Friday, December 29, 2006

I'm back in London!!!!!

and boy is it good to be back! I love it here (although I would love it more if Nik, Stace, and Al were here with me again -- it isn't the same without you guys!). We made it here with no problems, although poor Heather had to wear the same clothes for four days. I have very little kind to say about British Airways right now!
Amsterdam was great, if a little cold and dreary. I definitely want to go back during the tulip season sometime. It was a fascinating place, particularly the architecture, the bikes, and the, ahem, lifestyle. It's a different kind of place, that's for sure.
I think my favorite part was my hostel experience. We stayed at a special hostel run by people who volunteer or raise support to work there as a ministry to tourists, and they were fantastic. Plus, the other guests there were a lot of fun. We met some French girls that we really liked, and basically had a great time just playing games and getting to know other people from around the world. Cool.
Anyway, we made it to London today and plan to enjoy seeing the sights until New Year's! I can't wait to celebrate here -- it's kind of like going to Times Square, except Big Ben chimes instead of the apple falling, and there are fireworks next to the London Eye. It's going to be exciting!
Have an excellent day...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Here are some photo highlights from our sleepover last night and the Kliewer's dinner today....

Surprisingly, I wasn't as sad as I expected to be....which is a good thing! A special thank you to all who sent cards, packages, emails, etc.

I'm off in a few hours for my trip! I actually have to leave the country right now, since I'm techincally illegal right now with the whole visa thing. What a great excuse! Plus I have the added bonus of my money from teaching at SE last year, which conveniently pays for almost the whole trip (seriously, can you guys do something about the economy over there? The dollar slipping is killing me!)

I'll be in Amsterdam for a few days and then in London for the new year -- watch for me when the new year comes in with fireworks at the River Thames!

Much love to you all.

Friday, December 22, 2006


So today Heather and I decided to truly enjoy our day out of school. First we hit St. Istvan's Basilica, which is probably the most beautiful church I've seen in all of Europe. Plus we happened to visit while a girls' choir was practicing for their Christmas concert. It almost made me cry, it was so beautiful.
And then we went to one of Budapest's famous thermal baths. Boy, was that an experience! Somehow, I was not prepared for the color and smell of mineral water, nor for the prevalence of speedos on elderly Hungarian men... It was actually kind of fun, though -- and we got massages! But we had no clue what we were doing, and I'm pretty sure people were laughing at us all afternoon. I'm certain they laughed when we thought we were moving from a hot bath into a hotter one -- but it was freezing, and we both screamed and ran out. Everyone in the pool thought that was hilarious. It was definitely a learning experience.
Later we walked around the city and watched the iceskaters at Hero Square, which was a lot of fun, although probably stupid with our wet we decided to warm up at the coffeeshop company! It's one of our favorite places, because as far as we know, it's the only place where you can get bagels, coffee to-go, and Oreo milkshakes. [sidenote: Why is it that you can't find to-go cups in this country? Surprisingly, however, I've decided I've become a little European, in that I no longer really want ice in my drinks. Who would've thought?]
Yep, I love me some pamperin'.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

good day sunshine!

That's one of my favorite Beatles songs, by the way, but it's never meant quite as much to me as it does now that the sun appears maybe once a week :) This morning we could see blue skies, and it energized Heather and me enough that we actually spoke rather than just getting ready like zombies.

so to add to the festive feeling, I'm done with my exams! And I didn't have to proctor any state exams -- because there are none! Here's another huge difference: at our staff meeting, the director stood up and said something about how the alumni were going to be in town for the holidays and would want to come see the new building. I was all prepared to hear about how we didn't want them on campus distracting kids during exams, but he said, "Let's do our best to make them feel welcome; this is their school, too!" What a contrast. and what a joy to be in a place that can be small and community-based!

time to celebrate --can't believe we're already halfway through the year!

Monday, December 18, 2006


two more packages today! Thanks to Susan and small group.... I love y'all.

Cross-cultural holiday fun

If I had to rank my weekends since coming to Hungary, this weekend would certainly have placed near the top. There's a lot to cover, so here are the highlights:
  • Friday night Christmas concert at the school. The music program is surprisingly good here, and it was cool to be able to see my students on stage.
  • Saturday at the Kliewer's. The family invited us over to watch holiday movies, so I got my "Miracle on 34th Street" fix. It was nice to be around little kids!
  • Sunday Agape Celebration. Heather, Lisa, Austin, and I went to a community gathering to hear our Jr and Sr Ensemble perform for some of the people of Diosd. Basically a lot of the senior citizens from the village were there -- with sütemény! I know, I know -- I said no more sugar. But it would have been rude to turn down the little old ladies! I declared Sunday a cheat day... They kept coming to our table with different kinds of desserts and pastries until we had quite a collection. Then they served us goulash, which was really good. I actually started to tear up a little bit, because my students sang Christmas carols beautifully, the community was so kind to us, and it was seriously like some scene out of a movie. or the Hungarian version of Mayberry.
  • Sunday afternoon Heather and I went to hang out with the women from our ELL class. They were so sweet. Both of them had little gifts for us, and they had made... more sütemény! 'Tis the season to gain weight, apparently. We pulled out the dictionaries and the atlas [can you believe that my hometown of Rocky Mount was actually on the map of the United States?] and were able to communicate pretty well, albeit with a lot of laughter over our mistakes.

and since I didn't have any work to do for exams this week, we celebrated last night with DVDs! I love exam week---until I have to grade them...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is it Christmas break yet?

What is it about the upcoming holidays that makes students a little more off-the-wall and over-the-top? Or is it simply that I've run out of patience? Either way, Christmas break can't come soon enough... we're currently in that dreaded realm known as "Exam Review" --where nobody actually reviews anything except the current social status of everyone in the class.

Oh well. I'm really not as whiny as I sound, I promise! I think it's because I've decided to cut out sugar for a while. Yes -- no more cookies, cakes, cokes, chocolate, or candy bars....until Christmas Eve. We'll see how long I can hold out :)

I do believe I won the unofficial posta competition with a total of 4 items in the mail yesterday, including a book from my mission and a brand new Bible from Nik (I was tired of lugging the huge one around on public transportation!) . However, the highlights by far were a handwritten card from Granny, a picture of Stacey and Lee, and a picture of Luke and Meagan Walker, who are perhaps the world's most adorable children. Anyway, thanks guys... you have no idea how much mail can do to lift your spirit on a foggy day!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

my halls are decked...

This is what the depressing fog looks like in the morning. This is AFTER sunrise, by the way. Did I mention that the sun is now down by 3:30? in the afternoon!

That makes Christmas cheer all the more important.... this, my friends, is decorating on a budget!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sufjan Stevens - Put the Lights on the Tree

ok, so not everyone will like Sufjan or the song. but the 80s-ish animation makes me happy!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

skippin' the opera...

So I made the responsible choice in not going to the opera tonight. I realize this. but it certainly isn't fun doing schoolwork when I could be enjoying Madame Butterfly at the beautiful opera house in Budapest... :)

I'd just like to share how incredible my family is... after a long day at work when my kids were a little off-the-wall and I wanted to throw the computer against the wall, I got to open part of my Christmas package from home! My brilliant relatives had included remembrances of Christmas past, including my personal favorite, a Christmas children's book with my name still scribbled in it from approximately 1983. I'm so glad my handwriting has improved, while I've lost my tendency to scribble all over the pages (or was that your handiwork, Kathy?). Anyway, my stuffed Frosty and various other Christmas decorations are now making our apartment merry -- along with a tiny Charlie Brown-like tree from Tesco! Now all we need is a little snow...

I love Christmas. I don't exactly love being away from friends and family, remember to write letters, send emails, or leave comments! Much love to you all...

Friday, December 08, 2006

"You'll shoot your csiraszem out!"

You'll be pleased to learn that I have now successfully introduced my Hungarian language class to the phenomenom that is The Christmas Story! I showed clips of it last night for our final class, and naturally they laughed heartily at the bunny pjs and the Santa slide. We also showed parts of It's a Wonderful Life. Yep -- I'm fulfilling my mission: bringing Jesus, Ralphie, and George Bailey to the Hungarian people! :)

The other American novelty last night was chocolate chip cookies. It boggles the mind to think that they have never heard of them here, although to be fair they weren't exactly the same, since chocolate chips don't exist in Hungary. Heather and I chopped up dark, milk, and white chocolate bars, so we dubbed them Triple Chocolate Chunk cookies. I think they liked them, since one of them told us they were 'very fine.' I'm going to miss that class!

back to exams...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


ok, so those of you in NC may have already seen this story, but it's so funny I had to share!

chestnuts roasting on an open fire...

I've always wondered what they tasted like...and now I know! They were being sold at the market last night - and yes, it was in fact an open fire :) They are pretty yummy, I have to say, although I think I prefer the giant kolbasz sausage I got instead...

Anyway, the Christmas market is one of those things that makes me love Budapest. Seriously. It was so beautiful with everything lit up, and everyone was incredibly friendly. Everyone I bought something from spoke English and was sincerely pleasant, which is something you don't often find. One of them found out I was from NC, so he said, "Oh, my sister went to school there. Are you familiar with Chapel Hill?" Why yes, I am! :)

Sadly, I do not have a picture of my favorite moment; it required a little too much dexterity to put down the chestnuts and mulled wine in time to grab my camera! but it involved this cute little Hungarian boy in a Santa hat. He found the nativity scene next to the giant Christmas tree, and they've attached a little bell at the top. He grabbed the cord and started ringing the bell with all his might! It was adorable.

although perhaps not as adorable for the vendors next to it who have to listen to the bell all day!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

getting in the Christmas spirit...

so I realized I never shared my Christmas plans! Heather and I are hosting a sleepover on Christmas Eve for everybody staying in Diosd (Lisas A and B and Emily) where we'll drink cider, watch movies, and eat chocolate. Then we've been invited to the Kliewer house for Christmas Day... and on the 26th, Lisa A, Heather and I fly to Amsterdam! We're staying for a few days to visit the museums, Anne Frank house, Corrie ten Boom house, etc. --and then we catch a flight to London for the New Year's celebration! It's where they have the equivalent of Times Square, so we'll watch fireworks at the River Thames by Big Ben and the Millenium Eye, followed by the parade in the morning. I'm so excited that it almost makes up for not being with my family! :) I figure this is the closest I can get to going home, since they do speak English there, and I get to visit the old haunts from my study abroad experience!

We've also been listening to Christmas music at the apt. and in class -- thank you Karen for sending me the cds! and of course the awesome replacement slap bracelet...

Tonight should also be fun -- I'm going back to the Christmas Market tonight -- this time with Erzsebet! Check out the official page to see how cool it is:

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It's amazing how much I can get done simply by procrastinating doing my schoolwork. Today I watched a movie, saw several episodes of Arrested Development, cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom, put away four loads of laundry, and mopped all the floors. This is in addition to cooking, going to church, and studying my Hungarian book. and yet, have I done any of the work I need to do for tomorrow? Nope.

Karen, the lead teacher, graciously offered to take some of us to Tesco the other day. I always take advantage of people's cars and buy all the heavy stuff I might need and don't want to carry on public. The flaw in this plan is that I still have to carry it up the stairs! So Saturday night while I carry my giant bags of detergent, cleaning fluid, and frozen family packs of chicken into my apartment complex, this guy comes along and kindly holds the door for me. As I'm going up the stairs, he asks if he can help. Being Ms. I-Can-Do-It-Myself, I just said, "I'm fine, thanks," and lugged it all up to the top, where I opened the door and collapsed into the apartment. Then I started beating myself up, because a) I am too freaking independent to accept help when I actually need it, and b) I was so focused on proving that I could do it myself, that I didn't even realize HE WAS SPEAKING ENGLISH. Yes, the guy who lives below me can actually have a conversation with me, and I completely missed that opportunity. stupid, stupid, stupid...

ok, this was my last item of procrastination. time for some serious Shakespeare planning!

Friday, December 01, 2006

December already????

Here are some pics from Thanksgiving courtesy of Heather (I never remember to charge my batteries!) The first is Austin flanked by his 'harem' after the meal, and the second is from the dinner itself in the Kliewer's awesome house.

so last night I got a special treat -- one of my students invited me over to watch Carolina whip up on Ohio State! I was downright giddy to be able to see my boys in blue again, even if it was a day late. This kid has a satellite sports package, and so I'll be able to see important games, like the oh-so-crucial Dookie matches, later on in the season. Sure, we'll have to watch until like 4 in the morning -- but you know, some things are just worth it!

Carolina won, I'm eating homemade Christmas cookies from one of my ELL students, and all is right with the world... have a great weekend!