Thursday, June 28, 2007

Goodbye - My least favorite word

Today I left Gyula.
I no longer live nor teach there. It is sad and interesting. I return to the United States, like many CETPers, lured by a place at Grad school.
I have been restless this past week, both anxious to go home, and regretting that I have to leave. I wandered around my town aimlessly, unable to fully conceive that in just a little bit I would no longer live there. I thought about the plans I made back at the end of last year, things I wanted to do during my stay. Some of them I have achieved. Some of them I have not, but as Anyaom says, it is important to leave somewhere wishing to go back. This means it was worth being there in the first place.
I am also really bad at Goodbye. In only one or two of my classes did I really say goodbye. To the CETPers, and other teachers it was often short and terse. Partially this is due to my inability to believe that 5 months have already past, and also due to plans to meet that never come true.

Beautiful things I will remember on the plane, when I finally realize I am leaving-

Walking past the new fountain, that wasn't doing anything, and just as I pass it shoots into life.

Pulling my first all nighter, packing up Sara's apartment, and doing her dishes in the bathtub, because her sink is broken

Drinking Wine and toasting everyone.

Being called Draga by the other teachers

The director giving a nice speech about me, and I understood some, saying that I was kind, friendly and...easygoing. (Easy going?)

Having a csabai vs gyulai sausage taste test, and liking gyulai better.

Festival food in Szeged for breakfast

No longer having a 30000 ton baroque alarm clock waking me up on weekends when I want to sleep in.

All in all, I loved my semester here. I could have done things better, I could have done things worse, but the important thing is that I did it.
Thank you to everyone for giving me this experience. Without VS, LC, SM, GA, Robika's family, Katanenyi, Sara, Caley, Arlo, Emily, Mr Shoelaces, my students and everyone else things would have been not nearly as wonderful.
As I told 10 szerda, Goodbye is my least favorite word. Instead let us say....


Friday, June 15, 2007

Dear English teacher - a letter to my replacement

My name in Brieggy. I worked at KJRKG from January 30th of this year until today.

I am writing to you on my last day of "classes", because I just found out for sure that you are coming. I hope that you enjoy your time here even more than I have. Gyula is a great city to work in, and the people are really friendly. If you have half of the luck I did, you will have a wonderful year next year.

I am sad that we wont meet. I met the girl that worked here before me, and she passed on a few tips. However there were many things that I wished she had told me. At orientation they do their best to prepare you (and lucky you will have a whole week, compared to my 4 days), but all of the schools are different.

1) Go with the flow. These might be the 4 most important words here, right up there with Learn and Adapt. The school is great, but not always well organized. Sometimes they may forget to tell you things until 5 minutes ahead of time. This may be partially due to organization, and partially due to the fact I think they forget that we don't speak the language (or at least I don't).

2) Try to learn the language if you don't know it. I know this seems simple, but it really is the best way to make friends, and you can not ask for better teachers than those of KJRKG.

3) Chalk is the enemy

4) The more energy you bring to class, the better the class will go. A bored/distracted teacher = a bored/disruptive class.

5) The students may not treat you as a real teacher.

6) If you have questions ask GA the German teacher (he speaks great English) or VC the biology teacher. They generally have a good grasp of what is going on.

7) If you have problems and need an American voice to talk to Sarvasi and Szolnoki (you will meet them at orientation) are great.

8) Ask exactly how to write in the Naplő, and write down this information. It took me months to figure it out, and I still make mistakes.

9) Never drink the Naplő on an empty stomach.

10) If you are in the apartment that I am in and do not want to be disturbed by the 3 year old and 4 year old next door, lock the door. They are cute buttons (except when the three year old decides it is funny to flash Breiggy-nenyi or cries because I can not play), but don't think anything is wrong with jumping on you while you are napping.

11) You will work at least 3 Saturdays. Ask in advance which dates they are.

12) You will need to prepare all of your lesson plans in advance, especially if you are staying for the whole year. I found this out just before the Kontrol. You can deviate, but as long as you have a rough plan, it will be easier on you.

13) You will need to be creative in coming up with classes. When you arrive at school, they may not give you a full schedule, and it is up to you to get the full 22 classes. You can teach cooking in the evenings, start an English club or a Drama team. These classes are fun, and the students really open up. They can also count towards your schedule.

14) Chalk is the enemy

15) and are your friends

I know that we will have entirely different experiences because we are very different people. Many of these tips you may already know (especially number 3 and 14 - yes it needed to be there twice), you may already be a teacher, or maybe you have never picked up the chalk. Either way, I hope this letter is useful, and I hope that you have a wonderful year at KJRKG. If you have any other questions I will leave my email address for you. Good luck.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Eastern European Expereince

A friend turned to me a couple of months ago, as I was ranting about my lack of apartment (I was told I would move within 2 months into a great place, 2 weeks turned out to be 4 months and a different apartment), and said "You are certainly having an Eastern European Experience". I love this line, not only because of the alliteration, but because of its inherent truth. If you come to Hungary, you need to be prepared to accept and embrace the EEE.

Don't get me wrong, I would love for the schools to be more organized. Kat wrote a great letter to the schools of Hungary who are taking Foreign teachers with what they could do. Check it out on her blog here.

Not only can I verify all of the things on this list, I can add some that have happened this week.

1) Please tell teachers what they are/are not allowed to do. I have the reading level of a Hungarian 3 year old, the sign on the door will not stop me from taking students outside if I do not know what it says.

2) Do not change the way we notify the American about substitutions. If I am used to getting notes on my desk, please continue to do so. I got a note about the 2 German classes that I was supposed to substitute, I even checked on the noticeboard, but I can not interpret the 2mm name and dashes which say that I need to substitute 2 English classes at the same time.

3) Please, Please tell me ahead of time that you have changed the last 2 days of classes into game days. If I had known, I could have said goodbye to my students the day before. Now it is too late. (Although, as I got half of a day warning about this, so in comparison I was warned.)

4) Please tell me that school starts an hour later. I would like to sleep in too.

These are only my top three for this week. There are many more examples, but they seem fairly normal now. Truth be told, while organization is a blessing, this is part of the experience. And while I rant and rave, without the EEE, this wouldn't be Hungary.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This is it.

It is my last Monday of teaching at KJRKG. This is it. I am exhausted and sad. My lessons have all spiraled downward into chaos of students hijacking the lessons to chat in Hungarian.

The weekend I sat along the banks of the Tisza, drinking a cold beer on a hot day surrounded by friends. These are great people. We have travelled together, annoyed each other, made up and comforted one another. We had discussions in 5 different languages at once. French, German, Spanish, Hungarian and English all blended together create a joyful babel. A man, from whom we had bought a circle cake, while the boys were in playing cso-cso, gave us a beer glass filled with tiny fragrant roses. We then laughed as, later he took a wooden cross (made of sticks and his shoelaces) and our flowers towards a friend who had been sleeping in the grass for 2.5 hours without moving. The man on the grass finally woke up as his friend pounded in the fake headstone. Our laughter may have been what woke him up. I realized then, peace is living in the present simple tense.

Sunday was a difficult night. I said goodbye to the men of the GHP and got into an argument with my Spanish friend. Both of the goodbyes were simple, get out of the car, puszi, the promise to keep in touch, a quick hug and a last photo. Goodbye Szarvas and Mezőbereny, and thank you.

Monday, June 4, 2007

I wish I had known

There are many things I wish I had known before coming to Hungary. I was prepared (but are we ever really prepared) for things to be different, but there are a number of things I wish I had known. One of them was things I should have packed and things I should have left.

Things I packed and I was happy I brought/wish I had brought:

1. Movies to play on my computer.
2. Note cards, you can never have enough.
3. Ads from the Sunday paper. If I had had more, I could have done more.
4. Jeans
5. Peanut butter (although you can get it at Tesco)
6. Comics-from the Sunday paper/comic books
7. A book of children's games or how to play cards. These can all be changed to make them EFL friendly, and as I don't have Internet at home, it would have helped me prep for classes.
8. Photos of home
9. A clear idea of what was going on
10. A sense of humor
11. A smaller backpack
12. Reeses Peanut butter cups. I ate them all, and they were delicious.

Things I wish I had not brought:

1. My German/English dictionary. I am only subbing for German (albeit about once a week), and I know all of the words that we use. That would have saved me 5lbs.
2. So many shoes. China shop shoes are cheap.
3. The German/ESL books. I bought better ones here, and for the most part, my students are not advanced enough for the intermediate books I brought.
4. Reeses Peanut butter cups. I ate them all, and they were delicious.
5. Dressing gown. It is so bulky.

I may continue this list later, but these are the most important so far.

On Introspection and the Trains

Sunday is train day.

We sit, crammed into the overheated and sometimes clean metal tubes, which cut paths throughout the nation, on our way home from a weekend packed full of togetherness. Bleary-eyed from the lack of sleep and sometimes queasy from the incessant rocking, the train can be a great inspiration for introspection.

I know that introspection is not very interesting for others to read, but as my time shortens my brain is frantically trying to discover what I have achieved over the last 5 months. Have I changed? Have I helped someone? Was it worth it?
This weekend was an eye-opener. I embarrassed myself in front of 20 of my CETP colleagues and their friends. I wish I had not done that.
I was asked by a friend of a friend "Do you see your time in Hungary as real life, or as a buffer?" This question keeps playing over in my head. I wonder what is "real life". How is it defined? Is it when you are working the daily grind and working towards set goals, or is it a string of a million moments all connected by a tangled web of our actions? I don't know, but I think that I will spend a lifetime trying to find out.
This was also a strange weekend, because I met many of the CETP people, who I had heard stories about. At the end of the weekend no phone numbers were exchanged, and no half formed plans were made, it was a familiarly terse "Good luck with your life, It was nice to have met you" and we stepped out of one another's stories.

This is a somewhat depressing post, so I will finish with another not to Clare of 3BT :

Being linked by Clare of 3BT. Her site has reminded me to appreciate the little things.
A friend defending you against gossip.
Receiving Boxes of Chocolates from students on Teacher-day.
A message from a friend you haven't heard from in a while.
Mail with Moose stickers in it.
The school getting re-plastered and painted, so it already looks nicer than when I came.
Having someone like the ATC that you were not sure about.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bad people to have next to you on the plane.

Teaching stuff: (shocking I know, a post about lessons for once)

Teaching Jobs: Spy
This is appropriate for pre-intermediate.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Lesson time: 45 minutes-60minutes depending on your students
Materials: Jobs handout of vocab lists, note cards/slips of paper with descriptions of jobs
Get a list of jobs and professions. I use the one from ESL Images which is great, but if you already have a list, or want to add jobs this will also work. I add the profession of spy to this list. Go through the professions, have the student circle the ones that they already know. Have them look up the others in a dictionary, draw a picture and then describe it in English, if you don't have pictures to go along with the list. Let spy or secret agent be the last on the list. Then tell the students that there are a number of spys in the town. I used 001-009. I made slips of paper that had descriptions of jobs, or people, and had the students guess which job the spy was pretending to be.
example: 001- She is very smart and went to University. She knows a lot about animals. She wanted to become a doctor. (She is pretending to be a vet)

While it certainly isn't mandatory (and probably better if you don't), I mentally hum "Secret agent man" in my head throughout the lesson.

Teaching Allowed/Not allowed: Smugglers
Appropriate for pre-intermediate to beginners
Prep time: One hour
Lesson time: 15 to 30 minutes
Materials: Slips of paper/note cards with things that you are or are not allowed to bring on the plane.
Pre-teach: vocabulary words and how to ask questions, if you do this in the same lesson, it will probably take 45-65 minutes all together (depending on your students)
Have students brain storm what they are allowed to bring on the airplane; MP3, Clothes, Books etc. and what they are not allowed; Apples, knives, bombs, (some of my 7th grade got really creative). Then elect two security officers and send them out of the room. Hand each student 2 cards, mix up allowed and not allowed items. Have security officers question each student. They are allowed only 2 questions per student, and must guess if the "passenger" has something that is not allowed. The "guards" must ask specific questions, for example "Fruit is not allowed on the airplane, do you have any apples?" The "passenger" must tell the truth. If they don't have fruit, but have an MP3 player on their cards, they would respond "I don't have any apples, but MP3 players are allowed". If the "passenger" is caught with an illegal item, they must sit down.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Things I am learning, am working on or wish that I was learning.

With two and a bit weeks left of school, I am mired by confusion. I am learning a lot and yet I feel as if I am learning nothing. I remember back to my first week here, and the advice the amazing Mária gave us:
As a teacher, you should never stop learning. Always start someting new. A new language, an new sport, a new way to do something that you already do. This not only will help you improve your mind, but remind you to have sympathy for your students.

Currently I have a full plate, but am being lazy. These are the things I am working on:

Hungarian - Everyday I butcher this beautiful language. And really I haven't improved much over the past few weeks. Nothing made this more pointedly obvious as when on Friday I went to a Magna Cum Laude concert with two acquaintances. One understood more spoken English the other spoke more English. I understood little of what they said in Hungarian, but I should have been able to.

History - Yup. Have not done anything to expand my history brain lately. I think I will be in trouble come August.

Carpe Diem - living for the moment and not dwelling on the past is extremely difficult, I wonder if other history majors have this problem.

Spanish - So far I am learning bad words and how to say don't worry. I am not very good at it, because English, German and Hungarian pronunciation sounds nothing like Spanish.

Things I wish I was learning:

How to reach tired students
How to enjoy the moment without worrying about when it will end.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Cooking with the students in Szent Anna-Szent Gellert is always interesting.

It reminds me that these are good kids. They may not want to work in class, or give me sass. The may stare at me blankly, or whine about wanting to do something else, but through some sugary-warm magic, I see different people in Szent Anna.

The students will speak to me in English or German, without me feeling like I am pulling teeth.

They bring music to dance to, and tell me all of the gossip. I have some surprising interesting things about the social structure of KJRKG. One example is that 12th graders may be dating a 9th grader, a 11th grader may be dating a 10th grader. Everyone dates people from different grades without the recriminations that they would face from their friends in the USA. They even tell me about which teachers are handsome or/and I should flirt with.
I have learned about smoking/drinking/parents/other teachers all through the view point of the students that grace my 2 hour take-over of the kitchen.

They are eager to help, although this could be because it is something interesting on a Thursday evening and the fact that they wont get a suti if they don't help, but, they do the dishes even when I tell them not to.

Is it the sweet lure of baked goods, or the more relaxed atmosphere of late night cooking which gets them to confide things to me?

One of the first weeks that I baked with the students, I was informed that they didn't see me as a teacher. This is something that has haunted me. What could I do to be taken seriously? Should I be strict and mean, should I wear even more make-up to appear older? Talking with other American teachers, I discovered that few of us are really viewed like a real teacher. Whether it is telling students that our classes that they wont get a grade, or because most of us don't speak Hungarian, we are all in a fairly strange position. Teaching limbo. Neither student nor teacher, although everyone mistakes me for a student. It is strange and worrying.

Last night another of the students clarified. They do not see me as a teacher, they see me as a

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And on the third, fourth and fifth days...

Air conditioning.
If I could create levels of heaven, like Dante's circles of Hell, Air conditioning would be right up there. It has been to hot to teach, and too hot to think lately.

Here is a pleasant bit of random: I had originally meant to have at least one blog a month that was titled "on the X day..." that would somehow relate back to Genesis. I could go on about the symbolism of how it a reflection the Genesis of being a "responsible" adult, or how because I work in a religious school, I have bible on the brain...but I wont. - Anyway, as this is the fifth month I decided to check exactly what happened on the fifth day. On the fifth day God created "great sea serpents" and "great whales." Ahh Szarvas and Ahab, the timing was perfect, my whale and snake-hunting friends.

The kids are getting squirelly and restless. It is difficult to teach them...or even to keep them in line. One of my girls put it simply "It is too hot and the end of the year, and I have no patience for the English"
My response "The English?" but what I was really thinking was - me too

This week I also made a mid-week break for freedom. I felt so deliciously naughty going to Szolnok on a Tuesday morning after my classes were done. Riding the train away from my town, my school, my apartment. Eating fornetti and contemplating adventure. This was only the second time I have visited Emily in Szolnok. The first time was my first weekend in Hungary, still dazed and dazzled by change and confusion. This time I enjoyed it more. We did crafty things, listened to music and met Ken and Jenny for a beer. I wish I had had more time, but all too soon I was on the bus, on the train and Hazaféle. However I met an acquaintance on the train, who introduced me to his friend. They walked me home. It was nice.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Igaz or is it Nem Igaz...a weekend in Szarvas

Let's play a variation on a game I play in class; which of the following are true, and which are lies? For logical answers and hints read Emily's Blog

We rowed a boat at midnight, under a purple cloudy sky.

We protected each other from things that go squish in the night. Attila was in charge of frogs, Eve was in charge of the eels, Csongor was in charge of protecting us from the water, I was in charge of snakes, and Captain Ahab (Emily) was in charge of Moby Dick. Only Ahab and myself were prepared, as we had thought to bring the fire-pit roasting forks.

We made a delicious sangria for ourselves and a toxic palingria for Csongor.

We walked barefoot through the park (and by that I mean the Szarvasi Arboretum)

We paid a lot of money to get into said Arboretum.

We found an article with the label "Sex and the Kids" which had a picture of a shirtless guy and girl doing things, while reading a pre-teen magazine.

I was not disturbed by this.

We discovered that soot was better bait for fish than bread.

We played bread-golf

We ate terrible Mexican food

Emily and I saw a giant snake writhing near the boat on Sunday, and no one else believed us.

There was a no pók zone.

I was sober and healthy all weekend.

We spelled GHP with our bodies

We walked past the wooded effigies of Hungarian History

We were not confused by the windmill-like monument at the historic geographical center of Hungary.

Ahab stabbed a Borsodi bottle, because the neighbour's motor boat did not scare the white whale close enough

We contemplated the fine art of sneaking into the Arboretum at midnight and going peacock hunting with our harpoon/roasting forks

We argued with Csongor on the the role of Fate vs CETP in our lives, would we still have been friends without this program? Would we still hang out as much if we weren't in the GHP?

We had wholesome conversations for at least 2 hours that did not involve talking about our schools, I timed this unusual phenomenon.

I sadly realized that I had to say goodbye to Eve, and that we may not meet again.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cipő, Csipő, csipós....why is my Aikido instructor discussing shoes?

Up until weekend before last, I hadn't left Gyula since Spring break. (Well except for Békéscsaba and Sarkad, but they don't count). The weekend before last I went on the HIKE, otherwise known as a field trip with the Csabas.

About a month ago, or maybe more, I was in a do everything mood and one of the Biology teachers asked if I wanted to go hiking. "Sure" I said, innocently dismissing the facts that I a) had never really been on a long hike before, and b) am incredibly lazy. So on the weekend when we also had 3 days off of school (12th grade needing 3 days of quiet for extensive exams) the csabas, 16 students and myself took the train to Balkony. In four days we hiked over 67 km, 30 of which on Monday alone. Although I spent part of it wondering why I hadn't gone to Kalocsa, Szeged, Romania or anywhere else instead, mostly I mused on the beauty of my surroundings and sandwiches.

Sandwiches, ah the sandwiches. This may seem random, but reading other CETP blogs, I realize that I am not the only one who has noticed the Hungarian love-affair. It is one of those small surprises that takes awhile to get used to. 7:20am look around the halls just before 1st period and you will see students consuming mass quantities of bread thickly layered in butter, salami and cheese. Tin-foil and napkins crinkling to unleash that almighty staple. On the hike I had a chance to view, just how many sandwiches people really eat. I had noticed that the teachers always had an unending supply, but I think I watched one of my students eat 6 sandwiches in one day, as well as breakfast, dinner and assorted snacks.

The hike also gave me time to practice my pici-magyarul. I think I was finally getting the hang of the difference between hips, shoes and spicy...but then they threw in shoe-laces and I am lost again. The difference is all in the "O" sound.

The week before last was also Ballogas. 12th grade graduation, and unlike anything I had ever seen. On Thursday I was approached by one of my 12th grade boys with a small white card. It was an invitation to the school könyvtar on Friday. So herded in like a dazed sheep I sat next to the German and Spanish teacher. Then in came the 12B class bearing flowers and wrapped gifts. Each teacher was thanked for their time and effort, and given a flower and a gift. Students were then thanked, puszi were exchanged and that was that. I should explain that one of my weird interests is the Victorian language of flowers, so it gave me a sappy feeling that they chose a pink carnation. Pink carnations mean "I will never forget you" A nice farewell to my first 12th grade class.
Saturday was more interesting as they all dressed in their formal gear (sailor suit tops for the girls over a black skirt, and a suit for the boys), bearing armfuls of flowers, they paraded through each room and then the town singing farewells. It ended up in church, as many things do, for a mass and farewell speech from the principal.


I got this idea from a website and combined it with my own activities -
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly:
Draw Evil-pirate Bob on the chalk board, ask what his problem is.
After about 6 answers from the students, inform them that Bob, is not only all of the things they suggested, but also forgetful.
Ask them in small groups to discuss other problems people could have. ex: I hate pop music, but my boyfriend is a pop star. If you have other stock characters ask what their problems could be
Go over "subject + should" grammar structure
Discuss what is advice, who gives advice.
Divide into 3 groups and ask them to give you advice for your problems. Tell them that 1 group will be the good advice, 1 group will be the bad advice and the last group will be the ugly or really bad advice. Change the good, bad and ugly group for each problem, so everyone has a chance to be all 3.
From the problems that they thought of for evil pirate Bob and other problems, make up a "Dear Advice Columnist" type letter, read it aloud and have them offer their good, bad or ugly advice.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The first of the long goodbyes.

I was reading Emily's post when it dawned on me. I only have 6 more weeks of teaching, only 3 of which are whole weeks, before I switch roles and once again become a student. I wish I could stay.

Yesterday was 12th grade's last day of classes. Next week they have to take their final exams which will decide if they can attend University in the fall. It was a little sad to say goodbye to the first of my classes. Although on the positive side, my life will no longer peppered with questions of "go to th
e bed with the boyfriend?" At this point I think it is a fair trade.

Actual teaching stuff:

Recently I was surfing various ESL/EFL sites when I found it. The best lists of Vocab words. I wish that I had found it earlier.

The website:

It is always interesting to see what works with one class, and not another. Of the Australia
lesson that I taught last week, the animals station was popular in every class. The pictures
and food were also well liked (well the cookies were, but the Vegimite was met with twisted
faces of horror) however the history section took the longest.

The stations, themselves were only problematic in one class, because they did not want
to move. The others seemed to like it. 9 hetfő chose to work in pairs, where as 11 szerda
worked as a class.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Immaturity thy name is Breiggy

This is a quick post, because I have a lot to do yet, and it is only 10am.

My favorite thing that I have been discovering here, is how much of a child I still am. That's right, as I discover that innocent words in English are explicit in Hungarian, I giggle. But only half as hard as I do when the innocent Hungarian words are really explicit in English.

mmmmm....False friends, my life would be plural-trees boring without you.

PS. Nő means woman, and yes it is a pun.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Szászorszép is the weekend

I think that this one word can evoke emotions in any teacher which words can not accurately express. Especially when paired with the words long weekend. This weekend is a four day weekend, and I have one week to get in shape before our hike. I don't think I can do it.

This week has both been beautiful and chaotic. I have transcended exhaustion, to a state of peace, but that may be due to the fact that the long weekend lies tantalizingly if front of me.

This week I began Aikido again. It is amazing how much one can forget in a year. I love rocking the white pants of a beginner again, and have realized that now that I have worn the Hakama, it will never be as attractive as it once was. However, the muscle pain and bruises come back to me in amazing clarity.

This week I "organized" a group of teachers to meet for pizza and beer/wine/martinis. This basically meant that on Wednesday I realized I hadn't really organized anything, and asked everyone around if they wanted to meet for beers and a traditional shoe throwing. I was surprised by the fact that 4 actually showed up. It was lovely. I ate pizza with corn for the first time and it was delicious.

This week I gave a last minute exam to 12th grade, because apparently as a teacher I need to do such things.

This week I forced all of my students to learn about Australia. The preparation for which was a pain in the posterior, and part of that was 4 hours spent baking ANZAC biscuits in the dorms, now a 15 minute walk from home with a sack the size of Texas in hand.

This week I ate unhealthy things in the staff room. I do this every week, but this week was especially bad, because the 12th grade did the serenade last night, and all left over food was brought in. Knowing my students there was no left over alcohol, but I don't think anyone would bring that in anyway.

This week I drank wine with my neighbour, and tried to gossip in our pidgin magyarul/nemetul as her kids ran around the floor.

This week I learned the word for daisy - Szásorszép (I can not spell) - means 100 times beautiful, and remembered that in the language of flowers daisies represent innocence.

This week I had very little control over classes, but didn't really mind. The activities we did were such that a little more freedom is called for. Next week I will try to reign with an iron ruler.

This week I felt frustrated and annoyed. Both with my students for not working and understanding, and myself for not being able to teach it better.

Another week ended.
Now for the weekend, and may it be a daisy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A nod to Clare of 3BT and why it is OK to eat fish.

Ahh Palinka and Tavas. Sometimes I think the gods are out to get me in trouble, like the mischievous friend who pushes buttons just to see if this time will be different from the last 17 times. It wasn't, and while I could rant and rave about the bad parts of the weekend (all caused by my own drunken stupidity) I wont. Instead, with a nod to Clare of "Three Beautiful Things" I will remember the simple and the beautiful things.

1) The daisies that dot all of the grassy pathways in my town.
2) The sweet burn of good palinka as it slowly slides down your throat, and then eating a piece of dried apple afterwards.
3) A friend peeling off the layers of an unopened Iris, until it exposes the yellow bit
4) Friends, who instead of scolding, are willing to play "Dude, where's my phone" and go on an adventure across town at 8am after only 4 hours of sleep.
5) Blue sky and sitting in the sun
6) Understanding one of the students asking a non-English speaking colleague questions in Hungarian
7) Being called Tanarnő
8) Walking under trees full of pink blossoms
9) That moment when the student 'gets it'.
10) Lying in bed, covered in blankets, the sun streaming through the windows and not having to get up.
11) The word Bliss.
12) When a student surprises you with something very clever

A while ago I went to a teacher convention in Budapest. It was really good, and gave me tons of new ideas. One of them was a graffiti game, where students should write a phrase in English and decorate it in the style of Graffiti artists. I did this once on a Saturday, when there was some extra time, and no one wanted to be there. Most of them wrote the usual "Happy Easter", "I love Timmy" so on and so forth. My favorite was from one of my sassy students:

"It isOK to eat fish, because a fish doesn't have feelings"

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pancakes and Festivals

MMmmmm the delicious smell of working on a Saturday.

In fact, working the Monday schedule on a Saturday, having 1 whole day to myself and then getting up and doing it all over again. Although I know that we do this in order to have a beautiful 4 day weekend sometime later... but Gillbert and Sullivan would say does "the punishment fit the crime"?
But there is a bright and shiny light at the end of the tunnel....or bottle. This weekend is Palinka fest. I was a little confused as last week 1/2 of the people told me it would be it would be last weekend, and 1/2 told me this weekend. Meh, at least it is here.
I, having better things to do but also not wanting to do them, went to the festival last night, am going today and will go tomorrow.

On Csütörtök (Thursday) I hoped over to the Dormitory to learn to make Hungarian Palicinkat (my poorly spelt attempt at "pancakes in the direct object"). Charles Italy (as he translates his name), V, A and a number of other students bought supplies and taught me to make pancakes. Hungarian pancakes are a lot like crepes- thin, sweet and delicious. They showed me how to swirl the oil in the pan, scrape the edges, shake it and finally flip it. Having ket balkezsén (two left arms - much like two left feet, but for throwing and catching) I was afraid of flipping the pancakes. When I did it and successfully I got applause from the students. Half way through our pancake making extravaganza, we went outside to view Saturn through the telescope that one of the teacher's husband brought. It looked unreal. After gorging ourselves silly on pancakes, I walked home. It was sweet that they were a little worried about this, and their concerns were the first I had heard of Gyula being a little dangerous.

Friday, some of my cooking companions and I went to the Palinka festival to see the concert. Apart from the palinka and general fair goodness, the great attraction is the concerts. Friday as Mark. We got to the grounds at 6pm, just in time for the concert, but the show ahead of it was still going on. It was a little confusing because the "dancing" was really just walking and a little jiggling to music. It all made sense, especially the bit in lingerie when V turned to me and explained that it was a fashion show. Mark, was a singer I had actually heard on one of my marathon Mtv-lazing in the dorm-too poor and bored to go out-weekends, but didn't know until I heard the SOS Szerelem song. After the concert some of the others and I went for a walk. We found a huge spinney ride with flashing lights. It was excitement at first sight. Negy száz later I was seated in a metal cab of death and being squished by a tenth grade boy at high velocity. Randomly it would change speeds, go backwards or roll up and down. I loved it. And the view...the view was amazing. What I didn't love was the feeling of - Oh-my-goodness-I-am-going-to-puke that I got for the next half hour. Thank heavens I hadn't drunk any beer or palinka or I would have re-visited dinner.

Class Stuff:

9ny- free discussion. I had activities, but they didn't want to play, so we had a free discussion instead. It actually worked well for the girls who dominated the discussion, and apparently they also think I should stay and get married to a Hungarian man (not the first time I have been told this). The discussion was not something I could do all of the time, simply because not everyone participates, but a nice change of pace.

12- Me: "Can remind me of some sports?"
Them: "Sightseeing?"
Me: "I wouldn't call that a sport, can you think of any others?"
Them: "Going home!?"
Going home has replaced the chimes of "to the bed", but this is mostly true because there was only 1 of the boys in class.

Also Zs showed me a neat way to pair students for group work using string. Hold a bundle of strings in the middle, have students grab ends then let go of the middle. The person on the other end is their partner.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Counting the Corners and Nifty Neighbours

There is a saying in Hungary that whenever you move into a new place, you should count the corners of the room before you go to sleep.
My new apartment, the one that belonged to my predecessor and not the one I was waiting for, has 12 corners if one doesn't include the shared kitchen.
Although it isn't the best ever, I like it so far. Especially since my nifty neighbours have been lending a hand.
Monday I moved in, to face an apartment with no sheets, pillows, or kitchen utensils. I didn't have any, because living in the dorm I didn't need them. Luckily I have a sleeping bag and a neighbour, who when her kids ran into my rooms (the Kisfiú is 3 and the kislan is 5) she chased them in she saw no sheets. She speaks maybe 6 words of German to match my 6 words of Hungarian. But when Latin C. came home, (with whom I share the kitchen) he translated her question and I received sheets, a pillow and blankets.
I also borrowed a plate, knife, fork and spoon from the dormitory.
The two things I wasn't tickled about was a leaky loo and grease about a half an inch to an inch caked on the stove. Apparently my predecessor didn't clean it and Latin C only makes coffee. I spent about 3 hours scrubbing. When my neighbour saw this, she came in with cleaning fluid (apparently what I had bought was the weak stuff, what she had was the strong stuff) and it went much quicker. While the oven still isn't grease free, and may never be, it is much better.
Kisfiú is really cute. One of the first things they found in my room was the bunny ears. So they love to put them on, hop around saying "Én nyusi" and then chasing each other around.

In 9ny today we worked on "Will+subject+verb" question forms. This meant fortune tellers. They really get a giggle whenever the answer was "Ask G.A" their form teacher. I hope they don't actually ask him if they "Will get married".

In 11-Szerda we worked on Habits and accusations. I brought in clue, and said that one of the characters killed Mr Body because of a bad habit that they had. After we figured out that it was Prof. Plum in the Conservatory with the knife (with much cheating by the way). We discussed what bad habits each character had. Ms Scarlett was my favorite with "shopping and drugs"

In 12th grade some of the boys tried to convince me that pot was legal and the cops smoked it. Their arguments left me unimpressed, but at least it was a change from "goes to the bed with the boyfriend/girlfriend".

Friday, April 13, 2007

More of the acctual teaching part

My classes really like Scattagories, the hot potato ball game, stock-characters, Simon says and that I am both silly and somewhat strict.

Scattagories is great, they are facinated with the dice.

A note on Stock characters ---- Use them sparingly or be prepared to create new ones. Also is a good review if you ask the class what they remember about the character they created. My current stock is Joe/johnny and Evil-pirate Bob and their girlfriends, ex, wives etc. The women don't tend to be stock, because my classes tend to believe that Joe/Johnny is my boyfriend. I asked about this, and it is apparently because if you introduce someone as "my friend" it translates to the students as "romantic boyfriend".
Poor Joe/Johnny has been killed many times over, and has even come back as a Zombie. I usually will ask the class what they remember about Joe or Johnny, because I can't remember which class had Joe married to a vampire and which class portrayed him as a bad-boy, and in which class Joe is nice, funny-basically everything your mother wants you to marry. This is also a good way to see what they remember and a quick warm up review in class.

We will be doing a unit on Australia because ANZAC day is coming up in 2 weeks. I usually combine ANZAC and Australia day, because it is too cold in Jan. to do usual activities.

Simon says is a good way to re-focus attention. If no one listens, then play Simon says for about 2 minutes, and they seem to be better able to listen and focus after they sit down.

Before Easter, the last day of classes before Spring Break was a Saturday. Why they would do that I don't know, because no student can focus on Sat. classes, and right before break is impossible. So I brought a secret weapon. Easter bunny ears. I whipped them out and taught the class the bunny-hop after discussing "What will you do?" and "What will I do?". After bunny-hopping (which surprisingly only 3 of my students declined doing) I asked them questions "Was this an easy dance?" "Was this a silly dance?" etc. The only thing that didn't quite go according to plan, was the cell phones. I don't allow cell phones in class, and if I see them I put them on my desk and call it my collection. However when the bunny ears were on my head, I turned around to see a sea of phones taking photos of me in the ears. Of course then others wanted their photos in the ears. If I were to do this again, I might have the students wait until after class to have their photo in the ears, but all in all their attention and attitude was fairly good for being Saturday class and almost spring break.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Freedom, Peace, 12 hour train rides and small screaming children, Also Known as Spring Break

I am indubitably lucky.

Not only do I live in beautiful Gyula, but my spring break was longer than your average CETP-bear. Although we worked the Sat. the 31st after that we were free. Free until until Wednesday 11th of April. Free of plans, and homework. Free of Napló and forbidding children from eating Csigas in class. Free of children....well not for me anyway. I spent the first night in Sarvas visiting a friend, but before I left I wished Kata the nifty goodbye in broken Hungarian. She said what roughly translated to "See you Tuesday, because the place has been rented to people from Pest". And they were, small screaming Pests. But my beautiful week was a rescue and balm for the weary soul, but there was too much to describe in detail so I'll summarize:

The Easter Bs are a great way to get attention on the Saturday before school: Bribery and Bunny ears.

I learnt two important lessons, never go dancing in high heels without stockings. Also never throw shoes into a garden, no matter if the garden belongs in part to your friend or not, the shoe gnomes may steal them and you may be forced to wear Caley’s size 12 men’s shoes on your women’s size 8 feet.

Went home from Sarvas in high heels (which we did battle against the shoe gnomes for) and blistered feet.

I cooked Porkolt over a fire, and learnt about how to dye eggs the natural way.

I helped give a city tour to a non-existent Spaniard (well he exists, but wasn’t in the city when we gave the tour).

I conquered the castle.


Got sick on a train after indulging in an American in Munich style day.

Saw Kate, Pepi and Miki. Miki is bigger but looks the same.

Pretended to be a mountain goat, but my imagination got stuck on the image of a mountain goat the size of a small elephant with really dainty feet, as I tromped up the Moenchsburg. I really need to stop eating chocolate.

I heard disgusting and true medical stories

Was a bull in a china shop and a pig in the gummi bear shop.

Almost passed out from joy in the book store, because they had an entire shelf of Hungarian as a second language grammar books

Spoke English to other tourists.

Pretended not to hate the 12 hour train ride home.

Watched folk dancing at the Gyula – day festival on Easter day.

Enjoyed my free time.

Although technically on the first day back, I will mention it here. I got watered by one of my students. This means a huge kid, with 2 cupped hands full of water, chased me around the classroom and then promptly dumped it down the back of my shirt. ... ahh traditions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Control, homesickness and acceptance...otherwise known as an average day

This week has been a strange tangled up week.
I was accepted to the Grad school I wanted to go to, without funding. I also realized, I need to find a place to live, before August.
Interviewing potential roommates, and checking over places online has reaped interesting results.
Yesterday, after having an awful class, a wave of homesickness hit me, maybe accompanied by stress and a lack of sleep. A strong wave, that sent me to sit in the Tanairnői WC and quietly weep. However I didn't do a good enough job of faking the bright smile that I usually have on, and when questioned in the Tanarszoba what was wrong, I broke down again. Now I am embarrassed.
The CONTROL, whenever the other teachers say it, you can hear the capital letters.
Today Schwester Ester and the posse came. They descended on our school like ravens at a feast. Everything has been perfected, and all t's are being crosses, all i's dotted. There was even a tablecloth at lunch. We got the observation schedule yesterday. My name was on it, in fact the second lesson on the first day. Today.
I was lucky in retrospect. Both of the Máriakas gave suggestions, and Zsóka sat with me the afternoon before and made sure I was ready. Because it is a lesson I share, Frigyes had a lesson plan already typed-well the one with the subjects, I plan my own lessons. Albeit it had Raji's name and not mine on it.
When the time came, everything went well. The students acted like angels for once. There was no food, and thus no begging to be allowed to eat. There were no cell phones and no MP3 players. They worked, asked questions and behaved. Even the after interview was good. It was heaven.
I wish we always had control.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Every Friday I bring in what I bake on Thursday night.
Every Friday my colleagues ask if it is my name day,
and every Friday I explain that no, I bake because it is stress relieving, and it stops me from going nutty.
This week I baked Cookies and Special K bars. Celebrating using the last of the ginger-flour and doing an internal happy dance. However, as I was sitting at the computer typing to future potential roommates, one of my colleagues sat next to me. He is the colleague, who doesn't speak much English, and whenever he doesn't understand something (which is often) says "I do not understand, but you have a beautiful smile".

This time the spiel was different. Holding a special K bar he turned to me and said "My wife out. She leave...I marry You. Shuti delicious."
My response: "I can give your wife the recipe, its very easy"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The most glorious human invention

Coming in out of the nice weather, I was greeted by a wonderful sight. There on my desk was a sleek, white envalope from my friend Phil. There is nothing so satisfying as a letter from home.
Mail is, as Phil writes, that most glorious human invention.
My sister arrived in Hungary on the 15th, and her week here is almost over. She was like Saint Nicholas, as I greedily opened suitcases full of teaching supplies, candy, spring clothing and bunny ears. She has been photographing everything, and every morning I jelously watch as she gets to sleep in, while I trudge to school.
It has not been a good week. I spent too much in Vienna. I am exhausted, despite doing little other than sleep. One of the teachers, Márika, walked up to me and said "I don't like you today". I later found out that this was in reference to how I looked... "too pale and tired, are you sure you have no problem?"
My students have, in multiple classes, suddenly decided (as of Friday) that sex and porn are hilarious, and should be discussed at every opportunity. I crabbily ratted out one of my classes to their form teacher, and they were in trouble. Parents were called, and I feel somewhat guilty, but only somewhat as I only wanted him to speak to them in Hungarian and it was his choice to take it further.
Cheerleading for the teachers vs. students football game, not only did we loose for the second time, but I got hit on the arm, leg and in the middle of the forehead by the ball. Cheerleading really is a dangerous sport.
My 8th grade didn't show up on the day that I was prepared with an awesome game, and 12th grade discusses dating...or at least I hope that is what they mean...with my sister.
Inspectors come next week and I am not prepared. I fear the decent of wimpled nuns and prayer-bead bedecked priests more than any child fears the boogie-man.
I miss and crave vegetables as a meal more than any pregnant woman wants chocolate.
Still no one knows when I can move. I am going slowly batty, living with students who do not view me as a teacher.
But all of the stress and distress is somewhat lessened by that beautiful white object with AIR MAIL scrawled across it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A weekend alone..or why I should not be allowed near hair dye

I woke up this morning, and grouchily hit the snooze button wondering where the weekend had gone. About a half an hour later-when my brain woke up - I remembered .... this was a short weekend because we had to work on Sat. So really the weekend was only Sunday.

Working Saturday was not fun, but at least I had something to do. The rest of the weekend was spent wondering what a Madel alone should do. Couldn't call Zsóka, she is sick or in Szeged (I am a little confused on this point) It was a quiet, and boring weekend alone in Gyula. I did go swimming in the thermal baths. However, if you ask my students, apparently I had a wild weekend.

My 9ny class and I have been working on the past tense. So on Mondays I routinely ask "What did you do this weekend?" and then "What did I do this weekend?" Asking what I did allows them to be more creative. I have also begun asking "What will you do next weekend?" and "What will I do next weekend?" Apparently next weekend I will be a wild woman. I will go to a party and drink too much, then I will chop down all of the trees in Gyula with an ax, I will go to the Toyko Hotel concert with 2 of my students, and then I will kill the entire 9ny class for speaking Hungarian in class. I don't know what to say to that, except they may have come up with the last one as I actually took and had Élenózó (spelling?) written in today. I feel no remorse, as I warned my students that if they hit people in class, they would do it.

9ny were also the first ones to mention the hair. On Friday, I was bored....and this always leads to trouble. I was not only bored but also in possession of brown hair dye. The trouble came when the dye seeped through the glove staining my finger. I spent about 1/2 and hour to 45 minutes scrubbing my finger, then I looked at the directions. The little clock symbol had 15 minutes marked on it.

I don't have brown hair... I have a slightly brown shade of black hair.

On my program's new blog, I love the about us section:
About Us: We are CETP. We teach. We will eat your souls, and the souls of your children.

The Teaching Section:

Classes are going fairly well. I am in the middle of a story unit with 9ny. It is hard to motivate them, and while the pretend that they are not creative, the stories I have received have been really good. Three of them were fantastic.

The one thing that my classes really like are pen-pal letters. They love writing to someone real.

Also I used the crazy alien game with my 7th grade (see CETP Newsletter site), but I had them roll dice to decide the numbers of body parts. I also asked them questions about the aliens.
- What is your alien's name?
- What is your alien's favorite foods?
- Where is your alien from?
The boys were really creative. One said that his alien had no friends because he ate them, and that its favorite food was man-meat.

In 8th grade, we have been working on travelling vocabulary and made passports. They had to describe themselves in the passport. The next lesson they had to pass passport control to get a sticker in their passport.

Friday, March 9, 2007

And on the third day, Brieggy could light the oven all by herself...

March 8th was not only International women's day (all of the male teachers pitched in to buy the women flowers), but our director's name day. And there was much feasting in the Staff Room. Polgácsa, Cookies, Juice etc....
Flowers aside, thursdays are already my favorite day. I have only *3* lessons. The first being first period - the 9 Nyek class who I see everyday, and they are usually pretty good. The second lesson - last period - is the 8th grade. They show up whenever they want, because it is an aditional class, and all we do is play games, albeit vocabulary games. The third being after school for which ever teachers, or sometimes teacher's spouses want to come.
Durring my long break, I am free to do whatever I will, I went to the Erkl Museum accross from the Dormotory. I didn' really understand that much, but it was interesting to see the costumes and photos.
For the teacher lesson, we went to the castle. It was pretty interesting, especially as we discovered that Erzébet Batory spent some time there. The rest of the time Gergő made jokes about "more blood" while I showed them my impression of vampire teeth. Next week we are going to the 100 year confectionary house for class. I love teaching.

Also Csütörtök is suti-nap. Every thursday, like clockwork I bake cookies. If you need to find me after 7:15, the Szent Anna kitchen is a safe bet. Due to my adventures with scales and Dekkagrams last week I had alot of spiced flour, so I made the ginger cookes again. In fact I made 3 batches, although all of them were different (and I still have flour left). Instead of orange juice I used honey, and the porportions were different in all three. They turned out pretty good, and Csaba said that he liked them better than last week because they were less sweet. Although I don't know how I managed that as last week I used white and brown sugar, whereas this week I used white sugar, brown sugar and honey. It's a mystery. But the big excitement for me, was that I was able to light to stove by myself. It only took 3 weeks and Katanini the nifty showing me where the big matches are kept.
Katanini is my hero, but more on that at a later date.
Oh and aside from my cookies, there was another name day, so there is once agian much feasting in the staff room. I don't think I will ever eat again. Sometimes I try to avoid the mass quantities of food, but if Maria (the only english teacher I don't share lessons with) doesn't see me eating, she puts stuff on my desk. It is shades of Judit again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Somethings are easier....

Last night I went to my bi-weekly dance class. Hungarian folk dancing may look easy, and may even be easy if you are at all co-ordinated, know your left from right or can understand what they are saying. I however, do not fit into any of these categories. So yet another evening was spent sweatily watching other people's feet, and being told "Nem, jobb!". The fact that we meet every other week is made up for by the fact that dance class is somewhere between 3 and 31/2 hours long.
Last night I was fairly happy as we began with the Chardas (I am not sure how to spell any of the dance names), but instead of continuing on with the crazy spinny one which I never do correctly, we did Romanian circle dances instead. These are much easier. About the 5th dance in, I began to notice similarities, and I realized that I had done these, albeit better for about 3 beers, back in the Gyula Renaissance Festival with the Turkish re-enactors. Some things are easier when aided by liquid courage.
On the way home, Csaba and Edina's husband (whose name I never remember, but is awesome) sang drinking songs, about wine bottles crying. I laughed almost the whole way home.
Working for a catholic school is different from the other CETP experiences that I hear about. One example was that today instead of teaching, we had a religious day. This means that we sat in the library and listened to a priest and a nun, while students were busy somewhere else with other priests. In the break we ate Polgácsa and drank tea. Then at 11:15 we went to Mass. This was both fantastic and awful. Fantastic because Wednesday is my busy day, when I teach 6 classes and I got to skip it. Awful because I managed to leave my papers in the church and have to wait until 4pm for someone to unlock it for me. Hopefully they are still there, but it also means screwing around with my tutoring schedule. ack.
Well at least the weather is nice. Blue sky and 20 degrees Celsius.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Mondays - the forgotton tenth circle

I have a special hatred of Mondays.... and Chalk, but that is a slightly different rant.

This weekend I visited Ben in beautiful Szentendre. Emily and I joked that you could replace the word perfect from the old Walgreens ads with Szentendre, and have it make more sense.
I also met new CETPers in Budapest, although after I had enjoyed a little beer, so I think I was a little giggly or I spoke too much Brieggyese (a complex combination of English, German, a little spanish - which I don't speak, a little french - which I also don't speak and Hungarian - which I butcher on a daily basis) so I don't think I was all that comprehensible.

I also have a special hatred of the dormitory washing machine. I began a load last night and at midnight I still couldn't open the door of the machine. This morning I could, but water poured all over my pajama clad legs. Ewwww.

If I ever re-wrote the inferno, I would have to add in the levels of hell which Dante forgot.
The tenth circle - Mondays and funky washing machines
The eleventh circle - chalk.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Things that work and things that don't

So much of teaching is figuring out what works and what doesn't. This is probably because this is my first teaching post, and other than tutoring and volenteering in classrooms, I have no experience. I love working for a program like CETP, because the other teachers have such great ideas, that if I am stuck, I can turn to them.
What works:
1) The ball game - toss a ball back and forth, the person who catches it has to give a vocab word. If you repeat a word or throw the ball too hard, you are out.
2) Fortune tellers - On the train home from Hernádnemeti, Emily folded a fortune teller to pass the time. It is creepy when the answers are truthful. Anyway, I used them in 11th grade to practice forming future questions. This is great for practicing "going to" and "will be + verb-ing".
3) My cold water. While dying my hair, I slipped and somehow fixed the cold water knob in the shower, so now I don't scald myself every morning.
4) The Sweetheart Valentine's Day exercise.

What doesn't work:
1) Cell phones when you temporarily lose the pin code after turning it off.
2) My asking about an apartment. Sometimes I think that it is a figment of my imagination.
3) The directions game.
4) Giving out the candy after only explaining the exercise once.

There are more things that don't work, but those are the major ones right now.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

And in the beginning there was....

a small town in south-eastern Hungary, which needed a conversation teacher.

I have been in Gyula for a month, teaching conversational English to everyone from 7th grade to adults. I live in the same dormitory as many of my students, but dream of my own place. This country is amazing, and fascinating. I have met some fantastic people, and found that despite the inevitable setbacks, I really do enjoy teaching.