Sunday, May 18, 2008
There are 18 people in the class. We are separated into three teams of six each. My group includes an Irish gal, around 24 years old, a Scottish guy in his 30's (been teaching in Lithuania), another Scottish guy in his 30's (been teaching in Japan), a British woman in her 50's, and an Hungarian gal in her 20's who's been in Korea for 3 months and speaks four languages! Interesting group with interesting backgrounds which makes it kind of fun. Our tutor is a woman named Sandra from Wales. She's been here for two years and lived in Poland for seven years before that.
Half of our group had to teach on the second day! Luckily, I didn't have to do my lesson until Wednesday. We have all done it twice now, and it has been a good process with support from the tutor and the other team members.
Our days are divided into two sections: from 9 - 1:15 we have teaching practice and feedback from our tutor and from our other team members. Then, from 2:30 to 5:00 we have what is called, Input, which is really our lessons. We all come back together for these sessions. We have had sessions on lesson planning, how to teach language development (grammar and vocabulary), classroom management, and how to teach skills such as listening and reading. These sessions are taught by the our tutor and the other two; a woman from Scotland and a woman of Chinese descent who speaks with a British accent.
Every night this week, I had work to do and worked until around 9 or 10pm. And, every morning, I have had to get to the school before 8:00 to get into the computer lab/library to print something or use the materials. I am so glad that I was here early to get the lay of the land and see a few things!
We had class on Saturday morning to make up for the Monday holiday and afterwards, all but three of us went to lunch. We went to a traditional Hungarian restaurant, and I quickly decided on one of the soups, as I watched everyone else order fried this and that. The gal next to me got pancakes stuffed with cheese, served XXXX style. This meant crepes folded into quarters, stuffed with cheese and then battered and breaded and deep fried!!!! Lot's of interesting looks on faces as their meals arrived!
In addition to the people in my group, there are three more Americans, two more Hungarians, a number of people from Wales, and a guy from London who has his law degree but has been a Lorrie driver for over 10 years. Everyones plans are different. Some hope to find work in Asian countries, some will look later, and others hope to stay in Hungary. The guy who has been teaching in Lithuania will go back to a better paying job, one of the Hungarians wants to come to the US. For my fellow Dept of Labor employees, get this: She's heard of this visa program where if there are no American workers, foreign workers can get visas to do the job!!!!! Hmm, Claudia, would you approve her to come to Alaska to teach English!!!!!
My apartment is a dump. No way around it. BUT, it has a washing machine, is a 7 minute tram ride from the school, and I'm accessing someone's wireless internet for free. These three things are outweighing my desire to live in a more recently updated place. Also, I don't think I have the time to move!
I am enjoying the class and the students who come for the lessons. These students pay a very small fee for the classes and then if they attend most of them, receive their fee back. All the students in my class have been doing this for awhile and know what they are getting into --- inexperienced teachers! The first class was around 15 students, but we have had a steady number of 12 all week. There are two Korean women, an older woman who has lived in three countries and has returned to Budapest where she grew up, an older gentleman who apparently has had many broken hearts if we are understanding him correctly, and various others. The level is upper intermediate, so we can really carry on a conversation with most of them. The problem however is that some have very thick accents, so it is difficult to understand them. This makes it hard when teaching, as the classes are very interactive.
Here are some random observations that I have observed:
The beds have all been made up with two pillows - one large (a bit larger than our standard size) and one smaller than a throw pillow for the sofa, that lays on top of the large one. Can't quite figure this one out.
Most bike riders do not wear helmets, although I am seeing more of them in Budapest than I saw in the countryside. The serious bikers who use the road use them but I see parents with kids on seats and neither are wearing them.
Many people with small children - 2 to 3 years old - bring along a little plastic trike that the kid sits on and scoots along by pushing off with their feet. I don't mean they are doing this for play. When the parent is walking - even crossing a street - the kid is scooting along on this thing!
Also, I've seen a lot of strollers with a back step, so the older child can stand on this step, and their head comes up between the stroller and the parent's handlebar.
If you want to be cool, then you wear a fanny pack, and you wear hanging BELOW your butt! We saw this a lot in Eger with the high school aged boys and girls. Not sure how they are staying up.
Hungarians say what sounds like "see ya" when they see someone and when they are saying good bye. (It did actually come from the American "see ya" and has been used for about 15 years or so. ) They also say Hello when greeting you and when saying goodbye! I heard this more in Hodmezovasarhely and Eger than I do here though.
And I just may be out of it, but guys are wearing headbands. I see this with handsome 20 something guys with full hair, all one length to about mid-neck. They pull the hair back off their forehead with the headband and then their hair flows out behind....
Wheelchair accessibility is better than I would have expected on public transportation, but the buildings and sidewalks leave a lot to be desired.
And for those who aren't familiar with a number of the differences between the US and Europe in general:
the first floor of a building is our second floor. Our first floor is called the ground floor and then comes the 1st floor, 2nd, etc. You have to pay for the water in a restaurant and you have to ask for the bill. You are expected to bring your own grocery bag to the store, or pay for one if you have to use a plastic one they supply. When you pay for something, you put the money down on a tray, and they will put the change on the tray for you. You do not hold out your hand to receive your change. Stores for the most part are still closed on Sundays, however the bigger stores in the malls and grocery stores are open.
Guess that's it for now. I really must get back to work on my assignment which is due on Tuesday, along with my lesson plan for teaching vocabulary on Tuesday! I know you are probably wondering how I could think of teaching English when this is so poorly written, but...... well, I just don't have time to edit it!
Take care. Keep the emails coming -- it's really good to hear from people.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Got a call through Skype from my boss, Mike Shiffer in Anchorage. Good to hear all that is going on and catch up. Also fun to be learning these new technologies!
Everything takes me along time to do, because I have to think about how I am going to get there, if I need to buy anything, if I know the word for it, if I know where and how to buy it, etc.! Also, the ATM's give out large bills and the smaller vendors won't take them, so I also have to be strategic about which bills to use, when!
So, today I used the tram to go in the opposite direction of the school, past the Nygati Train station to Andrassy Utca. I then walked the length of this beautiful avenue, instead of taking the underground, to the zoo. I was to meet the 5th grade class at 1:00pm at the entrance. I arrived just a few minutes early and went ahead and purchased my ticket and went in. After waiting around 15 minutes, I decided that they must have missed their train connection which they warned me was a possibility, so I started walking down the different paths and circling back to the entrance. When I finally went to use the WC, I ran into a young boy who said "Hello" to me in English! I asked if he was from Hodmezovasarhely, and he was. Actually, once I really looked at him, I remembered him. Anyway, he hooked me up with the class and we had a great afternoon discussing angol words and magyer words for each of the animals, the ice cream, etc. This kid, Pauli, has quite the memory for words, but when I asked the teacher if he was this advanced with his other subjects, she just kind of laughed! Here is a picture of some of the boys. Pauli is in the middle.
After a quick return to the apartment for a change of clothes and some food, I ventured out again to head to the folk dance performance that I bought the ticket for yesterday. This time, I walked over the Margit Hid (Bridge) and then walked along the Danube on the Buda side of the river. Really haven't spent much time on this side yet, but was able to find my way just fine to the performance hall.
Wow - what a show! There were two acts, each 45 minutes long. There were musical numbers without dance as well as the dance numbers. Here is a video of one of the dances (from my camera which hasn't died quite yet!).
After the performance, I continued down the Buda side of the Danube and crossed on the Chain Bridge to catch the tram back up the Pest side to the Margit Bridge and my apartment. It was a beautiful walk, with the castle, parliament, and other major sights, including the bridge, all lite up -- obviously no electricity crisis here! Anyway, there were a number of river cruise ships passing by, and I could see flashes from the cameras. I thought of the view Mom and Dad must have had last fall as they passed through here on one of the cruise ships. What a site!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Finally got out of the apartment around noon and took the Tram to the Moskva Ter (Moscow Square) - my stop for school. I located the school quite easily, so I am prepared for Tuesday. My point in going in that direction however was not only to find the school, but to visit two large shopping malls, Mamot I and Mamot II. The downstairs of one of them has a large electronics store. I found the store, but still have not found a recharger for my battery. Quite frustrating.
I took the tram back, picked up a few things at the store, unloaded them at the apartment, and then headed out on foot. I walked along the Danube from Elizabeth Bridge to the Parliament Building and the Ethnography Museum - my goal. I viewed two very good exhibits.
The first was a photo collection/essay of Unknown European peoples. This show focuses on about 8-10 ethnic groups that have sustained their culture regardless of the political country boundaries that have changed over the years. http://www.neprajz.hu/english/kiallitasok/2008ie.html
The second was the permanent exhibit on the Hungarian culture and history. There were fantastic displays of costumes - traditional clothing - from different areas of Hungary, including areas that were part of Hungary prior to WWII. There was a pottery collection as well, with a few pieces from Hodmezovasarhely. I went ahead and used my camera and took a few shots. (Don't know when this battery will go dead, but it will be soon.)
In front of the Parliament, I took a picture of a memorial grave to the Hungarians who were killed by firing squad after the 1956 revolution. I also took a picture of the flag flying over it, hoping to catch it waving in the wind to show the hole cut in the flag to remove the Soviet Communism symbol. I thought my mom and dad would be particularly interested in this, as they read the James Michner book, "The bridge at Andou" about this revolt.
From here I walked along the Danube some more and then decided to see if I could get into a folk dance show. I found the theatre, only to find that tonight is a symphony performance. I was able to purchase a ticket for tomorrow night though at a different theatre on the other side of the Danube. I haven't spent much time over on the Buda side yet, so that will be good to see how to get around.
After viewing the exterior of the St. Stephan church, I walked up one of the main roads, known as the outer ring road, to the Nygati train station and then back to my apartment. Got in plenty of walking and I think the clean air helped my cold.
I've studied the maps and tram/metro routes and think I know how to get to the zoo tomorrow to meet the kids from Hod. I'll leave in plenty of time to start over if I have to!!!! lol
Friday, May 9, 2008
After two days of travel, adjusting to the time difference in Budapest, and then meeting up with the Global Volunteers team, I spent the first two weeks in Hodmezovasarhely (and yes, I can now say it!).
I left Hod a day earlier than the rest of the team, on Friday, May 2 and took the train to Budapest. I overnighted in a 6 bed dorm room in a hostel, the Mellow Mood, in District V of Budapest. I only had one roommate, although the beds were supposed to be all taken.
I then left very early on the morning of May 3, Saturday and took the train to Vienna. This was a three hour train ride and I slept through most of it, although I did see lots of rabbits in the fields when I was awake enough to look out the window. I also visited with a guy going to Vienna for a Tae Kwon Do competition. He was from Belgrade, Serbia and is an English translator.
I went to Vienna to meet my friend Kyle who used to work with/for me at the Dept of Labor in Juneau. He is a Navy reservist and enjoys working for the Navy under short term contracts. Right now his contract is out of Stuttgart, so this was a good place to meet, although his train ride was 8 hours and mine was only 3!
We had a great time in Vienna, going to a Mozart Concert and the Lipizzaner stallion show and walking through the gardens at the Schoenbrunn Palace. This Palace was home to Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. There is much named after her here in Budapest and throughout Hungary, as she was much loved by the Hungarian people. If you care to read more about her, here is an interesting article:
On Sunday, May 4, I took an afternoon train back to Budapest and went back to the Mellow Mood Hostel, where I met up with Annie, my Global Volunteers roommate in Hod. She is also traveling for awhile, so we agreed to travel together to Egar and Tokaj to taste the wines.
On Monday morning, I met with Vali from the school to check out my apartment and drop off most of my things as I did not need them for the three day trip. (The apartment is ok, and now that I have stayed here one night, I may ask for a change though.) After doing this, Annie and I headed to the train station and arrived in Egar after two very closely timed transfers.
Egar is a beautiful town in north east Hungary known for it's history in fending off the Turks in the mid 1500's. Unfortunately, they were not successful the second time, around 1590, and the Turks occupied Hungary for around 150 years. (My history is rough here - don't go quoting me!) Egar also has the largest Basilica in Hungary. We saw many school groups at the castle and through out the town. Here is Lonely Planet's website on Egar:
We spent Monday afternoon walking the upper streets of the town and walking through the castle remains. The sky was dramatic with dark clouds in the distance. There was thunder and lightning with heavy rains that night. (Go to my photo web site to see pictures.)
Tuesday, May 6 was a wonderful slow day. We started with a walk through town and then found our way to the Valley of the Beautiful Women where there are around 150 wine cellars. We were very lucky to be traveling in the early tour season, as there were only two buses of tourists there, and the parking lot could have held many many more! Not many of the cellars were open, but we started at a hotel/restaurant where we had two different wines with bread and cheese and visited with each other for an hour or so. We then walked through the valley looking at the cellars, and trying the wine in a few of them. They are know for the Bulls Blood wine, or Egri Bikaver. This is a full bodied red wine. Can't get into all the wine lingo - just know that it is a wine that I liked. From there we walked back into town (about a mile and a half each way) and headed for the spa. The spa was a series of swimming pools and one warm pool. The warm pool was full - again, just can't imagine it during the high tourism season. We enjoyed ourselves in the pool for a few hours and then talked with the woman at the lockers. She was studying English from a book, as her daughter married an American and lives in New Jersey. This woman is heading there in September and wants to be able to speak English.
From the Spa we headed for a restaurant for dinner where I enjoyed an asparagus soup and caprese salad. Ok, not Hungarian, but I just can't resist those tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil! We had a very full relaxing day.
On Wednesday, May 7, during the morning, we wandered through the town again and visited the Basilica and listened to the organ. We also visited another church on the Dobo square and then found the Hungarian language immersion school and visited with the administrator/teacher there before heading to the train station.
Upon our arrival in Tokaj, we walked about a mile into town to our Panzio (hotel) and then made arrangements for me to use a phone in the middle of the night to call into the court for my dissolution hearing. I ended up having to pay $30 for the use of the phone as the desk clerk was going to have to wake up to allow access. There were no phones in any of the rooms in any of the hotels that we checked!
The town is about 5000 people, and really quite beautiful. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures as I have fried my camera battery recharger and have not been able to find a new one yet (maybe today). Annie used a disposable camera, so I may be able to get a few pictures from her. We ate at the only open restaurant - a pizzeria - and then headed to bed early to be able to wake up in the middle of the night.
On Thursday then, we were up early, got our breakfast at the local store, found espresso, and then headed to the museum. There we got a full history of the area and a lot of information on the wine making. We then headed for the largest wine cellar where we tasted a full range of their wines from a dry wine to the Tokaji that they are known for. For info on this wine and the bull's blood, take a look here:
Before heading to the train, we had lunch at a restaurant along the Tiza River (this is the same river we were on in Martary, just outside of Hod.) and enjoyed fish fillets covered in paprika and grilled. Annie stayed in Tokaj and will return to Budapest next week. I took a cab to my apartment and found easy internet access for the first time in days, hence all these entries to the blog!
My next few days will be spent getting settled in Budapest and studying English in prep for my class. I will also meet the 5th grade students and their teachers from Hod at the zoo on Sunday as they are taking a class trip to Budapest!
500 ml water 112 forints
500 ml water 112
330 ml orange juice 213
1.2 ltr water 145
3 bananas 197
clothes detergent 475
Yogurt - different kind to try 66
Bag of peanuts 117
Big fat loaf of crusty bread 117
Cheese - another kind - Gourmet 738
Single serve instant coffee mix 38
(Most of Europe uses the comma and decimal in the opposite places than we do in our numbers. So that is read 2,787 forints.)
Please, no comments on the items I purchased! It was a small store, I can't talk at all, let alone in Hungarian to get help, and I was really thirsty!!
This converts to $17.05. I paid over $4.00 for the one cheese and paid less than $3 for the clothes detergent. The bread cost the same as the peanuts - less than 75 cents! No other produce looked decent to buy - will have to go back to the market for that!
The breakfasts are much like I have experienced elsewhere in Europe: buffet style with breads and rolls, cheeses and meats, fruit, yogurt, muesli and sometimes hard or soft boiled eggs. Coffee is thick - almost muddy like!
The last few days we've made sandwiches to take to school along with fruit and water. Pretty basic and we really don't have much time to eat at school, unless we have a free period. Each day's schedule is different. There are 45 minute classes with 15 minute breaks in between. Sometimes the teachers have yard duty and other times they take time to meet one-on-one with a student or prepare for the next class. At any rate, the teachers grab a bite here and there during the day, and we were doing the same thing. After the students leave at 2:00pm, the teachers can have lunch in the cantina. We were never invited there, so don't really know what all was served.
As I was told before coming here, the serving sizes are huge. One night for dinner we each had four - yes, four! - chicken breasts stuffed with cheese and ham, breaded and then deep-fried, served with rice and potatoes! This is the regular size portions! Since our food was pre-ordered for us when we went together to dinner, we were not given choices. But, usually, only half servings were ordered and then we would get two pieces of meat instead of four.
Not only are the servings huge, the meat has almost always been breaded and fried. At the end of the second week in Hod, I was desperate to find things to eat that were not fried. I ate goulash in the late afternoon during my free time, so I could skip most of the dinner being served! At the Fisherman's Restaurant in Hod, they had a full page of turkey dishes, and no chicken dishes. Most restaurants I am seeing both being served, but turkey breasts are quite popular. Of course, they are not the huge ones we carve on Thanksgiving!
I love the goulash. Apparently there are two types. We have had only the goulash soup. This soup has a reddish broth - most of us would think this was from tomato sauce, however there is no tomato in the goulash! It is from the paprika that is added to the broth. The goulash is made in a big pot over a "campfire" outside and is often served in a kettle which you can see in a number of my pictures. The soup consists of beef, potatoes and sometimes carrots. Then little pinched dumplings are added -- they are about the size of my thumbnail.
The fish soups in Hodmezovasarhely and Szeged are very good and are made slightly differently and they vie for the best fish soup. I had it in both places and really preferred the one in Szeged, but didn't dare tell my hosts in Hod!
On our day trip to Szeged we ate at a very nice restaurant (see pictures of the food!) and enjoyed the fish soup and then a pasta dish. The pasta was flat noodles mixed with cottage cheese with sour cream and crunchy bacon on top. It was VERY good!
Bread is always served with the soup course, but there is never butter served with it. The only vegetables served with a meal seem to be the ones used for garnish: a tomato and/or cucumber. One of our team members complained about not having any vegetables, which resulted in our not getting any more potatoes/rice with our meals, but a plate full of veg-all instead! Yuk! At the Pushta, we were served a vegetable dish, however at the table where our guide and her family were sitting, she took the bowl and placed it at the end of the table out of reach with disgust as these were not "traditional" foods!
The specialty dessert seems to be based on hazelnuts with a pudding and whipped cream. The hazelnuts are ground and then sprinkled on a pudding and served with the whipped cream. I didn't really care for this. We've also had sponge cake soaked in brandy, covered in chocolate sauce with huge dollops of whipped cream on top ( like this one a lot more!). Other desserts have included crepes with hazelnut or chocolate filling, fried bananas in a sauce and a custard (served at the Pushta).
While traveling on my own with Annie, the hotel included breakfast in the price. This breakfast was scrambled eggs with rolls and coffee. We put together our own lunches with snacks or bread, crackers, cheeses, yogurts, apples and bananas.
The prices for meals out are very reasonable. And, unlike in Juneau, when you have wine with your meal, the price of the meal doesn't skyrocket! Yesterday, I had grilled fish with potatoes - two fillets - and the price was 1200 forints. That is around $7.50. I bought bean soup to take with me for when I got back to Budapest and it was 940 forints - which was high for soup. (They put the soup in an old glass applesauce jar, wrapped it in foil and placed it in a plastic bag - they aren't used to take out!) The goulash soup that I had a number of times in Hod was 650 forints - or around $4. for a HUGE bowl with bread. In Budapest, the same size bowl goes for anywhere from 950 to 1200 forints, depending on how touristy the restaurant is.
Oh, the one thing I forgot to mention is how salty the food is. They use a lot of sausage and other processed meat, so that in itself is salty. But even the fried food and the soups are loaded in salt! I really have to watch it to make sure I am not getting too much.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
The three teachers I worked with were quite professional. I was very surprised that one of them was an English teacher however, as her pronunciation and understanding of English was quite limited. But, she had a great attitude with the kids and really seemed to enjoy them.
Overall, the Global Volunteers program was a good one. We had a balance of working with the students and teachers, developing our lesson plans, cultural activities, time to build friendships with team mates, and free time. I think it could have been improved by our knowing in advance what grade levels and English skill levels we would be working with, to allow us to bring appropriate material and prepare for working with the students. All of us had brought material, but much of it was traded between us to make sure we had age and level appropriate materials. This is definately a program where you make your own success. We did not receive much guidance from GV on the teaching aspects and some of us received more guidance from our teachers than others. I stated directly to the head teacher, Heni, that I did not have experience as a teacher, and would need to work with her on what to do each class period. This worked very well, and I really felt I had the hang of it by the second week. One of the other teachers really worked with me as well, and the third teacher kind of left me to do what I would like -- although I really bugged her for info on what they were doing in the class.
The teachers really like having the volunteers come into the classrooms so that the students can hear native English speakers. Info on Alaska was a big hit and the animal names were used as vocabulary words for some of the classes. The kids were good at asking rote questions and giving rote answers, but would be totally thrown off if the question or answer was a little different than what they learned from the book. For example, I could ask, "How are you?" and they could answer, but if I asked, "How are you today?", I would get blank stares. As we walked in the halls to and from classes, the kids would come running up to ask how we were -- even if it was the third or fourth time we had seen them that day!
On Thursday a trip to Szeged was available for those of us who wanted to go. Five of us chose to do this. Thursday was May 1 and a holiday, so although we went to Szeged, almost everything was closed! We drove through the town and got out of the van at a number of locations and viewed the architecture. There was a street fair going on, and we walked through that and I have a number of pictures from my friend Terri that you can view here later!
After we had lunch at a restaurant near the Tisza River, we went to the National Historical Memorial Part at Opusztaszeri. Here is a link to the park info. I can't seem to get it to switch to English, but you may have better luck. http://www.opusztaszer.hu/
This is an outdoor museum which includes old homes and village buildings; an explanation of the flooding of the Tizsa River and the dike projects to help contain it; a rotunda with a panoramic mural of the Hungarians moving into the Carpathian Valley; and a series of buildings with Hungarian natural history information. While we were walking through, we ran into Szoltz, our Global Volunteers Coordinator with the Municipality of Hod... He was enjoying a picnic with his fiance and his boss, the bosses wife, and their two children. It was kind of funny to run into someone we knew while we were out and about!
Earlier in the week, one of our volunteers was not feeling well and was taken to the hospital. This was Margaret, the 88 year old from Canada. They diagnosed her with congestive heart failure and determined she needed to have an operation. The long and short of it is that they finally determined that she didn't, and she has regained her strength enough to travel home this weekend. Her insurance company is supplying a nurse to travel with her. She has been in the hospital in Hod... even after we all left. One of the teachers who is instrumental in the program has been visiting her daily.