Friday, August 29, 2008

My first day in Ujszasz

Well, a day into this whole adventure and I have survived so far. Fair warning though--this Hungarian keyboard and I are not good friends yet, so excuse any typing errors.
Újszász is. . .small. Emily wasnt lying when she said my town of 7000 would feel like less than Heyworth. The school I am teaching in is really nice. It is freshly painted and updated and each teacher has his or her own computer at the desks in the teachers room. We can get lunch for free every day in the cafeteria, which so far hasn't been that bad. HUGE servings though. Potato casserole with sausage and boiled egg and a chicken and noodle type soup and always bread. I can eat there for free during the year--supposedly breakfast and dinner too if I ask in advance.
Ill have about 21 or 22 classes each week--often seeing them only once each week. Classes here are divided into grade and then letter according to what they are training for--college, railway, logistics (Transport), etc. Those letters are often further divided into advanced and beginner. I'll have at least a couple of classes who have never had English before, which was told probably wouldn't happen. . .should be a challenge, no?
My contact teacher Ani is a very soft spoken lady who has a daughter taking an English proficiency exam in budapest tomorrow and who loves Johnny Cash and western movies. We went to register in Szolnok (15 minutes by train) today with the foreigners' office, but they changed the rules and now we have to travel to Debrecen, over an hour away next week. On the way back to school, she pointed out several of the little shops along the way. She says that there is a farmers' market tomorrow morning, so I may go try to find it.
The rest of the teachers are all so nice and patient--willing to combat my lack of Hungarian with very strained English. Apparently my letting Ani introduce me at a teachers' meeting yesterday was a good step. One of the assistant principles jokingly asked my marital status (watch out, Jon.) only to receive a good scolding from the school director. When he found out that I liked to bake, he told Ani that once a week should be enough :-)
My flat is amazing. It is attached to the school and has both the internet and cable tv. . .I have a feeling CNN International and I will become very good friends this year. The ceilings are really high and there are giant (and new) windows. The kitchen is a little small, but is more than enough for me. The livining room is giant. . .furnished with 2 twin beds, two desks, a cabinet and some chairs. I found a note from a teacher before that said she had turned the beds into a couch (they are very low to the floor). The biggest problem I had was the internet going out. Last night i could use AIM and Skype, this morning nothing. After trying to fix my computer to no avail, the director actually came back to school from home to re-set the router for me when I found something saying that that sometimes works. I am so grateful he was willing to do that. It's not like I need internet all the time, but it is nice to know that I can call someone at home if I need to.
Tonight, I think I might go down to Szolnok to avoid sitting home all day. I was supposed to have an interview with a teacher for the school newspaper (ha!) but that has been moved. I should unpack, I suppose, but I will want something to do after school one night. . .justification for procrastination. . .almost seems legitimate.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm here!

So. . .after being here a week, I guess it is about time that I start this all.

Save for the airport losing a bag of mine, the trip went as smoothly as it could have. (The bag showed up late the next night, so all is well).

Overall, Budapest has been absolutely wonderful. The other teachers in the group are from a real mixed bag of places and ages--from a 70 year old retired school teacher (and member of Sinn Fein) to folks in their 20s looking for an adventure (and escape from grad school for a bit)--some of whom decided to do the program like 2 weeks ago.

The first few days, we sort of just explored the city--nothing too touristy, but fun all the same. Visited the mall. Bought cheap gelato (which is EVERYWHERE). Played chuchu (foosball) and didn't suck too much. Finding out I'm much more happy with European beer than American--which is good being that pubs seem to be a prime social place.

Orientation has been a whirlwind. We are in classes from around 10 until 6 at night that are all jampacked with tips and advice. We've been given history, cultural differences, teaching tips, and a crash course in survival Hungarian. . . while I've mastered the most basic of the basics language wise, it will still take some serious work to become comfortably independant with it.

I did, however, have an unintentional conversation in Hungarian. In the grocery store, an old lady came up to me with a package and asked a question pointing to it. I started to say "I don't speak Hungarian" which starts with Nem or no. I got no farther than that word and she said "Nem, oke" and walked away. I guess it was a yes or no question. . .whatever the answer was, it became no. . .

Last night we took a "stroll," which led by Brigi became more of a hike up the hill to the Citadel. Although it was quite the stroll, the views from the top were wonderful. By the time we finally got to the top, the city and the bridges were lit up beautifully. . .too bad I have no batteries for my camera.

Tonight, we have a closing dinner at a Hungarian resteraunt before our schools pick us up tomorrow. I've been told great things about my flat and my town, so I am pretty excited to see it. . Then in just a few short days the school year will start. Once I get Skype set up in my flat, people should be able to call the local number ( a 309) and have it ring through to my telephone. . . and since incoming calls are free. . .I hope to hear from you!

I know this hasn't been the most cohesive message . . .perhaps I should have started blogging earlier to avoid a general rush of everything. Regardless, I'm having a great time and am excited to see where I'll be living for the next year.