Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.

But what does he know about inside and outside,
my father who was spared nothing
in spite of the languages he used?

from Immigrant Blues, Li-Young Lee

penny stampsToday the jet lag, sleeplessness, exposure to airline germs, smoke-filled corridors, shared room with 10 teachers, and meeting 150 or so students caught up with me:  sore throat.  Drippy nose.  More to come, I’m sure.

However much that physical detour tried to derail the flirtation the country is having with me, it was in turn quickly derailed by International Women’s Day. I was first into the English teacher’s room this morning and there, on each desk, was a very nice chocolate bar and a card. Throughout the day many teachers were given flowers – often a single cut tulip or rose, sometimes a living plant – by colleagues and students, and some teachers wanted to know what the day was like in the United States. We got into discussions of women’s rights, empowerment, etc., but many agreed that it doesn’t hurt, either, to be gifted with flowers and chocolate.

Today at the afternoon’s all-teachers meeting (held only a few times a year, conducted in Hungarian) I was introduced.  Evidently filling my position was a win for all concerned as the teachers had let it be known to everyone that they didn’t like having to pull double duty – and given their workload, I totally understand it. It isn’t just the work, either, as two colleagues have elderly parents who require hospitalization right now for serious conditions and it’s quite easy to see the strain they’re under.  Yet they remain incredibly kind to me.

As part of yesterday’s foray to Penny, I once again had the same cashier and this time she gave me adhesive stamps.  I don’t know what they’re for.  At first I thought they were like the U.S. supermarket stamps of old, but these have serial numbers:  I received one for each 1000 forints spent.  She hasn’t yet offered me a frequent shopper card, but I suspect that might happen any day.

Yesterday morning was also the trip to immigration and there’s absolutely no way I could have handled that on my own, so thank god Erika, the assistant principal, was there to negotiate the process with its myriad forms.  If I weren’t working, the process might have been doable on my own, but they needed leases, rental forms, work contracts, and much more. And I had to pull my hair behind my ears for the official photo.



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