Wednesday, August 30, 2006

an even happier day...

so after I posted the last update, I went downstairs again -- and had a package from Mom and a letter from Kathy! That was the first time I've been homesick since I've been here :( But it was awesome to get stuff... thanks! I had to have people help me carry stuff home because I had so much -- everyone was jealous!

Tonight Lisa B, Emily, and I got brave. We risked taking public to the local mall without the veterans for the first time! No problems, I'm pleased to report. However, the first bus was late, so we were forced, against our will, to visit the local cukraszda for some chocolate cake. Our mission at the mall failed, though. We learned that non-Hungarians have to have some special plan or documentation to get them, and it seemed like kind of a rip-off, so no cell phone yet. But it was an adventure! On the way back, we were trying to figure out what time the bus would return. Our stop had an asterik on it with a footnote. Since we had 30 minutes to kill, we whipped out our Hungarian-English dictionaries. We found all the words. It didn't help. Here's the basics of what we came up with:
candidate bus route course and no concern stop.
Um, yeah.

This language is going to be more difficult than I thought!

happy day!

new haircut, Mountain Dew at lunch, AND a package from home! What a good day...

Thanks to all the Southside people. I was so excited to get everything! particularly the kool-aid...that stuff is like gold here. I don't see why the rest of the world hasn't picked up on what an amazing invention kool-aid is. It's cheap, tasty, and conveniently packaged! While they're at it, they should start selling vanilla extract. They sell vanilla flavored sugar instead. It isn't the same. We also tried to buy brown sugar the other day. We thought we had found it -- the label had a picture, and the name translated to "brown-sugar." Easy, we thought. Imagine the surprise when we tried it and realized it was actually brown-colored sugar that was strawberry flavored (also available in lemon and cinnamon). We've been told that there actually is brown sugar here, but I'm not quite sure how else to find it!
Oddly enough, it is easy to find Cheeto's. Who knew?

I have been testing out the wide variety of candy bars available at the local CBA, which is like a mini-mart down the road. I worked up the courage to try the most Hungarian of all treats, the Turo Rudi. Most Americans can't handle it, but it wasn't bad. Just...strange. It's a chilled bar with dark chocolate covering some kind of cheese, similar to ricotta. So apparently this turo stuff can go into both lasagna and dessert! Weird.

Parent orientation was last night. Not many high school parents came, but it was fascinating to see the wide range of students here. There are naturally a lot of Americans, but also Chinese, Korean, Estonian, Brazilian, Hungarian...there was even a sign language interpreter for the deaf! It's amazing to me that a school of 200 students has 15 different nationalities represented. What a cool place to work.

pics of the hair coming soon... let's just say it's a big change! :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

my new pet

The weather is so nice here that I've gotten into the habit of leaving my doors to the balcony open all the time. This, I found out, may have been a mistake. Apparently, Sunday night I let in a sparrow who couldn't quite find his way back out in the morning. I woke up Monday to the sound of a bird repeatedly slamming himself into the other bedroom's window. It was horrible. I was convinced I was going to have to clean up a dead bird. I debated doing the bread crumb trail, but in the end, I decided to scare it in the direction of the open door. He finally figured it out.
It was a fitting start to my day, which was probably the least happy I've been since I got here. I'm starting to feel the beginning of the year stress, I think. However, I was really excited when I left work yesterday, because I actually had semi-conversations with two Hungarians! Lisa B and I went to buy flowers and fruit, and both of those women are so nice. They spoke very slowly and taught us some new words. It also helped that the florist and Lisa both speak a little German, and the fruit lady and I both speak a little French! So with the combination of four languages, we could talk a little bit. The florist said (in Hungarian) "Good speak Hungarian." Don't know if that translates to You speak Hungarian well or It's good to speak Hungarian. The first is an outright lie, but either way, it was positive. I plan to go again soon and try a few more words. I'm also thinking about taking lessons soon.
Please pray about our teaching needs. The other English teacher was just diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer; she'll need intense treatment in the States, and she won't be returning this year. There are all sorts of unknowns now -- whether her children should stay here or be with her, how we'll cover her classes, etc. Her name is Tina; I'm sure she would appreciate your prayers.
School starts tomorrow for the elem. and MS, so that means I have a week left! I'm off to help Lisa A. set up her 2nd grade classroom. Enjoy your day...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

worship in a second language

Today I tried a church that is about 80% Hungarian, with English translations, and it was pretty fun. They do a lot of praise songs in both Hungarian and English, so I think it's a great way to pick up some new words. For instance, I can now say holy, Lord, and Jesus. How this will help in everyday conversation, I'm not sure -- but I'm pretty proud.
Someone told me that being here makes you understand the life of the illiterate. This is completely true. I find myself relying on pictures almost exclusively, and for the first time I'm looking at the little symbols on the tags of my clothes! It really is frustrating. Tonight a neighbor opened the door for me. I must have pronounced thank you pretty well (yes!) because he assumed I spoke Hungarian and tried to have some sort of conversation. I felt so stupid, because all I could say was nem ertem -- I don't understand! (I suppose I could have thrown in a holy Lord Jesus, but that might have been a little odd...)

I've found a new addiction, and strangely it's not Hungarian but Chinese. There's a huge Chinese population here, and roughly 1/4 of the school is either Chinese or Korean. Today after church, some veteran teachers took us to a Chinese restaurant owned by one of my student's parents. It was pretty great, and they gave us quite a discount, but the real treat was when they brought out some dessert for us. Now, aside from banana pudding, I usually dislike all things banana. However, I learned today that having a banana inside some sort of sweet fried dough is basically heaven on earth. She gets extra credit!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jesus, cows, and Kiefer Sutherland

Jesus barked at me this weekend. No, not the Messiah -- the dog. There's some sort of German shepherd mix who has adopted the road from my apartment to the school. The students have nicknamed him Jesus, because he's always there (I know -- painfully cheesy). So far Jesus and I have been on good terms, but I must have startled him a bit. Once he recognized me, though, all was well. It's good to have a watchdog on the street.

Last night we indulged in that most Hungarian of pastimes -- the mall and a movie. I was surprised to find that mall was pretty American, including the food court. However, when I ordered my slice of pizza, I was informed it was not pepperoni, but salami! It's everywhere!
Also at the mall: apparently Budapest has these cow sculptures everywhere. The one in Campona Mall has a moving Rubik's Cube built into its side, in honor of the fact that it was invented here. Kind of strange to see a giant cow with colored blocks in it in the middle of the mall...

The movies here are only about $5, which is really nice, so we went to see The Sentinel with Kiefer. It was in English with Hungarian subtitles, so I spent far too much time trying to match the words with the subtitles to really pay attention to the movie, but it was pretty good.
It fascinated me that movie tickets are sold by seats here, like at a play. No more trying desperately to find seats together!

I found -- believe it or not -- a peanut butter KitKat! So I think it's time to have a treat. Have an excellent day, my friends.

Friday, August 25, 2006

to my SE friends....

Happy first day of school!

Strangely, it makes me a little sad to miss it. Keep in touch, please -- dying to hear about freshman academy!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

reason #92385792835236 I know God loves me....

So the head of PepsiCo for Eastern Europe is the proud parent of ICSB grads. The school has a deal with Pepsi, and we have vending machines with Mountain Dew. You can't know how happy this makes me. Sometimes it's the small things that seem the most important!

In other news, check out my pretty sweet schedule -- SE people, prepare to be a tad jealous. All periods (including lunch!) are 45 minutes.
1 -- World Lit (19)
2 -- planning
3 -- study hall
4 -- Brit Lit (13)
5 -- Brit Lit (13)
6 -- lunch
7 -- planning
8-- yearbook/newspaper (20)

Yep, life is good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

twice in one day!

so somebody is on the vonage line, and I figured I'd update again while I wait...

Tonight i was pleasantly surprised. Austin is one of our new school teachers, and he's, well, hyper (Hardy family -- think Scott on speed). Naturally when he invited 7 of us over for dinner tonight, I was a bit skeptical. And there were a few moments when I thought disaster was imminent, like when the french toast fell onto the open flame (gas stoves). But it was actually good. Even better, it was so nice to have such community. How much fun it was to sit around, talk about our time there, and pull out the guitar -- and you know how I love to sing. I'm not so sure how the Hungarian neighbors felt about it, but I thought it was pretty cool. I know I keep saying this, but I am surrounded by amazing people. And we're all vastly different -- guys, girls, elementary, high school, health nuts, couch potatoes.... we all mesh together well.

I'm grateful to have such interesting new friends! and now let's see if the vonage line is open...

cultural differences...

so there are several Hungarian teachers here at the school, which is great. They have helped us tremendously (as one of them told me, "We solve all your questions!") and taught us about customs and language. Today we returned the favor and explained Kool-Aid and sweet tea to Monica, the receptionist and German teacher. She was fine until we explained the amount of sugar in the tea -- and then she responded with "Oh No!!!" We decided we need to educate her, so we're trying to track down some Lipton at the big grocery store... :)

Thank you all for your comments and emails! Even though I haven't truly been homesick, it's great to hear from home!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I've seen fireworks and I've seen rain...

Some people fall in love with Budapest for its charm, its old world elegance, or its architecture.

I started to fall for Budapest after an evening of wind, rain, and trash. I've never been quite normal...

so last night was St. Istvan (Steven) Day, the holiday commemorating the first Hungarian king. They traditionally have fireworks off of the most famous bridge over the Danube, right in the heart of the city. I'm told the fireworks put any American displays to shame. And I have to say the 30 seconds I saw were spectactular. I pulled out my camera, and the wind started blowing. Hard. Trash flew everywhere, and the barricades beside us started blowing over. All of a sudden we realized we could no longer see the bridge or the fireworks, which were maybe 5 minutes down the river.

And then came the rain.

In about .8 seconds we were totally drenched. We stood there for a second, and then realized it was lightning and we were holding on to metal barricades, so we joined the throngs of people running to the semi-shelter of the buildings across the street. We splashed through the nasty river that used to be the street and huddled with the Hungarians, thus giving me ample opportunity to practice my Bocsanat (Excuse me).

It sounds terrible, but it was so much fun. It was a true bonding experience with the girls I was with, and with the city itself. When all this happened, it didn't matter if we couldn't speak the language. We all just ran together and laughed.

Thankfully, the three of us were with a veteran teacher, Heidi, who looked at our wet t-shirts and decided we shouldn't try to take the jam-packed bus full of drunk Hungarians back to Diosd. She called and found some other teachers up the river who --miracle of miracles -- had a car with available seats!

I do feel bad, though, because there were some people who were injured, and a lot of trees fell onto parked cars nearby. For some people, it wasn't exactly the fun-filled experience it was for me. I can't say I want to do that again, but I can safely say I wil never forget St. Istvan Day!

In other news, I met my Hungarian neighbors under less than ideal circumstances. I live next door to two other teachers and ran over for a second to help them move some furniture. I left my door propped open. Mary heard some people talking in the hallway, and we looked out to see a couple standing at my door. They had seen the door and thought I had been robbed, and the guy was going in to the check on everything. It took quite a lot of gesturing to get them to understand that I lived there and had propped the door open myself! So I met my neighbors, barefoot and in my pjs. I guess it's nice to know that there is a man nearby willing to risk facing robbers if necessary! They were very kind.

This ended up being much longer than I intended. Thanks for reading this far...promise not to make the next one quite so long!

Friday, August 18, 2006

finally -- a few pics!

no time to describe. but here are some pics of my apt and my view!
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

more coming!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


We just had our new teacher orientation, and I am honestly blown away. I knew the school was building an addition, but until our tour today I had no idea how nice it is! I can't wait to be able to post pictures, because this will be as nice as, and maybe nicer, than any high school I've seen in NC. My room is awesome, almost as big as mine at SE, and I have an office space nearly the size of the SE yearbook room that I share with the other English teacher. nice! Plus I have an incredible view. I'm pretty excited. and that's a huge understatement.
Unfortunately, the contractor passed away suddenly last week, so the high school won't be finished when school starts. Right now, we plan to have the high school start a week later than everyone else. I'm pretty sure, though, that the new building is worth the wait.

We also spent a lot of time with the administration today, and they are such wonderful people. The director invited us to his house again this morning, and then they treated us at a Greek restaurant nearby, which was really good. After the nightmarish all-day cafeteria meeting at the beginning of the year at SE, this was a very welcome change! It is so nice to feel appreciated; they seem truly grateful to have us here. After this week, all of the teachers will be here except for Hannah, my roommate, and two families.

I'm so excited to be here!

fun facts that I forgot to share the other day:
  • from my apt. I can see a cukrazda, which literally means sugar house. Yes!
  • they play incredibly cheesy (which of course I love!) 80s music here all the time. I've only heard one current song the entire time I've been here.
  • at the grocery store there are three aisles of nothing but salami!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Sorry; I haven't been able to get to a computer until now.

This will be a long post, so bear with me! I have lots to talk about....

the flight: so I've always considered myself a good traveler. You know what they say about pride! Long story short, with about an hour before my flight from Warsaw to Budapest,I realized I was in the wrong place. To get to the right terminal, I had to take a train, which of course took15 minutes. Then I saw it -- a line of 50 people at a security check.

I almost lost it. I begged people to let me go ahead of them. Lo and behold, they parted like the Red Sea! I went straight to the front of the line, threw my stuff on the conveyer belt,grabbed it on the other side, and took off! I didn't even put my shoes on all the way.

I had to run from Gate 27 to Gate 3. It took forever! But about halfway there, I heard a heavily-accented voice say,"Ms. Hardy?" I kind of paused, wondering who in the world knew me there. It was a Polish Airlines rep. He said,"They wait for you! They wait! Go! GO!" Yep, they held the plane for me. I couldn't believe it. It was like being in a movie. Another worker met me partway and ran beside me checking my stuff. He literally threw my passport back in my hands as I got to the tunnel and said,"You have nice flight!"

Moral of the story: always check and doublecheck your flight info. And fly Polish Airlines!

Anyway, my apt. is great. I was thrilled to find that I have a microwave, iron, and vacuum cleaner that someone was kind enough to leave behind for me. Unfortunately, I don't have a phone. or a bed. The landlord is coming to bring me one. Until then, my couch folds out and it sleeps ok,so if you're planning to come visit, you can get some sleep. The best thing,by far, is the view. I have an outstanding view from the balcony -- I'm on the 4th floor! I'll post pictures when I get internet access.

The people here are phenomenal! The others at the school have been great. They picked me up at the airport, cooked for me, took me to church, and carried the whole load of us to Ikea and the grocery store. That alone took several hours. But it was fun. And the Hungarians have been surprisingly friendly -- I think. I really don't know what they're saying! But several in my apt. building have spoken to me. I just smile back!

I did speak a little Hungarian to the guy at the grocery store. all I said was I don't understand and thank you, but he was nice to me and didn't openly mock my pronunciation, so I feel like I've tested the waters a bit.

well, my turn at the computer is almost over.... hopefully I'll have internet access soon!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

almost gone...

I wondered how I would feel on my last night here. I anticipated being sad and nostalgic. Maybe it's because I've cried myself out, but I'm really not feeling that way. I'm mostly excited, a little anxious, and absolutely exhausted. I'm seriously looking forward to that long flight so I can sleep!

A few of you have wondered how the terror scare would affect me. Fortunately, I'm not flying through London, so I can carry my laptop and FauxPod after all! I did have to repack again, and I had to cut out a few things, but I have all the essentials. I even managed to pack posters for my classroom and a yoga mat! Mom is an amazing packer.

I don't know when I'll be able to update again; hopefully I can get wireless access at the airports, but I'm not sure. I also don't know when I'll have internet access in my apartment. Anyway, until then, pray that I (and my luggage!) make it safely into Budapest Saturday night. This might be a little presumptuous, but sometimes when I'm in a rut or can't pray, I read from the Book of Common Prayer ( and I would love to have people pray these things for me:

God, whose fatherly care reaches to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech you graciously to behold and bless whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to you, may be bound together by your love in the communion of your Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of your saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

The next time I update, I'll be in Budapest!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Take that, Agent 8!

So I woke at 3:45 this morning to make an early morning appointment in DC to get my second passport. I drove all the way there, waited patiently for an hour for my number to come up, and made my way to Window 8. Agent 8 then proceeded to share with me that the several pages of documentation I brought with me were not enough (in spite of the fact that I had talked to two different people and brought more than what they told me to bring). I needed an official statement from my foreign employer on an original letterhead, and I needed to drive back to DC on Thursday. Then they might be able to help. The letter is not a requirement, but she doubted my employment.

I have to admit that I thought some very unmissionary-like thoughts about Agent 8! After my blog got banned from Guilford County, I'm starting to suspect some kind of conspiracy...but I digress. Fortunately, I begged the lady at the appointment counter, and she mercifully got me an appeal with a supervisor.

This is why I'm thrilled to be teaching at ICSB. I frantically called a fellow teacher, Austin, who was kind enough to give me several numbers for staff in Budapest. I called them at home after hours. In spite of their own activities, a six hour time difference, and the school being closed, they rushed a faxed letter with photocopies of their own passports to prove the validity of the request. The supervisor agreed to reconsider, and after five hours I walked away with my second passport!

Thank you for praying about this; I came very close to not getting this passport. I probably could still have gone to Budapest on time, but I would have had to surrender my passport and live in a foreign country with no official documentation. That terrified me! What a relief, then, that everything worked out. I'm especially excited to be working with such great people. I was really sad to leave my fellow teachers at SE, but I think the ICSB staff will be able to fill the void :)

A huge thank you to Rilla, David, Lori, and Austin!

Monday, August 07, 2006

I LOVE Guilford County Schools!

Hahahaha -- apparently GCS has censored my blog! I've been blocked!

oh, the irony...

Sunday, August 06, 2006


You guys really do read my blog! :) Thanks so much for the comments, emails, and prayers. I feel so much better today. Your encouragement made a world of difference.

I've decided to drive to DC and get a second passport. Then I'll apply for a visa when I'm in Hungary. Apparently the US doesn't often issue second passports, so please pray that they'll understand the necessity. This way, I'm on track to leave as scheduled on the 11th. I know some of you in Greensboro were thinking about seeing me off at the airport that afternoon. If you don't mind seeing me as a blubbering mess, email me for information.

Tonight I went back to Southside, the church where I grew up. They held a special service for me, and it was really touching. Those people truly represent what Christian community should be. Naturally, I cried a lot. In fact, on the way home, I was bawling when I suddenly saw a license check up ahead. I was a little worried the officer would see and think it was some sign of guilt! Fortunately, I don't look too criminal, so he let me pass...

Can I brag about my family for a minute? I'm sorry to break it to the rest of you, but I'm fairly certain that the Hardy/Patterson family members (and I'll include the Bains and Proctors!) are the greatest people on the planet. You guys mean the world to me.

Friday, August 04, 2006

possible setback

Hey guys... so with less than two weeks to go before my departure date, the Hungarian government has suddenly decided to be uncooperative with visas for the new teachers.
I've talked to people at the Hungarian embassy, and I believe I can enter the country as a tourist. However, then I would have to be without a passport for several weeks while my visa is being processed. I could pay to have a second passport rushed to me, but that's a financial setback I was definitely not expecting. Basically, I'm really confused and just want to get there without wiping out my money.
Here are things you can pray for:
--that I will receive 100% of my support in the next week (I'm currently at 85%).
--that all my insurance and records of physicals, immunizations, etc. will be in order
--that I will receive my official Letter of Invitation from the Hungarian government before I leave
--that my visa (and maybe a passport) can be secured quickly and with no problems (one teacher actually had her application denied, and we have no idea why).
--that the school will be able to deal with a teacher shortage at the beginning of the year. There are currently 6 teachers who know they will not be able to go in August!

I'm starting to worry a little -- I knew this whole process was going too smoothly! Please, please keep these things in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


People keep telling me how much I'm going to learn while I'm in Budapest. I agree, but it's amazing how much I've already learned! The main lesson, I think, is gratitude. I never realized how much I took for granted. Take air conditioning, for instance. Now that it's fixed, I am thrilled whenever it comes on. I never really thought about it before!
It's the same way with everything I'm packing up. I've always wished for more clothes, more books, more everything. This week I'm carrying several bags of clothes to Goodwill and boxes of books to EdMcKay's bookstore. Seeing everything bagged and boxed makes it clear that I have well beyond what I actually need.
Even though it's only been a few minutes here and there, I treasure the time I've had to spend with my friends. I've learned a lot about true friendship, mostly because you've given so much to me. I am overwhelmed by how much you've encouraged me, whether it's helping me pack, supporting me financially, or grabbing a quick lunch. You guys are amazing! I will miss you greatly...

and on a completely different note, this made me laugh hysterically. A friend of mine sent me to an article about how a new bridge is being built in Budapest. The builders have left the name up to the public, who are using an internet site to submit names and vote. The current second place contender is --no lie-- Chuck Norris. Other suggestions include David Hasselhoff and Gene Simmons. So if you'd like to cast your vote, visit this website: Those crazy Hungarians! :)