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?