Thursday, October 30, 2008

Travels and more travels

Last week in Transylvania with the other CETP teachers and Hajni (pronounced Hoyni) was absolutely awesome and beautiful. We did home stays instead of hotels (except for one night) and were filled with Hungarian food and history of the area as there are still towns/villages there where Hungarian is their primary language. I will write more on this later when I return home.

I am traveling with another teacher, Lisa, in Slovenia. We took the train Monday from Budapest to Ljubljana, stayed in a youth hostel which is a converted prison, and then up first thing to take the bus to the far northwest corner of the country for some hiking. We stayed in Kranjska Gora in a hostel (only 2 other people there!) and it started a torrential downpour! Spent the afternoon and evening in our room playing cards and drinking wine! Found out in the morning that the Italian border was just 5 km away, and the road lead to the town of Tarviso, where Giulia, our exchange student, is from! Too bad I don't have her number - but will definitely get it now!

Still raining in the morning, we gave up on any outdoor activity, packed up and headed for Bled. Someone had told us it was not worth seeing - too touristy. So glad we did not listen! Again, since it is the off season, not many people, and absolutely gorgeous with fall colors (and rain). A lot of history here - the castle dates to 1012 or so! Wonderful views from the castle and a small, but nice museum. Again, a cheap youth hostel, and I am now awake early as is typical for me. The hostel was mostly empty and we got a two bed room which included breakfast for an unbeatable price. Its still raining, so will move on today, but not sure where yet. We have to go back through Ljubjana at some point, so will see the sights there then. We will probably head to Zagreb, Croatia from Ljubjana before heading back to Hungary and home by Saturday night.

Working very hard on traveling as cheaply as possible - Lisa is a good teacher. I took out 150. Euro on arriving in Ljubljana and still have 35. left after 3 nights, transportation costs and all but one meal (I cheated last night, and used my credit card for a meal in a restaurant with salad, pizza and wine.) Breakfast is included this morning in the cost of the hostel, and we already have our food for the day: left over pizza and fruit, etc. from the store. So, although will go over the 150 eu, will still have been a good trip at a reasonable cost.

Will post more when I return home, just wanted to get some of this documented.

update 10/31: Up again early, so have time on the computer.
Upon going back into the room to pack in Bled, discovered that our wet clothes that we had hung on the radiator, were wetter than before! The radiator as well as the window, had leaked! So, lots of plastic bags of wet clothes were shoved into our packs before heading out.

We took a bus back to Ljubjana, thinking there would be indoor activities in the city out of the rain. The rain actually let up a bit and we were able to tour the castle and get great views of the city. The Ljubljana river runs throughout the old town area of the city with multiple bridges over it. We took many pictures of the "dragon bridge" and then went to St Nicholas church where the exterior doors are beautiful bronze reliefs that were created for the Pope's visit in 1996 (I think that was the year.)

There was a huge open air market with produce, flowers and some odds and ends. Hope to go back through that today to pick up some fruit for the next few days.

At the hostel after the castle visit, we met a swiss/brit guy who has been traveling for a few months. We got a recommendation for a restaurant (yes, 2 nights in a row) with traditional Slovene food and had a great dinner. I had sausage and sauerkraut with a local wine (I know, beer would go better, but I don't really like beer), Lisa had Slovene goulash - no potatoes or carrots like in Hungary, and Borris had a vegetarian dish -- they both had the local beer.

Today is raining again so will try to go to the national gallery, however, today is a holiday, so it may not be open. The train is at 2:30 to Zagred, Croatia where we will stay tonight. Just really want to break the long trip back to Kisvarda into smaller segments.....actually writing this, I may change it all together, as I won't really get much time in Zagreb. More later.

update 11/2: Back in Kisvarda.
Well, when I realized it was a holiday on the 31st and also the 1st, I started looking for trains back on Friday. No such luck. So went and walked around in Ljubljana in areas we hadn't been before and visited with other folks in the hostel. Even the outdoor market was closed - the only thing open were the flower stalls and people were mobbing those for flowers for graves.

We then headed for Zagreb on the 2pm train as originally planned. Got into Zagreb after dark and found a hostel 2 blocks from the train station. Got beds in a 6 bed dorm, but we were the only ones in the dorm! We walked to the main square and to one of the three churches listed and then walked a main pedestrian area lined with cafes, with everyone watching the pedestrians going by!

As I was using the computer in Ljubljana, I saw an article about two journalists being killed by a car bomb on the 26th of October in Zagreb, and the article pointed out that there has been ongoing tension between two organized crime groups, with a tit-for-a-tat going on..... Well, as I was walking in Zagreb that night, I just kept thinking of that and of the Balkans war and every man I saw I wondered if he was of age to have been involved in the war and how it was to re-assimilate. Needless to say, this kind of put me on edge. We saw a tv news van with reporters preparing for an interview with someone outside of a stately looking building. Upon getting home yesterday, I saw three people have been arrested for the murders and bombing and that there are still two that are being sought. Have to wonder if the TV news crew were interviewing someone about that.

When we crossed over the border by train from Serbia to Hungary, our train was searched. One guy went down the length of the train car, opening every ceiling panel and looking in. I don't know if this is standard practice, or was due to heightened security due to the two fugitives.

Anyway, back safe and sound in Kisvarda. The train ride through Hungary was a different route up to Budapest than I have traveled before, and I got to see Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Hungary. From Budapest, the train swung a bit north, and went through Miscolc and Tokaj where I had visited last summer.

Just figured out that I spent around $280 for this trip. A lot of train time and limited sites due to the rain, but not bad for a 6 day trip. So, on to planning the next trip..... oh and doing lesson plans for the next few weeks!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Off to Transylvania

I head out to Transylvania tomorrow morning. I catch a train at 6am to Debrecen Hungary where I will join the CETP group of teachers for a six day bus tour in Transylvania. I am looking forward to exploring this area - the tour books make it sound beautiful. There are wild boars and bears in this area, and you apparently can find both on the restaurant menus! We will stay 4 of the nights with Hungarian families (although this is Romania, Hungarians are the largest single minority in Romania - as this part of Romania was part of Hungary until the treaty settlements following WWI). One night will be in a hotel.

I went on Sunday to purchase my train ticket. I studied in my Hungarian phrasebook and figured out what I needed to say. So I wrote it down and showed it to the ticket clerk! It was the same clerk who helped me when I went last week to go to Nyiregyhaza. The English teachers thought that was a real kick - Istvan said he had to go with the teacher last year to the train station everytime the teacher wanted to go anywhere.

I will have sporadic access to email, but please keep the messages coming and I will try to respond when I return. The tour is over on the 26th, however I am thinking I will stay for longer as we will have another full week of the break from school.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Laundry Days

I have posted photos with captions on my photo page about laundry days. Yes, that is plural. I missed two steps however. The first step is to determine if something truly needs washing! If there is nothing spilled on it and it does not smell, then it is not "dirty" and can be saved from the treacherous machine until after one of the above occurs.

And the final step is to iron every piece of clothing before wearing. Follow the link, or copy and paste the following into your browser:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Go'lyas updated Nov 2

This is what the 9th graders are called - go'yla - stork. This week is similar to an initiation week for them, but in good fun. The students' faces were marked in red and black marker with big letter G's to show they are a golya. On Tuesday they also had bibs, rattles and pacifiers. On Wednesday no one's faces were painted as they were dressed in their uniforms and suits and had class pictures taken. Tomorrow after school there is something happening on the play field with the golyas. A couple of the 12 graders asked if I would be one of the judges for this - it may be a skit. So tomorrow at 2:30 I'll find out what is going on!
Update 11/2: Well, it was raining so the event took place in the gym. There were 4 judges, including myself and the competitions were between the 5 different 9th grade classes. I only have students from one of the 5 groups, so I was a bit heavy on the points for that group!! The event was mc'd by two 12 graders and other 12th graders assisted in carrying out the competitions. One was to have one 9th grader pour yogurt into another 9th grader's mouth: with the one doing the pouring being blindfolded! Another was to eat an apple on a string and another still was for a student with honey smeared on their face to blow flour out of a tub so they could find the little hidden toy and pick it out of the flour with their mouth! It was a lot of fun to watch and the kids really got into it. The pictures are posted. Follow the link on the upper right of this page.


Yesterday's last class was horrible. The kids ignored me when I came into the room, wouldn't sit down, kept talking and then started asking if they could leave. Didn't want to be there..."can I go have a cigarette?" I had worked very hard on the lesson, and Istvan Suba had reviewed it and and made suggestions for alterations it to make sure it was at their level. I stumbled through constantly telling them to be quiet, asking for input, etc. So after class when we went to lunch, Istvan asked me how it went and I told him -- well, these are his homeroom kids. So he was angry and when he saw them today, he was going to kick some @ss. He said a lot of this was not my fault, rather the fault of the prior Angolul Lektor, as he did not even try to teach the kids, but just let them sit and visit or let them out early!!! What a situation to follow!

So, I was determined that I would be in control today, as I know how it is with teenagers....if they see a weak spot, they go in for the kill! I had six classes today, and they all went great! I started each one by letting the students know that I am required to give them marks (grades) and that I would be doing that. I think they just thought today, but boy, did it work! They dug right into the lessons and participated and presented very well! Don't know if word had already gotten out about the other class, or if my telling them they would be graded was enough, but whatever it was - success!

Last night, the dorm teacher informed me through David that since I am a full-time teacher, I must teach two classes at the dorm during the week! Well, I was already thinking this would be fun, but I was a bit put-out by being informed this way. A full-time teacher is assigned to 22 classes and I have only 19 right now. Don't know if they will come up with something else or not for the last class! So, I will now do small classes on Monday and Wednesday nights at 6:30 for the kids in the dorms. Think I will just keep it as a very informal opportunity to chat, as the kids really need to learn to say things that they aren't spoonfed from the books.

This seems to be typical communication. On Monday there was a concert - opera - performed for the school during one of the class periods. The whole school attended. I did not know until the students were lining up to go! (I didn't have a class that period, so it didn't really effect me.) On Wednesday, I didn't have a first period class, but didn't know this until I went into the teacher's room and when I said I was heading to my class, one of the other teachers said, "Oh, there is no 9th grade class first period today." Don't know if the communication is poor because I can't understand the chatter in the teacher's room, or if only a few people know things anyway! Actually, this was something I read about in another teacher's blog -- so it isn't just this school.

I must now search the internet for Rihanna and My Chemical Romance so I know what the music is that the kids are listening to and I can chat them up!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Whew - busy days!

One of the English teachers will be out all week as her daughter is ill. Don't know what is wrong that she will be out all week, but the rest of us must take her classes. So, yesterday, I had one extra class, and today, I had three extra classes, for a total of 5 classes today -- of which 3 I was not prepared for! But, I did kind of know that I would have extra classes, so I went in early to see the substitute list - and sure enough, there I was for the three classes.

So, I ended up with one of the 9E classes three times today. This is the advanced class and they are very well behaved. I gave them a break the last class period, and had them do a crossword puzzle (that I ran home and made during one of the breaks) and then showed them a DVD on Alaska. (Did you know that they make "DVD Postcards"? I found them when all the tour shops were having their end of the year sale.) They learned a number of English words - humpback whale, etc.

One other class I substituted in was the 12B "advanced" group - ha! I had this group on Friday and gave them homework - but of course it wasn't due until this coming Friday, so..... After a failed attempt at trying to teach them a few idioms about travel, I moved on and told them to use the time to do their homework assignment, which was to write 1/2 a page on why I should go somewhere on Holiday. Well, one girl refused to write! I reminded her that this would be on the exam for passing the English exam and receiving her cert, but she just kind of shrugged. So, I called two students up individually, and had them read theirs to me and we discussed them. Then I called her up, and she had nothing. So I told her that I was giving her a 1 (F) for the class period and her eyes just about bugged out. The headmaster and all of the teachers have told me repeatedly that I must be strict with the students! Hope that helps keep her in line in the future and doesn't just cause a struggle with us for the rest of the year..... We'll see.....

After classes yesterday, Edit took me to the bank to wire the money for my trip to Transylvania with the other teachers. After waiting their for 15 minutes the teller told us we should just go to the bank and directly deposit the funds, since the bank was just down the street! So we did. All transactions you do around here, it seems you need your passport. Everyone carries their passport with them as their primary piece of id!

Then today after school, the Headmaster, his wife, Edit and I went into Nyiregyhaza to the immigration office to apply for my work visa. I already have my work permit, my tax card, my bank account and now this was the last thing. Again, this took quite awhile with multiple forms that Edit had to fill out for me. She now knows my mother's maiden name, my date of birth and place of birth by heart! The headmaster's wife did other business while we were doing ours, and then we met up with her and walked to a large mall at the end of the plaza. Edit and I went into the electronics store and I got a printer/scanner/copier - YEA! This will be SOOOO nice to have right in my flat and not have to go running back and forth to the teachers room.

It was a bright and sunny day today and the roses on the campus were all opened wide and looked beautiful. On the drive into Nyiregyhaza, there were people picking apples in the orchards and some of the other fields being worked. I saw a horse-drawn wagon in one of the fields full of produce. The sun was setting on the drive back with a golden glow on everything. And, I did not sit at a desk all day writing a report or re-working someone elses work. So, the day was fantastic! And now, I must prepare for the classes I have tomorrow, so at least I know what I am doing in my scheduled classes!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday Travels

So, I figured I had to get over my uneasiness today and go figure out how to ride the train! Okay, so I knew how to ride the train, but reading the schedule and buying the ticket were making me nervous and the anxiety was growing!

There are two train stations here, but as I wrote earlier, only the one that is the farthest away from me sells tickets on the weekends. I spent about a 1/2 an hour before I left the apartment, reading over the travel sections in some of my travel books and wrote out key words in my notepad. The walk to the station was beautiful this morning with not a cloud in the sky. The ticket seller did not speak English, as I suspected the case would be. I asked for a roundtrip ticket to Nyiregyhaza (jegy Nyiregyhaza oda-vissza) and then showed it to her in writing. She showed me on her computer screen how much it wa, and then started signing that I only had a few minutes until the train arrived. And then before we finished, the train came! So I grabbed my change, threw it loose into my bag and ran for the train. I made it. It was a local train, 2nd class only, and I found an area to myself.

The countryside was beautiful. I tried to get a picture of a farm wagon being pulled by a horse along a road, but missed it. Some of the fields are plowed under and others still had dead sunflowers and corn stalks standing. The apple trees were loaded with apples still. The small personal gardens in the back of homes also had quite a bit of produce in them.

It was a 45 minute ride to Nyiregyhaza, the nearest larger city (around 120,000). There was a huge Saturday market in the town right before Nyiregyhaza - would have been very interesting to see, but there wasn't a stop nearby.

When I got to Nyiregyhaza, I chickened out, and did not go explore the city!!!! I was concerned about getting back during daylight, as they did not announce any of the stops on the train on the way there, and I didn't want to screw up and miss my stop in the dark. Also, I couldn't figure out if all the trains went every day or just on weekdays. The Ma'v (train company) website has been down for about three days, so I couldn't look on line and take my time figuring it all out in advance.

(On Tuesday of this week, the headmaster and Edit will take me to the immigration office in Nyiregyhaza to get my work visa. This will be the last step of becoming an official teacher. No, there might be one more step, and that will be gettin my insurance card! So, anyway, I will see the town a bit then, and gain more confidence. I like traveling alone, but it can also be sooo uncertain.)

Of course, I made it back hours before dark. I stopped at a store I hadn't been to yet, the Lidle, on my way back to the apartment to do some shopping. This store did have a different variety of things, including clothes, then the other stores I have been in, but still no peanut butter. (I really don't expect to find any, but thought I would look anyway!)

I later went to the Tesco and picked up a few other things. Except for the first store I went to, all of the others are about a mile from the apartment, so I have to limit what I buy at what time to what fits into my bag, which really isn't a big deal, cause I really don't need that much. Many of the products at Tesco have English on their labels which sure helps take the guessing out of it. The store that is a block away from me was already closed when I got back this afternoon from Nyiregyhaza, as they all close early on Saturday. Got to remember that so I don't have to carry the heavy items so far.

I also found an all-in-one, printer, scanner, copier at the Tesco for around $85.00, so think I will get it. It will surely make my class prep easier as I will be able to do it in my own time, instead of having to put the documents on my thumbdrive and take that into the teacher's room to use the printer. Problem was that it was on the top shelf and I didn't see anyone around to help me. Think I will ask one of the teachers for a ride next week and their assistance in getting someone to get it down for me!

A successful week

This weeek I taught my classes on my own, following the recommended syllabi provided by the teachers. I was able to do introductions with all of them by showing a slide show of my family. Comments ranged from thinking Derek must be older than 21, calling Mom a "White Angel" when they saw the pic of the whole family at Dad's 80th BD, to asking if Patrick was a "sumo" wrestler when I said he was a fighter! And, the picture of Fran always elicited ohs and awes, but it wasn't about Fran, but the beautiful blue iceberg in the picture!

As I showed the pictures, for the lower levels, I went through all the family connections - aunt, cousin, niece, nephew, etc. I then had the kids answer questions about themselves: how old are you, do you have any brothers or sisters, where do you live (many from neighboring villages), what are your interests, etc. This is the topic for two grade levels, so it really meshed well with introducing myself. At the end of two different lessons, I had kids say, "Good lesson"! Didn't think kids said things like that about school! Couldn't believe it!

In some of the classes, I also showed the pics of Juneau (thanks Alan!) and led into their topic for next time - holidays/vacations. I have a lot more Juneau and Alaska material that I will use all year where ever I can.

The kids are really fun. For the most part, they are inquisitive and eager to learn. There are a few in each class who seem disinterested, but the majority are engaged. They all say Hi between classes and approach me to try to have a conversation. These are very limited for most, as only a few are really conversant.

One of the other teachers offered to switch class times with me on Tuesday's, so now I will have my two classes first thing in the morning and be done at 10:20am instead of having one class at 9:35 and the other not until 1:30. I need that time to help prep for the big days of Thursdays and Fridays with 6 and 5 classes respectively.

Each day after school this week, I helped Ildiko translate multiple web pages for her brother's business. He has a mini-cab transport company in London and serves Hungarians exclusively. Now he wants to branch out and he asked Ildiko to translate his website into English. What a chore! She was doing literal translations and it made no sense. We ended up taking it a section at a time, with her reading it in Hungarian, telling me the main ideas, and my trying to write something. Think I will be a bit more careful when I agree to do something for someone again! We spent at least four hours doing this, and there is about an hour's worth of work left. Her daughter was sick on Friday and she wasn't here, so we weren't able to finish.

On Thursday, I also helped edit two essays for students who were entering the essays into a competition on how the Bible has effected their lives. Istvan caught me between every class (10 minute breaks between each of the 6 classes I had) and we would do a paragraph at a time. Then in the evening I worked with the other student, David, the one who took me shopping my second day. He offered to bring me apples from home when he comes back on Monday in repayment. I spent about another 1/2 hour at the dorm when we were done, talking with the dorm "teacher". Not sure if she is really a teacher or not, but she lives there during the week, and assists the students with their homework. She is learning English as her daughter and her boyfriend are in Vancouver Canada and she will be visiting them, so she wants to know some English. We exchanged pronunciation tips!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The other English teacher

On Thursday after school I met Mike, another English teacher with CETP here in Kisvarda. This is his third year teaching, and his second here in Kisvarda. His wife also teaches and they have an apartment in Nyigyhaza. He stays at the school here in Kisvarda during the week, and goes home to Nyigyhaza on the weekends. It was great meeting with him. He really helped me out a lot, orienting me to some of the Hungarian ways, the town and teaching. Earlier in the week, three kids took me shopping at the grocery store Edit had pointed out to me when she gave me a tour of the town. I thought that is where I was meeting Mike, but as it turned out, there are two of these stores and he was waiting for me at the other. Not only are there two of the Coop (pronounced cope) stores, there are also two of the ABC stores, and about three others, plus the Tesco on the outskirts of town! So, the town is much larger than I thought it was and was shown.

He walked me to the train station – the small one – as there are two – and explained how it all works. Ticket office is only open M-F, normal working hours, so I will need to get tickets in advance. Also, they don’t take credit/debit cards at this station, so will need to have cash. He also gave me directions on how to walk to Tesco on side streets, as the main highway does not have sidewalks and he thought it quite dangerous. If I had thought to ask him about an internet café, I might have been able to find one this weekend.

Oh, and stores are only open in the mornings on Saturday, and not at all on Sunday. Except Tesco which is open every day. He took me through his school which is much like a prep school, with kids coming from all over the region. His school is much larger than mine and there are more kids staying in the dorm (a couple of hundred) than in the dorms here (30 girls and 7 boys). I walked him through my school in exchange.

He was just plain invaluable to meet with, as he was able to identify some of the nuisances of their culture and how to deal with them.

Sunday, October 5

I am typing this in MS word on Sunday morning, and will have to post it to my blog later. In the middle of the night Friday/Saturday, we had a huge electrical storm that woke me and made the power go out momentarily. I think this caused the schools network to go down, as I have been unable to access the internet since. This is very irritating, as I had plans to do quite a bit on the internet this weekend, including talking to my kids and probably my parents via Skype and some class prep. Also, on Friday night I went to download a movie from itunes and the agreement said you had to be in the US to download the movie. So I went to Zune, selected a movie, paid, and then again, it wouldn’t download as I had to be in the US! Pissed me off.
I made a list of all the things I could do – and some I needed to do – over the weekend that did not involve the internet, and I was quite busy yesterday.
On Friday Edit and the school maintenance manager took me to the store and we bought pans, a mirror for the bathroom (yea), hangers, etc. So, I spent the day yesterday washing the dishes and putting them away, finally getting my clothes sorted, hung and folded and continuing with the laundry.
When I first meet the maintenance manager, he just stuck his head in the room where we were and greeted us. He was quite friendly and warm and Edit smiled and laughed. When I asked Edit who he was, she said he was the school character and laughed. So, I decided he must be an older priest or someone who just hung around for some reason that everyone liked.
It’s all in the pronunciation: char-ac-ter vs. care-ta-ker ! He’s the Caretaker! He was very helpful at the store, picking up different things, such as the soup ladle, and asking if I needed it. We chatted (single English, Hungarian and German words) on the walk and he seems like a very nice, fatherly type. He had the maintenance guys come in and hang the mirror and then noticed I had my bin in the bathroom with all my toiletries on it, and he indicated that he will have a shelf built to put in that space. Nice!
I also did more shopping yesterday. I went back to the paper store, this time with a sample of what I was looking for (I couldn’t find it on Friday), and the sales clerk helped me. I asked for 15 and got 50 plastic sleeves to put papers in to put into notebooks. In very broken English/Hungarian, she asked if I was an English teacher (Angolul Lektar) and at what school (eskola). She also asked if I was from the US or UK and when I told her US and Alaska, we had to get the map to show her Alaska. She then told me she has been to, or will be going to Washington DC in 2 somethings! This is the way the communication goes!
The paper size here is different than ours. It is called A4 and is a bit narrower and a bit longer. The three-ring binders aren’t. They are two ring. I will use two of them to organize my class lists and plans. I have 17 different groups of kids – I hope in a month to be able to remember who is who – or at least the ability of the class when I walk into it!
I also went to the fruit and vegetable stand yesterday. This was my second time in there, and the woman greeted me and asked how I was. I think this is the limit to many people’s English speaking abilities. I answered, asked how she was and when I paid, and said Kusanum (Thank you), she corrected my pronunciation and added “saipan” which means very much.
Both of these encounters encouraged me to come back to the apartment and study Hungarian. I made a list of all the words I recognized but don’t necessarily know how to pronounce and then worked on pronunciation with my language cd’s. Very interesting alphabet. For example, the letter y by itself does not exist. The combinations ny and ty are recognized as letters. Once in awhile, you will see a y in a family name without the n or t, but this is the only place.
I also decided to get in a walk by going to the castle and then on to the Tesco, a Fred Meyer type store about a mile from here. The castle was on the way and as I approached, I could hear a lot of yelling and cheering. There was a soccer game going on. I don’t think there is much left of the castle, but there was a building to the left of the field, but I didn’t really see a way to it from where I was. There were a few light rain drops, so I figured I had better head to the store before it really started coming down.
I had fun walking up and down every aisle in the store, looking at the products. I didn’t find any peanut butter, but there was nutella which I was not inclined to buy. I did buy more hangers for my clothes organizing project and a few food items. When I left the store, it was absolutely pouring rain so I had to walk very quickly with the umbrella in one hand and the bag in the other. It poured rain for the remainder of the afternoon/evening, so I was glad I had plenty to do inside.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Mailing Address & Phone

Ok, here is my snail mail address:

Margie Germain
4600 Magyarország Kisvárda
Flórián Tér 3

You MUST include the ' above the letters where listed, as without them, the word is entirely different.

They start with the zip, country, town and then street and number. So, the 4600 is the postal code.

You will have to fill out a customs decloration and dispatch note form at the post office. (ps form 2976-A) Be general in your description of items, ie, personal clothing, personal books, or "gift". Estimate low on value, as this amount is used to determine if there is a customs tax or not. (It is not used for replacement value.)

My cell phone number is 30-266-1362
From the US, I THINK you dial 01(to dial international from the US) -36 (Country code for Hungary) - 30 (T-mobile code) - 266-1362

I can also be reached through Skype when I am online (my mornings are best) at margie.germain

The bathroom

Ok, the bathroom. First there is no mirror. Not just in the bathroom, but anywhere in the apartment. I have requested one be put in the bathroom above the sink. I did that two days ago, so guess I'd better ask again! (When I get to the teacher's room, I first go to the mirror to see how my hair turned out!)

The bathtub presents a problem for me. The bathtub is narrower than those in the US and the length of the tub is against the wall, with the facets along this long side also. From the facet is a hand-held shower head on a 2 foot hose. There is no shower curtain around the tub and no way for me to put one up. Ok, are you starting to get the picture?

If I stand, the shower head doesn't not reach above my head, and anyway, would get water everywhere (more on this later). If I sit, I'm sardined-in, and still get water on the floor. So, I have developed a half-sit/half-squat stance that is a challenge, but is working. Another incentive to lose weight - although I don't think it is possible to lose enough in a school y ear to fit into the tub!

Ok, the water on the floor. In the bathroom is a mop and bucket. It's express purpose is to mop up the water from the splashes from the shower! I saw this last time I was here and had it confirmed by Lu who had just returned from here.

My approach to the bathroom is to have an extra towel on the floor, wash my hair only once a week, and to lose weight by next week so I can sit in the tub! lol

Oh, I almost forget the most exciting thing about the bathroom! When squating in the tub or using the toilet in the morning, I can hear the Greek Catholic mass and singing coming from the chapel on the other side of my bathroom wall! (Means they must be able to hear me too!)

The school day

This week has turned out to be a great week for me in terms of getting started with my classes. Since I wasn't here on Monday and had to miss most of Wednesday for the paperwork, I have not been assigned to take on my classes by myself yet. Instead, I have shadowed the teachers in their classes when I have been available and have met the students.

I will work with four English teachers: Edit, Istva'n, Do'ra and Marianne. All are very nice and eager to help me. Edit is my liaison, Istva'n is the lead teacher for the languages, Do'ra was the liaison to the English teacher 3 years ago and is now married to him, and Marianne is a tall gal from the Ukraine who really pushes her students.

We have grade levels 9-12 and within each grade level, there are groups A through E, with the A students being the least studious and the E students being the more driven. This is a technical/professional school focusing on IT, marketing and economics. The marketing and econ students take more language classes than the IT students. Each of my classes is just a portion of the group within the grade level, so for instance, I have 12E two times, but each time it is just half of the whole group in order to keep the class sizes down. Most of the classes are between 12-17 students, although one of my classes has 23.

The 12 graders must take a school leaving exam, and I will be assisting in conducting the oral portion. So the whole year is focused on working with the students to build their vocabulary and ability to discuss and reason within certain topic areas. These include taking a vacation, asking directions, discussing the environment, going to the Dr., renting a flat, looking for a job, etc.

Some of the lower grades will also take an exam to receive a certificate, but this is their choice - however they will still have to pass the school leaving exam their last year. So, these same topics are introduced and practiced at the lower levels as well, just not in as much detail. I could see a distinct difference in the younger learners than in the more experienced ones.

I will have one group of absolute beginners twice a week. They already know the alphabet and some vocab and some basics such as my name is...., how old are you.... etc. With this group, I will follow the topics of their main language teacher more closely. My role in all of this is to do the conversation pieces. The main teachers intro the topics, and I then work them over trying to get the students to speak!

I start on my own with my classes on Monday. I feel very lucky to have had this intro time as from what I can tell, many of us "teachers" are just thrown into it.

The students for the most part are polite and seem eager to learn, although within each group you can certainly see the weaker students. I have seen students with piercings, spiky hair, heavy makeup, etc., but for the most part the general student population is very clean cut. Today was the first day that I had a student with a piercing on her lip, and I have had over 100 students so far.

The school day starts at 7:45am and consists of 45 minute lessons, with a 10 minute break between each one. Teachers do not necessarily a class each period. Lunch is at 1:05 to 1:30, then the last (7th) period of the day is from 1:30 to 2:15. I only have 2 first period classes and 2 second period classes, so I don't have to start too early. My week gets more intense later in the week. On Monday I have 3 classes, with the first not until the 3rd period and the last before lunch, Tuesday, 2 classes, Wednesday 3 classes, Thursday 6 classes and Friday 5 classes, with the last class being 6th period with 23 boys in the 11b group (not much drive). So that is 19 class periods, but there are two groups which I have twice.

The classes are in one of two buildings connected by a nice courtyard with the cafeteria and the building my apartment is in. The classroom size is rather small but we have white boards to use instead of chalkboards which is great. I don't see much technology available in the classrooms - less than in Hodmezovasrhely, but they do have a language lab that the students use for self-directed learning about once per week.

Think that is it on that topic!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hungarian Bureaucracy

I was going to write about the bath/shower situation, but that can wait for another day! Today's Hungarian culture lesson will be dealing with Hungarian Bureaucracy!

Edit is an English teacher here at the school, and she was assigned to be my liaison for this year. This is the first time for her to do this as a different teacher is resposible for this each year. She told me yesterday to bring my passport and paperwork as we would be taking care of a number of business items today.

So, we started in the secretary's office with a lot of confusion regarding my work visa. They asked me a number of times if I had it, and I explained that I had nothing and that I thought Hajni (pronounced Hoyni - of the CETP that placed me in this job) had given it to them when she brought me on Monday. After a number of phone calls - none of which were to Hajni - and copying of my passport and the "certified true and exact copy" of my diploma (of which I brought 8 as instructed, but the secretary wanted to make her own copy), Edit and I headed to the Finance office of the school. There Edit engaged in conversation with the Finance director and again asked me if I had a work visa. The Headmaster was sitting there, and he spoke up and said he had it, as Hajni had given it to him when she dropped me off. Apparently some of the phone calls were to the local work permit office that insisted that I needed the work visa to get the work permit, but that Hajni said is not really required anymore, but that some of these small local offices don't know, so she got the visa anyway. (whew) And then that was it.... I don't know if there will be more on this or not -- I think I have to go into the larger city to an office there but will just follow whatever they tell me!

After an hour of this, Edit and I headed to the bank to open an account. These guys like forms, multiple copies, copies of passports and stamps - yes, multiple stamps. I don't know if it is the noise they make when they stamp something or what, but everything gets stamped with two to three stamps. It took two people to figure out how to get my address, name, etc., into the computer system, but they were finally successful. In two to three weeks I should receive either a notice in the mail, or a phone call (although no one asked for my phone number!), to let me know that my ATM card is available at the bank and that I am to go and pick it up.

Another hour down, and we now headed to the tax office. It was probably a mile and a half to the office and Edit clicked along in her high heels like it was nothing. When we got there and entered a fifty foot long hallway, we saw people clustered around three different closed doors. Mind you, they weren't in lines, rather all clustered around the door and all of the staring at the door! The door Edit chose for us had two other women waiting. We watched as people went in and out of the other doors one by one, while no one came out our door! Finally, Edit decided to try another door and after a short wait we got our turn - only to be given a form, told to go back out in the hall to fill in out and to wait in line again. When we got inside, the same scene as in the bank occured: confusion about how to input my data, and a lot of forms and copies and stamping. I was given carbon copies of the forms, and again was told that I would receive something in two to three weeks.

I guess the experience wasn't much different than what we experience at home, other than not having access to the forms without having to wait in line, and of course the stamping of everything.