Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

The first meeting of the day is an interview with Berlitz School of Languages. They called and asked me to interview. The supervisor said that normally they have people come in to fill out forms and then they are invited in if the school is interested, however, in my case, she was willing to by-pass the forms and go directly to the interview. We set a time for 10:30 on this day.

Interviews are dreadful things. I have new empathy for that frog I dissected in biology class in high school. When I am being interviewed, I feel like my body is pinned to a cutting board with my two little green arms pinned outward from my body, then my two little green legs pulled tautly outward and pinned down also. With my little white belly rising in the air, the dissection knife makes its first point of contact, plunges into my belly to make the first incision. My formaldehyde juices start to weep out replacing the tears that I can no longer shed. The skin of my belly is pulled back to reveal my vital organs. Then the judgments come. Is this a worthy specimen? Are the organs where they should be? Is there anything worth investigating further? What value will this specimen have for us in the future? Should we just close him up and discard the remains? Such is the life of interviewing. Can you tell that I hate it?

Making the decision that I was just going to be myself and let life go with the flow, I met with Clare at Berlitz. The people at Berlitz are young. Maybe it is because I just had a birthday, but most of them could be my children with children of their own. Clare for all of her approximate twenty-five years, if that, was a seasoned interviewer. She asked me questions that I expected and many that I did not anticipate. With a sweet smile on her face, she dragged me over the coals first one way and then back another. At the end of the interview, she showed me the training schedule that every Berlitz instructor is expected to attend. It is ten days of training from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and asked if I could attend to that schedule. With an affirmative answer, she said that would be perfect. With all of the hour processed at a computerized rate, I felt like the frog that was worth saving. She left the room to speak with the area director about visas, permits, and other legal things and returned to say to me, “Thank you for coming in. We will be in touch if we are interested.” Whoa, wait a minute here, I thought we had a done deal and all was nice nice. Returning to the frog feeling, I just may be the one that is tossed and has to resurrect to go through this yet again.

Feeling thrown off balance, Ron and I had an appointment with the American teacher who started his own business with his wife. She is working as a kindergarten teacher for a special project bilingual school that is based within a company. This is like a day care for employees taken to the next level. Joshua was full of information as to where they went and how they proceeded and started rattling off the costs. My mind was going cha-ching, cha-ching, as the cash register rang up the items tallying a big bill regardless of whether it is forints or dollars. He used the Ex-Pat Relocation Center, which charged them $500.each for the work and residency permits, then the attorney cost them $1,000 and the list goes on and on. It still seemed like a good idea by the time we were finished. He is working on a Hungarian-English journal for Hungarian writers and he teaches ten hours a week. He and his wife bought an apartment and they are able to live off her salary and bank his own. Joshua and a three others have started a writer’s group, holding meetings two Tuesdays a month. I plan on going to the next meeting. He also shared that they have these new friends, Hungarians, who opened the first all children’s bookstore in Budapest. They are looking for someone to do a Story Hour and I think I am going to volunteer for that post. Speaking of bookstores, it is amazing that you cannot walk two blocks without passing a bookstore. We have not seen so many bookstores anywhere, ever. There are even booksellers in the subway tunnels. Every bookstore is always filled with people and most of the bookstores are independents, though there are some chains. Damon had said during our brunch that this is one of the most literate countries in all of Europe. We see all of the American authors with their books in the windows and get very excited until we realize the titles are in Hungarian.

We were having dinner with Damon that night. It was his birthday and we took him out for dinner. We went to one of his favorite restaurants, but it was a special wine tasters dinner and reserved seating only. They were serving a fixed six-course menu and five wines for a little over $20.00 a person. I was grateful that we did not stay, since that would have been well over what I had planned on spending for dinner for three. His second choice was a delightful little restaurant done in dark woods and cozy. It had a Dutch name, the Amstel and the feel of the Dutch pervaded the establishment. After dinner, we had cake for him at our place. Since he works for the Embassy, we discussed our plans with him and he thought they were wise. He suggested he may be able to offer me some contract work. He covers sixteen countries and has projects that he does not have time for, so though perhaps I could assist. One project he had in mind was writing the curriculum for a content-based English class for police officers in Lithuania. He would pay for my transportation, hotel, meals, and for the work. It would be great experience if this comes to fruition.

When Damon left at midnight, I logged on to read the e-mail. There was a message from the Associate Director of Berlitz. She said that the supervisor that interviewed me was so impressed; she wanted to ask me in for another interview. I e-mailed back that I would love to come in at her convenience, but that we would be in Vienna on Wednesday.

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