Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Very quick

Transylvania was awesome. Will write more later on everything. Now in Croatia, it's beautiful and warm. Major life changes, but am coping with them ok.

I miss all of you, and that I've been totally off the grid for a week and another to come. I hope you're all doing well. I'm seeing new things, filling the old eyes with new sights, and I couldn't be happier.

Promise an actual update at a more reasonable juncture.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I guess I actually live here.

I've paid rent (which slipped painfully from my finger tips, for sure). I've purchased and cooked food. I've bitched about the weather, gotten honked at (and threw the finger right back) and can order food without any real problems as long as I apolgize for my awkwardness ahead of time. I thought today how nice the weather is, and how I hope it stays, and then it just weirdly occurred to me for the first real time that I actually do live here. I'm not just visiting, or even studying. I live here.

Yesterday I was sad. I just felt homesick, overwhelmed, underappreciated, whatever. So I went to Margaret Island in my afternoon and laid in the grass. Just laid there, looked at the big fountain (by big I mean that it shoots water 50 feet in the air) that plays classical music, and smelled the grass. I listened to country music and pretended for thirty minutes that I was not in Budapest, but in some rural area, all alone. After awhile I felt better. I think that is the thing I like least about Hungary. Despite the fact that I often feel alone, I almost never actually AM alone. This can be a little bit frustrating, for sure, especially for a loner like myself. I've been trying to stay out a little bit more, to spend less time just laying in my bed. The result is that my shins are a little sore from two straight days of wandering the town but my psyche is much better. I enjoy listening to the crazy sounds of the crazy Hungarians, riding around on public transit, just people watching and looking out the window. Maybe not on my way to work, but it's otherwise very soothing.

Class is going quite well this week. Last night we in theory had parent-teacher conferences, which essentially boiled down to me chillaxing with Bálint in his fortress of solitude (what I privately refer to his small English room, where he spends most of his free time, as), which had no functioning lights due to the repairs that are effectively destroying my school's functionality so got progressively darker from five until six pm. He talked my ear off about Dexter's lab, the wallpapering project in his new flat (he's moving out of his parents'... Europeans are so different about how long they live at home), scootering, and gray markers. I talked his off about the exploding toilet (more on that later), riding public transit all day long, and how normal and happy the students are this year compared to last. It was nice to have a conversation of more than 10 sentences with a colleague that isn't Bill. Not that I don't love/depend far too much on Bill, because he is lovely. But.

Hungarian. It rolls along. As I said, I can order food. I can name a lot of things. I've pretty much gotten over myself and say "yesterday.... present tense whatever." The thing is that conversation must be limited to just a few topics or I stall out, sputter, become red in the face in the way that I do, and then they take pity on me and switch to English. I think that this is perhaps karmic payback for how often I was frustrated last year that nobody in the program spoke Spanish. Damn.

So, now onto the exploding toilet. I have figured out that it is impossible for me to have a normal weekend here in Hungary. I've become nocturnal in Debrecen, almost killed a dear friend in Szeged, gotten drunk in Etyek then surrounded by a group of oversexed Hungarian friends, attended a wine festival in a castle then marched for hours through the dark streets of Pest to show up at an empty bar, stumbled into a screaming metal concert in a pop bar with a Spanish speaking Spaniard and a Spanish speaking Hungarian, and countless other small weird occurences. Every weekend.

This weekend, however, is the winner. First, I head to Jake and Ellen's for Friday night festivities, intending a quiet night in. We play Kings. With wine. Jake goes to use the toilet, flushes it, and the tank essentially explodes. Gallons of water, literally, pour from the tank at head level. In one short hour, I am soaked, have literally run through the building seeking the groundskeeper, gotten told off by a plumber on the phone, gotten sworn at by an elderly neighbor when I asked him in the informal "you" if he would please not call the police because we clearly didn't want the toilet to be exploding, cried, witnessed an old woman wielding a gigantic wrench, kissed the groundskeeper when he finally arrived, and then just changed my clothes nonchalantly in front of the whole group of drunken, soaked friends (don't worry mom, all girls except Jake, and he likes boys).

Wake up Saturday morning smelly and wanting to die. Get McDonalds breakfast. Lovely. Go home to change and then it's off to the bus station to head to Heves for Brigi's name day. Get there, and tramp off to a bonfire which winds up being populated by evangelical American Christians. Take the Lord's name in vain a few times on accident. Hang out two hours after the fire ends, again waiting for the groundskeeper, and eat pizza in the park. Then take Brigi out to all three bars in Heves, come home, watch MTV, crash out. Sounds normal, but it was a weird day.

Wake up. More tv. I miss tv a depressingly large amount. Drink some champagne, then catch the bus home. Get off in Ors Vezer ter and decide to just get gyros for dinner. I ask for them in Hungarian, and the woman "knows I can speak Spanish because of how I speak Hungarian." Chat with the lovely Cuban lady.

This weekend I have to teach on Saturday, because Hungary is weird like that. I hope the streak of weirdness ends, because if this sort of randomness goes down at school I don't know if I'll be able to handle it!

I miss you guys. Hope you're all doing well... I would love to hear more about your lives, so if you have a moment, do send an email.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ok, so life is better now

The start of this week was AWFUL. It was just weirdly bad, a few days in a row where everything that could go wrong did, and the days just drug on by. Ugh. Thankfully, today went pretty smoothly. I had my first "K" lesson, god help me that I can never remember the word, which is basically tutoring with the kids in class who are having the most issues. Today was second grade. So I pulled three kids from each of the second grade class who are having the most troubles with their spelling, and just did matching and some writing exercises with them. I'm trying really hard to introduce some basic English phonetics to the kiddies. They sound out all the words perfectly.... but following Hungarian rules. Which is awesome for me, cause my Hungarian phonetics are now pretty much awesome. For them though... not so good! So I'm constantly underlining things like "ch" and going "ch ch ch ch ch" at them. They look at me like I'm crazy. Oh well.

Tonight I'm hosting a dinner party. I made yolk aioli last night, and I'm making Hungarian paella today. This basically means paella with Hungarian ingredients... I don't have salchichones, but I do have Gyulai kolbasz! Whoo. I'm glad for the opportunity to be social. I'm so unsocial during the week that it's a little troubling.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Today Lauren stood up for herself

So I have felt a lot in the past week like I was getting a lot of... not attitude, because I'm talking about adults, not children, but really... attitude from the folks around me. I know that it must be super annoying a lot of the time to deal with the American who's still wet behind the ears, who doesn't know any of the rules/traditions/cultural quirks that rule a Hungarian school, and who, most of all, doesn't speak Hungarian. I know.

However. However. I am trying... really hard! I go to Hungarian lessons. I try to be everywhere I need to be, early and fully prepared. And I ask a lot of questions. Which is usually when I get the "attitude." I know I'm the only person who needs this explained. I'm also the only person who has lived in the country for less than 3 years (and I've been here seven weeks!) who works at the school, so explain it to me already!

Now, today, one of the parents apparently approached one of the other teachers and explained that her daughter was very upset because she didn't get a sticker three weeks ago. Because she didn't do her work. He asked me what was up with that. I said that the whole class was being ridiculous, either talking, out of their seat, drawing pictures, reading books in Hungarian, whatever. I remember this day very clearly because I'm talking about 2C here, and they're usually my best-behaved class. So. The response was that the girl didn't understand, so to make sure I have someone translate for me. I explained that it wasn't a big deal! It's a sticker we're talking about here. And the girl was goofing off and that's why she didn't understand. He repeated that I should have one of the students translate.

I was spitting mad. Luckily the next lesson was a planning period. Unluckily, I sat there and stewed. So I took a walk. And thought about how many times I have been frustrated about the fact that it is somehow my fault that I don't speak fluent Hungarian seven weeks after arriving in the country.

Then I marched back into the teachers' lounge. I showed my notebook where I comment on each lesson, that detailed the students' bad behavior that day. Then I stated, very calmly, "If she didn't understand, it's because she wasn't paying attention. I worry that if we are too quick to say 'oh, she or he didn't understand' that it will become an excuse. I already have enough trouble disciplining the students. I need you to understand, and to express to the parent, that everything was made perfectly clear to the students who were paying attention, who have a wide range of skill levels, and that if she had been paying attention to the lesson she would have understood as well."

My dear teaching partner blinked, then said "ok." And in the next lesson, requested that the students gather their notebooks and line up at the door... in English.

I feel vindicated. And adult.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Ok, so blogging spree

Lauren is being a lazy f*** and spending her Friday afternoon goofing off and laying around. And online she finds the school's website, and decides to actually peruse it now that she can somewhat read it. And finds photos!


Some of these are my students! In the uniforms are (first row, left) Csongor, (1st, second from left) Petey, (1st, fourth from left) Franc, (2nd row, third from right) the infamous Bach Bortond, and (2nd, right) Gergely. These are some of my second grade boys. Various other students can be seen showing their support. The man in the tan shirt is one of the gym teachers (not the lovely kind one that Balint always argues about stupid English language stuff with), who scares me a little bit. Mostly because he stares you intimidatingly in the eyes when saying the requisite szia.

And here is the school from the front.


And here is Bortond, whom I have to yell "Bortond! Oy!" at fourteen + times per class because the kid is deep, deep within his own world at all times. I once said "I had a lot of problems with Bortond today." The response was, "Bortond is a problem." Ouch. He's a funny kid.


These ladies are my bosses.


This is Heni. Apparently Heni loves me because all of my things (and my hair) are "beautiful." She also has the best penmanship of 2C. And is super sweet.

Continuing my perusal through the photos, apparently there was some sort of overnight trip last year that also involved a pajama dance part-ay. Not joking. Anyways... here are some of my students on a ferry. These are 2C kids. The boy on the left whose face you can see is Erik, the one with the American dad.


Oh my God why was there a weasel?!


I'm not sure what's going on here. I'm not sure I want to know. The little blonde boy with the terrified look on his face is Mate though! He's totally my favorite. Once I asked the whole class if they wanted to play memory or learn a song; I asked them to raise their hands to vote. When I asked for song, only poor poor Mate raised his hand. He then looked around him, saw he was alone, and slowly lowered his hand. He also sits with his hands clasped in front of him during lessons. Super cute.


My teaching partners! First, the kind and soft-spoken Edit, with whom I share 1B.


Second, the very entertaining and always exasperated (and also, I think, pretty nice) Bálint, whom I'm sure I annoy, and with whom I share 1C, 2B, and 2C. He's in the orange, the man with the killer 'stache giving the eyebrows to the camera is... administration? I think?


Jasmin the groper! (Seriously, I have to protect myself from her hands.) She's in the over-alls. I'm pretty sure they're singing the famous "Don't play in the street!" song in this picture.


Fekete Felix, one of my cutest first graders. Unfortunately, he is always pretending to smoke his pretzel sticks. :/


On the left is Agi, my contact teacher. She's the main one in making sure nothing too bad happens to me. And gets to take me to government offices and the like.



Weird cultural difference

Szia, giant commie statue! Hogy vagy?
Me? Well, I'm a bit confused!

So in Hungary it's apparently super important to say, quite loudly, hello to everyone whenever you enter or leave the teachers' room. This is a little bit annoying because you then have to respond. So in a planning period I will say szia 5-10 times. And god forbid I have to go to the restroom. I stand up, declare sziasztok in order to leave, and then declare it again three minutes later upon my return, forcing everyone else to say szia twice in the process. The ten minutes before first lesson, as everyone comes in and then leaves for class, is completely ridiculous. You can't even converse. "So -szia- how was your -szia- night?" "Oh good. -Szia.- I watched -szia- -szia- a movie with friends." It's awkward.

For those of you who don't know, Hungarians use the same word for hello and goodbye, szia. Sziasztok in the plural. It's like aloha. Since they also have started using hello as well, they will also say hello to say goodbye. And cute things like "very hello!" as a greeting. Love.

At the same time, nobody wishes each other a nice weekend! Around my last lesson on Friday, I start with the well-wishing. "Have a nice weekend!" I smile and state. They look at me strangely. "Yes." WHAT IS THIS? You have to say hello and goodbye every ten seconds, but wishing people a nice weekend is weird. Huh.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I think I may be omnipotent

Before every Hungarian lesson, I have written down something I have hoped to cover in my little notebook. And in every lesson, that is what we have learned about, without anyone (or myself) requesting that this be so.

Yesterday Agi asked me, on the way to our monumental day of government agencies, how I liked the school. I said "It's really nice. Nobody really talks to me though. I wish they would." Today, literally everyone spoke to me. In Hungarian. I'm pretty sure that the porter invited me horse back riding. This came to pass because she showed me a photo of her daughter horse riding. I said "Me. Little." and pointed at the photo to convey that I had ridden when young. She then invited me. I think.

Just now, as I am writing this blog, my neighbor Kisz Istvan, who awkwardly spoke to me for 20 minutes as I looked words up in my phrasebook this afternoon, rang the doorbell. Lyla and I, with the help of the dictionary, figured out somewhat what he was saying. The three words we got were "toilet," "every (or everything)," and "ready." Via body language, we figured out that he wanted us to flush the toilet. We did, then he mimed as if the water were flowing/flooding/dear god what is going on. Then he smiled and went on his way. This man also thinks Lyla is pretty. He, like everyone else in the building except for Lyla and myself, is over retirement age.

Back to my omnipotence. This week I wished aloud that I would have a chance to do some real teaching without being carried around in my colleague's handbags, figuratively speaking. Today Edit was out sick and I had to teach 1B by myself. 26 first graders that don't speak English. Luckily the only casualty was when Thom stuck Balint's good scissors into a giant glue stick and then used that to bludgeon Alex. Alex deserved it, but still. The good scissors! This resulted in a guttural, wordless scream coming from my mouth. Thom attempted to escape out of the room, but I caught him three steps from the door, and drug his wiggly, kicking first grade body back into the class angrily stating "Nem jol! Nem jol!" "Not good! Not good!"

I hoped for fruit this week. Today, I stepped off the tram and saw purple apples. Purple. They bewitched me so I brought some home.

I was thinking how much I missed my dogs and a stray one trotted up to me and sat down, looking up into my face for a pet.

Fear me.

Other random observations:

sztreccs <--- this is how Hungarians have co-opted the word "stretch." This makes me giggle.

I learned from Vivvi's blog that Hungarians believe that if a woman gets cold feet, or a cold bum, she will have gynecological problems such as a "uterus cold."

Alfonso visited this weekend. It was very nice. We did all the touristy stuff. Memorial park (where they put all the old commie statues) pretty much summed up how I feel about Hungary: confused, a little nervous, entertained, out of place, and so much bigger than myself. Then the baths reminded me that it's a balm for my aches.

I f-ing hate living someplace and not speaking the language. Gah. I want to know it all yesterday.