Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween


In case I should get busy and forget, I want to wish all a Happy Halloween. It is not celebrated here, unfortunately. I love the holiday.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Newest Invite


The last invite was for me and a guest. This one is for me and my spouse. Is the Embassy broadening their mind?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Invites of Note


Interestingly, I have been getting some impressive invitations lately. One back in September and then some more recently.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Faculty Meeting


We had a faculty meeting today to learn the state of affairs of our department. The university is bankrupt and the administration is trying to cut corners everywhere. Like most large organizations, they are penny wise and pound foolish. They cut the minor things while letting the large expenditures continue needlessly. This is not only evident to me, but to my Hungarian colleagues who are just as helpless to do anything about it. Government at its worst, the country does not matter.

We are still fighting to maintain a department at all, the university wants to combine departments, thus lessening staff at the same time. Our American Studies major has been reduced to a concentration within the English Department as of this September with the advent of the Bologna Plan instituted within 44 countries.

We were informed that the perception of the public as well as the administration is that we are just another glorified language school without any other purpose. Therefore, we must do whatever is in our power to change that perception. We are after all, a program to teach about American culture, history, and literature in the English language, not a language school. The options for my colleague and I are limited since neither of us speak Hungarian, but we will brainstorm what we can do in the English press.

The other unfortunate news was that our teaching load will increase starting next semester. Although I am one course short this semester, due to the new programs, it behooves me to have to add yet additional courses. Needless to say, the lower the rung on the ladder, the harder hit one becomes. We lectors will have to teach 14 hours a week, the associate professors 12 hours a week, while the professors have 8 hours a week. Now, I do understand that this is the same way in the States, but it is lop-sided. Those at the bottom need the extra time to do the work to move up the ladder. With an added burden of extra classes, this does not give them that luxury to fit in the needed research and writing to be upwardly mobile.

The real shocker was that one of our classes would be a lecture and could conceivably be up to 150 students or more. This lecture will be divided between my colleague and myself, but there are 300 new students this semester. In reality, the scales of equity could be unfavorably tipped by the time offering of the course. One of us could have 200 students, while the other has 100. There is no way we will require papers due for this course with that many students. Added to this course, we will have six other courses to teach at a higher level than freshmen. This is going to have a dramatic impact on the quality time I am able to spend with my students.

Next semester looks like this.

American Culture Survey lecture

American Culture Tutorial

Language Practice IV – A cultural themed based class

Ethnicities in the US II

Critical Thinking

Gay Films in the US

On top of all of this, I am supervising six teaching thesis students and two Masters thesis students. I will be praying for summer break starting in March.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Courses


I received permission to teach some new classes next semester. They are Gay Films in the US, Gay Literature, and an online course of my choosing. As far as anyone knows, no one has done an online course at the university, so this will be groundbreaking here. The issue is that the university does not have the money to buy a program for doing an online program, which is probably the reason. However, someone had recommended Moodle to me. This is a freeware program for just such purposes. I downloaded the program, but it seems overwhelming now and I had not done a thing with it. Most likely, this will be a summer project and I will create the course for the fall semester.

In preparation for the Gay Film course, I have been collecting films and information about gay films. Who would have thought it would be so extensive. I have over 30 US films and another 30 plus of international ones ranging from Canada to China. For as many as possible, I have been collecting NY Times reviews and planning the course in my mind. This has kept me busy along with correcting the first papers that were turned in by my current Pop Culture class.

What I had not anticipated was that all of this research was going to decimate my bandwidth for the month. I started receiving e-mails from my Internet provider that I was getting close to using my maximum of 60 GB for the month and they were going to reduce me to 20% of normal service once I went over this limit. Hmmm….that is going to be a problem with an online course. I have a free website with the Internet provider that I have never used; however, if students are continually checking the online course, this is going to be a major issue of bandwidth abuse each month. Another hurdle to jump over, just when I thought I was coming in to the finish line.

If you do not see me for periods of time, it is because my bandwidth is too slow to post anything.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Another Eye Appointment


I finally received another appointment with the eye surgeon with the correct office address. I had an appointment at 6:50 pm or so I thought. I checked it a couple of times, but 6:50 was ingrained in my memory. Tonight when I looked one more time, it was 6:20, not 6:50. There are some pluses for being compulsive. I shot out the door and still made it on time to the building I need to be at. However, when I reached the building and looked at all of the buzzers, there was none for my doctor. I immediately called Ron to have him check the e-mail once again, but there was no further information in it. I stood there wondering if I should just keep punching buzzers until someone let me in and then go door to door of the five story building until I found her. It was now 6:18 pm.

As I stood there contemplating my next move, double checking my mobile to make sure I did not have her phone number, a gentleman used a key to get into the door. I asked him in English if he knew this doctor. He responded in English “you have two choices and they are both on the first floor.”

When I went to the first floor, there were only two doors, giving me a 50-50 chance of choosing the correct one first. I lost that bet and went into a waiting room full of people for a doctor who was not mine. The male receptionist took me to the second office and told my doctor I was there.

After another full exam, the doctor gave me the good and bad news. She had just performed this surgery on someone else who only had double vision for three years. He turned entropic, I believe was the word she used. His vision went outward for ten days before it normalized. She warned this may happen to me or not work at all since my problem has been 30 years in the making. With this information, it was not a surgery I could do over a weekend like she had originally suggested. We decided to wait until the winter break and she only does surgery one day a month now that she is a new mother, so it would be the end of January. This works well with our being on vacation until the 12th.

She did suggest and prescribe prism glasses. They are non-prescription glasses that have prisms in them to draw my vision together. This is to develop the muscles while waiting for the surgery. I am having second thoughts about this whole thing.

She also discovered that the bifocal contacts the other doctor ordered were finally in and waiting for me. They can only be picked up on a Monday and this coming Monday is a national holiday, so I have to wait yet another week.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Eye Surgery One of These Days


If you read my blog, you may remember that I was a guinea pig for a Hungarian eye surgeon who was studying double vision. She offered me surgery to correct my double vision when she returned from her pregnancy leave which to be in September. Not wanting to rush her, I waited until October to send her an e-mail. She responded promptly and gave me the number for the receptionist to call for an appointment.

Today, I went to my appointment at 4:50 pm, but I arrived at 4:30. I went to the waiting area where I was the last time for the experimental visit. The exam room door was ajar, but I did not want to be intrusive and waited reading my book. The absence of a reception area was not helpful in determining what to do. When four people eventually left the exam room and I no longer heard voices, I knocked on the door and entered. Sitting at a computer was another female doctor. I cautiously stated that I had an appointment with Dr. Doumas for 4:50, not knowing if she spoke English or not. She responded “I don’t think she is here yet, but please wait.” Being grateful that the insurance would cover this without any expense to me, I sat patiently and waited.

At 5:40, the doctor who originally told me to sit, came out of the office and with surprise asked if I was sure I had an appointment. She then went in to call Dr. Doumas. When she had her on her mobile phone, she came out and handed me the phone. Dr. Doumas said she was waiting for me, but that her office is in the 2nd district on the Buda side. She explained that she thought for sure the receptionist would have told me this. Well if she had, I certainly would not be waiting in the eye clinic at the medical school in the 9th district. We made another appointment for next Monday and she is going to e-mail me the address.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blast from the Past


When still in CA, one of my contracts was with the AIDS Case Management program for Stanislaus County. I had contracted with them for over ten years, but during the last two years I was there, I worked with two nurses, one was Ruth.

Ruth and her husband Henry visit Germany often since Ruth is originally from Munich. When I heard they were coming this year, I convinced them to come visit us for a week. They arrived today. Henry and Ron tuned us out for the first few hours as we rehashed the county days, the clients we worked with as well as co-workers, catching up on gossip. How I miss gossip! Without Hungarian friends and without the language, gossip is hard to come by.

It is great having them here, a touch of home, coming to us for a change, so we will enjoy our visit, even if we cannot play tour guides. Ron is suffering with a bad back and I am suffering with a bad back that is affecting my leg. Then there are B and B guests to tend to, papers to correct, work to go to, but we will enjoy the sharing time.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lunch With Frank and Jean


As I have mentioned in the recent past, one of the added benefits of blogging and posting on travel websites is that interesting people contact you for more information. About a month or more earlier, I had received an e-mail from an American named Frank. He and his wife were considering living in Budapest for part of the year and he wanted to pick our brains about how we coped. We set up a lunch meeting for the time they were to be here and today was that day.

We met at Café Eklectika, my choice since we were meeting after I finished teaching and it is easy for all of us to get to. Ron went along and we had a lovely lunch consumed in conversation to the point that we neither Ron nor I realized our B and B guests were directly behind us eating as well.

Frank and Jean have one major advantage that we did not have. Jean’s parents were from Hungary, allowing her to apply for citizenship. With Frank as her spouse, this limits the red tape he will need to go through to stay here long term legally.

Frank is a retired teacher and Jean hopes to retire next year. Then they will be free to follow their dreams to come and go as they please. Ron had to leave after lunch to do some grocery shopping, but I stayed and continued talking, something I thrive on. When we finally said our good-byes, it was difficult to comprehend that we had been there for four hours. The time flew by as it usually does when one is engrossed in a pleasant activity.

Later that evening, I received a call that the founder of the Central European Teachers of English as a Foreign Language was in Budapest for the IATEFL-Hungary conference. We wanted to know if I could meet with he and another teacher. My back was kicking up, so to go out yet again would have been too much, so I had to offer my regrets. Another time, another place, perhaps.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Vagabonds Are Here


It is rare that I blog about our B and B guests, but sometimes it is worth writing about. Melissa and Julie booked our place months ago, but we had no idea at the time that they were beginning a great adventure. I had many e-mails back and forth with Melissa’s mom, Trudy. It was Melissa’s birthday and she wanted to pay their room while here.

The day before they were due to arrive, I received a panicky e-mail from Trudy. The airline did not want to let them travel out of Portland, since they had no return ticket to the U.S. from any destination. They had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City, so they were to call her from there if there was a problem. They were able to continue their travels to NYC and then to Budapest without incident, but were ready to crash on arrival.

When they had regained their energy and they were back to their perky selves, we were able to get the scoop on their plans. They both quit their jobs, sold their house, and set off to travel for six months. Wow, ladies, this is how we started out, so be careful. Julie was up for an out of the States long term experience, but Melissa was nervous when the idea was mentioned.

So while they were touring around Budapest, these were their plans. When they left Budapest, they were going to Eger on a Servas stint. “What is that?”, I can hear you asking. Well directly from their website, here you go.

What is SERVAS?

With every true friendship we build more firmly the foundations on which the peace of the whole world rests.

Mahatma Gandhi

SERVAS is ...

  • ... an international, non-governmental organization.
  • ... based on understanding, tolerance and world peace.
  • ... an organization of hosts and travellers.
  • ... based on volunteer work.
  • ... founded in 1949.
  • ... non-profit.
  • ... divided into nine areas around the world. Each area has its own coordinator.


They contacted their host. He and his family were moving from one place to another and his home was not yet ready, but he was going to arrange accommodations for them. I cannot wait to read that story.

Their next stop after Eger will be Prague. It is Julie’s birthday on the 14th, so she got to choose her destination. Then this adventurous duo will be doing Conversational English in Spain for two weeks. Each day, they trade their English conversation with Spaniards in exchange for room and board at one of five English schools in Spain. Before your mind starts working overtime with opportunities, know that you are committed for 12-15 hours a day, talk, talk, talk with no time to tour, shop, or tour and shop. They also have two weeks working on an organic farm in France as part of a free labor project. If you want to read more about their experiences, their blog is in the link section of this post.

When we have guests who have a birthday while they are with us, we get a birthday cake and celebrate with them. We were able to celebrate two at once since Melissa and Julie’s special days were only a bit over two weeks apart.

I cannot wait to continue reading your travel adventures women and I will not be surprised to find out your home in the future does not have a U.S. address. Calm down Melissa, it will be fine. Oh, and lest I forget, they had business cards made up with their blogsite, their names and e-mail addresses and Vagabonds in bold letters. Great idea! www.wegougo.blogspot.com

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Books, Books, and More Books


Dawn went to help a friend of hers pack up to move to London. She and her friend Sarah came over with huge bags of books. I LOVE books. 99.9% of them were books we did not already have. I am in literary heaven.

Dawn took the four of us to Indigo, an Indian restaurant. It was lovely and the food was some of the best we have had here.

Ron's back has been bothering him and my leg is being a problem stemming from a pain in the back. Kate, a Fulbrighter suggested we try the Alexander method for some healing. She is going to get us a number of someone who does this. Here is hoping, it is getting worse.

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