With roughly four weeks left in Hungary, I guess it’s a good time to answer the question of “When are you coming home?” I’ll be home the second week of June until the end of July, minus a few days for Houston because I apparently don’t know how not to book plane tickets.
And what next? Are the blog posts over? No. The second week of August I will start my new job in Hong Kong. This one will last two years. I will still be teaching English to kids and while I’m excited, I’m maybe even more nervous than I was when I moved to Hungary since I’ve had much longer than a week to become antsy about it. So if you’re following along, no worries, the adventures are far from over. I’m not sure yet if I’ll take a break from blogging while I’m home or use that time to write about some more things about Hungary that I didn’t get around to while I’m here.
Even a few weeks ago, when I realized my weeks were in single digits already, I felt like I was already seeing Hungary from a distance. I walked around Budapest and everything seemed fascinating as I tried to take it in for one of the last times. Each building became full of possibilities and stories about its previous owners. I got a sense of feeling like I didn’t belong anymore, that I already had a foot out the door, and also a sense of “how could I leave?” I realized I was ready to put on the rose colored glasses really quickly about this place and I wanted to write this post before I could remember enough likes and dislikes to compare. When I started this blog, my biggest intention was to be completely honest about everything and stop making it seem like travel is an escape from problems and that people who travel all the time lead the best lives ever. Travel brings plenty of problems. At times, I was definitely not leading my best life. So here’s some thoughts I have about my time here and leaving.
Things I will miss:
- My students and coworkers. They are really great.
- Iconic pieces of Budapest, parliament, Buda castle, etc.
- Quiet, because I’m sure HK will be packed and noisy.
- Buying grapes at the train station before getting on the train.
- Sitting on Margaret Island for half the day.
- Knowing some of the language. Even though my Hungarian isn’t great, I’m not on square 1 anymore and now I have to start over with another language.
- Always having a great sunset view in my town.
- Living less than a 2 minute walk from work, a grocery store, and the town square.
- $20 inter-europe flights.
- The pond in my town is pretty much perfect.
- My neighbor’s dog who runs at me for pets every time we are in the hallway together. He’s a good boy.
- My private students and learning about their opinions of America and learning more about Hungary from them. Having them walk into our first meeting nervous to speak with me and seeing them relax and enjoy talking to me. It’s a really good feeling.
- Work schedule. I’m not at school when I don’t have classes and this is glorious. 22 classes means I’m here slightly more than 22 hours a week. It’s a bit more than that because I tend to stay here when I have a gap in my schedule but it’s definitely not 40 hours a week.
- Langos, csirke paprikas, kurtoskalacs, and goulyas.
- Flowers absolutely everywhere. In my school hallway, in the immigration office, in everyone’s homes and gardens.
- My first graders seeing my walk in the town square and running over to give me a hug.
- The little white balls of fluff that float through the air since the weather has turned nice. I’m not quite sure what kind of trees they come from, but it sort of looks like it’s snowing in summer. Pure magic. (they’re hard to see in this picture, but they’re there. All the white on the ground is the fluff balls)
- Everyone always having a sandwich accessible. Looking over on the train and seeing sandwiches pulled out of purses. The first answer to “what do you take camping with you?” being sandwich.
- Seeing seriously grumpy old people taking their dog, which happens to be the happiest dog in the world, for a walk. The contrast makes me laugh every time.
- My rugby team.
- Doing more or less whatever I choose with my classes. No set curriculum is nice most of the time. Although I’m starting to run out of ideas.
- Wonderful mistakes that the kids and I can laugh about. Today one of the students thought “grass you” meant “bless you”.
- That I know nearly all names and am starting to know and remember the lives and details of my students. At first it was hard but now I can remember who went to holiday there, or who has other siblings I teach, or anything else they tell me.
- Three of my 6th graders are forever participating in class. I think two of them have a competition to see who can complement me more because they’re always telling me my lipstick or shirts are nice. I’m going to miss them a lot.
- My nail lady Anna. Hungarians know nails and Anna is wonderful. She’s the fastest nail lady I’ve ever been to.
- The classes I just click with. I don’t know why some I click with better than others, maybe it’s my energy or their energy or some classes lack of energy. Maybe it’s the time that we have class. Whatever it is, there seems to be some classes my lessons always go over a little better with and some that it didn’t just quite work with. I’m going to miss the ones that made teaching a little easier and a little more fun.
- The classes that made me excited to go to work.
- Solo traveling whenever I want.
- Not having a roommate.
- Waiters and shop assistants leaving me alone. No 20 questions about how is my food, no asking if I need anything. Just beautifully left alone.
- Produce stands in town that have every veggie and fruit I need but also some Hungarian spices and other things I wouldn’t have found on my own.
- Teaching a wide range of ages. It was great to connect and have good conversations with the upper grades and yet do silly, fun things with the littles.
- How proud the little ones are when they do even the smallest thing right.
- Seasons. As much as I hate the cold, it’s nice to have different things.
- My crockpot.
- Cooking my own food, I expect Hong Kong to be like Thailand and eat at markets most of the time.
- Seeing 20 new countries in 8 months.
- Being a train ride from Maria.
- Being a train ride from Lake Balaton and Budapest, and 5 other countries.
- Tokaj, it was such a beautiful little town.
- The Gelato Rose shop in Budapest.
Things I feel indifferent about:
- Palinka – I never got the taste for the Hungarian moonshine.
- Surprise things happening at school that means I don’t have a class I thought I did.
- No more gyros on every corner.
- Seeing each class once (or sometimes twice) in a week. This was simulatenously harder and easier than seeing them every day. It took me a while to get to know them more, meant it was almost impossible to have lessons flow, but was in some aspects easier to lesson plan this way and also I taught significantly more students this way as well.
- Being the awkward American. Sometimes I do awkward or just plain weird things culturally and its weird for a minute and then I don’t care anymore. I’m sure I have many more moments like these ahead of me.
Things I can’t wait to leave behind:
- Taking the train into the city and then having to take more public transport to get around the city. I can’t wait to be living in an actual city.
- People yelling at me in Hungarian completely out of pocket.
- Lack of diversity – everyone looks kind of the same. Not that this is bad but it was such a shock going to other countries and seeing serious diversity after months of the same.
- Lack of Mexican food – probably isn’t getting better in HK admittedly.
- CETP – (my teaching program) and the facebook group we have for it.
- Most cheese is not good here.
- People on trains and in tourist areas not speaking enough English for me to ask a question.
- Poor customer service. One time a cashier screamed at me. I screamed back. It wasn’t the best day but it was the most extreme example. I don’t think many of the cashiers at my local grocery store like me so I’m ready to leave them too.
- The grocery store doing all types of things that are in the way for customers instead of waiting til closer to closing.
- Grocery stores not being open on holidays. I hate that Walmart does this, but also hate that I can’t buy groceries when I don’t know the grocery store closing schedule.
- Pigeons. I. Hate. Pigeons. I hate how many times there’s been a bunch of pigeons that fly over my head. I never want to see another pigeon.
- Long bus and train rides. Being held up at the border for a long time for no reason. Not being able to communicate with the ticket checker.
- Different currencies when I go three hours over to the next country. Who has time for this? #EuropeProblems
- Sweaty, smelly people on public transport. I’m sure people in America are sweaty and smelly on public transport, but I don’t use it at home so….
- Avocados are terrible here. Sometimes hard to find, often already bad, and the last one I bought just didn’t taste good. I should’ve stopped buying them, but I just couldn’t.
- Telling the waiter how much you will pay to include their tip. No, just let me do it on my own, it’s too strange for me.
- Thursday and Friday afternoon classes. The kids are so unfocused now that it’s warm and it’s just difficult.
- The school doesn’t have AC. My apartment doesn’t have AC. We skipped spring and went straight to summer weather so I’m basically a melted now.
Maybe you’ve noticed my things that I will miss list is longer than the things that I am ready to leave behind list. There’s definitely lots of things that I will miss about Szazhalombatta and Hungary in general. When I had to make the choice of will I stay or go, it really came down to money. There’s no problem with my school or living situation or anything like this. My coworkers are great people, my kids are great, and I really like my life here. But I don’t think it’s any surprise with how much traveling I did that I didn’t save any money this year. Going to Hong Kong should be a good bet for saving money because of the salary for ESL teachers. And I would’ve had to pay CETP another $700 to stay even though I’m not clear on what that money would go towards… I’m not leaving because of any problems with the town, the school, or my life at all and I hope that the next teacher who comes can have as much of a good experience here as I had.
To say the least, my time in Hungary didn’t start out so wonderful. There was lots of tears and facetime calls with mom. There was lots of debating of whether or not I should go home. I was alone, sad, missing home, getting news of my cousin diagnosed with cancer and my grandma dying, and it was honestly just much harder than I thought would be, and I thought it would be hard. I will never forget the kindness Janos and Judit showed me during that time and without the two of them, I would not have made it as long as I did. But the more I think about now vs. then, the more I have come to accept that I needed that hard time. Don’t get me wrong, I hated it and never want to go through something like that again, but I can see how that time changed me and helped me develop skills I wouldn’t have otherwise. I am now 100% comfortable with being alone. I like being alone in my flat, I love traveling solo, I like running alone after work. It just works for me now in a way that it never could have if I wasn’t forced into it for so long. And my life in Szazhalombatta isn’t perfect. The train really annoys me, I still get frustrated when the kids aren’t the best, etc. But having things so much worse before really allows me to shake off my problems now and deal with them. I still let myself see them as problems but I don’t need to complain about them nonstop and I can look past them to appreciate what’s going right in my life. I am so happy to be able to leave Hungary and know that I can look back on this country and see good things and have good memories. I’m glad I’m leaving when it’s good so I can have positive things to say about here to other people and also just for myself. These really have been some of the best days of my life, and soon it will be time to have some more.