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"
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. :)