Upon arrival in Oradea, which is a city located in Transylvania, Romania, I was heartily hugged by my host-sister Lídia and my host-brother Tamás. My five other colleagues also found their host-families immediately.
One little picture will forever stay in my heart:
Jarret, an American LEer with beautiful dark skin hopped off the train and caused a few jaws to drop. His five year-old host-sister, however, did not see the difference that was so apparent to the adults, walked up to him, took his hand, and never let go. Well done, little girl! You just made the world a better place!
Since neither highways nor any equivalent exist in Romania, it took us a little longer to get to the 45-kilometer Cherechiu (Romanian)/Kishkereki (Hungarian). A beeping noise also accompanied the car ride the entire time, but when the car did not break down after the first four kilometers, I stopped worrying or listening.
I will never forget arriving at the Nyírí’s home. The dinner table was bending under the weight of the steaming pots, pans, and plates. Everything was homemade—the noodle-vegetable soup, the cabbage rolls with beef and rice, and the fresh homemade bread. The chocolate cake and the vanilla tarts were the highlight of the evening, and I knew that the food was going to be fresher and more authentic than anything I have ever tried in my life.
After the exchanging of gifts—porcelain serviette rings and fresh coffee for Mrs. Elza Nyírí, wine from the Rhine region for Mr. Sándor Nyírí, a Georgetown sweater for Tamás, and a bracelet for Lídia—I was guided to my room, which is actually Lídia’s room, but which she kindly gave to me while I am here. How hospitable! Tamás, Lídia and I had such a good conversation in the midst of my clothes and the classroom materials that I did not feel how quickly times passed. I had already lost an hour, and when checking the time, I realized how tired I actually was. Traveling is a lot of fun, but it uses up a whole lot of energy. I slept like a baby and awoke well rested and happy as can be.
At breakfast the next morning, we ate fresh salami, cheese, paprika, and bread—salty, delicious, and very different from German or American breakfasts. Shortly after, Lídia and I were carrying my classroom materials to the school, which is 150 meters away from the Nyírí’s home. How convenient!
On the way there, I realized that we were not going to use my sidewalk chalk, as the road was not paved. Funny, how quickly plans change!
When I entered the classroom, 27 anxiously smiling young faces greeted me. The students stood up and greeted my loudly in Hungarian. We were ready to roll.
As I distributed the folder that I had bought, the shy hands were initially not easily convinced that these were going to be theirs. After writing MY NAME IS … on the front, however, the atmosphere loosened up, and the smiled grew wider.
Together with my host-sister, I divided my students into groups of 7, 10, and 10 children each based on English skills and age, and told them to come from 9.00-11.00 (beginners, first- and second-graders), from 11.00-13.00 (beginners, third-, and fourth-graders), and from 14.00-16.00 (beginners, fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-graders).
With the first group, the little ones, we started by drawing a circle onto our first white, blank page. The circle was quickly filled with seasons and months, and by throwing a ball from student to student, we learned how to say HELLO, MY NAME IS… MY BIRTHDAY IS IN …
These little ones were quiet, shy, but incredibly interested in each word I had to say. Each movement of mine was traced with the seven pairs of dark brown, green, and blue eyes. When our two hours were over, I tried to explain to them that they could go home now, but nobody got up. Maria was staring at me, opening her folder every time I closed it in order to symbolize the end of our lesson. Bárnabas kept glancing at the crayons with which he had drawn the most beautiful spring picture I have ever seen from a first-grader. Nobody left until the classroom was full with second-session students, who, in Hungarian, told the others to leave. Before leaving the room, Krísztian turned around and said HELLO to me, thinking the Hungarian “Szia”, which can be used for hello and bye, could simply be translated the same way. These students of mine are thinking and applying familiar ruled to the new language and they are slowly getting in contact with. How wonderful!
My next session kept me on my toes. Everybody already knew a few words, and when going over the family and friend vocabulary after we’d talked about the seasons, months, birthday, birthday parties, and their invitations, we opened up a whole zoo of pets that lived in our house as well. Chickens were on the blackboard, and so were kittens, cows, calves, dogs, and mice. There was moving around, talking in all kinds of languages, wild gesturing, and very active learning happening inside of the classroom. What a wonderful age this is, when kids start to open up and become more independent!
Walking home on the dusty stone road, I was followed by the children, who kept a distance of a few feet but talked loud enough so I would hear it. Whenever I turned around, they stopped walking as well. This way, we walked to my house and before entering my front door, Soli said: Tomorrow! Yes, tomorrow!
After a quick 3-course lunch that consisted of fresh bean soup, boiled potatoes, roasted chicken, and cake with my host-sister, I went back out onto the road. When entering the classroom, the teens were already there, and immediately, I sensed a different kind of atmosphere. There were cell phones under the desks in the kids’ hands, make-up on the girls’ eyes, and soft little moustaches on the boys’ upper lips. When learning the numbers for the number of months of the year, we quickly transitioned to math equations that were attempted to be solved with the cell calculator in order to gain an advantage over the other group. Teenager here behave just as any other teenager that I have met so far: they are distracted by other things and a little too cool for school. What a phenomenal age!
After school, I washed off the chalk from my hands and the dust from my feet and my hair, though I feel as though these two are becoming constant companions in my life. Awesome!
When strolling through the 750-people village with my host-brother, we were talking behind the cows that were coming back from the fields. They knew there homes and turned left or right whenever their gate came
—isn’t our original home always that one base that we will always find the way back to?