Monday, June 9, 2008

Cog wheel train and Children's Railway

Today I ventured out into the Budda Hills. I started from the square by the school and walked a short distance to the cog-wheel train that goes up, up, up about 2 miles into the Budda Hills. I then took the Children's Railway:

The Children's Railway is located in the west of the city of Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. Its eleven-kilometre-long, narrow gauge line runs through the woods of the hills of the city on the Buda side.
It is often called "the greatest child toy of the world," but it is not entirely true. Children aged 10 to 14 control the traffic and commercial services provided but strictly according to regulations of any other railway line of the State Railways of Hungary (MÁV Rt).
The engines are driven by adult engineers, and children on duty, are continuously supervised by adult railway employees. Apart from that, children do their jobs, operate the switches and signals, print tickets and keep passengers informed, on their own.
The Children's Railway in Budapest is not a unique institution of its kind. But it has always been by far the largest, most popular and serious one of them all in the world.

The majority of the ride was through the woods and I could see hiking paths in all directions. At one point, I could have caught a chairlift from a ski area back down, however there was thunder and lightening and it just didn't seem like a good idea!

Round trip took me about two hours. Unfortunately, I did not have much of a view of the city due to the filled out foilage and the rain! Three different classes of school children got on and off along the way and really seemed to enjoy the ride.

I'm coming home!

And I am ready!

I'm tired of the British English.... "at the weekend", "on the course", "ring round for you", etc.

I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends.

I'm looking forward to seeing the mountains and the water!

I'm looking forward to a Mama's burrito from El Sombrero!

I'm not looking forward to work and a full day!

I'll miss the quick public transit.

I'll miss noting all the differences in the way we live......

I will be home late on Wednesday:

June 11 2008 British Airways 865 Depart: Budapest, HU at 8:25 AM Arrive: London-Heathrow, GB at 10:05 AM

June 11 2008 British Airways 1053 Depart: London-Heathrow, GB at 12:55 PM Arrive: Seattle, WA at 2:30 PM

June 11 2008 Alaska Airlines 69 Depart: Seattle, WA at 7:09 PM Arrive: Juneau, AK at 9:48 PM

Last day of sightseeing

On Sunday, June 8, I met with Steve the Lorrie driver from London, and we spent the day sightseeing. What a blast! I have posted all the pics, unedited, as I don't have much time.

We started off by attending mass at the St Stephan's Basilica in the center of the city, followed by a quick breakfast at a near by cafe. We were thrilled when the waitress brought out a small flier showing eggs for breakfast! We both indulged.

Then it was off to Memento Park where statues from the communist era have been taken. More info here: and I loaded a bunch of pictures I took as well.

On our way across Budapest, we saw some dancers on a stage, so jumped off the tram and watched the young performers for awhile. Here's a quick video. Having a transit pass is great as you can just jump off and on where ever you like!

We then caught the local train to Szentendre, and just as we arrived there was a cloud burst and we were stuck at the station for about 15 minutes. As we headed into the town, we came across a flooded street which was stranding a number of tourists. We found our way around and I finished my gift shopping with great success, had a leisurely dinner and then caught the boat for a cruise on the Danube back to Budapest.

We hadn't planned the day, so both were quite thrilled with the way it turned out and the fun, relaxing time we had.

I'm done!

Finished the class on Friday. What a relief. A lot of work and many hours, but very satisfying to have finished. Most of us went for beer/wine after the class on Friday night to celebrate with our teachers. Bittersweet saying goodbye to the other students - people heading in all directions for jobs or returning home to seek a job later.

I have been sick the last week. I thought it was food I ate on Sunday, but since it carried on for so long, I don't know. By Saturday, my face was ashen and I was just exhausted. I had to move from my flat to a hotel room and accomplished that, got some provisions at a nearby market, and took a long nap in the afternoon. Still not quite 100%, but much better than before.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Other things beside school!

Although school has been intensive, I have spent a little time the last two weekends getting out. Last weekend I purposely went back and forth between work and getting out. On Friday night a number of us were going to meet at one metro station and then go a jazz club that some had been to the weekend before. Well, at the metro station, only 2 others showed up, so off we went to find the jazz club, figuring everyone else would be there. Well, the two guys I met up with realized as we got to the area, that they couldn't remember exactly where it was as someone had led them to it the weekend before! We ended up in another jazz club and never did find the one we were supposed to meet at. Come to find out on Monday, we weren't the only ones wandering around that night, looking for the place. Some folks had slept right after school and didn't get up in time for our meeting place. So they headed out later and ended up not knowing where to go either! Anyway, we still had fun!
Got up early and went to a Saturday market, much like the one I posted pictures of in one of my first blogs. This one was much smaller and not in a tourist area, so I didn't feel right taking pictures. But, once you've seen a pile of fruits and veggies...... Anyway, I was able to buy fresh strawberries and other fruits and veggies and basically pigged out on them for the next two days. They really don't serve fruits and veggies in restaurants, and the little store by my place has a very very limited supply. After doing that, I wandered down to the Opera House to buy a ticket to the opera, but was only able to get a ticket for the next night to a ballet, "Zorba". Which was just fine with me, as my intent was to have the opportunity to go in and see the Opera House as it is a "must see" in all the travel books. I paid 3200 forint (20 bucks) to see the ballet, while folks just going in to look around at the opera house paid just 2.50 less than me! Getting the ticket for the next night turned out to be a good deal for me, as it helped me to not spend the whole weekend doing my school work.

Early last week, I got a haircut at a place not far from my apartment. Reasonably priced and the usual for me: not sure how to tell her to cut it, she did it, I smiled, I left, washed it, and still don't like it!!!! Oh well.....

On Friday afternoon, Giulia - the exchange student from Italy who lived with us in 2004 (?) came to visit me. Since I had school and the assignment due and a lesson to teach, she headed out on her own for the afternoon and early evening. When we hooked up after school, she had seen quite a bit and was very comfortable with her way around the city. We went to the pub above the metro station right by the school and visited with the other students. It was much needed release for me as Friday was quite overwhelming. Anyway, went to a traditional Hungarian restaurant for dinner with one of the other students and had a good time.

Saturday we were up early again and off sightseeing. We walked over to the Buda side and took the Funicular up to the top of castle hill where we toured a museum and the St Mathias's Church. The exterior of the church is under construction, so didn't have good views of that. But inside was quite something. This church has been rebuilt a number of times with the current interior having been done at the end of the 1800's. We lucked out: as we walked in we heard music, and sure enough there was a singer and small chamber orchestra practicing. I took pictures of the many designs - of an east meets west style - that are painted right onto the walls and posts throughout the church and a quick video of the practicing musicians. I also took a picture of the pipe organ my friends who play the organ!

After stopping in a shop that sold Hungarian embroidery and lace items, we found a little place for lunch with tables outside. Giulia went into the place to use the bathroom and came back out and said, "There's no kitchen!!" But our food came out a little bit later..... I had to use the bathroom before we left and sure enough, there was a counter with a espresso machine, a microwave and a refrigerator. There were also a number of tupperware type containers littered about!!! I don't think either of us will ever forget eating at a "restaurant" without a kitchen!

Looking out from the castle museum.

Design on church pillar.

I really wanted Giulia to see Hero's square which is by a huge park, one of the baths and the zoo, so we headed there via subway. The station we wanted to get off at was closed, so we had to go one further. We started making our way back to the square and we were beginning to see more and more people and the whole square blocked off. We watched the large screens for awhile and I saw the horse riders from the Puszta that I had seen before, and a number of other horse teams, with the riders in different traditional costumes. We didn't have a very good view, so we headed down Andrassy Boulevard where their were booths lining both sides of the street. I began to realize they were from all the different towns around Hungary and saw the one for Hodmezovarsahely with Ilde from the tour info center and the potter and his wife!!!! We asked what this was all about and found out it was a nationwide competition between the different regions of Hungary and every place that had a team in the competitions had booths for their towns. Hod's booth had the pottery and a little of the embroidery, but they were trying to save most of the embroidery for a cultural exchange to France next week! It was really fun to see Ilde and chat with her for a bit.

By this time it was getting to be around 7 and we were tired, so we went to a park where Giulia had seen a music fair the day before, and sure enough, there was a band playing. We got plates of traditional Hungarian foods and listened to the music until quite late and I was totally exhausted. Just can't do a week of late night/early mornings and go out and about all weekend!

That's about it for now. Got to either get to bed early or do some of the work for this week!


Boy, two weeks ago when I wrote that I was no longer on vacation, I wasn't kidding! School has been incredibly busy. We started off teaching every other day and have continued that through the three weeks. We taught 20 minute sessions to begin with and now have been doing 40 minutes sessions. We will all teach one 60 minute session next week. In addition to preparing our own lessons, following their prescribed format and using their templates, we also sit through our other team members sessions, taking notes on how they are doing certain aspects of the teaching. Every day then we have a feedback session where we receive feedback from the tutor and our fellow students, followed by a lesson planning session, with the assistance of the tutor. When I say "assistance", what that really means at this point is that we tell her what we plan to do, how it ties in with the other 2 people teaching that day, and she says, "ok", or why don't you try this..... As I wrote before, we then have an afternoon of "input" sessions with all of the trainees on different aspects of teaching or grammar or pronunciation, etc.

Starting last week, I have been on an evening shift! Our group doesn't have to report to the school until 11:30 each day, but we stay to teach a lower-intermediate group from 6 - 8:15 pm. As you can imagine, this is a very long day, as we all get to school around 9am to access the computer lab/library while our counterparts are doing their teaching. Our group of students is small, and may be a problem. We are supposed to have no less than 5 students according to the CELTA certification rules. Well, the first night we had 2 students! The second night we 7 students and were quite relieved. But, then on Wednesday we were back down to 5 and on Thursday and Friday we had 3 and then 2. Have to wonder if it is our teaching!!! Just kidding. On Thursday and Friday 2 of the students called to say they wouldn't make it. The 2 who have been there every night is a couple around my age. She is a math teacher at the secondary level and he is a librarian at the Hungarian Historical Library. When there are only 2-3 students, it is quite intensive for them to be "on" for 2+ hours. The way we teach is to follow the same flow: work on your own, compare with a partner, then have open class feedback. I one 40 minute lesson they may do this 3-4 times! So, each night this is 6-8 times -- no "just getting by" when it is a small class!

In addition to our teaching and preparing the lesson plans, we have had three assignments which are papers 750 - 1000 words each and all requiring a significant amount of research and time. So needless to say, this has been very intensive for me and I work until at least 10-10:30 each night and then am up early (5-5:30) to continue working. (Talking and chatting via Skype with friends and family during these times has been a relief from the intensity!) On the first assignment, a few people had them turned back as a "redo". On the second one, most of the class - myself included - had them turned back to redo. And the third was just turned in on Friday, so at this point, I don't know if I have to fix something on it yet. But, it sure feels like downhill from here, although not totally smooth sailing as I have the final assignment, the redo of the second assignment and the two final lessons to plan....and yes, that feels "light"!

Here are a few pictures from the school:

This is one of the Hungarian students, Judi (the J is pronounced as a Y), in our main class room. This classroom is on the side of the building facing one of the main metro/tram stations in Budapest. There is also a Hospital close by. There is the almost constant sounds of sirens from the ambulances and police cars and the sounds from the trams screaching to a stop! (We have all commented that although we hear sirens all the time, we have not really seen any crime or car accidents...)

This the is computer lab and library. We are always jostling for the use of the computers, printers and copiers, but somehow it all works out. This is Angi - Hungarian, Robert - Irish, and Ruary - Scottish busily working on their lessons. Angi and Ruary are in my group.

This is the reception area of the school. We all sit here at this small table at some point during our day and just unwind. This is Mauri from Scotland, and Julie from Chicago. Julie is holding her "Bendy file". In our materials we were told we would receive a bendy file with information and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what this was. As it turns out, it is a soft covered notebook that is flexible - hence "bendy"!!!