Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa spotting in Budapest

Spotted! Santa DOES exist...AND he enjoys wine and bread. While walking around the lovely Budapest Christmas Market at Vorosmarty Ter (pardon the lack of accents, as I cannot type them on my computer) I saw the big man himself. I spotted him taking a load off at one of the food stands. Who knew Santa enjoyed a nice forralt bor (hot wine) and slice of bread? Maybe I'll take note of that and change it up from leaving out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I wish we all thought as logically as my 2nd graders...

I'm reviewing "winter clothing" and Christmas with my 2nd graders this week and yesterday I was going through flash cards with them. One of my classes was pretty stumped when I held up the card for "gloves". Suddenly little Adam's hand popped up and he exclaimed "hand boxes!" Hmmm...I'm thinking that Adam is pretty smart. Gloves...what kind of word is that, anyways? I might start saying that it's time to get out the hand boxes when it gets chilly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A 1st grader tells the REAL story of Mikulás

Let me preface this story by explaining my previous understanding of what Mikulás (St. Nicholas) day is here in Hungary: on the evening of December 5th, little children in Hungary put their best shoes out on their windowsill. During the night, Mikulás comes and visits. When they wake up the next morning, the children find their shoes filled with candy and small presents. I had guessed that the tradition of "Santa" coming early was due to the Catholic influence and traditions here in Hungary. Boy, was I wrong! Today I was having a little chat with little Jamie (pictured here) who is a 1st grader of mine, and is half-British...so he speaks fluent English. Along with being my little helper in translating, he is my source of real conversation and information...usually on the subject of puppies, Pokemon cards, and his colored pencils. Today however, he told me the real story of Mikulás here in Hungary:
  • Me: So Jamie, are you excited about a visit from Mikulás on Saturday?
  • Jamie: Oh yes, very much. Do you know why Santa visits us early here in Hungary?
  • Me (very curious): No I sure don't, please tell me!
  • Jamie: Well, you see...Santa is quite a large man. It's not easy for him to get around with all that extra weight. He also has lots of elves and Mrs. Claus to take care of. He's a busy man.
  • Me: Yes, he's got a tough job!
  • Jamie: He does, which is why it's very hard for him to visit the WHOLE world and give presents to EVERYONE in one night. So Hungary (apparently as a country?) called Santa one day and asked him if he could come to us earlier...you know, to make it easier on him. That way, he can hang out with Mrs. Claus, the elves, and get everything done before Christmas Eve when he visits the rest of the world.
  • Me: Oh, I see (trying my hardest to contain my laughter). That makes so much sense. What a smart thing for Hungary to do.
DUH! I apologize to all of Hungary for my previous misunderstanding as to why Santa comes early :-) And thank you to Jamie for correcting me!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Scented Toilet Paper?

Another piece of cultural enlightenment! Soo...as if scented toilet paper will help appease the smell of...things...I happened to grab the "creamy" scented toilet paper...WHAT?

Lots of thanks from Hungary this Thanksgiving

My first Thanksgiving away from the States turned out to be incredible! All that was missing was the people I love back home. Monday I got snow, Wednesday and Thursday I made hand turkeys with all the kids at school, and Thursday night I had an amazing Thanksgiving meal with an abundance of people! We not only had Americans from my program, but we were fortunate enough to be able to share Thanksgiving with a few really amazing Hungarians. We ate, drank, and had great conversation and laughed A LOT. Because Thanksgiving is really about keeping things in mind that we cherish and are well, thankful for...I thought I'd make a list of some of the "little things" I have come to enjoy and be oh, so thankful for here in Hungary...
  1. Getting a million hugs before the hour of 8AM every day.
  2. Those rare times where I arrive at the bus stop right as the correct bus rolls up.
  3. Waking up without an alarm
  4. Hide and seek in the hallway...and getting awkward glances from other teachers as they walk by and see me (a fellow professional colleague) crouching behind benches with laughing children.
  5. Hearing kids yell "Hanna!!" with immense excitement when they see I've come to pick them up for English class.
  6. The smiles I get from the toothless, non-English speaking man who sells fruit and veggies outside of the grocery store by my flat.
  7. The sound of the ring on my computer when someone calls me on Skype.
  8. The way Hungarians often pronounce their English v's as w's...so words like village, university, and very come out as willage, uniwersity, and wery. But hey, I can pronounce about 3 Hungarian words altogether, so I can't give them too much of a hard time.
  9. Seeing packages and cards on my table at work when the mail comes.
  10. Talking and laughing with my favorite Hungarian friend, Gergo about the meanings of different words like "fluffy", and "squishy", and expressions like "drooling" over the opposite sex and "watching out for bed bugs"
  11. Getting coffee that comes with a little cookie on the plate with your coffee!
  12. The little jingles on the metros and trams when they reach their destination.
I hope they brighten your day like they often do mine!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hanna's Handy-Dandy Guide to Public Transport in Budapest

For anyone unfamiliar with the system of public transportation in Budapest, worry no more! I have compiled a guide that is a must-have for anyone making their way around Budapest. With this guide, you can minimize angry encounters with employees of public transport, grumpy elderly ladies, and you will be able to blend in perfectly with your fellow travelers. Enjoy! 1. When boarding the trolleybus/tram/metro, it is imperative that you board with the hastiest of hastiness! Those seats get taken quickly! And physically wrestling someone for a seat is not at all out of the question. Darwin's theory of Survival of the Fittest prevails in this rough-and-tumble world. 2. If you should be unfortunate enough to NOT get a seat, HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE. The drivers are not there to make sure you don't fall and scrape your knee (or get a concussion from slamming into the walls and other people)...in fact, the drivers are amused by watching people bounce around and they will drive horribly to indulge this sick fetish. 3. The signs posted that warn against drinking, eating, and talking on your cell phone are more for the purpose of suggestion, rather than stating rules. If you are going to drink while commuting, there's also no need to be classy about it...drink straight out of the bottle/can if you wish. But God forbid, if you put your feet on the seats, prepare to die. 4. If you are the type of person that hates waiting for public transport, then Budapest transport will constantly make you angry. Expect to wait long and often for your transportation. And your bus/tram/metro WILL pull up to your stop and then drive away again when you are still waiting to cross the street or coming down the escalator to get to the stop...you can make your best attempt to chase after it, but don't be let down when you are left in the dust huffing and puffing. Let it go, you'll catch the next one...if it shows up. 5. If your bus should come to a sudden stop, and should the bus driver get off and return to the bus with an unknown part of the bus dripping in oil, that is the sign that you should disembark the bus and walk or wait for the next one. That bus ain't goin' anywhere no more. 6. For those couples out there who are still living at home with your parents and have nowhere to get cozy with your "honey", public transport is the perfect alternative! Find a cozy seat, lock lips, and completely disregard everyone around you. The more sounds you make, the better. People LOVE watching other people eat each others faces while traveling...and single people love it the most. 7. Avoid public transport officials at all costs. They WILL find a way to hassle you and take your money. You could have transportation passes stocked up for the next 6 months, and they will find something wrong and fine you. Should you have an encounter with one of these people, you might just end up having to pay...or if you are the athletic type, running away has been known to be effective on several occasions *see entry entitled "My first run in with the Hungarian authorities". 8. A note on night buses. The night bus is a great place to do some people watching, and you can even meet some pretty interesting characters...but the safest suggestion is to just sit and stare out the window. Do not make eye contact with anyone, particularly people who have crazy eyes or who cannot seem to keep themselves in a standing position. If someone looks pail and woozy, sit a few seats away, or preferably on the opposite side of the bus. Also, don't be surprised when your bus sometimes decides to take a different route than listed and then dump you at an unknown location in the middle of the dead night. 9. Whatever you do, DO NOT try to make conversation with people on public transportation in Budapest. The "F-U, don't bother me" look that everyone has on their face isn't just for show. This point is particularly imperative on morning commutes...should you speak to someone, they will not only scowl, but you will get a big whiff of morning breath that will haunt you throughout the day. 10. It is customary in Budapest to get up and stand anxiously at the door of the trolleybus/tram/metro at least two stops before you have to disembark. You may want to push others out of the way as well, even if they are getting off as well. No one knows why this custom has come into existence (or still exists at all), but if you really want to fit in, it is suggested you follow along.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rest and Relaxation in Croatia (Fall Break, Part 2)

The second part of my Fall Break was spent in the beautiful country of Croatia. It's still amazing to me to think that this country didn't even exist as an independent nation until a decade ago. I went on the trip with three amazing girls from my program who I got to know well on this trip and look forward to getting to know more as we continue here in Hungary. My absolute favorite part of the trip for me was in our visit to Zadar. This is a small town on the coast of Croatia, and it was absolutely gorgeous, and we were blessed with wonderful weather as well. Since the tourist season is over in Croatia, the town was pretty deserted, and it took us all of about an hour to see most of the sights. That meant we got to relax and cafe-hop A LOT! I LOVED just sitting and drinking coffee while enjoying the sounds of the waves and breathing in the sea-air, along with people-watching (quick sidenote: Europe is a wonderful place for sipping coffee and watching some interesting people. It's pretty much my favorite thing to do now). My absolute FAVORITE part of Zadar however, was the Sea Organ: The Sea Organ is pretty much exactly as it sounds...built into the dock are a bunch of holes and slits that are engineered as such so that beautiful sounds emerge when the waves hit the dock. I can't even describe the sound to you, but I can tell you it was beautiful and it will be worth ANOTHER trip for me someday. I just wanted to spend all day sitting by the dock and listening to the beautiful music. Who would have thought you could experience a little of la dolce vita in Eastern Europe?

Lessons in Life in Transylvania (Fall Break, Part 1)

I was able to spend the last ten days of October traveling in Transylvania and Croatia. I was on Fall Break from school here, and the break was much-needed by the time I left for my trip. October was a roller coaster month here in Hungary. The newness of Budapest had worn off and I came to the realization that I would be here, away from the people closest to me for another 8 months. I was tired and ready for a break from it all, and I found just what I needed in the two trips that I took. Rather than give a complete synopsis of my trip through Transylvania, I'd rather just elaborate on just a snapshot of my trip that highlighted something I've been realizing my whole time here in Hungary. Since arriving here in Hungary, I've been awakened to the realization of how truly lucky I am in life. I've grown up with amazing people around me who constantly support me in both my triumphs and times of weakness. Don't get me wrong, I have always been aware of the fact that I have a lot of incredible people present in my life. It's something I always consciously try not to take for granted. But I think that everyone could use tangible reminders of these things every once in awhile! One of our stops in Transylvania was in a small village near the former Austro-Hungarian border. We visited a family of people (three generations, in fact!) who are all still living together in the same house. Not only are they still living in the same house, they are still living in the same ONE-ROOM house! At first I was astonished and appalled at this fact (on top of seeing how small the space was), realizing these people almost never get "alone time"...something I thrive on. After getting back on the bus and thinking about it though, I realized that the family in that house really DOES have everything they need. The people living in that house have the constant presence and support of their family members. From what I could tell, each person showed an abundance of love for the others. Since they have that (here comes the cheesy part...you'll have to pardon me), they seem to have no need for more space or possessions. All they really need is each other. I think about that and I am filled with appreciation for the special people in my life who won't falter. It's truly a rare thing in life to have people like I have to miss like the dickens (because I DO miss people SO much) and to be thinking about constantly. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm SO thankful to have SO SO SO much to be homesick for.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dearest Elderly Ladies of Hungary....

Dearest Elderly Ladies of Hungary, First of all, I must state that I cannot make a COMPLETE generalization of Hungarian females over the age of 60 because I have met a few of you who are as sweet as sugar. BUT I must say that the majority of you need a major 'tude check. I realize getting old isn't easy and I dread the day it happens for me(although I can't wait to take advantage of those AARP discounts and watching Wheel of Fortune all day), but I can't take it anymore. Since you've driven me to the point of wanting to shake my fist at you every time I see any of you, I feel the need to file proper complaints and justifications for everything you openly judge me for. I write this in hopes of coming to an agreement so everyone can be a little happier. For your convenience (because you would probably snarl at me if I didn't write this in an orderly fashion), I have compiled a formal list of instances where I would prefer you to "check your attitude at the door" (insert a couple sassy finger snaps here). Please refer to the following: 1) I realize your bodies aren't totally up to par with a young whipper-snapper like myself, but when I try to pass you on the sidewalk, PLEASE don't grumble as if the sidewalk is a no-passing zone. I am all about stopping to smell the roses, but if I continue to walk behind you, the roses will bloom, die, and then grow again next season by the time I get to my destination. 2) PLEASE stop staring at my feet very disdainfully when I wear flip-flops or a skirt without stockings! And no, your constant glares and grimaces won't make me magically pull a pair of long-johns out of my bag and put them on to make you happy. You don't catch colds from the weather...you catch it from bacteria exchanged between individuals... 3) ...which brings me to my next point...when you cough and/or sneeze, cover your mouth so as to not cover me in phlegm! If you would like me to point you in the direction of some Kleenex or cough drops, I would be more than happy to...assuming you speak English. 4) This is more of a suggestion, rather than a formal grievance...it might be a good idea to check yourself out a little more closely in the mirror and take some tweezers (or in some cases a razor and shaving cream) to those long hairs sprouting up on your chins. Check your ears and nose while you're at it....but like I said...just a suggestion. 5) My last point is meant to be a form of encouragement...I realize the world isn't always on your side. I know you've lived through some pretty (pardon my French) crappy stuff in your lifetime. But can you please smile once in awhile? Actually, I won't even ask that much...could you at least not look utterly miserable and grumpy all the time? Maybe if you practiced smiling for just a few minutes a day, it could become more of a habit. Believe me, it's not as horrible as people may have led you to believe up until now. I fully plan to make it my everyday mission to make you a little happier. I will continue to smile at you, even when the gesture isn't returned. I will gladly help you get into a seat or give up my seat if there is nowhere to sit. If you take a little longer getting on the bus and I'm a few minutes late to my destination, I will not make a fuss because like I said earlier, getting old is hell. But if I hold up my end of the bargain, I would very much appreciate some help from your side in making my life and the lives of others a little better (i.e. not a living hell when in your presence). Thank you for your time. Signed with love, Hanna Nichols

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hanging out with the offspring of rockstars and diplomats

I think I've mentioned before that the school I teach at happens to be one of the more "exclusive" schools for bilingual education in Budapest. But little did I know I've been instilling knowledge upon the sons and daughters of some quite important people here in Hungary! This discovery occurred yesterday when I was hanging out before class, watching Mate do his daily routine of showing me his best air guitar. He usually ends his performance by spinning around on the ground and waiting patiently for my reaction of shock and awe. I should mention that Mate is one of my first graders, so he's about 6 years old. He also is the only 6 year old I know that comes to school with a popped collar everyday. He usually sports a trendy argyle sweater and has the beginnings of a "faux-hawk" going. I still happen to think he's pretty adorable. Anyways, he was finishing off his daily jam session, and his teacher walked in. She shook her head and laughed. In broken English, she then replied to me, "maybe he gets it from his dad...he's a rockstar." Naturally, I responded with, "excuse me?!" She proceeded to tell me that Mate's dad was part of a popular Hungarian alternative rockband in the 1980s called Sziami. Of course I spent the afternoon Googling Mate's dad and his band from back in the day. Ohhhh, did I come upon a fun discovery! As you will be able to see when you watch this video, I cannot tell which one is the infamous father of my student, BUT you WILL be able to see that this video is just incredible in so many ways. I must ask you to first prepare yourself for the greatness that will follow when you click here. Oh, and if I wasn't "starstruck" enough...another girl came up to me today and said (in her best-rehearsed-3 million times English possible), "My father is a diplomat!" She then looked at me as if I should gravel at her feet and give her 10 gold stars, simply for being alive. Sheesh!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Budapest Marathon

Today I experienced my first time running in a race. Fortunately for me, my first ever race turned out to be in the beautiful city of Budapest! I ran in the Budapest International Marathon, but of course I chose to run the "Mini-Marathon"...which was a 7.5k (or about 4.7 miles). My super-duper running partner, Carla brought up the idea a few weeks ago to everyone in the program, and of course we were the only ones who ended up committing to the run. I couldn't have asked for a better buddy! As anyone who follows my blog closely knows, I have been running a little bit while here in Budapest (and it always seems to be an adventure...), but I definitely have slacked the past few weeks. I was a little antzy this morning as I pinned my number to my shirt, but it was a beautifully sunny day...and there was a chill in the air that made it perfect running weather. Carla and I set out at about 9 to head to Hosok Tere (Hero's Square) where the race started. We got some pictures, stretched, cheered on the marathon runners (and quickly basqued in knowing that we would NOT be running for the next few HOURS) and then went to the starting gate and anxiously awaited our race! As I heard the countdown from 10 in Hungarian, I knew it was almost time, and then we set off down Andrassy Ut! Andrassy Ut is basically the Champs-Elysses of Budapest...while it's not QUITE as grand, it is still pretty specatular and I was feeling incredible as I ran with a huge crowd of people down this huge street. As we ran back through Varosliget (City Park) and rounded the finish line, I was quite excited when I saw Carla's face at the end...yes, she's a superstar runner and ran ahead of me in the first 5 minutes...but she was there at the end to cheer me on!! When I pulled up, the first think she asked me was, "was that your first race?!" I hadn't thought about it, but then I said "Well yes, yes it was!" I had been so focused on actually running and the fact I was running IN Budapest, I had never stopped to think this was my first race...AND I had just finished in quite good time! I was so excited and proud of myself! I really don't consider myself a runner. I am more of a hiking, biking type girl. I usually hate running actually...but today was so much fun, and it's served as sort of a motivation to keep it up! Well, let's be honest...once I get back to CO, I might just go hug a mountain and hop on my bike and ride off into the sunset and never run again...but when in Rome... :-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Shout-out to 1.b

So, I know it's "against the rules" of teaching to pick favorites...even though every teacher has favorites. After a month of teaching, I have chosen both a favorite class AND a favorite student. First, I should probably give a short explanation of how schools work here in Hungary. Unlike the United States, classes stay together throughout their primary schooling (through 8th grade). This means that each class does not disband at the end of every year and then get assorted into a new group for the next year...rather, they continue on as a class through each grade. I see positive and negative aspects to this, which I won't get into now. But the biggest reason I can gather for this tradition that has been in place for several decades now is the sense of comradeship that comes with getting to know your fellow 25 or 30 students throughout your primary schooling. Considering Hungary's sad history, which has been constantly filled with uncertainty and isolation, it is understandable that it is part of the culture here to feel the need to work together and to have people to help and count on as they embark on the road of education. There is a huge element of pessimism among people here, where the idea of just "waiting for the next bad thing to come our way", prevails. Therefore, it is important to have this connection to fall back on. Okay, enough of the cultural lessons for today...onto the fun stuff. There are three 1st grade classes at Varosliget Primary School...1.a, 1.b, and 1.c. I have taken a special interest in 1.b. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE all of the 1st graders...but this class is very special in my opinion, and I am happy to know they will stay together through 8th grade. I have never seen a group of kids 1) so well-behaved...it's a miracle, and 2) so excited about EVERYTHING. When we sing songs, it is a straight-up dance party in the classroom...complete with air guitar and mock ballroom dancing. I pull out flashcards to learn new words, and these kids bounce off of the walls. I had the privilege of going to the zoo with the class last week, and they just spent the whole time enthralled with both learning the animal names in English, and teaching ME some names in Hungarian (for a day picker-upper, I recommend looking at my pictures from the day...you can't help but smile when you see these kids). After looking at my pictures, you will notice who my favorite student is...little Oliver. Our little connection started after he had a dream about me one night. He said (translated through his teacher) he dreamed that I was able to speak fluent Hungarian and that he was so happy to be able to get to know me and have me really know him because we could talk (I know, SO cute). Ever since then, he's been my little magnet, and every time I walk into the room he lights up. I cannot tell you the amount of joy this brings me! He used to be shy in class, and now he raises his hand BEFORE I ask a question in hopes that he can answer! It's funny...growing up, there's always that boy you wake up and go to school for. The one you purposefully get pretty for every day. Well, 1.b and little Oliver serve as my motivation on those days where it's a little tougher to get out of bed...on the days when I'm homesick and tired. They are my reason to get out of bed in the morning!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So, Indiana Jones is a parent of one of my students...

This story starts all the way back at the first day of school...I walk into my first ever classroom at 8am, extremely nervous about meeting my first class. I was standing very anxiously in the front of the room while parents dropped off kids, and while other kids sat and stared at me as if I was some sort of alien. Suddenly, I looked to the door and did a double-take. Was it? No, it couldn't be. I could have sworn Indiana Jones had walked into the room...except he had an incredible mustache. Picture this...huge boots laced up with pant legs tucked into the top, an Indiana Jones-esque hat, a leather belt with all kinds of trinkets that seem like things boys from Camp would like, AND to top it off, a huge fur backpack. Soon, I came to the realization that this man was ACTUALLY a parent of one of my students. I started to see him every morning as he dropped his child off (he tips his hat to me everyday too, which I just find to be incredible), and every morning I wondered..."What occupation has this man chosen in life, and what kind of adventures does it entail?!" Last week I came to the conclusion that it is possible that he just likes to dress very rusticly. But today...today was huge in my observations of this man. Today he walked in wearing everything listed above, but in addition to these things he had a safari helmet, AND a ginormous bowstaff sticking out of his big fur bag! So, like I said...I really DO think Indiana Jones is the father of one of my students after all...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Paprika and Palinka in Kalocsa!

What a weekend! I just returned from the wonderful little town of Kalocsa. I was there to 1) visit my wonderful friend, Franny (thanks SO much for hostessing!!! And Jon, thanks for your culinary skills this morning!) and 2) hit up the Paprika Festival that was there for the weekend. About 6 of us CETP Teachers turned up for the festivities, and boy, did we have a good time. When you paid for your ticket, you were given an empty bowl and about 4 pieces of bread. Then it was your turn to go paruse around the stalls and pick out what paprika-infested goulash you wanted to try. Here was the twist...most stalls had a lot of alcohol to hand out as well. It only took us a few minutes to learn that the people at these stalls were quite excited to give out some free booze to the Americans roaming through. When I say "booze", by the way, I don't just mean a nice glass of wine or a beer. The drink Hungarians are most famous for is called "palinka". It is basically a brandy that comes in many different flavors, and it is strong...no, I mean STRONG. It's about 60-70 proof. I've been cautioned in the past to have no more than 2 shots of it on any given day. I won't tell you the ACTUAL number of shots that I had in the course of Saturday, but I can tell you that I can just barely count it on my two hands. I mostly drank that much out of the interest of trying the many kinds they had at these stands...I even tried paprika-flavored Palinka!!! Beleive me, it's better than it sounds. By about 4 o'clock we were all feeling pretty dang good and so we decided we'd go to dinner. The stories developed out of the rest of the evening deserve personal renditions, so ask me later...BUT my favorite part was closing out the restaurant past midnight as we sat at our table with the owner and talked and talked (in Hungarian...or rather, I listened to Eliza and the waiter talk in Hungarian as I tried my best to learn and understand). He kept putting on vinyls of beautiful opera music and to express how he felt about every song he would pull a kleenex out of his pocket and wipe invisible tears...then he'd proceed to wave his hands as if he was leading the song. Oh, and he poured us a shot of palinka about every 15 minutes or so...needless to say, I'm "palinka'ed out" for the time being!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Budapest is for lovers...

Yes, this is another thing to add to my extensive list of things I have very intently observed while here in Hungary. Budapest is in fact, for lovers. Everywhere I go, I see couples. Not only do I see couples, I see couples that have no issue whatsoever with PDA. I am pretty sure I watched a guy almost eat a girls face off while they were going down the escalator to the metro the other day. I have seen lovers loving on the bus, walking down the street, in the metros, at the metro stations, in restaurants, at the grocery store...the list goes on. And this display of love does not seem to me to be confined to any certain hours of the day either. As I got on the bus yesterday morning at 7 am to head to school, I was brought out of my half-sleeping state abruptly when I saw two teenagers rounding second base in the seat in front of me. Ok, yes, there is an element of "Ewww!" to this whole thing, especially considering I do not fall under the category of having a "lover" (sorry Hils, no luck yet) here, BUT some of my observations have been rather heartwarming. I got on the bus to go home the other night and watched a girl holding flowers (there shall be another blog on the subject of flowers at some point in the future) excitedly sit down in front of me as her male counterpart sat next to her and proceeded to kiss her cheek. As she turned away in attempts to hide the huge grin that then appeared on her face, I couldn't help but grin myself at how incredibly cute the whole situation was. It's quite understandable, when you consider how beautiful and romantic this city is (if you take away the random stenches of sewer smell, men playing the harmonica with their noses, and all the graffiti) that it is a place that belongs to lovers.

Friday, September 12, 2008


New item to add onto list of "Interesting/Creepy Things Seen in Hungary": Man in hospital gown with chest covered in bandages leisurely cavorting at a cafe, drinking a beer at 2 in the afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My first run-in with the Hungarian "authorities"...

Let me begin this entry by saying this actually isn't my FIRST run in with the Hungarian "5-0"...Hilary and I both can attest to that. Let's just say that Hils and I tried to "defraud" the metro in Hungary and it left us with a stern talking-to by some grumpy Transportation Officials and minus $40 in our pockets. It was through the previous experience that I learned that the Hungarian officials in charge of checking tickets and passes on metros/buses/trams are not of high enough authority to say, throw you up against a car, handcuff you, and put you in jail. They do, however, enjoy hassling you and taking your money. They usually...USUALLY are only at the metros. They stand in their little blue suits with armbands, ready to fight crime! I have been living in my apartment for almost 2 weeks now, and have yet to see one of these people on the bus I take (multiple times a day, mind you) until...today. I love to go to Varosliget (City Park) and run in the afternoons. It is just a short 5 min. bus ride away. No need to take my phone, purse, etc. Just my watch, running shoes, and my IPOD. I have normally put my bus pass inside my IPOD case, JUST IN CASE I have a run-in. I usually figure that with my luck in life, the one day I left my pass at home, I would get checked on the bus...and of course, the ONE DAY I forgot to put my pass in my IPOD case, what do you know?! A friendly Transportation Offical greeted me in the middle of my ride. When she saw I didn't have my pass on me, she made me get off at the next stop. Of course, I had no money on me, and know only little Hungarian...so I figured I had a couple of choices: 1) I could sit all day and try aruguing with someone who couldn't understand me until she got sick of me or ACTUALLY called the police, or 2) kill two birds with one stone and get away from this lady while getting a nice jog in for the day. I couldn't help but lean toward my rebellious side, so yup, I just turned and ran (thank goodness I had my running shoes on!). I heard a yell and a car honk, but I dared not turn back. As I took the less exposed route through neighborhoods back to my flat, I couldn't help but let the wind blow in my hair and feel the satisfaction of rebelling against authority (sorry Mom and Dad!). Moral of the story: You CAN defraud the public transport in Budapest afterall! Oh, wait....I mean, ALWAYS be good and bring your metro pass. :-)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Proof that I actually live here...

I have finally had the time to upload some photos! I have some from orientation, and a couple of my apartment, where I am currently sitting in my swimsuit (shut up, you would be too if you lived alone and you were as hot as I am now) sweating and attempting to lesson plan. We are on the last day of a heat wave in Budapest...today is about 94 degrees and humid. BLEH! Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy...hooray! I have loaded some more pictures onto Picasa. Here is the link...http://picasaweb.google.com/Hanna.Nichols. I have a slow connection at my apartment, so I will upload many more this week sometime when I can hit up a cafe with free wireless. But for now, enjoy this little taste of my experience! Tomorrow I will begin my official tour of Budapest...I like to call it "Hanna's Self-Guided Walking Tour of Budapest...scheduled on afternoons when she feels like it". Tomorrow I plan to hit up Hosok Tere (Hero's Square) and look like a tourist with my huge camera. By the way, I LOVE the fact that I am no longer labeled as a tourist here. I LOVE getting the satisfaction (at the expense of others) of seeing lost backpackers, trying to figure out the metro as I casually ask them if they need help and hop on my metro without having to look at a map. I do realize I WAS one of those people once too, but I put in my time, and I think I deserve a little enjoyment at watching sweaty, dirty college students who have spent weeks in crowded hostels and have no idea they are doing. Oh, one last thing...I get SO excited when I see someone has commented on my posts...so thanks to those who have, and for those who haven't, hint, hint!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Peaches" Obama

Here is a fun little story for you...the word "barack" means "peach" in Hungarian!! Amazing, right? They actually pronounce it differently (like "borotsk"), but it's spelled the same. My Hungarian teacher from orientation got very excited when the subject of politics came up and explained she liked to call him "Peaches" Obama. Apparently the Hungarian government is working to get the best peach jam from the countryside here in Hungary, and they are going to (or maybe already have at this point) send it to Mr. Barack Obama himself!

Budapest in all its glory...

Here are just a few interesting/creepy things that I have witnessed while here in Budapest thus far...they all somehow make me love the country even more.... 1. Man drinking wine from a glass....on a bus...mid-afternoon...on a Wednesday. 2. Small "shelves" inside toilets...for inspection purposes possibly??? 3. Man on metro playing the harmonica with his nose. 4. Little children changing their pants in the middle of a crowded school hallway. 5. Fanny packs and mullets. Together. EVERYWHERE. Those are just a few for you all to munch on for now...I will update as I witness more of these timeless moments.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hanna is in Hungary

Well, I have arrived...safe and sound and in one piece. All of my luggage came, and even though I am so tired right now, I am in high spirits. It is really hot and humid, therefore my roommate and I bonded over sleeping in next to nothing last night to stay cool. The other teachers are SO awesome. Some of the returning teachers are here to help with orientation, and they already took us out last night. I was so exhausted, but I figured I should be social...so I went and had a great time at what I was told was a Jazz Festival. I was mostly hoping to get food, since I hadnt eaten in about 16 hours, but it turned out to basically be an outdoor dance club with a lot of beer. I guess I had to settle with a cold beer as my intake of carbs for yesterday. Oh, well! Orientation starts tonight with a fancy dinner, paid for by the program (sweet!), and then the rest starts tomorrow! For now, we are off to buy converters and adapters...peace!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Heading out...

So, I have finally succumbed to the world of blogging. I was initially against the idea actually...I somehow got it in my head that a blog automatically meant having to spill every deep and meaningful thing about your life to the whole world via the internet. After looking at the blogs of my friends though, I realized it really can just be a place to share fun stories and update lots of people on life's adventures. Whew! I can handle that. I embark upon my adventure to Hungary in just a few short days. No, I haven't started packing...but it has crossed my mind. I feel like I am pretty prepared mentally- I think it's Hungary that will have to prepare itself for ME! There are some things I am feeling totally unprepared for, like where I will live, which I will be discovering upon my arrival to my "flat" after a week of orientation. The whole speaking Hungarian thing too, is something I just imagine as one of those things that falls under the "Ummm, we'll see!" category. There are a few things I DO feel prepared for...and if you know me, you will see that they are pretty vital to my survival in Budapest. After extensive internet searches I found that 1) Vegetarian restaurants and organic markets DO exist in meat-and-potatoes-ridden Budapest (don't worry, I'm not vegetarian...there must have been some glitches in my Transformation to Becoming a Hippie. I still shave my legs and brush my hair, too), 2) There are trails to play on and bikes to rent or buy cheaply in Budapest (yay!), and 3) Hungary has LOTS of wine. So THAT I am prepared for...no need to worry! I'm sure many of you have already noticed my witty little title for my blog. This has come as a result of both my dad's incessant jokes for the past few weeks, along with my hopeless dorkiness when it comes to anything of, or relating to history. Hannah has already experienced my hour long run-down of the Cold War...so yes, it gets me really excited. If you ever ask questions, prepare for the same hour-long rant! For now, it's time to go think about packing some more. Maybe if I think hard enough, full suitcases will just magically appear on the floor! Or maybe I can call up Hermoine and she can get me one of those bottomless purses she had in the last Harry Potter book...