I haven’t written in a while so this will probably be a long one and I’m sure I’ll forget more things than I usually do. Since last writing in October, I’ve added Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania to places I’ve been. I’ve also eaten a lot of sheep cheese. 0/10 do not recommend in any country. I’ve also spent a week with my mom which was really good but it was hard when she left. I’ve also had the joy of breaking a phone and needing to purchase a new one here only to have my old one work again right after buying a new one. Sigh. At least I’ve got a back up now.
Starting with the first trip, Jena, Ani, and I flew from Budapest to Pristina, Kosovo. right after getting out of passport control, a guy from Kosovo who studies in Budapest heard us speaking English and asked us to split a cab. This was nice as it made an even 5 euro for all of us. He was happy to share a little about Kosovo to us. We asked him if he was learning Hungarian while he was going to school here and he told us “life is too short to learn Hungarian.” The more I try to learn it, the more I tend to agree with him. I don’t think mine is improving much at all. We headed to the bus station and took a 4 hour journey down to Skopje, Macedonia for two days. Skopje’s main square was pretty impressive, as was the tour we took that included the cross on the hill and a tour of the nearby Vally. Below is pictures of food I ate that was like thin pastry and cheese, the Turkish bazaar or old bazaar, buildings and statues, and the main square (I wish I’d gotten a picture of that, i think it was the biggest I’ve seen) the millennium cross which is still under construction, view of Macedonia from the top of the cross, an old church, the small boat we road on through the valley that was supposed to seat 8 and instead seated about 20, and some street art. Macedonia has their own money, I think I pulled out 2,000 which I believe was about $20USD.
I enjoyed Macedonia and found people to be generally friendly. We then took the bus back to Kosovo and stayed in Pristina for a night. This was more than enough time in Pristina. There’s not a whole lot going on there, as one might imagine. We ate lunch at one place that liked us so much they gave us a free mushroom appetizer, brandy that they drink warm, and a free kiwi ice cream dessert. All of that and the food we actually ordered were very good. We saw the Newborn sign – Kosovo just gained independence in 2008 making it the second youngest country in the world after South Sudan. However, many places yet don’t recognize Kosovo as a country, including Serbia which they separated from. This could create an interesting situation if I go to Serbia and they see that I’ve been to Kosovo. Luckily, I don’t have any plans to go there anytime in the near future. We also saw Bill Clinton Street and statue and the Hillary store located right next to it which appropriately sells women’s pantsuits. I also bought some peanut butter which the airport security almost confiscated but let me keep after he saw I was pretty sad about it. Shout out to that airport employee as I eat my peanut butter and type this. unfortunately, I seem to have lost the food pictures from Kosovo and Macedonia, it was a lot of meat and all really good. But here’s some pictures of Pristina including the Hillary and Bill things and the ugliest building in the world which is a library.
The last school week was an interesting one. I had Monday off for a long weekend which was used to travel back from Kosovo. Jena and I took the same train from Budapest and there was a delay which caused her to miss her connection. the next option would’ve gotten her home at 5:00 am so she got off at Nyireghaza with me and took a taxi back instead – an expensive but better option than staying in the train station all night. ahhh, living in middle of nowhere Hungary, always a good time. Tuesday my school had a day where there was either soccer or basketball going on in the gym all day. To my best understanding, this is because Hungary thinks their kids are getting fat and this was to encourage the kids to be active. However, it was an optional thing so I don’t really understand. But I played basketball with the teachers against the 7th and 8th grade girls and I think the teachers beat both grades. And I heard for the rest of the day “teacher, you very good basketball”. I’m actually terrible but I’m glad the kids enjoyed playing and watching. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were something my school calls “Cini days” after the name of the school. I couldn’t really understand these days either but the kids had special activities going on. One day they carved pumpkins, one day they had different stations set up for different activities. This resulted in me having no classes on Wednesday either which was nice as I was able to go grocery shopping and buy a nice warm scarf for my week of traveling. Friday I think the school had a dance for the kids but I didn’t see that as I went to Romania to meet mom. I took the train to Oradea and flew from there to Bucharest. I didn’t care much for Oradea but I did like Bucharest a lot.
Mom brought me ranch dressing, Mac and cheese, my favorite boots, and some sweaters. We spent a few days seeing Bucharest with an Urban Adventure’s tour. we took the hidden gems walking tour and saw some things we wouldn’t have otherwise. It was pretty neat. we then spent two days with a private guide and went to Peles castle – maybe the neatest thing we saw in Romania. The next day with her was a food tour of Romania and it was very good. We spent the last day there wandering on our own and seeing a few more things as well as eating at this old brewery that was pretty neat and had some traditional dancers. I’m glad that I wasn’t born at a time when the traditional dancing was a past time on Sundays. Then we flew to Budapest and hopped in our rental car and went on a tour of Eger where we saw a neat church and castle and spent the night in Miskolc. We were up early to see Tokaj and then to my town to have lunch with Janos and Judit. it was nice to be able to introduce them both to my mom. Then we returned to Budapest for a food tour through Urban Adventures where our tour guide (Budapest born and raised and well traveled herself) was very surprised to find out how small of where I live is and sympathized with the situation. I showed mom all the sight seeing of Budapest she was up for – one day we put on 17 miles. Saying good bye to her was pretty hard but I headed out to get my new phone and to a couple of markets. I returned to Nyirpazony with some new cheese and meat to try as well as some spices I haven’t been able to find. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures this week since I was without a phone but I stole a few from mom to include. Below is a collection of Peles castle, Dracula’s castle, a little of Hungary, and a lot of food from the weeks. the flowers on the grave are for their all Saint’s Day. It’s a big deal here with people taking multiple trips to the cemetery to light candles and put flowers on graves of loved ones, typically on october 31st and November 1st but it’s not limited to these days. Cemeteries are very nicely taken care of here but they have even more flowers than normal this week. the nicer castle pictures are of Peles which is in Transylvania and the white castle is “Dracula’s” which wasn’t really his, but either way Romania is missing a lot of money not marketing it more for Halloween.
Something that Hungary is concerned with is weight. Students have gym class every day because the government decided kids are too fat. I really don’t understand what they’re concerned about. These kids are a normal weight. Yet, they have gym class every day and main classes like math, science, etc. between 1-4 times a week depending on the class. science is once a week. math is 3 times I think. I think the younger kids don’t even have history. The education system absolutely dumbfounds me as to what they find important. but, at least the kids aren’t fat.
The last week of teaching, the 6th graders were being really bad. I was so mad at my angel class for being horrible, especially as one of the teachers was having an important meting next door. So I gave them a pop test. The first question was describe yourself using two adjectives. I warned the kids not to talk or I would take their test and give them a 1, their worst grade. One of the kids wouldn’t stop talking, so I took his test, later when I looked through them noticed his sentence, and well, he’s not wrong.
one of my favorite things here is English translations of things. I think you can see why. no, I didn’t clong the toilet.
one section of the sidewalk in Budapest had a overheard walk way type thing for some construction happening at a nearby building. at least nothing hit me in the head while I was walking through.
one last picture, this is a common street food and is really good. I usually call them chimney cakes because I can’t pronounce the Hungarian word which is Kurtoskalacs with accents over most of the letters that my american keyboard doesn’t allow. They come in cinnamon, walnut, vanilla, and some other flavors. super tasty and cooked slowly over charcoal on rollers.
and now for another week of teaching. this is my first full week in about three weeks so I’m sure it will feel like a long one. I’ve also got a private lesson this week so it will be busy. this weekend I’m going to Vienna to meet Maria and I’m so excited to see her. only 2.5 weeks to Israel for Thanksgiving and I’m so excited. Jena and Ani and I have some more trips we want to go on for weekends so I’m hoping to add Slovakia and Czech Republic to places I’ve been soon as well.