe I looked stressed? Maybe she felt guilty because it's her class that causes me 90% of my school-related headaches... anyway, love her.

- Having made a good start of x-mas shopping. Yes, laugh if you will, it's only November, but unlike last year when I mailed home my gift package in mid-December and paid $75 for it, this year I'll be sending thing early, regular post.

Things I would be thankful for, if only I had them:

- Hot water. That's right, it's that magical time of year again, when the weather gets cold and my hot water disappears. Here's hoping this year turns out to be a "2007 simple adjustment to the boiler" year and not a "2005 40 days without hot water" year.

- My exam results. Somehow, repeatedly checking the website while chanting, "It's Thanksgiving, dammit, I deserve my results!" seemed to have no effect.

Thing I'm mostly thankful for, because I mostly have, but could be more thankful for if I had more of: my health. I'm pretty well off, but at the moment I've got one of those just-barely-sick colds, the kind that are the most irritating because half my face is snotty and puffy and half is fine, and half of my throat hurts, and hurts just little enough to be soothed by hot drinks, but still enough to be irritating.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

pictures and plans as promised

I would start with a picture of all the snow we got, cough cough, but this morning when I went outside, the sun was shining so brightly off the still-green trees and little tufts of remaining grass and all the green plants and bushes that, well, maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, some Thanksgiving pictures. Jeb carving the turkey (breast):

Table full of deliciousness, complete with Christmas decorations:

Later in the evening, we went to Varga's tablóbál (formal dance thing, often translated as "prom" which is ridiculous because it has nothing in common with an American prom, other than dancing and music, which means you just as well might translate it as 'disco' or 'musical'). Anyway, here's my favorite class (ssh!) doing their grand finale:

And finally, one picture, kind of, of us dressed up in our formal clothes. I look really pissed off in this picture because I'd forgotten how the timer on my camera worked, and so Tomi's taking the picture at arm's length. Which is rather pointless, because we have loads of picture of our heads/faces already, and what I really wanted was a picture of our excellent spiffy-elegant clothes....

And, as promised, here you can find my grand Thanksgiving lesson plan. This is the first time I've tried embedding (is that the word?) files with blogger, so hopefully it'll work...

Friday, November 21, 2008

time, exam, techno

Random updates:

It was a long week. Longer than most. So long that if I look over my shoulder, I can't see Monday anymore. In fact, I can barely see this morning.

But. If the week went slowly, I realized today how fast the year is going. November 21st already, yikes. Every store is selling x-mas junk already - although, to be fair, in Hungary not only is there no Thanksgiving rule, but their holiday season starts December 6th with St Nick's Day. I have yet to do any shopping, other than one thing I bought for my brother back in May, and miraculously managed not to lose.

Still no exam results, despite me checking the website three times a day. Maybe if I checked it more, they would post the results sooner - you know, like pushing the button repeatedly really does make the elevator come faster...

Our directly-above-us neighbor has become enthralled with techno music. Sigh. Which means that a dull, throbbing beat now accompanies every conversation we have, every movie we watch, every book, every radio, every every every. Tomi suggested the neighbor is either high as a kite or working out all the time (maybe both??). I lost all hope when Jamie exclaimed, "Hey, that's the song they play at my aerobics class!"

Wow, and, as I was writing the above, the volume of the dull throbbing beat increased to a level that must have been near-deafening upstairs, because I could hear not only the beat but every single insipid word of the 'song'. Then after a minute, back to a normal volume, and just the beat. So... what was that? Was that a warning of some kind? "Stop posting about me, or it'll be full volume all the time"? I'm scared...

Supposedly it's going to snow this weekend. We'll see how that goes, pictures possible.

We're getting together for an early Thanksgiving tomorrow, pot-luck style, supposedly I'm in charge of stuffing, carrot cake, and potato salad. Repeat on seeing how that goes, repeat on the photographic evidence.

And finally, because as pestiside is always saying, it takes three to make a trend, this weekend'll be my seniors' "School Leaving Ball" - kinda like prom, but much more formal, and everyone is required to go. Petra, Tomi and I will be hurrying back from Thanksgiving, changing into our spiffy-nice elegant clothes, and watching the students dance and whatever. One last time, all together: we'll see how it... pictures... etc...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

college students

I haven't written much about the college class I'm teaching. It's.... hm. I wouldn't say it's going well, I wouldn't say it's going poorly, it's just.... going. Going on, and on.

My former Tower of Babel has dwindled to 6 students. Maybe 5 now, as I haven't seen one all this week. I'd describe them as follows, in no particular order of who I like the best:

1. speaks almost fluently, would prob'ly teach the class better than I do, and thus is completely bored in class, does no work
2. could speak medium-well-to-quite-well, but doesn't because too shy, great at grammar and repetition exercises
3. speaks medium well (good vocab, iffy grammar), but enthusiastic, wants to know everything, always asking why
4. seems to somehow speak quite well about some topics, but simply refuses to talk about others... don't know why
5. speaks poorly and never wants to, says everything in Hungarian instead
6. speaks medium well, I think... don't really know because also shy

Hm, writing the list actually made a couple things clear... namely, that many of them just don't want to speak, for on reason or another. That, along with the late hour, the fact that they'd rather be sleeping, I'd rather be sleeping, we have a crap textbook, and I don't plan well enough... well, let's say things are not stellar.

Actually, it's only been in this week (I've been teaching them since September) that I felt like I really related to them at all. It's funny, when I was doing my napló today (which, ahem, I should have been doing every day, but...) I realized that we've had almost 30 lessons together... that's the same amount of time I would spend with a high school class over an entire year.

Completely out of the blue, one of the students asked me today, "Didn't you take a Hungarian exam recently?" This fact I had not shared with them. It led to a flurry of questions and a breakdown of my resolve to speak only English. The girl later told me she had heard it from friends of hers who go to my high school Varga. Thus confirming my theory that in Szolnok, EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYONE.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Funny students

Language exam? No thanks, I'd rather not talk about it. Ask me again in a couple weeks when the official results are in...

Anyway, to keep both my loyal readers content until I'm ready to actually write something... another edition of Funny Things From Students.

about American politics: "She (Palin) doesn't have enough presidental XP."

about American history: "John Paul Jones was the nasal hero of the Revolutionary War."

about Jesse James, who fought with the Conferderacy: "He fought against the army for the consideration on Western Amerika."

about geography: the state of "Sassachusetts"

a smooth, un-flustered presentation:
presenter: "Jamaica is famous for it's rivers, it's reggae music, reggae museum..."
other student, in Hungarian: "And pot."
presenter, not missing a beat: "Yes, and for it's typical Jamaican atmosphere..."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

my one single, lonely, politics post

I'm so thoroughly sick of hearing about American politics that yesterday when Whineydefensive Máté asked "Why do we have to learn this stuff? It doesn't matter for us..." I would cheerfully have smacked him upside the head with our textbook and said, "Bam, head wound! Guess it matters for you now, huh?" But instead, I was the picture of restraint, laughed when the other students answered him, "We have to learn it because it's on the final exam," and patiently did my spiel about why I'm forcing American Civilization down their throats (we're a superpower, our decisions affect the world, blah blah blah).

Anyway, what did I want to write about? Right... so, sick of politics. Congrats, Mr. Peach, we all know you're going to win, sincere condolences about your grandma. Now, what caught my attention this morning: I was reading's Election Trivia (because trivia is way more interesting than actual facts) and this one really made me stop and think:

"This is the first election in 24 years without a Bush or a Clinton heading a major party's presidential ticket."

When I first read it, it struck me because, 24 years, that's almost my age! A Bush or Clinton has been in the White House for all of my life? Yup. Beginning with George H.W. as VP, and a straight line through today. Weird.

Ok, great political insights over. Return to normal life in 3... 2... 1...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Misadventures in Mail

story one: OTP

Grab a seat, it's a long story. Back at the beginning of October, an ATM ate my card. My reaction was protesting in shock to Petra and random-woman-standing-behind-me-at-ATM, and shedding some tears to Tomi. All three of who calmly informed me that probably my card had simply expired, and hadn't I gotten a new one in the mail?

Well, no. So Tomi and I headed to OTP (major bank of Hungary) to sort things out. This was visit one. They explained that for reasons beyond their control, the new cards had gone out slowly this year, and I should just wait. I noticed that on my statement, they had two addresses for me: my mailing address at my school, Varga, where OTP had been sending my monthly statements, and my residence address, Kolozsvári utca, which was my first flat in Hungary. Where I haven't lived for... um... 16 months. So we corrected that, and I was sent home to wait.

one. Lacking other options, we agreed, and went home to wait the two weeks it would take for the Visit two, about a week later I was in the bank again to wire money to Hajni (I know the exact date, it was October 14th, because the money was due the 15th). While there, we thought it prudent to mention that I still hadn't received my new card, and... wasn't it possible that it had been sent to my old incorrect address and my ex-landlady had simply thrown it out (I, ahem, sorry karma, may have thrown out some of her mail while I was living there, so Iwouldn't have had hard feelings if she had tossed it). OTP service lady admitted this was possible, and thought it best to cancel the new card they may-or-may-not-have already sent, and issue a newnew card. We were sent home to wait two weeks for newnew card to arrive.

So today. It's November, no newnew card in sight. I need access to my paycheck. So, once again, we trudge to OTP, visit three. We patiently inquire if there's any news about my card. Service lady looks surprised, and says it should have arrived a month ago. We explain that it didn't. She says hm. We explain about the non-arrival of new card, and the cancellation of new card, and the ordering of newnew card. She says that, according to her magical computer, newnew card was never order. Tomi has some biting words for the efficiency of OTP, and I sign a paper ordering a newnewnew card (or maybe it's just a newnew card, since newnew card was never ordered in the first place...?). Service lady tells us to come in two weeks and pick it up.

But here's the cap of the story: this evening, as I'm sneaking into my school to make illegal copies for the extra lessons I shouldn't be teaching, I check my postbox out of habit. And guess what's there? The original new card. Turns out my landlady's not a total bitch after all; as I can reconstruct from the post stamps, the card arrived as it should have at my old address, current tenant gave it to landlady, landlady took it to her home in village-near-Szolnok to ponder what to do with it, ended up mailing it to my old school, and old school somehow got it to my mailbox in Varga. But now, it's been canceled, so it's worthless. Although, I now have serious doubts about OTP's ability to perform simple functions like canceling a card, so maybe I'll give it a try anyway. What's the worst that can happen? It gets eaten and we start this whole thing again...

story two: ITK

As I may have mentioned to one or two people, I'm taking the Magyar mint idegen nyelv vizsga (Hungarian as a second language exam) this Saturday. I mailed in my registration papers to ITK (idegennyelvi továbbképzõ központ, center for foreign language studies) mid-October, and was anxiously awaiting a letter in return confirming the registration and telling me when and where to show up to be tested.

Sunday, as I was gazing blankly into space, avoiding doing whatever work I was avoiding doing at the time, my eye came to rest on my copy of the registration paperwork. "Oh $%^&!" I yelled, causing both myself and Tomi to jump in out chairs. Just at that moment, I had noticed that instead of XX utca 4, my actual address, I had written XX utca 6.

So this mail mishap was totally my own fault, but it did involve a couple of adventures, first over to number 6 to speak to the woman who lives there. She was very kind and helpful; she had opened the letter and was able to tell us that there wasn't much info on it other than the date and time. After asking around her block of flats, if anyone knew some foreigner named Emily, she asked the postman to take it back. An adventure to the Szolnok Main Post Office told us that by now, my letter was probably back in Pest.... I hope they don't cancel my registration. Funny that I haven't even taken the test yet, de máris elrontottam :(

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Transylvania, take # I-don't-even-know

Thanks for the prodding, Jem. Your comment about Erdély was actually right on target... On Sunday we arrived back in Hungary from the annual CETP Transylvania trip. This is the 5th (?) time I've gone there, including some Hajni-led trips and some others - namely, last summer's trip with Petra and Csomanok, which was laughably led by me.

The above two pictures are from this year, us after surviving the "one-hour hike" in Békás Canyon.

And, for nostalgia's sake, here's my "first generation" CETP family (missing are Janos and Chad, who were down with a case of Ceausescu's Revenge, although Janos is represented by that scarf Jeremy is rakishly sporting).

Friday, October 03, 2008

TMTA - Coffee

As much as I'm in love with the site Think Monday - Think ATC, I've never felt inspired to actually partake in one of their weekly challanges. Same with this week, but when I saw the topic I had to post this ATC, which I made over the summer. It was part of a series of 6, but this was my fave. Too bad the picture is wonky:

minutes, sick, card, Babel

- The Hungarian minutes are spreading! Spreading like a cold in a kindergarten, spreading like the Tisza will creep up to my doorstep this spring, spreading like a cold morning fog that sends it's chilly slimy fog-fingers up your pant legs and down the back of your jacket... The other half of the 13.A is now firmly enchanted with the idea; possibly they're taking it even more seriously than the first group (they actually stayed past the bell to harass me). And in a third class, the 12.A, I heard a couple of hopeful calls for "Hungarian minutes?" but I managed to glare the callers into silence. I think.

- I'm sick. It's just a cold, but the Hungarian side of me enjoys whining about it for sympathy, using it as an excuse not to do anything more than I have to, and drinking lots of tea. Well, drinking lots of coffee, at least.... it's all the same, right?? Anyway, I used being sick as a reason why we had to turn on our heat, so TinyLittleFlat is a bit more cozy now.

- I finally have my residence card. Yay to be working here legally! Next project, permanent settlement card.

- I'm teaching a tower of Babel. My new class at the Szolnok College is made up of a handful of Hungarians (including Serb-Hungarian, Slovak-Hungarian, Japanese-Hungarian), a handful of Chinese students, and two random Spanish. They range from semi-fluent to barely-able-to-count. Unfortunately, the semi-fluents are dropping out like flies or finding higher-level courses, and the beginners are sulky and whiny. It's going to be a fun semester...

Friday, September 19, 2008

I think I've been duped....

.... into speaking Hungarian.

It all started last year. In June, after a year of my adorable 12.A begging me to speak a single word of Hungarian (and giggling good-naturedly but uproariously whenever I gave in and did), I made them a foolish promise. I promised that in September, I would tell them about my summer in Hungarian. With sentences and everything! I didn't really think they'd understood what I was promising. I really didn't think they'd remember. But they did. Of course. Within 10 minutes of me walking in the door. Since they were so cute about it, I sucked it up and, at the end of class after the 5-minute-warning bell rang, I sputtered out a few sentences about my summer. They all giggled, politely but intensely, and left the classroom looking smug.

Week two, when the warning bell rang, they all looked at me expectantly and began chirping, "Emily! Hungarian minutes? Hungarian minutes?!" "Oh, no!" I said, "That was a one-time thing!" They looked so sulky and disappointed that I came up with a compromise: since their homework was learning a bunch of new vocabulary words, I promised to learn the same words in Hungarian.

Week three, I marched into class with my neatly-printed-out list of English-Hungarian vocab and waved it (perhaps a bit overdramatically) in their faces, proclaiming, "I did MY homework, now where's yours??" Suprisingly, most of them pulled out their papers. I secretly patted myself on the back, thinking I had just found a way to kill three birds: make them learn, learn some new vocab myself, and build rapport with them by letting them think they were forcing me to learn Hungarian, all while not actually having to SPEAK Hungarian to them. Yay, me!

But no. Once again, as soon as the 5-minute bell rang, they started packing up their materials. "Hey, hey, hey!" I chided. "What are you doing? Five minutes more!" "No," they said, completely soberly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "Hungarian minutes, Emily. Hungarian minutes." "Okay, class dismissed!" I said. "No," they repeated, sitting calmly in their seats with obviosuly no intentions of leaving.

So what could I do? I sputtered for a few minutes, looked at them blankly, until one cheeky student put forward a question about my weekend, which I was able to answer in one or two stumbling sentences. Again, they laughed, a couple clapped, and they all left with self-satisfied looks on their faces.

I wonder how long this game will hold their interest. Twenty-seven more weeks of class.... but only 3 more 'til fall break!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Off and running: so here we go on another year... my fourth year teaching, if you can believe that. I still remember walking into my first class at Kassai and having three puzzled 6th-graders not understand a word I said. This year is off to a better start.

My schedule's much the same as last year, the major change being that I'm no longer teaching at Kassai. This year'll be all Varga, 9th to 13 grades. In the C "bilingual" classes I teach all grades, mostly twice a week; in the other classes I teach seniors and juniors.

So far classes are falling into three categories:

1. The classes I hated disliked struggled with last year, I'm struggling with this year.
2. The classes I was meh with last year, I'm finding suprisingly fun this year.
3. The classes I didn't have last year, and are so-far-so-good this year.

But... we'll see how it goes. I'm off to get my lungs scanned.

(the anklet, mentioned in the post directly below, I lost today. Meh, easy come, easy go. Although this makes a disturbing trend along with the watch and necklace that broke last week...)

Friday, August 29, 2008

I (heart) Szolnok; I (grrrrr) packing

Thank god for Pest; my ever-growing dislike of it reminds me how much I adore Szolnok.

So I'm back, again. Been back 20 hours and spent most of them packing. I've got another 24 hours to finish up all the packing before the truck comes tomorrow morning, yikes.

Imagine this conversation:

Friend: hey, nice anklet, is it new?
Me: No, I just found it.
F: Found it, in a store?
M: No, I mean I found it while I was packing.
F: Hm.... (thoughtfully eyeing my disheveled appearance, incongruent with silver-and-fake-gem anklet) Emily. Are you wearing that just so that you don't have to pack it?
M: Maaaaaaaayyyyyybe.

This is what I've been reduced to.

ps. Blogger's spell-check does not recognize the word "incongruent". Wierd

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm back in Szolnok. Tomorrow I'm off to Pest for new teachers' orientation; back in 10 days. Ireland was interesting, fun, expensive, cold, rainy. Pictures to follow whenever I have any free time... so, think mid-September.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Up and Out

Update on the tartózkodósi engedély: We went out to the Immigration Office, waited a minimum few minutes, and got everything done. Of course it will required several more trips, more paperwork, more signatures and more stamps, but.... it's all on track. PLUS, the very very nice man who works in the office explained to me the whole process of getting my Permanent Residence card - that'll be an adventure for the fall.

Update on the new flat: Nuthin' new. Varga still doesn't have the contract finished, so we can't move. They don't know when it'll be done. I don't know when I'll be here in Szolnok. So, we're stagnating... but whatever, because I'm off to Dublin for the week! Back next week with pictures, adventures...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

the most wonderful time of the year...

... is the 11-months-plus-a-few-weeks when I don't have to deal with Hungarian bureaucracy.

Today I started the annual process of renewing my tartózkodási engedély (residence permit).

It involved forms (first the wrong one, later the correct one).
It involved phone calls.
It involved web searches.
It involved waiting.
It involved at least 8 people, precious few of who speak English at a level fluent enough for this kind of business (not that my Hungarian is anywhere close, ahem).
It involved paperwork, copies of paperwork, and copies of copies.
It involved whining.
It involved apologizing.
It involved begging.

And we didn't even make it to the Bevándolási Hivatal (Immigration Office) yet. That'll be tomorrow's task, if by some miracle all the paperwork comes together before then...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

3 New Things

1. new home

I did not sleep last night. It may have been stress-related. After getting in bed at about 8:30 and watching several hours of South Park, I got up again, walked around, read online. I got back in bed around 2. Fell asleep around 3. Dreamt about drug dealers and underage gang rape (that should get me some interesting hits from google). Woke up at 4:30, dozed off and on (mostly off, if that means the awake part) until 7:00 when Tomi's alarm went off. Yay.

We went to check out the new flat at 8. Well. It's.... not horrible. Actually, for one person it would be great; it's the problem of fitting in two people and all their junk and baggage that has me a bit stressed. Details about the new place to follow.

2. new passport parts

In the afternoon I ran (trained) up to Pest to get to the Embassy for more passport pages because that whole thing about no longer stamping passports within the EU? Not true. So my passport is completely full; in October when I last escaped and reentered this country the border guard almost gave herself (and me) a heart attack because she had to stamp on the next-to-last-page. So I finally got my act together (we're going to Dublin on Sunday and I don't want to be thrown in jail, ahem gaol...) and had an amazingly pleasant, punctual, efficient time at my embassy. God bless people who understand time-management.

2.5 bonus new thing: a re-newed disdain for the BKV - this ticket checking thing on the metros has gotten completely out of hand. As I was running to catch my train, I got stopped at the top of the escalator twice! within 10 meters. By men. on. the. same. team! BKVman#1 pulled me over at the very top (I can usually just slip by, but I guess today I had the American Embassy scent on me still) and started harassing me with questions: Where did you get on? How long ago was it? Where did you buy this ticket? I managed to answer to his satisfaction, which he indicated by ripping my ticket in half. I continued on my way until, at the end of the BKV gauntlet, BKVman#2 pulled me aside, saw my ripped-in-half ticket, and proceeded to throw a hissy fit about it. At a complete loss for words, understanding or time, I managed to blurt out "No, no! It was YOUR colleague who did it!" I may have actually stamped my foot in anger. Also, I totally used the informal "te" instead of the polite "maga" or "ön". In any case, he looked shocked and motioned me on.

3. new amcsik!

Some of the soon-to-be-CETP-ers found me on facebook, as well as this blog. The ones I've talked to seem like they'll be a normal-in-the-good-way, fun group. Welcome, newbies! Never fear, despite what I write here, it really is a lovely country.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Requiem for my house

I may have mentioned, in passing, to anyone I've ever met, as well as some people I've never net but read this blog, that we live in a house. An awesome house. Yes, okay, it has some problems, like the electricity has a tendency to short out unexpectedly (I learned how to work the fuse box) and the roof leaks a bit (only when it rains...) and the stove won't work if the oven is on (was only a problem at Thanksgiving). Oh, and it faces the prison. These minor things aside, the house has significantly more positive things going for it:

* It's big. Tomi estimated it at 120 square meters, which would be almost 1300 square feet. It has several rooms, which means they can have their guitar studio, I can have my space for private lessons, the upstairs is the private area... and the kitchen, oh the kitchen. Big enough for several people to cook, and several others to stand around talking.

* It has character. It's old, and obviously was built up in several stages. Architect Tomi and I have spent many an hour musing about the history of the house.

* It has no real neighbors (well, the prison...) so it's perfect for parties. Or guitar practice. Or whatever.

* It has all the furniture from both of the old flats. Which means bedspace for about 6 people comfortably, up to 10 if you're willing to get cozy.

* The stairwell has a railing which was perfect for displaying framed pictures.

* It's well-located. Other than being across from the prison, it's immediately behind my school, two minutes from a grocery store and five minutes from the center. Within spitting distance are a great little ABC, two good restaurants, and my 3 favorite bars.

* The hot water in the kitchen tap is close to boiling. Despite my warnings, many people have been scalded. But if you want a cup of coffee or tea... presto.

* The ceilings are tall... more than 3 meters downstairs, and 2.5 upstairs.

* The upstairs is basically one big room, but there's a strange/cute little alcove (Pista bácsi called it the "confessional") where I set up my desk and work space.

* And of course, the icing on the cake, the fact that I pay nothing for it. As per my contract, Varga (my school) pays everything.

Well. As of 10:30 this morning, Varga informed me that they're tired of paying the (understandably) high bills, and that they're moving me. Well, us. This month. Since we'll be gone most of the month, that means: this week.

We go to see the new place tomorrow at 8. I'm not optimistic.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

a typical Saturday

What do these three pictures have in common?

1. A baked spaghetti dinner (baked fusilli, technically)

2. Four guys and I (he he he) wandering around a forest

3. a table full of grafitti. Most of it crap, some of it brilliant...

ps. unfortch I don't have a picture, but we ate French ash-cheese. Cheese, with ash in it. It was awesome. It came from France.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Another weekend, another festival

This weekend, rather spur-of-the-moment, we headed of to Dunaújváros* for the EFOTT festival. Similar to last weekend, the plan was to go for one day (Saturday), catch the show, and come back the next day. Here the similarities end.

company - this weekend, I was the sole female (although not from lack of trying on some people's parts...) It was the familial (or do I mean familiar?) foursome: me, Tomi, Atti, Gabi.

transport - did not involve any yachts, but was nevertheless more varied. Trains of various qualities, bus, metro, taxi, foot... it all fell in. Actually, although long, the trip was uneventful, typical: drinking and carousing on the way down, sleeping and moaning on the way back.

festival itself - smaller for starts. While Balatonsound was mainly techno, EFOTT was mostly rock, and all Hungarian acts, not a single foreign group. So, a different atmosphere completely.
Fewer people in bathing suits and many more in black t-shirts and boots. The crowd was older by a few years. There was no giant lake, of course, and it felt less like a beach party and more like a... I don't know. It wasn't as laid-back, and altogether I preferred Balatonsound's atmosphere (although the music is a different story... see below).

language - I think I wrote about last weekend being too Hungarian-intense for me. This was better, despite the festival being, as I said before, an all-Hungarian event. While I don't want to claim to have been the only foreigner there... the only English I heard was among us. Although strangely, as our neighbors were de-tenting (?) early this morning, amidst a storm of Hungarian complaining one said the other in mournful-sounding English, "Please help me."

music - the heart of the festival. The reason for going Saturday night was, on the main stage back-to-back-to-back, 30Y .... Bëlga .... Tankcsapda. Too great to be missed. Well, we did miss a chunk of 30Y because we went wandering off, but what we heard was okay; they're not my favorite anyway. Tankcsapda, my fave, my love.... was a huge disappointment. People told me that they suck live, but my memories of seeing them at Sziget were good (if a bit hazy, ahem). The difference must have been that at Sziget, we were in a huge crowd a good ways back from the stage. In EFOTT, I was pressed right up against the front row fence, and could see all the nasty seedy details. The singer is a complete parody of "Aging Rock Band," complete with long bleach-blond hair, oh-so-carelessly windblown by the strategically placed fan. We watched half the concert up front before escaping further back.
Bëlga, on the other hand, were incredible. They put on a hell of a show - sang, rapped, danced around like idiots, and generally looked like they were just up there enjoying themselves. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and their show was the best I've been to.... um, I'll say ever. Although for reasons of scientific comparision, I'm going to have to check out some more of their concerts... for science, damn you!

So that was that. By the way, one thing that didn't miraculously change between this weekend and last was my dislike of camping. I don't know what we're doing next weekend, but if I have any say it'll involve real beds, showers, and food that isn't ridiculously over-priced.

*Funny, last weekend when we were trying an autópálya-free route home, we almost went through Dunaújváros. Apparently the city has some pull on us...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


the time: last weekend
the place: Balaton
the players: self, Tomi, mutual friend Tamás, his ex-girlfriend and my ex-student Vivi, and her friend Ági
the plan: drive down to Zamárdi on Friday and catch one day of Balatonsound. Spend Saturday somewhere else on the lake. Come home Sunday. A simple plan, open.

the highlights:

* Balatonsound was, well, meh. I'm not that into techno/trance/electric what-the-hell-ever anyway, so the music wasn't that interesting for me. Although Massive Attack put on a good visual show. The festival was "nagyon feelingos," lots of beer and junk food and bathing-suit-wearing people lying on the grass. Best parts were running into (literally) old friends, plus swimming. Both of which I could have done without paying the 7000 forint ticket. Oh well.

* The Hungarian-English ratio left me longing for American friends. I suppose I should have predicted it: me, who won't speak Hungarian in front of strangers; one friend who speaks English with me but not in front of others; other friend who speaks both but chooses Hungarian as the easier; one stranger who speaks perfect English and occasionally did; other stranger whose English approximates my Hungarian. So I was quiet a lot the whole weekend, which was peaceful but a bit isolated.

* On Friday, as we were discussing options for the next days, Tamás suggested sailing. We nodded ambiguously, mulling over the cost. Well. In typical fashion, it turned out that he had already made sailing plans. Namely, that his parents have a boat in Füred. So we spend Saturday and Sunday sailing, sunning, swimming around the lake. It was amazing! I've never been on a sail boat before... although to call it a sail boat somehow minimizes it, it was BIG.

* Getting home was ridiculous. We left Füred around 5. In normal traffic the trip would take, absolute maximum, 3 hours. But, being Sunday evening, everyone and their mother and their kitchen sink was driving back on the same two roads. Even the autópálya was bumper-to-bumper. We got home at 11:30.

* Altogether it was a great mini-vacation. Now I have to start thinking about the next one, which will be Dublin in August. Anyone who knows any must-sees, must-dos, etc, for Dublin, let me know!

Balaton pictures to come... tomorrow. This week. Some day. Maybe.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

ATCs part II

And a pic - this is my favorite ATC that I've made recently:


Just for kicks, and lack of better material, and the fact that there is absolutely NOTHING available online about ATCs in Hungarian, the following is an essay I wrote for my Hungarian class. Of course, this isn't the original version I wrote, but rather the corrected version. I know that it still reads a bit strange - while going over it, my patient tanár often proclaimed "helyes, csak.... csak nem magyaros." Which, coupled with her puzzled expression, could be translated as "grammatically correct, but no Hungarian would ever write this, and it's so bizarrely formed I don't even know how to fix it." Anyway:


Az egyik hobbim ATC-ket csinálni. Az "ATC" az "Artist Trading Card" rövidítése, amit úgy szoktak fordítani, hogy "mûvészkártya" vagy "mûvésznévjegy." Az ATC egy kis darab mû, amit bármilyen mûvész csinál a sájat stilusában, abból a célból hogy elcserélje mással. Csak két szabály van: a méret (2.5 x 3.5 inches, 64 x 89 mm), ugyanaz mint egy baseball kártya vagy egy játék-kártya. A másik szabály az, hogy a kártyákat nem adhatod el, csak elcserélheted. Ezeket kivéve, mindent szabad: bármilyen anyagból és bármilyen technikával csinálhatod.

A mai ATC-k, ha jól tudom, kb. 20 éve kezdõdtek Svájcban, egy svájci festõvel. De igazán sokkal hosszabb a története, mert éppen a középkorban csináltak mûvészek olyan kis kártyákat, például miniatûr portrékat. Mostanában, a legtöbb ATC-készítõk nem profi mûvészek, hanem bárki, akinek egy kis inspirációja és tehetsége van (persze, van olyan is, akinek nincs semmi tehetsége...).

Régebben ATC-ket csak személyesen cseréltek. De most létezik sok online csoport, meg weboldalak, stb, ahol találhatok csere listákat. Ezek a listák mindig ugyanazt tartalmazzák: a csere témája (mindenki csinál kártyát ezzel a témával; bármi lehet - kávé, Afrika, fekete és kék, állatok, "open" nyitott téma, stb.), a csere-rendezõ ("hostess") neve, címe, meg email-címe, hány kártyát kell csinálnom (általálban 3 és 9 között), és az idõpont, amikor a kártyáimat a rendezõnek el kell küldenem.

Ha érdekes cserét látok, emailezem a rendezõnek, hogy szeretnék a cseréhez csatlakozni. Utána megcsinálom az ATC-eimet és elküldöm a rendezõnek. A rendezõ megkapja mindenki kártyáit, osszekeveri, és visszaküld mindenkinek ugyanannyi új másfajta ATC-t, amiket mások csináltak.

Nekem ATC-ket csinálni a kedvenc hobbim, mert szeretem a kézimunkát, például a hîmzést meg az "art quilting"-t*, de nekem általálban nincs elég türelmem nagy projekthez. Egy kicsit packratos** vagyok, és annak örülök, hogy sokféle ATC-t gyûjthetek.

* ez lesz a követkézo esszém ;)
** (pack rat) gyûjtõ, gyûjtõgetõ

Friday, June 27, 2008

So, June...

As per my usual lazy updating, here's everything that's happened in June:

* School ended. It was less dramatic than the seniors leaving in May, since after all, I'll see 'em all again next year. It rained on the last day and the closing ceremony was held inside, broadcast over the intercom to each classroom. Overall, it was anticlimactic.

* I took part in my first-ever Érettségi (school-leaving exams). Wow. Just wow. I don't want to get started ranting about a system in which your final exam grades are based half on what you know and half on how kind your teacher is to you, so I'll just leave it at: wow.

* I started Hungarian lessons. I mean, for real this time. With an actual teacher, not a friend. It's bizarre - in a good way - how much Hungarian I realize I know when I'm forced to speak it twice a week. Then again, it's sad how little I know after three years here. Anyway, I have the vague idea that I'm going to take a magyar mint idegen nyelv exam in September. Or November...

* We went on a family road-trip. Tomi and family and I took a two-day trip across Hungary, packed into a small-ish, air-conditioning-less Volkswagen. The point of the trip was mainly to go to Sopron to see Tomi's 2nd graduation, the one to which families and all are invited, where they hand out the diplomas. Like all ceremonies in English and Hungarian, it was speech speech speech, clap clap clap, sit sit sit... so, boring. Although, this particular ceremony had it's own unique undercurrent of excitement, a story so unbelievably soap-opera-ish that I can hardly post it here (but buy me a beer and I'll regal you with all the gritty details).
Between the graduation and the endless driving, we also managed to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing in Sopron... pubs are sights, right? Plus, on the way back we took a detour down to Balaton and had the first swim of the year (cheap bathing suits and towels courtesy of Tesco). We got back pretty late on Wednesday night, but it was well worth it.

* I started ATC-making again. I would say, "pictures to come in the next post," but we all know that I won't post again for another month, so...

Sunday, June 01, 2008


This picture (this product itself, really) inspired me too much to settle on just one caption:

Look, Mom, I'm drinking apple juice!

(sip) "What is this? It tastes like crap."
"It's not crap, it's beer; can't you read?"

The Polish are well-known for their creative product naming.

I saw this in my local corner shop and couldn't beer not to buy it...
and so on.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Graduations and Congratulations all around!

'Tis the season, I guess. In today's better-late-than-never post, three graduations in which I'd like to think I had some influence (despite only being at one in person...)

First up, the seniors at Varga, after finishing the ceremony in the school courtyard, march out armed with mountains of flowers, and proceed to parade through the city, while the other classes make a cordon and hold back (mostly unsuccessfully) crowds of parents and well-wishers.

Secondly (chronologically), Tomi's university graduation in Sopron. They also parade through the streets, but instead of flowers they hold torches. Since the parade is in the evening, I'm sure this is much more impressive...

Third and finally, a parade-and-cordon-less graduation for which I don't yet have a photo... (ahem). Congrats to my little brother Sam on finishing Mac. Not as good a school as Beloit.... but still.

Gratulálok mindenkinek! Congrats to all!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Gun in my Classroom

It was March 14th, Friday, and the kids were just calming down after the midday assembly (honestly, who the hell decided that an assembly was needed in the middle of the day? Why not either beginning, or end? But no, it was smack dab between 5th and 6th lessons...). The assembly had consisted of the entire school gathering in the courtyard to listen to some supposedly-stirring-but-terribly-boring speeches and presentations about March 15th (a holiday in Hungary, commemorating another failed revolution).

So it was the 6th lesson, I'm trying to cram a full lesson into a shortened 30-minute period, and I look up to see 14 pairs of eyes on me, and two heads bent over something else in the back. "Boys," I say, not even remotely sternly. "What is that?"

Their heads come up, their hands as well, and in their hands, a gun.

I had a flash of instinct fear, my breath hissed in, but I managed to ask calmly (somewhat idiotically), "Is that a gun?"

"Uh-huh," was the unconcerned answer.

"Is it real?" my voice going up just a slight bit.

The student gave me a somewhat withering look, popped the gun open, and showed me... I don't know, I can't see across classrooms. He was either showing me an empty chamber, or that the gun was fake, or... I honestly don't know.

"Okay," I dismissed him, "Just put it away."

But the interesting thing is: the whole situation, after my initial instinctive fear, was oddly normal. I wouldn't have been at all surprised if it had been a real gun. I can easily imagine, especially since this was March 14th, that some history teacher asked a student to bring the gun in as part of a lesson. It was just such a glaring cultural difference... fake or real, this student would have been suspended or expelled from an American school. In the safety of my Hungarian school, I was barely fazed.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

All play and no work...

... is the result of my afternoon. The facts: Varga had a short day, so as of 11:30 I was finished with all official work, and the open afternoon stretched in front of me. Tomi and Petra are both out of town, so neither mischief nor shopping could distract me. Here was my grand chance, finally, to get ahead on lesson plans, clean the house, read for fun...

Well, I did do quite a bit of blog-reading. On hipteacher's blog, I found the link to blogthings, which also took up some time...

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

20% Yankee

15% Upper Midwestern

5% Dixie

0% Midwestern

What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Not sure how I got any dixie in me...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Teaching Nuggets

I’ve been reading teaching blogs. I’ve been spending weekends lesson-planning. I’ve become ever-so-slightly more organized. What have I become?
Anyway, some random teaching moments:

I completely lost the 11.C last week. Both classes, even the good half. I lost control and I lost any remaining respect. They had several tests in other subjects, and nothing I did coerced them away from their science/geography/math books back to English. I took books, they produced new ones. I confiscated notes, they borrowed from friends. It was an all out disaster. I’m used to there always being that one kids who refuses to pay attention, but this was overwhelming. The class just universally decided that I, and my lesson, wasn’t worth their attention.

One of the 12.C boys told me this week, in the midst of a long string of complaints, “This class is so boring. It’s worse than when Kevin was teaching us.” (“Kevin” was the American teacher before me, a warmhearted and funny man universally liked as a person but despised and looked down on as a teacher, by students, co-teachers, and administration alike.) After my initial shock, I wasn’t sure what to make of this comment. After spending a good long time thinking about it, in the end I brushed it off. Mostly, because it came from a lazy troublemaker of a student. But partially because I know that, although I have good days and bad days, I am NOT as bad as Kevin.

One last negative incident, this one bordering on seriously disturbing. Again, the troublemakers in question are two boys from the 12.C class mentioned above. Picture this: it’s the end of a lesson with another class. I’m wrapping up, going over answers, assigning homework, etc. The classroom door opens and Boy 1 comes in, ready for his next class. “Oops, you’re still in here,” he says innocently. I glare at him and he backs out. Then this repeats. He does it again, twice, in the five remaining minutes. Then he does it again the next week. And the next. I could almost accept this, and therefore ignore it, as him simply provoking me, but this week it took a new turn: Boy 2 got involved. His contribution was to pull his hat down to cover his face and pretend to sneak into the classroom holding his arm like a gun.

In American schools, I know, this would absolutely not fly. But here, I don’t know what to do. I think I’m stymied because I’m at such a loss to imagine what the hell he’s thinking. Masked gunman? Part of me thinks he’s a diabolical genius who’s playing me as the typical American with the all-enveloping irrational fear of a school-shooting. A bigger part of me thinks he’s just an ass. What to do?

Anyway... there’s my recent teaching life. No, I promise there have been some good moments as well, and I’ll post them as soon as I recover enough energy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Private Students

Apparently the one New Year’s Resolution that everyone and their mother made was to study English, because I’ve been inundated with new private students recently. At last count, it’s 14 lessons a week, which isn’t as terrible as it sounds, due to three things:

1. The piles of cash, in 1500 forint increments, I keep finding everywhere - in random pockets, on tables, in bags, stuffed into books... Even though a couple lessons I do for free, and some others are sketchy about paying on time, it still adds up to at least 15,000 a week. Sweet.

2. Most lessons take little or no prep time. In most cases, I take whatever book/materials we’re using, photocopy the next few pages, maybe find some supplementary activities, and I’m ready to go.

3. Unlike previous years, I actually like most of my private students (have you ever tried provoking conversation with someone with who you have nothing in common? It’s mind-numbing). Three of my favorites (since lists of three seem to be my thing today):

The Little Girl: 9 years old, third grade, incredibly basic English. Last time we worked on days of the week, of which she knew none. In addition to being adorable, she’s incredibly smart - I tell her a word twice, and it’s branded into her head forever. Plus, I like to think that it’s because of me that her accent is so good.

The Student: one of Varga’s students approached me for extra lessons, mainly to prepare for the language exam he’s taking in a few months. We meet twice a week and work on a variety of materials. I like him simply because he seems a lot like me at that age. I have some doubts about his ability to pass this exam, but - whether he does or not, after the exam I know our lessons will be over, and I’ll miss them.

The Mom: one of my newest students; she’s the mother of a Varga student who this year is studying abroad in, of all places, Minnesota. We meet three times a week, so it’s a good thing I love lessons with her so much (seriously, when I close the door behind her after a lesson, I usually have to do some sort of happy dance or sing my-god-i-love-her under my breath). Her English is very, very basic, but she’s incredibly, contagiously enthusiastic, not afraid of mistakes (she self-corrects a lot) and even after a short time I can see her improving.

And starting next week, I’m getting one or two new students... yikes. Well, it’s nice being busy...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

You Know You're Hungarian When...

A friend forwarded this to me, and I had to post it. Not only is it hilarious, but pretty accurate test of Hungarianism...

You Know You're Hungarian...

1. When you use sour cream more than ketchup.

2. When your parents come to visit for 3 weeks and you all stay in a one bedroom apartment.

3. When feeding your guests is your main priority even if they claim they're not hungry and in which case you get slightly offended/upset that they don't want your hospitality.

4. When someone says that Hungarian "is like Russian and all those other Slavic languages," and then you have to go into great detail about the origins of Hungarian with a scolding history lesson.

5. When Paprika is just as important as salt & pepper on the table & in food.

6. When you know what Unicum is and prefer it over Jagrmeister.

7. When you know how to open a bottle of wine with only a screw and a pair of pliers.

8. When you tell someone that you are Hungarian, they ask "Are you hungry?" Then you congratulate them on being the millionth person to say that to you.

9. When you've heard, "If you're hungry, why not go to Turkey?" at least once in your life.

10. When you have a relative who's named Attila. Or Jozsef. Or Janos. Or Laszlo.

11. When half of your mothers friends husbands have the name Jozsef.

12. When you know that the "goulash" you see in many restaurants has in actuality little/nothing to do with the gulyas leves we really eat.

13. When meeting another Hungarian in a country outside of Hungary is amazing.

14. When you know the meaning of "kurva" even if you don't know any other Hungarian word.

15. When you love Turó Rudi but cant really explain to foreigners what the hell that is untill they try it.

16. When your foreign friends ask you if you still believe that Santa Claus brings the presents on the night between December 24th-25th... then you answer somehow confused that Santa Claus brings the presents on the 6th of December and it is actually Little Jesus who brings the presents on Christmas, but the presents are already there on the 24th at 6PM.

17. When a pancake is extremely flat in your country and you roll it up instead of folding it.

18. When you know what TÚRÓ is.

19. When you know the phrase "three is the Hungarian truth".

20. When 7 is a bad number.

21. When you leave your house for longer than 2 hours, you make sure there's enough sandwiches, apples, bottled tap water, coffee in a thermos, and chocolate bars packed for everyone to survive (without spending a dime)!

22. When you do not speak with your mouth full.

23. When guys keep telling you that Hungarian girls are the cutest and prettiest and hope that you just believe it and they get laid.

24. When they wanna show off by saying that they know your capital: Bucharest and no, they are not joking!

25. When you go into a Chinese restaurant and order your Sechuan chicken with french fries, cucumber salad and ask for a few slices of bread as well.

26. When you have a funny accent in every other language you speak.

27. When you love Mákos Guba and you can't explain what MÁK is, neither GUBA to anyone.. and if you finallly can, everyone will think you're some kind of weirdo for eating that.

28. When you go into a Posta when every single old person in Budapest wants to, and they keep letting their mates into the line.

29. When catching a bus an old lady with lots of heavy bags runs by you and reaches the bus first, then sits down panting and complaining how old she is and how the stuff is heavy and young people are not well educated, etc.

30. When you start counting on your hand with one being the thumb.

31. When you can swear for 5 minutes straight, with one breath, not using the same word, ever.

32. When you know what 'lángos' is.

33. When you wish you would get 5 bucks everytime somebody says "I know a hungarian word... bazdmeg... *laugh*..."

34. When you can show off your engagement ring, worn on the opposite hand.

35. When you know why the bells of every church ring every day at noon.

36. When you have difficulty pronouncing words started with "W" in English, but you're capable of creating long and meaningful sentences using only "E" vowels in you mother tongue.

37. When you would rather stand up in a tram/trolley when there are plenty of seats available.

38. When you have more excuses for the kontrollers than you have tickets.

39. When the train hasn't even left the station, but you are already eating your home made sandwiches (usually with half a paprika or tomato in it).

40. When you tell everybody that Hungarian people always criticize everything.

41. When the home-made sandwiches on the train include Wienerschnitzel.

So I got 27 out of 41 (take that, Citizienship Board!), although I still have no idea about “three is the Hungarian truth...”

Friday, January 18, 2008

(Nem) beszélek magyarul

I play this game about speaking Hungarian. I play it with Hajni, Mariann, Caley, Petra.... etc. The rules of the game are like this: whenever they introduce me to someone new, it’s with the phrase, “This is Emily. She speaks Hungarian.” Variants include “This is Emily; she speaks fluent Hungarian” and “This is Emily. She’s American, but don’t worry, she speaks Hungarian.” Then it’s my turn, and I come back with something like, “Oh, no, not really.” Or, “Oh, no, just a little.” This meek protest inevitably leads to the new person assuming that I do speak fluently, and I end up speaking my broken, difficult Hungarian to people who speak English incredibly well. It’s a great game, really.

Anyway. I realized this week, that maybe I should stop protesting, because... I kinda do speak Hungarian. Bad, broken, sorely-in-need-of-practice Hungarian, but understandable and workable nonetheless. In the last week I’ve...

- brought back late library books, not pay a fine, and negotiate through the fact that my card was expired
- set up a new private lesson, on the phone (ON.... THE.... PHONE!)
- bought a pair of boots from a street dealer (actually, a “lobby dealer,” if such a thing exists)
- entertained, explained, and helped my students
- fielded various personal questions from colleagues - both my own and the Újszász crew

And somehow typed out it doesn’t seem like a long list. I guess I was joust proud to admit it to myself. So... early birthday present, pat on the back to me. Now... back to studying some more.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Values and Beliefs

With my 11th graders, I’m painfully working our* way through “A Discussion of American Beliefs and Values,” a somewhat dry interview with 4 American high-schoolers about what values are most important for them. I began yesterday with the first group.... awful. While they were half-lazing, half terrorizing each other, and no-percent working, I was doodling a cartoon of the word “ABYSMAL” in my grade book...

Today with the second group, I wasn’t expecting much better, but they they surprised me my working half-diligently almost the entire hour. Except one group, of course, who did half the exercises before rambling off-topic. More interesting than the worksheet to them was to make up bizarre, semi-thoughtful, “discussion questions.” The best two:

-What would you do if someone told you that you would die in one week?
-Would you rather kill yourself or kill another person? Does your answer change based on who the other person is?

It’s a great feeling of success for me, and I suspect for other teachers as well, when take something from class and expand it into their own lives in some way. Since these questions can, plausibly, be linked back to values and beliefs, I choose to believe that’s what the boys were doing. Not just slacking off...

*should it be “our way” or “my way”? “My way” sounds right, but isn’t the subject “I and the 11th graders,” therefore, “our way”? This sounds like a questions for Mrs. Chili’s Grammar Wednesday...

And speaking of slacking off... I’m off work for a week and off to Budapest to help train the new amcsik.... I mean, the new American CETP teachers.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I’m back! Resolution for this year: blog regularly. Regularly meaning once a week minimum. Once a week meaning with gaps of no more than 7 days.

Other resolutions involve all the customary things, like booze, money, health, housekeeping, work, self-improvement, etc.

On housekeeping: Do it better. Hell, just do it.

On work: I’ve been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with my lesson plans; if I can keep it up and improve just a bit I’d be satisfied.

On health: Actually, I’m not doing so badly, if only I could get rid of my “Santa/baby/belly”

On self-improvement: Learn Hungarian, learn many things, just keep learning in general. Be less selfish, think more about other people. Continue being lazy, but in a more functional way - for example, today I had no electricity upstairs. Instead of finding someone to fix this problem, I used to to justify doing no work all day.

On booze: The hardest one. Giving up drinking entirely is, let’s face it, not a viable option. But I have to find some limits, define them, stick to them.

On money: Payoff credit card or risk broken kneecaps. Begin paying student loans responsibly. Open a savings account here and establish credit; begin thinking about (gulp) retirement funds.

Well... there you go. Stay tuned; approximately 50-odd entries later, I’ll let you know how it goes.