Long overdue

*This post has been a long time coming and I’m full of excuses but I won’t bore you with them.*

After being chewed up and spat back out by London Robert and I recouped in the mercifully cheap and cheerful Budapest, in a rental apartment called Little Panther – so named for a reason that continues to elude us to this day.

Orientation passed mostly without issue, although the daily drudge up and down the five or six flights of stairs to the hostel was an unwelcome reminder of how unfit we’d become over summer. There was a mini production in which a fellow teacher was suddenly and dramatically expelled from our ranks, after revealing a decidedly rotten core and an uncanny resemblance to Steve Jobs, which Robert at least found suspect. Another event worthy of note: I experienced a sense of bamboozlement tantamount to discovering that Dumbledore was dead, then alive sort-of, then decidedly dead again – but also still hanging out in a painting, while watching my new favourite Cornish person manipulate a deck of cards.

Firmly-oriented we were packed off to our new home, which could also be mistaken for Burt Reynold’s Hungarian holiday home. Apart from a minor incident in which we suspect that we released the ashes (and possibly the ghost) of the long-dead previous tenant of our apartment and/or her cat via the ancient vacuum, there have been no domestic disasters.

Shag-rug and teak aside, the place is a vast improvement on last years’ digs, which resembled Hagrid’s cabin. We have an upstairs and a spare room and a double bed (sort of), and I will post photos at some point so that you can marvel at how much it looks like the set of Boogie Nights.

As for Székesfehérvár itself, well, it was major in the Middle Ages. Nowadays though there’s not so many royals passing through and the pace of life is decidedly slower. Still, there are nocturnal open-air euro-trance spinning classes, and, surely one of the greatest vanity projects of all time, Bory Castle.

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Erected in the 1950s by a decidedly eccentric gentleman who gave the structure its name, Bory sits slap bang in the middle of Hungarian suburbia (it is on a residential street, literally sandwiched between two middle-class homes). It is made entirely from concrete and features a number of different styles that aren’t traditionally featured in the same structure. It’s chockablock with Bory’s own sculptures and paintings, which range from ‘quite good’ to ‘exceedingly poor’.

Other things worth mentioning, in no particular order:

  1. My 12th graders look like Russian shot putters and speak better English than me
  2. Robert’s 1st graders look like Borrowers
  3. Hungary has made me realize my secret hated for unkempt grass
  4. In Hungarian the word ‘cookie’ = baby penis
  5. There is not an agreed sound for emergency vehicles here
  6. Hungarian mosquitos have loved me
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Back to the books

In what would appear to be an exercise in empathy, I’m undertaking another scholastic quest: attempting to learn a foreign language (again).

Despite Hungary being a European country, Hungarian is not part of the Indo-European family tree. It’s actually part of the Ugrian subgroup of Uralic languages, and it’s nearest ‘relatives’ are Finnish and Estonian. It is considered to be one of the most difficult languages for an English speaker to master, which isn’t surprising really considering Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet and nouns can have up to 238 possible forms.

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In light of my complete mathematical incompetence it’s difficult to say whether learning Hungarian is a more or less realistic aspiration than achieving a C grade at Maths GCSE. But nevertheless I am undeterred! In my quest I’m employing a nifty little app called Memrise that uses flashcards and mnemonics, and I’ll take up classes once I get to Hungary.

I realise this may sound all too familiar to some of you. Last year, after a promising start (I managed to learn the Korean alphabet and half a dozen key phrases before I left the UK) my dream of learning an ultimately useless foreign language floundered somewhat , and in the end I never got any further than the basics.

But I vow that this year will be different! I will master a language spoken by a single community of people if it’s the last thing I do.

Got any tools or tips for conquering Hungarian? 

Location, location, location

For those who care to know, this is where I’m off to in August.

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Székesfehérvár, Hungary
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Aerial view

Székesfehérvár (pronounced Sey-cash-fey-heyr-vahr, apparently) means “seat of the white castle”, in reference to the numerous kings and queens who got crowned there, back in the day. It’s a small city or big town, whichever way you want to look at it, that sits about 40 miles southwest of Budapest, the county’s capital.

According to reliable old Wikipedia, there’s about 101,973 people living in Székesfehérvár, and 95.7% of them are ethnically Hungarian, so it really does promises to be an “authentic Hungarian experience” as the recruiter put it. If my limited research is anything to go by that experience will feature generous amounts of public nudity (there are many natural springs about), goulash (the national dish), dodgy dessert wine (Tokaji is measured by its sweetness), and horses (apparently all things equine are in here).

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also pretty looking.

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To Hungary!

It’s been a long time since my last post and since then I’ve done some things:

  • Left Korea (but almost didn’t because I forgot to get a visa)
  • Stomped around a corner of Australia with my sister. We got stuck in things: a lift, a $10 dollar tent in the arsehole of nowhere, a biblical rainstorm
  • Made it back to the UK and into the bosom of my friends and family, and Humbug the cat
  • Ate a lot of cheese and Branston pickle sandwiches
  • Broke my arm in the least spectacular fashion
  • Got a  job in which I holler (mostly) cheerfully down the phone at the hard of hearing and drink gallons of tea
  • Returned to Center Parcs with school chums to wreak havoc on the forest once again
  • Went to America to be reunited with the previously mentioned fool who I’ve tricked into running off to Europe with me

Also…I’ve developed a decidedly masochistic streak and now spend a significant amount of my time studying quadratic equations and the like in order to retake my Maths GCSE. Happily that unsavory business will be over as of June, and then the countdown to my next adventure begins!

As you can see I’ve changed my header to a distinctly (squashed) not-Korea image, and this is to alert you, the reader, that from here on out I’ll no longer be moaning about kimchi and ajummas. It’s official, in August Robert and I are setting sail for a town in Hungary, the name of which we can’t pronounce, to teach some more unfortunate souls – so you can expect lamentations over goulash and Franz Liszt instead.