Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Strike Update

Negotiations contintue. They cannot agree on anything. I have seen four trains in the past hour. Apparently more are running across the country than yesterday.

It is scheduled to start Thursday. It will only be on Thursday. From 5:00 until 13:00. And only the buses. Then regular service will resume.

You tell 'em guys.

I couldn't help but laugh a little when Ani told me. She told me it is a "special kind of strike. . . Hungarian."

Just because there is no snow does't mean it isnt cold. . .

Nearly every time I walk into the teachers’ room, someone has the windows open, regardless of the weather. Today, had just come back from shivering my way through lunch (the kids opened the window because they said it smelled like cabbage in the cafeteria (which it did). I walked upstairs and wrapped up in my jacket. No sooner had I sat down, one of the teachers, came in, said it was stuffy in here and threw open two of the windows. The windows are big and swing all the way open, which is great in the summer. Unfortunately, it is December.

Okay. The math teacher just walked in, took a look at the windows, glanced around, and is closing them.


It feels like half of the country is either striking or promising to within the next few weeks. It causes general disruption, but doesn't seem nearly as crippling as it could be. A run down:

Airport Strike:
The people who work the security at Ferihegy are striking for what I have only seen listed as "better working conditions." However, the airport has brought in scabs/"blacklegs" to fill their spots. Not so good for the strikers/workers rights, but makes the airport at least function. They are down a few security lines, so things are really bottlenecked, but I think there have only been two airlines cancel flights. Of course the one Jon and I are flying to get to Istanbul is one of them. I dont think they've canceled that particular flight yet.

The Train Strike:
An interesting, pain in the neck mess. The union has been threatening to strike for a month now and it seems finally pulled it off. Kind of. They are striking because part of the cargo system was privatized last year and the union says every single MAV employee to have a part in the sale--to the tune of 250, 000 forint each (That's about 1,200 USD) as well as higher wages.

The train strike is. . .interesting. Having the trains not run in a country where trains are a vital part of the transport system is only bad news. However. . .it hasn't exactly panned out. There are several railway unions, only one of which is on strike (I think). Combined with the fact that like, anywhere, these workers cannot afford to simply stop working, in all, about 13% of the railworkers were on strike. Which basically means trains are running sporadically--but they're running. More in the west than out here, but they show up when they want to.

This was the exactly what Ani said would come of the strike. . .inconvienient, but not much else. Her daughter Dori, told me that the people working on the trains would be grumpy "because they're on strike". . .but that they would go. Ani says eventually, the union will "end" the strike with a lot of fluffy rhetoric about service and ineqity, but without getting anything because everyone slowly just goes back to work.

Budapest Transport Workers:
Meaning the metro, trams, buses, trolley buses, ect are supposed to strike on Thursday. Ellen told me at one point that they are always threatening to strike, and it is usually heavily advertised that the strike will be "next Thursday, April 18, from ten until noon." Once they did pull off a whole day strike and "it was really inconvient" but they were back the next day. So who knows. I'm pulling for the usual two hour lunch break, but they seem at least somewhat serious about it.

Public Service Workers:
Including firefighters, teachers, police, etc, etc, etc. in an effort to make up for an obscene deficit, the government has eliminated the "thirteenth month" pay check in favor of a two week bonus. Being drastically underpaid, these people rely on the checks to simply get by. It doesn't exactly afford any luxuries.

There have been some protests in Budapest and a lot of general outcry. Keeping with the theme, a strike is planned for January 12. And again. . . it probably won't mean much. By law, the teachers have to be at school because the kids will be there. So everyone shows up and just . . . does nothing. So no one is really inconvienced. And the government will more than likely take away the pay anyway.

In sum. A lot of strikes. If the past is a tell--nothing will happen. Ani was frustrated with it all once, saying "Hungarians just don't know how to strike." She told me about how her husband used to work for the Soviet Union and with some Portugese and Italian men and they "did strikes like they meant them. No work was done. Here, it is like they just play around."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I threw a sandwich out of the window today

I told them when I started class to put the sandwiches away.

I told them two minutes later not to eat in class.

I told them two minutes after that that I would throw any food or drinks I saw out the window.

Just had to have that one last bite, didn't you Viki?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A good day for cake

I have once again confounded my teachers with bizarre American recipes. In this case--a fluffy chocolate cake. First off. . .this is not an incredibly special chocolate cake. Relatively easy to make up, one bowl and into the oven. Don't even have to deal with egg whites. Consistently edible.

I messed it up once somehow and it turned out dense and a little bland. Top with a strong flavored frosting and voilá--a Hungarian süti. They liked it. But it was no fluffy cake. Most deserts here are dense. They seem to get their flavor from whatever is on or in them, not from the actually cake-y part itself. So to bring in a fluffy, strongly flavored cake. . .

It is fun watching them try out the new sweet. The teacher's room somehow gets a little extra energy when people bring snacks and everyone takes a second to smile. Especially today, I am glad brought it--gloomy and rainy, restless students--definitely a good day for cake. A few teachers dive right in, a couple pretend they aren't interested, but pick up a piece while walking past.My favorite to watch, Robi, will sit at his desk and watch everyone else's reaction before trying anything. It took a while, but this time, I saw him grab at least three or four (admittably two-bite sized) pieces. Victory.

I brought it in before I started teaching 4th hour and by the time I came back from class it is gone. One of the teachers asked me for the recipe and what it the name of it is. . .I fumbled for a second before answering "umm. . .chocolate cake."