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.