I thought this day would be fitting to write a blog about something that I consider to be one of the most significant events in our world's history. Today commemorates the 20-year mark since the Berlin Wall officially came down, ending communism in Europe. I remember going to Berlin a few years ago and taking a walking tour through a place with so so so much history. I remember being enthralled the whole time my tour guide spoke as we walked from the Holocaust Memorial, to the spot where Hitler's bunker used to be, and then to the spot where part of the Berlin Wall still sits. Throughout the city, you can see a curvy line of bricks that marks where the Wall once stood. It's amazing...the line goes through what is now streets, parks, buildings...like it was never there. I was only 4 years old (almost 5!) when the Wall came down, and of course I don't remember a thing about it. After studying the time period extensively in college, and after living in a country which was once part of the Communist Bloc, I have grown to have a deep fascination with this part of our world's history, which effected so many people (I vividly remember a time in college when I realized I'd be Student Teaching during the Fall semester. I was legitimately disappointed and considered putting it off because this era in history is always taught in the Spring. Darn it!) And this day marks an anniversary of a day which would change the course of history in a huge way. While living in Hungary, I could see so many ways in which the communist era still has a great effect on society and culture. Along with that, it's overwhelming to see how far former Soviet countries like Hungary have come in rebuilding and restoring their own history and culture. The New York Times has a great little section on their website today with a couple of articles and pictures of the events commemorating this anniversary...I'm putting a link here to something I found most powerful on the website. It's a gallery of pictures taken by individuals both during communism and after the wall fell...take a look!
I was contacted recently by someone who is part of a website devoted to expatriate life. I was invited to post my blog to their website, AND have a "Spotlight" interview on their webpage. The interview posted today...you should check it out! While you're at it, check out the website too...it has a lot of great information for expats all over the world, and some amazing articles for travelers.
Well, the time has come. I can officially change my occupational status from "Unemployed dirtbag" to "Substitute Teacher". I can just see my mom reading this saying "Awww, you're not a dirtbag!" And really, for being unemployed, I was somehow quite productive and busy (I swear I missed a few episodes of the Today show in the last two months...ok, at least 2 episodes). When I got the call on Friday that informed me I was "Ms. Nichols" again, I almost danced around and did cartwheels at the thought of money actually entering my bank account. Then I got to thinking...shoot! I have to actually go to WORK! What will happen to Maggie without me to give in to her cute doggie eyes and walk her every morning? My bed will surely be angry with me for neglecting it after all the love it has gotten recently. The endless web chats and smileys with a certain cute boy overseas will surely decrease a little. And God forbid! What will happen to my fashion sense after I miss the Today show and all of their updates on the latest trends?! If it weren't for Today, I would have been titled "Trend-less & Unemployed Dirtbag". I would have never gotten the memo about plaid button-ups being the thing this season (well, I guess all I would have had to do was walk into any mall to see that, but that's not the point). In the end, I suppose that Maggie will just have to wait until after work, days will go by faster, and thus Christmas will get here faster, meaning boyfriend gets here faster (woo hoo!). AND luckily, I have already purchased one of the coveted plaid shirts that are SO in this year. So, I guess I'll wake up on Monday and go make some dollar bills ya'll.
One of the most traditional and famous Hungarian dishes...and I was able to make it (and do a good job!) right in my home in the States. Mom and I hung out in the kitchen today and made Chicken Paprika and dumplings (from scratch!). I got the recipe from an amazing cookbook I picked up while in Hungary. It's called Culinaria Hungary by Aniko Gergely. It's been translated into English (with American conversion measurements), and it includes a history of almost all the foods included in the book. It's like a textbook and a cookbook all in one! The recipe turned out GREAT, and I've included a couple pictures for you to marvel at.
Here is my mom, whipping up dumplings like a champ!
"The Yellow Rug", or who is more commonly referred to as Magnificent, Maggot, Margaret (said in a British accent of course), Mags, The Magster, Maggie...etc., etc. is my family's puppy. Not only is she our puppy, she's a great source of exercise, a good listener, and her behind always wiggles with excitement to the point of almost falling over whenever you walk in the door. Even when I abandoned her for a whole year to go to Europe, she never forgot who I was. Walking down the stairs when I woke up the day after I got back from Hungary, I could hear her waggly tail smacking the wall before I even saw her. But here's the thing...I've been trying to get back into a consistent work-out regiment since I got home to offset all the extra cookies and Hot Tamales I've been consuming. In the morning after my "unemployed but upbeat" regiment of coffee and The Today Show, I head upstairs and get into my running clothes. With tennis shoes in hand, I come downstairs and perkily get ready. Before I come downstairs, Maggie can smell it. She can smell the trail which I rustle up with my shoes and clothes. Sure enough, it's not long before Maggie's in my face, tail wagging, putting on her cute "Can I go too?" face. Now, I'm sure some people would just pop the dog a treat and be on their way. Maggie however, has powers beyond what most dogs have. I finally get to the point where I give up my run and just take Mags for a walk instead. Why not run with Maggie, you ask? Oh, I've tried. But bless her heart, my dog loves to stop and smell the roses....then another rose...and then that excrement left behind by one of her friends...oh, don't forget that little speck of dirt touched by a rabbit 3 days ago! Today I walked downstairs and she was in the backyard, away from the sight of me and my shoes...freedom! Yet, somehow when I got in the car and looked in the rearview mirror, I was mildly brought down when I didn't see those yellow ears flapping in the wind...
So, back by popular demand (popular meaning pleads to keep writing by 7 out of the 10 people that read this), I have decided to continue contributing to the blogging world. Considering my life in the United States is probably not going to be as full of crazy stories that inspire awe and jealousy in the minds of readers as my stories from Hungary, we'll see how this goes. But, if there is a little less of homeless people pooping on buses, running from transportation officials, and men hunting children with rifles in schools, maybe it will be all for the better! Coming home has still been quite the adventure. Since being home, I have become an auntie of a beautiful baby boy, visited 4 states in one day, seen Howard Stern walking through Central Park, and experienced wanting to die from food poisoning (luckily I had a cute male nurse around to encourage my will to live). So as it turns out, life in the States isn't entirely uneventful! Aside from seriously missing a cute face or two (along with the 180 small faces back in Budapest) every minute of the day, I think I'll manage...for awhile anyways :-) Below are pictures of my nephew Cam the Man, along with a picture of myself with the cute male nurse I mentioned earlier.
So there has been a lot of rainfall along the Danube, particularly in Austria. Then it all comes here to Hungary! We did have quite the rainstorm hit Budapest the other night however, taking down some trees in my neighborhood and making it a river...All of this rain along the Danube has made the river very high in the past week or so...to the point of the road going along it being underwater. Here are some pictures Alvin and I took the other day on our walk by Parliament...the one of our feet is on the steps that usually lead down from Parliament to the road!
So yea, after almost a full year of living in Hungary, I can't believe the time has come for me to head back home. It seems like just yesterday I was sending off my visa papers and psyching myself up to live away from home for a year. It's been quite amazing and there are so many things I will miss about Hungary. Some things, like my students and islers, go without saying. But here are a few other things I will really miss about Hungary as well:
The incredible public transportation. Aside from buses breaking down randomly, being pushed in and out of doors by angry neni's, the public transportation thing is so impressive and spectacular.
The consumption of white bread and pastries as being socially acceptable. Is that stuff even legal in the States anymore? :-)
Eating veggies and not having to consider whether they were treated with pesticides, or how long they took to arrive from the ground to your mouth. I've even eaten vegetables that came from less than 20 feet away from where I sleep and still had traces of dirt on them.
Wine. Cheap wine that still tastes better than any $40 bottle you can find in America.
The sounds of the metros, buses, and trams. The little jingles will be in my head for life.
Seeing pieces of history older than my home country every day.
Sitting at a restaurant for hours at a time and not being hassled by the waiter/waitress every 2 minutes.
The overwhelming excitement that came every Friday on the train rides down to Kaposvar to see my partner in crime.
With that, here are some things that I am SO excited about going back to the States for:
Air conditioning!!!! As I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop with the backs of my legs sticking to the leather chairs and sweat on my forehead.
Seeing more than tall buildings and cars in my immediate field of vision at any given time. Show me some mountains!!!!
Driving my car. Yes, I LOVE the public transport here...but there is nothing like hoping in my car and singing at the top of my lungs with the windows down.
Family and friends
Having stores that stay open past 5pm. Woo hoo!
Riding my bike
Understanding more than 1/2 of what's going on at any given time. Although, when I went home for Christmas...I kept feeling like I was eavesdropping on conversations, simply because I understood what was being said.
Of course, these are very small lists...they could both go on forever. But this can give you a little glimpse. I have so many heartfelt and mushy things I could type too...but those are stories you can hear in person if you wish. For now, I will say, "Szia later" to Hungary and enjoy being home for a little while!
Being that I am from a little suburb of Denver...heck, being that I'm from the U.S., "Ladies of the Night" are not something I've encountered in any way, shape, or form in my lifetime. The closest I've come to it is watching "Pretty Woman" and feeling uncomfortably antsy at the "sexy" parts. Anyways, with that said and my larger, more intellectual views on the subject set totally aside...my experience from yesterday is newsworthy. Let me preface the story by explaining that this occupation is technically legal in Hungary...with some limitations on where the exchanges can take place (i.e. not near schools, restaurants, etc.). So, Alvin and I were in a little town outside of Miskolc, Hungary exploring and gearing up to watch a bike race today. Our Hungarian friend Greg was driving us around and showing us things. Here is how this experience went down, as I remember it...
Greg: "Over there is a nice lake, and oh! We have &#%#$*'s here!"
A & H: "WHAT?"
Greg: "&#%#$*'s...you know, #@**&(!"
Alvin: "Wait, beaches or peaches?"
Hanna: "Horses? Waaiiit, not HORSES....you mean c^%va (Hungarian word for the explitave that rhymes with horse...think about it...)
Greg: "Yes! They stand on the side of the road and wait for cars to stop!
At that moment, sure enough...at 3:30 in the afternoon, we drove by a woman standing suggestively on the side of the road, another walking towards a car that had pulled over. They were not dressed as my Grandma Helen would approve of. Me, being the sheltered American jumped with delight and this sight and almost felt the need to take a picture. Greg then honked and made another comment I will leave out of the blogging world and up to your imaginations to fill in. Oy vey.
Ok, so some of you may have immediately noticed my type-o in the title. The term "Sziasztok" can mean "hello" or "goodbye" in Hungarian. One day however, while walking through Alvin's village, we noticed a family of storks living in a next on a telephone pole. I then proceeded to yell out, "SziaSTORK!" and have a laugh attack for about 10 minutes following. This isn't the point of my blog, though. I've spent the better part of the last 3 weeks saying lots of "hello's" and "goodbye's" here. A big hello was when my sister and her (now OUR) friend Kate came to visit Hungary. I couldn't have enjoyed their visit more. They were even initiated into the Statue-Accosting Association of Hungary while they were here! We made a visit to Vienna and Kaposvar, and even made a visit to my school to see my kids wonder who the heck this girl that looked exactly like Hanna was! I've also had to start saying a lot of the word "goodbye" here already, which is heartbreaking, really. My kids have been a huge part of my life this past year, and saying goodbye was not easy for me. I thought I was going to be able to hold it all together and get through it without tears until the last day of teaching as I was explaining to 1.c that I wasn't coming back (some of the kids still don't fully understand I won't be here in September, which hurts me more). As little Zsofi came to the realization, I saw little tears well up in her eyes as she sat with her chin in her hands and yup, that did it. Suddenly, I had 15 crying kids surrounding me making me realize that I really did have an impact on them. Enough of the sad stuff, though. I got to enjoy so many flowers, chocolates, and my favorite...lots of pictures they colored for me. I will not go home empty handed! I also got to go to an end-of-the year swimming party and watch the kids just have fun, outside of school. I couldn't be happier.
Here is little Zsofi from 1.c. Lili and Mate, enjoying the water.
And now I have a couple weeks to just enjoy Hungary! Alvin and I have already started aimlessly wandering around Budapest, along with hitting up sites on our "list". Here we are, climbing up Gellert Hill in Budapest!
I'm happy to know Hungary isn't done with me yet! Nor will it be in July when I leave...I think I'll be back soon enough :-)
So yea, I woke up today and it hit me that today is June 8th. Yes, in one month exactly, I will be on a plane going back home to the States. I will toss the emotions of that idea aside for now though and focus on what amazing things are happening NOW. I had two of my best friends from home visiting, and they left yesterday. I LOVED having them here to just talk to, laugh with, have them meet the boy, and basque in good news together. To Han and Jo, thanks a MILLION for spending the money and time to come see my world over here, and I am so happy you got so explore some more of it too! I love you so much.We spent Saturday at Lake Balaton wandering around the lake and also saw Alvin in a bike race. This wasn't just any easy bike race though...it went the whole way around Lake Balaton (that's about 200km, people!). He finished in about the top 30 out of about 1,000 racers, and I'm really proud of him. He even managed to have enough energy afterward to meet the girls and answer their pressing questions :-) In the picture below, Alvin is all the way on the left of the group, in the elbow pit of the man with the tattoo. Good lucking seeing it! It was quite the sprint to the finish!In other news, this is my last week of teaching! I'm trying to enjoy and savor the last hugs and fun moments with the little ones before I leave. Tomorrow I get to go to Parliament with 2.c! So excited. Also, my sister Katie and her friend Kate fly into Budapest Thursday. I absolutely cannot WAIT to have my sister here. So yea, there's way more fun to come before July 8th...so we'll consider that later :-)
So my wonderful friend who also teaches here in Hungary has a blog that he dedicates almost entirely to amazing things he cooks here. And when I say cook, I'm not just talking about making a tasty cream sauce or a good batch of cookies...I'm talking about making his own noodles from scratch, making homemade limoncello...he even made foam for our coffee on his stove when I visited once. Anyways, I always get such a kick out of his blog entries (not to mention a hungry tummy), and while Alvin and I were making salad with veggies straight from his backyard over the weekend, I got excited and said, "I am going to pull a Jon Clark and write a blog about this!". So here I am, with pictures of our beautiful, delicious and fresh salads that came right out of Alvin's backyard. The bread was freshly baked from the bakery in Kaposvar. And yes, the loaf IS about the size of someone's head...or maybe two someones. Oh, and since I've dedicated almost a whole blog entry to Jon Clark, I will include a link to his blog here (hope you don't mind the publicity, Jon!): Jon's amazing blog (I suggest not reading while hungry)
This week, I decided to put my 2nd graders' creativity to the test. I'm having them draw their own "Alom Szoba", or Dream Bedroom. I've been blown away by the results. It astounds me how amazing kids can be at such young ages. Here are a few things that I've seen included in their Dream Bedrooms:
A popcorn machine
A fingerprint sensor on the door instead of a key
A "Sumo floor"...the skinniest kid in the class drew this one.
A hockey rink
A pizza bed..."So I can eat when I sleep!", says Laura.
Stacks of money
A chair which brushes your teeth, feeds you, and gets you ready in the morning while you sit and watch a movie.
Weights..."To get fit!", yelled Bogi (a tiny little girl)
This is what I could gather: Remi wanted actors in his room who would act out different scenes in Harry Potter whenever he wanted.
Friday was "Day On The Duna" at Varosliget for the 1st through 4th graders. I went along happily on the 90 degree day and aside from a lot of heat and mosquitoes, it was awesome! It also included the following: food, playing ball, playing tag, food, ice cream, hand holding, food, English games that the kids WANTED to play, a funeral, bumps and scratches, food, running happily, and lots of love. Here are a couple of pictures for you to enjoy!
Zsofi and Lilla enjoying ice cream (what, kids eating? CRAZY!)Oooooh they are so cute waving at the camera!He is so shy, but he pulled his hair out of his eyes, pointed at himself, and said, "Hanna, picture please.""Hanna, too sunny!"
So, some of you already know that I lost my wallet last week. Yes, I honestly am not sure if it got lost or stolen, but all I know is that I got money out of the ATM, got on the bus with Alvin, and by the time I got home, it was not there. Luckily, there were no charges made on any credit cards, and only (this does hurt, but it could be worse) about 75 dollars worth of money was in there (including the monthly metro pass I had JUST bought two days before! Grrr...). All in all, I am not too incredibly upset, because it could have been worse. It can be replaced, I still have my Passport, my health, and happiness....things happen. Whatever. Anyways, Monday, I mentioned the said wallet-losing to a couple teachers at school. One even noticed I was carrying my cash around in a Ziploc baggie. How barbaric! Really though, I had forgotten about it...until today. I was in the hall, talking to some of my kids...when about 1O kids from 2.a ran up and asked me, "Hanna! Where is your money???" Huh? My money? Were they asking me for money? Did they want to know where it was so they could take it? Well kids, it is in a Ziploc bag upstairs...but I would rather you leave it there so I do not have to venture to the bank again and try speaking to a bank teller about it. Then one kid acted out something falling out of a bag. Ahhhhh. They wanted to know if I found my wallet!!!! I told them no, I did not find my wallet. I made a sad face, just to get the point across. Suddenly I was attacked by hugs and hands petting my hair. Man, I love the therapy that comes with teaching kids!!!
Last week at school we explored the English phrases that coincide with "Going on Vacation" in my classes. I even brought in my way-cool American passport and let the kids gawk at all my stamps...ok, they were only slightly impressed. For one lesson, I had the kids plan their own trip and draw pictures in their suitcases of what they would bring on that particular trip, given the elements and activities. Of course, if you were going to the mountains in the winter, you wouldn't bring your shorts and swimsuit...I loved hearing the kids say, "NOOOOO!!!!" when I told them I was packing my swimsuit to go to Mt. Everest. Anyways, as I walked around my classes, I noticed the girls were packing standard items...shirts, shoes, dresses, books, etc. The boys however, always have to be a little crazy. And I love it. Here are just a few things that I saw at any given time last week drawn in the boys' suitcases:
A British flag
16 gloves (yes, specifically...I told Boti that this would come in handy should he be in the mountains and encounter 7 friends with cold hands!)
Hot chocolate (the drawing was of a cup full of chocolate with steam lines, so I assume he wanted an already-made cup in his suitcase should he need it at any time)
A leopard (as protection, I was told)
Water wings and a water tube with a duck coming out the front
Let's see if my boys make it past security on their magical imaginary vacations!
I've dedicated a few entries to the essence of "seasoned" women of Hungary, and here is another. If you haven't heard before, their technical term is neni. The word actually means "aunt", but it also is a term that is closest to Mrs., or Ms. It's a term of respect. Sometimes my kids even call me Hannaneni. The REAL neni's, however, are the ones you've heard about. They dominate culture here in Hungary. They can be total (I hate to use the b-word, but...) meanies and get away with it easily. These women's bodies are a little rough around the edges these days, but they carry their weight all over town (even if it might take years to get from place to place). When waiting to get on a tram, they will push everyone to get on/off first and nobody questions it. I experienced the perfect display of neni-power tonight on the tram. There was a guy ("that guy", to be exact) sitting in a seat across from me. A hoard of neni's got on the tram at one stop, and one neni happened to just pop up next to the guy and stare at him with her lazer eyes that have the ability to pierce your soul. He didn't seem inclined to move and give the neni his seat, so she stared more. Suddenly, his soul was pierced, and he got up and let her sit down. She caught my eye and flashed an evil smirk that seemed to say something like this: "The nenis strike once again! Should anyone dare to attempt to infringe on our power, the shall die a horrible death. Get up out of my grill, minions!" Aside from this heartwarming story, everything is good! Three day weekend coming up...woo hoo!
Before I re-visit the cute conversation I had with little Lulu today, I feel she deserves an introduction. She is my little 1st grade translator because she speaks fluent English...not only does she speak FLUENT English, she speaks American/Canadian English!!! I don't have to change my vocabulary. She uses normal words, rather than terms like "the bin", "the garden", and "I haven't got..." (don't get me wrong, I have a love of the British that borderlines on obsession...but sometimes I just want to speak American English!). Moreso, I love her because she is generally awesome. She is sassy and in your face, and I love her one-liners I hear all the time. I have some REALLY good stories about her involving head scarves, Christmas Presents, and flashing people...ask me about these at your leisure. Here is the play-by-play of our conversation today:
Lulu: Hanna, come here please...I need to talk to you about something important.
Me: What's up, Lulu?
Lulu: So Marci said he's in love with me, but he is suddenly pretending like I am invisible. Isn't that stupid? (P.S. this whole conversation took place with Marci sitting right behind Lulu...who cares? He can't understand anyways...)
Me: That is quite silly of him...boys can be that way sometimes.
Lulu: Are boys this stupid all the time? Even when they're your age?
Me: Sigh. Well, yes...they tend to be. But there are a few very nice boys out there...you just have to look a little harder for them! (wink!)
Lulu: Gosh, why does all of this have to be so confusing??!
Me: I know, Lulu...go back to coloring right now...you have years and years to worry about this. Just know there's a nice boy somewhere out there who won't always be stupid.
This week, I am teaching my students items of clothing. Just the general t-shirt, jeans, shorts, shoes, etc. Easy, right? So, 2.c has worked its way up to become my absolute favorite class (aside from 1.b, OF COURSE)...but they are just a really fun and excited group of kids. I also love them because I have some girls in the class who I like to call my "groupies". They love me. Not kidding. They say it at least 10 times a day...each. They also tell me I'm beautiful every day, which just adds to their appeal. The day I brought in Easter candy, I even got a "You are plus, plus, plus beautiful, Hanna!" from one of them. Today, they made my lesson very interesting! As the kids were sitting and drawing pictures of each item and writing the name next to the picture, I asked them what other items of clothing they'd like to know the names of...we came up with things like sunglasses, tights, sandals, long-sleeved shirts...all simple and suitable for the minds of children to be thinking about. Then I looked over to see my groupies sitting in the corner giggling. I gave them a look, and they came up to me and whispered something Hungarian in my ear, then proceeded to giggle uncontrollably. I understood what they said, but still looked at them as if I was completely clueless. One of the boys noticed, and proceeded to make an "action", signifying a bra....this involved fake cupping and squeezing. Then the class proceeded to point at my chest. Of course, that led to all of the children cupping and laughing...then they wanted to know the word for underwear, and signified by pulling their own underwear up out of their pants to show me. Sheesh. Sheepishly, after having my rack pointed out to everyone, along with seeing about 20 pairs of underwear, I explained that today was not the day for undergarments...then directed them to ask the other English teacher instead...I had enough awkwardness for the day.
Mom and Dad's trip to Europe was a total success! I loved having my parents here and I loved showing them my 'hood. Mr. Sun also gave us the huge gift of being present the whole time they were here!!! We soaked in the baths without getting lost in the changing lockers, they met my partner in crime and all was perfect, and they were even treated to some Mozart at the Opera! Then, it was off to Austria! We hit up Salzburg first and for all who have been wondering, it's been confirmed...the hills ARE in fact alive with the sound of music. Check it out....
And of course a trip to Salzburg would not be complete without enjoying one of EVERYONE'S favorite things...crisp apple strudel....all we were missing were some doorbells and sleigh bells and some schnitzel with noodles.
It was also confirmed that Eidelweiss is the #1 easiest song to get in your head for weeks upon weeks after hearing it. Also...next time you're in Salzburg and you turn on your TV in your hotel room...you don't need to question...YES, The Sound of Music and Amadeus DO in fact have their own channels, and they DO play continuously.
Yesterday (yes, I was ACTUALLY notified of something, and a day in advance), I was told there would be a fire drill today during 4th lesson. At 11:35, the alarm would go off, and I was to take my kids to the courtyard with the others. Great, I can handle that. I have my great little 1st graders who worship the ground I walk on and who would behave great, just to make me happy. Super. Well today came around, and of course their teacher wanted to take the whole class "so they wouldn't be stressed out about the fire alarm" with me. I was a little miffed that the person who the children are truly, truly afraid of every second thinks they'll be less stressed with HER than with me. I'd make a bet they'd be fine with me, and I don't even speak their language. Whatever, I could catch up on other work that needed to be done. 11:35: alarm goes off, and I proceed with a couple of other teachers on breaks to the ONE stairwell to the ONE entrance to the school. Ok, another source of culture shock...the kids were SORT of lined up with their teachers, but were they quiet and good-mannered like in the States? NEM. They were making fake siren sounds, fake cries for help and pretending they were dying. Yea, you're all awesome and hilarious. Congratulations. After a good 5-6 minutes, I realized I was on the 2nd floor, and we were still only on the 1st floor stairwell. Oh God, if this were a real fire...first of all, there'd be mass chaos and stampeding down these stairs, AND I would be dead most likely if the timing is like it is now. I ACTUALLY found myself looking around out the windows to plan my own escape (along with my favorite little ones, of course), should a fire ever break out. Therefore, I survived my first fire DRILL...but should there be a real fire...out the windows and acrobating it down to the ground it is for me.
I made my way to school today just like it was any other day (well, I'm having a great hair day today if that counts as something different), but I noticed something was off the second I walked through the door of the school. There were kids wearing shoes that didn't match, shirts that were inside-out or turned around, and there was a general feeling of silliness. I thought it might just be Spring Fever, or quite possibly some memo about a dress-up day that I didn't get (I don't get notified about much around these parts). I went to my first class with my 1st graders, and being that they aren't too incredibly creative, Vince came up to me and said, "Hanna, may I go to the toilet?" Of course I replied with a yes, and expected him to run out the door with his hand on his crotch, as usual. This time though, he spouted something off to me in Hungarian that I didn't understand, and then it hit me. He just played an April Fool's joke on me. It's April 1st. Silly Vince...he's a crazy little boy...IMAGINE...asking to go to the bathroom and not really needing to go! Haha. Of course, every other kid in the class proceeded to do the same thing...so by the 28th "May I go to the toilet?", I was a little pooped. That wasn't it though. I was informed by other teachers after 1st lesson that April Fool's here in Hungary is sort of a big deal. So I should watch out, even though my kids aren't that creative. No, mine aren't at this point in their lives...but the older kids are. So was I extremely surprised to walk into my 2nd grade classroom before the next lesson to see a bunch of 6th graders with their faces painted (two boys had wigs and skirts on) sitting in the little chairs? No. At first I thought (and asked aloud)....uhhhhh do I have to teach these ones today? Then the 2nd grade teacher walked in and looked just as surprised as I was. This was her former class, playing a joke. Luckily, this joke earned me a free period in which to plan lessons for after Easter Break. Otherwise, the day was pretty much normal, aside from another one of my 2nd grade classes sitting down facing the back wall instead of me. I acted surprised when they said it was only a joke. ;-)
Side note: We are learning Easter vocabulary at school this week, and I am teaching my students the names of a couple different Easter flowers. Hearing my little ones spout out the word "daff-o-dil" is quite possibly the cutest thing I have seen in my life. It would be worth it for all of you to come teach in Hungary for a whole year, just to hear this one word. It's THAT cute.
Yup, I'm calling it. It's definitely Spring here in Hungary. I even changed the picture for my blog to put a splash of color on it, because that's what I'm seeing around here. The coming of Spring here has been so long-awaited for me, and I've never been so excited to see the seasons change. I think I know why: I am from Colorado. You see, in Colorado there is no easily identifiable change in seasons. It's not like you walk outside one day and say, "Yup, it's Spring". I've seen it snow in August and I've worn a t-shirt and flip-flops in January in Colorado. The weather is so unpredictable in Colorado that I never knew what it meant really to put all your winter clothes away for part of the year, and take them out for only a few months. Anyways, this is probably why I am so excited about Spring here. My little ones are excited too...the tights with flower patterns on them are emerging, I see people wearing lighter jackets (including myself...I FINALLY put the pea coat that I usually love, but lately love to hate on the hook for good). Yup, birds are chirping, the trees are budding, the sun is out, people are happy, I am DEFINITELY happy, and life is awesome. Pretty soon I will begin to wear flip-flops before the accepted Hungarian cut-off date of switching to open-toed shoes...therefore you might see another post with angry tones toward the old women staring at my feet soon.
Also, prepare yourself, Hungary! Mom and Pops arrive to Budapest one week from this very day. Excitement is building!
Lunch today...csirke paprikas (chicken paprika)...my absolute favorite. We even had animal-shaped noodles, which my favorite colleague and I proceeded to play with while we ate. Double bonus!
All week it had been up in the air which lessons were actually happening this Friday, due to an activity planned for the kids...this morning I was informed I don't have to teach at all tomorrow. My weekend starts...now!
BECAUSE I don't have to teach tomorrow, I get to grab an earlier train to Kaposvar to hang with my partner in crime for the weekend. Believe me, a couple extra hours are worth more than you'd think!
I walked out of the school and I was standing on the street corner, waiting to cross...of course, the bus started coming around the corner. The light wasn't changing. At first I was like...Whatever. Life is good already. I'll wait. Suddenly, the light changed. I decided to see if I could sprint fast enough to make it...just for funsies. Made it! I rock.
Get to come home to flowers adorning my whole apartment, due to my lovely first grade boys, who gave them to me for Women's Day. Every time I look at them I imagine the sheepish smiles I got as they each handed them to me saying awkwardly "Happy...Women...Day". I had to take pictures, since they are so beautiful. And that, my friends, is, as my kids would say, Hanna's wery good day. Also, it's only 2:00pm :-)
Monday is always the longest day of the week for me. I'm out and about from about 7:15 in the AM and aside from a brief 15 minute block of time to come home and change out things, I don't get home until at least 7:30 in the PM. That's a long day. Because I am out for so long during the day, I also get to observe countless happenings in Budapest. These observations lead to many random thoughts and lots of analysis in my head. Here's a little view into the head of Hanna (scary, I know) with some of the random thoughts I've experienced on Mondays recently...
Every time I jaywalk across the street here, people look at me like I am a horrible criminal. Why? There are no cars coming within miles (ok, not MILES), yet there is hatred in their eyes. Oh, most of these people lived through a time where breaking simple rules meant you were not "working for the good of the whole" and your hands were cut off (ok, again an exaggeration). Therefore, Hungarians follow rules.
There are many homeless people in Budapest. How on earth do they not have homes, yet they somehow all have cell phones?
The woman who stands on the street and hands out advertisements between Oktogon and Coffee Heaven is there EVERY DAY at all hours of the day...I would think she would make a lot of money doing this so often, but if she's standing here ALL DAY handing out papers, she's obviously never out having fun with that money.
Coffee Heaven...this place is so commercial. I should be at some local cafe, enjoying a coffee that is at about half the price of this. Whatever, this is one of the few places in Budapest where I can a) enjoy a large cup of coffee, b) eat a dang good sandwich, c) get free wireless, and d) simultaneously hear 5 different languages being spoken within 10 feet of where I am sitting.
It always snows or rains on Mondays...the day I am outside most. Awesome.
If people are going to grafitti obscenities in English all over town, could they at least have the decency to use proper grammar instead of writing things like "F*&^ you're money" in huge, red letters on building for all to see? No sir, I am not money and please don't use that language around me.
Ok...that's just a little view of Mondays in the life of Hanna. Ok, get out of my head now... :-)
So, remember the epic story of how Indiana Jones is a parent of one of my students? Well, I have a huge update friends...if you haven't read the beginning of this story, I would recommend reading it before continuing. Either way, the shock value of this story is still high. First of all, I received an update recently on the current occupation of the man who I thought was ACTUALLY Indiana Jones. I was informed that he is a hunter. How anyone makes this their daily occupation, let alone in Budapest, Hungary is beyond my comprehension. Anyways, today I walked into school a bit antzy because I had to substitute and take all 30 children in my 2b class...this class includes the four boys that make me want to tear my eyes out every time I have them. As I walked down the hall to their class, I noticed some of the boys in the class were playing "guns" in the hallway, and shooting with their fake finger-guns into the classroom. Naturally, I just thought, "Boys...", and turned to walk into the classroom where my horror of 2b was blown out of the water by what I saw. I turned to see the former Indiana Jones playing guns with the kids. But formerly being Indiana Jones, he did not use his silly fingers as guns. No, he was pointing a hunting rifle as big as me at all of the children and pretending to shoot. Now, this was a source of HUGE culture shock, because if this were to occur in America, chaos would ensue and the story would inevitably be all over national news. But in Hungary...it's a totally normal way to play. Shocked, I looked at the teacher who looked at me like "Awww, isn't it cute?" (nem, no ma'am, it is NOT). When he finished his pretend mutilation of all the 2nd graders in the classroom, he put his huge hunting rifle back into it's lovely velvet cover, tipped his hat, and said "Csokolom, visontlatasra", and was gone.
People in the States have been led to believe that the most popular sport in Europe is soccer, but I've come to learn that the people of America are being deceived. Let me be your witness, friends...the sport of the day in Europe is not football...but Statue Accosting. What is this crazy debauchery, you ask? Well, it is exactly as it sounds...you find statues...and accost them. Example A:
Now, there are some rules when it comes to playing this intense game. First of all, it is imperative that you spend a minute or two coming up with the best way to accost. As seen above, coming in from the front is not always the best approach, although it may seem to be. It can sometimes benefit the hilarity of the picture if you are to deceive the witnesses and go around. Also, if a statue is positioned in a way that you can get the most laughs out of the picture by making it completely and totally inappropriate, it might just be necessary to get the best score (no pun intended) and to just be inappropriate. You also get bonus points for every onlooker that you are able to offend in the process of accosting. This is also a sport where people who are tall have a possible advantage. Please note the challenges a short person might face, and compare it with that of a tall person below. The results are sad, but true.
The last piece of information you might want to know before taking up the sport of Statue Accosting is to know your subject. For instance, it might benefit you BEFORE you hug a statue to know how many people the person the statue represents killed in his or her lifetime before becoming a statue...
Due to the lack of statues to accost in the USA, the sport is not expected to take hold anytime soon...but I will keep you updated on any such activity occuring to the best of my knowledge...happy accosting!
Ok, no...I lied. I'm not any sort of official tour guide in Budapest for attractive boys (although I'm sure a few of you got your hopes up). But over the weekend I did in fact have the privilege of showing a super awesome (and yes, very cute) boy around my "'hood". I must say too, that it will be a hard weekend to top on the list of "Awesome Weekends in the Life of Hanna Nichols". I won't give a complete run-down of the weekend, as I'm sure some of you might have to excuse yourselves to vomit during reading, but I'll give you a few highlights and some pictures to give you the idea...you might puke anyways though...sorry! :-)
Got to experience every girl's ultimate dream of seeing a guy in the distance at a train station with a huge smile on his face...for me. I can think of a few of you who are done already. Mwahahaha.
A lovely stroll around Castle Hill at night (the best thing to do in Budapest, according to this esteemed tour guide), along with some Forralt Bor and Bartok to top it off!
Saturday was spent at Statue Park with Lauren and Jules, her visitor. Statue Park is where Hungary decided to toss all the statues put up around Budapest during the Soviet Era. Of course, they didn't see much need to make it very convenient to get to, but I loved it! We had fun accosting statues all day.
I get to go visit Alvin's (see above reference to "cute boy") digs next weekend, so more to come. :-)
(Please refer to last weeks entry entitled "Akos-isms" for complete story...) So last week's Akos-ism was "Welcome to the town center!" The new one for this week? Well, it's an eye-opener for sure...today he said, "We have now arrived at the ski lodge!", with immense excitement. As there was no ski lodge ACTUALLY in sight at that moment in the school hallway, I began to wonder. Last week was the first normal week after the "Ski Week" the week before. "Ski Week" means that all the teachers get to stay in school and teach while kids have the option of going somewhere totally rad to ski all week, or just go to Grandma's house (which is with no doubt, also rad). I know Akos was missing that week. Therefore, there is only one solution to the question of where these new phrases emerged: Obviously, Akos went to Grandma's house that week. They drank tea, made cookies, played cards, watched "Wheel of Fortune", everything. He then met her next door neighbor, who was very busy practicing his lines, as he was about to start his new job as an international tour guide at an exclusive ski resort in the mountains of Kazakstan. As they got to chatting, the neighbor (let's call him Zoltan) learned Akos is a thriving student of the English language (it's true, he's one of my best!). Akos told Zoltan that he'd really love to impress his awesome American teacher with some English. Since Zoltan only knows enough English to give tours of ski resorts, those are the two phrases he taught Akos. Then they ate salami sandwiches as good Hungarians do....THE END.
I seriously have so many fun kid stories lately...I could write a book I bet. So, Akos...he's one of my 2nd graders, and he is just a character. He's always excited and happy, he's kind to everyone, and he just has a good sense of humor. Lately, he makes me laugh on a daily basis because of what I like to call "Akos-isms". Every week, Akos seems to come to my class with a new, totally random English saying that he did not know the week before. Then he proceeds to say them at random times...and they never relate to what we are learning, of course. They are always short and sweet....but they have kick. Most of these sayings are probably sayings he won't say often (or ever again in some cases), but they never cease to make me laugh my butt off. I am starting to think that maybe he has signed up for some "Weekly English Phrases" email list...an email list that likes to play crude jokes on English learners. Here are a few "Akos-isms" for you:
"Come to my igloo!"
"Let's have a party at my place."
"Welcome to the town center!"
"See you later, dude!"
What makes it even better is that he has a little sister who is one of my 1st graders...every once in awhile she'll throw them in there too and tell me Akos told her to say it.
Look out for the newest Akos-ism, which will hopefully be coming out next week.
Yup, I have plenty of these ones saved up in my head for rainy days when I need a pick-me-up. Here's just one kid story that happened today: Through the end of this week, I will be making Valentines with my little ones, and it all started today. My personal favorite way to make Valentines is to make "heart people". It is just like it sounds. You cut out a big heart. You make a face on it with heart eyes and a heart nose. You make arms with heart hands...legs with heart feet...you get the idea. Anyways, I made a whole lesson out of it with the kiddos and I was helping them write out notes on the back of their heart people. Most of the kids were making them for their mothers. I was having them write a simple message..."Happy Valentine's Day, Mom! I love you." One of my little ones, Aron...who has a new baby sister (named Hanna actually...he loves to tell me that and he even sent me pictures in the form of an email once). He decided to make his for her, and he wanted to write his own special note on the back. He approached me during class (keep in mind, I didn't know who he was making it for at the time), and here's what he said...
Aron: "How to spell 'I love you'?"
Hanna: writes it on the board
Aron, a few minutes later: "Ok, now how to spell 'mine beautiful Valentine'?"
Hanna, before even noticing the grammar mistake: "That's nice! Who is it for?"
Aron: "Mine beautiful Valentine sister, Hanna."
Hanna: melts, then proceeds to give him a hug for being so dang cute
Aron: awkwardly hugs me, gives me a weird look, then returns to his work
Hanna: Recovers, then quickly makes sure he writes "my" and not "mine" :-)
I have never found myself as swept off my feet and melted into puddles of Hanna as often as I do at school everyday. If I am ever insecure about myself again, slap me, and remind me of these times. Because I have many boys who know just the right ways to my heart. So, here is a list of the ways to impress the heck out of me, as I imagine it would be, according to my 1st grade boys...
Give Hanna lots of hugs- Hanna loves hugs...anytime, any place.
Laugh at her jokes- Hanna is funny...really! Laugh at her jokes, and it makes her extremely happy. If you laugh to the point of snot coming out of your nose (which is a daily occurrence in our world), it might make her laugh even more.
Make her homemade presents- Hanna gets very excited when you work hard on something, and then present it as a gift. She doesn't seem to be the fancy dinner, diamond rings, fancy car type of girl...little things make her happiest.
Dance, dance, dance- Hanna loves a guy who will dance, even if all he knows how to do is wiggle his butt and jump around like us first graders do.
Little acts of love- If Hanna is carrying multiple bags, it will make her swoon to the point of melting in a puddle if you take the biggest bag and proceed to drag it up the stairs to your classroom for her. She might even hug you for it.
Tell her she's awesome- Hanna loves to hear nice things about herself, as most girls do. We tell her multiple times a day how beautiful and kind she is, and it seems to make her incredibly happy all the time.
Ask her to play games all the time- We like fun adventures, and so does Hanna. She enjoys spending break time playing hide and go seek and helping us fly paper airplanes. If there is an adventure to be had, take Hanna along.
So now you can see why 1) I love my job so much, and 2) a huge part of why I am happy all the time is my students. 1st graders know where its at when it comes to impressing girls!
So, this week, my 2nd graders are learning verbs, along with the phrases "I can", and "I can't". Today, we were working on writing sentences and we were talking as a class about what we can and can't do...I wrote things on the board like: "I can ride a bike", "I can't skateboard", etc. Then I told the kids that they needed to write 5 sentences about what they can/can't do. They had interesting answers like "I can [play] Playstation!", and "I can play the recorder" (I should know, I hear "Hot Cross Buns" being played alllll day in the halls). Then two of my favorite little girls, Flora and Nori came up and wanted to say something about butterflies. They kept saying "I can't...", then jump around and clasp their hands. When I realized what they were thinking, I almost melted in a puddle right there because it was just about the cutest thing ever...they wanted to say "I can't catch butterflies with my hands." I automatically thought about non-kids, like myself, and I ran through my head all of the things we always say we can't do...."I can't be smart enough", "I can't be good enough", "I can't be beautiful enough", etc. It made me really wish we thought as simply as my students, who don't care about any of those things...they just care about catching butterflies in their hands.
Important sighting in Budapest: The Sun (also known widely as Mr. Sun), who mysteriously vacated Hungary in early January without notice or explanation, was spotted in town this weekend. He was first seen Saturday morning, peeking through the windows of several inhabitants of Budapest. This writer also spotted Mr. Sun in several other areas around Budapest, including anywhere and everywhere. He was spotted on Castle Hill, where he was found emitting Vitamin-D and UV rays into the starved skin of countless Hungarians. His disappearance in early January shocked and saddened many, and he left behind him a trail of rain and clouds that have been reeking havoc on the smiles and hairstyles of Hungarians everywhere (not to mention this expat, who, up until this weekend was smiling only 90% of the day, rather than 100%). The reappearance of Mr. Sun has come as a huge welcome by many, but some are skeptical that the elusive Mr. Sun will stick around for long.
Below, Mr. Sun is seen hugging St. Istvan's Basilica
Mr. Sun was also seen leaving remnants of
himself in the form of sparkles on the Danube River.
I will tell you this story in the form of my exact thoughts as they played out while riding on the bus today....Hmmm...what a chilly day. Sun, are you there? Don't you love me anymore? What will I have for dinner tonight? Wow, what an unkempt looking man that is standing over there in the corner of the bus. He looks wiggly. That's a lot of traffic out there on the highway...it's getting dark. Wow, why is the unkempt man squatting down now? Wait, why are his pants at his ankles? WAIT a second...WHAT is that on the floor? Why are all the people backing away!? Crap. Literally. Uh-oh...laugh attack coming. The mysteriously unkempt man just pooped on the floor of a moving bus. The bus has stopped...people are angry. Maybe this is my que to get off the bus, which will soon be smelly and contaminated. Laugh attack starting. Ok, stop offending other riders by laughing. What the hell? A man just dropped trow and pooped on your bus. Laugh away.
So, Hungary likes to do this thing where they have designated "work days" on random Saturdays. This means that on several Saturdays throughout the year, the whole country of Hungary goes to work, as if it were a weekday(yes, that's 6 days of work in a week, people!). Being that I'm a foreigner here and do not speak the language, I'm often not notified about these workdays until oh, a week beforehand. So, when I returned from my lovely holiday at home, I (along with my fellow foreign teachers throughout Hungary) discovered there is a work day this coming Saturday...pardon my language, but BALLS! Don't get me wrong, I DO love my kids so much...and if I did have to spend my Saturday working, I'm glad I get to hang with them...BUT I also enjoy my sleep verrrrrry much (especially after a week of being plagued by jet lag). Well, in a seemingly totally unrelated issue, Russia has decided to turn off its gas lines leading to Europe this week in a bold political move. This means that pipelines all over Europe are effected, PARTICULARLY ones in Eastern and Central Europe....how conveeeenieent. If you haven't heard about Russia's shenanigans, enjoy this little read over a cup of coffee... http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/world/europe/07gazprom.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&em. How is this related to me having to work on Saturday, you ask? Well, when I arrived to school this morning, I was greeted by rumors that that government might postpone our workday. Of course, I didn't dare belive and get my hopes up, only to be let down later on....yet, I was curious! I came to find that in fact, the government here in Hungary HAS postponed the workday this Saturday because they simply cannot afford to heat public buildings for a whole extra day. Woo hoo! But WAIT...I sure hope the heat in my nice, warm flat holds up for awhile so I don't freeze in this cold, dead winter in Hungary. Oh well, I get to sleep-in Saturday, so I'll worry about that later.
Yup, just returned back to Budapest after an amazing two and a half weeks at home in Colorado. While I was home and in the two days I've been back, a lot of people asked me if it was weird going home...or weird coming back. I've thought about it, and really...it was not so weird for me. At all. I really could not have asked for a better time at home, and I was equally happy about coming back here for another six glorious months. I really think that much of this attitude of mine can be attributed to a couple things: 1) I don't want to "toot my own horn" (what the heck...TOOT! TOOT!), but I think I am quite lighthearted and am enthused (sometimes too) easily. Going from place to place isn't such a bother. And, 2) something that makes all of this easier is that no matter how you leave a place, some things just never change. How wonderful. Here are some things I realized haven't changed since I've been gone from home (and I hope never do):
Maggie will ALWAYS come greet me at the door happily, and with her tail wagging so much it seems she might fall over. I wish having her nose in my butt at these times would change, but alas, it has not. Oh well...
Mom will always straighten up my room for me before I get home...even if I tell her not to. Her amazing spaghetti also tastes the same every time...THANK THE LORD.
Dad still falls asleep in his chair before 9pm, without fail. He also will always say "So, wanna wake up at 5am with me to walk the dog?"...maybe someday I'll actually say yes.
A Chipotle burrito still has such an effect on me that I actually get depressed when I see the last bite go.
Katie (yup, she's almost 20 years old, people!) still wakes me up before the sun usually does on Christmas morning...I also hope this one NEVER changes, even when we're 80 and eating chocolate cake for breakfast. :-)
That dang drainpipe on the side of our house (right outside my room) STILL makes the most horrible sound ever heard by human ears when there's anything more than a breeze outside.
Camp people (or as my dad lovingly puts it, "that cult you are apart of") are still the greatest people this world has seen in my eyes.
Hannah still wears her fluffy pink marshmallow jacket everywhere...I think she's owned it since I've known her...and I hope she wears it until she can wear it no more.
The mountains of Colorado...they remain as the most beautiful and comforting sight to me.
Quite possibly my favorite thing...even after being gone for any amount of time, there are those friends who see you, and everything just falls back into place as if you'd never left. Just wonderful.
Everything is still pretty much the same here in Budapest as well, thankfully (aside from the price of my metro pass increasing to 9,000 ft. Darn it!). My kids happily greeted me this morning as they always did, and of course...my bus passed and then left the bus stop while I was still waiting to cross the street, as usual. :-)