Friday, February 27, 2009

An eventful day

Yesterday was quite eventful. . .something at least a little noteworthy happened in every class.

AND the new person at the pizza restaurant knows me. The lady kept asking for my address and I kept telling her that I lived in the litte house by the gymnazium on the corner and that I didn't have an address other than the school's. This went in circles for a really long time before she handed the phone over to usually-grumpy- -but-not-so-new-guy. I told him the same location "The little house by the gymnazium! Jo!" Last night I ordered another pizza. Not so grumpy anymore man picked up. I told him what wanted and he immediately said "The little house by the gymnazium, right?" Excellent. For a while I was wondering where all the other Americans with who live in Újszász are hiding out for them to be so confused as to where the one always lives.

AND I woke up this morning and heard songbirds. Yay spring! . . .now watch it dump more snow on us. Phooey.

9b. We were going through the new vocab and one of the tough boys who sits in the back suddenly blurts out "Peep!" We all turn to look at him. "Peep?" "
"Umm. . .are you okay?"
(Clearly scrambling for something to say) "Umm. . .I am a little chicken."
"A little chicken?.
"Yes. A little chicken." (With wing arms, this time) "Peep. Peep."
This diverged into a discussion about chickens and how annoying they are and one student having 110 little chickens. I taught the word "chick." We were played Activity and he guessed "little chicken. peep. little chicken." For most of the turns. Good save, Dávid, good save.

12b. Most of the class was absent because they were writing an exam. The rest were surprisingly amicable. One student kept making fun of me as we went through the flashcards. I told him that if he is going to do my work from the back of the room, he might as well come and teach from the front. I handed over the flashcards to him and off he went. Surprisingly, he knew almost all of the vocab, so it turned out well. I even had him run the game we played after the flashcards. Made my job easy.

10d. I have ranted and ranted about this class. They'll have to go a long way to top this though. For once, they were chatty (to me, in English, not to each other in Hungarian), so we spent a fair amount of time just talking--movies, food, weekends. . .We went through the vocab and started to play the game. The classroom had no clock, so I asked what time it was. Wow. We have only 10 minutes left. Class really flew. REALLY flew. I asked again a bit later. Only 4 minutes left. Wait. This is too fast. Someone else show me the time, please. Three more cell phones and two watches come out. Yup. Okay. We just must have got to talking. I often can't hear the bell from that room. Ok. . .I let them out on time.
Got to the teachers room. . .15 minutes left in class! Initial anger turned into pride. I mean, they really had to work to pull that off. The students had ALL committed 110%--even the good ones. Those who had not changed their phones (like 2 kids) told me their form teacher had taken it for texting in class. They had to pull it off before the warning bell rang, or the gig would be up. I told Ani about it and we had a good laugh. I told her that I couldn't be mad about it. "Don't be mad, but take your revenge." I am trying to figure out exactly what my revenge will be. Ideas?


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Well, at least he's honest!

During the music unit, I assigned my advanced 9A class to write fan letters to their favorite bands. Most said how much they loved the lyrics, songs, and want the band to come to Budapest for a concert. It was the only letter to Brittney Spears that really takes the cake:

Dear Brittney!
This is a fan letter. I love you! I love your blond hair and nice body. Your music is not good, but I like you. I'm single. I'm better than Kevin Federline. My telephone number is 555-5555. I've got blue eyes and brown hair. Call me please! :D!

I Don't Understand. . .But I Definitely Accept . . .

Lunch today was soup and soup and a roasted chicken leg. Cherry soup. Ick. The broth is okay, so I more or less just eat around the cherries, leaving them in the bottom. Ani make fun of me for eating more or less a seasoned flour broth. The lunch ladies laugh at me for taking the time to eat around the cherries.

Today, Ani stopped to talk to one of the ladies as we were about to go. I heard "Jamie. . .baking. . .flour." Then I was told to follow. I went back to one of the storerooms filled with giant jars of pears, packages of noodles as big as the rediculously sized Hungarian pillows, and cases and cases of juice. The lady turned around and handed me a bag with five kilos of flour. I was told to tessék and led out. I said thank you and walked out, the students staring at me and my 11 pounds of flour.

Ani explained later that everyone got 5 kilos of flour free for reasons no one is really sure. I forgot to pick mine up, and although the offer technically ended yesterday, they let me have it because they know how much I bake. There has been a sign posted about it for about 2 weeks. I don't usually pay attention to the bulletion board, because, well, I can't read it. Sure enough, though, the only sign I can decipher says to go and get your free flour from the kitchen. Gyuri say the flour should be returned in the form of süti. I had planned on baking anyway and had gone this morning and bought butter and, of course, flour.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Got to Eat at the Restaurant!

Yesterday, I helped Dóri (Ani's daughter) prepare for a section of an English exam she is taking last month. (She is in 11th grade and wants to take the 12th grade exams so she won't have to go to English next year AND is preparing for the advanced level state exam) Compared to most of my kids, she has amazing English and is fun to talk to. After we were finished, we walked the 50 meters to school to meet Ani to go to lunch at the restaurant.

Normally, going to lunch at a restaurant wouldn't be a big deal. But this time. . .it is an event. There is a restaurant in Újszász (in addition to the pizza place)--but I have NEVER seen it open. At the beginning of the year, Ani explained that the restaurant only opens when people ask it to for parties and things. . .otherwise they don't know if anyone will show up. A couple of years ago, the CETP teachers who worked here saw it open and tried to go in, but were turned away because it was a private party.

Now, however, there is a new program. The restaurant is open on Sundays. They say it is so mothers can spend more time with their families. You can eat there or take it out (you need to bring a lunch pail though). (Kind of like a real restaurant, neh?) BUT you must let them know by Friday if you want to take part on Sunday AND you only get two choices. Your preference should also be told in advance. (I had delicious stuffed cabbage)

I understand the reasoning behind this, especially in a town like Újszász where people don't really eat out much. . .but I still can't help but be amused by the whole thing.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Hungarian Mindset . . .

A little later on Friday, I was talking to Ani between classes about the Felhi'va's ceremony and the shouting match between the boys. I correctly recalled which revolution we will be commemorating (1848) and we talked a bit about how it wasn't only Hungary who participated in this one--trying to overthrow the Hapsburg rule. The whole exchange lasted maybe one or two minutes.

The conversation lulled and we both went back to our work. As I listed appropriate occupations to teach students who only know maybe eight already, I tried to think of a fun way to present the information.

J-I think I'm going to talk about occupations with the beginning classes next week.
A-(A little confused)-History?. . .Like the Turks?
J-(Confused look)
(Confused silence on both parts)
A-Neh! Jobs!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Today I Have Been in Hungary for Six Months

Also, today I started a yelling match in my 10b class. They had finished a test, so we were just talking with what was left of class and I asked about the Felhívás ceremony next month (remembering another revolution). For some reason I asked if Hungary was big or small. One boy pointedly asked "Today?" Sure, today. Oops. "Today is not important." He then went into a half Hungarian, half English diatribe about how of course Hungary is big because people are very, very small. Other students yelled back that he was being stupid and compared to America or even France, Hungary was tiny. . .and it went on.

In China, they tell you to avoid talking about the three Ts of Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen. In Hungary, you have to watch out for Trianon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I walked into school today to two things. First it was Zsuza's name day and because I had comea bit late (I don't teach until nearly 11 on Tuesdays and Thursdays), Ani had reserved me some of the treats she brought and they were waiting on my desk. Very delicious.

Second, there was a book sell set up. One of my nineth year girls showed off the kitten calendar she had just bought (there were some really cute kittens and one she declared "oh. . .nem.") "Magyar Konyha" caught my eye with the amazing looking roast on the front. Looking closer it was in three languages. Flipping through, the ninth grader declared the book jó after seeing the recipes for stuffed cabbage rolls and chicken paprika. (She also promised to help sample the food I make to tell me if I am making it well or not. Smooth, eh?) Excellent. Who needs to practice the Hungarian cooking terms I have been working on mastering when this book will tell me how to make delicious Hungarian foods in English (or German, if it suits you)? Rather. . Jon has promised to make me delicious Hungarian foods if I find an appropriate book. Having found such a book, I am broadcasting that promise.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, Mondays. . .

I generally grumble about my Monday classes. I have six with a break that doesn't allow me to grab lunch. Generally, they are grumble worthy. They are talkative (in Hungarian), some are downright obnoxious and uncooperative. Today was no different . . .there were, however, a couple of things that made me smile. . .

I shot one of my most apathetic students my best "teacher's look" when he would not quiet down after several requests. One girl said that I could kill with my eyes. Excellent. I've been working hard to perfect that look. . .it cuts through all language barriers.

We've been talking about cultural differences and I made the (sort-of) overly blanket statement that Hungarians don't smile. "Well," said one of the boys, "we're not idiots."

I usually start class by asking about students' weekends, days, etc. Today, as I was talking to a boy on one side of the room, I noticed activity on the other. I turned just in time to see a sandwich being traded for two cigarettes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Also, I was just handed an envelope with over 83,000 HUF in it. Horray for getting backed taxes! I even filled out a receipt that wasn't written on notebook paper. The office is getting all fancy, I guess.

Little Things

Things that have happened:

-I finished grad school apps (at least the ones due by Sunday) and have since recommitted fully myself to wonderfully terrible TV shows. . .I am through half of the first season of the OC and in season threee of Little Mosque on the Prairie (on youtube)

-We had turos teszta for lunch this week. We also had soup and soup days twice. I feel this balences it out.

-My newest threat for my new advanced classes has crumbled into "By talking, you're telling me you are not interested in this material and that you would like to study the weather." They will do anything to avoid studying the weather.

-I've started giving private lessons on Thursdays. I get home super late, but make about 30 US dollars. .. far more than I need to buy groceries every week. Both of them are pretty high intermediate. There is a little Romanian girl who is studying to go to an English language school in BP next year and a couple of ladies at a buisness who are trying to improve so they can follow their boss' ramblings during a teleconfrences.

-I asked the girl if she had ever flown in an airplane. She told me "Oh, yes, to Paris, and London, and Brazil." I told her wow, I would love to visit those places and that she was very lucky. She thought for a moment then said, "Yes, it was good. But you live in America, near Chicago.

-At the train station in Szolnok, I asked one of my students to help me buy a train ticket because I was buying it for a specific train two days in advance and a IC supplement in only one direction. Her mother, who speaks no English took care of all of it for me.

-I am headed off to my second ball in as many weeks. I am interested to see what the "Black Tie" will end up being. . .most of me doubts it means black tie. I have a cute dress none the less.

-Cats were fighting outside my house off and on until about 3 in the morning. I am tired an low energy, which is rubs off on my students who already are tired and only thinking of the weekend. Phooey.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Spy With My Little Eye. . .

I should be grading right now. Instead I will tell you about the things I see out the window of the teachers' room:

+One tractor
+Tenth grade students smoking (this is a no-no. They are supposed to smoke in the court yard, not in front of the school)
+Ninth grader making out with a fourtheenth year rail-road student. Eww.
+Horse pulled wagon. Oops, just went out of view. Still counts?
(Gyuri just yelled at the students from the window, cigarette in hand)
+Two nénis on bicycles
+Cocacola delivery van
+Three chickens. There's usually a pack of four. . .wonder where Speckles is. . .
+One giant dog, one smaller weird-shaped doxen looking creature.
(The tractor is gone now)
+The city bus just stopped. (We have a city bus. Have I mentioned that? I still dont really understand it, where it goes, how I buy tickets, why a town of 7,000 needs public transportation, or when it comes. I think it only runs like two or three times a day, though.)
+Mail Delivery: Chain Smoking woman on a green bike

Being able to see these things constantly makes me smile. Also, the sun is shining. While doubt it will last long, it makes everything more cheerful.

Before you comment, Emily, I live in a TOWN, not a VILLAGE. The government says so.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I ordered a pizza for delivery yesterday. A small victory, yes, but a victory nonetheless.

I usually just swing by on my way home from the train station and wait while they prepare it and take it home with me. Last night though, it was cold and rainy and I did not want to cook.

I have ordered a pizza before, but there is always this nice lady there who told me just to say "Hello, this is Jamie" and the pizza I want and she would send it out. Well, that lady doesn't
work very often anymore. In her place is a somewhat grumpy, younger man.

I called. I told him I live in the small house on the corner by the Gimnázium. He asked me a series of questions that were all unnecessary with the nice lady. At the end he exclaims "Ah. You are the American teacher who lives in the house by the Gimnazium." Which leads me to wonder how many other foreigners call with terrible accents and ask for pizza delivered to the Gimnázium.

Lost in Translation

Yesterday, at my "American Club". . .I snicker every time I hear that. . .but it is what the kids call it and they get confused when I deviate. . .one of the kids said he heard that Obama had said some very bad words on TV. As a constant (unfortunately that is quite literal) viewer of CNN International, I was surprised and said I had never heard of this. Surely the new president swearing on national TV would have meritted some sort of mention.

My student went on to talk about how a few years ago the Prime Minister of Hungary made a now famous speech in Parliment littered with explictives that has more or less come to be known as the "We Fucked Up Speech." Now it was America's turn.

While he explained this, I tried to Google any instance of Obama swearing in an interview when I realized what he may be talking about. I told him that a few days ago, Obama said that he had "messed up" and "screwed up" about not vetting some nominees properly, but those are far from very bad words. . .they mean the same. . .they just don't get bleeped.

"Oh." He used an online translator to show me what the Hungarian news has been reporting Obama as saying. Sure enough, the translation shows him to be following in the Prime Minister's footsteps. So. . .Hungarian news sources have been widely reporting about the frenzy caused by our foul-mouthed new president. . .a frenzy that doesn't really exist. . .all over words he didn't really say.

Friday, February 6, 2009


My last class on Fridays is 12A. Usually a talkative (in Hungarian), but overall alright class with really good English. Today, I wasn't sure what would happen because the School Leavers' Baaaal is tomorrow and all of the 12th year classes have been really excited all week. Today, I was happy to get a decent 20 minutes of vocab work out of them.

In this class, there is a couple. The couple-iest couple. I think they have been dating like 3 and a half years. But, the girl has the best English in the class. They both actively participate every class and do their work. So they are good, if hand-holdy students.

Today, as I turned from writing something on the board, I see Krisztian steal Vivien's nose! He tucked it away in his pocket. . .and then realized I saw him do it. I have never seen one of my cool boys turn so red! He won't make eye contact with me now. Vivien realizes, blushes a little and shrugs like people just go around stealing noses hapazardly on a regular basis.

I might take a síp to the baaaaal

There is always something that makes me giggle in classes. Usually related to my students being rediculous or misunderstandings due to neither side having a firm grasp on the other's language.

Today, I was talking to my students about the School Leavers' Ball this weekend. I can never remember the Hungarian word, so I thought describing a dance with dinner and dancing and white dresses would be sufficient. I wrong. So I tried calling it a ball. The Hungarian and English are very close: bál vs. ball, so I thought this might work. Nope. So I wrote the Hungarian word on the board. "Ooooohhhh!" the class exclaimed, "a baaaaal." . . .right. So now, I go straight for baaal. It sounds rediculous to both me and them, but they are use to my terrible accent in Hungarian by now and at least they understand what I'm going for. . .I'll post more about the baaaal when I have some photos.

This week we have been talking about musical instruments. It has gone over alright in almost all of the classes regardless of level because they haven't learned the grammar or voacb before. One class, which usually acts up, was actually okay for the most part--except one thing. When I showed them any instrument, they kept answering "sheep." I chalked it up to the class being silly and figured if that is the worst they are acting, then a clarinet could be a sheep because at least most of them would also say the right answer. . .after saying sheep, of course.
Today, my first class, 10b participated well at first, but then, suddenly, someone said "sheep!" Ok, something was up. Their English isn't great, but I figured, maybe through mime or luck they could inform me. They told me it is like at a train station, or in sports. Oh! a Whistle! a "síp". I explained to them that until then, I had pictured a fluffy white creature shaved to make sweaters. Their answers then turned into "saxaphone síp baaa".
At least the sheep make the same sound in Hungarian as in English.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What a good way to end the day

I got a package! Yay yay yay yay!

Usually, the boxes Jon sends take over three weeks to get here. This one, he mailed on Friday, so it was the last thing I expected to show up! I didn't think the postal service here was capable of getting anything to Újszász that quickly. . .

I am now armed with extra Kraft Mac n Cheese, applesauce, peanut butter (JIF!), Velveeta, popcorn I can cook on the stove and several other prizes that are either not availiable here or cost 5 times the cost at home.
Also included:
a copy of The Globe revealing secrets about Obama (he is a Muslim, you know), a copy of the Pantagraph from the day Blagojevich was impeached,(There has to be a lesson in there somewhere.) and candy to bribe my students with. (Mainly cheap American candy that is grumbled about at Halloween, but man, my kids will do almost anything for a mini Tootsie Roll)

Monday, February 2, 2009

I expected today to be a lot worse. . .

Exhausted after a long (but wonderful) weekend in Eger (and without internet), I ended up going to bed around 8:30 and sleeping until 6:45. Mondays are usually a little painful due to lots of classes, most of whom simply don't care about English.

There are several things that have made the day pretty good so far though . ..

+As I was locking the door to go to school this morning, a man walking on the sidewalk on the other side of the street waved and yelled "good afternoon!" with a big grin on his face. I haven't a clue who he was, but it isn't common to talk to people on the street at all, let alone yell out to in English to the foreigner at 7:30 in the morning.

+With three, very notable exceptions, 9c, usually chaotic and unorganized, not only paid attention to, but seemed to understand both the vocab and grammar we went over today.

+ On the center of my desk was a brochure that one of my best students handed in Friday before I left in hopes of me still grading it. . .unfortunately, semester grades were finished the week before. I saw it Friday, but it still makes me smile now. One of the best Hungarian gems of all. . .The motto for her whole brochure:
"Sopron: You can't get boned in this city!!"

+I am at least mostly motivated to finish applications. Which is good because at this point, I haven't really got a choice.

+The grumpiest cleaning lady of all smiled at me and said "jo reggelt." I csokolomed her in return.

+ I am excited for my School Leavers' Ball this weekend. My 12th year students have been practicing their dances for quite some time, so it should be a lot of fun. The next weekend is another ball at Tara's school in Máriapócs and another in Heves in the beginning of march. I do need to find some good shoes to wear. . .my 1.5 inch teaching heels just don't seem quite right for the occasion. . . .I guess I'll have to suffer a shopping trip. . .