Thursday, November 30, 2006

what a great day...

so I was feeling like a bad teacher today, because instead of getting caught up on work last night, I celebrated Heather's birthday! It was totally worth it, because Heather, Lisa A, Austin, and I went to the Budapest Christmas market, (where Heather got pulled into a traditional Hungarian folk dance!) and then to a Hungarian restaurant. fun times, and my roast goose with cabbage and dumplings was pretty tasty :)

but still, I always feel guilty when I blow off schoolwork to do something fun.

That means it was especially nice to get some compliments today. At the end of my sophomore English class, one of the girls thanked me for a good class today. Teachers, you know how incredibly rare that is!

so as I was sharing that with Lisa B, she told me that I was named the seniors' favorite teacher!

I think this justifies another night o' fun... :)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

is it everybody's birthday?

This week has an unnaturally high number of birthdays. For instance, as I type, my study hall class is cutting the birthday brownies (complete with tealight candles) for two people in the room, and this week also has the birthdays of Lisa B and Heather (Boldog Szuletesnapot, guys!) :) In honor of Lisa B. we actually went to a steak place. Beef, for some reason, is different here, and decent steaks are hard to come by. It was a welcome change.

Anyway, we're well into Hamlet now, as evidenced by the fact that students are now starting to use phrases like "Get thee to a nunnery! Go!" and "Devil, thy name is woman!" with each other. I do love Shakespeare....and today we get to watch Mel Gibson's Hamlet! Despite his recent descent into craziness, I love this movie.

Speaking of movies, how much do I love I ordered some movies for Christmas cheer, and they have already arrived! Almost a month ahead of schedule! I'm pretty excited, because it wouldn't be Christmas without George Bailey and Ralphie... let the holiday season begin!

Sunday, November 26, 2006


short version, since there's a lot to cover:
  • Thanksgiving was great, and I didn't really have time to be sad. The Kliewer family invited around 30 people over for all the traditional foods (and a non-traditional Hungarian goulash from their neighbors!), and we ate until we were stuffed and watched movies.
  • The ankle is much better! It's still a little swollen, but I can walk on it ok. Stairs are a slightly different story, but it's a huge improvement.
  • Went to the museum of Hungarian history this weekend...interesting. especially the footage of all the devastation from the World Wars and the communist regime. It makes me appreciate how far the country has come in the last 60 or so years.
  • Went to the top of Gellert Hill, from which Saint Gellert was martyred by being put into a barrel with spikes in it and rolled down to his death. creepy. but the hill is beautiful and has a great view. More importantly, there is now a hilarious story attached to it! Heather had to use the bathroom really badly and the toilet was locked, so we decided it was dark and she could just use the woods. We checked it out, and there was no way nobody could see her from the parking lot, so we figured she was safe -- until some Hungarian man started yelling at her from deeper in the woods! She fell over, and I totally abandoned her and ran off. I cried, I was laughing so hard. Hilarious. Nothing like desecrating a holy site...
  • Ate at TGIF's (yes, they have one here! with buffalo wings! and cheese sticks!) at West End, a huge shopping mall -- and got to watch ice skating on the rink outside. I think I might get talked into trying it soon -- assuming the ankle can handle it, of course!
  • went to my church's gospel choir concert last night. It was really kind of funny to see a huge choir of mostly Hungarians singing gospel music in English! but I enjoyed it, particularly some of the Christmas music. And I got to hear O Holy Night in Hungarian! Perhaps the funniest part was when they introduced "The Little Drummer Boy." Apparently, they don't know this song in Hungary (it seems so odd that people don't know that song!) and the title must be hilarious in Hungarian, because they all laughed!

Well, Thanksgiving break is almost over -- time to get some school work done!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Laugh a little at my expense...

so I wasn't going to post at all today, but this is too funny not to share.

Long story short, I totally sprained my ankle last night, which makes getting up and down all these steps really fun... the story is too long (and embarassing!) to tell in detail, but let's just say there was an uneven sidewalk and an ill-advised rendition of the Lollipop Guild dance from the Wizard of Oz. Even I laughed, despite the pain! I wish someone had had a video camera rolling.

I am such a spaz. :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I spent a long time praying this morning for people who have encouraged and supported me on this journey. It really is humbling to think about, and I am truly thankful for you all. Much love to you...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

a foggy day in Budapest town...

Yeah, I can't remember the last time I saw the sun! Hopefully for Thanksgiving it will make an appearance...

So a few people have asked about care packages. [Donna, I tried emailing Harold a couple of times -- don't think he got them, so I did it all here!] I certainly don't expect packages, especially since shipping can get a little pricey. If you feel so inclined, here are some things that are difficult or impossible to get here:
  • peanut butter (and related products like Reese's Cups!)
  • quick breakfast food: packets of instant oatmeal and grits (funny -- I never thought I'd ask for grits!), PopTarts (I'm partial to the unfrosted strawberry version)
  • ranch packets
  • Expo dry erase markers
  • Vis a vis markers
  • Sharpie markers
  • glue sticks
  • hand sanitizer
  • zip loc bags

Sadly, I don't think you can ship hot wings, milk, or real American style bacon! :)

I'd also love pictures, cards, etc -- and it's much cheaper to send things in padded envelopes or to stick a packet in a card!.... My mailing address is

Paula Hardy


11 Ifjusag utca

H-2049 Diosd


Thanksgiving plans have changed, as we have merged our party with another -- which is good, because then I have no turkey-cooking stress! and miracle of miracles, Lisa A actually found a couple of sweet potatoes at Tesco last night! Not enough for all of us, not even enough for a casserole, but just the fact that they exist here is comforting! Enjoy your Turkey Day.... much love to you all!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

on the radio

I'm re-reading High Fidelity right now, which is about a music snob who constantly makes Top 5 lists. So in honor of that book, and in light of the fact that I was amused by my radio this morning, here are the Top 5 Songs You Are Certain to Hear Every Day On Danubius Radio:
#5: Rhianna "Murderer" Can that girl get any whinier?
#4: Madonna "Just Like A Prayer" How old IS this song anyway?
#3: remake of U2's "One" which I love, but not so much in its Hungarian reincarnation
#2: some random Hungarian song, the only words of which I know are "Now, Now, Now, I, Now I..." It drives me crazy.
#1: Pink "Who Knew?" Does anyone really like Pink? not me, that's for sure. But these Hungarians seem to love it. Who knew, indeed...

and while I'm sharing random odd things about Hungary, let me share about milk. If you know me well, you know I'm a fan. I drink at least a gallon a week. Not here, my friend. The milk comes in boxes that aren't refrigerated until after you open them. They can sit there for months. I just don't trust that. and it tastes funny. I can never tell if it's spoiled or not! So today, I miss milk. Cold, refreshing milk that comes in a plastic carton...
Drink some milk for me this week, please. It does a body good.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I really love my church here. I always feel encouraged by it! If you're curious about the church or want to hear a little Hungarian translating, check out the streams on Go to Bible Studies, and they have audio from the services there. I thought you might enjoy hearing what I hear!

Speaking of the language, I've been frustrated about not feeling like I have time to take lessons --so I went shopping this weekend! I talked to the woman at the bookstore and she helped me find an instructional book that helps break down all those crazy grammar rules. I read the first 10 pages or so, and I can already understand a few more things!

starting Hamlet tomorrow -- I LOVE Hamlet! although one of my students ruined a fun lesson plan for me already. I always save a day for after we read for students to compare the Lion King to Hamlet (which it essentially is the same story, except the Disney sanitized ending, of course) -- but one of my students has read Hamlet before, made that connection herself, and shared it with the class already! There goes the element of surprise. :)

something to think about: I'm trying to decide if I should tutor a few carefully selected kids who might take the AP English exam this spring. There's not a class offered, and there are a couple of kids who have a good shot at doing really well. I just don't want to overburden myself! so if you have any great advice, leave me a comment or shoot me an email...

Have an excellent week!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hungarian friends!!!!!

Tonight before ELL I was just drained. I didn't really want to come back to school and talk about past tense and adjectives for an hour and a half. As usual, though, I am so glad I did -- and tonight was especially good since Heather and I have officially made our first Hungarian friends! Two of the women, Zsuzsa and Eniko, invited us to a Christmas party next month, and we are so excited. I feel kind of like a 6th grader who just got an invite to the cool kids' party :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday night dinners

I think I've mentioned before how much I love Wednesdays, since we have chapel during 2nd period AND we get out early for our staff meeting (which today was at the cukraszda! I love this place). My other favorite thing, though, is the Wednesday night dinner with the single staff members. It's so nice to get together and share meals -- I especially love not having to do dishes! boy, did I take my dishwasher for granted back home...

So tonight I met again with Marton, the Hungarian student I'm tutoring one-on-one for his university admissions exam in English. Tonight's fun faux pas: he confused "years old" with "o'clock" Ha! although it's lightyears past my Hungarian ability.

and affirmation of the day...another teacher stopped me today and told me that one of the students called me his favorite teacher of all time! Now that is high praise :)

Monday, November 13, 2006

holiday plans...

It's so strange to be in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving. They're already in full Christmas mode, which naturally I love. Still it adds an extra element of anxiety about my holiday plans. I already know that I'm helping host a few people for Thanksgiving dinner, so assuming we can cook something vaguely traditional, I feel ok (can I just insert a minor complaint here? Why does this country not import sweet potatoes? Can you even have a Thanksgiving dinner without some kind of sweet potato casserole????). Christmas, however, is another story: would I be less inclined to feel miserable about not being at home in a foreign environment where I'd be distracted, or in the relative familiarity of Diosd? Oh, the dilemma! and whether I travel on or after Christmas, I have to decide my plans soon to either order a eurail pass or book a flight, which is become more and more difficult the closer we get to the holiday. And where, exactly, shall I go?

This is where I open it up to you, my faithful readers.... click on the handy little comment box and leave your input. I'll post lots of pictures, so what would you like to see? Current contenders include Spain, the UK, France and the Riviera, Austria and Switzerland...

We're saving Greece for Spring Break! :)

In other news, for those of you who know Stacey Wynkoop -- well, she's not going to be a Wynkoop much longer!!!! Still giddy on your behalf, Stace... congrats!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

the orphanage

from the top....
  • one of my sophomores, Barbara, with an orphan. She's Hungarian, so they adored her!
  • two of the orphans. We noticed they tend to look very serious for pictures -- and then smile as soon as it was taken!
  • Our girls painted nails, made friendship bracelets, and gave out lots of hugs. Here's one orphan displaying her sparkly nails.
  • our high school kids taking a break during lunch -- notice how exhausted they look. It was pretty draining.
  • one of the senior girls, Katie, and me. An orphan took this picture -- they loved our cameras and literally wore the batteries out in every camera we had there!

It was a difficult trip, and not in the ways I had expected. For starters, this was the most I've ever struggled with the language barrier. Many of these kids had some mental problems and couldn't quite understand that I didn't speak Hungarian. It was pretty frustrating to not be able to talk to them! They were so excited to have us there, and they really latched on to us. It was hysterical; when we left, they went around asking for our phone numbers. I'm curious as to what they would have done with them, since we couldn't communicate in person!

Most of all, I was impressed with our students. Many of them have grown up here, so they speak Hungarian pretty well. Some of the Chinese students speak Hungarian better than English, so it was fun to watch them step up and take more initiative. And the students did it all -- they prepared arts and crafts, a funny skit and its translation, some fun kid's songs in Hungarian, games (who knew that middle-school aged kids would beg for duck, duck, goose?) and a brief message. It was really inspiring to watch my students in that environment. And they're planning another trip, for a weekend, in the spring. I really wish we could have done something like this back in the States.

Have an excellent Sunday...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Martha Stewart's got nothing on me!

Homemade yeast rolls -- from scratch!
I am a domestic goddess...

Well, perhaps that's a bit prideful, since cooking deity probably doesn't collaborate with a roommate or leave the dirty dishes for the next day, but still, I'm pretty impressed with myself.

Tomorrow I'm chaperoning the high school students on a trip to an orphanage. I'm pretty excited about it, although I know it will be difficult, but it's something I have always wanted to do. Details about that in my next update!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

how much do I love these kids?

It can't even be described... so today Joel out of the blue brought me some home-made cheesecake, which I have to say was pretty darn tasty. and during study hall, Han Jing said, "Ms. Hardy, do you want a back massage?" Well, ok! cheesescake and backrubs -- and it isn't even the end of the grading period! This is such a great job.

Tonight is my ELL class, and I realized I never talked about their help last week. Here's the backstory first: Just before we went to Salzburg, Heather and I were in our apartment, when the two Hungarian Neighbor Ladies came to the door. Jo napot kivanok, they said, with hands folded. I replied back with the same ultra-formal greeting....and then they barged in! With my extremely limited Hungarian, I understood only that something was very, very wrong with the red handle we had turned next to the radiators, and the following words: Not good! Closed! Not open! Ten Minutes Only! Then they turned the handle and left, still sputtering over our ignorance.

Heather and I were mystified as to what in the world had just happened, and no one was able to explain. No one else, apparently, even has red handles.

Well, thanks to ELL, the mystery is now solved! One of the Hungarians lives in the building next to me and explained that only the top floor has red handles next to the radiators. Yeah, when we turned the handle, we cut off the heat to all the apartments underneath! Oops! We asked them to please apologize to everyone for us :)

Speaking of Heather, check out her blog and see some more pictures. Her link is to the right!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!

or, as they say over here, boldog születésnapot! (but it doesn't have the same ring, does it? Try singing it. I dare you!)

So Mom, I know you'll be pleased to know how I spent your birthday -- cleaning and organizing! yes, that's right -- despite my notoriety for the state of my desk and/or bedroom, I actually finally got everything moved into my classroom. Shelves, books, bulletin board, the works. It actually feels like a classroom now! I knew you'd be proud.

I'll call you later tonight... love you!

Monday, November 06, 2006

at the cukraszda

I love that my Bible group meets at the cukraszda! It's nice when you can mix the Lord with life's little pleasures, like the cakes, ice cream, and coffee offered within walking distance (although I'm not too thrilled about the strand of blue Christmas lights they just put up outside. yikes.) Anyway, those girls are really cool. It's exciting to me that high school girls are that dedicated to seeking the Lord -- and not in a weird or self-righteous kind of way.

Speaking of Christmas, I'm about ready for some Christmas tunes. I know, some of you are thinking It's way too early for Christmas music! What is she thinking? Well, in my family, it's ALWAYS time for Christmas music! and especially so now that it feels like winter. Really, what happened to fall? sigh. Time goes by far too quickly -- in fact, next week I'll have been here for 3 months!

and now for the bad news....the three month mark signals the end of my tourist visa, and I found out this weekend that my visa application didn't come through. I'm not sure yet if it was denied or just had some problems with paperwork, but I do know that only two people had theirs approved. Thank God I have that extra passport! I guess that means I'll just have to take a little trip....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I just want to play on my drums all day....

Well, not really...but I definitely don't want to work!

So it snowed most of the day Saturday, which I took as a sign to stay indoors with heated beverages and warm socks while I graded papers and watched movies! But all of the snow was gone this morning; I was a little sad. I vastly prefer snow to the drizzly cold rain we have now...

I suppose I should go read Faerie Queene, since I assigned it to my seniors this weekend. Is it wrong that it even puts ME to sleep? sigh....

Friday, November 03, 2006

first of the year!

It's snowing!!!!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

all saints' day

Hungarians, sadly, don't celebrate Halloween (I really missed seeing all the kids in their costumes!) They do, however, have All Saints' Day, so we had a day off yesterday! It was pretty nice to sleep late and hang out with the other teachers. At night, some of us walked down to the cemetery, which sounds pretty morbid but was really fascinating. To honor the dead, families go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with fresh flowers and candles that burn throughout the night. I was surprised at how peaceful it was, since generally I don't walk through cemeteries at night for pleasure! Although I can't say I agree with some of the religious rationale for lighting all the candles, I was touched to see their emphasis on family. Some of the headstones I saw were for people born in the 1800s, and still the vast majority of the graves were lit up and decorated with flowers. It was beautiful, and worth the cold walk.

Speaking of, it is ridiculously cold outside for the beginning of November. Perhaps it's just the gale force winds that are blowing down the street -- although Emily tells me there's a chance of snow in the forecast for this weekend. Some of the student teachers spent yesterday at the thermal spas in Budapest. I'm thinking hot springs are starting to sound really tempting...