Saturday, April 28, 2012


Where is home?  We had this conversation at the faculty lunch table this week, laughing at the irony of the word "home" for expats.

Home is Budapest.
Home is "back home" where our families live.
Home is where our community is.
Home is where we once lived.
Home can be said for two different places in the same sentence.
Home can be our permanent address where we have never actually lived.
Or the state on our driver's license.
Home is where there are people who love us.

This summer we're going "back home" to visit family.  "Home" meaning the U.S.  I'm not even making it up to Alaska this time and still it's called "home".  Then we're coming "home" to Budapest, where we live and work and go about our regular routines.

It's a funny word.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No Power

Today the town of Nagykovacsi, where my school is located, was doing some electrical work. So we were without power all day at school - no computers, no email, no projectors, no lights, no internet. We knew about it in advance. We made our copies the day before. We planned to teach with no computers or projector or internet access. We opened the curtains to let in light. We went on with business as usual (for the most part). And still the complaints!

"I don't like this no electricity thing."
"No computers?!"
"School should have been canceled."

That was all from teachers. Really?! Give me a break. Go to most countries in the world and you don't get advanced warning about power outages. My comment to a colleague moving to China next year when he was frustrated was, "Get used to it."

For me, teaching with the power out made me a bit nostalgic today - an "I miss Kenya" moment. Hearing all the complaints made me miss my old co-workers who would laugh about their interrupted lesson due to black outs and my students who wouldn't blink an eye as generators roared to life, cut off, roared, cut off. Ahhh... How different my life is than it was 9 months ago.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A little boy on the tram

Today Will and I sat across from a small boy and his mother on the tram. We sat quietly for awhile, as is common on the Budapest tram. Even the three year old sat silently in his seat, looking out the window. Then Will and I began quietly chatting about this and that. The boy looked at us and smiled. He proceeded to point his small finger in our faces and chatter away to his mother about us. I have no idea what he was saying, but it was obvious he realized we were not Hungarian or not Hungarian speakers or strange because of the way we were talking. His mom seemed a little embarrassed at first, but Will and I just smiled back and laughed at the cuteness of this kid. How is it that a little boy can identify the difference of these foreigners sitting next to him? Culture and language are interesting aspects of life that even a three year old gets a kick out of. I wonder what he was thinking and saying... (I need to learn Hungarian!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A BIG tip for travelers

Italy. France. Spain. These are the countries tourists always want to see when they travel to Europe. Although I haven't been to EVERY country in Europe, I've been to a few now and I have to say... Western Europe is overrated. I'm telling you, you're missing the best parts of Europe if you don't travel to Central/Eastern Europe. For many reasons!

It's cheaper (you can actually afford this trip)
Fewer tourists
More varieties of food (pasta and tapas get REALLY old after a week)
More "off the beaten path" options
Unique cultures
Modern, yet old all at the same time
English speakers are easy to find even in the smallest villages (most of the time)

Take Croatia for example... Croatia has mountains, islands, miles and miles and miles of coastline, crystal clear water, warm weather, cold weather, hiking, biking, camping, cities, seafood, people who know how to cook seafood, affordable seafood, wildlife, national parks, quaint villages, modern everything, old-time feel, a LOT of history. We recently spent our Spring Break holiday camping in Croatia. Honestly, I think Croatia is my favorite European country to visit. It was my second trip there and Croatia did not disappoint. I'm ready to go back this summer! Take a look at these pics to see why...

Places highlighted in the video: Plitvice National Park, Pag Island, Cres Island

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Future

Yesterday I went to an Apple conference for educators, focused on the applications of iPads in the classroom. I learned MANY cool things and can suggest some GREAT apps I was shown to enhance your curriculum. It's so freakin' awesome! As amazing as the iPad bits were, the thing that stuck out the most was the implications of "the future". Having come from the sticks of Kenya to the columns of Budapest, my eyes have been more opened to the future of learning. I've noticed more and more how different students learn now than they did when I started teaching 12 years ago. How quickly they can access information. And how this greatly influences how learning and teaching (should) take place. Mostly I'm realizing that when my teaching career finishes, the way I teach will be DRASTICALLY different than how I began. Books will all be digital. Every child will have a personal learning tool, such as the iPad. I won't need a class set of books or notebooks or pencils. I'll need a class set of iPads or the equivalent. The heavy backpacks will no longer be heavy. Everything will be digital.

Talking with a colleague after the conference, she was nostalgically saying how important it will always be for kids to curl up with a book in the corner of the room on a pillow, feeling the pages between their fingers. Why? The truth is, I already curl up with my Kindle. It's much more economical - saves paper, saves energy from transport, saves money. I will admit I love the feel of a book in my hands - I enjoy it much more than my Kindle, no matter how convenient it is. But will the kids of today have the same feeling about paper books in the future? Honestly, I don't think so.