Sunday, June 21, 2009


Traveling with my sister Becky. We started by driving from Budapest, back to Kisvarda and then finishing school on Friday and Monday. In between we went to Ukraine with two teachers Marianne and her husband Tibor. We stayed at Tibor's mother's house and had a great time. We had lunch with Marianne's sister at her flat in a soviet era bock of apartments. Tibor's sister is the curator of an art museum and she took us through the rest of the museum in the castle and then on Sunday morning took us through the art gallery. We had a wonderful time and felt so grateful to them for opening their homes to us. We had vodka, Ukrainian cheese, shopped in a grocery store and in a huge local market where you could get anything from fruits and veggies to clothes, bicycles and chainsaws.

Left Kisvarda on Monday after many many goodbyes and a nice farewell from the teachers including some local embroidery and photo album awaiting my Kisvarda pictures.

First to Tokaj and then to Eger for overnight. Then on to Heves to meet Tara and Briggi and give them my leftovers from the flat and the things I brought back for them at Easter. We visited the local folk museum which turned into a great tour with Briggi translating. This is a working handicraft museum and we saw many beautiful embroidered pieces and women weaving, etc. Then on to Budapest to Peggy's to dump my suitcases and then to the airport to dump the car. We were very happy to get rid of the car: city driving is not for either of us.

Next day was a quick tour of Budapest and then a train at 4:00 to Zagreb. Just overnighted there and then caught a bus to Zadar on the coast. Decided to slow down and stay two nights, but the weather turned bad, so we used the bad weather day to travel down the coast, through Split and then by ferry to Hvar where we are now.

Sorry for the mundane post, but just need to get some notes in here; more detail when I get a chance to post pictures.

We are scheduled for an all day sail tomorrow which we are quite excited about, but the weather is really bad, so our fingers are crossed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kalocsa: theatre and food

Over the weekend of June 6th and 7th, I went to Kalocsa to visit Franny and Jon. What a great weekend. I guess I have put off posting about it the same way that I hardly said anything about everything we did in Tata: it is just too difficult to capture here what a fun and wonderful time I had.

Kalocsa is known for it's paprika and it's embroidery, but this weekend was the Bluebird festival with a focus on music and theatre. Franny lives in a flat above an OTP bank in the center of town, overlooking the pedestrian-only street. Before I arrived, she and Jon listened to a performance from the street without having to leave the flat!

We started with a "walking tour" of town: this town has so much character - definitely more than Kisvarda! I saw where Franny teaches, the church (of course), the booths with local products at the fair, the paprika museum, a photography show, and then off to their favorite restaurant for some coffee. Turned into coffee, cherries, ice cream and conversation with their favorite restaurant owner/chef.

After stopping to get some wine to go with the dinner, we headed back to the flat for an afternoon of cooking. After not cooking for most of this year, what a treat. And everything was fresh from the market: tomatoes, peas, garlic, lettuce and greens, etc. What a wonderful meal to sit down to!

After dinner - or was it after the first course? - we headed out to a performance that was part of the festival. A bit hot in the venue, but wow! what costumes and fun -- it was the Emperor's New Clothes. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so hopefully Franny will post some photos that I can steal! We watched the first act, then headed back to the flat for the salad and dessert courses, and more wine.

Unfortunately, due to having to use the trains and buses, and having to transfer four times, I had to leave early on Sunday. But true to form, Jon produced a wonderful breakfast of french toast with cherry jams that Franny (or both?) had made. Finom!

To check out all the pics, go here:

Thanks Franny and Jon for a wonderful weekend!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday, Monday.........

I had three extra classes today, so a total of five. Kind of nice to be kept busy, instead of half packing and unpacking, etc.

After the last class, Ildiko took me to the hairdressers - a different one this time. I brought a photo of a friend with me and told her I wanted my hair cut like her's. So, my hair is vry short but according to some of the students, it's cool. And one student told me I don't look 50 any more, but more like 35! (I think she wants a high grade in my class!)

Mondays I also meet with Krisztie and Anita, so today we went and got a Gyro"s Tal plate to share. (It kind of reminded me of nachos, in that there were french fries on the bottom, topped with seasoned chicken meat, then a little bit of cheese and then a flavored mayo and ketchup squirted all over it!) We had a great time sitting and talking together and it really made me sad as I will miss our weekly chats and laughs. After we ate, they went with me to pick out a big pair of earrings to go with my short hair.

And my day did not end! Card games with 4 students and then scrabble with another. And then Anett from the Dorm came over this evening and gave me a wonderful gift; I just couldn't believe it. It is four square doilies or napkins that she embroidered! I asked her how long it took and she said last summer; about two months of work! There is a beautiful x-stitched blue flower on each one.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mickey Mouse

With classes winding down, I have needed a fun activity to keep the kids occupied. So, I adapted the "who am I" game for the classes. I wrote numerous names of celebrities, famous Hungarians, footballers, people from history, local teachers, etc., including Harry Potter and Mickey Mouse on pieces of paper. One student came to the front of the class and pulled a name from the bag and the remaining students had to ask yes and no questions and try to figure out what name was on the paper. They asked questions such as it is a man, is he in the movies, is he Hungarian, is he alive, does he play in action movies, etc.

A student pulled Mickey Mouse's name. Someone asked, "Is it a man?" and the student said, "Yes, well, kind of...." and looked to me for assistance. I started to explain that maybe instead of asking if it was a man, the better question was if it was a male. But while I started this explanation, another student asked if it was a woman, and the answer was no. Another student yelled out, "Is it Michael Jackson?"

Funny enough that this happened in one class, but it happened again in another class too!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Teacher's Day

Last week sometime was "Teacher's Day" but our school celebrated it today. We had shorter classes and then there was a nice lunch with speeches and entertainment provided by some of the talented musically-inclined students. I still can't get over that they actually serve alcohol - in this case champagne and wine - on school grounds! We also received coupons worth 7000 forints - somewhere around 35 bucks. These coupons can be used at the grocery stores, so are quite useful.

Students also gave teachers candy and flowers. I scored again with three carnations, a box of chocolate covered cherries and a box of "merci" multi-flavored chocolates, (Yes, mom, I shared the chocolates with the students -- I didn't even bring them into the flat.) along with a teacher's diary for next year!! Guess I will have to teach again next year somewhere! I swear, the business to be in here is the flower business. Even in times of recession, everyone is quite generous at giving flowers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Party at the Dorm

I had been warned that the students wanted to have a party for me on Monday night at the dorm, but when David called and said they needed me there because there was an emergency, there was an urgency to his voice that actually sounded real! But, when he told me A'gi broke her leg, I was 99% sure there was no emergency other than food to be eaten. And I was right.

There were about 8 students, and they had brought food from home to share including desserts with strawberries, chocolate, fresh cherries and there were even a few cabbage rolls just for me. David put together this traditional plate -- the ham is home-smoked and tasted like the smoked salmon -- just as he had said when he ate the salmon! That is a big hunk of "bacon" by the knife handle -- basically smoked pork fat - and then there is also dill, onions, garlic and lettuce and tomato on the plate. You eat small pieces of a few of the items followed by a bite or two of bread.
They even brought some Hungarian needlework items to decorate the room.

I took the opportunity to present gifts from Alaska to the students. I let them select what they wanted actually from a tub I had.

We had a nice time eating, talking and listening to music. I managed not to cry --- I'm glad this wasn't during the last week, or I would have.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Budapest weekend - oops thought I had posted this.

I headed into Budapest on Friday for the three day weekend with a shopping list in hand and excited to be going to the National Gallop - an event I stumbled upon last year with Giulia. I had made arrangements with Peggy, (CETP teacher in Budapest who came in January) to explore some of the markets and to see the National Gallop.

I was able to complete some of my shopping on Friday night, and then early Saturday I was up and off to the Tesco and mall near Keleti Train Station. I found the pancake mix, syrup, peanut butter and tortilla shells I was looking for, but not a tank top, hat or lighter weight electrical adaptor.

The weather was not all that great, but I met Peggy at 10am and off we went. Our plan was to check out some of the markets in Budapest - other than the huge Great Central Market. I knew of one that I went to last year that was very much a local market, so we went there first. Then, close by was a gourmet foods store -- are Oreos gourmet? Anyway, they had oreos and a few other US foods, along with foods from all over the world. Nearby was Tree Hugger Dan's, the used English bookstore that I have wanted to go to all year. Peggy found quite a few books and I regretted even more not making it there before for some books. I'm sure Peggy will be a regular there, trading in old and getting new-to-her books. I did get a dictionary to leave with the Scrabble game, a travel book on Greece, and a book written by an Hungarian writer, translated to English.

We went to Iguana's for lunch and Margaritas/Sangria and then to the Gerbeaud Cafe. I had not been there before, but had read about it. It first opened its doors in the 1850's and is known for its cakes, etc. As it was raining, we sat there for some time before heading to the metro to head back to our own places. I couldn't find my umbrella and finally decided I must have left it at home. Quite frustrating. I really didn't want to buy ANOTHER one, as I already have two!

The evening in the hostel was pleasant and I talked with two gals from South America. One was from Chile and is a graphic designer and the other from Argentina and is a triage nurse. They met each other on the train to Budapest and were going to travel on to Vienna together. Both are on extended trips and it looked like their paths would cross again. I talked to the one from Argentina about her country a bit, as the GeoVision program that I recently found as a potential for traveling in the fall, has a program there. She was excited to show me pics of her country and encouraged me to travel there.

Sunday morning the weather was no better, but again Peggy and I met at 10am and this time headed to Hero's Square where the National Gallop was taking place. We walked amongst the booths from different towns and regions and picked up a number of brochures and booklets. Some are for my use with Becky when she gets here, and I thought I would leave some for the new incoming teacher to Kisvarda, Rette, and send some to the Larry and Bonnie who are coming to Debrecen and a nearby town. We hoped to see the both from Hodmezovarsahely, as they had one last year, but no louck. We were only able to be there for about an hour before the rain really started coming down. We decided to go to the mall that I had gone to on Saturday morning and figured we could shop and maybe take in a movie.

Well, we were wrong about the shopping. Today, Monday, June 1 is a holiday, so the stores were all closed on Sunday too!!! The restaurants and the movie theatre were open though and there were many people window shopping throughout the mall. We had a nice lunch while we waited for our movie to start. We saw Russell Crowe in "State of Play" in English with Hungarian subtitles. It was sooo good to do something so "normal" and I really enjoyed seeing a movie on the big screen.

When I got back to the hostel, I realized that I would have the evening ahead of me without anything really to do, and there weren't many people around. Because the weather wasn't supposed to get any better, I realized I would just be leaving first thing in the morning anyway. So, I checked the schedule and was able to catch the last train to Kisvarda, getting here at 10:30pm. I read "Twilight" all the way back on the train! Thanks Claudette - it sure made the time go faster!

Eventful week

This past week was slow in terms of classes, but I was still quite occupied.

On Monday one of the students from the dorm, one who is in my 9E class came to the door and wanted to visit. I explained I was doing laundry and was going to pack some of my things, and she eagerly agreed to help. We had a fun time getting out the suitcases, wrapping the ceramics inside clothing and placing all of that into the wicker shopping basket and fitting the whole bundle inside the suitcase. We ended our time with a few hands of cards -- I have taught them very basic games: crazy 8 and kings in the corner.

On Tuesday I was to meet with my two after school students, but only one could make it. So, we talked for a while and then played Scrabble. She loved it and we had a good time and we have made arrangements to go to pizza next week as it will be our last week together. We also did the s'mores after dinner on Tuesday. (see earlier post)

The roses are in full, beautiful blooms all over the campus. The maintenance guys were trimming the bushes, cutting off the dead blooms, etc., and I tried to get one of the roses that they thought was too far gone to stay on the bushes. Instead, the maintenance guy insisted on cutting me roses in good condition for my own bouquet and I ended up with a bouquest of 6 different colored roses. It's the little things in life....

I went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned on Thursday. Baboosh's husband went with me since he is out of work right now and speaks English. The dentist herself cleaned my teeth but there was an assistant there as well. The assistant is the mother of one of the boys in my 9E class, and he told me in advance that his mother worked there. So, I made sure to tell her that her son is a good student (he really is). I will go back tomorrow to have a small "hole" filled. Hope it is not too painful - haven't had a filling done in about 20 years!

On Wednesday, I went to Judit's house for dinner again. I met her daughter Judit here at the school and we walked to her house. I really enjoy talking with daughter Judit and her husband, Laszlo. Laszlo told me about some nearby castles and mansions and also explained that there are a number of music festivals throughout the summer. He ended by giving me two CD's of classical music from one of the festivals. Have yet to listen to it. While I was there, my cell phone rang, but there was no name, so I did not answer it. When I got back to the school, there were about 6 kids sitting outside my door, wanting to know where I had been and why I did not answer my phone!!!

I have been playing Scrabble and/or cards with students almost every afternoon or evening. They have had a lot of exams the last few weeks, so I always make sure they don't need to be studying. Some of them just come out and play one hand of cards and go back into the dorm to study. I had a weaker student from one of my 11A classes join in on a scrabble game one evening and she won! She was so thrilled and walked around the next day telling all of the students she beat me at the game. She has asked to play every day since! Yes! - one way to get them to improve their English skills!
I also received a huge bag of cherries this week from Ildiko, from her cherry trees in her yard. Ohhh, so good.

Week before last I received a box of books from Claudette including Twilight and New Moon, popular books amongst teenagers right now. I am about 2/3 through Twilight and hope to finish it today. I will give the book to a girl in 10E who has already read it in Hungarian and wants to try to read it in English as well.

On Friday as I left for the train to Budapest, a couple of dorm students wanted to know when I would return. When I said sometime late on Monday, they insisted I be back earlier - around dinner time. One of them let slip that there would be a party. So, I am back early and am looking forward to the party and giving the students gifts that I brought back from Alaska.

Excuse me and Beach

I don't remember if I posted about the first incident or not, so I will explain it here (possibly again).

My last class on Friday is a group of 22 boys. There are some very strong English students in this class, but also some very very weak ones.

One Friday afternoon, I had already started class when a student opened the door and walked in. He stopped and looked at me and said "exercise" and then proceeded to his desk. I thought that was pretty weird, but started to continue with the lesson when the voices in the back of the room started getting louder and then they started laughing. With a quick explanation in Hungarian, the rest of the class started howling too. What was going on? Well, the student meant to say "excuse me" to me when he came in late, but confused the phrase with "exercise". I joined in the laughter and this has become a standing joke in our class. Whenever anyone comes in late, the whole class now says "exercise" along with the late student!

Well, this past Friday we were playing a vocabulary game at the board. One person from each of the two teams was at the board. I would define a word and the student who figured out the English word, wrote it on the board correctly and put down their marker first would win a point for their team.

The student who had said "exercise" for "excuse me" was at the board. I started, "A place by the water that people like to go to. Sometimes it is sandy and people lay in the sun..." The boys starting writing furiously on the board, whipped around and put their pens down. There on the board on one side was "beach" and on the other was "bitch". The roar of laughter from the class was so loud that I was afraid another teacher would come to the door to tell us to quiet down.

So, I am awaiting next Friday's class; what will it be? Will all the students be saying bitch or exercise?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You can take the girl out of Alaska....

but you just can't take Alaska out of the girl! I smell like campfire and I love it!

Tonight I finally got to have a fire with the students from the dorm with the goodies I brought back at Easter time. First lesson was what a marshmellow is and how it tastes. Second lesson was to try the graham cracker. No need to try the chocolate - they are quite experienced with that!

Then on to the fire being just right,

how to cook the marshmellow and what to do if it catches fire: DO NOT swing it around to put out the fire!

All went well and they loved the s'mores, including the teacher. The only thing missing was the beach and the sunset over the Chilkats!

A'gi, 9E A'ginene, Dorm Teacher

Monday, May 25, 2009

Budapest and Tata

Had an absolutely fantastic weekend. Since my last class was cancelled for exams on Friday, I was able to catch a train at 10:40 (had to run to catch it) and get into Budapest around 3pm. I met up with Jamie, CETP teacher in Ujszasz and we headed out for the great Market Hall at the end of Vaci Utca, a pedestrian boulevard near the Danube. We enjoyed walking through looking at all the food products on the ground floor and the souvenirs on the second floor. Jamie bought a beautiful necklace --- I might go back next weekend to get one myself.

We ended up walking for hours through Budapest, looking at sites and enjoying the city. We had dinner at a Thai restaurant and later went to a Mexican restaurant for margaritas. Our hostel was in a good location for getting around and was clean and nice. Unfortunately, there was a loud obnoxious guy in the room next to us who decided that 4:30am was a good time to chat with his roomies - argh. Glad I always carry earplugs and an eyeshade.

In the morning we grabbed a quick sandwich from the food laid out at the hostel and caught the train to Tata (I had to run again, this time not as far) to visit CETP teacher, Carla. Tata is a small town about an hour by train NW of Budapest. There were re-enactments of battles between the Hungarians and the Turks and a medieval type fair going on. The Hungarians were retaking the castle that they lost to the Turks 150 years prior. We spent the day walking around, watching the different battles, taking pictures, trying the beer and wine, checking out the different booths, taking a guided tour in Hungarian through another of Eszterhazi's palaces and going an a boat ride on the lake. What an absolutely fun, relaxed day in the sun. We went to dinner at the Pirate Restaurant and then headed to a club to people watch. We had a lot of laughs, a chance to talk about our students and jobs, and our future plans. I've reduced a day packed with fun to one short paragraph! I will post my pics later, and will add links to Carla's and Jamie's blogs which I am sure will be much more detailed!

Antsy kids

This past week at school was really slow. With five fewer classes due to the 12 graders being gone, my schedule now has many holes throughout the day. The upper classes who remain aren't interested in learning new material in my classes; they either want to study for a test in another subject or they want to go outside in the sun/shade. Last week I ended up letting a couple of the classes study for exams later in the day and also went outside with at least five of my classes. I try to have something prepared that they can do while we sit outside together, or if it is a small enough class, I sit and talk with small groups, getting them to use their English. In two classes I had them do scavenger hunts that worked in one class and was a failure in the other!

The students all have progress exams for their grade levels. The kids in the dorm are drinking coffee to stay awake so they can study for hours. As I walk through the courtyard, students are on benches with heads bent over notebooks, reading intently. Or, writing on a piece of paper in tiny handwriting. They are creating cheat sheets, or puskas (literally translated as gun, but slang for cheat sheet) for use during the tests. I don't know how much the other teachers see of this, or if the students actually use them, or if they are ever caught. (I'm going to do some "investigating" this week.) I had two of my classes canceled as the students had these exams over more than one class period.

Exams will continue this week but I am not sure for how much longer. There are only three weeks and one Monday of school left in the year! I'm sure there will be more exams scheduled during my class times, special activities, and less student interest as we get through these weeks.

Train vs. Plane travel

For years I have traveled by plane; it's what you have to do when you live in Juneau with no roads to drive out of town on. This winter I have traveled via train from Kisvarda to many points throughout Hungary and Europe. The differences in being a passenger on these two types of transportation has really struck me lately.

Basically, when you travel by train, you get on and go! No hassle with a security line, boarding all at once and by rows and seats, pre-boarding for families, elderly, etc. You've got a ticket, you get on the train and if you have a seat reservation, you find the seat, if not, you find any seat that seems to work for you. When it is time for the train to depart, you usually hear a faint whistle from the platform and the train leaves. No boarding announcements, no one telling you to sit down and store your things (duh!), no safety briefing, no seat belts, no taxiing onto the runway and waiting forever. The train just goes and you are on the way. If you are hungry, you dig into your bags for your pre-packed sandwich and drinks (sometimes even beer) -- there is no waiting for someone to come along and pour you a drink and hand you a bag of nuts. Most of the time, upon arrival at your destination, there is no announcement: the train starts to slow down, you get up while the train is still moving, gather your stuff and head for the door. When the train stops, you jump off into the cluster of people waiting to get on, and the train takes off again after a 3-5 minute stop. I definitely prefer the train!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Budapest & Sopron

On Friday, May 15, I left right after school and headed for Budapest where I met Penny & Peggy - two CETP teachers for dinner. I had found a very cheap hostel near the Keleti train station, where I needed to leave from in the morning to Sopron. As it turned out, the restaurant we were meeting at was a straight shot down the street by bus also.

As I entered the hostel, I had a sinking feeling: the area outside was pretty grungy, two drunks walked by as I was entering, and the entry way smelled of urine and there was pesticide powder all along the edges of the walls up the first flight of stairs! Yikes! So, I thought I would still check it out, but could easily leave and find someplace else -- I would just have to pay more. But when I got up the 2 flights of stairs, the place was actually quite nice and cute - and clean - the biggy for me. The guy working was real nice and said I might be the only one there that night, and he showed me around. He also gave me instructions to get to the restaurant. BUT, most importantly, he glued my train ticket back together for me! I ripped it in half along with the seat reservation ticket I had just used, thinking it was trash. Then it hit me that it was also my return ticket! (You would think after 10 months of traveling on the Hungarian trains, I would remember.) Anyway, he worked real hard on it with a glue stick and an extra piece of paper, and when I returned from Budapest to Kisvarda there was no problem.

Sopron is the farthest west city in Hungary and is a few hours train ride from Budapest. The countryside was beautiful, once we got past the industrial development on the outskirts of Budapest. The draw of Sopron is the Inner City, which was originally occupied by the Romans, and then many others since then. Parts of the old Roman wall remain today. Most of the buildings in the Inner City are very old, and the Inner City is a World Heritage site. Sopron was heavily damaged during WWII, but fortunately, not the Inner City area!

I splurged on a pension here, and it turned out to be worse than the cheap hostel. I swear, the ants are following me! There were ants in the bathroom and I had to get them to spray because there were so many --- I would have preferred changing rooms, but there were none others available. I even called around, but no luck.

While there I also visited Ferdo where the Esterhazy Estate is and Nagycenk where the Szechenyi Mansion is. I have pics of both of these posted.

I traveled alone again, and kind of wished I was with someone while looking around Sopron, as there were a number of wine cellars and I just didn't feel comfortable sampling by myself. Actually, I didn't really have a problem with going into the places by myself, but as a single traveler I didn't think I should let down my guard by drinking!

The train ride back was long and miserable. First, from Sopron to Budapest, I was on a Gyor, a fast local train, but it was totally packed -- people had to stand! And it was HOT. I had my bag on my lap, and when I moved it, my pants were wet with sweat! I had a quick stopover in Budapest, and then a much better train ride the rest of the way back, but I didn't get to Kisvarda and my flat until around 11pm!

Sunday and the week of May 11-15

Saturday's adventures with Judit's family was followed by another adventure with them on Sunday. We drove to Debrecen (1 1/2 hours) to go to a street market/fair. There were two sections - one was crammed full of people selling clothes. The clothes were piled on tarps and there would be 100's of the same item all with the store tags still on them. Besides clothes, there were tables with household goods, carpets and various electronics. Most of these people were Roma (Gypsy), or from Romania. One woman was dressed in traditional clothes of the Sze'kely Hungarians from the Transylvania area where we visited in the fall. This was a pretty rough section - everyone walking and shopping were holding onto their purses quite tightly to their front.

From there it moved into a more organized fair with booths. But even these were selling new clothing. There was one street though with handcrafts, and then throughout there were they typical booths or jewelry, nick-knacks, and fair things. We were there for hours and then headed back to Nyiregyhaza to a Medieval theme restaurant for a traditionally HUGE Hungarian dinner.

The school week was pretty different. This was the first full week with out the 12 grade kids. So my schedule is sparse: 3 days with only 2 classes, 1 day of 3 classes and 1 day of 5 classes. Of course, I still have the 3 classes for the dorm students in the evenings. The weather has been pretty good, and the kids are having a hard time focusing and are asking to go outside quite often during class.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lunch turned into an all day affair!

This morning I was picked up by Laszlo and Judit, husband and daughter of Judit the maths teacher and form teacher for 12D. Judit invited me long ago to lunch at her house, but it never worked out until now. I had a fabulous time and was with them all day - not just for lunch, but for dinner too! And now they will pick me up again tomorrow morning and I will go to Debrecen with them to a fair -- where there should be plenty of handcrafts for sale!

Judit the daughter (age 14) was very excited about my coming to their house. She was bubbling over when they came to get me. She has studied English for 5 years now and is also a private student of Suba Istvan, so her English is quite good. I spent the first few hours visiting with her while Mom Judit cooked our lunch! (She didn't want help, I asked just like my mom taught me to.) We talked about everything that these kids learn to talk about in English in school - free time activities, favorite subjects, holidays, etc. But it didn't seem like a lesson at all and I really enjoyed talking with her. She reads alot, which is not something I have come across here much, and enjoys listening to music, chatting on the internet, etc. Pretty typical otherwise. She is also quite the artist and she showed me some of her work.

For lunch we had fried chicken, fish, french fries and rice with corn. Oh, and of course a starter of soup with potatoes, peas and carrots. Laszlo and I started our lunch with a shot of Palinka! I couldn't get out of it -- it is a very traditional welcome to guests.

After lunch we went to Grandma's house (Judit's mom) to pick up net-heads. You know, the kind we use for misquitos at home, but here we were getting them because we were going to visit Grandpa's beehives! Grandma is a crafter and she had a number of pieced quilt covers and macrame around the house that she showed me.

We then drove to the forest and walked between the forest and the field to
the beehives and Grandpa. Grandpa opened one hive and showed the two sides: one where the bees live and the other where they make the honey. Ok, probably simplified, but that's the jest of it. He searched until he found the queen bee on the first side and then pulled out the screens on the second side to show the honey that is already being made in there. He was a bit concerned as the wind has been picking up and the weather not the best for the bees to be out doing their pollinating and bringing back the nector.

Judit in her net-head.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Food and Money

Yesterday evening after I returned to the school, a group of girls stopped by to see if I wanted to go get ice cream with them. But I had not bathed yet and was in dirty clothes, so I asked them if they would get a gyros for me from the shop next to the ice cream shop. I'd seen them getting these before, but had not had one here yet. As I had no food in the flat, this turned out to be a great option for dinner.

A few hours later, another knock at the door, this time two other girls, with a full plate of stuffed cabbage! Seemed that there was dinner in the canteen after all, and they thought I would like to have some as the other girls had told them I didn't have any food in the flat! (It's all in the fridge still.)

Today, I entered the main building and the accounting secretary saw me and motioned for me to follow her to the office. She had me sign on a piece of paper and then handed me 14,000 forints - about $65.00. Since she doesn't speak English, I couldn't ask her what it was for, but I saw that all the other teachers got it to. I later asked one of the teachers and she said it was for supplies. Sounds good to me, as I have definitely spent that and more on students and supplies.

THEN, I walked into the teacher's room, and there was pizza and cake for a name day celebration! Seems when I am out of food in the flat, I don't have to worry.

This afternoon I went to the stores and spent some of the money on strawberries, melons and fresh veggies...YUM.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Krakow - People I met

When you travel alone it seems that you are more likely to talk longer and do things with other travelers. But it's not just the other travelers that you meet that makes the trip - it's also the hostel workers, the ticket seller, the waitress/waiter, etc. Here is a little something about some of the people I met on my trip to Krakow. Such variety.

On the overnight train to Krakow I shared a couchette for six with 3 other people. Two were young gals, just finishing law internships - one at the Haag and the other in Geneva. They were traveling for a few weeks then heading back to Berkley. One of them has another year of school to go and the other will graduate. It was fun talking to them and hearing all of their discoveries in Europe and also that what they thought they would do with their law degrees when they started their studies, and what they think they will do now. Also in our car was a guy in his early 30's or so from Belgium who is teaching math and another subject in French at a bilingual school in Hungary. We of course compared notes about Hungarians and the schools. When he first came into the car I thought he was Hungarian because he opened his duffel bag and I saw the prerequisite beer that most Hungarians travel with!

The first night in the hostel, there was a gal from Indiana who is studying this semester in Budapest. Mary and I ended up talking for hours about her travels and mine, about Budapest, and life in general. I really enjoyed talking to her and was quite amazed by all the travel she has managed to do through University programs for the past year and a half. Just talking to her, you could see how it has completely overtaken her classroom work in providing her an education!

On one of the walking tours I took, there was a man from New Zealand, probably a bit older than I, who is teaching science at an American School in the Ukraine. He taught in Kazakhstan the year before and will teach another year in Ukraine before finding a non-Russian speaking country to teach in next. He pretty much flies out of Bucharest on any cheap flight he can find to see Europe.

When I checked into the hostel, two other people checked in at the same time: Ian from Manchester England, and Jxxx from Taiwan. I ended up going out to the jazz club with Ian and touring the castle grounds with J. We also checked in with each other every evening to see how the other's days were and what was going on.

On Sunday night I went to a jazz club with Ian to see a jazz pianist who bills himself as a Polish Ray Charles. He's over 80 and has had both legs amputated due to an infection or something. Anyway, at the table next to us was first a professional looking older guy. He kept talking to me in British English and wasn't real pleased with this guy's singing. Pretty soon, he invited another guy who was at a table by himself to join him. Before long, Ian and I had moved to that table also. Both men were Polish. The first man had lived in London for 30 years and had recently moved back to Krakow. When the traditional/patriotic songs were played and sung, he kept talking about how good it was to be back "home" and how it just felt right. He said he didn't realize how much he had missed Poland and Krakow until he returned. The other man was originally from Warsaw but had lived in Krakow for about 20 years. He had been a maths teacher, but now works as a computer programmer for Tescos. He lamented all night about how wrong it was that he was not able to do what he was born to do - teach maths -- but had to work as a programmer to make a living. (Yes, we were in a bar and he was coming close to crying in his beer.) Both men were great to us, as they translated the meaning of a number of songs, including a raunchy one about two lovers, and they kept buying us vodka! But it really added to the night to have people tell us what was going on!

Last night in the hostel, many guests were sitting around the table eating the free dinner. One was a German gal who told me she went to school in Pecs last year and started going on and on about what terrible students the Hungarians are! Actually, what she described was pretty typical, but I thought (guess I didn't think much) that it ended at high school, and that by the time the students made it to University, they were engaged and cared about what they were learning. Her big beef was that the students never studied, didn't really care about how they did and would cheat on tests and papers, would not speak up in class when asked a question by the teacher, and were pissed at her for doing the work and answering questions in class!

There was another guy waiting in the common room of the hostel for his evening train also. He was from Australia and has been working in Aberdeen Scotland as a helicopter mechanic. I had a hard time understanding him at times, as his accent was influenced by both places. He was funny talking about not being able to understand the Scots and the different colloquialisms they use. For example, when greeting someone, they say something like, "Everything all right?" and the response is "All right". But with the accent, the words are clipped and hard to understand. He said if you used another greeting, they wouldn't know how to respond!

When I bought my reserved seat ticket today for the train from Budapest to Kisvarda, the ticket agent told me there was no cost for the seat today! Didn't really get why, but I asked him about the potential strike and he said that yes it is on for 18 hours on Friday, May 8. But then he asked me where I was from and he just about came through the window when I told him Alaska, but that I was teaching in Kisvarda. He is from Zahony, a town not far from here (I have students who live there) and he went to Canada and Alaska two years ago to visit and loved it. He talked about the beautiful scenery and the nicest people.

There were more, so many more, people that I talked with and enjoyed meeting. There was only one obnoxious guy in the hostel and he was easily avoided.

Krakow - Ethnographic Museum

Ok, so on the afternoon of my last day in Krakow, I went to the Ethnographic Museum. Just wish I had been able to go there first before my feet were done in from the other museums and the walking. I loved it.

On the first floor were replicas of rural homes from the late 1800's - early 1900's with painting on the walls and ceilings and a lot of painted wooden furniture.

I could have spent a few more hours on the second floor. On display were folk costumes from all over the country's different regions with beautiful lace, embroidery, fabrics and do-dads. Then, each room featured a different aspect of rural life, one on hunting and gathering, one on the preparation of the food they hunted and gathered, another on the making of textiles and wools, another on musical instruments, then a series of rooms on celebrations, i.e., Christmas, Easter, etc. I just find seeing how people lived, worked and entertained themselves in past times to be so interesting. I was allowed to take pictures without flash and of course I took too many! They are posted here:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Krakow - Days three and four

Needless to say, Day three of my trip -- the day after "testing" vodka with the locals -- I was up a bit late and slow moving. I hooked up with a gal from Taiwan who also arrived at the same time as I did on Saturday and we took off for the castle. Wawel Castle grounds are free and there is also a cathedral, a dragon's cave, and a number of museums. Unfortunately, we were not able to get tickets into the museums as they were sold out for the day, but we did walk the grounds and walk through the Dragon's den. There is another legend, this one about a Dragon who usually ate sheep, but once a year, needed to eat a virgin. The towns people would randomly turn over a young girl each year to the dragon. One year, the Kings daughter was selected. The King offered any young man who could save his daughter, half of the Kingdom and of course, his daughter's hand in marriage. One poor young man tricked the dragon into eating a "sheep", although it was really a sheep skin stuffed with sulphur. The dragon got so thirsty that it started drinking water. It drank and drank and drank the water until he finally exploded! And that was the end of the terror of the dragon! But, his cave still exists under the hill where the castle is, and we walked through it!

For a very late lunch, we found a "Milk Bar". These are cheap cafeterias left over from the communist days -- we had beet root soup, chicken breast with mashed potatoes, a plate of 3 salads (including a cabbage one of course) and a fruit juice drink for 14.50 zlotys - or $4.43!

After lunch I headed for the Ethnographic Museum to see all the folk art, etc. Unfortunately, my guide book was wrong and it was closed! So, I wandered around the area (the old Jewish quarter) and visited the market as well. After I got back to the hostel I took a nap and hung out in the common room for awhile with a number of folks who had been here for a few days and new ones coming in. I ended up heading out to dinner with two of the guys, but they were looking for traditional Polish food (which is very similar to the Hungarian food and the food I had for lunch), so I took off and went to an Italian restaurant - YUM! I had minestrone soup and fetuchini with asparagus and prosciutto -- so nice to have something different than the cafeteria at school.

Today, Tuesday, I was up early and was at the castle at 9:00am for a tour of the state rooms and the royal apartments at the Castle. Glad I did this as it was different than many of the other castle tours in that they did not try to re-create the rooms exactly as they were, rather showed off tapestries, paintings, wooden chests, tables, chairs, etc., that were used over the years.

From the castle, I headed to the Ethnographic museum. FANTASTIC. More about these later, as my fingers are getting tired of typing!

Krakow - Days one and two

I have time before my night train back to Budapest, so thought I'd catch up here a little bit. I arrived in Krakow on the night train from Budapest on Saturday morning at 6:30am. I decided to start with a walking tour - well two of them actually: one of the old town and the other of the Jewish District called Kameriez. Unfortunately, the guide, although nice, struggled with her English and remembering her talk. It was very uncomfortable for all as we waited for her to find her words or as we listened to someone else tell us the history she was trying to relate. The fortunate part of the tours is that I got my bearings in both areas and was easily able to move through them to where I wanted to go over the next few days. On Saturday night I was beat from not sleeping soundly on the train ride and walking all over. I partook of the hostel traditional Polish Dinner (included in the price) and talked with one of my roommates for sometime. She is a young gal studying in Budapest this semester and has been traveling like made for the last year and a half. She was quite inspiring!

Sunday was Constitution Day, and also a holiday. So, figuring most things would be closed, I chose to go to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the morning and to the Salt Mines in the afternoon. I had the option of taking public transport and booking guides at the locations when I got there, or taking a "tour" which would get me there faster, in more comfort, and ensure I didn't have to wait an hour for a guide once I arrived. I opted to spend the additional money for the ease. Also, since I am traveling alone and know my own ability to get lost and not follow instructions, I figured it was best to go with a group. There was another gal from the hostel on both trips as well.

The trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau was quite sobering. Although I had been to Dachu outside of Munich when I visited Molly, this was just as great of an emotional experience. Seeing rooms full of suitcases & baskets, shoes, hairbrushes & combs, and human hair along with the photos of the people who arrived in the early days of the camp made it very real. Over 2000 people a DAY were killed in Birkenau for a number of years. We went through the crematorium in Auschwitz and it was hard not to cry. When we got to Birkenau (3 km fro Auschwitz) I chose not to go into the buildings where the women and children "lived". It was just too much.

We returned into Krakow and I found a little place that served pirogi - Polish dumplings. I had those and a salad for lunch and then stumbled upon Szczepanski Square and Street, so of course I have a number of photos for Sue! I also had enough time to go into the Museum that has Leonardo Di Vinci's "Woman with an Ermine" painting. Hmm, just didn't do anything for me.

I got back to the pick up point for the Salt Mine tour just in time. This bus ride was shorter and the guide on the bus was actually our guide through the mine also. I have heard people at the hostel grumbling about that tour as they didn't like it, but I certainly did. It was incredible to be in a mine that is still operating and has been for over 700 years! I had wanted to see the Salt Mine in Romania when we went in the fall, but we were unable to, so this was good. There is a legend about a Transylvanian/Hungarian Princess who lost her wedding ring in the salt mine in Romania and years later was found in this salt mine! There are a number of small chapels inside and a huge church as well. The chandeliers have salt crystals hanging from them. I'll post pictures when I get back. There are also a number of statues carved from the salt as well. A few years ago a number of people I know were reading "Salt: A world history" and I just couldn't imagine how boring it must have been. Now, I want to read it!

The day was capped with a fantastic time in a jazz club. Ian, a guy from Manchester England who checked in at the same time as I did went with me to this club that I had found on line. When I asked Adam at the hostel about it, he was thrilled to see the listing for a guy who calls himself "The Polish Ray Charles" and highly recommended we hear him. It didn't take long for him to start in on the Polish Patriotic songs as it was Constitution Day. There were two Polish men sitting at the table next to us -- and we ended up sitting with them -- as they were translating some of the songs (and buying us vodka!) There were a couple of other people who sang with him, and then a couple of times people in the club got up and danced and sang along as well. We had a great time but unfortunately, I did not bring my camera. Ian got photos and did a short movie as well, so I am hoping he will send them on to me like he said he would.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Krakow by night train

Took the train mid day from Kisvarda to Budapest, hung out for a few hours and then took the night train to Krakow. I got a bed in a 6 person couchette....thankgoodness there were only 4 of us in there! Arrived at 6:30, found the hostel without too much trouble and now making arrangements to get out and do two walking tours to get my bearings....I'd rather get taken around the first time than flounder for hours by myself only to find out I missed the highlights!

(I will fill in the blanks of the past few very busy weeks when I get back next Wednesday.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pecs - my 2nd favorite city in Hungary!

Loved it! Maybe it was the hills, or the slow pace we took it, or the atmosphere, but in any case, it was great! Don't have the pics posted, but will this week.

I think one of the most unique things there was the mosque church. When the Ottoman Empire ("the Turks") invaded and conquered Pecs, they tore down a church and rebuilt a mosque on the same spot with the same materials. When the Turks "left", the Christians did not tear down the Mosque, rather they just converted it to a church again! The Mosque Church sits at the top of the Szecsenyi Square (one of three squares in the inner town), which is on an uphill slope, capping the square with it's dome.

Jamie and I had a good day on Saturday, exploring museums and churches and sitting in the sun as we went. The only thing we had to pay for was the entrance fee to the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which included a wine tasting at the church cellar!!! Otherwise, we used the Hungary Card I bought and were able to enter all of the museums for free.

We splurged on food though. We had a lovely breakfast outside on a pedestrian only street and people watched. We ate a late lunch: Jamie had cream of mushroom soup and I had French onion soup. However, we think they were really the same soup (mine sans mushrooms) with Jamie's having croutons on it, and mine having the crouton on the side! We braved ordering a dish called a salty pie, which turned out to be a quiche I think, with a pizza like crust.

For dinner we ate outside again on a different square and really enjoyed our meal. I ordered Hortobagy Palacsinta for an appetizer and then took the waiters suggestion for a wine and main course. Jamie ordered the turkey with apples which was advertised on the sign board. The Hotobagy Palacsinta was fabulous. My brother Greg works with a woman from Budapest and I met her when I was home. She recommended I try these, and it was a perfect recommendation. These are the Hungarian Pancakes stuffed with a shredded meat in a flavorful sauce. I was served two huge ones, so thankfully Jamie helped with one, or I could not have eaten my main course. My main course was turkey stuffed with ham and cheese which was quite good as well. The dinner: 1 appetizer (big enough for a meal by itself), 2 main courses, a glass of wine and a glass of beer and conversation with the waiter came to $22.00 with tip! Not bad. (Total cost of the weekend was $81. which included transportation, hostel, sights, and food.)

About an hour after I got home, there was a knock on my door, and it was David with 5 other students. David had stuffed cabbage for me so I invited them all in. Three of the students hadn't been in here before, so they were quite curious about everything. I opened a package of smoked salmon (thanks Greg!) and shared it and they liked it! These are the students who didn't like peanut butter! Go figure! But, they did say it reminded them of ham...guess it was the smoked flavor. One of them was surprised it was pink...they had only seen fish with white meat. I also shared jelly beans and we talked about the rest of the marshmallows, but I didn't share them as I think 12E will use them for their cooking competition on Wednesday.

It is 7:15 in the morning and there is a jack hammer working outside my window already! They are replacing a cement sidewalk with bricks which are used elsewhere on the school grounds. Guess it's my call to get moving this morning.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Off to Pécs

The rest of my first week back was great. It was good to see students and share candz and stickers with them. You wouldn't think high school students would get so excited about stickers, but they really do love them! I played Scrabble with a few of the dorm students on Thursday night and I could really see the progress the two beginning students have made. They translated what was going on for another student who studies German, and they conversed in English as we played the game.

Later on Thursday night I texted with Jamie and Tara and found out that Tara was unable to go to Pecs as the two of them had planned. I was toying with the idea of going, so that made up my mind. So, here I am in Pecs with Jamie. It was a 7 hour train ride after school last night. Boy, the trains in the west are sure nicer than the trains in our eastern side of the country! The train from Budapest to Pecs had tables between all of the seats, and plug-ins also - unheard of on the trains I usually take around Kisvarda.

We were able to catch the last bus from the train station to the central square and then it was just a short walk to our hostel. I am anxious to get out and explore as I think this square is the best I have seen so far in Hungary! I'll let you know!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Back home in Kisvarda

27 hours of travel and I am back in Kisvarda. Boy, what a difference 2 weeks makes in the spring. Everything is green; grass, leaves on trees and flowers everywhere. Doesn't seem to be a lot of daffodils or tulips in public areas, but when I take a walk later, I'm sure to see some in private gardens.

I was greeted at the school by students from the dorm, and was promptly misted with perfume as is the Hungarian Easter tradition. I also received these beautiful eggs and a chocolate egg from a student. I shared bubble gum eggs and peeps with a few of the students.

After a nice hot bath, I was in bed by 9pm. Although I woke up about every two hours, I went right back to sleep until 6 this morning. I have sleep to catch up on though, so expect it to hit me later. Will work hard on getting right back on track with day and night.

Students are smiling ear to ear, are tanned from 2 weeks of sun, and after 5 days off for Easter are not focusing on school! The school leavers have only two weeks to go and then exams. They are excited and ready to leave school, but are not ready for the exams. The benches are out all over the grounds and students are sitting in the sun between the classes.

This mornings first class was my Advanced 9E and they had their first Easter egg hunt. I used the plastic eggs filled with jelly beans, egg shaped Reese's peanut butter pieces, and egg shaped malted milk balls and an Easter sticker. I know they don't have jelly beans and I haven't seen any of the other kinds of candies here either. The cleaning ladies helped me out by hiding the eggs just as soon as class started and then we came out to hunt. Wow! The kids were thrilled. Unfortunately, there are still two eggs hidden somewhere! Maybe the maintenance guys found them before we came out...?

When I went to my second class, 11B/D, they were ready for an egg hunt too! Unfortunately, I only brought enough of the plastic eggs for the 9E classes. So, I shared the jelly belly's and stickers of Alaska animals with them. Next class is the advanced 10E that I traveled to Egar with. I will show some of my pics from the trip home and then share jelly beans with them too. I had a package mailed here with fudge that I will share with them when it gets here.

It is just noon, I have one more class for the day, and then I am free! Amazing! Much slower pace here for me. I will have the dorm students tonight, and we will probably play a game, and I might help David study for his English exam which is on this coming Saturday. He is excused from classes the next three days to prepare.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is this part of the Hungarian Adventure?

I've been very busy, first in Anchorage visiting my son, meeting his girlfriend, and spending time with my sisters, and then in Juneau running around like crazy trying to accomplish everything on my lists. Today, ferry to Tenakee, help unload the ferry and inventory cabinets that came in on the barge for Shawna's house. Have taken a ton of pics to share back in Hungary, including some of the seaweed, mussuls, and barnacles. Love it here....

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What goes around comes around

I went into Nyiregyhaza to go shopping today and to buy my train ticket into Budapest. When I went to get in line at the ticket counter, a guy was changing from another window to the window I was approaching, and as he seemed to be in a real hurry, I signaled for him to go first. He was still putting away his ticket, etc., when I approached the window and he heard me speaking in English and asked if he could help. He then stood there the whole time and assisted with the transaction! Don't know why he wasn't in a hurry anymore, but I thought that was real nice of him!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Well, I admit it...

I am probably the world's worst blogger! It's just not my highest priority when I get home from classes....sorry!
The trip to Kassa was nice. We enjoyed ourselves and visited a beautiful church and museum and tried twice to visit another museum, but there was no one there, although we were told it was open. I have to admit, the best part of the trip was probably the eating out! I don't eat out at all in Kisvarda, and what I buy at the store is very limited. I am served whatever the surprise of the day is at the canteen, so getting to select what I ate was a thrill! AND, the prices were very good, even right on the main square.
Pictures are posted.

Two Tuesday's ago, I go my hair cut around noon, and as I was walking home, I ran into a teacher that I hadn't visited with much, but with whom I have been friendly. I asked her if she lived around there, and she said yes, and grabbed my arm and said, "Come on". I spent the next 10 hours !! visiting with her and her husband. He is a mechanical engineer, but is laid off work right now. He speaks pretty good English. She is a German teacher and told me she couldn't speak very good English, but she kept up the conversation the whole time. We got into their first bottles of home made apple Palinka (brandy) which is very strong and you can feel it "warm" you all the way to your stomach! We had a great time laughing and talking until too late! Babush's mom is going to teach me to make stuffed cabbage. We were supposed to do it tonight, but it didn't work out, so will do it once I return.

Last Friday and Saturday I went on a school class trip with 10E, which is Mr. Suba's class. We went to Eger and then stopped in Miskolc on our way back. We had a great time and I was quite pleased to be able to go with this class as a number of the students are very good with English and I get along well with them. I went to Eger last spring, but this time we had tickets to all the exhibits and museums at the castle and I really enjoyed seeing everything. We drove north when we left Eger and had hoped to stop in a small village in a National Park and take a narrow-gauge railroad. However, the weather was very cold and the train is open air, and we just didn't think it was a good idea after we had been outside all day the day before. The drive though was very nice and I would like to get a car when Becky gets here to drive up and through that area. Maybe I liked it so much because there were changes in the landscape and I am so used to seeing nothing but flat, flat, flat.....(Pictures are posted as well.)

On Tuesday of this past week, I got together with the Dorm teacher and many of the dorm students and we made palacsinta - Hungarian pancakes. These are a very thin, heavy on the egg, crepe like pancake that are then filled with chocolate powder, chocolate pudding, jam, nutella, and other sweet spreads. They are usually either rolled or folded into quarters. It was a lot of fun and took hours, but this counted as one of my lessons for the dorm students. (Pictures to be posted soon.)

Tomorrow we have Saturday school to make up for one of the days we missed due to the gas crisis. It will be a Monday schedule, so I will only have 3 classes, which is great!

On Tuesday, March 31, I will take the train to Budapest, overnight and catch a flight at 7am to head home for two weeks. Well, between the travel time and a stop in Anchorage for a few days to see Derek and Becky and friends, it will be about 8 days in Juneau. Hopefully Mt. Redoubt will stop blowing it's stack so I can fly into Anchorage!

I am beginning to feel sad about leaving here in June. I have really come to enjoy my co-workers and the students and will miss working with them all. I keep feeling that if I could have another 6 months or so with some of these students, I could really make a difference. I am looking forward to bringing back all types of treats for them: more Alaska postcards or bookmarks, smoked salmon for the teachers, more stickers for the kids, Easter candy and plastic eggs for an Easter Egg Hunt (they don't do them here), etc., etc. My list is long! Oh, yea, also marshmallows! One of the girls described them and asked about what they were called. She has seen them in movies.Oksham, that is all for now.

I will try, but no promises, to write more frequently.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kosice, Slovakia

I am heading to Kosice Slovakia (known as Kassa to the Hungarians) for the weekend. It is less than 20 km from the border of Hungary. It is the 2nd largest city in Slovakia, after Bratislava. US Steele has a huge plant there, but the old town section is supposed to be very nice and has the largest gothic cathedral in Eastern Europe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Home for a visit

I have decided that since I can't get home after traveling with Becky until July 5th, that I may as well go home for a visit now. So, instead of taking the trip to Krakow and the other to Amsterdam, I asked for the three days off that was between those two trips, and making one big trip out of it.

I will leave Budapest the morning of April 1 and return April 14. I am still trying to figure out if I can include a trip to Anchorage in the deal, so I can see Derek too. Am excited to see people and Juneau, and I think this will give me the energy to make through to July 5!

I am already thinking about what I should bring back......all kinds of "treats" for the students and teachers. Hmmmm.......

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ants....and spring

I have had ants in my bathroom and then this weekend saw some in the kitchen. I reported it to the "charachter" and received a spray bottle of ant killer. So, both floors have been mopped really well, and I sprayed around the cracks last night. Saw one ant today on the bathtub rim....where do they come from? Will keep everything out of the bathroom one more day and then will mop and spray again before I leave for the weekend. Hopefully this will be the end of them...

Had a beautiful warmish sunny spring day today. Was able to wear just a light jacket around the school. I went for a long walk and by the time I got back to school, there was a big black cloud in the sky. Just got hit with a few drops, and it looks like it will pass on. This must be the weather I used to read about in novels set on the great plains. It is just so flat here, the wind can pick up, and the weather can change quickly. Many people have been working in their gardens and the tulips and daffodils are up about an inch and a half. Even saw some buds on trees.....

The crocus that the students gave me for International Woman's Day is in full bloom and scent. Wonderful! Love it.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Monday and Friday mornings, and blah, blah, blah

I like Monday and Friday mornings, because my day doesn't start at 7:45 am like it does on the other days. Although I have been an early riser for years, the early hours are MINE! So, when someone banged on my door last Monday morning at 7:45, I was taken aback. It was Istvan, asking me if I knew I had substitutions for the first two class periods - and no I didn't! I was still in my pj's and was on my way to shower and wash my hair! I made it to the class in 15 minutes! But it really through me off for the rest of the day, as I was using those first 2 periods for some of my class prep time.

So, on Friday when someone banged on my door a few minutes before 7:45, I was again surprised and had to holler out that I was in the bath. I recognized the girls voice as that of one of the twins in 9E, but I didn't recognize the boys voice. And, they weren't speaking much in English and I wasn't saying much in Hungarian! But I got through to them "bath" and they got through to me "10 minutes". So I quickly finished and got dressed and gathered my things for the school day. They were not back in 15 minutes, so I ran to Building B to see if there was a class that was being loud (indicating no teacher), but there wasn't, so over to the teacher's room in the main building I went to see if I had a substitution posted, but I didn't! So, back to the flat and a little more time organizing for the day, but again I was flustered. And kind of pissy. I mean, I like my slower mornings that allow me to really get ready for the day.

So, when I went to Building B for the second period class, I stopped one of the twins and asked if she came to my door. She hollered for "Adam" who came out of the classroom with a gift bag of chocolates for me, as it was International Women's Day! I was quite surprised, as although I knew it was this day, and we would have a longer break between 3rd and 4th periods for goodies in the teacher's room, I didn't realize that gifts would come my way. By the end of the day, I had collected 2 roses, 2 boxes of candies, and a crocus about to bloom! And we had entertainment in the teachers room provided by the boys of 12B, cream puffs for all the female teachers, and many teachers had nice bouquets of flowers from their home room classes. (One business sure not to fail in Hungary even during this economic crisis are flower shops.)

International Women's Day began in the US around 1920 by the Socialist Party and caught on around the world. After WWII it become more of a communist celebration day for women in the workforce, and it has continued in many ex-communist countries. In Hungary, it is more of a day to appreciate women for being women, not due to being in the workforce. For more info on this, see some of my friends blogs, or read about it on Wikepedia.

My week was pretty good, in spite of the early morning poundings! On Monday afternoon I went shopping with David and Angi for taco makings. We were able to find everything we needed at Tesco, except the seasoning for the meat and the tortilla shells. So on Tuesday, since I only have 2 classes, I went into Nyiregyhaza and went to the Tesco there and got the needed ingredients. This turned into a 6 hour ordeal, because I took the wrong bus from the train station and ended up out at the zoo...well, I stayed on the bus and rode it back. So, I saw a tiger! Also, the trip to Tesco was quite successful as I also found a thermos coffee mug that I have been wanting. As I waited for the bus back to the station, there were two young girls waiting with me. We started "talking" and passed the time. They both study English and could communicate somewhat...and I could say a word or two in Hungarian, so we did alright. Both live in the dorm of a high school there; one was from Slovakia and the other from Miskolc which is north of here but still in Hungary.

Thursday night then I made tacos in the dorm kitchen. I had 4 steady helpers -- all my regular English students -- and then many others came by to help and to eat. They were a hit! The dorm mother really checked it all out and asked where I was able to buy everything. (Oh, the meat was ground turkey instead of beef, as beef is pretty hard to find here, but turkey is a regular food item.) Glad it was a success, unlike the peanut butter that not many liked. I hope we will do another cooking night, this time with the kids leading in making a Hungarian dish!

Vivien, in my 9E Advanced class, brought in a book from her mother's bookstore for me. I had asked about a nursery rhyme book as I thought that would be fun after trying to learn some of them. It's a great book and my goal is to learn at least 5 of these, and what they are about, so I can give the book with the translations to Madeline and Dori when I return. (Yes, I paid for the book.)

I found a few ants in my bathroom this week and today discovered a few in the kitchen too. Yuk. I will let the "character" know and hopefully they can get rid of them for me!

I stayed home this weekend to relax and this morning went out shopping. I came home quite pleased with myself. Everything went fine at the grocery store, I was able to ask for my eggs in Hungarian, understood the cost of the fruits and veggies when the lady told me how much they were, and in the paper store, I was able to greet the staff when I walked in; ask the clerk how she was doing, and answer her about myself; say thank you for the purchase and say good bye --- ALL IN HUNGARIAN! Pretty basic, but still an accomplishment for me! I also saw a number of students and stopped and chatted with them...but in English.

I am tutoring two girls from one of the advanced classes who are preparing for a English oral competition. Two of the potential topics are what to do in a restaurant and information about traveling and public transit. Well, last week when I was visiting with them, I discovered one girl has never been to a restaurant, and the other one has been one time. This reminds me of our family growing up: I remember going to Mike's Place one time and to the Elks Club for the Father - Daughter banquet. So, I decided I would take them to a restaurant on our next meeting, and just order drinks and something simple for the three of us to share. This way they could at least have a frame of reference when talking about it in English. Well, two of the three restaurants that I walk by are closed! Both have handwritten signs in the window and door. I think they may have closed due to the downturn in the economy. Eating out here is pretty rare in the first place, and in a little town like this with high unemployment, I would not be surprised if they can't make it. I hope to find out this week what the story is, and hope the third restaurant is still open.

Friday evening, about 4:30, I heard a generator and jack hammer start went until 9:30! Why would they work on an evening? This morning when I went to go shopping, they were working again. They were digging a ditch down the driveway to the parking lot of the apartment building next door. Interesting that they do this type of work on Friday and Saturday. I remember last year when I went to Vienna in the spring, the street crews were out on the weekend trimming the branches on trees, etc. Maybe due to less traffic...?

One last thing. We have a family of owls living in the trees in the courtyard of the school! There are at least a dozen of them. Can see them up there every day sleeping, but it's about impossible to get a photo. Also, the ground bellow the trees is getting pretty messy and I am waiting for something weird to happen one day, i.e., something aggressive to get rid of them! I hope not!

Okay, I am sure no one wants to read more in one sitting! More later.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Today's post is really Hanna's

Hanna is a CETP teacher from Colorado working in Budapest with grade school students. Her blog was too good not to share with everyone. And by good, I mean the highlighting of cultural differences.

(Mom, when you click on the link below, it will take you to her story. Right near the beginning of the story, the words, "reading it" are underlined. Click on this to go to the beginning of her story. You really must read this. )

(Thanks Hanna)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Walking down the street...

Walking down the street the other day, I saw a young child by herself in a car that was running outside a store. Although this is not something I see often, I was not surprised by it. And, it made me think about the other things I see when I walk down the street that I have become accustomed to. They aren’t huge differences, but they all add up:

An elderly lady in nice clothing and boots smoking a cigarette while riding a bike down the street.

Men and women walking around carrying a wicker basket full of goods they just bought.

Friends – teenage and adult – walking down the street holding hands.

A person pushing a bicycle that has a large package on it, ie, a big bag of something on the back, multiple bags hanging from the handle bars, etc.

A young couple “making-out” at the bus stop.

Women in spiked heeled boots, walking through the ice and snow with the confidence of someone wearing cleats.

Impeccably dressed women with their hair dyed bright red.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The long train ride wait

This weekend I went to Heves and then on to Tarname'ra, a village of 2000, where Briggi's contact teacher, Eta, lives. Eta joined us in Budapest for my birthday and invited all of us to come to her house to learn to make Langos, which is a savory fried bread.

Heves is accessible by train, but from here it required 4 different trains - so 3 changes. And you guessed it, one of the trains was late. So I got into Fuszesabony a few minutes after my next train had already departed. I then had over an hour wait for the next train, for a 10 minute ride! I wondered around the town a bit, and even checked to see if there was a bus I could take instead, but there wasn't.

Arriving in Kal-Kapolna, I then had another hour wait for the train. I checked out the bus schedule and was able to get a bus (but still had to wait an hour) which took me right into the town of Heves, as opposed to the train, that is about 2 miles from Briggi's flat. I stopped into a little pizza place right next to the bus stop and had a pizza while I waited. The people were very nice and we communicated with single words and they confirmed I had the right bus stop, as there was just a bus sign on the pole. The bus ride was another 35 minutes. So, I almost spent more time waiting for trains than riding them...

Arriving at Briggi's flat, I met up with Lauren, Lyla, Carla, Jon and Franny and we had a few minutes to unwind before we headed for the bus to Tarname'ra. The bus driver was thrilled to use his few words of English on this wild group of seven English teachers, and he even made sure we were ready to get off at the right stop. No worries though, because Szandy, Eta's daughter, was there at the bus stop to meet us. (Szandy had also come into Budapest for my Birthday dinner.) Off we went down the streets and I am sure every one was peering at us from behind their curtains as we were chatting away in English as we went.

The Langos making ensued followed by a rowdy game of ... I'm not sure what! We definitely had a good time as you can see by the photos that I posted. The game was a mix of pictionary, charades and taboo and we made up the rules as we went, cause we could not all read the game pieces in Hungarian, nor were the translations very easy. This resulted in Eta writing the phrases for one person then to either act out, draw or speak for our partner to guess what it was. Eta's translations of some of the phrases provided on the cards turned out pretty funny, such as "An elephant in a china shop" instead of "A bull in a china shop" and "Eclipse of the sun" instead of "Solar Eclipse", so we were lenient with each other.

Here are all the pics:

Eta had invited me to stay overnight (which thrilled all the other CETP teachers, since they were sharing one room at Briggi's and they didn't want to listen to me snore!), and so we had a bit more time together. Eta works in the summer as a guide for Rick Steves tours. She is fluent in English and Russian, and would not reveal how many other languages. Szandy is also fluent in English and spent 2 years in the US. Szandy just finished flight attendant training for Wizz Air, a discount airline out of Budapest and will start flying in another week or so. As Eta was recently in Edmonds meeting with Rick Steves and company, she had a copy of his brand new DVD on Iran which we watched. I then borrowed one on Slovenia and Croatia where Becky and I hope to travel the later part of June.

This morning I was treated to hard boiled eggs, fresh whole wheat bread, Hungarian donuts made by Grandma with homemade cherry jam made by Eta. We had time to talk a little about how Hungary changed and continues to change from Communism days to joining the EU. Eta packed me a lunch and Szandy drove me to the train station in Heves on her way to teach an English lesson and I started my long journey home. Fortunately, all trains were on time, or not too late for the next connection, and I even caught the same train from Nyireghaza as Mike again. So that was a nice end to the weekend, chatting with him. He and his wife went to Vienna this weekend to see the stage play of Mama Mia! Sounded like it was great. My train ride home was 4 1/2 hours instead of 6 1/2 on Saturday.

I pondered this sign which I saw on all the trains: What does it mean? I get the no smoking. But what, it's ok to jump out the window? Are they telling you to do it? Or stick your head out as the train is moving? And you must throw your beer bottles out the window? No, no, not any of your other trash, just the bottles. Or are you supposed to have your buddy pass you in a bottle of beer through the window? Just don't get it...

Csiga Pasta

Remember those ceramic and wooden tools used for making pasta that I saw at the museum in Debrecen? (The ones I had a very hard time describing...) Well, after talking to a number of people I have discovered that some people remember their grandmas having such a tool, and David (good ol’ David from the dorm who has helped me with so much) says his mother and grandmother still occasionally make this shape of pasta.

The pasta shape is called “csiga” (cs=ch), which is snail. I found some at the store. Supposedly this pasta shape looks like a snail, but as you can see in the picture, it would be difficult to know that was supposed to be a snail shape! But it is very tiny. The package makes it look as if the rooster is saying, “Ge’pi Csiga”, but this doesn’t make sense to me, as ge’pi means mechanical.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Morning...before 7:45am

I slowly come to consciousness...(thinking to self) oh, ya! Book club this morning...alarm hasn't rung yet, I have time to go to the bathroom and make coffee before they call. (5:30am)

Padding off to the bathroom in my slippers... oh yea, I have 2 substitutions today, and I have 9E again 1st period, and I don't know what I am going to do with them. Get the coffee going...turn on the computer...oh, good still have time. Check email..a few emails, but nothing from the kids.

Turn on skype. Nope, book club is not on line yet. Oh, others are, and they might call me...hope they don't cause if book club calls at the same time, it will go directly to voice mail. Oh, the alarm...forgot to turn it off since I woke up before it rang.

Hmm, still no call, get coffee, better think about 9E. What the heck am I going to do; I've got them at 7:45? Peruse their text book. Ok, can/can't; could have; emotions... Already reviewed can and can't yesterday in two of the three classes I had with them...start searching Internet...wait, is book club on yet? nope, search internet...nothing free, nothing new....hmmm, they are 10 minutes late. Call Sandy's home phone. Recording. Call Shawna's cell phone. Direct to voice mail. search "ESL feelings", not much. Darn them. Call Sandy's home phone, leave message. Call Shawna's cell phone, yea, she answers! Having hard time with wireless on her computer at Sandy's patient...if they can't get it to work, Shawna will call me on her cell and put me on speaker phone....back to kitchen, water and vitamins, hmm, do I have clothes to wear? Yep, ironed on Sunday...ok, don't need to wash hair this morning, but really need to figure out what to do with 9E. And 11E and 10E later, but will have a gap and will worry about 10E then...oh, yea, classes are just 1/2 an hour today 'cause potential students and parent meeting this afternoon....ok, what's in that 9E book again? Ah, why'd I search "feelings", should have searched "emotions"...yea, phone rings. "Hi....hello?....hello?" dead air. click. wait. phone rings. "hello, can you hear me this time?" Yea, "HI MARGIE"! Half hour of chatting with my book club friends, catching up with their lives; the new baby, the baby-to-be; the tri-athlete; the retiree with the new job; and the ol' standbys - Shawna and Louise. Lots of laughs, chatting, and good feelings. Multi-tasking: still looking for work sheet I can use...oh here's one I can alter, print. "Sorry, making too much noise with the printer."...oh good, something I can use...and I can review "Itsy-bitsy spider" that we did yesterday...even the boys liked that one.... "Ok friends, goodbye". Oh shit, getting late, must hurry. Milk on the granola to start softening it; clothes from the closet to the bathroom...grab the granola, sit in front of the computer, alter the worksheet, print, oh, here's a wordsearch that will work too...print. Run for bathroom, sponge bath, dress, grab books, pens, white board markers, printed worksheets, earrings in...pause: ok, is that everything?! Yep, sunny day, going to be a fun day...maybe I'll wear my clogs instead of my tired of winter boots....out the door.

"Yo reggelt", "Hello", "Good morning" as I pass students on my way to the main building...oh, there is Aniko, haven't seen her at all this week since I haven't had dinner in the canteen. Need to get pictures of Friday's event to her...cute pic and video of her. Ok, into the teacher's efficient...only a few minutes...grab copy paper from my desk, coat off, grab originals, off to the copy machine...good, no line..."Good morning Marianne"... better make a few extra copies....whew, no jams, copies done, back into the main room. Hmm, men are in suits! Oh, yea, parents meeting this afternoon. Lot of activity....2 minutes to the bell...oh, I've got THAT room, so I need the key. Quick look around, no one with key is in the room. Aw, Monika is coming back in, I signal to her that I need the key. She looks at me, says something to another English teacher, and Edit behind me says, "Oh there is no 1st period, we are going to church for the first day of Lent."

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Today I journeyed to Debrecen, about an hour to an hour and a half from here by train. Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary and is on the Hungarian Great Plain. I went armed with a travel book and information I got off of the Internet.

Debrecen is a Protestant city and a university city. It was once known as the "Calvinist Rome". So, of course there is a large church to see there. It wasn't too exciting compared to many of the churches I have been in, however there is a large organ, so I got pictures for my two organ playing friends. Also, I decided to climb the clock tower. It wasn't as steep or narrow as some towers, but it was still scary enough for me. Great views of the city.

My main drive to go to Debrecen though was the De'ri Museum and this proved to be exactly what I was looking for. There was a great display of pottery from the region and from other regions as well that arrived here through trading. There was a very odd shaped plaque like ceramic collection that I asked about, but the woman who knew what they were spoke German, not English, and the gal who spoke English didn't really understand what they were used for, or didn't know how to explain it in English. Luckily, in another part of the museum there were more of these, but this time made of wood, and they had an English explanation! They were used with pasta dough to make snail like designs. They are flat, about 4-5" tall, with the top shaped like a fancy Asian style hair comb and the bottom, also like a comb, but filled in between the teeth.....sorry, that's the best I can do! Unfortunately, photos were not allowed, so I don't have a photo of these. I have searched on the Internet as well to no avail. I will ask about them tomorrow at school and see if I can get another name for them.

There was also a large area dedicated to displays from the different types of workers guilds. Fascinating. In addition to some of the standard: harness makers, leather workers, metal workers, wool weavers, etc., there were also guilds for button making, felting and embroidery, hat making, and (again, I don't know that name) the fancy embroidery-like embellishments that are put on clothing, often around the collar or down the front. (I'll see what I can do to figure out what this is called.) Anyway, each of these different guilds had their own design for wooden boxes/trunks to hold the tools of their trades.

Another fascinating gallery was one showing different common household furnishings for each of the rooms in the houses. Fancily painted baby cribs, wooden display racks for ceramics, kitchen tables, etc.

There were other wings to the museum which I really didn't care for as they were focused on Egyptian and Chinese antiquities -- it just seemed out of place.

After spending a few hours in the museum, I headed for more modern activities: shopping. There are two shopping malls in the center of town and I was able to shop for clothes and ended up with a pair of jeans and a new shirt. All in all a very successful but exhausting day.