Easter Time in Hungary!

*Crosses and grass set up made by Pastor Richárd and his family

It has been an interesting Holy Week here in Hungary with new experiences and with lots of learning.

On Thursdays I do an English conversation time at my church in Debrecen with anyone who is interested. I wish to write another blog in the future a bit more about this but I want to talk a little bit about our conversation this part Thursday. We talked mostly about Easter and the different traditions we have in America versus in Hungary. I told the ladies about Easter egg hunts for kids and how in my family we usually have lamb for Easter dinner as a tradition. I also talked about how many kids get new outfits for Easter, new spring dresses and suits and how much fun it is to see the kids all dressed up in church on Easter morning.
The ladies told me about Vízbevető Hétfő (thrown to water Monday) and the traditions that go with that. Here in Hungary, the Monday after Easter is also a holiday. In the past, boys would thrown water on the heads of girls. From what I understand, this is about growth, as if the girl is like a flower that needs to be watered. *It is possible that I am not understanding this fully so please forgive any misunderstanding.* Usually a poem would be said at the time of throwing the water, a poem like:
Zöld erdőben jártam,
Kék ibolyát láttam
El akart hervadni
Szabad-e locsolni?
(I was in a green forest
I saw a blue violet
It was about to wither
May I sprinkle her?)
Things are a bit different these days. I can’t imagine many girls putting up with cold water being thrown on their heads anymore. Instead the tradition has grown to be that boys will now pour perfume on a girl’s head. During our conversation on Thursday, the women were telling me that this can become a very smelly process because all of the boys use different perfumes and so all the smells end up combining together to create a bit of an overwhelming scent. I wonder how well this tradition would go over with girls in the United States.

easter-hungaryExample of the thrown water.

After the English conversation time I attended a very nice Maundy Thursday service. It was a smaller group there, but very nice. I am so used to seeing Easter Lilies at church at this time of year that I was intrigued instead to see calla lilies. It is fun to see the differences we notice even when they are so small that it also seems odd to take notice at all.

When service was over I was invited to a Passover dinner at church with other members of the congregation. Throughout the dinner, everything we did and ate was talked about in why we are eating each thing and why we do each action. Some examples include taking parsley and dipping it salt water. The Salt water represents the tears that are shed before joy. When eating horseradish we were to eat until our eyes watered to remind us of the the tears shed by the slaves held captive by the pharaohs. Thankfully someone who spoke English sat next to me during the meal and was able to explain the majority of what was being said as we went. I loved sharing with so many people and also observing such an important time.

On Good Friday I worked on trying to make traditional styled Easter eggs. One of my friends lent me a traditional wax pen, some wax and a candle to I could work on the process.
Photo on 4-17-17 at 4.14 PMThese are the tools.
I can tell you right now, none of my eggs came out great so I am not even going to share them with you. Too embarrassing. I would hope with more time I might get better, but for now I can safely say no one will be asking for my eggs this year.
What you do to create the eggs is first hard boil them. (Hungarian for egg is tojás) Then I put wax into the bowl of the wax pen. After the wax is put into the bowl, you heat the bowl of the pen up with the candle. The flame causes the wax to melt and eventually come out the tip of the pen. You have to keep the wax hot to keep it flowing well. You also have to have a steady hand to try to create a clean design on the egg with the wax. Lets just say if felt like a lot of multitasking. After you have created your design on the egg with wax it is time to dye. I created the dye using the skins of onions. Just boiled the onion skins in water. I think this was another failure on my part. Not enough onion skins or not enough time boiling. Not sure which. The way the eggs should come out in the end is dyed red from the onion skins, then you rub away the wax from the shell and the design remains.
This is what they should look like when the process is all over. Not how mine looked, but I do love how these eggs come out looking in the end.
On Easter I got to attend service for the first time in my home community of Berettyóújfalu. My pastor came from Debrecen and gave a service in the Reform church office for the Lutherans in my community. There were only ten of us, but it was a great, intimate service on a beautiful Easter morning. After service I went back to Debrecen with Pastor Richárd. He invited me to have Easter lunch with him and his family. We had a very delicious lunch of ham, eggs, salads, soup, pickles, and lots of cakes. It was so good. After lunch I was able to play with Richárd’s two daughters. We played with dolls and stuffed animals and talked about princesses. We also colored and drew together. I can’t thank them enough for welcoming me in with their family in such an important time to be with family.
I have had a wonderful couple of days and I am so happy with all of the people I have been with.
I hope everyone at home has also been well and had a good Holy week.
Remember, He has risen, He has risen indeed, and He did all he did for us.
Stay well until next time.
One of the kid’s Easter cards from before we ended for Easter break.

Romania and the Adventures There

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is doing well where ever you may be.

Although I am now back home in Hungary I want to tell you about all the fun had on the YAGM Lenten retreat in Brasov (Brassó in Hungarian) Romania.
It took me a little while to figure out how I wanted to write about this because so much happened and i could have written many posts about it, but I think one fun read/write is the way to go. So let’s dive in to this adventure.

Let us start at the beginning, TRAVEL.
Because I live on the east side of Hungary I live very close to Romania. Because of this I originally figured my trip to our retreat location would be a relatively short. *laughs at myself at this thought* I was wrong, found out it would be about a 12 hour journey. Well I figured out my planned journey in advance, knew my times to be getting on trains, knew where (or the names at least) of each station I needed to be changing trains at.
As usual my plans went out the window.

When I went to buy my train ticket, the very kind lady who was helping me decided that my plan was too complicated. (At least this is what I think she was telling me.) She said three trains was too much. One train was better. Yes logically this is true, but I was trying to arrive at a certain time. Well, after going back and forth for a while I gave in. It was about a 20 minute difference and I was not able to convince her that arriving 20 minutes earlier was important. I do appreciate that she was concerned and wanted to make my travels easier.

After a very long train ride where I enjoyed the amazing views and landscapes around me, where I rested and knitted little socks, where a tree was on the train tracks and we were stopped for an extra hour, where strangers tried to communicate with me in Hungarian, Romanian, German, Italian, Russian, and eventually some English, where I was proposed too, asked if I was pregnant, shown 123 chicken eggs, and given homemade plum jam, I was finally reunited with my fellow YAGM. I can’t thank Rachel and Zach enough for coming to get me at the train station at 1am.

Photo 2017. 03. 07. 11 19 43
I love being with all the Central Europe YAGM. *Photo by Zach

During our retreat we spent time reflecting on our time so far working in our communities. We were able to listen to each other and talk with each other. I learned even more about each of the other people I am spending this year with. I really appreciate this time because these connections help me understand not just them but the communities they come from.

We talked about this Lenten time and what this means to us, what we do during this time. We sang together, read together and talked together. One of the great things that comes from our retreats is a spiritual renewal for us all. It is a time to focus on our time and the work we do, but we are taken away from our communities so that we can recenter ourselves.

Even though we spent our time reflecting and talking, we also got to go out and see some of Romania. In Brasov we visited the Black Church which has quite an amazing history. It started out as a Catholic church, eventually became a Lutheran church. It has had a major fire color its stones, it has aged, but it is still an incredible church.


We also visited a couple of the fortified churches in Romania. It is very cool to see and experience places older then the European discovery of the “New World.”



After the retreat finished I stayed an extra night with a few of the other YAGM to explore a bit more in the area. Part of this exploration included visiting Bran and Bran Castle, best know as the home of Vlad the Impaler who is the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was interesting being there and learning about the history beyond Vlad and the blood he rained around him. Or group had fun playing around there and then exploring more of Brasov that evening.


Romania is a truly beautiful country that I would love to visit again. The people and places are wonderful with very interesting history all around.


Hope everyone stays well. I will try to write again soon. Till then, szia.

Hungary is my Classroom

I think I can say I will forever be a student. I actually think it is pretty okay to say most people will forever be a student, although we all know people out there who wouldn’t admit to that.
I can also say I wasn’t always the best student. There are somethings I just can’t wrap my brain around, and other things I excel at. Again this is a statement that applies to many other people.
But what I am saying now is that I am a student and Hungary and the people here are my classroom and teachers. I can’t even tell you all of the things I have learned, but I can list a few. From learning different words in Hungarian, to learning about the history. I learn how to deal with different people and how to teach as well. I have learned different art techniques and how to use them to help others. I have learned quite a bit on my journey so far, but today I learned something new that I hadn’t expected to.

This morning Nóra asked me if I knew how to… then she showed me yarn and moved her hand around a bi, and I concluded she meant knitting (since she was gesturing with both hands like needles). I told her yes, I learned how to knit in middle school and my brain decided it was a skill I needed to remember so I haven’t forgotten it. Anyway, Nóra told me that we would be having a guest come to Told (one of the villages I work in) to show some women there how to knit socks and asked if I would like to go. I told her that all I knew how to knit were scarves and shawls, but that I would be happy to learn. So Nóra sent me on my way to Told to get some knowledge.

The women and I getting some basic information about the structure of a knitted sock.

One thing I was told before leaving the school was that it wasn’t know if my new teacher would speak English. On top of that everyone I was headed to Told with were non English speakers. I will admit I was a bit nervous, but I also knew that I could watch and listen and try my best to figure things out. Still, in the car I was really wondering if I would manage this new venture.

Well I get to Told and meet Erzsébet. Erzsébet is a super cool lady who is from an area around Budapest. She speaks English, she thinks poorly but I told her I could understand her and that she was great, and I am relieved that I may understand what is happening. First, Erzsébet goes over some of the basic information we will need; number of stitches, lengths, foot sizes, etc. I actually understand what she is saying, when she tells me in English, which is still saying something because I have never been able to read knitting directions.
Next, Erzsébet goes over casting stitches onto the knitting needles. She does it differently then I do, not surprising because I have met so many people who all use a different way to cast their stitches, but I make sure to watch carefully because a.) I don’t know if I need to do it this specific way for socks, and b.) I am always curious to see these different methods.

Casting stitched onto knitting needles.

Once everyone had this first step, we proceeded with some basic knitting practice. I take it that all the women at this lesson had at least some knitting experience, but some had more then others and it was a good time to go over things.

Sadly after this point most of the women had to leave for something else. I was sad that this would be the end of the lesson, but Erzsébet worked with me individually since we had time left and showed me the different processes I would need to do to make a full sock.

Erzsébet was so nice. When I had questions she answered me, although she had to ask me to slow down my speaking, I can talk a bit too quickly for people trying to understand English. She showed me each thing and would show me again if I asked. She really took her time.

She also asked me questions about myself and what I was doing in Hungary. She told me some about her life and her family and why she started knitting socks. Erzsébet even asked if I would come visit her!!! Of course I said “YES.” I really meet the most incredible people here and I love them all. It is really amazing that I get opportunities like these in my life.


So this is the beginning of my first ever sock. I know it doesn’t look like much now, but I am hoping for the best. My original start from Told was my practice for learning the techniques I would later need to use for the heel and the toe of the sock so that had to be unraveled so I could start a real one. Here’s hoping for the best and for something that comes out looking like a sock.

I hope everyone at home is well. I will be sharing more stories soon so as always keep your eyes open. Until then, keep your feet warm.

Unexpected Adventure

This past Friday I had an interesting adventure and I wish to tell you all the tale.

My Friday started out very normally. I walked to work, it was pretty cold but hey, it is winter in Hungary. I said “hello” to the cat I walked passed, one of my favorite parts of my mornings is I usually see one or two cats on my way to work. I got to work and still the day was normal. I took pictures of the drawing we were sending to competitions and I labeled them on the computer.
In the afternoon I headed out with my co-workers, Erika and Kriszti, to the school we give art lessons to on Fridays. Even though I may go to the same classes each week, what we work on is always a little different so I am never bored, plus I love seeing the kids every week. Still though, pretty normal Friday. As we work with the classes I help students on various pieces from showing how I would draw a rooster (kakas- in Hungarian) to helping someone with watercolor. As the day is ending one of the students shows me a great drawing and tells me that it is for me. I can’t tell you how truly awesome that feels.

She even worked on her English!

This small act made my day feel super special. My Friday went from a good day to a great day in seconds. I secretly hope the girl in the picture is supposed to be me since she has cat ears on and clearly I want to be seen as a person who wears cat ears.

Well with this awesome end at the school we pack up everything and get it in the car. *Here is the true beginning of my adventure.
We try to start the car with no success. Realize the lights were left on so it would seem the battery had drained. Thankfully just after figuring this out a father drove in to the parking area where we were to pick up his kids and he thankfully had a car battery charger (not sure what else to call it.) We are told it will take 5 minutes. Sure, it is a bit cold outside but 5 minutes is nothing so we just wait. I was thankful at how fast we had found help because we were not near Berettyóújfalu and I didn’t know how we were going to get back. After 5 or so minutes we try to start the car again (when I say we I mean this kind father, I do not get behind the wheel of a car here.) There was no change so he decided to leave the charger with us so he could drop of his kids at home and then he would come back to help us. I love the kind heartedness of this, he was giving his time to us just because he was willing to help a fellow person! I don’t think we see enough of this these days. Anyways, we know this is going to take a while and it is just getting colder outside so we run back inside the classroom to get inside at least. Still chilly but not like outside. About 30 minutes later the father is back and trying to start the car again. Can hear the beeping sound of the keys now in the ignition with the door open so there has been some improvement but no starting the car. The decision is made to try to get the car moving and start the engine while it is in motion. Okay, what did we have to lose. Erika, Kriszti and I get behind the car and start pushing. What I have failed to mention up to this point in that the parking area is cover in ice… yeah, you know this is going to be fun. Thankfully we were at the top of a short hill so we could push the car down the hill pretty easily. A few good pushes had us moving and as the car reached the bottom of the small hill the father was able to get it started. YAY!! we had left our things at the top of the hill so we left the engine running while we grabbed our stuff. Well in the three minutes it took us to get our things the car turned off again. Hard hit to us. We decide to try to get the car to start again by pushing it down the street and turning the ignition. At least the street wasn’t covered in ice, but that was the only good I could say about it. This time the father helped push the car while Erika tried to start the car. I think we tried doing this at least 6 times. It is when a bus need to get pass us that we finally give up and just push the car to the side of the street. We thank the father and he goes home while Kriszti and Erika call for help. At this point it is very dark, we are all freezing, and we have spend the last hour wrangling a car. Thankfully someone says they will come get us so we decide to go wait in the classroom again because we all need to warm up. Once we got inside and had the heat turned on we all just sat and talked. It was nice just to chill with my co-workers. I really enjoy spending time with them, even in the strangest of situations.

Well finally our ride arrives to take us back to Berettyóújfalu, but before we can go we need to move the car again because it is not far enough to the side of the road and there isn’t a really great place to park it there. We decide we are going to try to get it back to the parking area we had been in before. As you may remember I did say that we had gone down a small hill and that the entire parking area was covered in ice. Well the hill was also covered in ice and we were about to try to push that car up the hill. I can bet you see where this is going. Well… we get a good push in the beginning, make it about half way up before all of us can no longer get traction on the ice and the car just wants to push us down the hill. We try valiantly a few more times to get the car up the hill but there was no way. finally we decide if we can get the car to the far side of the road going up the hill we can call it a night. With a few adjustments and a few tries we finally get it in a spot where we aren’t worried about it being in the way of anyone till someone can come and work on it. WHEW! Talk about something I never expected during my time here in Hungary, but that is life. Things are going to come at you whether you expect it or not. Sure, by the time I got home I was exhausted and freezing and kinda worried my toes might have frostbite, but this is a story I think I will always have now. It was a good laugh with Erika and Kriszti when it was all over with. I would say it was a great way to get to know these ladies even more.

I am very happy of my freezing adventure. It was something new and unusual and I am sure something I will never forget. You never know what is going to come at you but when it does to just have to go with it.

Hope everyone is staying warm!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…Right?

Hello Out There!!!!

I am sorry that it has been an age, a time, eons since I last wrote a blog. Shannon has been a busy dinosaur.
December was CRAZY!!! But crazy for all of the right reasons, mostly. Prepping for the holiday season meant working with new people, always fun, and seeing the gift of giving. It was amazing. I saw so much love sent all around. Really, truly, my favorite part of the holidays is the giving and not the getting. It means so much more.

For Christmas this year I got to experience the Hungarian traditions with two of my fellow YAGM volunteers, Rebekah and Miriam, in Nyíregyháza. This included meals at three different families’ houses, hearing the bell ring as the angles left gifts at the tree, and Christmas church services in Hungarian. It was pretty darn amazing.

Well that sums up the end of my 2016.

2017! It’s a new year. And whew was New Years Eve good. I rang in the New Year with some of my co-workers and their friends. It included lots of food and dancing. In case you were wondering I am not a good dancer but I made it through the night without breaking anyone’s toes, although I can’t say I didn’t step on any. My co-workers taught me some new dance moves and I taught them how to hand jive. The hand jive was very successful! I will say that these days I am more used to a New Years Eve spent in bed by 10:30 and happily unaware of the people setting off fire crackers and hurting themselves. This was a very nice change if pace.

15894658_3310167878342_3074834614127894984_nAnita and I getting ready for it to become 2017!

With the new year have come some new things.

First, I was asked to create a piece of art that would be in an exhibition of art by the teachers at the Real Pearl Foundation. I was honored to be asked. I work with incredibly talented people and it was very cool to see my work hung up alongside theirs.

Of course I drew cats!

The second new thing I have done this year is teach my first class, naturally assisted with some translation, my Hungarian still needs lots of work.
I taught the kids how to make paper cranes with origami.

*Quick story on why I make paper cranes. In seventh grade we were learning world history. During that time we learned about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We read a book about the impact of these bombs on the people and the story of 1000 paper cranes. As a person makes each crane they make their wish on it. Once they have made 1000 paper cranes their wish comes true. Now this is a simplification of the story but it was something that always stuck, clearly because how many people remember the one book about the one subject they read in history (social studies) in seventh grade. At this point in my life I had only had type 1 diabetes for a few years and I was constantly wishing it away. I started to make paper cranes all the time after reading this story. Always making the wish that my diabetes would go away. I can say I have made many thousands of cranes since that time and my diabetes is still here, but in the action of making the cranes your mind if focused on something else, something beautiful and there is something positive that comes from it. The lack of the wish is not important, but the hope making those cranes brought me was.

So back to my lesson. I was a little worried about trying this out. Making cranes isn’t the easiest thing, and when you can’t orally explain what you are doing it becomes a bit harder. Thankfully a great way to communicate is to show how to do something. I did each step at the front of the table, I went to each kid if they needed some help at a hard part. I kept my patience when every kid was asking for help at the most difficult steps, and at the end every kid had created a paper crane. When it was finished I asked them to draw on them and make them all different. I was worried that they might not like this activity or might find it boring, but each kid seemed to like the finished crane they had created. I was very happy and proud to help them get to these final steps.

img_8797img_8798Decorating the cranes.

I hope as this year continues I might get to teach a few more classes. It as been a fun experience.

This year as a YAGM has been interesting so far and I can’t wait for what the rest of it holds. Sure, not everything went my way in 2016, but it did bring me this opportunity.

I promise not to go so long without writing a blog post again. So until next time, may this new year bring you many new joys.

Paprika, super popular here.

Down the rabbit hole

*This is the second blog I have written about thoughts this week.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

It has been quite a week. Lots of work happening here in Hungary and lots of news coming from home.

It can be hard not to get lost when I feel a little between two places on a week like this. This brought me to one of my favorite literary characters, Alice. Please don’t feel free to tell me all the history of Carroll and the crazy weirdness behind the stories, I know them. It doesn’t change my feelings on a character I feel like I understand and can relate to in my own ways.

Anyways, I was saying, I feel a little like I have fallen down the rabbit hole. I even received a visit from the Dormouse this week. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the Dormouse, I mean it wasn’t at a tea party, but there was a mouse happily opening my packet of spaghetti and chewing loudly on it for a few days. Sadly I have no Cheshire cat to deal with that problem. Thankfully my site mentor’s husband was kind enough to by mouse traps, sadly for me and the mouse they were not humane, which is the kind I prefer. Some bread with peanut butter and some cheese later the mouse is now in the great cheese factory in the sky.

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”

There have been conversations this week that have left me exhausted and it is not from the people I speak with, it is the topic. I find it very hard to explain what has been happening in America. It actually isn’t fair to say it has been just this week. It has been hard since coming to Hungary to explain many of the things that have been happening in America. Somethings I can try to relate to things happening in Hungary which I would say usually helps in the understanding of the people around me, but I feel like I only half understand what is happening in the country I am living in, so again this can complicate any explanations I try to give. But what am I saying, I currently only understand maybe half the things in the country I lived in for the past 27 years in. How curious.

With this crazy week I feel exhausted, and jittery, and loopy, and a bit mad as well. It can be a little hard to be filled with all of these feelings all at once. I needed to get some of these things out of me. How did I do that? I had a little dance party all on my own. In the middle of my room I put on an album that would take me to Wonderland and I danced my feelings and emotions out. The album I chose to dance to? Almost Alice, of course! I also did a little writing this week, which is soooo not me, but getting everything out in one way or another is very much needed.

So what am I saying in this strange, unusual, slightly mad post? I guess I’m saying try to dance out whatever is in you. Dance with a friend or dance alone. Dance as quickly as your feet will move you or as slow as you might need to move. Cry as you dance or have a grin as wide as the Cheshire cat’s on your face.  Do what you need to bring comfort to yourself whether your week was great or bad.

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Sometimes it is good to remember that it is okay not to know where we are going to go. Sometimes we know where we want to go but we end up somewhere else. Take it from a girl who has been down the rabbit hole a few times, sure things might be a bit mad now and there is no one sign that will tell us the right way to go but that is okay. One way or another there is a path that will lead to the road that is right for you.

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Here is a link to the album I used for my dance party. Feel free to use it or your own music for your dance party.
Almost Alice Album

*Found my way out of the rabbit hole, or really a hole meant for a canon- basically the same thing, right

Thinking about Home

I would be lying if I didn’t say that I thought about home, as in my home in North Carolina, quite a bit. Naturally I miss my mom, cats, friends, and the places I love. When I get news from the people I love I get excited for the good things happening and sad at the downs others have. I am connected to those people and places. But at the same time I have a new home. I live in Hungary and have a community I enjoy. I have an address and a job that I volunteer for. I think it is important to remember and remind people that I am not on a year long vacation. This is a time to live, and work and give in a new place. I have a home here and I am creating connections I didn’t even expect.


Since I do have a new home I wanted to introduce you all to my new place. Here are some pictures of my new little corner of the world.


One thing that really helps make this a home are doing the things I would do at my place in North Carolina. Just like at home, I make my bed everyday. My bed has to be made before I can fall asleep at night. Part of the joys of being me is having everything in its place before I fall asleep, otherwise my mind stays in a constant state of whirling motion, which does not help promote easing into sleep. Part of what makes my bed a great spot in my home is having my cow stuffed animal, Moo Moo, there and my castle blanket. These things are part of what comforts me and they have made life in my new home a little easier.


The simple things make my space more of a home. Cleaning my place, washing my clothes or dishes, putting everything where it belongs. Again these are all things I would do if I was living in North Carolina, but I now live in Hungary so these are the things I do here.


I love all the letters and messages I get from home. Displaying them makes me remember those who I miss and love at home. I also love to display the photos of people in my life. It isn’t just a reminder for me to think of them, which in all honesty I don’t really need a reminder for, but it is a nice way to think of them looking over me and if someone where to visit me they can ask about the special people around me in my home.


I have special pictures sent form of my kids back home and one from a kid I work with here. I have books lent to me from different people to help me learn while here on all different subjects. I also have lots of sketchbooks to hopefully fill during my time here.


Living in a new place for only a year is nothing new for me. I have done it many times throughout my life. I wonder if it might help me in this year, but I also remember that most of the time I didn’t know when I would be leaving my home  when I was growing up. When it was time to go it was time. Barely time to prep or say bye. Now I know when I am here and when I will be gone. I already fear saying goodbye to the many people I have met. I know that fear comes from the comfort I already have in this new place.

I am home, at my home in Hungary. I still have a home in North Carolina but for now I live here and I am very happy and proud of that.

Thank you are for reading. I hope everyone at hope is happy and at peace. Miss you

Let’s Learn English

So at first glance you might be very confused about the title of this blog post. Maybe you are thinking, “I don’t need to learn English, I already know that language pretty well.” Yes, I know that if you are reading this blog, you most likely speak and read English and don’t need to learn it. But this post isn’t about what you learn from this, this post is about what I hope to teach (although I do hope you learn something new from this post.)

So first, I was you to see the first alphabet I have posted above. This is the Hungarian (Magyar) alphabet. (I bet you just learned something new right there.) As you hopefully noticed right away, it isn’t the same as our English alphabet. Some letters have accents, there is no ‘q’ or ‘y’ on its own. The reason I fist want to introduce you all to this alphabet is so you can see the similarities and the differences of the alphabets I now know and use.

Since I am thinking everyone who is reading this knows the English alphabet I won’t be posting a picture of it. But now that you know the differences, just imagine being a child here in Hungary trying to learn English. Naturally the first thing you would start with are the ABCs. In all honesty, English is very confusing. Think about how pretty much every vowel can sound different even though it’s the same letter, i.e. raid, rad, both use ‘a’ but it is not the same sounding ‘a’.
Since I think I can say I understand the difficulty of learning a new language, I have tried to come up with a way to help any student I teach who might be interested. The question I had to ask myself was what is the best way to help someone learn a language. I have never been good at learning foreign languages so how can I help others. Well I thought a good a way to teach and learn might be if I could relate words back to the alphabet Hungarians already know, and for good measure put pictures with every letter.

So here is my project, one I hope to use soon. I tried to make all of the drawings simple enough for a child to try to reproduce in their own way.


(You may notice some English and Hungarian
words are very similar)

(Remember when I told you to check out the differences
between the alphabets, well the Hungarian alphabet doesn’t
use the letter ‘q’)

(Another letter not used, ‘w’)

(you might have seen ‘y’ in the Hungarian alphabet
but it is not used alone, it is used only with another
(So the letter ‘z’ is in the Hungarian alphabet but
the only word I could find that would work with my
visual alphabet was Zebra and it is the same in
Hungarian, didn’t want an exact same word so I
switched it up)

I hope you all enjoyed this English lesson, even if you don’t need it. But really I hope you enjoyed an introduction to Hungarian and a little of the work I hope to do here.

Hope everyone reading this post is well. Thank you all for reading and hopefully enjoying my blog.



The Privilege of Language and the Power of Communication

Hello to all! I hope that everyone in the world is a peace right now. I know that there are many things happening right now that make it very easy to focus on the negative, believe me. Just because I’m in Hungary doesn’t mean I don’t see the news.
Well, lets move on to my thoughts right now.

These are not actually thoughts I have just been having now. I’ve been thinking about this since I arrived to Hungary.
There is quite a bit of privilege to language, specifically the English language and in all honestly the only language I am good in communicating in. I’ve tried learning other languages and let’s just say I haven’t been very successful in that. But let me get back to what I was talking about. The English language. I am in Hungary, the main language is naturally Hungarian or Magyar. Despite the fact that I am in a country and can only say “yes” and “thank you” I can talk to some people here. Why? Because everywhere I go there has been one or more people who can communicate with me in English. Now I am in a foreign country. It is my job to learn the language of the people here if I want to speak, right? Well at least I feel like it is. I feel so guilty that people here speak English and I can’t reciprocate well in Hungarian. It doesn’t seem fair to the people here. They are doing all of the work. They tell me what others are saying and help keep me in the loop. They translate what I am saying to others who do not understand English. I am privileged to always have someone around who can help me in understanding or communicating to others.

(I would like to let you know that almost everyone I speak in English to tells me that their English is bad and I always let them know that their English is great! I can understand them. I always respond with the fact that my Hungarian is what is bad and this conversation usually ends with a laugh from both of us.)

Let me go into this a bit further so you understand how far this goes. I go to four different villages during the week to help assist a teacher with the classes. Every teacher I work with speaks English to some degree. That means that four days a week I can help in ways I wouldn’t if I didn’t have someone to tell me what is happening and how things are going to work.
Although I feel guilty about people being able to help me in English and communicate that way, I’m also finding myself having the privilege of helping some of the kids with their English. So far I have come across most schools here requiring the children to learn at least one language starting in primary school. That means that a good percentage of the kids are learning English. The kids love to try to practice their English on me, asking “what is my favorite music?” or just practicing saying words. I love that I can help them improve and have fun learning a language in a way that I was never given. I wish more USA schools would take up the practice of teaching a language from the start, but I also see problems with that (this from a kid who went to so many different elementary schools that I couldn’t tell you the names of them all.)

Working with some of the students in Körösszakál.

The flip side of the privilege of English is the power behind communicating without English. I work in a medium that provides me with it’s own language. Art is incredible because I can demonstrate and show things without having to say a word. I can show a child a different way to use a paintbrush to create a texture and I don’t have to do anything but help. This is a powerful tool for me during my time here.

I have also had the joy of the communication of friendship and love. When I go to the classes now the kids greet me at the car sometimes. Once I’m in the classroom I get many hugs and kisses. One Hungarian word I’m getting used to hearing is “help.” The kids ask me to sit with them and work with them as they draw and paint and color. I love that. I have found that communication is so much more then words. It is actions and working with others to come to some result.

I must also tell you about how the kids are working to help me in my communication skills. In one class that I work in the children are making me a dictionary. They write down a word in Hungarian and then draw a picture of what the word is. It works very well because they are great artists and I am a visual learning so seeing a picture of what the word is rather then just a translation is so helpful.
I’ve been working on my own version of this that I hope to teach with the English alphabet and words that work back in forth from English to Hungarian, i.e. A is for apple (alma),
B is for beetle (bogár). I think you all get the point.

I think I will be constantly struggling this year with the guilt behind not being able to speak Hungarian well and needing help with translation. Understanding the privilege of being a white, USA citizen coming to a foreign country and having other people speak my language is a hard thing to take because other people don’t have to help me but they do. I will also continue to love the work I am doing here and the communication that gets through without language ever being a barrier.

The dictionary that has just been started by the kids in my Wednesday class.


*First picture is from a conference I went to at Balatonszárszó last weekend where many college leaders and students from within the Lutheran community joined together to discuss ‘the meaning of life.’

The Sounds Outside My Door

Hello to all from my site placement in Berettyóújfalu, on the eastern side of Hungary. I am happy to report that I arrived to this fair town safe and sound on Tuesday afternoon after spending 4.5-5 days in Budapest.

Budapest is an amazing city full of history, beauty, and wonderful people. I was able to meet some more great people while there and do some cool things. I will be happy to post some other time about Budapest and what it is like there, but for right now I want to introduce you all to a little bit of what I am experiencing in Berettyóújfalu.

Like I said before I only arrived here Tuesday afternoon. One of my site mentors, Pastor Richárd from the Lutheran Church in Debrecen, brought me from Budapest first to Debrecen, where I was able to see the church I will be working in during this year, then we moved on to Berettyóújfalu where I was able to meet my other site mentor, Nora who is in charge of The Real Pearl Foundation. After some quick introductions I was shown to my accommodations for this year. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see the place that will be my home for the next year. It is everything and more I could have wished for.

I spent my first afternoon unpacking my bags, which honestly was far more exciting then it should have been, but I’ve been living out of a suitcase for a month so feel free to do a little celebration dance the way I did. While unpacking I had my window and door open, if you know me at all you know I like to have air moving so any kind of breeze I can get is a good breeze, but not to be side tracked… Because I had my window and door open I was able to listen to all of the noises happening outside my place. You know, it doesn’t even seem right to call them noises. Noise can have a negative connotation to it, sound is the right word.
So as I was saying I could hear all the sounds happening around me. As I unpacked my clothes and folded them into my dresser I listened as cars drove past on the street I live on, I heard people having conversations (none of which I understood so I don’t believe I would be considered as eavesdropping,) and I heard dogs barking from where ever they were being fenced and held. These are all very regular sounds, things I would here if I was at home. So you might ask “if these are regular sounds, then why write about them, who cares?” The answer is that I care because these are not the only sounds I have heard outside my door and window since being here.

Yesterday I went to work at The Real Pearl Foundation for the first time. I saw and heard many things which I will talk about another day, but I want to tell you this so that you know I did not hear everything that happened outside my door yesterday. I did hear the church bells chiming when I was entering my studio though. I heard more dogs, more cars, more conversations yesterday afternoon too, but today was different.

Thursdays are my free day here in Berettyóújfalu. It is my day off to do what I need to and what I want to. I started my day by going to the market that is held on Thursdays here and let me say whoa! Super cool but boy did I feel more out of place. I was listening to all the people speaking Hungarian, which in truth had been much of my day yesterday, but this was so many more people, all over, everyone having different conversations at different stalls all the same time. Well after stepping away from the market area for a moment to recenter myself, I went back and was able to ask to buy three apples in Hungarian (high five myself at this moment.) I will honestly admit I accidentally said three in Spanish the first try through, but I quickly corrected myself and off I went to buy a few more items. Although these sounds did not happen outside my door, they did happen all around me in my new community, in the community I can’t wait to be a part of.
After my mission at the market was complete I came back to my studio to put away my purchases and reorganize the things that I had not figured out where to put the first day. Again as I worked I had my window and door open (just in case someone is worried that it is not safe for me to just be leaving my door open basically inviting people in, my place has a fence and gate that I keep locked while I have my door open.) This morning as I worked there were new sounds that I had not expected to hear. While in my home I heard the light sounds of someone playing a flute, practicing. They played beautifully, I even stepped outside so that I could hear it better. On occasion they would stop and replay something that I suppose must have been played wrong the first time or they started a new piece of music, but this was such a cool feeling to listen to someone in my community play an instrument so casually, probably just for themselves, but I got to enjoy it too. Mixed in to the great music I was hearing I also heard children playing outside. There is a school across the street from me and I could hear them laugh as they talked and played. It’s kind of funny because after listening to whoever was originally playing the flute I heard someone else trying after and I could tell they had probably not tried many times before, if ever to play the instrument, but I still enjoyed it remembering the days when I first attempted to play the instrument myself. As my day progressed and I continued working on things that I felt needed to be checked off of my list, I continued to listen. I heard a dog barking and it sounded closer then usual so I stepped outside and found that whoever lives behind me has a nice fluffy big dog. A fun fact for the day. Later in the afternoon I heard someone playing the violin. Another whoa moment. I had a conversation in my head wondering if it was maybe the same person who played the flute earlier. I wondered if there was someone who teaches music who lives very close to me. I don’t know, but either way it was super cool to once again listen to some new music. Through all of these wonderful musical and joyous sounds I also heard the regular life going on around me. The cars, the conversations, the church bell, the sounds of my new home.

As I have been writing this I have heard the children who live at the house next to me playing, then crying when something went wrong. The sounds of children do not change no matter where I go and that is something I love. I have also heard dogs who sounded like they were having conversations with each other as I type away. As it gets darker most of what I hear are the bugs and frogs making their nightly symphony (another fun part of my day was finding a frog chilling in a paint cup left by the nice lady who has been painting my place. Lets just say I could tell she wasn’t a fan of that despite the language difference and was happy to kick the frog out of my studio… for now.)

I hope for all of you who read this post to think about what is happening around you and take some time to listen. I know it is a little different for me because I am in a new place experiencing new things, but I want everyone who reads this to accompany me on this mission (wink, wink, nudge, nudge to any YAGM reading this.) I truly hope you might be able to hear what I hear through the words I write. I hope I can transport you to the chair next to my bed so you can listen with me.

Miss you all where ever you may be, and to all my fellow Central Europe (Hungary) YAGMs now in their site placement, Welcome Home!

*The picture above is of the Cultural Center here in Berettyóújfalu.