Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sick day

I went to Vienna this weekend (more on that later :-)) and had a lovely, if very chilly time. Unfortunately, I came down with the mini-plague that had affected a few other CETPers at our lovely Thanksgiving dinner (more on that later too). Luckily, I didn't experience my demise until the last evening I was in the city.

Being relatively ill, of course, made my return trip exceedingly pleasant. Fortunately, the train wasn't too crowded so I was able to lie down in two seats. After I got back to Hungary (avoiding ridiculous roaming charges), I called Ani to ask if there were any stores open in my town on Sundays, as I only knew of one open until 13:00. I had no food and planned on just ordering a pizza Sunday night and going food shopping Monday afternoon. Apparently there is one open until 20:00. What?! Eight o'clock? I didn't even know this store existed. (There is also a kocma next to it that I didn't know about). BUT, it was pretty far away (far for in my town and being sick and cold). She told me she would call Gyuri and he would help because she was not in town.

Soon after I got home, Gyuri showed up to "go shopping." He pulled around his car and we flew at breakneck speeds through the tiny streets to the store. I grabbed bread, milk, and ginger ale and we drove back. He dropped me off, telling me "sleep, palinka, sleep, palinka,sleep, palinka."

Today, I got up feeling quite a bit better and got ready for school. That quite a bit better declined to a stomach ache and headache--bad, but tolerable. When I got to school, Ani asked how I was. I told her so-so, but a little better. She looked at me skeptically. I told her the truth. She asked why I was there. Because someone had told me you had to go to the doctor to miss work and that seemed like a lot of trouble for a little sick. Apparently this is not true. So we went to talk to Gyuri. I was told to go home and have a rest and drink palinka. Ani told me she could do my shopping for me if I needed.

That was my long way of saying that I am grateful for the people I work with, that they go out of their way to help me. At home (especially at Schnucks), I would have been considered well enough to work, no questions asked. I feel bad not being there, especially just having taken a long weekend to cavort about the region. Sigh. Maybe I will try to be productive today. . .right.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Wonderful Sentence

Obama has chosen a Hungarian American, Peter Orszag, as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget Director. She found a picture to show me and was reading another article when she stopped and read aloud:

"'Obama is said to have chosen. . .' That is a wonderful sentence. An imperfect past infintive."

The grammar nerd in me loves her even more.

A Very Újszász Thanksgiving

So a week early (or in Tara's case, a month too late) we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner.

On Friday night, Margie and Tara came into Szolnok where we met Emily and headed to the Cora. It was crowded (Friday evening) and in full Christmas decor. Hungary doesnt have the "Thanksgiving Rule" besides, Santa Claus comes on December 6, so you need to start early.

After shopping and a wonderful dinner, we headed back to Újszász, which was an adventure in itself. There was a man down the car who kept staring at us, then literally shoving sandwiches in his mouth, then staring some more. As we approached the town, he looks at me and says "You are Jamie. You are the English teacher in Újszász." What?!? Not sure what to say, the first thing that fell out of my mouth was the totally impolite (but I feel somewhat reasonable) "How do you know who I am?" He is dating a student at my school (one of my 12 Szandis) and heard us speaking English. He helped us carry our things home. Along the way, we were told over and over again that "Újszász is a fucking dangerous place." Which "is not a laughing matter." If the gypsies heard us speaking English, our "bags would be gone before you can look" and my house would be robbed. I am also to "never, ever entertain in the street." (There goes my night job.) After 20 years of American teachers, you think that if there were to be problems they would have presented themselves by now. While I am sure there is some small truth in the warnings, (where is it really a good idea to cause a ruckus and go for a solo evening stroll?), it is often difficult to find it.

We made it safely home, started a little of the cooking for the next day--potatoes, rolls, etc and had a good chat.

On Saturday, we made a good breakfast and got to cooking. Quickly running out of space in the dorm-sized fridge, we started to fill the front porch. I found a Christmas tree (or two) in the pantry, which went out for decoration. Razzed for mixing holidays, I still maintain that it is Thanksgiving, so I can decorate for Christmas if I want to.

Margie and me cooking

Jeb carving the turkey (breast)
Briggi, Jeb, Emily, and Tamás came, of course with even more food. After a few finishing touches, we got the meal on the serving buffet/the giant desk in my living room: turkey (legs and a breast), carrots, squash, potatoes, fruit salad, rolls, potato salad, homemade stuffing, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, apple cobbler, and cookies. We ate and ate and ate. Then sat and sat. Petra came and we ate some more and played Activity.

Table of Wonderful Food

The rest of the night was filled with more of the same. Food and eating and talking and complaning about students. It was wonderful to relax and just enjoy the company of people who use correct prepositions and do things "on", not "at" the weekend.

This weekend, I am headed to BP for another sure to be wonderful Thanksgiving feast with, what I am told, will be nearly 40 people.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It is good that some things are universal

I noticed some papers about to fall out of the printer and scatter onto the floor in the teachers room today. As I hurried to save whoever's papers they were, Adi came up saying thank you and appologizing. She started putting the few pages I hadn't managed to save back in order and sighed "ah. . Shakespeare." She told me it was for her university class and they were supposed to read Hamlet last week "but who has time to do that?" She told me she found a couple of websites that have good summaries of English books--Sparknotes and Gradesavers. I had to laugh and told her that that was one of my survival modes in French classes--usually after attempting to read in French first.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


On October 15, we had an initiation ceremony for the 9th year students. Some schools have nearly a week of competitions and challenges, so I guess my kids get off easy with only one three hour ceremony.

The first thing I noticed when I got to school on Thursday was all of the 9th graders wearing headbands with Chipasz (sparrow). Where at home there would more than likely be a good chunk of students who would rebel against this, all of the students here didn't seem phased by wearing them. The boys tied them around their foreheads (one of my 9th graders declared himself 2Pac and his friends 3pac and 4Pac) and the girls sported hair styles around the white headbands.

When I went upstairs and noticed that Ani, as the head teacher for a 9th grade class, had been accosted and was now sporting a chipasz headband too (though tied as scarf). I made the mistake of mentioning this out loud and was told that as I new teacher, I had ought to have one.
As the teacher in charge walked past Ani asked if there were extras because "Jamie needs one." She was asked if I wanted one. Pause. Glance at me. Yes. Thanks, Ani. It turned into a bracelet that shed on me the rest of the day.

After school, the competition started. The doors were locked "to keep foreigners out." (Give you three guesses about the only foreigners running around Ujszasz.

The competition was painfully long. Most of the teachers shifted between watching the challenged and escaping to the teachers' room.

Well. . .I really don't understand what happened with the formatting, but briefly. . .all of the classes had to perform a skit and a dance. The girls in black are from 9c and did more or less a poms routine. The girls in black and orange are from 9b and did more or less a traditional folk dance in. . .not traditional costumes. The whole class is 9d. Eniko, their form teacher is the aerobics instructor and performed with them, so I kind of feel like they cheated :-P. The other pictures are the lemon eating challenge (with the option of sugar, thankfully) and trying burst someone else's balloon tied to their ankle while protecting your own. Others included waltzing holding a matchbox between their noses. (they can all waltz perfectly), a race wearing rain boots on their hands (?) and all of the grade taking an oath promising to obey the year 12 students and always study, etc. They had to stand with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and the other holding the knee of the one behind. Older kids patrolled to make sure they all complied. One kid slipped and an entire class went out.

When all was said and done, 9a won the competition (the prize--a cake to split among the whole class and maybe bragging rights. . .).
After the competition, there was a disco--complete with fog machines, laser show and excessively loud dance music. The teachers stayed hidden in the teachers' room and ate sandwiches that someone had brought. Unlike American dances, where there are often as many chaperones as students (or so it seems), one of the burly gym teachers would go patrol every so often and then come back upstairs to escape. Mercifully, Gyuri decided to stop the disco about 45 minutes early and release us all home. (most of the kdis had left)

Interesting to watch, but also maybe the longest 5 hours ever. . .must say I feel a little sorry for the Hungarian teachers who get to enjoy the initiation every year.