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!
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...
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!
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.
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. :-)
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!
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!
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.