As the title of this post clearly points out, I spent nine days in a village of 300 – Nemesvita. The actual population fluctuates from 200 to 400, but “Nine Days in a Village of Sometimes 200, but Other Times 400” would have been a little excessive. This village was founded in 1209 and for its 800th anniversary, wine makers from the area combined their wine into one bottle (which apparently turned out to be surprisingly delicious). Nemesvita is part of the Balaton Uplands National Park (Balaton-felvidéki Nemzeti park) and about a third of the houses cannot be changed. My boss’s place, for example, looks the same as it did in the 1800s.
Last October a group of people from this village visited my school in Budapest. My boss has had a summer cottage in Nemesvita for decades, so she helped organize this trip with Zsóka – a teacher who lives in Nemesvita. J.P. and I had an open lesson with this group and afterwards Zsóka mentioned me coming to Nemesvita. I, of course, said that I would love to, but had no plans at the time to actually visit. Last month my boss (Ági) and her husband (Feri) invited my coworkers and me to stay with them at their cottage. While there she informed me that they wanted me to help with an English language camp for the children in the area. I obviously agreed and Chaz, another coworker, signed up as well.
Prior to the start of camp, J.P., Danielle, and J.P.’s parents were also in Nemesvita. We took this time to visit an antique shop, play paddle ball and soccer, watch the World Cup (I was rooting for Argentina), visit wine cellars, play Rummy, and eat fish soup and sausages. I received the results of my 8th graders Cambridge B2 exam, and overall I was pretty happy. Many of my 8th graders did so well on the exam that they qualified for their C1 certificate. My babies are so clever (and yes, you are still my babies).
For the language camp, we had lessons in the morning, activities in the afternoon, and dinner with different families at night. Sometimes we canceled the lessons in the morning and went on excursions instead. The children’s ages ranged from eight to 18, and the level of English varied as well. There is no school in Nemesvita, so the children have to go to schools in different cities. This is only the second camp I have ever been involved in – I attended MATH AND SCIENCE CAMP in high school.
For those of you not new to my blog, you know that I am not one for summer weather. Although I am from Southern Georgia, the heat still defeats me. Actually now, as I type this, I am desperately missing my always cool, stone house in Nemesvita. I have a fan blowing on me while covered in cold, wet cloths drinking liters of ice water wearing only enough clothes to keep my creepy neighbor at bay. Pathetic is an understatement. Fortunately for me, I only had to go to the beach once – and it was cloudy that day. I played soccer with the children and met the most adorable boy named Nino. He thought I was 15 years old, so that’s why adorable is the adjective I am using for him. Yes, my overly oily skin has kept wrinkles from wreaking havoc on my face, but 15?! OKAY, I’LL TAKE IT.
One of our excursions was visiting the city of Keszthely, one of the largest cities by Lake Balaton. I had driven through this city before while on my way to Croatia (Thank you, Maxim. Sorry, Molly.), and I became so utterly enamored that I insisted that I had to return. This city is home to the Festetics Palace – its construction started in 1745 and took over a century to complete. During World War II, the surrounding area was destroyed, but the palace remained intact.
During my time in this village, I encountered a lot of beautiful mammals. The village is teeming with friendly cats and dogs and I visited two ranches as well. We rode in a horse and carriage and Chaz and I even had the opportunity to ride a horse. Back in February I stayed at Bobby’s ranch in Slovakia (Ranch Amadeus) and he taught my friends and me the basics of English and Western riding. I was atrocious at Western, but picked up English pretty well – my friends likened me to a princess. While riding on Saturday, the owners heavily complimented my “natural ability” and told me to join a horse riding club. Honored. Childhood dreams are coming true. My thighs still hurt from the short ride, but royalty comes at a price I suppose.
Another excursion we went on was visiting, wait for it, an African Museum (Afrika Múzeum és Állatkert). Yes. An African Museum in the Hungarian countryside. Endre Nagy (1913 – 1994), a Hungarian, moved to Tanzania in 1958 and made a living from hunting the wild animals. His trophies are located at this museum as well as living animals from Africa. I have already written a piece conveying my feelings about zoos, so I will refrain from delving into that again. We walked around and during the last hour, I ended up paying a child to ride a mechanical bull. That’s right – best camp counselor/teacher ever.
Chaz and I were given bikes to ride, but unfortunately my right knee is still messed up from my trip to Stockholm last December. I cannot bend it completely. My hurt knee proved to be both a blessing and a curse – I got to ride in cars to our destinations while Chaz rode his bike in the summer heat with the children. The princess theme continues.
I mentioned earlier that we ate dinner with different families throughout the week. This was the part I panicked about most because 1) I feel more comfortable with kids than adults 2) I am perpetually awkward 3) I do not like onions, peppers, and poppy seed – three major ingredients in almost every Hungarian dish. I nipped number three in the bud during introductions though. I made sure I said that I did not like these things so I would not have to suffer later and it worked! Although I am nowhere near fluent, I did receive a lot of nice comments about my Hungarian. I understand a lot, but my grammar is severely lacking. One individual told me that the way I articulate in both Hungarian and English is immaculate. I am not trying to be a braggart, but this is one of the greatest things that a language teacher can hear – a clean pronunciation is something I have strived for all of my life.
My nine days in the village meant more to me than I think I can convey. I rarely used the internet with the exception of quickly reminding people that I was alive, lesson planning, and checking time tables for trains. I spent more time outside than cooped up inside. My online presence was lacking so much that one of my friends (Brittany – I am talking about you) wrote me concerned. I inhaled fresh air, lost track of time, chatted with my boss, roamed about without a care, saw the sun set behind mountains on a ranch, played games, heard the best Beatles cover band, gazed upon the numerous, made apricot jam, shining stars, ate fresh, home cooked meals, sat in a cemetery alone, tasted wine people were proud of, and was surrounded by caring, beautiful humans. I knew it was time to wake up when I heard my neighbors cutting their grass and the roosters crowing. I knew it was 21:00 when mosquitoes began sucking my blood and knew it was 21:30 when they stopped. There is freedom in both urban and rural life – I hope everyone has the privilege of experiencing both.
A Lesson From Miss Jennifer: If you are going to meet the mayor of the town, make sure your hair looks good. If not, you’ll have crazy hair in a picture that will end up in one of Budapest’s newspapers. Thanks for the heads up, Ági and Feri. ❤