We all start off so very young,
With most making it to be old.
Wondering how we survived so long
In a world so cold?
from Another Year, Mahfooz Ali
Before the break for Easter I’d promised my two 3 times a week ninth grade classes that I’d bring in a chocolate cake for each of them. We got into this by my having offered to give the winning hangman teams more forints than the losing teams, then I realized I might have gotten myself into some sort of legal predicament and so I offered them cake. Which they more readily seized. I thought, given the proclivity in the country for chocolate and pastry that it would be a rather simple thing to buy two cakes. Unh-unh.
So tonight I’m baking a cheesecake for one class – their request – and brownies for the other – I just don’t have two cakes in me. Especially with the oven having instructions in four languages (Hungarian, Slovak, Polish and maybe Croatian). The type face is perhaps 5 point and the lighting is dim, so I broke out the magnifying glass and cell phone flashlight. One nice thing about Hungarian is that as you type words, the translator tries to figure out what you’re attempting to write, and because accented letters are actually different letters in the Hungarian alphabet – not just different pronunciations or stresses, you can easily change the word and its meaning by mistyping, so “oven mode switch (sütő üzemmód kapcsol) at one time during my mistyping meant “you have an oven” and another iteration was “oven on your doorstep” and another was “you’re in the oven.”
But the cake is in the oven, as they say. And that was after converting Fahrenheit to Centigrade and U.S. measurements to metric and substituting ingredients and using guesstimates for measurements because the apartment doesn’t have measuring cups or spoons. I’m certain it’ll come out alright. The cake is supposed to have a topping made with whipping cream and chocolate, but I couldn’t find any liquid whipping cream – only the cans that spray whipped foam – so no chocolate topping.
Now the brownies were another matter. I’d bought a pan for their baking, but when I opened Dr. Oetker’s mix, I found an Ikea-type project tucked inside: a cardboard baking box with instructions in five languages, one of which, thankfully, was French. After the obligatory doing it wrong, I got the box right and was able to bake the two batches at the same time.
Erika, the assistant principal, caught me at the copy machine and I had to tell her “yes” or “no” regarding next year, and I’d been hemming and hawing all during the break about the decision, spinning as if I were the data gatherers atop a Google car, and I told her that I would return. She and the principal then clued me in about the previous American they’d had, who bailed at the last minute after committing to another year. It seems he found a Ukrainian honey via the internet, “rescued” her and took her back to the states with him. He didn’t return to teach.
I’ve written in the past about Zoli and Ina, and I might have mentioned that I hadn’t seen Ina in the longest time and thought she might be ill. On Thursday I saw a black banner flying from the flag pole that’s over the front entrance, which means someone from the building had died.
Finally, the weather. The wind was so strong on Thursday- with the temps still around 32/0 – that I wore leggings under my jeans and wore a fleece vest under my lighter-weight parka-ish type coat + hat and gloves. And one had to lean into it.
A Slow Parade