Thursday, August 30, 2007

gloomy day

Well, the heat has finally broken in Budapest, and our students aren't drowning in sweat. Sadly, it's because of the rain and fog. It's really not so bad, but I have rather vivid memories of last year when the fog lasted for weeks. not a fun time, really! So I wasn't exactly thrilled to see it back again.
It is rather fitting, though. I've been a little down the last couple of days. My grandfather is currently in the hospital, and it reminds me of how hard it is to be far away from family. I love being at ICSB. I love Hungary. I know I'm supposed to be here. But that doesn't always make it easy.

This is why I was so thrilled to check my various inboxes this morning. I had a surprisingly high number of messages waiting for me today. Some were from old friends, some were from former students, but all of them made me feel loved. So if you wrote me, I haven't had a chance to respond yet (busily grading essays!), but know how encouraged I was by your words (or pictures! Thanks Karen). As cheesy as it sounds, it was a little bit of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm so proud.

I drove a stick today.
by myself.
and didn't die.

(although I did stall out a couple times!) :)

a few pics

Minkee is quite the photographer. Here are some of the pictures I've stolen from him!

Austin attempts the Turo-Rudi obstacle course at the Sziget festival. Sadly, we don't have pictures of him being kicked out for trying to scale the wall...

We bond with other festival goers over langos and gyros.

I wonder if Minkee is trying to make some kind of statement with this first picture.... these were taken while we waited for the fireworks.

and these were worth the wait!

Monday, August 27, 2007

settling in

Hopefully soon I'll stop spending tons of money at Tesco and Ikea, but for now I'm still in the "Hey, we really need..." phase. It's kind of fun now that we have a place of our own to decorate. Heather spent a couple hours happily decoupaging last night, and everything's starting to look like a home.
We also are starting to settle into Budafok. Friday we had a roommate night and went to a neighborhood establishment known as the Wild West Saloon. As soon as we saw the sign we knew we had to go and see the Hungarian version of Americana! It was a fun place, complete with saddles for barstools. The girl spoke no English, but she actually called someone who did to come down and translate for us. As it turned out, he used to attend ICSB! He and his friends tried to correct our apparently horrendous pronunciation. Even though that was kind of frustrating (ok, really frustrating!), it was nice to have complete strangers so willing to interact and help us. Even the owner of the place came by and asked us when we would return! So as much as I loved Diosd, I'm happy to be in another place. We're breaking free of the American bubble that sometimes hovers over ICSB, and I'm pretty proud of that. :)

Friday, August 24, 2007

So it wasn't the safest thing I've ever done...

but it was still pretty cool!

Last night Heather and I took her friends up to Gellert Hill, the highest point in Budapest, with huge statues and lots of tall metal objects.

during a storm.

We got a little wet, and our lives were probably in danger -- but the lightning show we saw across the Danube at night was pretty spectacular!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

ria! ria! Hungaria!

I'm exhausted. I got very little sleep. It's the second day of school.

and it was still worth it to see Hungary pull off a huge upset over the World Cup Champions last night! I know nothing about soccer, and it was still exciting. Plus, I learned that the wave is universal :)

and now back to reality: planning. sigh.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

first day of school!

It was surprisingly smooth, although my AP textbooks still have not made it through shipping :(

but I really enjoyed seeing the students again. Some of them gave me hugs, some of them wrote me little notes or pictures -- it was a great way to be welcomed back!

It's been quite a week. St. Istvan's Day was great, despite raining again. but we stayed dry this time! and Heather finally made it here! yay! so did three of her friends, so we're definitely starting to practice our hospitality. The six of us plus Austin and Min Kee are going to a soccer match tonight -- Italy vs. Hungary. should be a fun way to celebrate the beginning of a very promising year!

pics coming soon....

Friday, August 17, 2007

getting prepared

I'm diligently trying to get ready for the new school year -- moving to a new classroom, putting up bulletin boards, etc. I just ran across a stack of evaluations I had my sophomores fill out at the end of the year, and they included this gem:
I actually enjoyed being in this class, cuz perhaps we do a lot of boring crap, but we also have lots of fun. And your teaching "skills" are pretty sweet.
ah, that's what it's all about, my friends-- having fun in spite of all the boring crap. I'm trying to decide if this kid did or did not pay attention when we discussed incorrect quotation marks...

I feel inspired and ready to start a new year! :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


So here is the video in which Min Kee (at the beginning), Austin, and I are caught watching the old Hungarian guy rap. Fortunately, most of the music we heard was actually pretty good -- but this was just plain funny. And yes, this is my second time on Hungarian television! :)

sziget fesztival!

The largest music festival in Europe is going on right now on an island just north of Budapest. Austin, his new roommate Min Kee, and I decided that it would be a travesty not to explore this cultural experience! So after work yesterday we drove up to check it out. This was probably not the wisest decision, since we got in after two and had to work this morning, but it was totally worth it. People from all over Europe come to what is basically a Hungarian Woodstock. It was so much fun -- live music, interesting entertainment, tons of people-watching... definitely a highlight of my European experience. The three of us even had a close-up on the live feed for Hungarian television!
only a few more days until school starts....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

things I didn't know a year ago...

Yes, today marks the one year anniversary of the day I first stepped on Hungarian soil! Here is just a sampling of the many things I've learned while here:
  1. how to sing "God of Wonders" and various other praise songs in Hungarian
  2. how to say the F word and other choice phrases in Hungarian! (not that I use them...) :)
  3. how to navigate public transportation to, from, and around Budapest
  4. how to charm your way into a reduced (or free!) ticket on the Volanbusz (ok, so this is hit or miss. but it sometimes happens!)
  5. that I actually like soft drinks with no ice. Who knew?
  6. that Hungarian waiters will take forever to appear -- but stand directly over you while you figure out the check they refuse to split.
  7. that I will never again take dishwashers and dryers for granted.
  8. that I wouldn't really miss TV -- except for basketball and Lost, which I can download!
  9. that salami is apparently one of the basic food groups, and chocolate goes pretty well with something resembling ricotta cheese (see the Hungarians' favorite candy bar, the Turo Rudi)
  10. and yet it is nearly impossible to find a decent steak. or ranch dressing. or brown sugar. or vanilla extract.
  11. that the metric system really is way more logical
  12. how to cook almost everything from scratch -- although often with unusual variations. for instance, my lasanga last night used the exact same cheese found in the Turo Rudi candy bar! (it was actually pretty good, in case you were wondering)
  13. that people eat fatback outside of the South. They love it here! Sadly, biscuits, however, are the one thing I have been utterly unable to recreate here :(
  14. that I can survive the holidays away from my family -- but I don't recommend it.
  15. that I would meet absolutely amazing people, thoroughly enjoy myself, and grow tremendously as a person. Seriously, this has been an incredible year.
On to Year Two! WooHoo!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

a few more...

This is the living room; the giant thing in the corner is a heating device for the winter. You can't see from this picture, but there is a little bench built in around it so you can lean up against it while you read your novel -- I mean, grade essays... When I took this picture, I was standing at the other end, with more chairs, beside the doors to a terrace. Sadly, that picture didn't take very well because of the light. Maybe later!
The kitchen -- notice that even after unloading our various pots, mugs, quesadilla makers, and imported foods from the States, there are still empty shelves! This is somewhat miraculous after our tiny kitchen last year.
And we also have a brand new dishwasher (yes!) and an electric stove. Using Heidi's gas stove earlier this summer made me incredibly grateful not to have one here.
The dining room. The door opens up to the terrace, which they plan to tile in the next week or so.

Since the basement is currently Laundry Central, no pics of that! but we have another bathroom down there (four total!) along with a storage room and a garage. The attic looks pretty much like every attic you've ever seen, just relatively empty right now. and Heather and Lisa's rooms aren't finished yet! Lisa arrives Saturday morning and Heather is still working on raising her support.

life is good. I had Emily come over last night for the first official Grand Tour. She also just moved into a house here, so we really enjoyed comparing our current abodes to those from last year. I loved that little place, but man, am I glad to be in this one!
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

a few pics

Yeah, this house is amazing. I can't even describe how much I love it!

So I was going to wait until the whole house was clean and ready to go, and then give you a virtual tour. Alas, I move far too slowly for that. This is my room and bathroom -- the only rooms I have more or less ready. More to come soon!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Psalm 68:6

tells us that God sets the lonely in families. Boy, does He.

I was really worried, quite honestly, when I got the invitation to spend a few days with this family. That's a long time to spend with people you don't know! Plus I was really sad about missing my own family at the lake this week. But wow. This was an incredible vacation.

First of all, the Balaton and Kerr Lake experiences aren't all that different. Sure, there were no ridiculously long UNO tournaments -- but I taught them how to play Spades! And no, there was no putt-putt course, but there was a boardwalk with airhockey! And while I did see an old man strip completely naked right next to me, the level of trauma caused by Barry's shorts falling down as he was skiing was pretty similar. :)

Really, though, the highlight of the trip was the family. I knew Peter from the ELL class, but I had never met the others -- his son, sister, and parents. The house where I stayed (for free!) belonged to Papi and Mami. They were such sweet people. They fed me so much that I didn't eat any of the snack stuff I had stashed in case I didn't like the food! Papi is in his 70s, but he is trying to learn English, so we practiced quite a bit. My favorite Papi-ism was when I left and he said very proudly, "You are good guest. Come you Balaton, have you room!" Mami was equally sweet. She spoke no English at all, but she reminded me so much of Grandmama it was almost eerie. Sadly, she is beginning to suffer from Alzheimer's, and the whole family is really struggling with it. She is in denial and gets very upset when they tell her something she has forgotten. It was heartwrenching to talk to them about her and see them all with tears in their eyes.

And yet they are so strong in their faith. They all truly love the Lord and trust Him in spite of their difficult circumstances. I found myself very encouraged by them.

They also really immersed me in their culture in exchange for my help with their English. They wanted to teach me all about their foods and customs and history -- which of course I love. I felt as if I really experienced Hungary, and not as a tourist. It was a great experience, and if I couldn't have been at the lake with my own family, this was by far the best possible alternative.

I'm so independent -- it is really difficult for me to accept things from others. I often feel as if I'm taking advantage of other people's kindness. However, I'm beginning to see that there's no shame in accepting hospitality. This summer has been humbling for me in many ways. I've lived in three different places purely through the generosity of others. And yet I have met so many people and have had such great experiences! It has truly been a blessing.

and I'm almost ready for another blessing -- because I move into my house today!
It's a good day.