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...