Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back in action

Well, it's been just over a month that I have been home, and what an adjustment period it has been. I do have to say that while I'm still adjusting to the day to day operations of being at home, I do really appreciate being back in the great state of Minnesota.

I did not feel this way the first few weeks I was back - when I was shoveling for my parents who are wintering in Florida. Yes, they are "wintering" in Florida. That means they are really truly old right? At any rate, I was kicked in the face with several back to back snow storms upon my return.

One good thing about being out shoveling is that you run into the neighbors. It's really the only time that Minnesotans see each other in the winter time. I was lucky enough to run into my next door neighbor, Dorina. She hails from Romania, and I was glad that while in Hungary, I was able to visit Romania and see some of the beautiful country her family came from. She had just returned from helping to set up a dinner at her Romanian Orthodox Church in St. Paul. Being the person that she is, she invited me along to the Romanian dinner, and I thought - what the heck? Sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday night. So, she, her husband and I went to their church to attend the dinner.

It was a lovely evening! I was able to bone up on my Hungarian with Mihaly, and I learned a bit about Romania in the process. After the delicious dinner of sausage, another meat, potatoes and bread there was some dancing. It was different than Hungarian folk dance, and I really enjoyed the chance to see this type of dance.

What a wonderful evening!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Last encounter with the neighbors

So shortly before I left, there was a bit of an incident involving WAY more people than ever should have been. I had just had Dávid over for a catch up session- it was a nice afternoon with laughing and reminiscing all around. Shortly after he left, my door buzzer rang. I thought it was him and that he had forgotten something. When I picked up the phone, it was someone speaking in Hungarian. It totally threw me off, and in my confusion all I heard were the words "ground floor" and "come now." So, I put on my slippers, shut the door and went downstairs. I didn't turn the light on in the hallway, so I was walking in the dark, and came to the formerly "nasty" neighbor waiting outside her apartment door. She looked at me and said, "come in, come in." I had no idea what was going on, I thought there was an emergency, that was why she called me down. Earlier that day, I had spoken to her husband Imre, and told him I was leaving the next week. He nodded and said goodbye - it was nothing big. Until, I got into their apartment after the vague summons, and saw the spread they had for me. There were cakes, and several selections of beverages. So, I sat down, ate some cakes and started drinking some wine.

Keep in mind, the only words in English that any of the three of them can say is the word "four." I don't know why this one sticks out, but it's true. I worked in my best Hungarian to communicate, but I was still a bit in shock as to what exactly was happening. I sat an conversed - though it was a bit disjointed - and was generally uncomfortable. I was the only one eating, and the other three were staring at me as I ate. It was a sweet gesture, but I wasn't sure what to do while I was there. So I ate, and talked, and ate and looked around and commented on different things in their apartment as being "beautiful" - it was a normal exchange at a Hungarian home (for me that is).

After about 20 minutes of general awkwardness, I was invited over to their computer to look at some pictures. I missed the introduction of who the person was that I was looking at, but it was a four year old blonde with pigtails. I was told to use the mouse to click to the next pictures, so click I did. Using my favorite Hungarian adjective "szep" I clicked through over 100 pictures. The wine still flowing, the conversation lagging, what an appropriate time for the daughter to ask me if I had Skype. What? Skype? I can barely talk to you and you want me to SKYPE you? Doubtful. My answer to her? "Sorry, I'm slow and don't do it." Ugh... I wasn't sure how to break off comfortably because it wasn't comfortable at all, but eventually, I was able to get out. That didn't happen until after I was the recipient of a beautifully crafted hand stitched table runner. I asked her how many hours it took her to make, and her answer was a simple "lots." I barely knew her, couldn't really speak to her, and here she was giving me something beautiful that she spent so much time making.

Getting out of the apartment wasn't the end of it though... I returned to the third floor, and there was a post it note on my door that said, "Carla, your keys are in apartment 3/1." And, it was in English. What? Okay... I went up to the apartment and knocked on their door. Another neighbor who I had seen off and on coming and going from the building answered the door and said, "Your door was open and your cat was on the first floor- so we put her back and here are your keys." Oy yoy.... "I'm so sorry, I must not have shut the door tight and I was down at the neighbors" It wasn't a problem, I got the keys back and off I went. I opened the door to the apartment and Boo was there just chillin like nothing had happened. Then, my cell phone rang... I didn't recognize the number, but I picked it up anyway. "Carla, it's Kata from school - where are you? Are you okay?" "Hi Kata, yeah, I am fine - I'm at home..." "You're at home? Your neighbor called the school and said that you were gone, but that your cat was out and the door was open. You are sure you're okay?" "Yes Kata - I'm fine. I'm home and safe." Almost instantaneously when I hung up, my door buzzer rang again. Seriously? So I went to the door and answered the phone- "Carla, it's Anna, can I come up?" Anna.... which Anna. Well obviously they knew me because she was speaking in English and directly addressed me. "Sure, come on up." It was one of my English teaching colleagues who showed up at my door a few short minutes later. "I was at the Spar and Martha [the headmistress] called me and said that you were gone but that your cat was out of the apartment and the door was open. She is very concerned!" Oh how embarrassing. "Anna, I'm fine. The cat is fine, I was at the neighbors, I thought it was an emergency but it wasn't and I ended up drinking wine and looking at pictures..." She looked over my shoulder to make sure I was in fact okay, and said "are you sure you're fine? Are you here by yourself?" I assured her that I was totally okay - said that the neighbor over-reacted and was just worried about me. I thanked her for coming right over, and told her to return to her abandoned grocery cart at the Spar, that I was totally fine. After I closed the door on Anna, the HOUSE phone rang. Seriously? It was one of those things that I didn't register right away because I rarely heard the noise - but I answered. There was an obviously agitated Hungarian woman on the other end asking me frantically if I was at home, um yeah - you just called the home phone, and I answered it. She followed with are you okay, I said yes I'm fine, and of course asked about the cat. I really like that the cat's whereabouts was integral to the seeming shut down of the school until I was found.

Funny, but it wasn't until the last week I was there that I realized that even though they didn't show it outwardly, my neighbors were generally concerned about me. :)

The neighbors!!!

Zsolt -the neighbor who always greeted me and who helped me with my bike tire.

AND - the moment you all have been waiting for - the neni from the first floor - and Imre her husband and their daughter.

Americans come back for one more visit!

I was fortunate to have some of the American teachers return to Tata for a farewell get together the weekend before I left. They came and helped to clear out much of the things I had in my apartment, and were there to help me prepare to return home. It was great to hang out with them once again, and to say my final good-bye's before leaving Tata for good.

Dávid and Biánka

While in Hungary, I was able to become close with one of my English as a third language students Dávid. He was a dual language German student and was taking English as his additional foreign language. He has a great sense of humor and really did well in using English in conversation. He was curious and a hard worker, and I worked with him before he took his English exam last year. He is at a University in Budapest this year, but came to visit a couple times when he was in town. He and his girlfriend Biánka, whom I got to know through Dávid, came over before I left to give me a very special going away present. They had made some homemade Bailey's and some pálinka for me - they were both delicious! Thanks and I miss you both!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

One last coffee...

One of the most thoughtful and helpful students I had was Dori. She and her family was always ready and willing to help me in any situation I needed. Dori is the one who put together the beautiful book that the 10A students gave me; she is like the little sister that I never had. She wanted to get together one last time before I left, so she and her boyfriend David and another 10A student Jenni met me for coffee after school one day. I brought Bob (my replacement) with me because I had been showing him a bit of the town, and it couldn't hurt to have some one on one time with some really good kids. As we sat and chatted, I told Bob a bit about the two classes the kids represented - David is in a 10 class, but he evidentely shouldn't have been in that class for English. If they aren't in the dual-language "A" program, they have to test into different levels. He cheated on the test, and ended up in a level higher than his achievement. Once he found out I was the teacher, he decided to stay - even though more often than not he didn't know what I was saying. Jenni and Dori gave Bob a few pointers and it was another nice gathering to just sit and relax a bit - to remember the great times we all had together.

David, Dori Me and Jenni

Dori and Jenni and I.

Beautiful "Flowers"

Here is a wonderful arrangement I received from some of my students for my going away party. It's full of all things Hungarian - Turo Rudi, marzipan candies, peppers as the flowers, two small alcohol bottles, a felt keychain, and ribbons that are red, white and green - the colors of the flag. It's absolutely beautiful - and very thoughtful. Particularly thoughtful was the fact that the Turo Rudi needs to be refrigerated (it's basically cottage cheese dipped in chocolate) - so they ate it and stuffed the wrapper with scrap paper... funny Hungarians :)

close up
Unicum is a Hungarian alcohol, and the small red ball is a pepper.

Going away party - Hungary style!

I decided that I would like to have some of the students over to my house as a "good bye" type event. I told all my students about it, and made an "event" on Facebook, which then makes it legit right? I had no idea how many kids would come, but I prepared some snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies to share with whomever showed up. Much to my surprise, there were TONS of studenst there - including some who graduated last year!! I was honestly moved, and really appreciated the time they took to come and bid me farewell. I don't know if they had ever gone to a party like this before, as many of them didn't know what to do - and Barna was upset because "Carla, you're leaving and no one is talking about it - can you make a speech?" I don't think he knew that everyone just being there was plenty for me. It was a truly spectacular night.

Dori, Bence, Aron, Viki, Anna and Bence - with David hiding in the corner
Bence again
Zsuzsi the cat sitter
Marci and Bence
Mate and Barna
11th graders from A, C, D and E
9th grade girls
Heni and Zsofi
10th and 12th graders
Anna and Viki
Anna and Dori
Jenni and Niki
Aron and Bence

Moni and Niki
Tibi, Martin and Gabor

all the coats!
Soma and Gerti

Me showing off my new art
Bence and Petra
the packed house
me and Boo