Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I would just like to say: Make some noise!

Or the penguin will eat your soul.

I love hockey. I love any sort of sport live, actually. The energy of the crowd, singing along with the old familiar sports chants, soft pretzels and beer, and a night out all combine to make a happy Lauren.

I'm having a very nice time at home. On Saturday I was lucky enough to see all of the sigma epsilon chi girls in Williamsport for a night of debauchery and fun. I miss them a lot, but I have to say that every time we get together it's like we haven't been apart. We fall back into our own patterns, every one of us with such a different and complementary personality. I'm so lucky to have all these girls in my life, in whatever limited capacity due to my tendency to move very far away, but in a very real way nevertheless.

My mind keeps wandering and I must admit that I am somewhat surprised as to where. I must admit that it's sort of strange to be at home, to be hearing English, and to not be at work surrounded by my babies and my kids. I keep trying to say boch to strangers who bump into me and constantly say kosz to my family, much to the irritation of the weasel.

I guess that I've adjusted a little bit too well to my life in Hungary, as I keep being somewhat amazed at just how impossibly easy my life is here in America, between cars, clothes dryers, reliable internet, and being able to freaking communicate with everyone around me without any difficulties whatsoever. Not that I'm complaining, and not that I don't already miss these things. They just sort of strike me as strange and different now. I wonder if I'll be able to just be blissfully unaware of the remarkableness of American-ness again. I know I'm a very adaptable critter and would adapt back to all this being "normal" again just fine. But right now, it simply isn't for me, and it's quite fascinating to watch it all.

But since Hungary isn't "normal" for me either... where does that leave me? And is this a blessing or a curse? I guess my life will show me the answers, and I look forward to finding them, and even moreso to the adventures I'll have on my surely awkward, stumbling, and amazing way to them. I feel flush heading into 2009. 2008 was a sort of strange and unhappy year for me. I think... no, I feel... that 2009 has some incredible things in store for me. And I'm ready to greet them all with my big smile and an open heart.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope that Santa brought all of you what you wanted, that you are surrounded by people who love you, that you are full of yummy foods (but not too full!), that you're staring out a window at the landscape you hoped to see, and mostly that you all recognize the amazing and beautiful people that you are.

I love you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh, beautiful

I am in America, and this makes me happy in many ways. For one, everyone is smiling at me and nobody looks at me like I'm a crazy person when I make eye contact and naturally smile at strangers. For another, I can understand the conversations around me. For yet another, I have now ridden in cars and sang along with the radio on multiple occasions in the past two days! Another: I did laundry and then dried the clothes in 30 minutes thanks to the magic of a clothes drying machine! Another: a giant refrigerator. Another: cheap bookstores! And most importantly of all: family, and friends, and dogs.

I can't stop chattering on about Hungary, of course.

I saw my big today for the first time since her wedding in the summer of 2007. She's pregnant... she'll be a mom in April. This is bizarre and a bit terrifying for me.

I have also come to the sad, yet happy, realization that no man will ever, ever love me as much as my mother does. I get home, and she stays up late with me, then the next morning runs me a bath, gives me a book (in Spanish!), and some of my favorite cava, then takes me to a lovely spa day. This spa day was paid for by my very generous father, so I guess no body will ever love me as much as my parents do. Lucky lucky me. :)

Now off to attempt to cook gulyasleves for Rocco.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas spirit

Today my children totally picked me out of my deep blue (or should it be red and green?) funk by being just the most adorable things ever at their Christmas party. They danced, sang, gave me an obscene amount of hugs, and gifted me an obscene amount of chocolates. And bless my colleagues as well. I may have accidentally kissed the 1C ostályfönök on the lips when I went for a hug and she went for the two kisses, but otherwise all the kissing, gifting, and "Boldog Karácsonyt"-ing thoroughly warmed my cold, cold cockles. I also went around and took photos of my students, which should wind up being damn adorable. They'll be up soon.

Tomorrow, well, sort of tomorrow I will be in America. Everytime I think about this I have a small panic attack, with my heart going "No! I'm not done with Hungary!" until my brain goes, "Um, you're coming back dummy." I am soooo excited to return though... I can't wait to see all of you beautiful people.

I'm smiling, and getting weird looks for doing so on the metro, and I don't care. Boldog Karácsonyt a mindinki.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lauren's one minute stories

I'm currently reading a book entitled More One Minute Stories, a work in translation from the original Hungarian, that was a gift from one of my second graders. It's basically a series of vignettes written with massive amounts of dark humor by this Hungarian who survived a Nazi work camp only to eventually die under communism in 1978. They are entertaining and, if you've ever met a Hungarian/lived in Hungary, hysterical. And this has inspired today's blogging format.

It's probably fine

A lone American, walking along the street, spots something interesting behind a gate. Behind the gate appears to be nothing other than an empty parking lot, full of broken glass and in the same general state of disrepair as the rest of the city. The gate is open. Across the driveway, however, there is a single small chain, hanging so low as to drag on the pavement in the center. Can the American walk into the abandoned parking lot to take a photo, or will doing so lead only to arrest, deportation, or horror? Eh, it's probably fine.

The lone American, now on another day, is in a grocery store. She wonders about the advisability of purchasing ham that has been apparently stuffed with sausage and then thinly sliced, but which is on sale. Is it on sale because it has gone bad? Lurking near the meat aisle, she watches as Hungarian after Hungarian selects several packages and adds them to their cart. Shrugging, she picks up her own package. It's probably fine.

The lone American is in a battle of wills with a seven year old. "Move seats, please," she asks. The first grader resolutely shakes his head no. "I asked you to do something. Do it now," she angrily states. The first grader holds firm. As she physically lifts the squirming child and carries him to the desired seat, him kicking over chairs in the process, and then physically marches him back and forth to demonstrate that when she asks a student to do something she means NOW, she wonders about the consequences of this action. But... meh, it's probably fine.

The sour cream sits on the counter for two hours. But it cost 300 forint! Oh well, it's rotten anyway, right? It's probably fine.

The lone American accidentally, in the language she barely understands, uses a vulgar slang term for "breast" when referring to the white meat of a chicken. To her boss. But she must understand... and it's probably fine.

And the thing is... it always is.


Isn't it very funny how sure you can be that you don't want something, that you in fact want something very different, but it still smarts when that something runs off and is horribly successful without you? This has happened to me recently. And the thing that hurts most is the pride, the aren't-I-enoughs?, the questioning of motives. And I sit on the tram and stare out the window, or sit in the staff room and bitch to Bill, or throw myself on my bed and have a good, old-fashioned temper tantrum, because I should be enough. I should be impetus. In a non tragic sort of a way, and my poor pride is hurt from the fact that I was not.

The guilt of the foreign teacher

Case B. works like a slave. Twenty or twenty five lessons a week, plus remedial lessons, plus infinite substitutions, plus private lessons, all of which are painstakingly planned for. Due to his colleague's tragic lack of writing ability, he must do all grade recordings. Almost thirty, he slept on a cot until this weekend, but at least a cot in his own new, small, rented flat. Unsure but pressured to decide, he votes middle-road on such important issues as whether or not to strike about a cut to his already pathetic pay. Money is very, very tight.

Case N. has three young children. She works three jobs, including on the weekends, and often has to come into work on her one free day to tie up loose ends. She is tremendously kind, and shares her grandmother's throat lozenges with the lone American when the later turns up to work coughy and ill. She has three pairs of pants and four skirts, or at least only that many that she considers fit to wear to work. She votes against the strike because she cannot afford to miss a single lesson out on a picket line. Money is very, very tight.

Case R. is unmarried, but cares for her niece. She works two jobs, one teaching her language to foreigners until 830 PM. Her dresses all hail from 1987, and have been painstakingly mended in many places. Her school will be closed for over a month for the Christmas holidays and she is unsure what she will do, finance-wise, if the government approves the pay cut. Money is very, very tight.

Case L. gives 29 lessons per week. Due to being a native speaker of the language she teaches, however, she need spend no time preparing for said lessons beyond a cursory look at the topic to be covered. She has virtually no responsibilities beyond making sure that she shows up in the right place at the right time, and is often bored during prep lessons due to a lack of anything to do. She pays no taxes, and while she is not rich, has no financial worries. Because she is employed by a private organization, her pay is in no danger of being cut.

Overheard, sneakily, but to no real effect

I think so, too... forty two... no, capital B, udapest, one two three... well, is it capital?... teach... good... orange... nine hundred twenty two, sixty four, nineteen... well, that's what I said... green... Panni? No, Misi? I don't believe it!... was that the bell already?... radio... ok... hello (said as goodbye)...

The lone American: I feel guilty because I actively listen to conversations to try to pick out lone words.
The Other American, who consoles her: Don't. It's an intellectual curiousity.

Conspicuous consumption?
Do we have more money for our rat than most for their children?

The lone American and her flatmate read online, after googling "taking care of pet rats" like you do, that rats can become horribly depressed, to the point of death, if kept by themselves. One way to remedy this is to keep them in a very interesting cage. So they dutifully troupe off to the mall, and purchase a little rat palace, with three levels and a suspension bridge. Bencelita will be the most intrigued rat ever!

What they did not consider, however, would be the open stares and conversation on the metro as a half dozen total strangers come up to openly admire the cage, then shake their heads disparagingly upon discovering the nationality of its new owners.

Good question

The lone American darts down the stairs at 0645 on her way to work, undoubtedly more happy looking that she should be. She sees an elderly female neighbor heading up the stairs. The following conversation takes place, in Hungarian:

"Good morning, ma'am."
*unknown Hungarian*
"I'm very sorry, I'm American and I don't speak Hungarian very well."
confused and slightly afraid, "Why?"
"Yes, why?"
ponders... "Because my parents are?"

The elderly neighbor waves her hand in disgust and continues up the stairs. The lone American shakes her head in confusion and continues down the stairs.

¡De veras!

Como ver que vuelve a ser invierno,
y que los niños ya me tratan de usted...

~ de Irreversible por La oreja de Van Gogh

Thursday, December 11, 2008

absentee blogger

So I haven't blogged in awhile. I think this is because I've actually been busy, out and about in the crazy world of Budapest, and haven't had the time or inclination. In fact, as I type this I discover that my typing has changed, that it's difficult for me to make the proper punctuation as I have grown used to the Hungarian keypad at my job.

Job is going great by the way. If anyone is having trouble with otherwise sweet colleagues treating them sort of like idiots, and they are actually as sweet as mine are, I highly recommend inviting them to a festive holiday, then tipsily informing them that they treat you like an idiot. This has had stellar results for me. In the past week and a half I've gotten to grade tests, give actual feedback, offer opinions, discipline children in an effective manner, and plan my own material. I've also been actually informed of what's going on around me and invited to join the school choir. I feel like my new confidence is emanating from me. More people smile at me, talk to me, make a visible and obviously painful effort not to giggle at my attempts at Hungarian. And I have finally won my attempt at friendship with my poor stalkee, whom I still know actually nothing about, but who now talks to me, smiles, asks me how I am, kvetches a little bit to me. I love it.

My other job is equally lovely. This month's term I have been teaching American accent training, essentially to three lovely boys, all of whom are earnest and funny. This is good because the class can fall to the ridiculous, as we all go "ah. ah. ah." and "couja?" at each other. I have to say that I was a little bit nervous, as an American, to be a teacher at a school servicing almost entirely middle Eastern, Muslim students. Yet, I have gotten nothing but respect and kindness from them. It's a little strange to have one student meet you at the office to carry your things to the class, then have the rest of the students jump to their feet when you enter the room, provide you with functioning dry-erase markers, laugh at the appropriate times and work at the appropriate times, do their work, and then carry your materials back to the office for you. And they're absolutely fascinated by the funny things we do with our language, and by the pieces of culture that sneak into such a class without fail. And share theirs with me. And I love it.

Wille, my private student, just took his midterms. His family fed me a lovely dinner when I last went there on Tuesday and gave me a very generous little Christmas bonus. And I walk back down the hill from his house, looking at Parliament far below, lit against the nighttime sky, and I sing along to my Ipod, and I am always, always, profoundly happy in these moments.

On Saturday I finally went dancing, really dancing, not just sort of shuffling in a corner somewhere. And the music was cheesy and fantastic, but there is just something I have to share with you, my dear readers, for your own edification and entertainment. Should you, ladies, ever be dancing in a club in Hungary and get violently rammed into by a gentleman's booty, to the level that it almost knocks you over... never fear. You are not in anyone's way! Rather, this is the Hungarian male's mating dance. That's right, boys, when in central Europe and looking at a pretty girl, do not approach her with a smile and a hello. Just try to knock her over with your ass.

She'll love it, I swear.