Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Old and the New


We were informed that we were to go to the new university building on the new campus today between 10 am -2 pm. I was so excited to see the new building, I was tempted to cancel classes today, just to get there early, but I did not.

When I walked into my office this morning, it was like the little elves were there the night before. All of my boxed things were marked R-5 432, so was each piece of furniture marked in the same way. All of a sudden, I had a nostalgic moment. I have spent five years of my professional life in this office, in this building, and in the classroom that I use. As
much as I have hated the deteriorated walls, the blackboard that is so old, you can barely write on it, it was now going to be a thing of the past. I had to take pictures and I did. Actually, I have shared this office with the other native speaking instructor, Aaron Hunter. Sometimes it has been a tight fit. I never did get my name put on the door either. My predecessor's name plate had been hammered in with screws, not nails. I had covered it with a sign I made on the computer. It will be interesting to see whose names are put on the new office door if any at all. See the photocopier in the left hand corner of the picture? We have not had a toner cartridge for it for over two years.

Classes were over and I ran for the bus to get to the new building, wanting to be enthralled, but was prepared for disillusionment. I walked up and down the street where construction was going on, but could not find the entrance. After walking around to the other part of the campus, the road was congested with trucks, cars, and workmen with little room to get by. I had to ask where the building was and how to get it. A very helpful young man helped me along, but the construction foreman wanted to know why I wanted to go in. Surely, I could not have been the first one there at 1:20 pm.

This kind young man decided he needed to escort me upstairs to the room number I had been given, 432. Yes, the fourth floor with the ground floor counting as zero. He must have caught me looking longingly at the two elevators, as he said "The lifts are not operational yet." Dear higher power, make them work soon, really soon.

There was every time of construction worker imaginable working furiously in all of the halls and some of the rooms. The halls are filled with dust from cutting wood, sheets covering the floors for the painters, but through it all there was a gloriously bright and cheerful new building.

When we reached room 432, I had to keep from falling on knees with praise. The office is incredible. It is huge, with three desks, a glass cabinet, locked drawers, a coat closet, and other desks to spread things out on or to work with students. This was beyond my dreams. I cannot wait to move in now.
Our old classroom was spacious, but when you used blue stick on the walls, it took part of the wall with it when it was removed.

The classroom that is supposedly where all of my classes will be is equally new and luscious. The brand new chairs and tables with a virgin blackboard will thrill the students to no end. I will have to be creative to find some way of make it less teacher-centered and more seminar centered, but that will work itself out in time. It is all so impressive.

This is a space that one can be proud of and I certainly hope the students appreciate the differences.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

U.S. Freedoms


I am sure that I will get some hate mail over this post, but here it goes. This article was sent to me by a former Fulbrighter who was here for one semester. She is a Ph.D. in Nursing, an R.N., and a J.D., an attorney.

She is also active with Frank Cordaro, the former Catholic Priest who marches and gets arrested for Social Justice issues, a Berrigan-like priest carry over from the 60s and 7os. You can read more about him here.

This is the news story from The Gazette newspaper as it appeared online.

Parade turns into a clash with police By Brian Newsome and R. Scott Rappold The Gazette
March 18, 2007 - 12:56AM

Seven war protesters who tried to march in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Colorado Springs were accused of refusing to cooperate with police and arrested. One of them was injured as she was dragged off the road.

Police halted about 45 people with the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission just steps into the par
ade where it began at Tejon and St. Vrain streets. They wore green shirts with peace signs and carried signs that read “Kids Not Bombs” and “End This War Now.”

The group had a permit to march under the name of The Bookman, a business owned by commission chairman Eric Verlo. But when parade organizers saw their anti-war signs, they asked police to
prevent them from proceeding. Although most cooperated, some in the group sat in the road, police and bystanders said. “We asked them to move from the parade route, they refused and we escorted (them) off,” said Colorado Springs police Sgt. Bob Weber.

Political candidates are allowed to take part, but the parade has never allowed “social issues,” said parade organizer John O’Donnell, a condition to which participants agree. “It is our goal not to turn this into a confrontational political atmosphere,” O’Donnell said. “It really is to come and have fun. “A political message, ‘vote for me, vo
te Republican, vote Democratic,’ is OK.”

Elizabeth Fineron, 65, suffered a leg injury from being dragged off the road. She requested to be taken to the hospital, said Sgt. David Whitlock, a
public information officer. Fineron was treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said. Fineron could not be reached for comment Saturday night. The anti-war group began circulating photos Saturday afternoon showing Fineron being dragged away with her pants ripping and a bruised welt showing. Other photos showed a police officer pointing a Taser gun — no target was visible in the picture — and an officer with his arm around a man’s neck.

Whitlock, who saw the photos, said there will be a thorough review of the incident, and he urged
witnesses and those involved to contact internal affairs if they thought excessive force or inappropriate police action had occurred. He said they show just an instant in time, however, and until police can conduct their review he could not comment.

Paradegoer Rachel Eggleston said the group was confronted shortly after it began to march. She said five group members sat down in the road and three others ran down the parade route. A police officer drove the Bookman bus off the route onto St. Vrain. One officer broke one of the protester’s signs on his knee, she said. People began taking pictures, she said, and some were yelling in support of and against the protesters and the police.

One woman, Eggleston said, called the police N
azis, and another paradegoer yelled a profanity at the woman in response. Many were yelling at the protesters. Verlo, who was one of those arrested, said the group wasn’t advocating a social issue, but peace. “We did this last year,” Verlo said. “We thought we were fairly innocuous. We were walking about peace and ending the war.” O’Donnell said he didn’t recall seeing anti-war signs in the parade last year. The protesters are due in court April 10.

To the best of my knowledge, these photos were privately taken.

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Ropes to the Sky


We again had the pleasure of seeing the performance Frenák Pál Társulat: FIÚK - Les hommes cachés at the Trafo Theater. This theater is all about experimental dance. We went to this show last year when they performed for the Spring Festival and were in awe at the dexterity and strength these young men displayed.

Lynn and my student/guardian angel Balazs went with us.

Three ropes to the sky, 4 men. Beyond being a beautiful work about the masculine body and the use of spaces and falls as tools of a choreographic expression, “Fiúk” is an immersion in the unconsciousness of men and boys. A research into the very foundations of the common inheritance that feeds the construction of man as a social animal. By calling up alternately male chauvinist violence, stupid pretentiousness, the balance of power that structures our exchanges with others, both men and women, Pal Frenak, offers us a radical vision, somehow desperate, of human relationships. Once again, Pal Frenak presents a show whose theatrical dimensions, almost cinematographic in conception, is the expression of his intuitive knowledge of human functions, a kind of direct access to the unconscious as well as a social vision without concession.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The University Speaks


This is the e-mail I received this morning: Dear Colleagues,
As you know the spring holiday starts on 2 April and ends on 10 April (Tuesday). Since the exact date of our move to Rákóczi út is still uncertain, we are considering making the holiday three days longer (i.e. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday could be "non-teaching workdays"). This would give us some time to get settled in the new place and then we could continue teaching in a more organised way. The Institute Council will make the final decision on Tuesday (27 March), about which I'll inform you on the same day. So PLEASE CHECK YOUR E-MAILS ON TUESDAY. I will be anxiously waiting Tuesday to see the results. Notice that in the note above, it is mentioned that the "exact date of our move to Rákóczi út is still uncertain". Um, doesn't anyone think this is a bit late not to be certain? In the meanwhile, I have all of my smaller classes on alert that we are meeting at my apartment that week. The semester is too short as it is to miss another week.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

University Woes


Back in September, we were told at the university that the campus has been sold and we were to move to the main campus over the winter break. They were remodeling a building that the university purchased with this in mind. In December, we were told the remodeling was not done yet and we would wait until the end of the spring semester. Last month, we were told that the university will lose money each day we stay on the current campus after April 1st, so we are moving during our spring break. It is now March 22nd. We have been told to box up all of our things in our offices and classrooms to prepare for this move, leaving out last minute things until last. We had to submit an inventory of the furniture in our office that we wanted to use in the new building, too. Next week is the last week of classes before spring break. As of now, we don't know where our classes will be held in the new building. We don't know if we will start on schedule after the break. We don't know how the students will find out when the classes are to start again or how to inform them of the room numbers once we do. We were told to expect an extra 'reading week' after the break, so this will extend the break by another week. Now rumors are going around that the end of the semester will be extended in May. IF our students were only single majors, this would not be too much of an issue; however, many of them are double majors and start exams at the end of the semester. A large number of them do not live in Budapest and staying here for a few classes will be a drain on their finances. Some have tickets for other countries to study and work as soon as the semester is over. My additional concern is our tickets already booked for Rome in May when one of our friends comes to visit. My co-teacher, the other native speaker is getting married right after school was originally planned to end. He has a honeymoon planned. It seems that when they allocated rooms for this semester at the main campus, they 'forgot' all of the programs that are on our campus. Scheduling now is a nightmare. Since I live so close to the main campus, I have offered almost all of my classes, the smaller ones, to have classes at my apartment, so they could finish the semester on time.

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Hats Off to Elizabeth


I knew I had the names wrong for the Bob Newhart characters, but I knew someone would correct me. Thank you Elizabeth for the correction. It is duly noted and changed. Ryan

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Crackle, Snap, Pop


The title of this entry is a sequence of events of the pipe and my mood. I hate sponge baths and washing my hair in the kitchen sink, but at least there were no guests here this morning. I left for school close to 9:00, yet no plumber. I purposefully stayed at school later than usual to avoid finding out that the plumber did not show again for as long as possible. To my surprise, he or rather they did and the pipe was all replaced. He came in to demonstrate that the water was back on by turning on the small sink in the small bathroom. I went around running water in the bidet, the tub, the sinks, but the toilet in the large bathroom was still not filling. After chasing him down, he came back up and fixed that too. Our fingers are crossed that our neighbors will no longer be cross.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Royal Flush


After taking a sponge bath in the kitchen sink this morning with an ever alert ear out for sounds of guests getting up, I dragged myself off to the university. My office hours kept me there until 12:30, so there were fantasies of the plumber having the pipe at least 3/4 finished. I called home and Ron said he was SMS'ed by the neighbor that they would not come back until tomorrow at 9:00. in sick or see how much of me I can fit into the kitchen sink. At least all of the guests have left today.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Last of the Whine


Since we live in a secured building, 99% of the time, when we get someone visiting, they have to ring our bell to be let into the building. One percent of our guests have been sneaky enough to get in with another resident as they are coming in. So when our front doorbell rings, we are a bit suspicious as to who may be there. Last night the doorbell did not ring, but there was knock at 10:30 pm. We ignored it until the knock persisted. Ron knew immediately, who it would be...THE NEIGHBOR. We were informed that at 1:00 tomorrow, the manager of the building would be coming to look at the flood in their two bathrooms and to investigate our leak. I have learned not to allow this to make my nights sleepless. It could be age, but we have covered our bases, so it was with confidence it was not our problem that I went to bed. When 1:30 rolled around and no one showed, I remained mellow reading my book "The Shadow of the Sun" about the horrors of Africa by the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. My neighbor problems seemed trivial in comparison. At 2:00, we were SMS'ed that the people would arrive at 2:30. Yea, sure! I called my friend Laszlo to ask if he were free to phone interpret. I did not want our neighbor to translate for us; my trust level has diminished. When the building man showed up with who I assumed was the plumber, they were like water diviners. With the immediacy of two bloodhounds on a hot trail, they went to the small bathroom, looked for two minutes and said the problem was a broken pipe in the wall. On the wall is a red cap, which apparently turns the water on and off. When the neighbor asked if the plumber could work on it then and there, I said sure. Little did I know. There was an old Bob Newhart Show who had three characters. The one always introduced himself by saying "Hi, my name is Darryl, this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl." They were a cross between rednecks and hillbillies. This was my first impression of the plumber. His hair was short and springing in all directions. He wore a blue coverall that had straps down below his waist allowing the waist of the coverall to hang close to his bellybutton. The legs of the coverall were so flared, they looked like they were cut at the seams. The expression on his face was what one would expect from a baby raised by wild animals who came into contact with humans for the first time. The neighbor said they would have to shut the water off for an hour. He was going to take his over energetic son home and he would return when the plumber did. Two hours later, the neighbor returned with the plumber on his heels. I was asked again if they could work on it now and again I said yes. The next thing to break the silence were bangs, clangs, and other industrious sounding noises filling the closet size bathroom with the plumber. It seemed like quite a cacophony for one little knob. The neighbor asked me down to see his bathrooms, to appreciate the damage. One look gave me a new appreciation for their dilemma. Their small bathroom was ruined from the ceiling down to where the tile started half way down the wall. It was blistering and looked ready to fall in. As horrific as this was, the large bathroom was even worse, looking life the aftermath of a hurricane. Yes, I felt saddened and ashamed that they had to live with this while my attitude was turning self-protective and apathetic. I raced back upstairs, hoping the plumber did not leave for any reason and close the door behind him. Ron was out teaching and I was without my keys. My timing was impeccable. The hallway was flooded. The small bathroom was flooded. The plumber passed me in the doorway as I walked in without a word exchanged since we could not speak the same language even in this emergency. The neighbor had to interpret that as the plumber was breaking through our tiles to get to the pipe, the pipe had its last hoorah and broke completely pouring water up and out. They had to shut off the main water valve in the building. Bear in mind that we have 4 B and B guests in one room and a single in the other. The group of four are college friends of one of the Fulbrighters here, who stayed out really late last night and I was hoping would do so again. Neither bathroom had water. The plumber worked on getting the pipe out until 9:30 pm before disappearing from the apartment below and without turning the water back on. Seven people in our apartment without running water in either bathroom, was not a pleasant thought. Again, I let my mind drift back to the trials of Africans and went to bed in peace, leaving Ron to stay up to tell our British guest.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

St. Patrick's Day


In the U.S, tomorrow everyone has enough Irish in them to drink a green beer or to join is some sort of festivity private or public. It is a great excuse to have a party.

Here things are different. The majority of Irish are the ones who came bought blocks of property and then went home again while collecting the rents. There are enough ex-pat Irish here to have a decent party and there are a few Irish pubs here that are like Irish McDonalds. They have a strange similarity to a franchised Irish opportunity as you can find them in just about every country and they look surprising alike. We have also come across franchise literature for Irisih pubs, so the idea is not my imagination.

When we were living in the States, I would have our house decorated for the occasion and we hosted dinner parties each year with the traditional corned beef, cabbage, and boiled potatoes. Funny, when we were in Ireland, a few of the Irish told us that they thought Americans were funny for serving this dinner. We were told it was not customary in Ireland and it was considered pauper's fare.

We have no decor for the holiday here, no corned beef, and nothing that will set the day off from any other Saturday, but that is tomorrow.

This evening, Lyn and Nicole came over with a friend. We sat around and talked, not moving forward into a card or table game. Again the evening was pleasant and filled with laughter, until Ron's mobile rang.

It was the neighbor from hell calling from his vacation. His brother who is supposedly watching his apartment told him they had 2 cm of water in their bathroom. Can we say "hyperbole"? Ron allowed him to rant and rave and then mentioned that it had rained for the better part of a week, which seemed to slow him down. He insists he is going to get an 'expert' to check out our bathroom. More power to you, Sparky, but we are not paying for anything. We put out 40,ooo Huf already for 'experts' who could find nothing in our apartment to fix.

This leak is dampening my mood one drip at a time.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

1848 Not Forgotten


roundToday is the memorial day of the 1848 Revolution. There are usually speeches and music pieces performed and people wear a round flag with the national colors (red, white and green). However, due to the unrest in past months, there were expected to be riots this holiday. Everyone from students to the English paper warned about not being around any crowds or group gatherings. Even the Embassies of the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia had warnings out. Regardless, since it fell on a Thursday, this gave me a five day weekend. Ron and I took a walk to the video store and then took the bus around the Parliament area to see what was happening. The Parliament is now walled off with a fence, but there were few people hanging around. We went for a coffee, then heading home. Ron stayed on the tram to continue to Blaha, his curiosity getting the best of him. There was nothing happening there either, but one of our guests who came in later that evening said there was tear gas on Andrassy and he felt the remnants of it as he walked home. The events must have happened later in the evening.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Another Fulbrighter Returns


John Jai, a former Fulbrighter was coming to Budapest for a visit with his new finance. They had popped in one day to say hello, but Ron was out. They are staying at a friend's unused apartment. It was good to see him again and to meet the love of his life. We had invited them for dinner this evening. Ron made a wonderful dinner and the conversation was flowing, but then the doorbell rang. Dum-de-dum-dum...It was the wife neighbor downstairs. She came to complain that their roof was leaking yet again, that they would be gone for a week and could we please be careful with the water in the shower. I am so sick of this issue. After having three plumbers check out our bathroom and not finding anything wrong, they told the neighbors, it has to be a pipe from outside. The last plumber found a pipe, cut it and bent it. For a few months, this solved the problem. Coincidentally, this leak started about four days after days of rain. The same thing had happened in the past. We had a bad rain, their ceiling leaked. They cannot seem to get it through their heads that the problem may not be our bathroom, but the building. This aggravation threw me for the rest of the evening, though I tried to not let it bother me, it did dampen my spirits.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut...


and sometimes you don't. If you remember that slogan, you are most likely American who saw the ads for Almond Joys and Mounds. I am paraphrasing it to sometimes you feel like a slug and sometimes you don't. I am not sure I can say I have been a slug lately, but certainly not interested in sitting at the computer for productive reasons. Non-productive reasons have drawn me to the keyboard, admittedly. My other excuse is that I have blogs for each of my Ethnicity, Critical Thinking, and Gender Issues in Film classes, which also keep me busy. We went to brunch with Chris and Mark at Eklectika, the favorite restaurant of all of us. They make great omelets and the service is usually the best in the city. Three topics dominated the conversation: Crocs, London, and their leaving. I had bought my first pair on Crocs while on vacation in Cape Town. It was an impulsive purchase, but they felt comfortable and I have problems with my feet bones. When I came home, I realized that they were the most comfortable shoes I have worn that are not Birkenstocks. Then the dilemma of how to get more. It was then that I had noticed Chris and Mark both had a pair that they bought here in Budapest. It turns out that Crocs are from Boulder, Colorado. They have them at the Overland stores here, so this was a highlight of conversation while eating. Chris and Mark are leaving for a long weekend in London this next week. They are going to see Eqqus with "Harry Potter" Daniel Radcliffe. The boy wizard will be doing a nude scene, so this kept us chattering for a time also. I am a little green with envy they they are doing theater at all in a language we all understand. I remember, but did not see the original Broadway production of Equus with Anthony Perkins, many moons ago. The third topic of conversation was not as upbeat for Ron and I. Chris and Mark know they are leaving Hungary, most likely at the end of summer or the beginning of fall. They are not sure if it will be back to the States or somewhere else. The two of them have been a boon to our social life, but Mark especially has been a godsend for Ron. For the first time in a long time, he has a 'buddy' to pal around with. They discuss museum things and meet for coffees, giving Ron a social outlet he has long needed. Their leaving is going to be traumatic. We really need to make more friends. Well actually there was a fourth topic, but primarily between Chris and I. Chris is trying to donate through his company, ten computers to the American Studies department at our university. Sadly, our current campus with thousands of students only has a computer lab with twenty computers, but ten of them are now working at any given time. The English department has their own computer lab through some special grant, but will not let any other department use them. No one in my faculty seems to be motivated to look for grants, so Chris's offer is a dream come true. Now it is a matter of getting his people to speak to my people to make it all happen and happen before he leaves. I hate being in the middle of things like this. I would not like losing face on either side, but it would be worse if I lost it with the university not following through. My contract is up for renewal in August; this may be a boost, though I do not think I need one.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ron Retires


I had suggested to Ron that he ask our accountant about retiring from our business here in Hungary. We have been paying a number of taxes for him and vast amounts each month. Since we now have our Permanent Residency, he does not need to be employed any longer for an annual Visa. However, I wanted him to keep his health insurance here since his US insurance requires he pay out of pocket and if they deem it necessary, they will reimburse him 80%. When I came home, Ron had the paperwork that the accountant was going to submit retiring him. The accountant said he could not get insurance any more. I know this is not true. There was an article in the English papers stating you could. Something for him to investigate and for me to worry about until he does.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Airfare Madness


We have tickets to the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh for August. We are combing that with the Fringe Festival. Last year, we went to the Fringe and had a great time. I have been searching for a good airfare. Last year, I found 33 different ways of combining budget airlines to get from here to there. Of the 33, only 11 would feasible due to connections. Then of those 11, all were more expensive than flying Malev, the Hungarian airlines. This year, I thought I hit gold. I found a website that allows you to type in the information one time and then you can search 20 different sites such as Expedia, Sidestep, Orbitz, and so on. Many of these sites do not allow travel that does not initiate in the U.S., thus limiting our possibilities. I did find through this and also a great airfare. I booked it immediately with my American Express card. I received a confirmation number and a confirmation booking e-mail and I was pleased with myself. Four hours later, I happened to check my e-mail only to find another message from Allcheaptravel. They canceled my reservation since my Amex card had a foreign billing address, even though it is a US based account. Using Jajah, I called them and tried to salvage the seats, but was told they were gone. Back to the beginning again, but hopefully, since we are trying so early, the prices will go down later. The taxes on all airlines are more than the tickets themselves.

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