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


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.


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


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...