Tuesday, December 28, 2010

X-mas in three sentences... or less

Trying something new... rather than rambling for hours and leaving out so many things I'd like to say, today's post is a number of short thoughts - as the title suggests, three sentences or less. Obviously, there is more to each story, just let me know if you're interested. Look, even this introduction is only three sentences! :)

Break
I'm so thankful to have a break from work for almost two weeks. It is especially nice since my schedule is changing yet again come January. I'll be teaching my regular two days at school, one day at the Pomaz kindy, one day at Daisy - the other foundation kindy, and one day at school writing three music curricula.

Hungarian Christmas
This year marked my first "Hungarian" Christmas. The other times I've been here, Christmas was always celebrated with my family so it was decidedly American, even though we were living in Hungary. My friend, Edit, and her family invited me to their house for Christmas Eve/Day so I was able to experience an actual Hungarian Christmas.

Christ and Family
Christmas is very family and Christ centered here. I was completely welcomed into Edit's family for the time I was there, from dozens of puszik (greeting kisses on each cheek) to even getting a present from what the Angel (not Santa Claus) put under the tree. Between the Christmas Eve Pastoral Play, reading the Nativity story by the tree, and Midnight Mass, approximately 2.5 hours (at least) were spent focusing on the real reason for Christmas and only 20minutes (tops) was spent on presents - quite a shift from the traditional American Christmas.

Presents
Compared to what I'm used to, presents were a meager affair - but not in a negative sense; from my observations, the socks, candy, books, and other small items were just as (if not more) appreciated than the massive piles of stuff common in the States. I received a beautiful, Hungarian pottery candlestick holder and two candles. The Angel (parents) brings the presents so there is no "need" to buy extravagant presents for your family.

Fish
Christmas Eve is still considered part of the Advent fast (even though it takes place after the reading of the Nativity story and presents), so the meal is traditionally fish. We had salmon which worried me a little because I hadn't tried it since I was a kid and had hated it then. I needn't have worried - it was delicious: much less frightening than fish soup could have been as it often includes "delicacies" like fish brains.

Feast
Dinner on Christmas Day is a huge family affair - we had 13 people, after a couple of last minute cancellations, including Edit, her parents, her sister and brother, her boyfriend, an aunt and uncle, a cousin and her boyfriend, grandma, great-grandma, and me. Between what Edit's family had made and the things her aunt brought, there were at least five types of meat, rice, potatoes, a couple of salads, cake, begli (nut/poppy seed dessert rolls), and various wines and liquors. Everything I tried was wonderful.

Small World
Edit's aunt, uncle, and cousin used to live in Columbus, OH. Even stranger, Goci, Edit's boyfriend, attended Szent Imre Gimnazium, where I went to school the first time we were in Hungary. In fact, we were both in 7th grade that year and he said I seemed familiar, although we must have been in different classes.

Family
I had to leave before Christmas dinner was over so I could hurry home for a skype date with my family to open presents. It was really nice to "see" them, even with the usual squabbling and such. In a way, it was hard though; it's easier to forget how much I miss them when I don't have such a tangible reminder of how far away I am.

I'll Be Home for Christmas: 2010 Ex-pat version
I'll be home for Christmas
You can wave at me.
Please share snow, I've got none, though
You'll see my tiny tree.

Christmas Day will find us
Ocean in between.
I'll be home for Christmas
But only on this screen.
(OK, that's four sentences, I guess)

English Mass
I've often thought that Fr. Lajos, the main priest for our Saturday English Mass community, could be very good friends with FSH from Seton Hill. Sadly, Christmas Mass proved that once again with a homily that included gems such as "I feel bad for anyone who believes Christ was born in a manger," "We need to discover the humanity of Christ so we can discover our own divinity," and "God doesn't put us in situations we don't like," along with an ad-libbed Consecration. Only God knows if it was even a valid Mass.

Friends
After Mass was our regular tea gathering, this week including an impromptu carol-sing. Then I went to South Budapest with some family friends for a rousing game of Monopoly, pizza, and rebroadcasts of Christmas services from Britain.

"Choir"
Sunday Mass was trying to say the least. The problem with the "choir" seems to be getting larger every week. If I hadn't already decided to leave, Sunday would have helped make that decision.

Tenor Gorgeousness
One of the highlights of my break has been the Attila Dolhai Christmas Concert on Sunday afternoon. Of the many things that struck me, the strongest was "it's really fun to watch a performance when the performer is having fun" - something I need to remember more when I sing. The music selection ranged from Christmas songs (both Hungarian and English) to pieces from various musicals - a Sing-along version of "Zene az vagyok en" (I am the music) from Mozart! was fun but Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar was unreal - and then the second half was "original" songs. (OK, this paragraph is going to be longer... sorry ... haha) I can honestly say that I have sung with Attila Dolhai (well, along with the other 100's of people who were at the concert but I'll leave that part out). After a couple of encore pieces, the 2.5 hour concert finally ended with a simple, quiet arrangement of Csendes Ej (Silent Night) - too beautiful for words.

Well, that's all for today. I'd love to hear from you if you're reading this... what you like, what you don't like, thoughts, anything really (no rotten tomatoes though please... I only like fresh ones). Merry Fourth Day of Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Say what?!

The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

This verse appears not once but twice in the readings for Mass today. In the first reading from Isaiah, Ahaz doesn't want to ask the Lord for a sign. God gets frustrated and tells Ahaz, through Isaiah he will give him this sign. I wonder how long Ahaz rolled around on the floor laughing. I wonder how shocked he was when he looked down (or up... guess we can't know for sure) and saw that it actually happened. Ahaz probably thought this was just some ridiculous joke that God, or Isaiah, was playing on him. Seriously?! Doesn't God know the definition of "virgin"? Pretty sure that's inconsistent with the concept of being pregnant. But centuries later, that's exactly what happened.

Then there was Mary. I can't speak for anyone else, but if an angel appeared and told ME that I was going to have a baby... I would seriously consider checking myself into an institution. The conversation would probably go something like this:

Angel: Hi Rose, you're going to have a baby.
Me: HAHAHAH... that's funny.
Angel: No, seriously, you're going to have a baby.
Me: Umm... I'm pretty sure you're talking to the wrong girl.
Angel: (checks note from God) Rose, 23, American, living in Budapest, Hungary?
Me: Yess....
Angel: Yep, that's you. Congratulations. By the way, He's going to be God's Son.
Me: With all due respect, Mr. Angel Sir, you've got the wrong person. Even though you don't have a physical body, you've got to be aware of what it takes to be pregnant, right?
Angel: Don't worry about it - this is God's Son.
Me: What am I gonna tell my parents/friends?! 'Rose is pregnant?!?!' They'll never believe this story. And I don't even have a boyfriend I can "blame" it on.
Angel: OK, OK, enough already. Will you do it or not? I don't have all day, God needs an answer.
Me: (sarcastic) Well, apparently, I won't "do it" (sincere) but... since this is either real and from God or just a really random dream and it won't happen, I guess, sure, why not. (thinks) Wow, I must have eaten something really strange.

couple of weeks later
Me: Wait... that was real? Oh dear... this will be a problem. Hey, God, you're gonna get me through this, right?
God: Umm... of course. I wouldn't have put you in this situation if I didn't have a plan.
Me: Phew, well that's a relief.

But, if Mary said anything like that it hasn't been recorded. I wonder if she had heard the story of Ahaz - a bedtime story maybe - and remembered it. Of course, I'm also not sinless. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Finally, in today's Gospel reading from the first chapter of Matthew, Joseph gets pulled into the secret. Can you imagine? Your fiance shows up and tells you she's pregnant and that God is the father. That can't have made him feel very good. None of the options look promising. Probably, she is just trying to protect some other guy from town by not naming the father. But then, Mary's never seemed to be that kind of girl. And she does seem really sincere. On the other hand, if this is really God's doing, how am I supposed to compete with Him? It's no wonder he had decided to divorce Mary quietly. He didn't want to deal with this mess but he also didn't want Mary hurt. Enter Angel in dream. Joseph probably knew the story of Ahaz as well. That didn't make it any less awkward when it actually happened... involving him. But still, he trusted. He took Mary into his home, he cared for her and later Jesus, provided for them, protected them -- how strange to be the protector of God. His dreams and goals had to be given up in favor of this larger plan. He probably wanted children of his own. An extended trip to Egypt wasn't likely on his to-do list. The questions after his kid got lost in Jerusalem. And if anything went wrong, with two sinless people in the family, it was automatically his fault. I'm sure it couldn't have been easy as he looked at his friends with all their children surrounding them, seeing them with their wives, wondering what would have happened if one of them had been engaged to Mary when this happened. Yet, through all of it, he trusted. What an example.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Seeing people

Lately, I've been seeing people around that look like friends (or acquaintances) from the States. Waiting for the metro, in church, walking down the street, etc. They tend to be random people who I wouldn't be thinking of if not reminded by someone. I wonder if that means something. Usually, it's also people who would NOT be in Budapest (not that I would expect to see any one from back home randomly here). Just odd.

Along with seeing people that look like other people, I've experienced personalities that vividly remind me of friends from back home. One instance really got me thinking. I was talking to a coworker while waiting for and then riding the bus home from a Christmas party. I was struck, not for the first time, by how similar his personality is to someone who used to be a very close friend. Time is a funny thing. I couldn't help but wonder... how much of our relationships with people are solely dependent on when you meet them? In this instance, I'll never know for certain, but I would venture a guess that had I not met this particular high school friend until after high school, we would still be close. Of course, my high school experience would have been vastly different. In the end it's neither here nor there - water under the bridge. Just an interesting thought.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Things I think about

I've been meaning to write about a couple of Bible verses that have come up in the last few weeks.. different things that have struck me, been interesting, etc. When I have time, I often read various blogs by other people. I'm always kind of jealous of the people who have blogs devoted mostly to faith and Catholic life. I wish I could organize my thoughts as well as some of these bloggers do -- and that there weren't other things to write about.

Over a week ago, one of the daily Gospels ended with Jesus' fairly common admonition not to tell anyone what had happened. It was after a healing - can't remember which one off the top of my head. Why does He say that? Wouldn't He want as many people to know about who He was? Wouldn't miracles be a good way to prove that? OR ... was He using reverse psychology? Expecting that if He said not to tell people, the healed would be even more exuberant in telling their tale? Or, perhaps it was part of the whole "blessed are they who have not seen but have believed" but even so, we have the stories in the Bible today but we still "haven't seen" Christ as a man. Who knows :)

Last week in Bible study, we were talking about preparation for Christmas, repentance, and John the Baptist. One of the verses brought up John saying that he was unworthy to unfasten the strap of Jesus' shoe. That got me thinking. Buckling, tying, fastening, etc. shoes for another person is both humbling and an oddly intimate gesture. I've had two very different jobs that have both involved fastening shoes for others. As a kindergarten teacher, some of the kids can not fasten their own shoes or we help them when we are in a hurry. It's not a glamorous task. Working in technical theatre as a dresser, I've fastened my fair share of shoes for other people. Either because it's a quick change, they can't reach/bend to get them themselves because of the rest of the costume, the shoes are tight, the performer is a diva - the possibilities are endless. It's strange to think about the fact that I am actually tying the shoes of a grown man or woman in a service position. In some ways, it can be like doing laundry after a show - in a strange way, it's intimate to do a guy's laundry for him -- even when it is absolutely nothing more than a job. Connecting all of these thoughts really colored the way that I think of John the Baptist. As intimidated as I could be if I were dressing even the most famous opera singer, that can't even begin to compare to how it would feel to serve the King of the universe. It's no wonder that John didn't feel worthy - how could anyone?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A week in the life...

People are always asking how I am or what's going on in my life. My standard answers are "fine" or "not too much." Which is true, if you are living my life. However, I realized that, except for a few friends here, most everyone reading has no idea what "not too much" or "normal" is for me right now. And so... here is... "normal"

Monday
My week starts early with the alarm going off at 5:30am. After hitting snooze a bunch of times (absolutely essential in my life), getting dressed, etc., I typically have a little time to check email/facebook. If you see me online around midnight/12:30am EST that's what's going on... feel free to chat but know that I won't have lots of time. Waiting until the last possible moment (usually around 6:40), I head out to catch the bus. Usually I stop at CBA, the little grocery store on the way to the bus stop, to get a pastry but that depends on how much time I have. After getting to the Ferenciek tere bus stop (not more than 5min walk), I wait for one of the 5 or so buses that I can take one stop to Astoria. At that point, I head down to the metro, digging my bus pass out of my pocket/wallet to show the controllers at the top of the escalator. Although I've never timed it, the ride down to the metro has to be a good 2 min or so at least. The escalators down to Metro2 are the longest I have ever seen.. anywhere. The metro comes every 2-3 minutes at this hour so even if I've just missed one it's not a long wait. It only takes a few minutes to go the three stops to Batthyany ter - on the Buda side. Then it's back up the escalator and across the underground square to catch the suburban/commuter train. My usual train goes at 7:03 but the one at 7:12 is fine if I miss the first. Sometimes, Lexy, one of the other kindy teachers, and I ride together but it depends which train we are taking. The train travels pretty much due north, out of the city towards a little tourist town called Szentendre. My stop, in town of Pomaz, is near the end of the route so it takes about 40 minutes to get there. With the exception of having to get up so early, I really don't mind the commute. It gives me a chance to wake up, provides built-in time for the Rosary each day, time for breakfast, and lets me have some recreational reading time. When the train gets to Pomaz, I hop off, turn around, and walk back the way the train came, right next to the tracks. Treasure Kindergarten is just around the corner and my day with the kids is about to begin.

The English teachers don't technically start work until 8, but there isn't a lounge/staff room, so I usually end up in my group room before then. This gives me a chance to talk to Agi or Sara, my Hungarian co-teachers, before we start doing too much. The kids can come as early as 7 but most of the ones in my group, the Sunny Seeds, come between 8:30 and 9. Just before breakfast, around 9, we sit down with the kids and talk about what day it is, what the weather is like, general everyday information. Breakfast is usually bread with margarine (enough for three pieces on each slice... I scrape most of it off) or jam, sometimes they have eggs or even hot dogs. Working at the kindy is nice because I get to eat with the kids. Thankfully, I'm not a picky eater because some of the things they eat wouldn't be considered "normal" by American standards. The kids have a little more "free play" time after breakfast before we have a structured activity. This can be learning a song/verse, doing a craft project, going to the gym, it just depends on the day. Although the children are encouraged to participate, they aren't required to. After activity time we go through the long process of changing to go outside. In an attempt to keep kindy's clean, children change clothes when they are inside. This means to go outside, they need to change back into their "outside" clothes. At the bare minimum they have to change shoes but usually pants as well and add sweaters, coats, etc. Finally, we go outside. The yard in the back of the kindy has one "big" climbing set (a pretty boring one in my opinion... a ramp, a bouncing bridge, wobbly suspended stairs... that's literally it), a tiny climbing set (two sides together making a triangle. One side has bars and the other a rope climb... it's about 3 feet tall), a couple of sand pits, a grass hedge, a grass mini hill to climb, and a fair amount of space to run around in. There are some toys for the sand but many of them have broken since the kindy opened in September. Around noon, we reverse the changing process to get back into inside clothes before lunch. I'll have to write another blog at some point about the food... there are some very interesting meals sometimes. There is always a soup and then a second course. Surprisingly, the children (even the 2 year olds in the group I used to be with) use full sized cups, bowls, spoons, and, except for the baby group, forks. Lunch ends and they march off to the bathroom to brush teeth before nap time. I read a story and then say goodnight to the kids before leaving for my break.

Of the aspects of working at a kindy, the afternoon break is one of my favorites. All day, the English and Hungarian teachers work side-by-side leading activities, meals, changing, everything - in two languages. That's not required for nap time though. Once they are in their beds and I've read a story, I'm free until they get up (~1-3pm). This is a nice time to take a break, read a book, take a nap, walk to the bank, Chinese clothes shop, or post office (that's basically all there is in town), or - depending on what lunch was like - get a langos (fried dough) from the trailer across the train tracks from the kindy.

All too soon, the kids are up and we are back to work. In the afternoon, we often combine into one group because it is more free play-time rather than planned activities. This means there are three teachers (two English and one Hungarian) with all the kids minus a few who might have gone home at nap time. The afternoon is challenging because we have 2 year-olds straight through 6 1/2 year-olds and it's nearly impossible to keep them all happy. Mostly the kids have free play time and we just work to prevent fights and start games, etc. The kids get picked up throughout the afternoon. They can stay as late as 6 but the English teachers are finished at 5. Usually there are no more than a handful of kids at that point. Then it's back to Budapest.

On Monday's I usually go to Mass in Buda (interestingly enough at the church next to my old gymnazium from the first time we were in Hungary) and then find dinner on the way to the library. I've started going to a discussion group called "The Truth Project" at the Budapest Christian Library. I love the library because it has a good bit of Christian fiction, which I like, as well as classics and "normal" fiction. I'm so thankful I don't have to buy books just to have something English to read. The Truth Project is interesting so far. For various reasons I've only made it to one meeting but I know most of the people from Bible Study. It's an interesting mix, mostly non-denominational, young adults, American, Hungarian, Palestinian, anyone who speaks English and wants to come. Once that ends, it's back home so I can get to bed not much later than 10.

My Thursday and Friday schedules are basically the same... On Friday's we take the kids to the swimming pool in Szentendre which takes all morning. Rather than going to the library I go back home and then to Mass at the Franciscan church near my apartment. It's really awesome, they have brief Exposition every evening at 6:15 and then Mass at 6:30. I get home just after 6 so it works perfectly.

That's all for today.. I'll have to write about my days at school another time.... but there you have it: some of what "normal" or "nothing unusual" actually means. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Selfishness

There are times when I think everyone has to be a little selfish. Not in an "I don't care about anyone but myself" way but more like "if I don't take care of myself there is no way I can help anyone else." This is why the intention for the first decade of my daily Rosary is for my day, what ever struggles there will be (more often than not... just that I will "get through"), anything special happening, etc. If I don't put my life into God's hands first, how can I offer prayers for anything/anyone else? I know that my classes will suffer if I am cranky from not getting enough sleep. So, I have to be selfish when it comes to spending time with people in the evenings.

Sometimes, it's not easy to tell. There is a situation at one of the English Masses that I'm really struggling with. I've rejoined the choir after singing there five years ago. The "choir" sings every week, they meet an hour (or whenever people show up) before Mass to learn the hymns, of the 6-8 people, two have some musical training (more than being able to read music), two can read music somewhat, and the rest have to learn everything by ear. It's a motley crew to say the least. We just found out that the music director's husband got transferred back to the States. She is leaving before Christmas. That leaves a huge hole in the group. There is no official church leadership, no one who would look for a new director, and no money to pay a new director. If I don't take the position, there won't likely be anyone.

Seems pretty obvious, right? I'm here, have musical training, and therefore am the logical choice to take over. Only, the week before K. announced she was leaving, I had decided that I wanted to explore the possibility of singing with the choir at St. Matyas church. That is a semi-professional group that sings for Sunday Latin Mass at the Coronation Church up at the Buda Castle. Now, I'm stuck. I don't want to be in the new director. Frankly, there is some drama amongst the choir members (people who have absolutely no right trying to exclude others) that I don't want to deal with. Additionally, the accompanist can only be there a couple of weeks a month which means I would be stuck playing (or leading Mass unaccompanied) the rest of the time. My piano skills are poor to say the least and even what I can do isn't appreciated by the choir. When I had to play a few weeks ago, they got on my case because *gasp* I played wrong notes. HELLO! I'm HUMAN. And not a pianist. And I hadn't had access to a piano for four months.

I'm so torn. I feel like I have an obligation to take the position but, at the same time, I would so much rather be singing Schubert's Mass in G at St. Matyas than struggling to teach people to sing some banal OCP ditty by ear. I really wish the two English Masses were blended. It would be on Saturday evenings, either church.. that part doesn't matter, the music from Saturday, the priest from Sunday. Oh well, not going to happen so why dream.

Thoughts? Suggestions? How selfish is too selfish?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mozart!

Some things are worth waiting for. Tonight's performance of Mozart! would be one of them. I had been wanting to see Dolhai Attila perform since discovering Romeo es Julia four years ago. While, I haven't seen that yet, I finally got to see him as the title role in tonight's musical.

Assorted thoughts:

-- Sets were amazing... so many different scenes, so elaborate. Moving platforms, raising, falling, hanging, circling staircases and floor patterns.
-- Costumes (with an exception -- I'll mention later) were great. More "traditional period" than in Romeo es Julia but not completely traditional.
-- The performers were all good -- particularly liked Baroness, Nannerl, and Leopold (besides Mozart - of course!).
-- The Porcelain Child ... wow. Silent acting plus acrobatics -- really made the story. (The story is told with Mozart as an adult but this child is often with him as a symbol of his child prodigy self)
-- Attila... well, there really isn't much I can say. Some voices can't be done justice on video or audio recordings. With all due respect to the many great tenors I know, I finally saw my favorite perform tonight. All I know is if he was really Mozart, I would fight Josie M., to the death, to win him :) Well.. if he wasn't already married with three little girls, that is.
-- Music - I've heard it before but live is so much better. It's a mixture of classical (Mozart and Mozartean sounding), musical, and rock opera.
-- Staging - all around good. Seamless scene shifts, nice chorus numbers - without seeming contrived, moments between Mozart and the Porcelain Child were particularly good. Mozart's reaction to his father's final rejection was, in my opinion, the most powerful scene. Although the lyrics are asking why his father never loved him for who he was rather than just as a performing monkey, I was reminded of St. Francis by the idea of even giving back his clothes to his father.

Some things I might change...
-- Recast Constanze... clearly, I should be playing opposite Attila (haha... a girl can dream, right?)
-- One distracting costume piece - I realize that as this is a musical, the mikes are necessary. However... if you know the lead is going to mostly strip on stage, wouldn't it make sense to at least make the mike pack flesh colored? That way it would be less absurd than a big white band stretching around his chest. I'd be happy to fix this for them. It might require a couple of fittings to make sure it's perfect though ;-)
-- Super-titles were helpful but weren't synchronized very well.

All in all it was wonderful and I'm sure I'll be seeing many more shows at the Operetta Szinhaz. It was so nice to have something take my mind of the bitterness and defeat that are threatening to take over. Only God could have know what type of week I would have before this and prompt me to make sure I bought a ticket when I did. Between the misery that has been school, the new disaster that the kindy has become, and getting sick, I really, really needed this escape.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

GMH

Of the various websites which have sprouted up to leave comments about your day or life (FML, MLIA, LGMH) my favorite is GMH - Gives Me Hope. The stories there are short, one line, maybe a paragraph, about things that make the writer believe in the goodness of God, people, life around them. It's a great website to visit if you're feeling down or anytime really. I've often thought of things that I could post... although I never submit them. Here are a few:

A two-and-a-half year old boy helping his little girlfriend (two years old) climb to the top of the "mountain" in the kindergarten yard.

An elderly gentleman who grips the side of the pew to slowly and carefully genuflect when he enters the church.

The BKV officer that lets me through when I'm running down the stairs toward the metro rather than stopping to ask for my pass.

The four-year-old who might be a terror most of the day but will proudly count to 20 and tell you the colors of everything... in English.

A group of middle school students walking into my music class singing the song they were assigned to learn.

A city parish that not only is thriving enough to have 5 daily Masses but also has a Gregorian Chant Choir which sings at one of them every week.

The elementary kid who stops running in the hall when reminded by a teacher... even if it will happen again at the next break.

Bullet holes on buildings left to remind people of the horrors of war and why they should not be repeated.

The improbability of having a job I enjoy in a city I love.

Little everyday victories that prove my Hungarian is improving.

My friends who listen to me complain and worry and then offer support and understanding ... from thousands of miles away.

Perspective on how much worse things can always be.

AND...

My sister who randomly showed up in Budapest for the day yesterday... an ~8 hour trip - one way - to see me :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Confusion

Sometimes I wonder where I'm going... and if it's the right direction. Before getting this job offer in the spring, I had no idea what I was going to do. I was rejected from every graduate program I applied for. I wasn't sure how much a part of my life I wanted music to be. I knew I couldn't stay in Greensburg or move back to Steubenville but didn't know where I should go. All types of ideas were floating around in my brain, some more considered than others. Going back to school somewhere else and getting my masters (or a second bachelors) in theology or history was an idea that just didn't fly. Dealing with college freshman again wasn't something I wanted to do nor was paying a ridiculous amount of money for a degree which would be hardly more useful than the Sacred Music and Voice Performance ones I was finishing. I contemplated moving to another city and getting a "crap" job at McDonalds or Walmart while I explored the musical opportunities there. The problem with that option was needing a job before I moved somewhere and not being able to apply to those places long distance. After requesting information and considering, I had two very positive phone interviews with an admissions counselor at a cooking school in Illinois. Their baking and pastry diploma only takes a year and would give me a realistic and reliable career while still incorporating some creativity. In the end, it didn't matter because I got this job teaching in Budapest.

In general, I'm very happy where I am. My job is steady, full time, salaried, in a city I love, and somewhat related to the field I studied. In that regard, I am so much luckier than many (if not most) of my friends. Teaching is getting easier. My co-workers/co-teachers are generally awesome. The kindergarten should be settling down again after a major upheaval. (In a nutshell... one of the other teachers threw a massive fit, insisted she "couldn't work with her co-teacher," and rather than being told to shape up, six of us had our jobs rearranged. The saddest part for me is the fact that my old class now has one girl with her mom as a teacher, one girl with her grandma - the one who threw the fit - as a teacher, and six precious toddlers with no one. I'm not suggesting that the other children will be completely ignored but it's in no way a healthy situation.) I'm readjusting to life in Budapest. My Hungarian is getting better. Today, I even participated in a survey on Guru - a Turo-Rudi offshoot - in Auchan (similar to Walmart). Next Friday, I'll be seeing my first show in Budapest since getting back - Mozart! - at the operetta theater.

What's the problem, then? Sometimes I still don't know if I'm in the right place. I miss singing. It has been a full six months since I sang anything more extensive than Mass or music with the kids. Teaching the older kindergarten kids is something I feel completely unprepared for. Before the mess, I was with the baby group which was great because I had worked with that age group before. Now, with the kids preparing for school, I'm lost. The upper elementary kids are a handful - to put it VERY nicely - as well. It's hard to teach with one of the year 7s lying on the desk and doing everything he can to distract everyone. I'm pretty sure that year 7 doesn't like me after the singing test on Tuesday. Of the four students that I tested (in Hungary, not every student does every test/assignment... it's strange) there was one F, one D, and two C's. Being this far away from my friends and family is hard - especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas getting closer. Fighting the "if only"s can be really difficult some days.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bible Study

On Wednesday's I go to an international English Bible study at the Budapest Christian Library. The pastor that regularly leads it has been out of town the past few weeks so various people have been filling in. Today the pastor from the International Baptist Church of Budapest was there. I'm very very glad he was just a substitute. Rather than the typical discussion (lead by the pastor) it was a lecture... and then at the end he asked if we had comments. Riiight... because I'm going to comment after you "told us how it is" -- at least according to your interpretation of the Bible. One lady commented about some things in Revelations being examples rather than exact things because they were the words of John rather than the words of Jesus. The pastor didn't like that at all. "All of the Bible is the word of Jesus" he said.


I had to restrain myself. Somehow, I don't think Mr. I'm-a-Baptist-so-I-take-the-Bible-literally would have liked my asking his views on John 6! Especially since these are the words of Jesus... not "just" the words Jesus inspired John to write in Revelations.


John 6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

John 6:51-58
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things I wish I'd written ... and EXCITING ticket purchase

From "Redemption" by Karen Kingsbury (pgs108-111)
"Even if they were the only two in the room, he would have let her talk and then simply taken her hand. It was what he'd always done even back when they were kids. As if he didn't need her to fill in the missing places of a conversation because he already knew what they were.

They had been that close.

Long before she loved him and imagined that he loved her, Ryan had been her friend -- maybe the best friend she ever had.

...

They were two old friends whose grown-up lives had taken them in different directions.

...

Without saying a word, he came to her and wrapped his arms tenderly around her, pulling her into a hug that erased the years in a single instant. A combination of feelings consumed Kari's heart. She realized she was at once grateful for his friendship and brokenhearted at the distance time had placed between them. Here in his presence she suddenly felt the loss of him more deeply

...

She felt as if her heart had fallen from her chest, the same way she had felt on the roller coaster at the county fair last spring. The way she felt the first time she kissed Ry-- (OK, Karen, the roller coaster reference is a bit much!)

...

the way his presence had stirred a memory within her of a boy she'd once dreamed was her knight in shining armor. A boy she thought for sure she would marry.

Thoughts she'd long since assumed were dead."
Hmm... I was half afraid I would look at the publishing date and see 2005 or 2006 - thankfully it was older than that! I think that some hurts never really go away. They may heal but, just like an old physical injury might hurt when the weather changes, there is still a dull ache that surfaces from time to time.


Anyway.... I checked Dolhai Attila's website again today ... his upcoming performances were updated ... there were tickets available for Mozart! at the operetta theater for two weeks from tomorrow ... I bought one ... I'M GOING TO SEE ATTILA PERFORM --- LIVE!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Laziness hurts, tenors, and freedom

Bad things can happen when you're lazy or, at least, good things don't happen.

I came very close to seeing one of my favorite singers sing live today. Because it was the holiday (October 23rd, commemoration of the 1956 uprising, HUGE national holiday -- one of three - I wrote about Szt. Istvan Nap in August... March 15 is the other) there were various commemorative events and such around town. I had been planning to go see what things were like by the Parliament this afternoon but ended up putzing around on the computer instead. My "compromise" was to have MTV (Magyar Televisio... lol not American MTV) turned on. As I was on facebook or something similar and half-listening, I suddenly heard a very familiar sounding voice. They were broadcasting live from outside the Parliament and Dolhai Attila was singing. Why was I so lazy?!?!

Dolhai Attila is pretty high on the list of my favorite singers (especially of those I've not met -- a bunch are people I've worked with at GGO). He's a Hungarian musical theatre/operetta singer who I've loved for nearly 5 years since I discovered Romeo es Julia (the Hungarian translation of the French rock opera of Romeo and Juliet). It also doesn't hurt that he's gorgeous :) Sheesh... Hungarian guys with curly hair, what can I say? He is also the first person to put a crack in my tenor dislike.

I've never really liked tenors. Jokes like "Barbershop quartet: three men and a tenor" pretty well describe the way I felt about them. Of course I appreciated them in a SATB group or as necessary in opera, etc, but I would never choose to listen to a tenor. Especially not over a bass or baritone. Attila started to change this. First it was just him. Then, slowly the list of singers I "forgave for being tenors" or "liked in spite of their being tenors" started growing. Each year at Glimmerglass I would meet one or two tenors with voices that were simply amazing. (This isn't to say they were the only great people I've worked with... just that there have always been one or two tenors that really stood out despite my general dislike.) On the other hand, there were people I was also exposed to (or maybe subjected to is better... or tortured with could work as well) that firmly supported my dislike.

Despite the crazies, my wall of tenor-dislike was beginning to crumble. I've come to accept that there are two types of tenor voices. The "oh dear God in Heaven, please stop your screeching, you sound like a dying moose and I want to rip my eardrums out" type and the "I could kill you with my voice and you would LIKE it" variety. Finally, this summer, it all came together. Although it was difficult, I slowly had to admit to myself, then to some close friends, and now, through this blog, that, yes, I like tenors.

Phew! There - I've said it. I like tenors. Not all tenors to be sure and there will always be some people who I just can't listen to, but I'm done writing off a singer just because he's a tenor.

Back to this afternoon. When I heart Attila on the TV, I was suddenly filled with such regret that I had been so lazy. Because I had an hour before Mass, I left my apartment and went over to the Parliament for a little while. Of course, Attila was long done singing, but I had hardly gotten there when another singer started. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to identify the piece in the first few measures. It was "Hazam, hazam" (My homeland, my homeland), which is arguably the most famous Hungarian operatic aria and also popular as a patriotic song. From Bank Ban by Ferenc Erkel, it is sung by Bank (the husband of Melinda - if you've heard the Hungarian arias I've done) who, believe it or not, is a tenor. I'm not sure who the tenor was, my guess is whoever is playing Bank in the National Opera's new production which opens next month, but he definitely gave me chills. Must get tickets soon.

After the aria, the new prime minister, Viktor Orban, gave a speech retelling the story of the uprising. Although I couldn't understand everything, I did get a bunch. It was really moving to just be there with so many people who lived through it, had family that lived through it, or even just remember what Hungary was like up until 20 years ago. It's crazy to think that people my age, weren't born into a free country. I really don't think anyone who hasn't lived in an oppressed country can appreciate freedom the way people here can. Seeing the commemorative flags with a huge hole in the middle (the protesters had cut out the communist coat of arms) hanging from the parliament, all the people with flag pins (many with a hole) or red, white, and green rosettes, the facial expressions of some of the little old ladies in the crowd at the Parliament, and the video I watched earlier with pictures of Budapest now(ish) and in 1956 juxtaposed spoke volumes. Very much a "this must NEVER happen again" type of commemoration.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Defining me

One of the things that comes up at the Bible Study I've gone to the past two weeks is the definition of the key words for the day. On the way home, I started thinking about definitions and defining things.

According to dictionary.com, the verb "to define" means:
1. to state or set forth the meaning of (a word, phrase, etc.): They disagreed on how to define “liberal.”
2. to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of; describe: to define judicial functions.
3. to fix or lay down definitely; specify distinctly: to define one's responsibilities.
4. to determine or fix the boundaries or extent of: to define property with stakes.
5. to make clear the outline or form of: The roof was boldly defined against the sky.


How do we decide what defines us? How do we know if others define us in the same way? Why do we let inconsequential or, at best, minor things define the way we see ourselves? Why are relationships one of the key things we place in our definitions? This is something I really struggle with. I logically know that there is no sign above my head stating "This is Rose. She has been single for 6 years. Her one and only ex-boyfriend is gay. She's 23 years old and has never been kissed.. even, on the cheek, by a guy she is not related to (European greetings excepted)" but I still often feel that is a huge part of my "definition."

The problem is, I forget that it's not my job to define myself. That was taken care of long ago by the One who created both me and the very concept of definitions. And the way He defines me is vastly different. It reads more like, "This is Rose. She is my daughter and I love her. She is created in My image so anything you use to define her (or she tries to define herself with) carries over to Me. No matter what she may do or experience or anything else in her life, she is Mine. Because of that, she is precious and I will never leave her and she could never do anything to make Me love her less."

Wouldn't our definitions be so much better if we would leave them to the One who writes them best!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Assorted rambling thoughts

I've officially lost my heart in Budapest. Well, to be completely honest, in Pomaz. "My" kids at the kindy are absolutely adorable. Yes, we have a few that cause problems but even those can be very sweet when they want to be. I am one of the English teachers for the Happy Owls group at Treasure (I think that's the translation) Kindergarten. The Happy Owls is the youngest group consisting of eight kids who are 2-2.5 (technically the 2 year-olds aren't allowed but I don't know the full story because they are there). Six of the kids came in with no English knowledge, one is being raised bilingually by her parents, and the eighth has had some exposure but I'm not sure how. This kindergarten just opened this year with about 30 kids in three groups. That is MUCH smaller than Daisy Kindergarten, the Foundation's other kindergarten, where I worked five years ago. At Daisy, there are more than 20 kids in each group. I can't imagine having 20 of the kids I work with now... eight is enough to handle at the moment. There will be more posts about work/kindergarten/the kids/the (crazy) parents in the future, but I've got some other random updates.

At the beginning of daily Mass this evening, the priest started talking about something apparently pretty serious. I wasn't paying particular attention but it sounded like someone had died. We continued with the Mass and at the prayers of the faithful the priest prayed for something related or so it sounded. I was wracking my brain wondering if this was something I should know about or if there was some recent tragedy I'd missed. Finally, when we stood for the final hymn, the first few notes of the introduction to the Himnusz (Hungarian National Anthem) put the pieces together. October 6th is a day of remembrance for "The 13 Martyrs of Arad" who stood up for a parliamentary government and were executed by the Austrians in 1849. Once I realized, I felt pretty silly because not only had I gotten an email about an event at school today, there was a display at school which I had recognized for the day. Oh well... at least it wasn't something like October 23rd or March 15 (two of the three major Hungarian national holidays... on the level of the 4th of July).

Speaking of the Himnusz, I've known it for years (actually sang it at my high school senior recital) but hadn't had any reason to sing it recently. However, I've definitely heard it lately. The 7th grade music class had to memorize it, so I heard all their rehearsals in class and then the singing tests. Knowing the words and being able to sing it in Mass tonight gave me another reason to know other national anthems. When the students were learning the Himnusz, I was teaching about the 4 anthems of the USA, Britain, Australia, and Canada. Some of the students complained about how it was crazy to learn about other national anthems (they didn't have to memorize them, just learn about them). We discussed some reasons in class - the beauty of being able to understand what they say... the complaining was in Hungarian but I was able to address it when I started teaching. These reasons mostly involved respecting the other countries and the respect that their citizens give to the national anthems. Tonight I had another reason, so that when you are at church (or any other public event) on the day of a national holiday/day of remembrance you know the words and can sing with everyone else. Take that, 7th grade!

Oh, 7th grade. After English class today, I am pretty sure that if you shaved their heads at least a couple of them would have 666 tattooed there. They were wild, unwilling to do the assignment, one student refused to do basically anything besides disrupt the class. I, for the second time in my life, wish I had been an ed major at SHU (the first was after hearing reports of the way a particular teacher gave a lesson on giving detailed instructions :-) haha). Yes, I know that much of what they learn isn't particularly useful for teaching music, but general classroom management principles would be really helpful. As it is, I'm learning this teaching thing as I go along.

Even if I had had ed classes in school, they still wouldn't have prepared me for some of the cultural differences. I ran into one of those during the Year 6 music class today. We were writing the solfege for a Halloween song in dminor. After the class, my coteacher came up to me and told me it was entirely wrong. Apparently, they don't use relative minors with solfege. I was "wrong" because I had started the song (in d minor) with d as do. What an idea! Evidently, the "correct" way to do it is only to use the solfege for Fmajor (so in a relative minor the first note of the scale is "la") ... because that's not confusing or anything. Anyway, while I would debate the "correctness" of starting on do rather than la, looking back, I was still wrong because in my hurry to write the solfege in (she suggested I do the song about 30 minutes before the class), I had forgotten to use te, le, and me. Oops. Kids, if you don't get into the Liszt Academy because your inept music teacher in Year 6 screwed things up, don't blame me... you have 6 more years to have someone correct it - HAHA! Oh well, live and learn.

Things that I have been living and learning - if I don't get enough sleep, I'm really cranky the next day. Since I have to be at work before 8am and it takes about an hour to get there and I need "wake up time" so I am coherent, my alarm goes off at 5:30am 3-4 days a week. That means, to get 8 hours of sleep, I aim for bed around 9:30... talk about feeling old. Well, that time is fast approaching so I'd better sign off. Hopefully, next time I'll have more stories that don't involve me being a fool :) At least I can laugh about it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God's Sense of Humor ... and some not-so-humorous other things

While dealing with my typical "I must find something to eat" problem this evening, I decided the easiest thing would be to stop somewhere near my house after Mass. I was a little worried because all I had was a 10,000ft note (about the equivalent of a $50) and knew I wouldn't be spending very much on dinner. The first place I tried was a chinese bufe (cafeteria style restaurant... they are everywhere) near my apartment. My family may remember it from the first time we were here. We got dinner there and while we were eating they played various versions of "that song" from "that movie." The song that makes me twitch. As I was walking to the restaurant, I remembered that experience and thought about how long it had been since the first time we were here. Before ordering I asked if it was a problem that I only had the 10,000. The girl behind the counter said that it was so I apologized and left. After walking a couple more blocks, I stopped at another Chinese bufe. This one was a little more "upscale" (it's closer to my house so more touristy) and they said my money wasn't a problem. I ordered some food and sat down to wait (this place had cafeteria items but also made to order - I figured I shouldn't get the cheapest thing since I just had the large bill). I was sitting, innocently reading my book, when the music, which I had basically been ignoring, shifted to something terrifyingly familiar. Yes, after going to a different Chinese restaurant 9 years later, I was, once again subjected to "that song." I quite literally started twitching. Thankfully, it 1. wasn't the original but a jazz sax solo and 2. it only played once. That was plenty more than enough. In the middle of this aural assault, my food came and once I started eating it finally ended. I figure everyone is allowed to have an irrational fear and at least this isn't something I have to deal with on a regular basis.

On a quite different note, please pray for me. This eating problem isn't getting any better and I'm starting to think that I'm becoming anorexic. Not intentionally (is it ever though?) meaning, not because I think I need to lose weight, but between my meds and just not thinking enough about planning food into my day it seems to be getting worse. This is very worrying because 1. it's not healthy, 2. I really can't afford to lose more weight, and 3. changing my meds isn't a feasible option right now (if that's what's causing the problem). My paperwork is coming along and I should be getting my insurance card in the next few days (socialized medicine... joy) but I really don't want to go to the doctor's right away to try to fix my brain. Somehow, I can see it becoming a big mess -- not that I know more than the doctor would, but I know which things haven't worked in the past. Who knows, if this doesn't resolve itself/I can't figure out how to get more food into my life, I'll have to do something about it.

(Back story for those who don't know - I've been on antidepressants for years and although the ones I'm taking now are helping mentally, they've really hurt my appetite. Plus, I've been living on my own for a little more than a year and have had such crazy schedules that I often forget to eat. The combination of these two things resulted in my losing a bunch of weight over the past year and a half. My doctor advised that I make sure to eat enough. Now, I realize that I'm not eating enough, but am still struggling to fix that.)

The past few days have just been generally rough. There were a bunch of problems in school on Tuesday, some that I have to take the full blame for but others that I've literally no control over. Today was better but still stressful. Although I know I'll make it through, my respect for people who actually choose to work with middle school has grown exponentially in the past few weeks.

That's about it... drop me a line or a comment if you like - I'd love to know who is actually reading this :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Only in Europe...

although, "Not in America..." might be a more accurate title.

Can you buy
1lb fresh stew beef
1lb fresh peppers
1lb Granny Smith apples
1/2lb fresh mushrooms
4 ears of fresh corn
1 fresh purple onion
1 head of fresh lettuce

for around $4.50.

Gotta love European markets! Pretty happy with how I did Hungarian-wise too.... only one small hiccup when I almost ended up with 1 kilo of purple onions (about 2lb!) rather than 1 single purple onion. Sorted it out alright though. Also, I need to buy a better shopping bag; my beautiful mushrooms aren't quite as beautiful after being repeatedly bumped against my hip on the walk home :(

And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got cooking to do :-D

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stamping and fainting and belching, Oh my!

Today was one of those days where things just go well. Thank God! I've really needed one of these. To start with, I had a good conversation with a friend from school. It's not my story to tell but he's got some really good things going on right now and seeing his excitement reminds me to appreciate what I've been given :)

I actually went to immigration.... finally. It will shock anyone who knows anything about the Hungarian immigration system to find out that I left the building a mere hour and a half after entering. The lady working with us didn't seem very happy with my papers - not really sure why - but she seemed to accept them... at least she was stamping everything so that's definitely a good sign. I need to go back next month to finish some things and they need a few more documents. Everything should be fine though.

On the way to work from immigration, I wasn't entirely sure where I was but found a bus going to a familiar place pretty quickly. After a few stops, people started talking loudly about opening the windows and asking the driver to stop and open the door. When they asked for a doctor, I really started wondering what was going on. Turns out a girl had fainted barely 4 feet from me. The driver finally stopped and let her (and most everyone else) off the bus. Most of us started walking to the next stop but the driver drove past and left us. I didn't particularly mind since I was able to get another bus to the commuter train station where I had to go.

When I got to work, my class was playing outside for about another half hour before lunch. Although they were a bit wild outside and while changing (I'll have to write about work and the many differences between here and the US), they calmed down at the table and were really well behaved. I was amazed and really, really happy during lunch because I definitely heard at least 5 of the 7 say "Thank you" (after being prompted of course) when I gave them their food/drink at some point. Considering these are 2-2.5 year olds, most of whom have not been exposed to English prior to September 1, that is HUGE. And, even the ones who might not have said it in English, did say it in Hungarian showing that, even if they don't know the English phrase, they understand the concept.

Sometimes it's a little hard working with the kids because I understand so much of what they are saying but am not supposed to respond to anything (unless it's important, i.e. "I need to go peepee) when they speak to me in Hungarian. Today at lunch, Oliver, one of my little boys, belched at the table. Viki, my Hungarian coteacher, told him to say "excuse me." He did but then belched again. Then he started making himself belch. Viki had enough of that after a minute and told him to stop. His response ... "I belch to say I'm finished eating." Viki and I looked at each other and violently tried not to laugh. It worked for a minute and then we both were nearly crying.

Later, after they got up from their naps, I took the two kids who were still at the kindy outside to play. Oliver was climbing on this big grass hill thing in the yard and Ella wanted to climb as well. I was watching but didn't want to help her very much (for somethings, I feel if the kid is going to do something, they have to be able to do it themselves). Oliver started trying to help Ella and it was really adorable watching them play together. Also, at one point, Oliver was bent over with his hands and feet on the ground looking at me upside down. I asked him what he was doing and he promptly responded "upside down." Gosh, these kids are smart!

Speaking (haha) of learning languages, I've been really pleased with my Hungarian lately. Last night I was able to translate (at least general concepts) for my English coteacher, Lauren, at our parents' meeting. Today, while the kids were napping, I had an hour long conversation with Viki -- who doesn't speak any English. Then, when I got home from work, I went to Mass, actually understood most of the homily, said the "Our Father" from memory, and didn't get too tongue tied reading the responses (including the Confiteor, Gloria, and "Oh Lord I am not worthy...") from my little Mass book.

I've still got lots to write about but I'll close for now... maybe this weekend I'll try to post while taking a break from lesson planning. :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yes, I'm still alive

I've started writing blog posts a couple of times but things keep drastically changing before I get them published.

~~ Moved into my new apartment.. it's great, I love it. Couple of pics... living room, the high wall closet thing in my bedroom, YAY actual kitchen!!


~~ Officially passed CELTA!
~~ Am now working full time, three days a week at the foundation kindergarten in Pomaz just north of Budapest and the other two days in the upper elementary school teaching music and a couple of English classes. Just started the classes yesterday but they went alright. I never have to have another first first day of teaching! It's quite a variety: teaching both the absolute youngest kids and the absolute oldest kids in the foundation programs.
~~ I've had some visitors - Teresa came the first weekend in September. She ran the Budapest Half Marathon and I ran around chasing her (haha... well, on the metro and trams) to get some pictures. Last weekend, one of Teresa's friends, Martha and another girl Abby, came to visit Budapest. I had fun showing them some of my favorite places in Budapest -- and of course, some of the tourist spots.

In a nutshell, that's the last few weeks... there are plenty of crazy stories outside of the nutshell, message me or something if you want to hear some. Also, more pictures will be on Facebook soon :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Week 3 - Done!

Overview of the past few days... Last Friday one of the Hungarians on the CELTA course had a party at her house in one of the outer districts. We had a traditional Hungarian "cook-out" with a huge pot of sausage, potatoes, etc. cooked over a fire - yummy! There was a huge storm which moved the party inside... it was pretty but made me miss all my Glimmerglass friends after our amazing thunderstorms earlier in the summer.

Classes are still intensive. I had a huge shock when I got back my second assignment on Thursday -- I don't have to resubmit it! Good thing because I still have to resubmit assignment one, do assignment four, plan two lessons, and pray I don't have to resubmit assignment three. It's going to be a busy week! Teaching is going better though - I actually got a couple of smiley faces on my last lesson plan. It wasn't a perfect lesson, but I got the students more interested, had to act like my life revolved around turo rudi, and had fun teaching.

I have officially lost track of how many apartments I've seen. It's somewhere around 15. There are few things I am looking forward to more than knowing where I'll be living after next week! One that I saw on Thursday has a lot of potential - just waiting to get the final cost numbers and such. Hopefully, more to come on that. In the meantime, I'm seeing another tomorrow, one on Monday... and so on. Today is the first day in a while that I'm not seeing any. It's nice to have a break. One of the hardest things has been seeing ones that I know from the first minute won't work but not wanting to walk in and walk out. Yesterday, I saw two nearly identical ones in a building right next to the opera. Because of the location, I might have been willing to make some compromises but they didn't have proper stoves with ovens and were about the size of a Canevin-Lowe dorm room, plus stairs and a bathroom. Even if I didn't care about not having a separate bedroom (which I do), there wouldn't be the physical space for guests that I already know I'm having this year... there simply wasn't even the floor space.

Since yesterday was the holiday (August 20, St. Stephen's Feast Day) I spent a good bit of the day in Pest. The other times I've been in Hungary, I've always gotten here late August so I'd never been in the country and was interested in seeing the celebrations. In the morning, after seeing the tiny apartments by the opera, I got some ice cream (no peach stuff this time!) and walked around between the opera and Liszt Ferenc Square. I stumbled upon a group of young folk dancers and watched them for a bit. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera at that point :( After going home to get my camera, I wandered over to the basilica where they were setting up for the big Mass. It was about two hours before Mass would start so I got a spot right on the barricade between the seated area and general standing. The two hours went pretty quickly because there was setting up to watch and people in various traditional outfits milling around. My favorite outfits were on a group of teen girls who were wearing white eyelet dresses with blue trim. They were representing one of the towns in Hungary and had a litter with a statue of Mary which they were carrying. Starting about an hour before Mass there were also a variety of people talking about the day ... I couldn't understand much, but some of it was about this being the 20th anniversary of St. Stephen's Day in independent Hungary. Finally, around 4:30, the processions started. The first part was the presenting of the new bread. I'm not sure why, but St. Stephen's Day is when the first bread is made from the year's harvest. Because of this, there was a procession with people from all over Hungary, in their area's traditional dress, bringing loaves of bread - some of them huge - to the basilica. Also part of the procession was a model of St. Stephen's crown made out of wheat.Following the bread were the children who had been invited from the areas most affected by the flooding earlier in the summer. Finally, just before Mass was to start, the most important part of the procession occurred which was bringing out the Szent Jobb, or incorruptible Holy Right(hand) of St. Stephen. Because I was so close to the front, I wasn't more than 100 meters away from the procession. Think being in DC, on the 4th of July, 20 years after the end of the Civil War, watching Betsy Ross' flag processed in, and you might come close. Only, even now, Betsy Ross' flag is just over 200 years old and the Szent Jobb is more than 1000... ohh and the fact that flags don't typically decompose like humans do. Yes, it's odd to see a hand just hanging out, not decomposed, after a millennium. However, who's to say God can't do odd things!!

As soon as the procession was over, the Mass started but I had to leave to meet people for dinner. It's a good thing I'll never see people in the crowd again (or even if so, won't remember them/they won't remember me) because I felt like quite a - insert veterinary term for my "cousin" on my dad's side - pushing through people to get out of the square. At least, God knows I would love to have stayed. It's too bad I didn't take the time to check the schedule before planning dinner.

After meeting up with some of my classmates, I lead an expedition up into the Buda hills to one of my favorite restaurants - Fenyogyongye. It's a traditional Hungarian place and is too far out of the city center to be touristy. Amazing food, nice location, English speaking staff.. good combination. The most exciting part was, after asking for a table, in Hungarian, and telling the server we would like English menus, he brought English menus for everyone and a Hungarian one for me. Granted, I glanced at the menu then shared an English one with someone else, but it was really nice to know he thought I was Hungarian.

We took the bus (65.. ahh the memories) back down the hill and then walked along the Duna waiting for the fireworks. They were spectacular! My camera has a setting specifically for fireworks so I got some cool pictures.

Castle in the background

Parliament in the background

Friday, August 13, 2010

Confession

I have to admit.... I've been living in a state of sin the past two weeks. Breaking the Kovach cardinal rule for going to Europe, it has taken me twelve days to get my first ice cream. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

HAHA

Well, it's true, I hadn't had an ice cream until today. There are various reasons for that including class 12-8 during the week, running around seeing apartments, general adjusting. Honestly though, the biggest reason was I wanted to wait until I could get some really good ice cream. Not that all Hungarian ice cream isn't amazing! Don't mistake me there. But today I finally had time to get out to Daubner's. Yummy! Of course it was delicious. I had citrom (lemon), somloi galuska (walnut, chocolate, rum, with pieces of cake), and rizs (rice). The lemon was pucker-up sour, the somloi was amazing, but the rizs disappointed me. :( The ice cream itself wasn't bad but there was all this barack crap on top :-P If I wanted peach ice cream, I would have asked for it! If I want rice ice cream, don't adorn it with a liberal (LOL) decoration of peach jam.

Speaking of barack flavored or scented things ... I was tempted to get some toilet paper at the store and might have if it wasn't twice the price of the regular. Why anyone would want peach-scented toilet paper is beyond me but it's still hilarious.

In other news, week two of the CELTA course is done. As much as I would love to say that I'm half done that really isn't correct. I've taught half my lessons but of the four big assignments, I have to resubmit the only one we've turned in so far. The next is due on Monday and I'm really hoping I can make it work the first time.

I'm pretty sure I've got an apartment, just waiting to hear for sure from the landlady. More to come on that!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 1

Somehow it seems like I've been here much longer than a week (well, not even). I'm settling in amazingly well. Classes are intense but not too difficult. So far, I've taught two lessons - one on family members with irritating habits and the other on types of tv shows and adjectives that describe them. Although it's going well, I'm glad that I won't actually be teaching English to adults - it's intimidating. What exactly I WILL be teaching apparently hasn't been decided yet. I guess I don't mind as long as they realize I can't do any planning until I know what's going on.

Most of my time is being spent either in class (12:15 - 8pm every day) or doing homework but I've been out some to get used to the city again. My apartment is a ten minute walk from the language school so I actually didn't even get a bus pass until Thursday. That turned out to be perfect timing because we had a massive thunderstorm Friday morning. I knew that it would be cheaper to get the pass rather than tickets but just for kicks and giggles, I figured out exactly how many times I needed to ride in a month before it was equal. The answer was 32. In the past four days, I've already ridden 19 times!

The slower lifestyle is definitely turning into a good thing for me. I realized yesterday that something was very different. Finally, I figured out I wasn't stressed. Granted, this is mostly due to the fact that I've actually gotten here and don't have to worry about everything I had to get done before moving. It really seems like it's more than that though. Sure, I'm somewhat stressed about the course, but that's only because it's so much time and I'm not entirely comfortable teaching. In general, though, I'm really at peace. Different feeling for me - one I could get used to very easily. It's such a nice change from this summer. Yes, it still takes a while to get places and such, but waiting for the bus or riding the metro is endlessly different than being in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, like any situation, there are odd or unpleasant parts of this "new" place. I can't say I like seeing women "smuggling peas" (Thanks, Brit, for that expression... it's awesome), guys wearing shorts that only Fr. Stephen would approve of (which means no one should wear -- ever.), the endless PDA (I can see you like each other and all but, please, could you keep the extreme making-out off the bus?). Oh well, gotta take the bad with the good, I guess.

The apartment search is going. I've seen four places so far. The first and fourth were definite no's but the second and third have potential. I'll be seeing at least one more place this week. After sending another 20 emails today, I expect I'll be seeing more than that. Ideally, I'll have the place picked by next weekend. At any rate, I have to let one of the ones I'm considering know by then. I'm leaning towards the other at the moment so even if I haven't made a final decision I'll be able to let them know.

I haven't had a chance to take many pictures but when I do, I'll get them up on Facebook and probably here as well. Rose Thepig is anxious to see the city but all she's seen so far is my flat. I suppose I should show her around before she gets too irritated with me :-)

All in all, it's been a great week. I know there will be things to which I'll have to adjust, but things look good!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wow

It's finally hitting me. I'm in Europe. Once I got on the plane yesterday, I started realizing this was actually happening. It still seems so surreal. Even now, having been in the Brussels airport for 5 hours I can hardly believe I'm here.

The trip has been uneventful so far. The drive to the city went well -- traffic wasn't bad at all. We got to the airport a little later than I would have liked but I checked in with plenty of time and then headed over to my gate. I was resigned to paying and extra $100 for luggage so that I could take two pieces and because one of them was overweight. When I got to the counter, the attendant let me switch some stuff from the one bag so that only one was overweight. Then she only charged me the $50 for it being overweight -- nothing for the second bag! Maybe that was just another confusing detail on the website that I misunderstood. In any case, I definitely didn't mind it!

My first flight wasn't anything unusual. We left late but made up some of the time in the air... not that it mattered for me! Overall, I was pleased with Jet Airlines. The entertainment selection was well-rounded (I watched Date Night and part of Avatar), the cabin wasn't too cold, free headphones, pillow, and blanket, dinner and breakfast were fine. I did learn a lesson the hard way though. If you are eating Indian food and there is a small green bean looking thing.... DON'T eat it! My mouth was on fire for way too long even with drinking water and sprite and eating the rest of my dinner. I didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked, but that's to be expected. My big project for the next few hours is simply to not fall asleep before I get to my new flat in Budapest. I don't leave Brussels for another three hours then it's a two hour flight and probably at least another hour or two before I actually get "home." I'm excited to see what my flat is like.... but mostly I'm excited about the prospect of sleeping in a bed tonight.

Thank God for the Internet. I really can't imagine what I would do without it... well, that's not exactly true. I'd read, play games, pray (fun story... I knew from the website that the Brussels airport had a chapel. I wandered up there once I got to the right terminal and such. There was a priest getting ready to say Mass so it was perfect timing. Kind of funny though because I was the only one there and he was French - Thank God I'm Catholic! I might not know much French but I know the Mass. When he came to give me Holy Communion it was funny because he got flustered and forgot the word for blood. I didn't know enough French to tell him that I knew what he was saying so it really didn't matter what language he used.) ANYWAY, I'm still glad to have the Internet. I'll probably spend most of the next few hours on just to get my money's worth (it was 10E for an hour or 20E for the day). I figured out the hotspot shield download and it's working so I'm able to watch American TV, Hulu, listen to Pandora etc. I'm getting banner adds on websites, but that's a price I'm willing to pay.

More Later...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Respect

Would you tell your boss that, while business casual is the standard in your office, you will only wear sweat pants to work? Or how about using your phone for personal calls all day at work? Extending your lunch break into time allotted for meetings? If so, would you expect to keep your job in this economy?

NO!

These questions probably seem ridiculous and rightly so. When you apply for a job, you find out what it entails and then agree to fulfill your duties to the best of your ability. Certainly, there are deadbeats in every field, unfortunately. But... suppose you had studied for years to be qualified for your job. Suppose you had sacrificed time, money, and countless other things for this job. Suppose you were, somehow, amazingly, being paid (however little... remember - YOU accepted the job) to do what you love most. Would you respect it any less than the average entry-level worker fresh out of school and thrilled to have any job?

Of course not... one would think.

As crazy as it sounds, this is exactly what I see way too much when I go to work. Some of the YAAPs (members of the Young American Artist Program here at GGO) have so little respect for what they are doing. Refusing to wear costumes, purposefully neglecting to remove personal jewelry, going onstage with cell phones in their costume pockets, ignoring requests about things like not playing frisbee in costume, and, my personal "favorite", wearing costume pieces home.

As an aspiring singer, I find the attitudes sported by some of these talented young performers to be nothing short of offensive. Out of probably close to a thousand applicants and hundreds of auditions, this small group of 20-30 was chosen. If you consider the additional numbers of people like myself who know they have years of study remaining before attempting to apply, there are thousands of people who would give almost anything for the opportunity these singers have been given.

Obviously, not all of the YAAPs fall into this category! There are some singers I am working with and have worked with at GGO who are not only talented performers but also wonderful people. These are the ones I hope go far. These are the singers I would love to work with in the future. These are the people from whom I hope to learn something.

The rest, I would love to give a piece of my mind. And, in the words of Mrs. Cratchit, "I hope they have a good appetite for it!" I wish I could shake them and ask "How do you not realize the opportunity you have? Do you know how many people would trade places with you in a heartbeat? How can you be doing what you love and have so little respect for it? Why even bother taking the job if you won't do what's asked of you? Isn't singing worth taking out your earrings or carefully checking that you return your costume pieces and props? What's the use of scoffing at the people whose job it is to make you look good?"

In the end, I doubt they would hear me, even if I had the opportunity to ask.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Is this for real?

It's starting to set in. I am actually moving to Europe... next week. Now that I have a place to stay for the first month (a flat arranged by the language school where I'm doing the CELTA course), I feel like I can actually start packing. Most of my shopping is done - I've had to remind myself that I'm moving to Budapest not Siberia... stocking up on a specific hair conditioner - ok, buying extra underwear - unnecessary. The list of things that I can't wait to do is increasing rapidly. The first few weeks will be rough with jet lag, culture shock, and the CELTA course all at once but at least I can look forward to the food. I might not have time for much those weeks but I have to eat :) and eat I will! If it takes more than 24 hours in the country for me to have a turo rudi there will be a serious problem!

Finding out about this flat has been such a relief. I was getting worried -- didn't want to be spending my first night in Budapest under a bridge (exaggeration!! I would have at least found a hostel). Not only is the flat in a great location - District I and only one tram stop or a short walk from Moszkva Ter (where the school is and a major transportation hub) - it's also a studio single... with INTERNET! The way God provides is just amazing.

In other news, I went to see the Figaro cover run last night with Kate, my housemate. It was hilarious. I've seen Figaro a number of times but this particular production (both the covers and the actual cast) is just amazing. There are reasons this opera is so popular and it's still one of my favorites. The only downside was it really made me miss singing. Once I settle in this fall, I think I want to get a score and start learning Suzanna just for the heck of it. Finding a voice teacher also is on my to-do list. Ideally, someone at GGO knows a good teacher in Budapest .. I just haven't gotten around to asking people. Must do that soon!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Musical Musings and other thoughts on the 4th

It was really strange celebrating the 4th of July today knowing that I am moving out of the country in less than a month. Ever since the first time we went to Hungary, I've never been particularly patriotic because I wanted to be there rather than in the US. This year was different. After this month, there is no telling when I will actually live in the country again. It's highly unlikely that it will be in less than two years and quite possibly much longer than that. I had to stop and reflect today on what it means to me to be an American.

Yes, I have plenty of issues with this country (the dawning of socialized medicine for one... EEEEKKKK), but when I stop to think about it, I have to admit that I would not be where I am and who I am if I had been born anywhere else. The opportunities I have had, simply because my family is from the US are endless. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to say that other countries are inferior. Had I lived somewhere else, I would have had different opportunities, maybe even better ones. But I wouldn't be who I am.

*************

At Mass this morning, we closed with "My Country 'tis of Thee." Flipping through the hymnal and seeing which patriotic songs were included made me stop and think about various ones and my views and feelings about them.

"My Country, 'Tis of Thee"
Better now that they aren't calling it America (although that is still the name of the hymntune). My biggest issue with this is its origin. Even on the "benefiting" side of the equation, I think it's offensive that we stole the national anthem of the country from which we had broken free and turned it into a patriotic song for our country. (On further research, I see that it's used by some other countries so I don't feel quite so bad) That being said, there really isn't anything particularly American about the song and I rather like it.

"The Star-Spangled Banner"
Also know as.. "The song I hated to sing in high school and would make up excuses to miss football games at which the choir had to sing it." It's a good national anthem as long as you overlook (or don't mind) the violence. I wish the other verses were used more often.

"God Bless the USA"
This song makes me laugh. Yes, my nerdy self is showing, but the linguistic structure of the refrain makes a statement completely opposed to the theme of the song. In English, double negatives produce a positive. So.. the line "Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land" is actually saying "There is doubt that I love this land." This made the song one of my favorites during high school when all I wanted to do was move back to Hungary.

"God Bless America"
I actually really like this one. Short, sweet, and to the point, written by a popular American composer, and at its heart it is a prayer asking for what every country needs - God's blessing.

"America the Beautiful"
This is my favorite patriotic hymn. The text is so beautiful (haha) in how it captures the history of the country. It does not gloss over failings, but asks for help to overcome them. The second and third verses are particularly poignant.

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

*********

As this Independence Day draws to a close, I feel more patriotic than I have in years. Somehow, knowing I am leaving my home has made me appreciate it all the more. I may not always agree with the direction the country is headed or our administration, but I am still proud to be an American. In the end, I think the most important thing is to remember that while it is so important to pray "God Bless America" it is just as important to pray "America Bless God."

"Letter from Camp"

Dear Mom and Dad – In my first few weeks of camp (AKA Glimmerglass Opera), I …

Cooked over a fire – the Brown House has a gas stove

Made some cool new friends – The wardrobe crew is awesome this year... we're all getting along great and getting stuff done in record time.

Practiced for the talent show – Well... I guess this is a stretch, but I've spent time backstage and in the wardrobe house during tech rehearsals.

Have a new counselor – Julia is a great wardrobe manager and the assistant, Brit, is awesome as well.

Saw a mouse in my cabin – we have mousetraps in the Brown House now... unfortunately, the mice are bigger than the traps. I can't say there is much I dislike more than mice running around my room. (Update: now that I've watched the mice (mouse? I don't know if it's the same one) run up and down the kitchen for the past two hours, I just want them DEAD. Isn't this a health hazard?!)

Got poison ivy – Not really, but … I just got a new dresser in my room because the other one was full of mold... eww

Ate a bunch of marshmallows – one of the wardrobe interns is allergic to gluten and dairy … oddly enough, marshmallows are a safe snack.

Got a letter saying I was accepted for school this fall – Someone dropped out of the English course so I am officially in - thank God!

Went on adventures with my friends – We've been to Cooperstown, Syracuse, New Hartford, Herkimer... some multiple times.

Spent time doing arts and crafts – when there isn't a tech rehearsal, sometimes we get sent to help in the costume shop. I've worked on various alterations and lots of seam-ripping. We also made shirts for the opening of Eclipse (I was “Team Sparkly Stalker” others included “Team Dracula” and “Team Volturi”)

All in all, things are going well at Sunny Camp Glimmerglass. I'm starting to get very nervous about my move (Less than a month... EEK) but I know things will work out somehow.

Love you and miss you,

Oh, and please send mail :)

Rose Kovach
c/o Glimmerglass Opera
Wardrobe
P.O. Box 129
Springfield Center, NY 13468