Sunday, December 17, 2006

You Just Can’t Escape Fruitcake!

Having spent one Christmas in Europe several years ago, I was looking forward to the Holidays in Hungary.
I was right in hoping for a saner Christmas. A calmer Christmas. No “Twelve Days of Christmas” blaring at me. My hopes were actualized! (Though I am still hoping for snow which we haven’t seen any of yet.)
Christmas did not begin on the day after Halloween. It was the end of November before decorations began to appear and stores started stocking Christmas candies, wrapping paper and those nasty artificial trees. The area devoted to Christmas items was much smaller. No boxed Christmas cards. Only 1 to 2 dozen individual cards to choose from. 6 to 8 wrapping paper varieties. A few ready-made bows or individual rolls of ribbon. Definitely a choice of Christmas CD’s. The stores were decorated, though not by our standards.
Christmas is a family time in Hungary. It officially begins on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day. Children put out a boot in their window and St. Nicholas visits them during the night. He leaves either a switch for a spanking or candy and tangerines in the boot.
Gifts are simple. No 100 packages under the tree. Trees are not put up until Christmas Eve and are done as a family. Fish is the traditional meal. This is a two day holiday, a tradition that started after the 1956 uprising. It was a plus they were given.
Houses are not decorated on the outside, though we have seen a few done simply. We had to put up lights on our flat. Thanks to Matt’s thoughtfulness, we had a string of cowboy boots and cacti to hang on the porch. We also put out a nasty little artifical tree. You can see our delightful decorations on this website.
Our faculty Xmas party was Friday night. An array of cold foods and lots of Palinka (Hungarian liquor), and Baileys!!!!! It was delightful, except for the fact that they served fruitcake!! There is no escaping fruitcake anywhere in the world! I bet even Inuits make fruitcake!
I had been asked about fudge and what it was. I decided to make some for Christmas and to take it into the faculty room. Hmmmm. I found out why they don’t make fudge in Europe. Finding the ingredients was a challenge I was unable to meet. I ended up using chocolate pudding mix, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and butter. It is in the fridge supposedly setting up. I’m afraid to check on it. We may have fudge soup for breakfast!
We are expecting our son Jordan and his future bride Brit for the Holidays. They will arrive on the 22nd. We are terribly excited about seeing them and showing them parts of Europe.
I hope everyone who reads this has had a warm and wonderful family-centered Holiday season! (And NO fruitcake!)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Feeling Comfortable

The train station in Ujszasa. 88 trains a day stop in our village! Tickets are cheap and everyone travels by train. Eger, Hungary - Dobo Ter (main square)

John enjoys a beer at our Botel on the Danube.
It's hard to believe we have been here for two months already! We are settled into a pattern at school and we are enjoying the team teaching arrangement. The only class we appear to have problems with is a 12th grade one. (They refuse to speak English and have been allowed to get away with this for the prior three years.) They are definitely a challenge!

Besides school, we find ourselves taking the train into Szolnok once a week to meet Emily (another CETP teacher) for supper and then we do some shopping. As much as we are enjoying being in Hungary, it is nice to have another native English speaker to talk to. We have a few favorite pubs we bounce between. Hungarian food is really quite good, once you can figure out what you are ordering! School lunches do prove interesting though; hot fruit soups are frequently served, as is pasta with sour cream and either sugar or walnuts. Different!
The otheroddball thing we have found (or oddball to us, anyway) is the size of the sheets here. They do not cover the entire bed and are not tucked in. I jokingly called them "tableclothes" laid on our beds. Well, yesterday at lunch we realized what we were eatingon! Either we have "tableclothes" to sleep on, or we hve "bedsheets" to eat on. They are the same!!!

We have done a lot of traveling. We have been gone almost every weekend. Budapest 3 times, Eger, Szentendre, and last week a 3-day weekend to Bratislava, Slovakia. I've included some pictures for you to see. We take the train everywhere and are spoiled by being able to relax and not worry about traffic. The people are friendly everywhere and tolerate our horrid Hungarian. We have seen so many beautiful sights from the Danube in the fog to town squares enclosed by 15th-17th century buildings painted in pastels that make you think you have stepped through the looking glass and back in time!

We do enjoy the peacefulness of our village life in Ujszasz. We awaken to the rooster and barking dogs of our farmer neighbor. We ride our bikes to the pub not having to worry about who will be the designated peddler. We take our canvas bag and walk to the grocery store to stock up on cola, paprika peppers, baking powder in tiny, tiny packets and Jogobella joghurt, which is the best yogurt we have ever had!!! We are finally figuring out how to read the train schedules on the rotating drums in the vonat allomash (train station).

Next week we have Fall Break. (Here we have Fall Break, Winter Break AND Spring Break! Eat your heart out Cara and Matt!) We will take the train to Zagreb and explore Croatia. So come back in a few weeks and hear about our adventures on the Adriatic coast!

Sunday, September 17, 2006


We've been teaching for two weeks now and we are still alive and well!

Our beginning was not too auspicious, though! As I plugged my hairdryer in on the first morning of classes flames emerged! Ok, there went the power. Not only did we lose power, but since our flat is attached to the school, it lost power also! Well, a few minutes later I was headed over to school, wet head and all, with the evil hairdryer and a translator in hand. I managed to find the Director (principal) and 15 minutes later a handyman had electricity flowing.

Okay, now to class, right? Not quite! The school is being remodeled and room numbers for classes had been changed, but no one had told us. So we arrived at empty rooms. Then the search began to locate our classes. Finally we both found classrooms with kids, but no teachers and just started teaching!!!

Since then things have gone well. Kids are the same all over --- they want to learn. We just need to make it interesting. So far we have been able to do that. As proof we are greeted in the halls with at least 100 "hello's" and "howdy's" every day. (No exageration!)

We have found that the students do not have as much English as we had surmised. They have been working in workbooks and doing set dialog practice. They do not have the skills to answer random questions, though. They also have little confidence. We are working on talk, talk, talk and that "not perfect" is just fine. Just try!!!!

So, teaching goes well. I hear that things are going well in Montessori in Pocatello, too. I couldn't be happier!!!! Hello to Erin and Nicholas who have left me messages on this blog! My email address should be under my profile so you can write me if you would like to. I think of all of you very often!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Arrival and Orientation - We Made it!

View from our hostel window in Budapest.

Were we ready? You bet! Our belongings had been laid out for weeks. We had been packed for days before we left. Our son, Matt, had hosted a smashing good-bye party! Saying "good-bye" to family was rough! But we were off! And we arrived without incident and with all luggage present and accounted for. Our CETP (Central European Teaching Program) contact teacher met us at the airport and we were hustled to a waiting school van. Before you could say "Hungarian Gulyas (goulash)" we were in Ujszasz (oo-ee-sahs) in our school Director's dining room eating raw paprika peppers in olive oil, and a Hungarian dish I still do not know the name of! But after 24 hours of traveling I could have eaten his dishtowel and been very happy! A quick (2 minute) tour of our village and we were deposited at our new home adjacent to our school.
A day and a half later, after unpacking and rearranging furniture, we were standing on the train watching Ujszasz recede as we headed back to Budapest for Orientation. For 5 days we attended class during the day, learning a smattering of Hungarian language, lots of Hungarian history, and teaching tips that were not new to me. We stayed in a youth hostel with a gorgeous view of Budapest, sharing a toliet and shower (They are always in separate closet-sized rooms in this country.) with other Americans who came to teach and experience a different culture, too. At night we explored Budapest. It is only a city of 2 million and has excellent public transportation, so getting around was not hard. We ate by the Danube while listening to a roving musical combo, found a beer garden on an island in the Danube, located a western-style mall to stock up on items we knew would not be available in our village and were awed by the night lights of Budapest. Then it was time to say "good-bye" to our newly-made friends (after exchanging email addresses) and head back to Keleti Payaudvar (depot) to return to our new village.
Now to make our flat a home and prepare to face those Hungarian teenagers! (Installment two to follow, providing we live through it!)