Hello, it is I. I know, a bit surprising for those of you who tuned into this week’s broadcast to hear the haunted and haunting musings of the ghost of Sir Laurence Olivier. Said event has been delayed to an indeterminate date due to a miscommunication between myself and the psychic hotline. You see I ordered a medium and they sent me a large.
I’ve been having trouble getting this post off of the ground. I attempted to get it finished for last week, but it was not to be. I’ve had a few legitimate reasons for not writing. Not enough to occupy the amount of time between the last post and this one, though. I guess I’ve been living with a case of post event blues. The festival I attended two weeks ago at this point was a great experience, and even though it was only for two days it felt like this grand extended adventure. In the wake of this massive mental typhoon I have been finding it difficult to return willingly to the rigors of average life.
I have likely mentioned this before, but over the last six months I have been here I have been attempting to develop a better repertoire of habits than those I used to fall into. I am trying to keep this blog running. I’m attempting to learn at least conversational Hungarian, have I mentioned before that it is a difficult language? I am trying to spend a little time each day improving or maintaining my art skills. I am trying to improve my physical condition too by working out a little bit more than the not at all that plagues me. During my really productive periods, I somehow managed to fit all of these improvements into my schedule. Any time that I take any time off though, I seem to be resetting the clock on my progress. The rhythm of events that I have been attempting to cultivate these last six months has been unseated by a two day vacation.
I had originally planned on continuing to regale everyone with my terribly feeble struggles through teaching. However I believe a minor detour is in order this week. As I have been retelling my story these last twelve weeks, I have glossed over a number of smaller stories and concepts that have been too small to merit their own full posts. Think of today’s post as something of a variety show with each of these topics being brought up briefly only to be inadequately explored leading me to do another clip show down the road.
Anyway, returning to my ongoing saga, we interrupt your regularly scheduled me griping about how hard it is to be a teacher to change tact and get into the things happening besides work in those few weeks. In retrospect, I was actually spending relatively little time at work. Although, to be fair, all the way until the middle of October most of my free time was still being spent writing those lesson plans. There did somehow end up being more to my life than just the moments I was getting used to teaching. Somewhere along the line a few minutes were squirreled away into things like making friends and pursuing hobbies.
At the school at which I teach there are four Americans employed in teaching the children English. Now, I may be living in Hungary with a partner who provides me support and companionship but one person does not a social network make. In a land where even the ordering of a slice of pizza involves the mispronunciation of words and a spirited game of charades, it can be at times difficult to feel like you belong. Every action comes packaged free with a sense of minor alienation. It feels nice to cut through the language barrier and just be able to communicate with people. This can often lead to many Americans abroad forming small social lifeboats of common language, oases of English if you wish to muddle the metaphor further. With three other American compatriots within arm’s reach, one such cultural cluster began to form. Following the patter on most things I have done in Europe, these relationships were made more loud and rowdy with liberal application of social lubricant. There have been many a domicile hootenanny for us to get better acquainted with our partners in linguistic learning. Games based around the slurping and sloshing of drinks meant for sousing are played and played readily. Events like these still emanate the feeling of college parties.
So, I keep stating that I don’t want to give off the impression that we are all just raging alcoholics swigging our way overseas, but at our local café/pub/bar our group came to be known for its American style raucous joviality. In a story that is slightly hazy on the details, but heavy on unwarranted singing, our little foursome somehow managed to make such an impression on the barkeep that whenever we enter the bar she plays the greatest in hip hop hits from the 80s and 90s. Truly we give the finest of impressions about the average citizen of the United States. There are also a number of people from the original orientation that we keep in contact to date. It feels a little ironic, but after moving to the other side of the planet I have made more American friends than Hungarian ones.
Before I leave off for the day, I do have one humorous story that isn’t about teaching or drinking. Surprising, I know. Because bureaucracy is the eternal, the ceaseless, and the unstoppable force that rules all of our very souls; there was a minor mountain of paperwork to be copied filled and processed before, during, and after arriving in Budapest. This all culminated sometime in the first few weeks. It was impressed upon us that if we had any hopes of being paid for the first three months of working here, we would have to surmount the Everest of bureaucratic efforts and attain our residency cards. This little quest would require everyone in the program to gather all of their papers before heading into the immigration office in Budapest in the middle of the week. All the while we had to hope against hope that our paperwork was in its most arbitrarily correct state. I am not afraid to say that I was more than a little concerned that I had not brought all of my documents into this country.
So, while the paperwork proved as advertised to be some kind of hellish sphinx riddle, we discovered something unexpected when we reached the immigration office. The English teaching program which we are teaching through has a Hungarian liaison in country, and her job title may as well be the problem fixer. From the very start of the orientation we had been told that if we were to have a problem that we should just whisper her name into the night’s breeze and she will emerge from the shadows to end whatever issue ills us. When we arrived at the building she was there awaiting us, running the show. We were told to wait outside in a line. It was a hot day and the line promised to be a long wait, but whatever I’ve been to Disneyland passing around small talk while standing uncomfortably is nothing new to me. As a plus, everyone who was in the line was from the orientation. Because I avoid social media like a plague of chirping locust, I had not heard from any of these people since reaching my school. It was a fun miniature reunion which served to pass the time until we were allowed inside.
In the middle of our conversations the doors opened before us admitting us inside. What was waiting for us inside was a notably strange occurrence. The government building was empty. It was just us, the English teachers, and the immigration employees. This was a sight so very baffling to us. Hungary is a lovely place and it is many things, but what it is not is convenient. If there is something that must be done, you are expected to wait in line like everyone else, and likely you are expected to speak Hungarian to get anything done. This absence of inconveniences was a great shock to everyone. What I mean is that this convenience awaiting us either meant that our problem solver had emptied out the immigration in the middle of the week just for us to expedite our application process, or she had somehow forced a government office which was already closed to, again, open specifically for us. This brazen display of authority has led to the widespread and mostly believable rumor that our Hungarian powerhouse has or currently is involved in some kind of high ranking mafia activity. She has a heart of gold though as she chooses to use her power to benefit the youth of her country. This does not abate the fact that her influence over government offices, postal services, daycares, and random passersby on the street is strange and mildly terrifying.
Things went slowly and officially and eventually our paperwork was processed. Pictures were taken and signatures were provided and eventually we were told that we could leave. The word was that we would need to return in a few weeks to pick up our finished residency cards. Because we had co teachers covering our classes for the day we were released into the city to enjoy a beautiful day off from work. To give our story a fun little finish, a few weeks later we did return to the immigration office, but this time alone, without the Hungarian Hammer. Without her we were considered normal human beings, and as such took our place at the back of the line in a crowded immigration office. After several hours of waiting it turned out that my girlfriend’s application had some kind of issue. Even though we had been told by the government to show up at this time and place, they had not seen fit to tell us that there were any issues. I guess even the fear of a pair of concrete shoes was not enough to solve every problem. A week or so after that misadventure my girlfriend finally did receive her card which brought an end to the immigration fun for this year.
Well, there were we go, just a few of the smaller stories that I have been meaning to get out there. Look forward to future installments that will most likely involve stories of drinking, because I am a creature of habit. Thank you for tuning in. To all of you out there, I say good day, good night, and good reading.
Fun note, apparently I’ve never spelled the word bureaucracy correct in my entire life.