Thursday, November 14, 2013

Never have I ever brushed my teeth in the middle of Oktoberfest.

The last time I blogged I was gearing up for a weekend trip to Munich for Oktoberfest.  I think I'll give a recap of that trip before I write about what has been happening in Hungary lately. Oktoberfest was easily some of the most insane 33 hours I've ever experienced.   Yes, 33 hours to get from Budapest to Munich, drink with some of the biggest beer enthusiasts in the world and then get back to the comforts of my cozy pullout couch in Buda.  The trip began flawlessly.  My fellow CETP friends and I boarded buses at 10pm on a Friday and woke up to find ourselves in Munich around 10 am the next day.  We stumbled off the buses, were given a time when we needed to meet back, and were left to explore Oktoberfest for the next 12 hours.  I think it will be easiest to outline my day like this:

10:00  8 Americans + our new friend Jorge wander the streets of Munich trying to FIND Oktoberfest.  We have no map, no wifi and no guide.  When in Munich, follow the dirndls and lederhosen.  

11:00:  We finally find Oktoberfest but have no idea how to actually get into a beer tent.  Wait, this is a thing?  Why can't I speak German? It's 11 am and I desperately want a beverage.  Should I be concerned?

12:00:  It's now pouring rain.  We're still outside. We decide to join the masses of people in front of the Hofbräuhaus tent and see if we can make our way in.  After standing in the crowd for a few minutes, we notice a woman near the front of the crowd selling giant pastries for 10 euros each (quite the expensive treat)! THEN we notice that every time someone buys a pastry, she lifts up the rope holding back the crowd and lets them in.  My friend Shannen promptly throws 20 euros at the woman, grabs two pastries, and within minutes the two of us are standing inside the Hofbräuhaus tent.  I still have NO idea what the hell we actually paid for.  I don't think Oktoberfest tents have covers. That woman is BRILLIANT.  Maybe I should quit teaching and bake pastries to sell at Oktoberfest 2014?

12:30: We all make it into the tent.  Oktoberfest is EXACTLY how it is portrayed in movies.  Beer steins and pretzels everywhere.  Every time a song ends, everyone clinks their beers and chugs them as fast as they can.  At any given minute, ten people are up on the tables downing an entire stein in a matter of seconds.  Right when we walk in, we make friends with people from all over the world.  Everyone is there to simply enjoy the moments spent with good friends and good beer.  Why did it take me 25 years to get here?  Is this real life?  When does the bus leave again?  Where is my passport?  Must. hold. onto. my. passport.

 13:00: ...?

14:00: ...?

15:00: ...?   

16:00:  ...?      
As you can see... things got rather hazy throughout the day.  I can't really account for the other hours that followed.  Other memories include: eating chicken and pancakes with two German men who didn't speak English, trying to order 8 sausages & being refused(!) and Shannen getting picked up and thrown out by a bouncer for attempting to take a beer stein as a souvenir.  We also spent a great deal of the day trying to find our friend Daniel ( the *star* of the toothbrush picture above).  We lost him early in the day.  I sort of assumed he was kidnapped, was going to have to stay in Munich forever and would be forced to become a beer maid for 2014.   Thankfully, Daniel ran up to us MINUTES before the bus left, panting.  

  He had nothing on him except two beer steins.
I'm pretty sure that's exactly the way Oktoberfest is meant to be.

I will post about my Italian getaway AND Hungary soon! I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Italy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Somehow it's already October and I have just come to realize that I haven't blogged since that little bubble known as orientation.  Some of you may be sitting at home thinking what on earth I have been doing with myself since the end of August.  Others may have heard pieces here and there.  What I will tell you is that this crazy adventure has been nothing like I thought it would be.

It's been better.  

But it has not been the smoothest of rides.

Orientation was a week filled with the comforts of wifi, a complimentary unlimited transportation pass and a bed all to myself.  I will never take these things for granted again.

On August 28th, we had "Adoption Day" through my program, CETP.  On this day, everyone waited in the hostel with their bags packed and ready to be picked up by their contact teacher. According to the program, your contact teacher is supposed to be around to bring you to your flat, show you around your neighborhood, and assist you during your transition into your new workplace.  We spent the last few hours (or what we thought were the last few hours) on the party terrace, saying our goodbyes to the new friends we had made during the week in Budapest.  

Adoption Day was exciting.

Until I didn't get picked up.

At roughly 14:00 (2:00 pm), myself and three other girls found ourselves alone in the hostel.  Our friends were off on their new adventures, and there we were sitting on the couches of the hostel with our bags packed but nowhere to go.  Since we got to Hungary, we have been learning that most things don't really happen until the day after they were supposed to happen.  We've learned that contracts don't mean much, and verbal promises mean even less.  You kind of just have to cross your fingers and hope that someone remembers your appointment or request.  Remembering this, we decided we need to be pushy and start making some phone calls.  

At 20:00, we finally made it out of the hostel.  And then I was homeless for two weeks.

By homeless, I mean I moved to a foreign country without knowing anyone, and didn't have a home.  

THANKFULLY, I crashed with my friend Hil for these two weeks.  We had a good time being roomies, but as the days went on, I started to wonder how long I would be living out of my suitcases. Also, the entire time Hil and I lived together we didn't have the internet.  We became regular wi-fi thieves at the KFC down the street, standing on the street corner right outside to get a bar or two of service.  I was honestly afraid that they were going to put a picture of our faces on the door and ban us from the premises because in all that time we never actually bought anything.  

After three weeks of being in Hungary, I finally got my flat.  I live about a block and a half from the Danube on the Buda side, directly across from Parliament.  I honestly couldn't be happier with my location.  I can get to Pest in about five minutes and work in about 25.  I also prefer to live in Buda because it's safer and quieter.  When I want to go out, I can just hop on the tram or the metro and be in the center of the city in just a few short minutes.  

The apartment itself is interesting.  You can see some pictures below.

I have no oven or microwave, and sleep on a pullout couch.  The worst part about the couch is that it is sloped downward.  You will see in the picture that my pillows are where they should be- at the headboard.  What you didn't know is that I actually can't sleep like this.  I make my bed so it looks pretty, but then at night I have to put my head at the other end because I'm afraid that all of the blood is going to rush to my head and I'm going to die.  I think it's a rational thought.

 The couch is from the 1970's I would guess and is pink velour.  I also have two jazzy chairs to match.  Ohhh, and a dining room table without chairs.   It was absolutely horrendous when I moved in, but I think I've done a decent job of fixing it up.  Those of you who know me, know that interior decorating is my hell.   It actually looks like a first grader (a really tall one) hung up my pictures, but I tried and that's all that counts.  Always have a teacha mindset.  

ALSO.  My apartment is directly above a Euro Market and a tanning salon.  MAINERS- look at the woman in the Euro Market ad.  MARDENS, anyone?

This last picture is to show you how close my apartment is to the river and what my view is when I walk outside.  I've decided that I can never really have a bad day here.  

I have been having SO many adventures at school.  I am absolutely in love with my children and I definitely have a few favorites.  I just started tutorials this week where I have four students at a time for thirty minutes each.  It makes for really long days but I LOVE it because I have time to really get to know my students.  It can be difficult at times because I have to insist that they speak English at all times.  Some of them are also insane terrors and I don't understand how they can act like they snorted packs of fundip ALL DAY LONG.  I'm still trying to figure out the best way to deal with them.  

Things that happen at Krudy that don't happen in the states:

1.) Children TALK all day long.  Over the teacher.  During Tests.  In the hallways.  EVERYWHERE.
2.)  Children don't give a shit about being naked in front of one another.  Before and after PE, the classroom is filled with naked children, boys and girls.  
3.)  Between every 45 minute class, there is a 10 minute break.  During this break, children can act like little terror monkeys, and can absolutely wreck havoc wherever they please.  As in, they are literally running up and down the hallways screaming, playing soccer, hitting each other, etc.  The list could go on and on.
4.)  THEY EAT SO MUCH BREAD.  PRETZELS BUNS ROLLS SANDWICHES ANYTHING.  Seriously.  Anything under the sun that is made out of bread, they will eat.  For breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Last week, we went to a big theater in Pest and watched a musical called "Vuk."  The novel, "Vuk" was written by Istvan Fekete and has since been turned into cartoons and plays around the world.   The story was about a fox named Vuk who leaves home and upon returning, finds that her family has been killed by a hunter.  The story was a little gruesome, but also made me think about stories like The Lion King and Bambi.  For a second, I was worried about my students watching such a tragedy unfold. Then I thought back to asking my students what their favorite movies were back in DC.  When I remembered hearing answers like "Chucky," or "Freddy vs. Jason," I decided my students in Hungary could probably sleep at night after watching a musical about an abandoned fox. 

Also, did I mention that the play was in Hungarian?  I followed along completely (with a littttttle help from some helpful little ones whispering translations into my ear).  

I have a million more adventures to write about but this has already gone on for far too long.  It's almost my bedtime-  tomorrow we have a "Teacher's Day" which I guess involves hiking, Hungarian cuisine, and shots of Palinka.  I'm terrified.

Oh yeah, and then I'm going to Oktoberfest.  

I'm leaving from Budapest at 22:00 tomorrow night on a bus.  I'll be in Munich by the morning where I will drink the finest beers on earth for 12 hours.  At night, we will get back on the bus and be back in Budapest by 10:00 am on Sunday.  So, no hostel, just 10 buses of drunk people.  I might die.  

Also fall break tickets have been purchased for ITALY.  I think my life might be fake.

I'll leave you with a few shots I've taken in the past few days:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

WEEK 1: Survival

Boyyyy, do I have a lot to write about.

First of all, I've clearly made it to my new home.  After flying from Boston to Chicago, to Istanbul, I finally made it to Budapest.  Upon arrival I was pretty happy about two major things:  1.)  ALL of my luggage made it over (no idea how this happened.  I literally ran through the airport at each layover). 2.) My director, and my "Hungarian mother,"and other CETP members were at the airport to greet me.  After quick introductions we hopped on a shuttle and headed to the hostel to meet the other members of our group!

We are staying at Hostel GoodMo which is right in downtown Pest.  It's a very posh hostel and is definitely the nicest one I've ever stayed in.  The bedrooms each have 12 beds in them and there's even a "party terrace" which has been a solid place to hang out and get to know other CETP members.  The only downside is there is so much going on at all times so it's nearly impossible to sleep.  I've been living off about 4-5 hours a night and am starting to feel fairly creature-ish ( "HE WAS A TRUE GOLLUM CREATURE"- quick shout out to mama T right there).  But really, I am starting to act and look like a true creature.  Thank god for bronzer. 

                                                     The view from our hostel bedroom.
                                                   The room of sleep deprivation.
                                                 Da party terr. 

If I tried to write down every interesting or incredible excursion I've gone on since I've arrived, this blog would go on forever.  I'll do my best to narrow it down.  

After I got to Budapest I had one full day to explore the city before my orientation began.  In order to get to know the city, 5 other CETP members and I took a "hop on, hop off" tour where you get to explore the city via bus, tram, boat, etc.  The tickets were 5,000 Forint, which is around 22 USD.  The tour was a great way to see a lot of major parts of the city in just a day.  The architecture is incredible.  I tried not to drool on my camera as I took some of the pictures below.

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge

View of the Buda and Pest sides of the city from Gellért Hill.

The Hungarian Parliment Building.

     After that magical day of exploring, we have spent the last few days doing orientation for CETP which has been interesting to say the least.  We have different sessions for Elementary and High School teachers where we learn about teaching, cultural differences, and an introduction to the Hungarian language.  The information is all interesting and relevant to what we are about to be doing in the classroom so it's been fun to go to sessions and get to know some new friends in the meantime.  The only challenging part of the sessions is the Hungarian language session.  Hungarians tend to be more stern as teachers in order to push their students.  These lessons are no exception for our teacher.  She moves from one topic to the next as we all frantically copy notes from each other and send terrified looks to each other from across the room.  I know about 20 words right now, 10 of which I learned before I left.  For some reason, some of my friends and I keep wanting to respond in Spanish without thinking because we don't know how to respond in Hungarian.  I've let out a couple of si's or no's  at bars with a Spanish accent because I'm not paying attention.   Things that are super embarrassing:  THAT.

Okay now, the reason I'm really here is to teach (even though I sometimes forget about that- mostly when I'm bumbling through ruin pubs with new friends or taking multiple shots of Palinka, a traditional fruit brandy).  So here we go.  Yesterday I had my first orientation at my new school. I will be teaching at the same school as two other girls from  my program, so it was nice to travel there with some familiar faces.  We've been able to use public transportation and cabs (my poor friend Hayley is injured so we've been taking cabs a lot to help her get from place to place without too much pain)!  Most cab rides are painless but today we actually took one home from school where he drove about 100 mph and almost took out about 200 men, women, and children along the way.  Shoot, back to school talk.  So, yesterday I got to see my school.  I am already in love with it but I cannot even begin to tell you how different it is from schools in the United States.  

My school is Krúdy Gyula Általános Iskola and is located in the 3rd district of Buda, also known as Óbuda. While I went to Budapest thinking I was teaching strictly third grade, I found out a little differently when I got to work.  First off, let me show you what my teaching schedule looks like:

Yep.  So, that's about what that looks like.  Mostly, I have no idea what is going on but I do know some things.  I'm going to hold on to what I do know for dear life.  What I DO know is that I have a precious co-teacher to work with this year.  My classroom will be taught roughly in 50/50 English and Hungarian.  Today we met and "planned" for the first week of school for math and science.  I say "planned" because I'm not totally sure what happened.  Eniko is wonderful but doesn't know a ton of English.  There was a lot of smiling and nodding between the two of us.  Also, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be sore from all the miming and charades I had to do to show her what I was trying to say.  About five minutes into our conversation, she ran to the library and brought back two giant Hungarian-English dictionaries which will be essential to our interactions this year.  We also called on a translator for a small bit of the planning where her English was not as strong.  I wish more than anything that I knew some Hungarian so I could at least meet her halfway.  

I met with a few other Hungarian co-teachers to plan music ( I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT/WATCH OUT CHILDREN), art, and crafts.  These subjects should be fairly easy, so I'm not too worried about them.  The first one I STILL DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT.  

One of the biggest differences is that the teachers do not leave their teaching materials in the classrooms in Hungary.  Instead, there is a giant teacher's room with desks for all the teachers.  We all claimed desks today and will keep our stuff there for the year.  The teachers room is always buzzing with teacher-talk, both Hungarian and English.  I'm not really sure what I think about it yet but it's all part of the experience.  2 things to know about the lounge: 1.) You can't heat up your food and eat it in the lounge.  No one wants to know what you're eating.  2.)  You must say goodbye before you leave it even if no one is watching you.  

I have a million more things to write, but I have another meeting soon and then a big fancy traditional Hungarian dinner.  I'll leave you with some images from my school. 
                                                               Fellow coworkers

bird cage.................... 


Krudy from the front.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bhutan? Bangladesh? Bulgaria? Ohhhh, BUDAPEST.

Sometime at the end of May I decided I wanted to leave Washington, DC and have a new life adventure.  I frantically threw applications together and ended up with a job offer to teach at a primary bilingual school through the Central European Teaching Program.  I have learned two major things since deciding to move to Budapest:

1.)  No one knows where on earth Budapest is.  "You're going where?  Bhutan?  Bangladesh? Bulgaria?  BUDAPEST? Ohhh.  Where is that, Turkey?"  

If they do, the first question is always, "Hungary?  Who the hell wants to go there?"  

First of all, let me point out that I am by no means judging anyone who does not know where Hungary is.  I think that it wasn't until after my second Skype interview that I decided to actually pull up a map and locate it myself.  Upon realizing that it is not, in fact, next to Turkey, I discovered that Hungary is actually bordered by Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.  Since learning this, I've spent many hours with the Lonely Planet guide of Eastern Europe,  drooling over the day trips and weekend adventures I plan to have in many of these places.  

2.)  Attempting to learn Hungarian is a good way to make you feel extremely, extremely incompetent.  My position as a teacher in a bilingual school means that I will be teaching Hungarian children Reading/ Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies in English.  My Hungarian co-teacher will be teaching the same content in Hungarian.  Thus, while I am not required to learn extensive Hungarian, I thought it would be useful so that I will have at least a little bit of an idea of what is going on around me.  I figured that a lot of solo trips to Starbucks with my computer and a free learn to speak Hungarian app would suffice.  Boy, was I wrong.  Hungarian, let me tell you, is fucking difficult.  Mom and I sat on the couch last night for example, trying to learn how to count from zero to ten.  It ended in a lot of coughing/choking on phlegm and some screaming things like, "How the? Who the hell knows how to make that sound?"  Mom was a good sport and helped me look up the pronunciation of each word.  Let's take the word for one- "egy."  After pronouncing it as "eggy" at least thirty times, we learned that the pronunciation is more like  "ayy- dge" - with a d sound that sounds like the "d" from adulation.  Who the what? All day my parents have been asking me questions like "How old were the children you taught?" and have been making me answer in Hungarian.  Sooooo, needless to say I've spent a lot of time out of the house/ hibernating in my room today.  Sorry in advance for butchering your language, Hungarian kiddos.

Anyway, I thought I'd write my first post today because I leave for Hungary in exactly one month.  I still have approximately a million things to do/people to see before I leave.  I'm trying to find to do these things but between my recent Arrested Development obsession and my summer job as a 7 & 8th grade camp camp counselor (that might deserve its own blog), it has been rather difficult to find time to do everything.  Somehow I have faith that everything will get done and I will be shipping out thirty days from now on the adventure of a lifetime (if I can read enough Hungarian to figure out how to get out of the airport first)...