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, 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"

Thursday, May 17, 2007

why I love my department head

just a moment to extol the virtues of Ilí, the head of English at my school and my contact teacher here in Hungary.

Ilí is great for many reasons, she may be the best contact teacher in Hungary, but today she especially rocks because:

1) She invited me to her house to teach me how to make Gulyas soup
2) She let me use the Internet at her house
and 3) while I was online she just brought me a little tray with a glass of wine and pogacsa!

so props to you Ilí!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

music, monasteries, and hiking in the rain.

This is a bit out of order but oh well...

The last weekend in April we had a 4 day weekend thanks to the May 1st holiday falling on a Tuesday. That weekend was also a HUGE and incredible music and visual arts festival in Győr called MediaWave. Győr also happens to be where Eve, another CETPer lives. As I'm coming to the end of my time here I've been trying to make a point to get to all of the places and do all of the things that have been on my list since arriving in Hungary. Seeing Győr and Eve was one of them so the festival and extra days off were the perfect time.

I arrived in Győr early Saturday afternoon and Eve and I jumped into the festival atmosphere right away (after a beer and some cake at one of the many beautiful outdoor cafes!) We spent the next 3 days and nights enjoying the people, music atmosphere of the festival. It was fantastic and we heard everything from 3 person jazz quartets (apparently very popular in Hungary) to a fusion of hip-hop and traditional Gypsy music from a Czech group. The participants came from all over the world and there was even a healthy number of Canadians. So Eve, Mary Carmen (a British CETPer) and Marin (a friend of Eve's from home- and yes, that makes THREE Coloradans in Győr- pretty crazy) listened to music, drank wine and danced all day and all night for the entire weekend- it was fantastic!
(at Pannonhalma)

On Monday we took a break from the festival and took a drive outside of Győr (thanks to Eve's friend Jozsi!) to Pannonhalma an amazingly beautiful Franciscan monastery perched on the top of a hill. The monastery in the largest and oldest in Hungary and was luckily enough to survive unscathed from WWII and Communism. We toured the grounds and public areas including a gorgeous old library and the original church which is said to house the thrown of King Saint Stephen. We had hoped to enjoy a wine tasting at the monastery's own vineyard but sadly we were there only one day before the start of their season! We did, however, find another local cellar near by where we sampled some great wines in a dark and dank cellar (one of my favourite Hungarian activities.) It was a great weekend!

(the two red heads from Colorado in Hungary)

The next weekend Eve came to Gyöngyös to see what life was like in a Hungarian town less then bustling with arts and culture :-) Our plan was to hike around the Matra hills and see Kékes- Hungary's highest peak which is just a few minutes from Gyöngyös. Unfortunately the weather was less then great. On Sunday we decided to go anyway and had a great day hiking in the forests in the mist and were only bothered by a few rain drops which kept us cool in what is otherwise a very hot and humid walk.
(I blend into the Matra!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

4 things in my bag

The four things in my bag that make me realize I’ve been in Hungary for almost 10 months:

1) Mineral water (Asvanyviz)- on purpose! After months of desperately trying to avoid being served sparkling water instead of still, going to the length of learning how (and remembering) to ask for it specifically and even figuring out the color coded system of each brand in the country (usually pink but you have to watch out for Theodora because while it isn’t sparkling it still tastes like mineral water- the worst kind) I have even been known to mime bubbly versus flat water to get my point. And yet, it seems that Europe has won. I like the blue-capped, bubbly, funny tasting water!

2) A sandwich wrapped in tinfoil. This is one of the quiet phenomenons of Hungary that is best witnessed in schools, both in the classrooms and in the teachers’ room. It seems that everyone in Hungary has an endless supply of homemade sandwiches stashed away in their bag that they snack on throughout the day- during breaks between classes and occasionally during English class. These sandwiches are usually wrapped in tinfoil or paper napkins and you can always guarantee that at least four teachers will be munching a sandwich at any given moment in the teachers’ room. Most of the sandwiches are heavy on the butter and processed meat- I haven’t become that much of a convert, I stick to cheese, mustard and turkey. They used to think I was crazy because I never ate at school (most days I’m only there for about 4 hours!) now I diligently pack my sandwich and wrap it in foil and now they just think I’m weird for only ever having one. With the Hungarians’ love of sandwiches and taking them with them I’m surprised that neither peanut butter nor Ziploc bags have caught on.

3) All-purpose cleaner. The key thing here is that I bought this cleaner from a traveling cleaner salesman that spent the day in the teachers’ room lining up his products. This occurrence of random sales people who bring all sorts of products to sell to the teachers between classes happens often enough to clearly be a ‘thing’ here but seldom enough to still surprise me every time. I haven’t seen the same product twice but the offerings range from cleaning supplies to books to bad art and ugly shoes. I always stop and stare as they unload their boxes of goods and display them around the room- on top of graded tests, old homework and the lost-and-found box. Today, however, I was mostly just pleased that I didn’t have to stop at the store on my way home!

4) An old plastic shopping bag. Just in case I want to stop and buy anything, anywhere- you have to pay extra for plastic bags everywhere!

And the one thing that ISN’T in my bag that lets me know that I still haven’t been here all that long:

Red hair dye. Hungarian-Red to be specific. A shade that is hard to describe- dark maroon, almost purple that changes from fiery-red to deep purple depending on the light- truly unnatural and also by far the most popular (and possibly the only) hair color in Hungary. I picked up a box today and looked it over, considered it for only a split second before shaking myself back to reality and promptly putting it back on the shelf.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

beter late then never

I left off here as I was heading into a four day weekend thanks to the national holiday on March 15th. Since then I have had a busy few weeks. Let me explain, no there is no time, let me sum up (yes, I did teach The Princess Bride in my 7th grade classes which resulted in my seeing the entire film 4 times- not counting pre time- any lines I couldn’t quote before I certainly know now)

The long weekend of Mach 15th I traveled across Hungary’s eastern border to Romania (for the second time since I have been here) with Ian and Lisa. We visited the cities of Oradea (which I had previously visited on my trip to Transylvania in October) and Timisoara. Our plan included ending our trip in Arad, however, after arriving the city and taking the LONGEST tram ride ever around the city in search of the city center we decided we’d seen enough and we were better off cutting our losses and heading back to Hungary a day early. Arad and the tram ride felt a bit like a Disney land tourist train ride through “The Eastern European Adventure- complete with post Soviet bloc apartment complexes, dusty roads and paint-sniffing kids”- I recommend Timisoara and Oradea for anyone looking for a Romanian get-away. I could use up an entire blog page (yes, I know that blogs have no actual dimensions or pages…what would you call that never ending screen space? I think my students would call it cruel and unusual punishment judging from their tortured whines and pleas when the must write 1 WHOLE page- for a homework assignment) Anyway…back on track here…I could write a lot about the “unique” adventures that came with traveling Romania with Ian and Lisa but I’ll leave you with only one (for a more detailed and “Lisa”-esqe take on the events you can read her blog on MySpace)
This adventure came at the end of our trip and technically was in Hungary and not Romania. After deciding to bail on Arad and head back across the border we discovered that there were no more trains that day back to Budapest, there was however, a train across the border to Bekescsaba, so we took it figuring that at least we’d be back in Hungary, we knew where Bekescsaba was and I had even been there before (the Sausage festival with Becky back in the fall.) We could hope for connections home once arriving in Bekescsaba and if there weren’t any we would…well we’d figure something out. Of course, there were no connections that day (to be fair it was evening by then) so we would have to stay in Bekescsaba for the night and take the morning trains home. Lisa thought we should spend the night walking the town and hanging around the train station “it will be fun you guys!....we can entertain each other…it’s only 10 hours!” But Ian and I immediately vetoed that plan- it won’t be fun, we insisted, and the early morning hours in a cold train station move slower than the tram in Arad- why did we know this? See my write up of Christmas break in Slovenia for a reminder of Ian’s and my LONG night in Ljubljana.
Luckily the woman at the ticket counter went above and beyond to help us out, she called around and found a hostel for us and when we asked for walking directions there one of her colleagues offered us a ride! Excellent, everything was going our way. We pulled up at the hostel…somehow the name Sport Hotel didn’t give us a hint to what was coming. I was surprised when I recognized where we were, at the stadium where I had been for the Sausage festival. The hotel was actually IN the stadium. On two levels, where one would normally see souvenir shops, box seats, refreshment stands and maybe even a restaurant, they had hotel rooms. This was all fine, if not odd, the “hall” outside our door actually looked out over the main floor of the stadium. What made the experience truly memorable was that there was a rock concert going on in the stadium that night. We were literally sleeping inside a Hungarian hard rock concert (that was not particularly good.) The area surrounding the stadium/ hotel was filled with limos, food stands and intimidating security guards who blocked the back doors and kept the screaming fans out while letting Ian, Lisa and I pass through with a flash of our room key. It was loud and the entire room shook but only till about 1am and it was certainly more comfortable than the train station.

The next weekend was also out of the ordinary for me. That Thursday my friend Jenni from Denver (who has been living in Ireland) flew in for a long weekend. After spending a few “thrilling” days in my town of Gyongyos Jenni and I spent the weekend in Budapest being proper tourists and doing all the touristy must-sees and must-dos in Budapest. A perfect trial run for what has been and string of visitors.

The next weekend I had a much needed break from traveling and enjoyed a quiet weekend at home. Then came the big trip, the big break and the big visit. We were given four days off (a long Easter weekend) for Spring break and I took another three because my parents came to visit! We had quite a European travel spree- a few days in Budapest where we barely made it through the House of Terror audio guide tour (I feel like I should be able to get transfer credits for listening to that much lecturing!) We also walked all over the city and nearly had to drag my mother kicking and screaming out of the baths- her new favorite place. Next we took a train to Vienna where we were bombarded by the staggering amount of museums, palaces, parks and, of course, cake shops (I think the afternoon cake and coffee break will be the hardest routine for my mom to break when she gets home!) Being in Vienna we had to go to the Opera and being Americans in Austria we, of course, couldn’t pass up The Sound of Music. It was heaps of fun and my mom even restrained herself from singing (most of the time.) The weather was unbelievably gorgeous the entire trip and there was something for all of us. My dad fell in love with the Natural History Museum and visited twice and my mom got to see the Lipenzer stallions rehearse; and I got to enjoy eating in restaurants as opposed to grocery store picnics on the curb and sleep in a hotel room instead of enduring the hostel dorm rooms where there is, inevitably, always someone who snores like their fighting dragons in their dreams….wait…oh well, I got to eat cake J Next we headed back to Hungary and to one of my favorite towns here, Eger. We visited the castle and had a nice relaxing day in the old cobblestone streets and squares. In the evening we met up with my friend Lee from England (who is going home this weekend- we’ll miss you Lee!) The four of us visited the Valley of the Beautiful Women where we made our way through the little cellars sampling the famous Egri Bikavar wines. The next day we finally made our way to Gyongyos where my parents got to see, first-hand, the places of so many of my stories (my dad even did some laundry the infamous funny-little-Euro-washer). The weather has, again, been fabulous (somewhere in the middle of all my busy weeks and backed up blog entries spring arrived in Hungary- the flowers are blooming, the sun is out and the cafes are reopening their outdoor terraces!) So, along with Kelly and Jim (the Brits) we took the narrow gauge railway a few miles into the Matra hills where we hiked in the forests, climbed the lookout tower and my mom finally got her roasted chicken and beer on a picnic table in a park. It was a wonderful visit!

No rest for me yet however! My next visitor came rolling in the next weekend. My friend Joe (another one from Denver) and his friends Frank and Morgan- all of whom are traveling Europe after a few months spent working in London- flew through Budapest. Fortunately they were all a bit museum and churched out so I was saved from having to do the entire tourist run of Budapest for the 3rd time in as many weeks. We walked around the city, up to Castle Hill and around the Market and even took in an Opera! We took advantage of a great deal at the unbelieving beautiful state Opera house and got obstructed view tickets for about $2! We could see the opera house itself wonderfully (and for about ¼ the price of the tourist visit) and could hear the music just as well as the people in the expensive seats.

After a fantastic but exhausting few weeks I was finally back home; only to discover that I had had some sort of allergic reaction and was covered with red blistery bumps (I’ll spare you the details but shingles and chicken pox both crossed my mind!) the point being that Monday I didn’t go to school but instead to the doctor who, without even getting out of his chair, took a look at my arm, gave me an anti-allergen prescription and told me to stay at home for the entire week. I’m getting the idea that any visit to the doctor here results in a week off of work- but hey, I’m not complaining! I went in to school on Wednesday to help judge a county-wide English competition hosted by my school and despite my saying that I felt fine and could work the next day I was told to go ahead and get some rest and take off the rest of the week- sweet deal considering we’re coming up on another four day weekend. So I’m off to Gyor to see Eve, my fellow red head and Coloradan and I’m sure I’ll have more stories after that!

p.s. I officially have a plane ticket home and will be back on June 20th!

p.p.s I’ve added a link to my friend Eric’s blog- he’s just setting off on a year long trip through Mexico and Central and South America and always has interesting and entertaining things to say.