Saturday, May 6, 2006


Yes, another entry with pictures. Don't you just love it?

Today was Ballagás (Graduation) and it was a good time. It all started in the Sopron forest by the spring (musn't drink from the spring unless you are a graduating senior as the superstition goes). The seniors parade through the forest, and gather round whilst the onlookers fiendeshly take pictures (can one "fiendeshly" do anything?). The program starts, and about 64 people speak/recite poetry/etc and music is occassionally played. Then the graduating class parades out of the forest and through town, followed by the onlookers and the parade begins!

The Liceum shield leads the way (by the by, no one seems to know what the "L" stands for or why it's a "Liceum" shield and not a "Gimnazium" shield).


The seniors follow the shield through the town streets, artfully balancing dozens of flowers. Actually, they have escorts, students from the lower classes (lower numbered classes, not caste system), to carry all of their stuff. And all of the teachers, parents, siblings, etc follow them at a sedate pace.

I asked if I should bring candy to throw to everyone gaping and standing on the sidewalks, but they didn't get the humor.

After many a Kodak moment, I ran ahead and got a good vantage point at the school. The school that was liberally decorated with flowers, pine boughs, and lilacs. A great touch. Then came more Kodak moments and even music from the band that somehow got in between the 12th years and the "L Shield." It was great.

All in all, it was an amazing spectacle. Better than Shawano's homecoming parade but not as great as Gresham's 4th of July parade (it was lacking the candy, you see). The most amazing part was seeing just how seriously the entire community views graduation and how important it is. In America it seems you just walk across the stage to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance and you're done. Here in Sopron they had weeks of buildup. First was the ribbon ceremony in February, then the picture tablets were unveiled in shop windows, then the 12th years spent a week serenading their teachers and fellow students (all at night), then there were serenades at the school, then there was a dedicated church service, and finally the Ballagás. Totally awesome festivities.

Now the students get to take the Maturita examination next week (Monday through Wednesday). And that's just the first part. The second part of the exam is at the end of May. But we'll discuss that later. For now, let's get on to the pictures!!

This is the ceremony in the forest. Behind the ribbons, under the plaque is the spring. Under the red cloths (on the right) are little glasses filled with water from the spring. Richárd is giving the goodbye speech on behalf of the graduates. (A little trivia: he gave the goodbye speech to the seniors last year when he was an 11th year). The older people mixed in with the students in uniform (girls in maroon, boys in suits) are the form teachers for each class (A, B, C, D, G). They are like a guidance counselor for the students all 4 years of their High School career. Oh, and you can see the "L Shield" as I've come to call it. My student, Tomy is the boy behind it, second to the left with the blue/red sash (from one of my unofficial favorite classes, officially I don't play favorites).

This is about 20 minutes into the parade already. I was in it, but broke away to take some snapshots. Again, the L Shield. In these pictures you can see students holding huge bouquets of flowers. It's customary for family, friends, teachers, etc to give the graduates flowers. In fact, flowers are a very important part of the culture here. It seems at every special occassion flowers are given, and they're often given as a sign of respect from one person to another (for example, the graduates gave flowers to us teachers as a sign of respect and gratitude). Trivia point #2: there's a flower shop not to far from me that's open 24 hours a day...THAT'S how important they are...

Left to Right: A Teacher I don't know (there's over 60 teachers, cut me some slack), Zoltán, a student from my favorite 12th year class (unofficial), 2 underclassmen girls acting as escort, Norbi, a student from the same class as Zoltán, Támara from my 10th year class acting as escort, Gabór again from the same 12th year class, Véra from my 11th year class acting as escort

Yeah, this is a great photo if only for Richárd's expression. Sadly, I didn't teach him as he passed his English exam and so did not have to attend my class. But next to him, on the left, is Diána and I did teach her. I also taught (oh, sad! past tense...) Koresz and Attila, the boys in the line ahead. In between them is their form teacher (She's the music teacher at the school). This is the 12D class, but I had all of the students pictured (except Richi of course) in different lessons. After 10th year they break the students into different lessons based on skill level. So it took me about 7 months to finally get it straight which students were in 12 A, B, C, D, and G and it still wasn't until their tableaus came out and they started serenading that I really got it down.

The guy in the middle with the flowers and Berzsenyi bag (yes, they all get "purses" even the boys) is Dáni, another of the boys from my unofficial favorite senior class. Trivia Point #3: the boy behind Dáni is Sam from one of my other unofficial favorite 10 year classes (the same class as Tomy as it were). I would be lying if I said he wasn't one of my favorite students, but don't let him know that...wouldn't want it going to his head...

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