Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Today for class I decided to do something a little different, so I pulled up 20 different Halloween poems from the internet and assigned some found poetry. Found poetry is basically when you create a poem based on what's already there; students can rearrange or combine lines from other poems to create a unique poem. I like it because they don't actually have to write, but they have to think and interact with the words. And surprisingly, they do. Even my most poetry-phobic boys were focused on this for the entire period, and by the end of the day, students came in asking me if they were going to do "that really cool assignment 3rd and 4th period did." And right now I'm typing this after school, listening to two students who stayed after the bell to finish their poem.

I love days like this.

especially when they're followed by a long weekend! Woohoo for Hungarian All Saints Day tomorrow!

I'll try to update after the amazing Halloween party, when all the secrets can be openly shared... :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

how I know for sure I've acclimated to Hungary

There's this custom here in Hungary where the sanitation department sets a date, and all the people haul out their big trash and dump it on the side of the road. Apparently this is like Christmas, and for a couple days, people eagerly scavenge through other people's trash. And we're not talking yard sale zeal here -- oh no. I've witnessed the Saturday fever of hard core yard sale fans. This is on an entirely different level. People stake out trash piles and sit there ALL DAY until someone can come with a huge trailer and haul away the good stuff. Good, I should point out, is a relative term, since items I've noticed this week include broken patio furniture, plastic birdbaths, dismantled televisions, and old toilet tanks. and everyday trash -- unbagged. lots of it. It's like dumpster diving times 12, minus the dumpster.

Last year, I openly mocked this aspect of Hungarian culture.

This year, I took part.

I'm so ashamed.

But in my defense, I did not stake out a pile, I did not load up a trailer full of trash, and the items we stole are all for our Halloween party (as soon as we drench them in sanitizer)!

By the way, let me add that your ideas were pretty outstanding. Allyson, your candy corn cookies tip is sheer genius, and I wish I had some food coloring to try it out! Nothing quite tops Billy's Barry Manilow scariness, however.

Anyway, we're working hard on the party -- should be loads o' fun!

Friday, October 26, 2007

party plans

Lisa, Heather, and I are hosting an amazing Halloween party at our place next week. And for once I'm not just exaggerating -- it should really be amazing! Sadly, in the interest of secrecy and the element of surprise, we cannot yet share the awesomeness of our ideas...

But we're not content with mere greatness. We are determined to throw the

So if you have any brilliant ideas, email me or comment below. I'm counting on you! (Kathy? Mise? don't let me down!)


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

how living abroad has (somewhat) ruined travel for me

So Prague is beautiful. I mean, it's really incredible. Lots of Old World charm and romance. and I was strangely unmoved.

I couldn't figure out why, so in talking with Heather and Austin, we came to the conclusion that it's not as exciting now to travel to places as a tourist as it is to live in a place and really experience it. So I was incredibly grateful to come back to Budapest! although because it was a Hungarian holiday, we heard Hungarian literally everywhere we went in Prague -- we even got to practice a little! It was great fun to speak English in front of a group of Hungarian tourists, and then casually throw in an "oh, excuse me!" in Hungarian as you walked by! They were so confused.... :) Austin and I made a habit of trying to translate people's conversations as they walked by; we did surprisingly well!

Anyway, aside from the fact that actually living someplace is a lot cooler than being one of the crowd touring it, Prague was a lot of fun. Highlights included the picturesque Charles Bridge, a beautiful Gothic cathedral, and the famous astronomical clock. Crowds gather there every hour to watch the display -- although while we were there the crowds had to disperse because of the hail! Yes, hail. Did I mention that the weather has changed drastically in the last few days? It's like we went from the beginning of fall straight into winter. We even saw some snow on the road. And so it begins. sigh.... anyway, I was incredibly grateful to be able to go. Lisa's friend graciously allowed us to stay for free, and the five of us were able to split the rental car and cost of gas for much cheaper than a train ticket, so we toured Prague as cheaply as possible. It was a great time!

Sadly, my camera batteries have basically no charge left in them, so I'm relying on Heather for pictures. As soon as I can steal them from her, I'll post some!

Until then, here's a picture I stole from the internet. It had about 300 more people on it while I was there, but it gives you a good idea!

Friday, October 19, 2007

taking a break

The worst thing about the end of a grading period is catching up on all the paperwork. So I'm rewarding myself after the latest stack of essays by posting again -- and possibly getting a peanut butter kit kat from the senior store... :)

We had ELL again last night; I love those people. They brought us all food! Last week one of the guys, Gabor, told us a favorite food of his is Bird's Milk, a sweet soup-like dessert with meringue in a vanilla sauce (also called Floating Islands). This week, he brought enough for all of us to have a bowl! and boy, was it good...

Lisa, Heather, Austin, and I leave tomorrow for Prague! We have a free place to stay there, since Lisa is so well connected :) So check back soon for pictures!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I love our landlords.

You may remember my earlier post about the economy and my budget woes. Well, Wachovia hasn't exactly bent over backwards to help -- but our landlords have! I am so grateful for them. The exchange rate is still hovering near all-time lows, so they cut the cost of our rent for this month. They are so kind; it inspires me to learn more Hungarian so I can properly thank them!
But I can thank you -- thank you for continuing to pray for me to be a good steward of my money, and thank you for all of the support that you give!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why I love working at ICSB

There are many reasons -- but here's a key one: the administration.

If you know me at all, you know how I hate lesson plans. I hate creating objectives, categorizing assessments, blah blah blah.... Well, we're in the process of a review, and all that boring curriculum stuff is necessary. I despise it.

However, in our meeting, the principal saved me from utter despair by making this promise: he will sub a half day of classes for each teacher so we can work on our unit plans uninterrupted in a conference room. He even had a calendar so we could sign up on the spot.

This is pretty miraculous. The worst thing about teaching is lack of time to get everything done, so to have the gift of time -- well, it's one of the most encouraging things, professionally, I can imagine.

So I'm in a pretty good mood today -- and only two days until our amazing long weekend! :)

some of you will understand...

You can read this to attempt to find some theological meaning of great significance -- or merely enjoy the Duke-bashing that ensues. I wonder if the local bookstore carries this book.... :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

the teacher's lament

ok, you can stop with the k foods! (by the way, does anyone remember a middle school book where the girl ate alphabet burgers, with toppings going in order for the entire year? I loved that idea...)

My fellow teachers, you will understand this: today I'm teaching my little heart out regarding Morte d'Arthur and the monomythic hero. I'm asking good questions and getting good replies. I feel like a "real" teacher (whatever that means).

And then reality hits. I ask a simple question during a Jeopardy-style review. We had just discussed the answer. They had taken notes on it. And the girl couldn't remember it to save her life.

sigh. Such is a life in education.

oh well. The kids here are phenomenal, and I can't really complain -- but it wouldn't kill them to pay attention to my stellar teaching! :)

Friday, October 12, 2007


Last night Heather and I were working with our new batch of ELL students, and the topic was food. We learned the difference between how much and how many; we rehearsed complimenting one another on amazing, albeit imaginary, meals; we discussed foods we love and foods we loathe. All was going well. However, it's hard to talk about food with a limited vocabulary for an hour and a half. I had the brilliant idea, stolen from one of my Hungarian classes this summer, of playing the alphabet game with English food words. They did surprisingly well, and we didn't hit a snag until K -- which was my letter. There I was, the teacher of the class, the originator of the game, and I couldn't think of a food word that started with a K to save my life. and neither could Heather! It was a humbling experience, to say the least :)

(although I did redeem myself slightly -and embarrass myself greatly- when I yelled out, "Oh! Ketchup!" as the class was leaving) :)

So feel free to mock me and leave comments with all the ridiculously easy K foods I couldn't think of on my own....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm so smart...

I just received my certificate from the language school this summer -- I officially passed my exam as a 2nd level beginner with high honors! :)

Sadly, that is basically meaningless, as I still cannot create a grammatically correct sentence for 98% of the situations in which I find myself on a regular basis...

So last night I tackled a big mental block for me -- I drove stickshift in Budapest. Driving out in our little town isn't quite as scary, but Budapest is a different story. Granted, it was after midnight, so traffic wasn't exactly at peak levels, and I did nearly stall out once or twice, but hey, I actually did it. Hopefully I'm building up a bit more confidence!

Today my seniors are out at the Roman Ruins on a field trip, so this is a nice, restful day for me... but tonight is going to be busy! I have ELL followed by worship practice, so it's going to be a late night. I can't wait to sleep late this weekend.

Monday, October 08, 2007

I'm back!

Ah, high school retreat... a time for 100 or so high school students to run amuck in the forests of Hungary. Surprisingly, this wasn't a bad thing! We have such great kids. The seniors pretty much do all the planning, so the role of the teachers is basically to count heads, pray, and hope that no one dies on the tire swing.

Highlights included the food -- ok, I'm kidding about that one. but it was a slight improvement over last year's spaghetti with ketchup! yuck. The real highlight was getting to talk to the kids so much. You get to know students in a totally different when you share a dorm with them! And I got to have really good conversations with a lot of them. One in particular stands out, because it was from around midnight until almost 2 in the freezing cold outside our dorm while I shivered in my pjs. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it. It was with a student who is an atheist but has tons of really good questions, so I enjoyed getting to talk with her and share my perspective. Another highlight was the bonfire. Students are encouraged to share on our last night, and it was encouraging to hear so many of them talk about how they love the school and the teachers. Let's be honest -- it isn't often that students share with you how much they love class. You're far more likely to hear, "Do we have to do work today?" :) So it's nice to hear that they actually do appreciate what we do! And it's refreshing to hear that they genuinely like our school. I love working here.

So today was back to reality! We're almost done with the first quarter -- I have no idea how that happened so quickly...

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Getting ready to leave for our HS retreat.... back Saturday night, so expect an update sometime Sunday!

Monday, October 01, 2007

weekend fun (and a little stress)

I love weekends, and this one was especially good! On Friday Heather and I met up with a new friend of ours, Aaron, in the city. He introduced us to some of his friends and some really cool places in the city. It's kind of mind-blowing to realize you're in an open air restaurant in Budapest talking to people from Canada, Germany, and Lithuania. Very cool.
Saturday we cooked for Austin's birthday, and I have to say Heather and I did a pretty good job. Plus, we introduced Minkee to macaroni and cheese!
Yesterday we tried another fun place, a park just down the road from us. Apparently Beethoven used a house there for a summer home or something. Anyway, it was gorgeous. And it became highly entertaining when the frisbee and football came out. It's so strange how we take certain things for granted. For instance, I don't know a single man in America who doesn't know how to throw a football at least passably well. That clearly is not the case in Hungary! Austin started throwing around with some Hungarian guys near us, and it was obvious they had no clue how to do it. :) One of them spoke a little English, so we got the chance to explain why we're in Hungary while we taught them how to hold a football! It was a fun way to spend a gorgeous day.

So this has been stressing me out a bit, and I know that you guys are faithful in prayer. You may know that the dollar recently hit an all time low. I'm working to stay on top on my budget and spend my money wisely, but it is frustrating. As an example, the amount of money I pay for rent each month is 60,000 forint. Today, that equals $341. A year ago, that would have been less than $300. Obviously, this is really affecting my budget. I also recently discovered that the rules for overseas ATM use have changed, and I now pay additional service fees on everything I withdraw. I used my card last week for $90 and paid $12 extra in fees. I'm really frustrated with that, and I hope to call my bank this week and see if anything can be arranged. Please pray for mercy from Wachovia, or a new bank to switch to! :) Most importantly, please pray that all my financial needs will be met, that people will be faithful to their pledges, and that I will be a wise steward of what has been given to me.

Thanks, guys. I appreciate your prayers.