Blast from Budapest

I was fortunate enough to be able to hang out with some old friends from my Educational Services International (ESI) days this past weekend in Seattle. I took the train down from Vancouver on Friday night and stayed with Abi, who is now a 3rd grade teacher in Bellevue. The next morning, we had blueberry pancakes and talked about old and new times, and in the afternoon met up with Vangie (who now attends Mars Hill Graduate School in downtown Seattle), Tracy (who was visiting from Minnesota), Annika (who works as a clerk for the Washington Supreme Court) and her husband Jerry (who is also a lawyer in Olympia).

We spent the afternoon hanging around downtown, visiting Pike Place, the Olde Curiosity Shop and Pioneer Square – what tourists like to do in Seattle. Then we got coffee at Tully’s and reminisced. It had been a while since I had talked about living and teaching in Budapest. It seems so long ago, even though it was what I was doing right before coming to Regent. But it is kind of like a different world.

Tracy and Abi, the teachers among us, compared teaching in the States to teaching in Hungary, and there really is no comparison. In the states, you don’t have:

– Parent-teacher conferences where the students translate for you (“Your son needs to turn in his homework.” “I am an excellent student!”);

– Random half-days and holidays without warning (I was teaching during first period one day, and the bell rang at 8:25 instead of 8:50. Who knew?);

– Liquor stores right outside the front door of the school (as they did at Trefort);

– Times where you can’t find the key to the classroom because the previous teacher didn’t turn it in at the front desk, and then you are required to have class out in the hall with the assistant principal walking by and giving you dirty looks (as happened to me once);

– Teacher meetings which are all in Hungarian, where your Hungarian colleagues are supposed to translate for you but instead periodically say, “What we’re talking about is not that important.” (On the positive side, those meetings were a great time to get caught up on grading);

– Teacher trips where you all got onto a bus, drank, sang songs and headed to Slovakia (not that I’m complaining; it was really quite fun and a good way for teachers to bond with one another. This is actually one thing that schools could learn from in the United States);

– Parties in the large teacher’s office upstairs that sometimes you (in the small teachers’ office downstairs, with all the English teachers) were told about, and sometimes you weren’t;

– Times where you are feeling a bit sick, and so the principal has you drink palinka (traditional brandy) in his office at school so you will feel better (this happened to Abi);

– An interview with the local newspaper merely because you are a foreigner living in the town (as happened to Amy and Laura, two teachers in Dunaujvaros);

– Meetings with your Hungarian colleagues to determine the grades for your students in which, even though a particular student rarely shows up for class and fails everything when he/she does, he/she gets a passing mark because he/she is “very nice and tries sometimes.” (It is actually quite hard to fail a student in Hungary, and involves a lot of paperwork, so it is something to be avoided at all costs, apparently.”

Well, I’ve got to get this post wrapped up. I’ll just say that it’s good to reminisce with old friends. Here are a couple of pictures from Hungary:


This is Abi, me, Laura, Amy and Annika at Buda Castle in August 2003.


This is a group of American and Hungarian English teachers outside my old school. Front Row: Kriszta, Tracy, Andi, Annika. Back row: me, Balazs, Neal


Building one of Trefort Agoston bilingual secondary school, where I taught for a year.