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.