Thursday, May 31, 2007

your summer reading assignment

Bridge at Andau, by James Michener.

This book has been passed around the teachers since I first got here, but I just read it in the last week or so. I was fascinated by it. History buffs -- you need to read it. Michener wrote it during the failed 1956 revolution against the Russians; he was living near the bridge over which many Hungarians escaped into Austria. His interviews led to this work, written the following year.

I've been to Budapest a few times since I finished reading it, and it is so fascinating to know the history of the places I'm seeing. For instance, Ulloi ut. isn't just the street with the pottery place; now I know that it's where Hungarian workers (and children) risked their lives with makeshift weapons to blow up Russian tanks. If you're planning to come to Budapest (mom and dad!), read it before you come. It'll make you appreciate Hungary in an entirely different way.

In other recent events, Heather and I hosted dinner for a bunch of teachers last night, which was fun, and Abby introduced me to a chocolate bar... all different varieties of hot chocolate, fondue, and gourmet chocolates. I love living in a big city!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


our new house! and car!

Don't laugh at the car -- I really am excited about it! or at least I will be when I finally can drive a stick...

I'm truly excited about the house, though. I wish I could get inside again to take pictures to compare with our apartment -- which could probably fit inside half of one floor. We'll have huge bedrooms! and a table! and adequate cabinet space! and multiple showers!!!!!

hallelujah indeed.

although it will be truly sad to leave behind this view.
yes, that is a construction worker across the street. in his Speedos.

the joys of living in Hungary.

Friday, May 25, 2007


It's ridiculously hot.

and I say this as a bona fide Southern girl who has dealt with her share of heat and humidity. For instance, I have vivid memories of days back in elementary school where we had to resort to wetting those brown school paper towels and sticking them to our foreheads to cool off during class. I am no stranger to heat. However, back in those days, school was released if it got too hot. Then came the blessed day when all of our classes were finally air-conditioned...
Not so here in Hungary. In the classroom and at home, all we can do is open the windows and doors, turn on the fans, and shower twice a day (maybe that's why there's a water shortage in the summer!).

Last night we finally couldn't stand it anymore, so Heather and I decided to go to Campona -- the mall, that wonderful, wonderful air-conditoned haven -- and see Pirates of the Caribbean III. We were so excited. We got our seats (seats are assigned here when you buy your tickets, like at a play), and tried to translate the Hungarian previews. Sadly, once the movie started, we realized we had forgotten a crucial point. We failed to ensure that the movie was subtitled. Heather and I together figured out maybe 5 words before we decided we couldn't handle it and tried to sneak out without people realizing we were stupid Americans who don't speak the language.

Fortunately the people at the ticket desk were very kind. Not only did they refund our money, but they also pointed out the one mall where the movie is shown in English! so I think we'll try again this weekend....

Update on housing stuff: the car we wanted to buy seems a little too pricey, so we're looking at other options -- but we're running out of time! Heather and Lisa B only have a couple weeks before they go home, and I do not want to make these decisions on my own! So please pray that we can find a decent, cheap car or a house nearby.

Well, it's time for the Senior Farewell Picnic. Their exams are done now, so we send them off with a picnic lunch. It's rumored that their celebration includes a lot of water balloons. Today, I just might be grateful...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


So this is my senior class, on our final day.

I'm truly sad. I love these kids!

Monday, May 21, 2007

taking a break...

...from the endless array of grading, exam writing, and lesson planning. Oh, the end of the year -- sometimes I think it's the end of my sanity.

However, there are quite a few positive things going on!
* yearbooks just arrived! Yay! They look great.
* This weekend was a fun celebration of my birthday. The opera house was beautiful! We were, however, shocked to learn that The Marriage of Figaro is actually four hours long. I enjoyed it, but only stayed two hours -- because culture has nowhere near the importance of food. :) Speaking of, I had not one, but two cakes! Mom sent all the ingredients for a good old-fashioned Eastern NC pig-pickin' cake, and Emily made me a personalized Carolina blue cake!
* Heather, Lisa B, and I think we may have found a house! It's perfect and we all fell in love with it. It's kind of far away from the school, though, so we have to buy a car. We're looking at one now! We hope to have everything settled by the end of the week, so please pray that we'll make the right decisions.

And that's the end of my break... back to work!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

birthday fun

Thanks for your cards and emails! and Mom -- I got my package! You are so wonderful. What a brilliant idea. I have to say, my birthday was pretty great. I think God is making up for all those years in college when my birthday fell during exam week... that was miserable. Anyway, yesterday was both my birthday and Family Field Day! The whole school had the day off to go up to the quarry and play. It was a lot of fun. The student body, elementary through high school, was divided up into teams to compete, and it was really cool to see everyone together. Plus it was nice to have the entire school plus several families sing Happy Birthday to me! After the games, we had a picnic and a water fight. Needless to say, I was absolutely drenched by the time we left. Those sneaky seniors got me with a trashcan full of water.
So basically my birthday was a free day with no school and a lot of fun. and Heather and I went shopping! For my birthday, some of the teachers are going to see "The Marriage of Figaro" at the opera house this Friday, so I got a new dress. Should be fun.
Have a good day...

Monday, May 14, 2007

emergency health care in Hungary

You know how parents say those obnoxious things like, "Don't run around the pool! You'll get hurt!"

Turns out they were right.

Yesterday at the Kliewers a trampoline/water fight escalated into Austin throwing Heather into the pool. In her haste to retaliate, she ran out of the pool, slipped, and tried to brace herself against the wall -- just in time to slice her hand open on a large metal plate. Not pleasant.

Fortunately, we have a nurse living nearby who is fluent in Hungarian (and 8 other languages! She's amazing). She took us on a tour of our local healthcare options.

First stop: the nearby town of Erd to the clinic. No English anywhere. No way we could possibly have found it without Beth. No way they could help us. They directed us to a hospital in Budapest, which we found out was the only emergency room open in all of Budapest that night. A city of two million. One emergency room. We braced ourselves for a long night!

At the second place, the emergency room was not, as one might think, at the sign labeled Trauma Care. Nope, you had to drive around for several minutes until you found the orthopedic center. Because that makes perfect sense.

Anyway, we got in and out relatively quickly, and Heather didn't need stitches after all, although she's all wrapped up and her hand is pretty much useless. :) And despite the communication issues, and substandard medical practices we witnessed everywhere, we were surprised to find one benefit of Hungarian health care: the whole thing was free. everything, including the tetanus shot. We slipped the doctor a tip of about $15. nice. We've learned that there is an American health clinic -- but the charges are also American, and would have cost a couple hundred dollars. Fascinating.

I'm afraid I'll have to experience a bit of Hungarian health care myself, as my allergies are killing me today. I can actually see the pollen moving everytime the wind blows -- and with no air conditioning and temperatures around 85 degrees, we have to have the windows open. I'm dying. It's lunchtime, and just today I've already used several tissues and an entire roll of toilet paper.

Yeah, Field Day outside on Wednesday is going to be loads of fun.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I love you, Mom!

Happy Mother's Day! I'll call you later...

So this weekend, broken into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good:
A group of students from Covenant College is here visiting for a few weeks and observing classes. Austin and I took the group on a sightseeing tour of Budapest this weekend, and I have to say we did a fabulous job. We hit all the major spots and never got lost in what I consider a trial run for the route I'll take all of you on when you come! :) I also was proud of my Hungarian -- I totally had a woman at the market convinced that I spoke the language I understood enough to translate, and it looked like I actually knew what I was doing. I love when that happens...

The Bad:
So after a long day of sightseeing, we hit the Red Rose for a little karaoke, Hungarian style. Now I love doing that, and we had a blast, particularly when the Hungarian and American contingents joined forces for a medley of Beatles songs. However, I've decided that some Hungarian songs should never be sung again. My language skills aren't good enough to translate completely, but there was one song about a schoolbag that was utterly ridiculous and never-ending. Another song about the allure of Africa was just obnoxious and (I think) pretty racy, yet it also included a long list of African animals. strange. And then there was the beloved children's classic, Puff the Magic Dragon -- in Hungarian. They sang the chorus so many times that I pretty much know it as well in Hungarian as I do in English.

The Ugly:
after all the exhausting activities of Saturday, we decided just to sleep in for a while and have what has become known as Austin Church. Basically, we sleep late and then meet in his classroom for breakfast. He leads worship with his guitar and we sometimes listen to sermons online. (I love when we do this -- it's certainly not the ugly part!)
All that to say that I got a late start today. Around 10 I got up and got in the shower. Just as I was about to use the shampoo, I suddenly realized there was no more water coming out. That's because there was no water in my apartment. at all. nor is there any next door. When Lisa B tried, in German, to talk to some neighbors about what had happened, their cryptic comment was, "It's summer."
Um.... so is this is a normal thing? and how long can we expect to be waterless?
Thank God we have showers in the locker room here at school. Two hours later I was finally clean and we could commence with church.

So my goal for the day was to wash clothes, but it doesn't look like that will happen...nor will our dishes get washed. hmmmm... maybe I should take a nap!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


so right now Marton, the Hungarian I tutor, is taking his English language exam.

And Cassia, Danielle, Erik, and Caleb are taking their AP English exam.

People don't realize how stressed the teachers are over these things. We take these so personally -- in a strange way, these are our grades too!

May is a crazy month in general. For instance, in the next two weeks, we have Senior Project speeches, Family Field Day for the whole school, Senior Skip Day, Senior Send-off Picnic, Awards Night, School Dedication Day (we finally got full approval to use the entire building! no more chapel in the cafeteria!), Staff End of the Year Dinner, Fine Arts Festival, School Rummage Sale, my birthday, goodbye parties for teachers leaving, and a group of college kids observing our classes. Somewhere in the midst of that I have to write exams, teach classes, finish grades, figure out where I'm going to live for the summer and next year, and try not to go insane.

I am so ready for summer.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Weekend Wrap-Up

Here's this weekend:
*added links to my friends Tommie Anne and Brian, both of whom have blogs about their missions experiences in Asia. Check them out in the Links section to the right.
*Natalie Kliewer's 6th birthday party. Cute, cute, cute. She had a tea party for her friends, so Heather and I helped Beth get the food ready and served the girls. Austin and Steve concocted a teacup pinata out of some old cardboard boxes that was surprisingly good. The girls had a good time, and it was hilarious to watch.
*Lisa A, Parker, Heather, and I watched the latest Lost episode. I'm so confused. and that's why I love this show.
*Found out that Pandora is now blocked in Hungary. I am highly upset about this. Stupid international copyright laws.
*West Side Story was good. Some of my students are amazing actors. They put a lot of time into that, and literally half of the high school students were involved. Crazy. I realized the movie and the musical are rather different -- the songs are in a different order, and the musical has this strange dream sequence in which the dead and the living all dance around. The Hungarians were stymied by the weird accents, though. Couldn't understand much, sadly. But hey, they came. and I know Heather has quite a following on my blog, since she's too busy to update her own :) --so for all you fans of Heather, she did a great job on the trumpet.

and speaking of Heather, we're getting ready to watch Arrested Development -- my principal is starting to bug me about borrowing Season Three! -- so I should probably head out. Sziasztok, which is Hungarian for "bye, y'all!"

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hooray for weekends...

...especially since I'm sick. again.

I'm also behind on school work, which I should be doing now, but I'm obviously not. That's because I'd much rather tell you about my proud accomplishment of yesterday: I semi-spoke Hungarian for more than ten minutes.

You would think that after living here for almost 9 months, that wouldn't be such a huge deal. oh, but it was. I baby-sat for Natalie Kliewer yesterday since I don't have class after 1 on Thursdays, so we went to the cukraszda for some fahej (cinnamon) ice cream, my favorite! I don't even miss American ice cream anymore; it's so good here. and then we went to the little play area near my apartment. There was one bored little Hungarian girl there, so Natalie and I started to talk to her. She spoke no English, but we could communicate! Natalie was pretty great at gesturing, and I remembered enough Hungarian to talk to her pretty well. I could figure out the basic introduction stuff like names and ages and where we lived. But far more impressive, I was also able to play I Spy in Hungarian! I was so proud of myself. definitely want to take classes over the summer now.

It was a good day overall. Later at the Kliewers, they had Heather, Austin, and me over for dinner -- from their grill! -- and a movie. Good times. What a great family.

This weekend will be crazy, though. The high school is performing West Side Story, which should be pretty good. I've got four of my Hungarian ELL class coming to see it with me Saturday night -- and to hear Heather playing in the orchestra!

ok, I should suppose I should get ready for my class today, huh? I really don't like A Tale of Two Cities...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I'm famous!

So in first period today we're happily reading Cyrano -- when in walks my principal and a camera crew. They recorded part of my class for a Hungarian tv show about education!
That's right.... I am an international superstar!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy May Day!

Long weekends are so great.

Grading research papers -- not so much. but sleeping in -- well, it almost makes up for it.

It really was a good weekend. I spent some time at the Kliewer house, which is always nice, and Steve Kliewer, Austin, and I led worship at Danube, an English-speaking church in Budapest. It was so much fun; I forget sometimes how much I enjoy worship. And speaking of worship, my dear friend Sarah was kind enough to give me her husband's new cd while I was home. I love it; I've pretty much played it non-stop all weekend. He's incredibly talented and plays instruments I've never even heard of. Listen online: Stephen Roach, Closer to the Burning.

ok, time to finish these papers. Students have no idea, but teachers hate grading papers about as much as the students hate writing them.... the things we do for education!