Monday, May 25, 2009

New favorite English word

If I played Scrabble, I would be in heaven right now. I just discovered what "Jászság" is in English: Jazygia.

I have no idea how it's pronounced... which is a good thing, or else I'd go around shamelessly dropping it into conversation.

More info about Jazygia, which even Wikipedia refers to by it's Hungarian name, can be found here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Year-End Review

One of the things I love (and hate) about the end of the year is how unsubstantial it feels. I mean, since the seniors have left, I only have thirteen lessons a week. Of those, many will be canceled because of class trips and other events. Next week is our last full week of classes - both weeks in June actually contain 3 teaching days each. Because of the ongoing school-leaving exams, classrooms are always changing, which adds to the loose feeling. Of course, I enjoy the free time, and freedom, but it's a weird time - like I'm in limbo between school and summer. I think the students feel it too, and they've all started their slide into summer - this, combined with my lethargy, makes teaching the last few weeks a struggle for me.

It happened today that I had my second-to-last class with the 11.d. They're one of my "meh" classes - I only see them once a week, and up til today they didn't make too much of an impression. I certainly enjoy class with them, but... you know the type. They're not good, nor bad; English mediocre; sometimes studious, sometimes lazy; they did make me laugh pretty frequently, but generally I can say I never really paid them too much attention.

And after today I feel a bit guilty about this, because it turns out they've been paying attention all year! As part of the year-end review, I asked them what they remembered doing this year. They remembered everything - even things I'd forgotten. Not only did they remember the topics ("we talked about personality"), they remembered the content (i.e. the vocabulary we learned)! They were enthusiastic about reviewing - I had them work in groups* and each group wrote a mini-test about one of the topics, then quizzed each other. Best of all for my teachers heart, they gave me some feedback about the year. Okay, maybe it wasn't 100% honest feedback, because most of them said they liked everything we did, but the braver students volunteered a couple things they hated. Along with logical, precise reasons why they hated them.

So it was a happy surprise for me to discover, now at the very end of the year, that I really like this class (I'll have them again next year). And I guess it's a good lesson for me, at the end of the year, to remember that I should spend less time worrying and complaining about bad classes and more time enjoying the good ones.

* One group was cooperating less well than the others, and I almost died laughing when the girl turned to me, reached down into the depths of her English memory, and dramatically announced, "Emily! I can not work with them. The ghost... of cooperation... HAS DIED!"

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Tara's pictures of Ópusztaszer made me jealous, and finally prodded me into making a post out of mine.

So a couple of weeks (er, months) ago on a nice sunny Saturday, Tomi and I decided to take a mini roadtrip to Ópusztaszer. It began, as every Hungarian trip must, with the Making of the Sandwiches:

Followed about an hour later by the Eating of the Sandwiches. We stopped at a little turn-off and ate, frolicked in the fields, avoided the many dead animals nearby...

We took an unplanned tour of Csongrád, which was beautiful. I want to go back there sometime when I'm free to take pictures, instead of trying to read a map while speeding down a labyrinth of narrow one-way streets. Anyway, with no major mishaps we arrived:

Tomi took over the camera, and was very thorough in his photography. We now have an entire collection of pictures of wax Hungarian kings. Here's Béla the Fourth and his daughter Saint Margit:
One of the few pictures taken by me. Someday in my grown-up house, I'm going to have a corner cabinet like this one:
After exploring all that the Rotunda had to offer, we continued through the yurts*. They were filled with wood-related things which were utterly fascinating for Tomi and totally boring for me, so I sat a lot while he read everything. And took pictures of everything:

I also asked him to take this picture. It's populations of Hungarians over the world:

Finally we reached the village open-air museum. By this point we were getting hungry and tired - him from all that shutter-pushing and me from all that sitting, I guess. So we didn't actually go into any of the buildings...

Except for the mill, of course:

After the mill we had lunch, bought a couple postcards and such, and headed home. As I was looking at the map just now, I realized that we left out a lot of things - more than I originally thought. I think a second trip might be in order...

* I can't even tell you how much distress this word caused me - I couldn't remember if it was yurt or jurt or yert in English, so of course I wanted to look it up in the dictionary. I don't have an English dictionary at home. So I checked the Hungarian->English at the sztaki dictionary - nothing. I dug out my paper dictionary, and horror of horrors, it wasn't in it! Nor in any of the other Hungarian-English dictionaries I have. What the heck's up with that?

Kánikula conversation

One of my favorite words in Hungarian is kánikula. It means heatwave, so I like it for both the meaning and the sound, which is not very Hungarian.

A couple days ago I was talking with my contact teacher about the decidedly non-kánikula weather (despite the promises of the weather service, it was only medium-warm and pouring buckets) and I mentioned the word. My apparently odd pronunciation of the word made her smile and say, "каникулы." I looked puzzled and she explained, "In Russian we have the word kanikuly. It means the summer holidays."

I mulled over this bit of information for a while, then asked if one was derived from the other.

"Yes. Well, no. They both come from Latin. You know, 'canis,' it means dog."

"Ah ha!" You could probably see my lightbulb. "In English we say the dog days of summer."

"Because the dogs are, what do you call it, panting?"

"Erm, yeah."

Although I've since remembered that that's not true, it has nothing to do with dogs panting, but... that'll be a conversation for another day.

Wikipedia has quite an interesting, if somewhat questionable, article about Dog Days here. I especially love the uncited statistics like "The term "dog days of summer" also derives from the fact that in America 44% of all hot dogs are sold in the summer time." Hm...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Letelepedési Engedély part 1

I can only imagine that this will be a long series. I think I've also written a "part zero," about my previous failed attempts to start the process, but I can't find it to link to it.

Anyway. I'm trying to get my Hungarian Letelepedési Engedély, Permanent Residence Permit / Settlement Permit (not sure of the exact translation because I've never actually read anything about it in English). Not to go into overwhelming detail, but what I have now is a combination of three documents: my Tartózkodási Engedély, a type of residence permit which allows me to live here; a letter from the OM - Hungarian Department of Education - which allows me to work at Varga; and an official letter from Varga saying that they allow me to work in other capacities. All of these documents need to be renewed yearly, a painful process to say the least.

But "if I know it well" (there's my bit of Hunglish for the day), the Letelepedési has several advantages. One, and most importantly, it's good for five years. Two, it gives me all the same rights as a Hungarian citizen - namely, to live and work here without filling out ten thousand forms in duplicate with stamps on each page. I can even vote if I want to. Third, did I mention that it's good for five years? Plus, after five years, I only have to get it extended, not reapply totally. Once they give me official Permission to Settle, they can't take it back, no more than they can take away a Hungarian's citizenship.

But, while Hungarians have gotten their citizenship simply by the luck of being born here, I have to work for mine. First step, collecting all the documents I need, starting with that which will be the most difficult: Erkölcsi Bizonyítvány, "Certificate of Morality." Lovely translation, yes? Basically, it's a letter from the police saying I haven't committed any major crimes recently. Tomi was required to get one when he started working in the school, and said it was super simple: go to the post office, fill out a form, submit it, wait a couple weeks, and receive your certificate in the mail.

So, a couple weeks ago we went to the post office, got the form, and started filling it out. The first thing they asked for - very first, even before my name - was my ID number. Hungarian ID number. Back to the window, where we patiently explained the situation to the woman behind the bullet-proof glass (by "we explained" I mean Tomi explained and I did my best to look like a helpless-but-deserving-of-help American). She called her supervisor. Tomi explained again. Supervisor glanced at me and told him he was crazy, that only Hungarians could get such certificates. She recommended that I contact the American Fõrendõrség - "Head Police". Like, the FBI?

We went home, called around, found nothing useful. Having exhausted all other resources, I fell back on the Goddess of Information and my personal saviour, Hajni. Her calls to the Department of Immigration were much more successful (when we called, no one answered. Hajni knows private cell numbers). She told me how to fill the form - very simply, to cross out the slot for my non-existent Hungarian ID card number, and write in the number from my tartózkodási engedély (temp residence permit).

So finally today we went back to the post office to submit my carefully doctored Application for a Certificate of Morality. I feel that Fate or God (or Hajni?) was on our side, because instead of the usual cranky hags or bitchy nail-painting teenagers who work at the post office, we were served by the sweet, kind mother of one of my students, who I've known since my first year here. That must be a good sign, yes?

Anyway, that's in the works; we'll see what comes of it. Meanwhile, tomorrow I'm off to Pest to renew my passport. Exchanging Hungarian bureaucracy and red tape for American, as it were. Don't expect a positive report.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Pictures from graduation Saturday:

The ceremony was in the courtyard of the school, like every year. It started half an hour late, and it was ridiculously boring, mostly because the sound system wasn't working and no one could hear anything.

So instead of listening to the ceremony, everyone just talked with their neighbors. Here's Petra and Chad chatting it up.

When the boring, who-knows-what's-happening-now courtyard ceremony was finally over, the students all walked out with their classes. These are pictures of my favorite class, the 13.A.

Carrying their flowers and graduation bags, they left the school behind to start their walk through the city. Varga and the other 4 high schools in Szolnok (I mean the "secondary grammar schools" high schools, not the "technical schools" high schools) somehow concocted the idea that the 5 of them together should parade through the streets and all meet up at a center point.

Meanwhile, all the students from the lower grades, and all the teachers, hold hands and form a cordon to keep back parents and well-wishers, and allow the school-leavers to march down the streets unmolested. Holding hands in a chain while walking isn't as simple a job as you might think; look at that above picture, how the girls are being pulled along, and you'll understand why my hands and arms hurt for a couple days afterward.

Finally we reached the end of the line, and all the school-leavers stood together in a circle, counted down from ten... (environmentalists, turn away now...)

... and released their balloons to float away on the breeze. It was lovely, as always. But when it was finished, I still had to walk halfway across town in my heels and dress to another high school, to congratulate my little someday-brother-in-law Gabi, who was also graduating. Here's a very cranky picture of him and girlfriend:

With Szolnok's spectacular "water tower" in the background.

So that's it. The weird thing in Hungary is, they've graduated but they haven't left the school yet; in fact their major final exam (the "érettségi") has it's written part this week, and the oral exams are going on almost til the end of June. More on that later...

Friday, May 01, 2009

The best-laid plans...

Today we went out to celebrate May 1st. Knowing full well that tomorrow I have to be up early in the morning to go to the graduatation ceremonies (and, ahem, knowing second-hand how much it sucks if someone forces you to get trashed the night before your graduation) I was super careful about alcohol intake. Meaning, I drank little. Very little. I was so restrained and careful.

Unfortch, two half drunks make a drunk, and when someone said, "Hop on, I'll give you a piggy-back," I gamely hopped. And he fell. And I fell. And faceplanted. Somehow, we landed only on my face, not his. So now I'll go to graduation tomorrow completely sober, and not at all hungover, but looking like a battered wife. I would include pics, but just google Rihanna and you'll get the idea...