Last week was the first week of the second semester, marking the halfway point of our stay in Hungary. Yesterday, I started looking at tickets home. I was a bit alarmed by the prices.
Although I am not ready to pick up and go home tomorrow, I am feeling the tug of the U.S.A. But I know that teaching in Hungary is a once in a lifetime experience, and if I don’t focus on the present, then I will miss out on moments of joy and opportunities to connect with others.
So here’s a summary of January so far:
1. I learned that if you give crayons to teenagers, some students will revert to kindergarten mode. They will draw on their desks and on each other’s faces.
2. I led my ninth graders in singing the Star Spangled Banner–after they listened to Beyonce’s version. Please note: my voice is not as good as Beyonce’s. My students were kind, though. They had persuaded me to sing a Hungarian Christmas carol back in December, so they knew what they were in for.
3. My fourth graders spent about ten minutes one class period talking to each other about how much they love lektor class and how much they love me. They also loved their previous American teachers. I appreciated the ego boost nonetheless.
4. There has been a lot of hokey-pokey-ing. My students were unfamiliar with the song. It is a great way to review body parts, and a little exercise at the beginning of class does wonders for calming them down.
5. After reading “The Ant and the Grasshopper” to my students several dozen times, I now have it memorized. I realized that I am not comfortable with Aesop’s moral that if you don’t work, then you shouldn’t eat. It doesn’t exactly capture the complexities of obtaining employment in the twenty-first century.
6. Jesse and I had dinner with my coworker’s family. In Hungarian homes, pálinka (fruit brandy that is often 100 proof or more) is an appetizer. After the pálinka, a bottle of wine was quickly opened. Let’s just say that our glasses were refilled throughout the night. The food was delicious, and the company was great.
7. I spent a quiet hour at the refugee camp working with just two kids: “Vera,” a fourteen-year-old girl from Kosovo, and “Ahmed,” a ten-year-old boy from Afghanistan. I taught them some animal words and gave them a cut-and-paste worksheet. All three of us colored happily for about twenty minutes.
Vera told me about her dreams of going to America one day. She was concerned that I might be homesick, which was touching and humbling considering that she has been living in a refugee camp for six years.
Ahmed is a very serious boy. He smiled when I made animal noises, but didn’t join in. He learned words rapidly, and it was clear that he is extremely intelligent. I can picture him becoming an engineer or doctor–if he gets the opportunity to do so.
The future for these children is very uncertain, but if I remind myself to live in the present, then I appreciate that right now they are safe. They have food, shelter, and clothing. Considering the state of Ahmed’s homeland, this is not something to be taken for granted.
8. After a light snowfall, I took a walk in the woods and enjoyed watching the mallards on the half-frozen pond. I was captivated by the patterns and reflections on the water. The temperature doesn’t stay below freezing long here, so if an inch of snow falls one day, it usually melts the next.
2012 is off to a good start.