Yo no entiendo

I took Spanish classes for four years in high school and an additional two years in college (still mad at Penn State Altoona for not offering the minor). I speak Spanish when I go on trips and I practice with different apps on my phone. I don’t understand why, but my brain thinks the language around me is Spanish and I think in Spanish…. a lot. I don’t know how many times I’ve almost asked someone a question in Spanish. Unfortunately, my Spanish knowledge gets me nowhere here. The most common second languages are English and German. Sometimes I really question why I didn’t go somewhere Spanish speaking but I guess the perk here is that no one expects me to understand anything and if I knew some of the language they would probably expect me to. So at least I have an excuse for not knowing what’s going on.

Every morning, almost all of my coworkers make the effort to greet me in English. This is very nice of them. Some of them don’t have much more or any English besides simple greetings. And some of them surprise me by saying more than I have expected them to. I really don’t talk much at all. I’m starting to wonder if my voice will just disappear if I don’t use it enough. When I leave school at 4:00 pm until I get to school at 7:45, I don’t usually say anything. My first “hello” in the morning always surprises me when I hear the sound of my own voice again. It’s really easy not to talk and just makes talking weird. Even when I go to the grocery store, I use the self-checkout so as not to alarm the cashier. Today, I found out that one of the teachers who doesn’t say much of anything to me teaches English. I also never teach with her and teach gym classes and such with only Hungarian speaking teachers. Oh, and I never teach the 8th grade who would be the highest English level. Some things are just very confusing. I try to ask a lot of questions like why this or what happens when? But after one or two times of repeating myself and receiving an answer that is not for the question I asked, I accept the language barrier, nod, and say thanks, unless it’s a really important question.

I really don’t have any idea what’s going on 95.9% of the time. I thought I would be teaching English class after English class but instead many of my classes are PE and Art. It’s day five of school and the schedule still is not complete. I can’t understand why they wouldn’t use the same schedule as last year or have started making it in June. So I still don’t know what I’m teaching for sure, but the schedule I do have for now is different every day and different every other week. I attached the fileschedule of my (current) schedule in here for anyone who is curious. It’s quite a change from how American schedules work in schools and I find it very difficult and confusing. I find this hard to plan for as I do see a few of the grades twice a week for an English class. I feel like that’s not enough to teach them anything so I don’t know how this will go. Only seeing them twice a week means they are likely to lose or forget about any homework I assign them in between classes, it hasn’t been that long since I was a student so I’m sure of this. So I’m at a loss as what to do with my classes at the moment. Right now, I just get up there and talk about America and fascinate them with facts like I can buy pears at the grocery store all year round instead of like here when they’re only in season. Some of the kids are very respectful and some of them don’t care what I have to say. I have been asking to watch the other teachers teach to try and learn how to teach and lesson plan but I don’t think my question is really understood so this doesn’t really happen. When I do get to watch someone else teach, it seems that they teach in English but scold in Hungarian. Yesterday, I taught the 6th graders and two of them completely refused to do the classwork like the other kids. When I asked my other teachers what I can do to motivate them to participate, they seemed surprised I had problems with the girls and not the boys. The teachers told me to go to the head teacher of the class when I had problems with a student so I suppose I will see how that works.

Today I taught 1st graders PE and managed to have them sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes as well as play Duck Duck Goose, but I think the game only happened because one boy just moved here from England and could help me with the game. But either way, PE was a success and the 1st graders seem to like me. They also sang the Hungarian version of head and shoulders for me. PE seems to very different than from at home. The girls wear a red leotard and the boys wear a white shirt and blue shorts. At some age, the girls switch to wearing a white shirt and red shorts but I haven’t determined what the cutoff age is yet. I am also confused because I met the PE teacher but I guess he only teaches about three grades.

I knew I would be tired, but I didn’t know how tired I would be exactly. Usually I go home from school and eat dinner and go to sleep. 12 hours is the best but if I get much less than 10 I’m completely worthless the next day and can barely think. This weekend, I don’t plan to do much other than sleep and I’m really looking forward to it. Absolutely pathetic that I’m in another country and I just want to sleep.

This week has not been the best. One of my co-teachers said to me yesterday “I think after this year you will not want to be a teacher anymore” and after the look on my face she said “oh but don’t worry, it will be fine.” So I’ve started expecting for the worst because I don’t really know what she means by that. That was the day my coffee maker hissed and spit water at me again even though I didn’t prep it the night before. I don’t use it anymore; I bought instant packs at the store instead. I really want to start tutoring in the evenings and to start a group to teach my coworkers but right now I’m still to confused about my actual job that I haven’t tried to talk about doing that yet.

There is a lady who has a desk and sits in the main hallway of the school all day. No one has explained to me what she does. I’m guessing the school has an open campus policy and that she signs the students in and out but I really don’t know. I also don’t know if I have ever seen any of the 8th graders. I don’t have any classes with them and couldn’t point one out if they were right in front of me.

Every day, this dog follows me on my walk home from school and I’m contemplating keeping him. The problem is that I don’t know if he actually has an owner and that transporting a bag of dog food without a car would be super annoying. So I haven’t claimed him… yet.

Here are a few links about my school and my town. The first is a map. The thing that says it’s a library is actually my school. The library is in a separate building about a block away and the cafeteria is next to the kindergarten. The second is a link just about my school. It is translated through Google so it doesn’t make complete sense but I thought it was fairly interesting to look at. the third is about my town itself.  Again, it is translated through Google so it may read a little strange.

I went to Budapest over the weekend for a wine fest and to see other American teachers so I could speak English full speed. It was much needed. One of my coworkers asked what I planned to do for the weekend and I told her. This turned into over an hour of my coworkers helping to buy my train tickets. It’s really so nice how much everyone wants to help me and I feel very welcome. I think they thought it was amazing I was going to travel by myself when I can’t communicate. I sort of think they were shocked that I made it back. Tuesday, I said I was going to Tesco and someone wrote down all the bus times for me and also wrote me a “if lost, please return to owner” note that said something to the affect of “please tell me if this is the bus to my town. I do not speak Hungarian. If this bus is going to Nyirpazony, please nod. thank you.” I only had to use my note once and I did not get lost.

My roommates from orientation and I keep up our group chat. It’s helpful to know what’s normal and what’s not. We have all said to each other “call Hajni!” on different occasions. It really helps to have someone understand exactly what I’m going through. I’m currently in absolute amazement of all my foreign exchange student friends. I am not expected or pressured to speak Hungarian. How on earth did you all learn in another language??? So proud and impressed by all of you.



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