Friday, June 12, 2009

Closing Ceremony

Well, I was wrong. Our school closing ceremony wasn't one hour of standing around all dressed up listening to boring speeches. It was only 35 minutes!

It followed the same format as every single other ceremony: the Himnusz, a poem, speeches, singing, the second Himnusz (I don't know what it's actually called, it's just some other important song at the end of every ceremony). Today's poem was something by Juhász Gyula containing a lot of "oh, na"s in it, read by a girl with the most unenthusiastic voice. The speech, thankfully just one, was delivered by the principal. It was long. Twenty minutes. Singing followed; this was relatively interesting, but also long. Did I mention that we were all standing? The girls mostly in heels, and the boys many in suits.

Meanwhile the kids fidgeted and chatted, and the teachers fidgeted and chatted and hissed at the kids to be quiet and stand still. We had all gotten flowers, and one teacher used his to whack kids on the shoulder until it broke. As usual, several girls fainted or got dizzy, and were laid out on benches and brought water. Two girls in front of me taught a third how to play thumb wars until they were shoulder-swatted. Clouds moved over the sun, cardigans were put on; clouds moved away, cardigans were removed and sunglasses came out.

Eventually it ended. The students went to their classrooms to collect their report cards, then go home - they're free for the summer. The teachers picked up their things from the teachers room and left with cheerful goodbyes. Seven-thirty Monday morning, we'll all be back for the oral érettségi exams.

The magic of pipes

A weird phenomenon I've noticed in Hungarian flats (possibly universal; I've never lived in a flat in another country): the bathroom pipes' ability to transmit sound. It makes using the toilet an entertaining experience - you can eavesdrop on conversations in other flats, converse with your neighbors, or listen to what's happening on the street outside. All with crystal clear sound quality!

I mention this because a few minutes ago a rather odd noise started. From where I'm sitting at my desk, it's a not-so-dull roar; when I went into the bathroom to investigate, I was unable to decide which of the following activities my upstairs neighbor was currently engaged in:

- mowing the lawn inside his flat
- drilling through blocks of concrete with a drill bit the size of my arm
- using some combination of vacuum and megaphone
- tuning up his tractor
- using a rock tumbler (remember those??) the size of a small car

Oh well, still less annoying than techno neighbor who used to live there.

Sports Day

Yesterday was our school's Sports Day. Before I get into details, please pause to allow a brief rant: I don't know who the genius was who decided how to fill our last week of school, but... let's just say, they screwed up. Not a little, a lot. Wednesday was our last day of classes. Thursday was sports day - all the students were required to be there, attendance was taken; several key teachers were missing from the day, however. And today we have out closing ceremony. At 2:00. With nothing before nor after it. So basically, we all have to get all dressed up for one pointless hour (hopefully not more) of boring speeches and farewells. Especially fantastic for the students who don't live in Szolnok. Great plan, really. End rant.

Anyway, sports day was yesterday. It was held out at Millér, a szabadidõpark (~free time park) outside of Szolnok. In groups we walked/ran/biked out. Several lucky people also went by car. It took them 5 minutes. Walking, it took us 45. When we arrived, I made a point of showing myself to the gym teachers. (So, a bit of backstory: the whole event was coordinated by the P.E. department. Originally, I had been planning on skipping the whole thing too, but earlier this week one of them burst into the teachers room and starting ranting about how none of the other teachers were taking sports day seriously, they might as well cancel the whole thing, why is it that one department can never support the other, blah blah blah. At the time there were only three other teachers in the room, and her eyes raked over us all, effectively wilting my ambitions to skip. I did have a couple nasty thoughts about how, when the English department gave it's series of six open lessons, I hadn't seen any of the gym teachers there, but... whatever.)

After establishing my presence, I went to sit with 9.c. Like each class, they were building up a fire and preparing to cook. I helped a bit peeling potatoes, but mostly just sat around, nibbled, chatted in English and Hungarian and Hunglish, tried to take pictures (no batteries), and didn't do any sports at all. Students were coming and going, running off to participate in various competitions, borrowing knives and salt, trying to sample each other's food, sneaking off to go smoke, chatting, laughing, and having a good time. In the end, I'm glad I didn't skip (still bitter about the departments helping departments thing, though).

I left a bit early from the park to come back into town and go, again, to the Immigration Office. Long story short, I still don't have the right tax papers, and next week I will be making a trip to the wonderful APEH - basically the Hungarian IRS. So, yeah... more on that later.

Friday, June 05, 2009

More Surreal End of Days

The hazy, lazy, end of the school year continues. My week was like this:

Monday, no school due to Pünkösd (Pentecost). Also, nothing was open, so we drove two towns over to a restaurant for lunch.

Tuesday, no real classes but the school was open for the seniors to come in and view the results of their written school-leaving exams. I helped my contact teacher Ili show the English tests to her class. In the afternoon, I met Tomi and we went to get me check-uped - the first time I've been to a real doctor in Hungary. Interesting experience - everything about it confirmed my previous suspicions about the Hungarian health care system: it's easy, it's cheap, it's (outside of Pest) monolingual, and it's top-notch. Also, it's old-fashioned (she told me I needed to wear slippers to keep my feet warm, even in the summer), and like everything in small-town Hungary it's privacy-less (she knew that I live in a ground-floor flat because she's friends with my landlady).

Wednesday was the only regular day of the week. Other than walking into my first lesson to find the students standing around in a completely furniture-free classroom, everything was normal.

Thursday was stressy. The whole day I spent alternating between rushing and waiting, rushing and waiting. I went into the school early to finish writing a test, all the computers were full so I waited, got the computer which wasn't compatible with my pen drive, waited some more, tried to write the test as quickly as I could, and all the while Rózsa was trying to tell me about the trip to England plans and Petra and I were trying to put together a program for an after-school program (which I ended up not being able to attend anyway). In between classes I was running, photocopying, answering endless student questions. Classes themselves were an enforced standstill - the students were taking the test, so all I could do was sit silently.

After school I ran home, ate, and ran over to my favorite place in the whole county, the Bevándorlási Hivatal (Immigration Office). There were four people in front of me; I waited in line for almost two hours. Finally I got into the office, waited some more, and turned in all the paperwork to extend my Tartózkodási Engedély (residence permit). Well, almost all the paperwork - of course, I was missing one paper. So I have to go again next week. Grrr. On the other hand, the guy working in the office was wonderfully helpful, and also gave me a bunch more information about getting my Letelepedési Engedély (permanent residence / settlement permit, that magic document that will allow me to do this mass of paperwork only once every five years). So that'll be a project for the summer...

Finally, today, Friday. Normally I would have a very simple day: 4th period with the adorable and wonderful 11.D, and 6th lesson with the slightly-less-adorable but still tolerable 11.C. What actually happened today: I went in for the 2nd lesson to observe a class. In the 3rd lesson I had to substitute another teacher. In the 4th lesson I was free because the 11.D are on a class trip (miraculously, I had known this beforehand). In the 5th lesson I observed another class. And after the 5th, the rest of the lessons had been cancelled for a special program. This I had NOT known in advance, and I was planning to give the 11.C their end-of-the-year test. So it all fell though. But at least I'm at home now, and looking forward to a very calm weekend. I need to save up my strength for next week.