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.