Saturday, October 13, 2012

Everyday life in Szoboszlo

It's been a while since I've written. Not because I've been particularly busy but because it doesn't feel like much has been happening - in the  most wonderful way possible. I am settling in and Szoboszlo feels like home. I teach, lesson plan, shop, go to choir practice, make it into Debrecen for Mass some weeks and others just go here in town, I cook, I watch tv, normal everyday things. It's hard for me to remember that this isn't "normal" for everyone reading my blog because it seems so natural to me.

One of my main goals this year was to figure out if I love living in Hungary or if I just love living in Budapest. I've only been here a month and a half but I know the answer quite definitely. I love living in Hungary. Last Saturday, I got up early and took the train to Budapest for the day to see some of the other CETP teachers. It was very strange because I had never "visited" Budapest before. Of course, I've lived there and I have seen many of the sights and I know my way around, but I had never gone there just to visit. Comparing it to Szoboszlo was bizarre. I love Budapest, it's a wonderful city and I will always be grateful for my years there, but now I can see more of its flaws. The city is big, dirty, noisy, and smelly. I am happy to be this close (2.5 hours by train) and be able to visit every so often rather than live there.

School is going well. Slowly but surely I am learning names (hard when I have ~425 students!!). At this point, I know most of the students who misbehave as well as the excellent ones but I still need to learn the rest. I would venture a guess that I know about a quarter of the names (when they are in class... it's much harder when I see them in the hall and don't have a class to associate them with). Not bad when you figure I've only had five classes with most of them (I was out sick for three days in September with a bad cold)! The kids are sweet, it was quite an adjustment at first because they speak much less English than those at my last school but I am figuring out how to make things work. My favorite classes to teach are 1st grade (they are so so adorable), 5th grade (very small classes and they are bright/hard working kids), and one of my 8th grade classes (they focus better than any of my other classes and we get things done much quicker - which means they get more time to play games - it's a win-win situation!).

I am still playing the "I don't know what you're saying, tell me in English" card and will do so as long as I can. Of course, I slip up every once in a while and respond to something they say but I tend to play it off and be extra "clueless" for the rest of the  class. Even though I don't respond, it is very helpful to know what they are talking about. I would prefer that they not swear in Hungarian in my class but I'm not sure how to deal with that without "exposing" my knowledge. I have given most of my upper school classes a piece of my mind when they have slipped and sworn in English.

Finding creative ways to manage my classes is a bit of a challenge but I'm getting better at it. All of my students need to have a name tag (we made them the first week of classes) so that I can see who they are and I have different tactics for different grades to ensure that they have them. First and second get stickers if they have them and a sad face if they don't; I think I may start recording more closely with rewards if they have a certain number of stickers. Third grade gets an X if they don't have it and after three Xes I'll be talking to their teacher. The fourth graders are getting a taste of my childhood - if they don't have their name tag and/or notebook I assign 15-25 sentences for the next week: I will bring my notebook/name tag to Miss Rose's class. We are having a contest in fifth and sixth grades and the class loses points if they do not have their name tag. In seventh and eighth, I give them time at the beginning of class to make a new name tag if they don't bring one. I count how many minutes of my teaching time it takes them and then I take the same number of minutes from their break at the end of class. In general, stickers are a wonderful reward for anything. I haven't used them in 7th or 8th but even the 6th graders get very excited to get them for a good mark on an exercise in class. All in all, I really love teaching. It's funny since I never expected to be doing it but I can see myself teaching for a very long time.

All my paperwork is completed. It was fantastic, I only had to go to immigration in Debrecen once. And, had the officer not mistyped my name in the form, it would have taken about an hour. As it was, we were finished in an hour and a half. Two weeks later I received a letter saying my residency application was accepted and another week or so later, I received my residence permit. Both of those came by registered mail so I only had to go to the post office and pick them up. The school has been so organized with all my paperwork. I have been very thankful because it saves so much time, energy, and worry that one of my papers will be misplaced.

My health card took a little longer to get which was almost a problem when I was sick. I had a nasty cold (just a cold this time... I didn't let it develop into bronchitis or anything!) and had go to the doctor. That was challenging because my contact teacher was in England on a school trip. I ended up calling Hajni, our program director. She called the school and one of the other teachers took me to the doctor after the principal called the doctor's office. My doctor is directly across the street which is great because it only take a minute or two to get there depending on when the lights turn. The pharmacy is around the corner from the doctor - I can still almost see it from my balcony. Despite not having my health card, I was able to see the doctor and got prescriptions for antibiotics (which I took even though it turned out not to be bacterial), nose spray, cough medicine, and vitamin c. The appointment was free and the prescriptions cost about 6000ft (a little under $30) all together. I think the three days of rest which the doctor also prescribed did more than the rest! I've gotten my health card since then so, while I hope I won't have to go back, things should be fine if I do.

As I mentioned above, I'm singing in a choir in Szoboszlo. It's held at the music-focused elementary school for the teachers there and other people from the town. We have a concert this afternoon at my church to celebrate the beginning of the Year of Faith. Most of the members are much older than I am (there are a few in their 30-40s but most are 50-60) but it's nice to have a place to sing. I may be joining a choir in Debrecen as well. My contact teacher's best friend teaches in the music school at the University of Debrecen and I met her yesterday. She invited me to join the Debrecen university/community choir AND is going to help me get set up with a voice teacher from the school for private lessons!!

The mail seems to be great here - I've gotten everything that people have sent quite quickly - so feel free to send me something!

Kovach Rose
Szilfakalja utca 6 2/5