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!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


So finally I have figured out how to post pictures on here!! So scroll through and see what I've added. They are in the posts- Gyöngyös, Trains and Caves and Eger.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

funny Euro-washing machine: take 2

Last night I turned all my white socks blue. I guess that little guy is doing more then I thought!

Zokni szeretnék venni! (I'd like to buy some socks!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

a weekend at home

It is Monday and I have no stories of weekend trips to share. This weekend I stayed at home in Gyöngyös. But that isn't to say I have no stories!!

Friday night I had some much needed relaxation time (I even managed to stay up late enough to watch the old movies that come on every night- in English- and made popcorn and drank tea while I watched some thrilled called Coma with Michael Douglas when he was about 20!)

But that was the end of the relaxation! On Saturday afternoon I finally met up with the British couple who are also teaching English in my town. I had been expecting (through various rumors) a 60 year old Married British couple who I could drink tea with but that was probably it. But no! Jim and Kelly blew away the rumors by being 23 and so much fun! We hung around and chatted Saturday afternoon in the main square watching the end of a local wedding and then headed for the circus- because if the circus is in town why not go!

Quite a little tent- less then 10 people on the whole staff, they had a guy who threw knives at a 14 year old girl in leotard, a man who looked about 80 doing handstands on top of chairs balancing on beer bottles, a couple who did trapeze- quite impressive considering there was not only no net but not even a mat for them to fall on- just the hard ground and a bunch of kids throwing popcorn at their parents- luckily they didn't fall. The one animal act was a pair of miniature horses who rode around in circles and then, amazingly enough- changed direction! and ran around in circles the other way!!! Luckily the circus was free and we brought our own snacks so it was even cheaper and then we went to the bar after- all in all a fabulous Saturday night in Gyöngyös.<br>
Sunday (after a treacherous morning spent trying to buy yeast to make bread- but that's a story in itself) I went to Jim and Kelly's apartment for a big lunch of roast pork- that they desperately needed to cook and eat after having accidentally bought half a pig at the market the day before when the pointed at it in conversation- the meat market is like an art auction- no sudden movements or you might buy something without meaning to!) anyway...we had our lunch, walked around the town and finished of the day with ice cream, wine and a pathetic attempt to pick walnuts from a tree taller then all of us.

Friday, September 22, 2006


You may have noticed that I've stuck a link up in the top left corner of the screen. this is the link to the CETP (Central European Teaching Program) blog, in other words, it is the blog of (and for) all of the other American (and Brit and Canadian) teachers here. There you can also find links to some of the other people's personal blogs so when I haven't posted anything you can just go read someone else's and pretend that I'm not lazy :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Last weekend, all around Hungary, it was prime harvest season- especially for grapes- this meant of course- festivals! These are also generally the last of the festivals for the year so, along with the appeal of them being wine festivals, a few of us decided we couldn't miss out and just must get to Eger and check it out!
Eger is a gorgeous city about an hour east of me. It is the capital of my county (Heves) and a definate must for anyone who comes for a visit. It is a beautiful city with cobbelstone streets, churches and a castle. It is also home to the famous Bull's Blood wine. Just outside the city center of Eger, in a valley surrounded by rolling hills covered in vineyards, was the prime destination for our trip, and where we spent our Saturday afternoon (which soon became evening and late night...) Here, in the Valley of the Beautiful Women- as it is called- all of the vinyards and winemakers of the area have their wine cellars. The cellars are dug into the hills and you walk along the roads and visit the little doors, all with numbers and few with names, they generally have tables set up outside in addition to the tables inside where it is dark and cool and wet. There are musicians who roam the cellars playing traditional music and locals and tourists alike wonder the road having a glass or two at each- which is easy to do at about $1 a glass or less the $4 for a liter if you find one you that you really like.
So Nicole, Becky and I wondered the cellars (acconpanied by Kat and Liz who stayed only the day) and even met some guys from Belgium who boosted our confidence by allowing us to teach them the few Hungarian words we knew which seemed great next to the 0 that they had. All in all a great time and I hope to go back again for a longer stay (we were there for only one night.)

Because it was grape harvest season everywhere there was also a small festival in little Gyöngyös. And because Gyöngyös is only an hour from Eger and Nicole and Becky live about 5-6 hours further south they came up to Gyöngyös Friday night and we were able to taste the wine, enjoy the music and talk to some people in my own town before heading to Eger the next morning- Great for me to have some fun in my own town! The festival was still going on when I came home on Sunday afternoon and I got to see a wonderful parade with folk dancing from different groups of kids from all the schools in the area- including some of my own students! very cute.

This weekend I am looking forward to not traveling but staying at home for the weekend to get some rest and finally meet the other 2 teachers from my program here in Gyöngyös. (originally there were 2 others who I met at orientation but they left in the first week and were replaced by a British couple)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hungary in the News

just in case you all thought I had moved somewhere boring....

Hungary is all over the news all of a suden- riots in Budapest demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister -->

and where was the Hungarian ambassador to the US during all of this?
in the US...on the Colbert Report
...informing Stephan Colbert that he won the Hungarian bridge naming contest.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Peanut Butter!!

After searching for peanut butter in every store I was about ready to post a desperate message for someone to please please send me some!
BUT, today, I found it!!! After a tip from one of the second year teachers I stopped looking in the aisle with the jams and jellies and nutella and ventured into the "imported foods" aisle and there it was, in the American section, along with blueberry muffin mix, pancake mix and maple syrup. :-)

Monday, September 11, 2006

trains and caves

This weekend was fantastic. Friday I left right after class and ran to the train station to catch my train to the tiny village of Hernádnémti where one of the other American teachers, Laura (who is here for her 2nd year) lives. I arrived around 4 and just in time to head over to the soccer field where every Monday, Wednesday and Friday anyone can show up for a girls soccer practise/game. So we hung out there running around and doing cartwheels with a few of Laura's 8th grade students until it was determined that the girl with the keys to the house where the ball and nets were wasn't coming that day so no soccer and everyone went home...ok, whatever.

So back to Laura's apartment where we met up with 2 more American teachers- Jenna (another 2nd year) and Becky (a first timer like me) from other cities. We hung out and cooked an awesome Hungarian dinner, played games and spoke in English about the weird things Hungarians do (like insisting that you use a cart in the grocery store even if you are only buying one thing) and all of the things that they laugh at us for (such as making noises for EVERYTHING, i.e. when we make a check mark on the black board.)

The next morning we caught numerous trains and buses to the small town of Aggtelek, high in the hills and right on the Slovakian border. At Aggtelek is an amazing and enormous cave system- the Baradla-Domica caves. The total system is 25km (about 15.5 miles) long, 7km of which stretch into Slovakia. We went on the short tour of the cave which was an hour walk through the largest halls (we missed the long tours that include boat rides along the river Styx that also runs through the caves.) We did, however, get to see the concert hall which is a cavern so big and with such naturally perfect acoustics that they have a stage and chairs set up and they hold concerts there! they did a short concert for us as a demonstration and it was incredible.

I have some great pictures (the stalagtites and drip columns were unbelievable) but I'm still working out how to get them up here- my pictures are all on my laptop but I only have internet access from public computers which don't seem to have USB ports...I'll work on it.

Another week of classes ahead (getting easier everyday) and then another fun weekend to look forward to- Wine Festival in Eger...

Friday, September 08, 2006


Today is Friday. I have (almost) compleated my first week of classes- I have one more class of 7th graders and then I have to run and catch my train (a series of trains actually) to the little village of Hernádnémeti for what I hope to be a great weekend relaxing with a couple of other American teachers! But back to school. The week has been a bit of a blur really, I have 4 grades: 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th and there are 3 groups of each grade (except the 6th grade where there are only 2) and I see them each twice a week except the 5th graders who I only see once and one group of 7th graders that I have 3 times- confused yet? me too. But in the end it works out that I have 11 classes and that my schedule is different every day of the week. (I have my fingers crossed that next week it will stay the same but considering that the room numbers can change AFTER the bell rings means that I can expect just about anything).

Each class is 45 minutes long with 10 minute breaks between each (except for between 2nd and 3rd and 3rd and 4th when the break is 15 minutes- huh? yeah...) there are only 6 periods a day so school is out at 1:30 and I only have the last class once a week so I usually get out by 11:40 which is very nice.

Teachers don't have their own classrooms, we just move around- always lots of confusion about who is where and whether or not the teachers and students are on the same page with where the class is. Anyway, because teachers don't have their own room and therefore they don't have there own desk the teacher's room is the place to be. Everyone has an assigned seat at a long table with a drawer- your desk and there are computers with internet in there as well (in here actually, I hang out online durring my off periods) In here the teachers pile their crap so that we just have to bring one class worth of crap with us rather than hauling everything around all the time which is nice. Everyone is always very busy grading or planning or something- I don't know...I've found that the 10 minute break is too short to get much work done but too long to just grab your stuff so I generally look through my books like I'm working hard on a lesson...yeah I pretend ALOT in this room...probably has alot to do with the fact that most everyone here has at least 20 years on me.

I do like the teacher's room though. It means forced interaction. The teachers are all very nice and they always say hello and bring me fruit. (everyone seems to have a mother or a father-in-law with a fruit tree and extra pears) I even had 3 different invitations to go to the mountains or the lake this weekend with various teachers and their families- but I'm off to see Laura and Becky in Hernádnémeti! where we will speak English and discuss very important things such as, how many snotty 8th graders do you want to throw chalk at?

Monday, September 04, 2006

things to do...

Gyöngyös has a fabulous museum! I am told. All about the Matra hills region and a reconstructed skeleton of a whooly mammoth and an aquarium! and it's in an old mansion in a park- but it's closed for renovation untill next summer.

Gyöngyös has a multiplex movie theater and you can go watch movies in English instead of going all the way to Budapest! It will open in January.

Gyöngyös has a disco with 3 floors of music and dancing and durring the day it is an internet cafe! yeah...that closed...but you can go to the library.


when I heard that I would have a washing machine in my apartment I was ecstatic! To think of the trips to the laundremat I could avoid let alone the torture of having to find a laundremat here before my clothes all smelled bad enough that they would ask if I could teach French lessons! Little did I know what adventures awaited me with my very own washing machine...

First of all, my washing machine (read washing machine NOT washer and dryer- Europe doesn't really do dryers) anyway, it lives on my bathroom floor and is about the size of 2 microwaves ontop of eachother (although the capacity is barely that of one microwave) and once you get it plugged in- at the top of the opposite wall accross the door- and the water hooked up- under the sink at the other wall- my already tiny bathroom becomes quite the jungle gym. The first day I asked Ilí how to work it and she said she didn't know but she would tell me later. ok.... then on Saturday when she came by I asked again and she said that one of the legs was broken and it wobbled and somebody was meant to fix it but they didn't- oh well I don't care my one bag of clothes is getting nasty. So together we figured it out- her Hungarian and my mechanical guess work. Then I had to buy detergent. Maybe an easier task had it not been Sunday which meant that everything was closed except the TESCO (SuperTarget) a short walk from my house. A god send in most situations- I know what stuff is, I can find everything and I don't have to ask for what I want. In this case it meant an entire aisle of detergents to pick from. shit. so I went for the one with some German on it- however, aparently my ability to say my name is sara, how are you? I live in the last apartment and thanks for the flowers to the little old ladies in my building had given me false confidence in my German abilities that did not transfer to laundry detergent instructions- oh well I'll just pour some in and hope my clothes get clean while avoiding the cartoonish image of soap suds pouring out my windows and doors.

Back in my apartment I "filled" up my load with 2 pairs of jeans and 2 t-shirts poured in some soap and hoped for the best. It started doing it's thing and turning and turning and I waited and waited and WAITED. It was over an hour and it didn't seem to be done so I took a walk thinking funny little Euro-washer takes it's sweet time! and then I came home and opened it up to check...

I found 2 pars of jeans and 2 t-shirts perfectly dry. Either I had the best washer/dryer combo ever or something had gone wrong. And it had. I never hooked up the water. Awesome. Take 2 went fine, didn' take long at all and I even managed to assemble the drying rack and hang my things up and now I have 2 pairs of Jeans and 2 t-shirts that are extremely stiff but also dry and CLEAN!


So here I am, finally, in my little town of Gyöngyös in northeast Hungary. I actualy arrived in Hungary- in Budapest- on the 24th of August and spent the next week at orientation. Orientation was a blast, there were about 30 other teachers (I don't know the exact number because everyone drifted in at different times) anyway...most were in there mid-late 20s (I was deffinatly on the low end) and many are older- retiries and emptynesters- all are fantastic and four are from Colorado! There were also two of the 12 or so second year teachers who came back for orientation to help us all out. We spent our days in classes on Hungarian culture and language as well as teaching tips. The rest of our time we spent enjoying Budapest and going out at night practising our Hungarian at the bars.

Then came the 30th...

That morning our contact teachers came to pick us up and take us to our new homes. We spent the morning loitering in the lobby with our luggage watching each person that walked through the doors and guessing and hoping "does she look like a teacher?" "oh god I hope that one isn't mine!" and "Please let that one be here for me!" In the end Ilí came for me and she is great, the head of the English departement at my school, very helpful and funny- she has two sons my age who both live in other cities and I think she is glad to have someone to be a mother to again. She drove me the hour to Gyöngyös and chatted the whole way. She took me grocery shopping because "you should never walk into a house with an empty kitchen!" and then showed me my apartment.

My apartment is fine- very basic- a small kitchen and bathroom and one large room with a sitting area, TV, cabinets and my bed as well as a spare bed (so come visit!) that is serving as a couch. The decor is...seventies. Seventies in that it looks like it came right from the decade and was put there by someone who is in their seventies. This is truely an apartment furnished from grandma's basement. But I'm adding things slowly- potted plants and pictures. And I have a little balcony which is very nice because my building (one of maybe 20 small 4 story buildings) is scattered in a park area with little paths and benches and big old oak trees. The buildings are all painted different bright colors (to tell them apart I guess) mine is a terra cotta and the one I look at is bright green. Fun Fact: When the Peace Corps was in Hungary my job and apartment was a post, my fridge has a big sticker on it that says donated by the US government, so take that Peace Corps!

Ilí also took me to the school where she showed me my assigned seat and drawer in the teacher's lounge- I guess you need one since no one has their own classroom. I teach grades 5, 6, 7 and 8 and have 11 classes total- hopefully middle school kids arn't the same the world over...

On Saturday Ilí and her husband took me up to the hills/ mountains. They are very close and also very short but nice. Everything here is extremely green and as soon as you leave the town there are grapes and sunflowers and fruit trees everywhere. We went to the top of Kékes- the tallest "mountain" in Hungary (just over 1000 meters) there's a little ski and sledding slope there in the winter and hiking trails in the summer. Fun Fact: From the top of the highest point in Hungary to my apartment, by car, is only 25 minutes! That's all for now...