Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why Teaching is Worthwhile

Sending Christmas Cards to Friends: $50
Christmas Vacation to Ireland (Flight): $200
Receiving Christmas presents from students and being serenaded with a Hungarian Christmas Carol: PRICELESS

That's it from me until next year folks! Enjoy your holiday season.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

In Honor of Christmas I give you: CHRISTMAS HAIKUS

Santa Claus is fat
His belly shakes like Jell-O
Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho

Boy, it tastes like crap
I cannot bite into it
Ouch! My tooth just broke!

They got mad dance skillz
Man, these two are talented
Like Ginger and Fred

Oh you shine so bright
Pine needles are everywhere
Get the dust buster

“Our dear savior’s birth”
“The stars are brightly shining”
“Our soul felt it’s worth”

“This is Christ the King”
“On Mary’s lap is sleeping”
“Hail, the Word made flesh”

“Neatséges éj...”
“FIent fijú aludjál...”
“Mindener álma...”

Christmas time is here
Cartoon boy with his pet dog
The tree was quite small

Ovaltine is great
Soap tastes delicious, thanks Mom!
Tongue stuck on flagpole

Rudolph and Clarice
Abominable Snowman
Island of Misfits

Wallace & Davis
“Vermont must be beautiful...”
Song about Mandi

PS - Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach...teach gym. (Name that movie quote!)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Well-Mannered Frivolity

Christmas season has made me so joyful. I'm concerned for an abrupt crash in spirits after the fact, but I will jump off that bridge when I get to it. It's hard to believe that I only have a week and a half of classes before the big break. And then just one semester after that. Crazy.

I really do love living here. On Friday I went shopping and actually understood the clerk when she told me what my total came seems a small thing, but it kept me grinning the rest of the night. The fact that I can do simple things like ask and answer questions, buy train tickets, etc...all in Hungarian...really make me happy. I'm hoping to make more progress, I admit that I've been extremely lazy where Hungarian lessons are concerned. I feel bad for my teacher, Greta, because I just don't have the time to put in the work. But slowly it will come.

I've also been feeling a wonderful joy toward my classes. We had so much fun last week, that I hope it's not just because they're anxiously awaiting the break. I actually had one student tell me that my class is his favorite class (yay!) which is such a great thing for a teacher to hear. I also recieved a Christmas present from another class, which was really sweet. Everything seems to be coming together...the puzzle pieces are fitting. It's really nice. "Nice" is such a bland word, but that's really the best way to say it. Some classes I'm still not sure of, behavior-wise, lessons-wise, but I'm making headway which is all I can ask.

This is the advent service at school. Every Friday another class of seniors go up on stage, light the advent wreath, and sing some songs. This past week it was in German and a bit in English...very nice. I made a nice movie from it with my camera and now have to figure out how to send it to people and/or put it online. Hm...

This is the Christmas Market (WeihnachtsMarkt) at the RatHaus Platz in Vienna. Good stuff, only a bit crowded. The blue windows you see are a giant advent calendar and every day they "open" a new window. It's really quite fun. No chocolates, though...I must say I prefer the advent calendars that have the chocolate.

This is the New Orleans Gospel Choir rockin' out the Lutheran church in Sopron. It was the most amazing thing...standing room only at the church (which was quite a sight) and Hungarian little old ladies clapping their hands to the praise Jesus-beat. It was fabulous. My favorite part was "Silent Night." The choir invited everyone to sing in their native language so we heard Hungarian, German, and English going on. Everyone was standing and holding hands and singing praises about our Lord and Savior's birth. Awesome is the only word I can think of that even comes close to encompassing the experience. It was unfortunate that Rachel and I missed the 5pm train back to Sopron (from Vienna) and so we missed about 45 minutes of the concert. But what can you do when you're at the mercy of the whims of the Central European train system?

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

December: The Month of Easy Lessons

I say easy because I've been using the theme of Christmas every day...there are oh, so many ways to teach English using Christmas. I love it!

This week I'm using the season to teach the students about Charity and Giving. We're making Christmas cards that I'm going to send back to the churches at home...hopefully they can get them to nursing homes or to people who don't have any family. A little Holiday cheer from the students at Berzsenyi. Actually, the charity lesson is really just my cop out way of having an arts n crafts time with the students. It's fun.

Next week we're doing Christmas music. I'm thinking Twelve Days of Christmas and then we can learn about the real meaning of that song. It's pretty interesting...

PS - The younger students at school were selling cookies yesterday (the signs were written in English) and instead of saying "Bake Sale" they said "Cookie Action." All of the Angol teachers were giggling and then I tried to explain that, well, it could possibly be taken as in, "Man, I need to get me some of that cookie action!" But whatever. Needless to say I had them rolling on the floor laughing as I was trying to explain the intricacies of English slang. It was a good time.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

What are we going to do !?!?!

Dave's ESL Cafe Idea Cookbook is offline until 2006??? When in 2006? January 1st? May 23rd?

*sigh* What shall we do?

Saturday, December 3, 2005

The Best Christmas Present You Could Give Yourself

Adapted from an essay by Marilyn Adamson

Why it is that the whole world celebrates the birth of Jesus? This little baby, born to a carpenter's family in the obscure town of Bethlehem in the Middle East, has a following today far beyond the borders of the U.S. The largest Christian church in the world is in South Korea. Why is he so special?

Well, Jesus said he was God. If you look at Buddha or Mohammed or the Dalai Lama, they identified themselves as prophets or spiritual guides. In contrast, Jesus claimed he could give people eternal life and forgiveness for their sins. He clearly and repetitively told people he was God. A pretty lofty statement.

His communication was also unique. Jesus didn't teach people ten steps to achieve holiness, or personal disciplines to reach God. If you want to know God, Jesus said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) He asked people to focus on himself with statements like, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."(John 8:12)

A lot of people are comfortable giving Jesus the status of an inspired teacher, maybe even a prophet. But what if this Jesus whose birth we celebrate is really the Messiah? What if he is God in human form whom so many of the Old Testament prophets wrote about?

The prophet Micah said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. David said he would be one of his own ancestors. Isaiah said he would minister in Galilee and die by torture. And on and on, well over 100 specific prophesies to help people identify the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfilled every one of them. The chance of any person fulfilling even eight of these prophecies is one in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

But there is more to Jesus than what he offers us. There is an authenticity to his character, to his words, which gave people then, and people today, reason to trust him. When confronted, he invited his greatest critics to point out whatever sin they saw in his life. And they were speechless. One time soldiers were sent to arrest Jesus and they came back empty-handed. When their superiors demanded an explanation, the guards simply said, "No one ever spoke the way this man does."(John 7:46)

Jesus plainly said who he was. "I and the Father are one. If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them...know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."(John 10:30,37,38) Jesus so thoroughly equated himself with God that he said to know him was to know God (John 8:19; 14:7), to see him was to see God (John 12:45; 14:9), to believe in him was to believe in God (Mark 9:37), to hate him was to hate God (John 15:23), and to honor him was to honor God (John 5:23).

To be honest, a lot of people try to approach God the wrong way. They try to earn God's acceptance by living a "good" life. Then they reason with him. "God, I've tried to be a good person. I've tried to be kind and generous. I've sometimes gone to church. I've prayed. And I've never murdered anybody." Sounds good, right?

But Jesus said we need to know what his standards are. Just how good a life will we have to live? Jesus said, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."(Matthew 5:48)

The Bible states that my sin has separated me from God. It's like an impenetrable wall. The Bible says, "the wages of sin is death,"(Romans 6:23) or eternal separation from him.

Number one on Jesus' agenda for coming to earth was to pay for our sin. The Bible says, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us."(1 John 3:16) It's like the woman who was arrested on a drunk-driving charge. The judge ruled thirty days or $1,500 bail. As the woman was agonizing over this, the judge stepped around to the front of the bench, pulled out his checkbook and paid the $1,500 fine. Why? The judge was this woman's father. As an honest judge he couldn't overlook his daughter's guilt. But as a loving father, he paid the penalty for her.

If we could have gained a relationship with God based on our living a good life, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come to this world, and he certainly needn’t have died on a cross for us.

But out of tremendous love for us, Jesus was tortured, whipped, nailed to a cross and died of slow suffocation. Three days later he rose from the dead. Having done so, he now offers us complete forgiveness and a relationship with him. God offers us a relationship with himself, and it's our decision whether or not to respond to his offer. Jesus put it simply, "I stand at the door [of your life] and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him."(Revelation 3:20)

When we respond to this offer and ask him to come into our lives, we begin a relationship with God that lasts eternally. The Bible states, "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life."(1 John 5:14)

Whatever is going on in your world this Christmas, there is no better gift you can give yourself than to receive the One who came to earth and died on your behalf. He offers you complete forgiveness and the ability to know him on a personal level resulting in a more fulfilling life. He is God and he asks us to place our lives under his direction. As long as we rely on ourselves we distance ourselves from God and we remain separated from him by our sin. He asks us to empty our hands of our efforts and instead receive his gift of forgiveness and a relationship with him.

Friday, December 2, 2005

A Small Phototastic Treat

Captions Follow the Photos...

This was the view from my hotel room/closet at Stary Smokovec where we Central Europe missionaries had our Fall Retreat. Yeah, we weren't spoiled or anything...but if it makes you feel better I really was in a closet. A nice closet to be sure, but regardless of how nice the room was I couldn't help but notice that my door refused to open fully because it obstinately kept banging into my bed mid-swing.

The sweet sweet sounds of church service in English, oh, how I love thee. This delectable auditory-gasm was held Thanksgiving weekend in Blava. It was wonderful. The church was standing room only (we ELCA and LCMS missionaries were only partly to blame).

Yes, mom this is the Bishop of Slovakia eating my Raspberry Dessert. I admit the name of said dessert is sadly lacking in the flashiness department, but it certainly makes up for it in the tastiness factor. Yummo. But, um, tip to the wise: if you have to go to the lavatory whilst the graham cracker crust is browning in the oven, hold off at all costs!

Here are the 2 factions united as one for the purpose of gorging themselves on turkey and mashed potatoes. That's right, ELCA and LCMS came together to partake of a glorious Thanksgiving meal. It was perfect and we all dutifully ate our body weight in fixin's.

This is a pic of some of us LCMS folk enjoying the Blava Christmas Market. Well, we were enjoying the market about 30 minutes before this Kodak moment took place. Turns out it's pretty cold in Bratislava this time of year and our bodies needed a break. So we hopped into this adorable coffeehouse and had ourselves some delicious melted fudge, er, hot chocolate.

The Dude Abides

Wanna know the way to a girl's heart? Give her the keys to the computer room and the laundry room. That's right, folks. My new best friend (or maybe the best friend who keeps proving himself) is the wonderful Grandpa-like porter here at the Kollegium. Unfortunately, he speaks no English and I speak no Hungarian (that's right...I'm a "No Speaka"), but we get along wonderfully. He gives me chocolate I give him chocolate. He gives me the keys to my favorite places and I give him a big smile. Seems rather stingy on my part...perhaps I will buy him a little present for Christmas.

Also, I recieved a few Christmas packages this weekend and they sure were a delight to lug through the teacher's room! Oh, if you could only see the faces of curiosity and delight mixed with a tinge of jealousy as I artfully balanced the boxes on my desk. It was great. Even better were the goodies inside said packages. I got 2 of my favorite movies (White Christmas and Big Lebowski) and I got a bunch of fun games and candy. Go me. Thank you Santa Claus (and Dad and Laura of course). :-) Totally made my week!

Tonight the Christmas Market starts here in Sopron. I'm super excited and I don't know why. Perhaps because it'll be something to do (after I'm finished watching The Big Lebowski of course). I'm already in the process of writing Christmas cards and hopefully I can send those out next week. I have some gift ideas, but we'll see how sending packages from Hungary goes. I have my doubts...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I'm thankful for dinner at the Logans with other Americans, Hungarians, and one Irish bloke

I'm thankful for a pizza party with my students during which it started to snow

I'm thankful that Rachel made it here in one piece after a few troubles

I'm thankful for an LCMS/ELCA Thanksgiving dinner in Bratislava

I'm thankful for not having my purse stolen at the Blava Christmas market (I didn't take my purse with me, you see)

I'm thankful for the Hungarian friends I've made in Sopron, they keep me sane

I'm thankful that my family loves me unconditionally, I love them just as much (and therefore miss them especially with the holidays near)

I'm thankful that I'm relatively healthy

I'm thankful that God has given me this opportunity to share my life with my students and friends in Hungary

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My Questionably Fabulous Life

So I'm in Aszod. And Rachel and I are continuing our "Centuries of Beer" undertaking, although it's proving a little difficult as the labels never list a date of inception for the breweries. Then we check the website for said beers and find them all written in strange languages. Rather daunting, that.

At least I got to find out what Gabor looks like. And I got to see "the castle" which I will gloatingly tell David about at Thanksgiving. Good times.

Have I mentioned the Power Ballads special on VH1 tomorrow? It's gonna be great. Although right now anything other than TV Ketto is great for me. And anything in English of course. How many times have I said I wish I spoke German? Well, I'll say it again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What's the deal, yo?

This week is actually going really well, but for some reason I'm reluctant to be happy about it.

In other news: Things I forgot to mention Volume 1

Rachel and Mandi Quotes:
"I think my beer goggles are starting to kick in" (Okay, so we're young, we were in a bar, in happens)

"I want off the emotional rollercoaster! Can I just get on the nice kiddie ride with the little boats on the track with the bells on a string?"
"I'd be willing to vomit on the tilt-a-whirl"

Mandi and Laura Quotes:
"So I did some 'research' this weekend..."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Max Lucado, you always help me

"Rather than begrudge your problem, explore it. Ponder it. And most of all, use it. Use it to the glory of God."

"Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God's song."

Okay, so maybe I'm not dying of cancer and my "suffering" is quite minimal compared to others. But maybe my faith during these struggles will a) make me stronger (what doesn't kill you...) and b) showcase God's glory and majesty.

A simple missionary can only hope.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Okay, it's later and I have time, or at least the Inclination

WARNING TO ALL PARENTAL UNITS AND FAMILY MEMBERS: This is a downer post. Sometimes in the life that is being a missionary in a strange place tough days happen. Heck, even tough weeks happen. Well, it turns out that the latter has been happening and this is my little bitch post. So be aware that it'll be a downer. I know things will get better. I know it's not always supposed to be easy. I know that it's not all roses and happy thoughts. So here goes...

"Actions Speak Louder Than Words" Diatribe 1:
Aniko knows that I'm not doing well. She's read the signs. As Kari (my best friend) says, "I know something's wrong when you're quiet." Ah yes, cuz it's usually quite difficult to get me to shut up once I get started. With the 2 teaching positions so recently vacated in Tisovec, I expressed (in an only half-joking manner) a keen desire to transfer to EGT next term. I said it jokingly but every joke has a tidbit of truth people. So I think the sentiment was expressed to Aniko and she said, "Yes, we've been worried about her, she seems so quiet." This comment was followed by a week of being treated like glass (read: like I was going to break) with only halfhearted attempts toward conversation on the part of the other English speakers. "She's seriously thinking about leaving us? Oh, we'd better say something to her to make her feel better so she stays" and the like.

I've also been infection. I need to see the doctor. When I inquired about such a thing, an English speaking doctor was called twice, no connection was made, and so the attempt on my behalf was aborted. Wait a minute. I still have to see the doctor, this doesn't change my health (it's nothing life threatening Mom). I think they genuinely want to help, but as actions speak louder than words (you were wondering when I was going to tie that in, right?), they're just too busy with their own lives to help me.

My coordinator always talks about our support systems here and how it's no good if we feel that we don't have the support system in place to help us. Well, judging by the past week I can safely say that I don't feel I have the support system in place. The signs have been there all along, it just took the doctor situation to bring the point home.

Okay. That's all for now folks. I'm sick, but I'm not going to die (I don't think anyway). Chances are the situation will change tomorrow as a new day dawns and I go back to school. All I can write are the feelings I am now having and so you've read a little snippet of the tough times. I warned you. Now let's pray it gets better (as it's bound to) and please know that I don't despair for my future here. God has a plan.


So much has happened in the past 2 weeks. I'm sorry but I just don't have the energy to make a long update. Maybe when I have more time...

Fall break: Visited Vienna, stayed in crazy hostel with Rachel and 4 even crazier Australian guys, had Halloween at the Bermuda Triangle with 3 Austrian men (Rachel was friends with one and the other 2 were his coworkers so they weren't complete strangers off the street, Mom), spent day alone in Vienna shopping for clothes that fit

Fall retreat: trained it to Blava and from there went with the Lindsey's to Stary Smokovec. Made it, had great meals, even greater fellowship, and "went native" in the spa in the hotel (sidenote: by "going native" this author means she stripped down, wrapped herself in a hotel-issue sheet, partook of the sauna, and stripped the sheet to partake of the hottub), sidetrip to Kezmarok to see amazing library and wooden church with beautiful murals

Team Central Europe: David and Radka Fiala welcomed their baby boy into the world in the beginning of November. Josh and Angie Douglas made the difficult decision to return to America as she is expecting their first child so EGT is experiencing a shorthand in their class schedules until they can find substitutes.

Hungary: teaching is okay, it's getting busier now that we're making the students work harder toward end of term exams, I have 3 more private students one of which is teaching me Hungarian in recompense, Christmas markets are coming soon and I cannot wait!

More later when I have time.

Friday, October 28, 2005

scoot jpeg
You are Scooter.
You are a loyal, hardworking person, better known
as a doormat.

Going for stuff.
"Go For Broke!"

"15 seconds to showtime."

"300 New Ways to Get Your Uncle to Get You a
Better Job "

Coffee, clipboard, and Very Special Guest Stars.

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Big Break

So this week I've been doing Halloween lessons with my students. Next week is our Fall Break, so I figured I'd do something a little easy and light. For one of my 10year classes I was having them take the letters in the words "Halloween Costume" and make new words. I did this with most of my 9year and 10year classes for vocab practice and made it into a competition over which class could make the most new words. The highest count I had had was 112, but this class just blew them away with a whopping 200! It took them about 30 minutes and I helped a bit (as I helped all of the other classes if the Unfair Police are reading this right now). It was so cool. I really wish I had had my camera with me at the school so I could take a picture of the blackboard when we were through. The final bell had already rang and they still wanted to get more. I can't tell you how defeaning the cheering was when we hit 200. It was awesome.

It's totally my favorite class too. Every day with them is like that, where we learn but we have so much fun at the same time. It's great and if I didn't like anything else about this experience (which is so not true) I would love this class and this class would make it all worthwhile. God is good.

In other news: Doth I heareth thy swipe of a credit card-eth?
That's right. Shopping in Vienna baby. Last night the new Outlet Mall had a late night shopping event and I went and spent money. It was great. Clothes and shoes are cheaper in Austria than in Hungary, did you know that? I desperately needed some new shoes. My chuck's are on their last breath. I also got some warm weather clothes for when I go to church. I hear you laughing right now, but I'm serious. Even when it's 50 degrees outside it's freezing in the church. And the heat runs through pipes under the floor so your calves get nice and scorched but the rest of you stays unbearably frosty. It's quite the experience. Maybe it's a test of your devoutness, eh? Ha.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Budapest, once again, was fabulous. I'd have to say my favorite part was when we went in search of a bar, ended up at our hostel's club, and found that it was an underground enclave of the Hungarian Goth scene. Crazy.

I also really enjoyed the chaos surrounding the bed situation. Here's the math: 8 people in Rex Rinne's group + 12 beds in the room + 4 unknown males in the room with us = 8 of us together (men and women nicely separated) and 4 strangers together. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately that's not the way it worked out. A mysterious Frenchman was assigned a bed with us girls. Not to be deterred, we left him a note and "taped" it to the door of his wardrobe. "We'll get back and he'll be sleeping in a bed with the other strange men in the room," we naively thought to ourselves. This was not to be. This mysterious French man was disabled and had to sleep on a lower bunk. So I got to sleep above an old French guy who snored, listened to techno all night, and yelled at us for whispering in the morning. Jerkstore.

Ah well, in the end what can you really do?

And need I mention that Sunday was the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution? It was and there was much going on in Budapest. All day I couldn't get the songs from Les Mis out of my head. "Do you hear the people sing?"

Also, I have a question: why did I pay extra money for an IC (express) train back to Sopron when it was 1 hour late? Yeah, 4 unscheduled stops and 70 minutes past our scheduled time we finally arriveed back in Sopron. Apparently there were engine problems. While I'm glad they stopped to fix said problems, it would've been nice if they could've fixed them the first time and forgone the other 3 stops.

*sigh* Central Europe.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Look at me, World Traveller!

So I totally just bought my own train ticket to Budapest using my vast Hungarian vernacular. GO ME!

Of course I also totally cheated. I started with "Beszel Angolul?" meaning "Do you speak English?" and of course the answer was a resounding "No."

I then moved on to "Egy oda-vissza jegy Budapestre" which means "One return ticket to Budapest"

From there I was completely without language skills and so I pulled out my prepared schedule in written form (Szombat 06:39, Vasarnap 16:25) and badda-bing, I have my train ticket!

Yeah Baby!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

That's Impressive!

Seriously, the coolest thing just happened to me this evening.

So I'm shopping at Spar, my local grocer of choice. In Hungary (and much of Central Europe) you must deposit a coin in your shopping cart in order to get it unchained from the rack. Once you're finished you stick the chain in the handle of your cart (from whence it came) and out pops your coin.

Well, after I made my purchases and was abruptly shoved out the door before I could bag them myself (yeah, they're not too keen on the customer service side of things here) I took my cart back to it's home. As I was fitting the chain back into the handle my 50 Ft (that's Ft for Forint, not Feet as my stepfather, John, would have you believe) coin literally came flying out. I mean, you should've seen the air it got! I made that thing fly across the cool is that?! Yeah, sometimes I even impress myself...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Did I Forget to mention...

Oh, did I forget to mention the firey explosion of doom we here in Sopron experienced just last Friday? Terribly sorry, let me reiterate...

So I'm in my flat. I enjoy my flat. It's a nice flat. Unfortunately, there is some road construction right outside my window. Normally this does not bother me as I am at school when the workers are working, constructing, whathaveyou. Today was the exception.

First I must explain something about the country of Hungary. As we all know they were communist until the early 90's. Before that they were busy fighting wars. Amidst the chaos many roads were built, pipes were buried, etc...and let's just say the documentation of such work was, well, dodgy (as I so abruptly found out on Friday).

So imagine my surprise when I walk home from school and see a blaze of fire, the likes of which I cannot even describe in this humble blog. Furnace of doom would be apt, but it wasn't really a furnace as it was outdoors and down the street. I'd have to say it was closer to the Homecoming bonfire we had in High School only bigger. Much bigger.

What caused this blaze you may ask? Well, it turns out that the poorly documented gas pipeline under the street (which the workers were digging up with jackhammers and sometimes their barehands...I have pictures) was hit by an unsuspecting bulldozer. Does that smell funny? Like gas? Why yes it does!

Indeed, the smell gave it away and the gas was shut off. Unfortunately that is not the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would like to tell it, no. You see gas remains in the pipeline and the gas that remained in this pipeline was set off and a blaze erupted. The aforementioned furnace of doom. Luckily no one was injured, but much chaos was to be had.

If only they had called Diggers Hotline.

If only Diggers Hotline existed here.

Koszeg is pronounced "KEUR-seg"

This past weekend I took a trip to the small village of Koszeg. It's about half the size of Sopron, has a castle, and is generally older than Sopron. Apparently it was also the last stand of the Turks. The castle was where the Turkish army was finally defeated on their quest for Vienna after, what, 150 years of war? Can you imagine a country fighting 150 years? American is barely even that old! Anywho. Here's what you've been waiting

Alas, no palm trees in Hungary...these trees are the closest they have. They remind me of the South Carolina Palmetto...

Speared Pidgeon anyone?

Hark! Be that a moat?

Yeah, Koszeg is a beautiful town. Very touristy which is probably why it's so nice and well kept. It was neat to walk around the castle and imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago when it was first built. I wonder what Mr. Koszeg thought after it was finished and he walked around the courtyard. Probably something along the lines of "Finally!"

Friday, October 14, 2005


You know what really makes me homesick? Sports. Or lack thereof.
NCAA Hockey kicks off this weekend and I will miss it. In fact I will miss the entire season. And it may just be the best season in WCHA history, but if you really want to put a finer point on it...what could top last season? Unless the Gophers took home the title. That would top it for me. And this year they have the best recruited class in the country. Makes me homesick, people.

In other news: It's finally here. Cold Weather (insert dooms day music here) I'm not a fan. To which you would reply, "Um, then why did you go to Europe?" Well, my friends, because Europe is fun. That's why. So eat it.

I'm starting to plug 'n chug as far as teaching goes. I really only have one absolutely horrible class, but that's being taken care of as we speak (as I type?). I have one other class that's borderline terrible, but I'm bringing out the whip and chains and we'll see how long that lasts. I've found that if you just utter the word "examination" they sit up straight, quiet down, and pay attention right away. Must be a Pavlov's dog kind of trained mechanism. I need to explore this further.

I'm starting to think that there's more to life in Sopron than just teaching. Perhaps the Kollegium needs an English Discussion group? Or a Bible study? Although I must admit that I have my doubts about the success of a Bible study. The students are not what we would call religious, and religion in general is not practiced overtly here. Remnant of Communism I'm sure. Maybe I could be sly and start an English Club for the students and then work the gospel in every"Below the Belt Evangelism" I mean, "Underground Evangelism" that sounds good.

In Unrelated News: So I had originally wanted to go to Romania to see Transylvania, but now will cancel those plans. Ex-nay of the Bird Flu-ay. The suspicious side of my nature finds it odd that both Romania and Turkey are stricken with cases of Avian Influenza whilst both are in the bid for acception into the European Union...need I mention that both countries, Turkey especially, have met resistance in their bids from other European Union countries? I could see a good Tom Clancy novel of sabotage take form from such a coincidence. It's just odd that Romania and Turkey are the only 2 countries in Europe with cases of Bird Flu...

Back to more related matters. I'm sick. But not seriously. Just a little case of a cold, if not Bronchitis. I hope it's not Bronchitis. I'm keeping an eye on it for the next week or so to see how it progresses (or hopefully regresses) but I know that for sure I've been exposed to Bronchitis and that after my 6 month bout in college that I am susceptible. So let's hope it's just a cold.

Did I mention the initiation? So yeah, apparently American High Schools are not the only places where freshman (or 5 years and 9 years as the case is here) are subject to humiliating moments of initiation rituals. Here it's much like Dazed and Confused where the school and the entire community condone it. I found out about it by answering the knock on my door last Tuesday. Two of my 9 year girls (clad in swimsuits, sunscreen noses, flotation devices around their stomachs, and flipflops) grabbed my hand and told me they needed me to speak Hungarian in front of the entire school.

Um. Okay.

So we ran the 1/2 mile to school (in less than 3 minutes I must add proudly) and they taught me to say "Mit suc kes zsogy" at least I think that's the spelling...without the accents. That's what I think the Hungarian spelling would be for the way it was pronounced anyway. Am I making sense anymore? No? Then I'll continue.

Apparently this was part of an elaborate Truth or Dare game between the 5years and the 9years. I went up on the stage, said my bit, recieved a thunderous applause from my students, took a bow, and left. Ah I feel accomplished.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pepto Bismal

This is me in a telephone booth in Budapest. They have pink phones. Why do they have pink phones?

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Photo Update N More

This photo was taken in Sopron on Deak Ter. I thought it was funny and immediately thought of the subtitle "They're No Longer on Speaking Terms"

If you can guess what this picture is I will give you a dollar. This was taken during our French tour of Parliament and I got it right on the first guess...even though I was just trying to be funny in saying what it was. As a hint, you will find 4 more of these on various windowsills and in the front each semicircle thingy is numbered. What could it be?

To give you perspective and a sense of scale, here is a view taken from The Chain Bridge in Budapest. The building on the top of the hill is Matthais Church and The Fisherman's Bastion is in front of it.

Ah, the random and not-so-elusive marathon. Why do random things like seeing a marathon the minute I walk out the door of my hotel always happen to me? I don't get it, but I find it humorous.

In Other News:
Some of my students took me out on the town last night. We went to a hip, trendy place called Pub Fiction. It was delightful to see where the kids and young folk hang out in Sopron. Every Saturday they have live music and/or a DJ so maybe I'll check it out with some more students sometime. The girls also invited me to a concert that will take place on Halloween. It's an up and coming Hungarian band that sings their songs in English (good for me!) and the girls know them. They're gonna give me a CD so I can start learning the songs and then I'll be in "sing-a-long city" tip top shape when the concert rolls around.

Ah, good times.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Long Time, No Update

Well, my parents came to visit this weekend which was very nice. We went to Budapest and luckily, Rico came and helped us get the tickets. We stayed at a super nice hotel on the Danube across from the Royal Palace. On Saturday we walked up to castle hill and around and down and around and to Parliament and then back to the hotel and then over to Vaci Utca. It was tiring. But fun.

Randomly, we met a woman from Atlanta who was visiting her daughter's future in-laws. Did you get that? Anyway, we wanted to take a tour of Parliament, but the English tour didn't start for another 2 hours. The Hungarian woman spoke to the guard and talked us into the next tour that was starting. We thought it was a tour in Czech but it turned out it was a tour in French! So I understood what was being said and I translated a bit for my parents. It was pretty cool.

On Sunday we walked out of the hotel and there were a bunch of people lined up along the street. "What's going on?" we thought. Turns out it was the 20th Jubilee Marathon in Budapest and we just caught the start of it. How random is that!?!

We came back to Sopron that evening (after a slight problem with the train...we caught the announcement and the words "probleme" and "diagnostic"). They stayed last night as well and I got to introduce them to my English speaking friends in Sopron. Kati took us on a tour of Sopron and told us the history of the government and the churches. That was very interesting. I don't know why, but I thought Hungary had been Socialist after they were Communist, but no. They were under Communist rule until 1990. That's only 15 years ago! It explains a lot...

I also found out that Sopron had the choice of becoming part of Hungary or Austria. Sopron was the capital city of one of the Austrian counties, but voted to join Hungary instead. The Hungarians were happy, but also concerned that if the Austrians saw Sopron as valuable they would try to take it back by force. That's why Sopron was never really developed as an industrial city. They're now trying to make it more touristy, but most of the work here is service and trading...and now I know the reason why. It's all quite interesting...

Friday, September 16, 2005

Are you ready for this? Well, get ready cuz here's your crash course in knowing your various drinking establishments in Sopron...

Number 1: BEER

Barrel = Beer, my friends. Remember that.

Number 2: WINE

Pay attention now people! Branches = Wine. There'll be a pop quiz...

Number 3: TEA

Teakettle = Tea. Got that?

Okay, so number 3 isn't exactly true. It may have been a teahouse at some point in time, but now it's a dentist's office. So now you can go there to get the stains from the tea bleached off your teeth. It all comes full circle, right?

It's really the little things...

Today we didn't have school because all of the students have a class trip. Good for me, eh? My plan was to sleep, sleep, relax, maybe eat something, and sleep some more (I got a little sick in Bratislava last weekend). But when I woke up the weather was so beautiful that I couldn't help myself and I took myself for a walk.

My plan was to get lost and see what I see. I walked past the University and then headed back downtown, when guess what? I recognized where I was. Yes, that's good, but I was almost disappointed. I did get some great pics though (to be posted later). I also saw one of the directors from the school as I was walking and we waved hello. For some reason that made me incredibly happy...recognizing someone on the street.

I went back to the dorm and my favorite porter was working. I don't know his name but we always wave hello and goodbye to eachother and he always laughs when I ask for the key to the computer room (which is all the time...and which is probably why he laughs). He gave me some chocolate and is now my best friend (the way to a lady's heart guys, the way to a lady's heart).

I also finally found the library again and returned my books and got some more. The clerk remembered me and said Hello and Bye in English which also made me incredibly happy.

I don't know if I've come to a turning point or what, but I just couldn't wipe the smile off of my face today! God has blessed me with such incredible joy and I can only pray that it lasts. There were times in the US that I was blessed with such a joyfulness and people would ask me why I was so happy. It was such a perfect way for me to introduce them to Jesus and I'm really glad that I'm feeling the same joy and I hope it leads to more introductions to Jesus here in Sopron.

This is me loving the world.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Packages from Home! How I love thee, let me count the ways...
1 magazine, 1 roll of fluffy toilet paper, 1 book, 4 cards, Several great pics of my Godson, and oh, so many wonderful things...

Thank you everyone. You've been a great crowd!

Go Me!

Aw yeah!
Guess who navigated the Central European train system all by herself and made it to Bratislava and back in one piece?

If you answered, "Mandi!" You are quite correct! Yay! Go Me!

I'm quite proud of myself if you can't tell. It was quite the accomplishment. Speaking of accomplishments...I figured out the laundry situation and think I correctly did two loads last night! I say I think I did them correctly because my clothes smell clean and they look clean. I had trouble getting the washing machine to actually stop washing. It just kept going and going. After about an hour I just turned it to the wringer setting and prayed that my clothes were fully rinsed. I'm not quite sure what was going on's an adventure to say the least.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's a Good Thing.

So I've started to read the Bible because I've always heard the Bible stories and I've been taught them my whole life, but I've never read all of them for myself. I'm into Leviticus and it sounds boring, but I just can't get enough! I read all of the commands God gave the Israelites in the OT and instead of being tedious and boring, I picture what it was like living in that time, why God worded the commands as He did, what they people were like, etc. I'm enthralled by history and the Bible is quite the goldmine.

I've tried reading the Bible many many times in my life. I've done the New Testament for class, but whenever I got to the OT I found it so boring. All of the "begats" and "commanded thems" and such. But now I find it fascinating. How cool is that?

It probably helps that I'm reading a New Living Translation instead of a New King James. I would recommend the NLT to anyone who wants to read the Bible for that is what this version intended. The translators intended to make the Bible accessible to people today...they translated it into words and language that we would understand today. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Here's a little taste of my photos to keep you salivating and thirsty for more...

The white building in the middle is the entrance to the Berzsenyi Daniel Evangelikus Gimnazium where I teach. It extends quite far in the back and all of the rooms are numbered crazily and are hard to find. But I like it, it's like a little scavenger hunt every time I go to school. the red building on the right is an English Pub where, not so surprisingly, they do not speak English. On the left is Posta, the Post Office that I have yet to frequent. Sorry if you've been waiting for snail mail from me, I'm not yet brave enough to go in and try to send international mail.

This is a picture of the Roman ruins in Sopron. Throughout the town you can still see the remnants of the original Roman wall that inclosed the inner city. It's very cool and it makes me wonder if the residents here take it for granted. There is such an incredible history in the architecture here! It is said that one cannot dig under a building or in a yard in Sopron without coming across an ancient statue, building, grave, or remnant of the ancient municipal water system from Roman times.

Can you imagine what that would be like in the US? Anytime someone wanted to build something they'd have to stop and let archeaologists come in and excavate for years before they could start building their shopping mall or apartment complex or parking lot. Crazy yet very cool.

A Weekend in Blava


Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen I successfully negotiated the Central European train system all by myself! Go me! Well, there was an incident coming out of Vienna in which I took the wrong train, but the mix-up was soon corrected and I safely arrived in Bratislava. It made me feel better to know that I was not the only person who got on the wrong train, but in fact at least 20 people were with me in the confusion. You see, they have this knack of connecting 2 trains for departure and then halfway through the journey the trains are split and each go their seperate way. You'd think they would let you know such information in the train station, right? Wrong. One must pay special attention to the crudely made signs taped in the window of the first car to determine the destination of the carraige.

Yeah. Not something a first time rider would know, but what are you gonna do?

Now I am back in Sopron with my nose to the grindstone. Luckily, Mondays are my slow days and I only have 3 classes. My project for this week is to crack down and create a grading plan for all of my classes...or maybe I'll do it by teacher or by year. I'm not sure yet. But that's the plan.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

It's Getting Better My Friends

So this is my second week teaching English and I'm actually getting into the teaching English part. I have 23 classes, all with different students, and so I have over 200 names to remember. Lord I'm terrible at names. I really enjoy teaching, most of my students are quite advanced so we get to sit around and talk and I have them write stories. They love themselves some chain stories I have to tell you.

I was so lonely my first week. No one else was in the Kollegium, I couldn't get into the computer room, I didn't have a phone. Oh, the inhumanity. But now it's getting better. There are actually other bodies in the building.

Last night I went to "English Club" which consisted of me with 2 other Americans speaking English and drinking Soproni beer at a local pub (those of you who remember the Green Mill in St. Paul would've been delighted with the brew). Today there is an anti-abortion march to the hospital that I think I will go to if I can find the St. Istvan church where the march begins. Let's hope so.

And this weekend I am braving the Euro Rail system and will be taking a train to Bratislava all by myself. We'll see how well I switch trains in Vienna. I'm a little concerned. But I really need to visit the Lindsey's and see some friendly faces...and speak some English. I really miss my family and sometimes it's really really hard to be here all by myself. And I mean really hard. But it's definitely getting better and I imagine it will continue to do so.

Gotta run, my next class starts soon. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Big Arrival

I have safely arrived in Sopron.

Two weeks ago Ken called and said my visa was done and could I please leave next week? So I left next week. I flew into Bratislava last Friday and stayed with the Lindseys until Gerlinde drove me to Sopron today. I must admit that it was really hard saying goodbye to Gerlinde. She is such a wonder of creation and made me feel so welcome. The hospitality in that household is truly without equal. I'm hoping to go back at least once a month to visit, but I doubt I'll have that much time.

Today was the first day I felt truly lonely. My body is fully adjusted to the change in time, tempurature, and altitude. I unpacked my flat in record time (after 4 years of college and moving every few months I'm quite efficient), and now I have nothing to do. Well, that's not true. I have plenty to do but no motivation to do it. Who wants to try and find the Tesco by themselves? Who wants to try and find the bank or figure out how to use the bus by themselves? I'm going to rope a Hungarian into helping me tomorrow. Until then I am without the essentials: wine, water, and toilet paper. That's right ladies and gentleman, Mandi is without toilet paper in her flat. Luckily the Kollegium (dorm, look at me and my Hungarian!) has public bathrooms that are well stocked.


The life of a missionary. It's so adventurous.