Snoel Abroad

Sara is abroad again and this time it is in Hungary! I am here in Hungary (in the small town of Gyöngyös) teaching English at a primary school through CETP- the Central European Teaching Program- Follow along with my crazy adventures in teaching and traveling. Szia!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A long time coming

I know it's been a while, too long. Plenty has happened since my last entry and all will be explained on my new blog:

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Szolnok. Last weekend I took one last train trip South East across the Great Hungarian Plain to Szolnok to visit Emily. In the past few weeks everything has been “the last,” there have been a lot of goodbyes. In Szolnok it was my last train trip, the last time I got stuck in the rain on a Sunday night at a train station not quite home (this time it was Hatvan.) The last time I would sit in a room drinking Soproni beer, eating Fornetti in the middle of a conversation going on in five different languages. The last time I would enjoy a paper plate stacked high with grilled meats, sausages and other Hungarian delights smothered with spicy mustard, the last time I would sleep in a dog pile of too many CETPers trying to spend the weekend in someone’s tiny apartment. It was my last time to sit under a bridge with my friends dangling our feet in one of Hungary’s dirtiest rivers and not caring because it was so hot outside. But the biggest and saddest last of them all was the weekend itself- the last of many spontaneous weekends with my new friends in a random Hungarian city. This weekend I had to say goodbye to Emily, who I have faith will always be there in her apartment in Szolnok when I need another dose of Magyarorszag and come back to visit. To Caley and Arlo- attached at the hip and always a good time- they renewed all of our attitudes when they arrived second semester and I’m sure that Caley will continue his antics with the newbies who will arrive in September. I did, however, get to hold off on my goodbye to Bridget since she is coming to Gyöngyös for a last chance look at the Northern Uplands. It was a great way to end things.

However, as has been the pattern lately, I have found a way to put off a few more lasts and goodbyes and will see a few more people for (yet another) last hoorah in Budapest this weekend.

Almost the end.


The last few weeks at school have been anything but routine. The combination of hot weather, burned out students (and teachers), and construction that seems to intrude more and more on the physical space and noise level of the building (the last week I had construction workers on scaffolding outside my classroom windows- shirtless and sweaty which was far more than my hormonal 13 and 14 year old girls could handle!) has meant that we haven’t done much in the way of regular lessons in a while. There was a week where on any given day half the school was away on a trip, and an afternoon where I (and the other English teachers) took 95 students to the movies for a special screening of The Queen. The Monday after I returned from Balaton was “Teacher’s Day” and I was showered with gifts, chocolates and flowers from my students followed by a faculty appreciation banquet where we ate, drank, ate some more and drank some more. A few students read poems, played the flute and sang us a song before thanking us for all our work and giving us each a single rose- very sweet. After this there were speeches from the headmistress and a special goodbye to 4 retiring teachers and 1 more who was leaving- me. I was told that the headmistress’s speech was very nice (but I couldn’t understand it myself) but they gave more gifts and flowers and there was a champagne toast- all so nice.
This week, however, the final week, was the most odd. On Tuesday it was the teachers’ chance for a field trip and 40 of us loaded onto a bus at 8 am. This being Hungary the first order of business as we pulled away from the school at 8am was to serve martini’s in plastic cups- it’s never too early in Hungary. Unfortunately do to bad traffic we arrived at our destination 4 hours later (instead of the expected 2.5) but it was a fun trip and everyone chatted and listened to music and laughed and, of course, ate an uncountable amount of sandwiches wrapped in napkins and pulled from bottomless bags. Our destination was Komoron, a small town on the North Western border of Hungary, just across the river from Slovakia. Here we toured an old fort built after the 1848 revolution and later used by the Soviets as a prison and artillery storage. The fort is built mostly underground and the few above ground buildings are covered with earth and wild grasses that allow it to blend in with it’s surroundings. We wandered the extensive tunnel system and even got a bit lost! But Szabo Bea and Satzi (with the help of an old railroad track and ancient rail cart) found our way out. Next we drove to the small town of Tata, famous for hosting the European kayak and canoeing championships.
We had an ice cream (or two) and jumped back on the bus- martinis in hand- to head back to Gyöngyös. Unfortunately about 45 minutes away from home the buses fancy computer automated air-conditioning broke down and the heat came on full blast- this combined with a long day of walking around in the sweltering heat meant everyone was soon feeling ill and we had to stop the bus every 10 minutes so that we could all get out- cool down (or throw up) and then get back on. The heat must have gotten to the ladies heads because pretty soon they were laughing and pouring their water bottles down their dresses and then all broke out into song- an old Socialist era song they all knew from school because they said the situation reminded them of the days of Socialist Hungary.
Wednesday was another special day. There was a school wide scavenger hunt that was spread over the entire town. At each stop the students had to answer questions or perform special tasks such as counting park benches, measuring the mustache of the statues in a square or answer a quiz about their teachers. My job for the day was to help and walk around with class 7a (my favourites, but shhh don’t tell the others!) I had a great time chatting with the kids and walking ALL over town.
Norbi, Marci, Réka, Mark and Soma
Thursday and Friday were mostly spent with the 7th and 8th graders preparing and practicing for the big graduation ceremony on Saturday and the 5th and 6th graders scattered across various parks in town playing games so I mostly had the two days off to sign final papers, complete my naplos (the daily registers for each class where I must enter the lesson number and topic and sign it daily- I will be having nightmares about the Naplos for years!!)
Thursday night was a final goodbye and celebratory banquet for the graduating 8th graders at a local restaurant. The kids were all dressed up in suits and cocktail dresses and gave speeches and sang songs. They thanked us for our work and presented us each with a signed copy of their class picture. Then they moved aside the tables and the place became a disco. The kids soon dragged me in and I ended the night rocking out to “Eye of the Tiger” with my 8th graders. It was a fantastic way to end a year that has been- where class 8 is concerned- a rough one. Tomorrow morning (Saturday) I will go to their Ballagas- the traditional Hungarian graduation ceremony which, as I’ve heard, is an experience to look forward to.

Wrapping up a few loose ends.

1) My funny Euro washing machine. We have settled on a “live and let live” relationship. I don’t throw it out the window (even when I really want to) and it only dyes entire loads of laundry baby blue and clogs all my drains occasionally.

2) Walter the fat Dalmatian who chills on the step outside my school is actually female and named Magdi and she a sweetheart who prefers the term “rotund” and blames the excess weight on numerous litters and her owner’s refusal to take her to Pilates.

3) Grocery shopping. I now always (well, almost always) have a 20, 50 and 100 ft coin on me at all times so I can get a buggy and be allowed into the grocery store where I am now a super star at weighing and printing out labels for more produce, ordering things at the meat counter and even remembering to bring my own bags. Which mostly means that I will probably freak out when some stranger starts bagging my groceries for me when I get home.

4) School lunch. In January I started to get food vouchers and that was the end of the wet noodles topped with sour cream and cheese.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wine and the Lake

Today is Wednesday, June 6th and I fly home to the US two weeks from today. My time here as flown by but has also crawled along very slowly, I’m sure my last weeks will be the same. I’ve been busy the last few weeks trying to squeeze in all of the things that I had been wanting to do since I’ve come here as well as trying to see and say goodbye to all my friends around the country. The last week of May was a three day weekend and (as always) this meant various festivals around Hungary. I had a tough decision to make- the wine festival in Tokaj or the beer festival in Beke. In the end we (Eve and I) decided to go to Tokaj assuming that it must be a good because every hostel, hotel and guesthouse in the area was fully booked! Lucky for us Ian in Nyiregyhaza is only about 40 minutes away. So after a Saturday night out in Nyiregyhaza, Ian, Eve, Ray and I spent a fantastic day in Tokaj. Tokaj is one of the many famous wine towns and is famous for it’s white wines, especially a super sweet dessert wine with a unique flavor thanks to the special mold found on the walls of the Tokaj cellars. As with all festivals in Hungary, the main square and street of the town was lined with booths representing each of the local cellars as well as fair food and other various things for sale (if you ever need a giant gulyas cauldron and tripod this is the place.) We bought our tasting glasses, had our first glass were just finishing up our heaping plates of fresh grilled chicken, paprikas krumpli and grilled veggies when a storm rolled it (the same storm that seems to hit this region every afternoon) Luckily we (and all the other festival goers) were able to wait out the storm under an overhang and take turns running out for a fresh glass of Tokaj wine, with just a hint of Tokaj rain. The next morning Eve and I decided to spend a few more hours at the festival before heading home and this time were invited in to one of the wine booths when the storm hit where were chatted, sipped wine and nibbled pogacsa with the wine makers. Unfortunately Eve and I had a bit too much fun and lost track of the time which meant we caught the last train back to Budapest just in time to miss our last buses and trains home- oops! However, after some wondering and searching we were able to find a hostel for the night so we could be up at dawn to catch the 5 a.m. buses home giving us enough time to quickly change our clothes and run straight to class! A small price to pay for the luxury of getting to put off saying our final goodbyes for another few hours.
The next weekend, the first of June, was the big goodbye weekend. 23 of us spent the weekend at Balatonfured- one of the many small lakeside towns along the shores of lake Balaton- the Hungarian sea. The 23 was made up mostly of the other CETP teachers but also included 2 Hungarians (Noemi- the honorary CETPer and Attila), John and Kelsey- Harpswell’s recently graduated cousin, Adam- my contribution- a friend from high school at the beginning of his own Euro trip, and Jeremy- a teacher from last year back for the summer. We had a fantastic weekend hanging out on the beach, swimming, and playing ultimate Frisbee. A wonderful way to say goodbye to a fantastic group of people in an amazing setting.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thursday, Thursday, Thursday!

I'm nearing the end...15 days left...I owe posts on the Tokaj weekend and Balaton weekend...they'll show up soon.

In the meantime- I'll be in Budapest for one last afternoon/evening, dinner/ drink. Call me if you'll be around (yes, the phone has been revived!!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

too hot to write my own blog post.

It's hot here, and humid, not my scene. This last week has had a high of 30° C all week (that's 86°F!) I think it's only going to get hotter-luckily we're off to the Lake in a week- that should help. Til then- I'm too hot to write my own blog post so here is Brieggy's:

"Air conditioning. If I could create levels of heaven, like Dante's circles of Hell, Air conditioning would be right up there. It has been too hot to teach, and too hot to think lately....
The kids are getting squirelly and restless. It is difficult to teach them...or even to keep them in line. One of my girls put it simply "It is too hot and the end of the year, and I have no patience for the English"My response "The English?" but what I was really thinking was - me too"