Monday, October 30, 2006

it's a small, small world...

a little background...when I first started thinking about coming to Hungary, I emailed Judy, who is in my Bible Study back in Greensboro. She was a huge encouragement to me, and I learned that she had also taught MKs in Germany. Judy is getting ready to go back on the missions field, so I was working on a prayer card for her. As I was working on it at school this week, my friend Lisa B walked up and said, "Hey! I know her!" Judy had taught Lisa in the 9th grade Bible class at Black Forest Academy!
It was so encouraging to me to see how this worked out -- as a teacher, Judy helped to shape Lisa, and now that Judy isn't physically around to encourage me, Lisa has definitely stepped into that role! How awesome to literally see the influence of a teacher, and to know yet again all the strange ways that God has worked in bringing me here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly....

Isn't this picture from my balcony incredibly beautiful?

The sad thing, though, is that it took place today at 4:30! I'm told that this winter it will be totally dark at 4. Yeah, I'm not thrilled about this development...

Good things about this weekend:
-- Lisa A., Parker, Heather, and I had a Lost marathon this weekend -- we're almost caught up! I love that show; what would I do without the internet to make it possible to watch it?
--Heather and I baked our dessert for the staff competition, as shown in the picture. I am pleased to report that our cream cheese and fruit concoction won Most Beautiful and was highly complimented!

Bad things about this weekend:
-- rain. and cold. and walking to the bus for church this morning in both. yuck.

And the just plain ugly:
-- today after my post-church nap, I walked into the kitchen to get something to drink, when I stepped on a soppin' wet rug. Something is wrong with our radiator, and the entire kitchen was flooded. That was loads of fun to clean...

and so begins another week!

Friday, October 27, 2006

test day!

I love test days. It's so nice to have a class period where I don't have to put on a show of sorts, and can just sit back and work on the other billion and a half things I need to do (until they're finished and I have to grade the tests, but I don't want to think about that right now...)

funny how cultural differences pop up unexpectedly. When we did a test review yesterday, I pulled up the old stand-by: Jeopardy. I always feel a little boring when I do that, like I can't come up with a more original idea than the game every blessed teacher uses. Well, some of these kids had never heard of Jeopardy. never. didn't know the game, didn't know the theme song. weird.

and yet, Paris Hilton's "song" has made it all the way to Hungary.

It's also weird to think that it's Friday, since we had Monday and Tuesday off for the Hungarian holiday. On Fridays during morning devotions, I ask the kids to pray for one another. It always surprises me that, with one or two exceptions, these kids sincerely pray. At first I was a little uncomfortable with that; I mean, really, I come from a public school where praying openly would be more than a little weird. But now, I've grown to love it. It really does help create community in the class. It's a little hard to be mad at the annoying kid behind you, when you've just thanked the Lord for his friendship! These kids are so great.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Campona is our local mall and home to Tesco, where we can buy most of what our little hearts desire. Sometimes people with cars offer to take us there, but when no one else is around, we get the joy of public transportation!
So here's what our night looked like. Heather and I are baking for a staff-wide dessert extravaganza this weekend, and last night was our only chance to go to Tesco. At 6:15, we left with Lisa A and waited for the bus that supposedly arrives at 6:27. Yeah, it came at 6:45. So we get to Campona, eat at the food court, and head to Tesco. None of the materials we need are available, so we make compromises on nearly all of our ingredients. We did, however, find an electric mixer, which I was really excited about. So we check out, but have to register all of our electronic equipment at the front desk. This takes forever, as we know very little Hungarian. Finally, we finish and make our way to the bus stop. Yeah, the bus had just left, so we had to wait another 45 minutes.
So at 10:30 we lug all of our bags through the rain back to our apartment. That's approximately 4 hours. boy, do I miss living next to BiLo!
To add insult to injury, when I opened the box for the electric mixer, I had only one attachment. So now I have to go back and exchange it! sigh.

So anyway, when you go grocery shopping this week, be very, very grateful that you live in the US and not Hungary! :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

the hills are alive....

We're home!

Great trip, and far too many things to write about. The highlight for me was definitely Untersberg, the highest peak in the Alps near Salzburg. We took a cable car to the top, which had amazing views. The cross in the first picture is planted at the top -- thanks to Heather for the cool pic! The second picture is also from Untersberg. Every direction was beautiful, so I had a hard time just using one picture! but I thought this was gorgeous, and well worth the hike from the cable car to the top. Picture #3 is (starting from the top left and moving clockwise) Sarah -- the other English teacher who finally arrived!!!!, Lisa A, me, Heather - my new roommate, Emily. In the picture of me, the background isn't rocky -- that's the city of Salzburg, just so you can see how high we were. The picture of the men cracked me up. We passed these guys at the fortress in Salzburg when we first got there at 11 a.m. They were already drinking and smoking cigars! So Austin posed with them a couple hours later when we were on the way out and they were still at it. Finally, the last picture is all of us exhausted and waiting for the train back to Budapest. :)

Other fun things....I stayed in the exact same hostel I used when I visited Salzburg in '98 -- it was interesting to look at how my life has changed since then! We met some really cool guys, Alex from Scotland and JP from Ireland, in our hostel, and they entertained us until 2 in the morning with stories of their travel experiences. The hostel also showed The Sound of Music every night, so we got to watch it and see all the places we had just visited. We went to a piano bar that was really nice, as evidenced by the luxury Bentley parked out front with Monaco license tags. I swear, their white chocolate mousse was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Sadly, the girls never got to defeat Austin in a rousing game of chess on the giant life-sized board in the square outside the church...but I'm convinced we could have won :)

All in all, a good trip, with lots of fun memories. Still, it was nice to return to Hungary and feel like it was home. On the train back, a tour coordinator asked us if we needed help finding accomodations or tourist sites in Budapest. We all really enjoyed telling her Nem, Koszonom, since we all live there!

and now back to reality -- grades are due tomorrow!

Friday, October 20, 2006

so long, farewell, au revoir...

ok, so I have no idea how to spell the next words in the song (but I bet you'll be singing it all day! haha). Before I depart on my Sound of Music extravanganza, I wanted to post one more time and tell you how much I'm enjoying my adult English class. They are so much fun! It's really encouraging to know that I'm actually branching out from "Little America" here at the school, and they're responding. I had the largest class to begin with, and I've added 5 more in the last two weeks. We ran out of books and had to resort to photocopies. I guess that means they enjoy it, because they're bringing their neighbors, or sisters, or coworkers. And one of them asked me to tutor him -for pay!- to prepare for his university entrance exam in English.

I also experienced what is becoming a common paradox here -- feeling both proud and frustrated with the Hungarian language. The cleaning ladies speak very little English, but last night I realized I actually had a conversation with one, albeit in two different languages. I can pretty much understand her, and she can pretty much understand me, but neither one of us can reply in the other's language! It's pretty funny, actually. Later she came by to explain the new alarm process, which was interesting, since if I misunderstood her it would be really, really bad :) Anyway, I'm glad I'm recognizing some words and can communicate a little -- but I really wish I could speak it myself!

I love being here, and I feel like it's worthwhile. Thanks for your help and encouragement with that.

Hmmm....time for the bell! new updates after the weekend, hopefully with pics!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

pandora and psat

Several of you emailed me to ask if you were the lucky one -- I have no idea! I just know it happened at 8:52 your time :) So if you were on just before 9, consider yourself the 4000th!

so I've been listening to Pandora, which is an online music service that takes your input to tailor personalized radio stations for you. pretty cool. I listen to it almost exclusively now, and I just saw that you can add samples to your blog, so to the right are four clips from my current favorites. Take a listen, join pandora, and learn about new music.

standardized testing....we are so used to it in the states that we forget there are actually people who don't know how to fill out those forms. Take yesterday for example. Filling out the bubble sheet was a major undertaking. Many of our Chinese students were especially confused, because last names and first names are reversed in Chinese. not to mention that those sheets are made with spaces for city, state, and zip code -- not exactly things these students have. It took forever. It was just funny to imagine that there were kids who really didn't know about bubble sheets!

tonight: adult English language class, LOST party to watch last night's episode (I'm SO addicted to this show!), and pack for Salzburg! Yes -- I'm taking advantage of the holiday weekend to travel to Austria, the birthplace of Mozart and the Sound of Music. Train travel is really cheap, so there's a big group of teachers going. Should be lots of fun and plenty of photo opportunities! Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

one of you...

...will be my 4000th page load today! Who will it be??? :)

It's finally cold in Hungary -- they turned the radiators on last week (sadly, we have no control over them. all of a sudden, they were on!). Yesterday I left the house in sandals because it looked beautiful outside. Little did I know it was actually 34 degrees! yikes. Thank God for the short walk to school.

Perhaps this has contributed to the colds. Just like in the States, it spreads like wildfire through the school. However, we have the extra problem of all these elementary kids. breeding ground for disease, those kids :)

off to proctor the PSAT. Have a wonderful day!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Monday, Monday...(la, la, la lalala)

it's study hall, and half of my kids are falling asleep, and I'm a little jealous. I have a little cold right now, and I would love to dose up on some Nyquil and crawl into bed. alas, it is not meant to be.

I know I am way behind on my emails right now -- I am so backed up! so if I haven't written you back, I'm working my way through the pile. But don't stop writing! I love hearing from you.

Reason #674849238572 why Europeans think Americans are strange: yesterday after church Lisa A, Heather, and I tried a really cool restaurant nearby. Heather and I ordered normal meals, whereas Lisa ordered French onion soup, mashed potatoes, and a chocolate shake. The look on our waiter's face was priceless.... haha. (you know I love you, Lisa!)

and the bell just rang, so I should probably prepare my cool Lady of Shalott artwork for my seniors. Happy Homecoming week, SE!

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Today Heidi took a bunch of girls to the covered market, where there is this Asian store in the basement that carries things you can't get elsewhere in Hungary (like real maple syrup! and real vanilla extract! and real brown sugar!). We were all pretty giddy.

Afterwards, we had a picnic at Margaret Island, which is kind of like the Budapest version of Central Park. It's literally an island in the middle of the Danube, but it has parks, soccer fields, old ruins, even a petting zoo. It was beautiful and really relaxing. I loved the water fountain when you enter the park -- they've set up loudspeakers and choreographed the fountain with music, so when we first got there, we saw these huge jets of water dancing to Pavarotti. Very cool.

The best part, though, was Heidi's friend Erzsebet (Elizabeth). She's probably about 70, but they met at church and have become pretty close. She was fascinating.

This coming weekend is a huge holiday in Budapest because it's the 50th anniversary of the revolution against the Russians. We've heard about it all along, but today we got to hear it first-hand! Erzsebet was part of the revolution, and when it failed, she literally walked to Austria to escape Communist rule. Then, she moved to America at 20 years old, knowing no English. Somehow she ended up in California, where she worked as a stylist for celebrities like Lena Horne! She was full of stories, like about the time she went to a party with the Beatles ("they were so stoned they could not speak!") and the time she got into an argument with fellow Hungarian Zsa Zsa Gabor (whose advice to Erszebet was "You waste your time working. Marry a rich man!"). She was clearly the highlight of my day. She's been back in Budapest for a few years now, and the transition has been difficult, because obviously Hungary in Communist 1956 is different than it is now, and her family has a hard time accepting her again after such a long absence. She was so thrilled to use her English and talk about the hard times and how she survived. I found out she goes to my church, so I'm sure I'll see her again -- plus we've all been invited to see her garden one weekend!

All in all, a great day. oh - and I have a roommate! at least temporarily, until Hannah comes. Heather arrived from Georgia yesterday. She's a teacher's aide for a student here who has cerebral palsy. It's nice to have someone around, and it doesn't hurt to have someone split the rent either. Plus, it's fun to see how far I've come -- I didn't know how to work the shower, or navigate the buses, or set the alarm when I first got here, and now here I am telling someone else how to do it!

Have a great rest of the weekend, guys.

Friday, October 13, 2006

for my beloved Tarheels and Midnight Madness...

so I'm incredibly jealous of you, Kathy. I want to see the Heels in action! I want to see the many and varied ways they'll rip on Duke tonight!
Here's my own contribution. It's perhaps the last time I can use it, since after tonight there will be a whole new crop of Dookies to despise....but it's just too good not to use.

Go Heels! I'll be cheering you on from Hungary.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

and now for something completely different

I've been on a bit of a poetry kick lately. I am no poet, but this one has been simmering in my mind for a while. I share it with you, in honor of fall.

There's beauty in the green of leaves,
Joy and hope in growing,

And beauty in the brown of fall,
Beauty in the dying.

My faded greens give way to brown,
Grace and joy in falling;

I die to self and wait to see
Beauty in renewing.

adventures in driving....

The director of the school is really cool. He and his wife have this extra car they just loan out to the new teachers when we need it. Since I can't drive a stick, I never have, but last night Lisa B and I got brave. We needed to get some stuff for a bridal shower, and instead of taking public, we thought we'd try to drive there.

All was well -- Lisa fearlessly navigated narrow little roads and roundabouts, we chatted happily about all kinds of things...and then we realized we had missed the exit and were in fact heading into downtown Budapest. during heavy traffic. with no idea how to get back.

Thank God for cellphones, and Parker, without whom we would probably be on our way to some place in Austria. And, miracle of miracles, on our way out of Auchan (it's like an imitation WalMart), we saw Gary, who is married to our elementary principal and helped us get back home again.

so one of my students just came up to see what I was doing (don't worry; it's study hall! I would never be on the internet during class...) :) and said I have to write about him. I don't have favorites, but if I did, Joel would be up there, since I have him in three separate classes, and he brings me food (although you have yet to deliver on that cheesecake!) SE people, think of Taylor Bailey, except for an unexplained love of High School Musical...

Don't worry, Taylor; you can never be replaced! Really, I miss my SE kids. I'm getting a little sad thinking about missing Homecoming, so guys, take lots of pictures and post them on your myspaces! Love you all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

and just one more....

This is the entire high school, plus most of the staff. crazy that we all fit into one picture!

Monday, October 09, 2006

even more pics...

  • My seniors in their new classroom!
  • The view from my room at the retreat
  • Rebecca (music), Emily (math), and me watching the kids play basketball

more pics

  • The castle where we stayed at the Word of Life camp
  • the new lunchroom
  • the hallway
  • the new gym!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

we're back...

..and what an amazing retreat it was. I never would have thought that I would enjoy chaperoning 100 high school students that much, but it was really fun, and even relaxing. We spent a lot of time just hanging out with the kids, and I really enjoyed getting to know them. There are such great students here. Plus, my assigned living space was not in the cold barracks -- oh no. I got to stay in the castle! Highlights: at the bonfire one of the girls specifically mentioned how she enjoyed getting to know Emily and me, and I was really touched by that. Plus, it was interesting to see how seriously the kids took their spiritual lives. Not all of the students are Christians, as I've said (although one did become a believer over the weekend!), but the worship time was really sweet, and I know a lot of the kids were inspired -- not to become more "religious," but to live more authentically. Not that it was all serious...the freshmen were initiated, and the girls had to wear these hideous 80s-ish outfits all day, including during soccer, basketball, and volleyball. It was hilarious. The low point: jelly juice. What exactly is that? Well, apparently, the leftover jelly from breakfast is watered down and served as a beverage for the next meal. It didn't take me (or anybody else) long to request just water. yuck!

How cool is this: so before I left for Hungary, my cousin Amy gave my mom a book about the Word of Life mission organization here in Hungary. I read it before I came, and it was all about how the organization was able to work in the country even under Communist rule, and sometimes with the government's blessing, because of their ministry with young people. A large part of the book was about how they acquired this amazing property.

Imagine my surprise, then, when our retreat center turned out to be that very spot. It was so beautiful -- and even cooler to have known the story ahead of time.

Still, it was good to come home and get some sleep. It was even nicer to go out to eat tonight, followed by a baking fest at Parker's. It's probably not a good idea to eat cookies, brownies, and coffee this close to bedtime...but it was pretty tasty and totally worth it. pictures from the retreat coming soon -- and pictures of our new building! I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


We're moving in the new building!

We got the official notice today, so it's our last day roaming in the middle school rooms. I am so excited. I despise roaming. I mean, really, I can't keep my stuff organized in my own room, much less moving back and forth between three!

We just had our first chapel meeting in the new building, and it was a nice change, particularly since I didn't have to stand behind a column today. Plus, it's the kickoff to the high school retreat. Yes, that's right. Thursday - Saturday, I will be chaperoning ~100 high school students on a trip to a retreat center. I can't decide if this is exciting or terrifying :)

It is pretty cool, though, because the senior class plans everything -- all the teachers have to do is chaperone! It's their first major leadership task, and they really take ownership. It's nice to see them so enthusiastic and willing to work to make it successful.

So anyway, I hope to have some fun pictures of my students sometime next week. and pictures of our awesome new building!!!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

the landlord

So I finally met my landlord! It happened like this:

my stupid door got stuck AGAIN. This time, it happened at 4:30, when I had 12 people coming for dinner at 6. Yeah.

After about 10 minutes of me yanking, pushing, and stifling curses, my Hungarian neighbor came out to show me how it was done. She proceeded to tell me (in Hungarian) what I was doing wrong. Then she tried. and also failed! vindication....

I think she tried to ask if I had called my landlord, which would have been kind of impossible considering I didn't even know his name. The rest of the conversation went like this, although in hungarian, so the translation loses some of the comedic effect:
Hungarian Neighbor Lady: "[random Hungarian blah-blah-blah said while pantomining turning the key] every day!
Me: Not every day...

Yeah, I think they're just as annoyed with the door situation as I am.

Then Hungarian Neighbor Lady #2 came out. HNL2 came to the rescue with my landlord's #; she called and explained that I was sitting out on the doorstop. He was there in 15 minutes, opened the door, and promised to fix it first thing tomorrow! Yes! They were so sweet. So now I know to get the little old ladies on my side, and things will happen in no time. Plus, I now have the landlord's name and number programmed into my cell for future reference!

and in case you're wondering, I got dinner ready in time! A good time was had by all, and there was no food left, so it must have been ok. The highlight of the evening (aside from Allison's peanut butter cookies and Emily's brownies) was conversations with everybody -- Austin the birthday boy was forced to answer a wide variety of questions that led to some interesting stories, and Lisa A, Parker, and I discussed all the ways the world would be better if we could run it. Naturally, this means I didn't get any work done.....sigh.

After tomorrow, no more door problems!

Sunday, October 01, 2006


  • Parliament building at night (the protestors are on the other side!)
  • the covered market and our beloved #49 bus
  • We were all sitting differently, so someone grabbed a camera. This is overlooking the Danube.
  • Lisa A, me, Emily, Mary, Annah Kate, Sarah from Moscow, Laura
  • Walking down Szabadsag (freedom) Bridge over the Danube