Holiday Travel: One of our goals on this experience is to travel as much as possible. When you’ve planned a trip for every summer and every Spring Break back in the US, it would be crazy not to take advantage of actually living in Europe. No need to pay $1000 to fly to Germany for a trip-of-a-lifetime. No thank you, I will go to Germany whenever I want to, and it will take me a couple hours to get there, and it will cost me less than $100. That’s the attitude we have now, although for Christmas break, we are thinking Italy is a good destination. One contributing factor is that Europe has many bargain airlines (think: Southwest, Jetblue, etc.) but only some go to Budapest, and from there, there are particular destinations. Italy happens to be one country we can get to very easily. (Germany, France, and Great Britain are others). The option I just thought of today is a train to Vienna (which is actually open on Dec. 24 and 25,) then flying to Italy. We don’t necessarily want to go somewhere and have everything closed for a holiday, especially if it is cold and wet outside. Our official calendar (which the department of education creates) shows a Christmas break Dec. 22 to Jan. 2. I read that as Dec. 22 (Thursday?) being the first day off and Jan. 2 (Monday) being the last day off, but I obviously should confirm that. Apparently New Year’s Eve is a great time for outdoor concerts, parties, and bonfires all throughout Europe so maybe I will find myself part of that experience this year.
Big School News: Our school was chosen for an official visit by the President of Hungary (other teachers described him to me as “like a king, or your president”). He is an older man who won multiple Olympic Gold medals as a fencer, and he seems very popular. He is on a tour of schools around the country. Today, we had an adjusted schedule of 30 minute classes (which sucks when you see kids once a week). It wasn’t a surprise visit, but it wasn’t like they made up a schedule ahead of time, or gave clear instructions. During the event, both teachers and students told me they were confused about where they were supposed to be at that time.
The school interior is basically a 2-story rectangular shape with an open meeting space and stage in the middle. It was set up with the national and school flags as a backdrop, and lots of old wooden chairs. No, not even the President of the country gets a comfortable modern chair! And each class of students (9a, 9b, etc.) could have six students sitting while everyone else leaned over the upstairs railing, stood on the stairwells, or sat in classrooms and listened over the loudspeaker. There was no walking through x-ray machines, backpack checks, or what you might expect in the US, like airport security. All I noticed was a “secret service” group standing around with an explosive dog checking out lockers, the piano, and other places near the stage. The President came in with a few other people, possibly his assistants or local education officials. After a short introduction by our headmistress, there was a dance/music performance by some students, then the President spoke for about 20 minutes and brought three students on stage to talk to them and give them a gift. He then walked out of my view but I believe he played a song on the piano while everyone in the school, minus the American, was singing. Then we came back for some final remarks.
During the event, we basically had to find a place to watch and stay there. The walkway behind the stage was blocked by security and some hallways were locked. After the ceremony, everyone had to go into a back wing and hang out for 15 minutes or so while there was a “press conference,” then 30-minute classes continued and school ended up finishing 30 minutes early.
The President seemed to speak very slowly and it was actually enjoyable to listen to. I heard the words for “English,” “teacher,” and “sport” often, so I guess it was about being a well-rounded student. Or maybe he was complimenting the outstanding English teacher who is visiting from Washington?
Culinary: I found out later in the day that a fellow teacher is married to a master gardener, of sorts. A Horticulture Technician, I believe was the term used. Anyhow, we can order vegetables and flowers from her. It is like having access to a CSA, so I am looking forward to lots of fresh, organic vegatables. Arpi purchased several red bell peppers and gave me one. We made an egg and vegetable scramble for dinner tonight and that pepper played a starring role. She currently has tomatoes available, as well, and she supposedly charges 400 ft. ($1.95) per kilogram (2.2 pounds).
Student Bonding: I think I have unofficially been made the guest-of-honor at a future pig killing which the 11e students will be arranging for me. Also, I believe several students from the other 11e class invited me to a soccer game, to watch the local professional team. I think it was an invitation, just not in such clear wording as, “will you go to a game with us?”
Yesterday’s “Alive!” Activity: Regarding yesterday’s assignment for 9e, in which they had to devise survival plans for seven days in either the jungle, desert, or Arctic, there were some interesting results. In yesterday’s class, all three groups referred to contacting Bear Grylls (Discovery Channel wilderness survival guy) for advice. One group had a student who watches the show and already knew what to do. In the desert, kill a camel, gut it, eat it, and everyone should hug together inside the camel carcass to stay warm overnight.
Today’s “Alive!” Activity: Same activity, same age students, very different responses. All three groups decided independently that the best way for the group to survive would be resorting to cannabilism. At least one person in each group volunteered to provide nourishment for the others, and although “it wouldn’t be delicious,” the others would survive. In one case, three decided to help the other three survive. No one mentioned Bear Grylls but this was a great lead-in into an impromptu discussion of the Donner Party.
More tomorrow! Love, me