Wednesday, December 25, 2013

WHAT: A Christmas Game

Take a look at these precious drawings.   During the Holidays it is common to play to family games around the table to join in fun and fellowship.  The pictures below are from a game that combines Pictionary and Charades.  Go ahead, take your guesses for the words they are describing!

Picture 1:

Picture 2:
Picture 3:

Now, I wish I could tell you that these drawings were done by my really cute Kindergartners, whose creativity and imagination are really unbelievable.  But unfortunately I have to claim these horrific, awful, and embarrassing drawings.  It’s safe to say I can speak Hungarian better than I can draw…  And that is saying A LOT. 

Regardless, Christmas Eve was absolutely wonderful. 

The day began with getting the Christmas Tree and decorating it as a family.  We mainly used our homemade gingerbread cookies as the ornaments, a project we completed the night before.  I'm happy to finally have a tree up to enjoy the lights and beauty! In Hungary, almost all families wait until the 24th to get their tree.  It stays up until the start of Epiphany on January 6!)

The day ended with this lovely family game and an episode of The Big Bang Theory.  In between I visited several friends, attended a Christmas party, enjoyed the Christmas pageant and service at church, opened gifts with family, talked with my own family in the USA, and ate a ton of really delicious food.

Christmas Eve really is the huge day of celebration in Hungary, with Christmas Day reserved for traveling to nearby families and joining in meals.

Now, we are off to a neighboring town to visit the other set of grandparents and more aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I wish all of you a very blessed Christmas wherever  you are celebrating!

Boldog Karácsonyt!!


Picture 1: Zipper (apparently only zippers in the USA say YKK...)
Picture 2: Lake (If you are from Louisiana you should have gotten this)
Picture 3: Tiger (I purposely don't pay that much attention to LSU.  Clearly I don't know what a tiger looks like)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

WHAT: Thursdays

If you asked me what my favorite day of the week is, I'd answer Thursday.  I don't exactly know why, perhaps it's the fact that the excitement of the weekend is near, or that it is often my most productive work day, or that in college on Thursdays I got to stuff my face with cheese fries.  I don't know- Thursdays are usually always fun and fulfilling, there's just something about the day.

This Thursday I spent most of my time at Páduai Szent Antal Általános Iskola, a school in Piliscsaba that teaches elementary, middle, and high school students.  For two class periods I talked with English learners about Christmas traditions and answered questions about how the holidays are celebrated in the USA.  In turn, I learned a few interesting things about Christmas in Hungary as well...the subject of a future blog post. 

Later in the evening I attended the school's Christmas concert and witnessed extremely talented children perform traditional folk dance routines and absolutely incredible music pieces.  My host sister Réka played the recorder, danced, and sang.  And, as I watched her I felt an immense sense of pride.  During her last performance I had to hold back tears as sweet voices filled the school.  With a hint of the Hungarian accent, Réka  sang in a choir of middle school girls and boys the following words:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.

Back in September Réka and I posed at a mountain side
on our hike.  Our sisterhood was just beginning!
I'm not sure if any of the children knew the true meaning of the English words they were singing, and I am sure none of them know just how much they impacted me tonight.  This prayer has a special way of renewing my spirit and filling with me peace, and oh how glorious it was to hear on a Thursday evening.  You see, for many Thursdays I gathered in Upper Crafts at Lutheridge for Staff Worship.  Pastor Tim would always close with this very prayer, and somehow we would all be rejuvenated to finish the week strong with creativity and energy.  Tonight I am thankful to have received this prayer from children who had no clue how the spirit was working through them to give me energy and creativity to finish the work week before celebrating Chirst’s birth.  Here’s to Thursdays!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Note on Thanksgiving

The Holiday season is in full swing here in Hungary.  As we lit the third candle on the advent wreath this weekend, I realized how fast the time has passed since celebrating Thanksgiving.  And that I didn’t mention anything about it yet!

I took the opportunity in late November to teach my host community about American Thanksgiving.  At the Tanoda, the students and I googled pictures of Thanksgiving dinner and spoke about traditional American dishes.  Some foods were familiar, while others seemed completely foreign.  I also of course attempted to make a grammatical lesson out of the spirit of Thanksgiving. 

I imagined the kids holding up the signs I made and making perfect English statements about what they were personally thankful for.  I brought my camera to film them and envisioned creating a video to capture their thoughts and cute Hungarian accents.  The video would be paired with some sweet inspirational music and the production would be an emotional one, making people who read my blog posts cry, getting hundreds of facebook likes and shares and possibly even making it to  So here folks is what I got: 

The day we did this activity, the kids were not in the mood to listen or cooperate to what I had in mind.  They had already been in school since 8:00am that morning and it was now 4:00pm in the afternoon.  The last thing they wanted to do was work on their English and listen to me nag.  We ended up playing card games and listening to music.  And though my expectations were not academically or creatively met, it ended up being a great day and I was reminded that my agenda is not always the agenda that needs to be followed.

A few days later another YAGM volunteer, Chelsea, came to stay with me in Piliscsaba.  She serves in Szombathely, not too long of a train ride from me.  I had this great idea that together we would make my host family a huge Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate as a family.  (Side note: I do not regularly cook.  I do not regularly shop in a grocery store.  Cooking is not on my list  of top 10 favorite things to do.  On Thanksgiving Day I usually sit in the living room and watch football while other people are in the kitchen.)  Regardless of these facts, I took on the task of cooking a dinner with the expectation of filling the table with delicious food and giving my Hungarian host family a taste of American Thanksgiving.

Chelsea, YAGM volunteer in Szombathely, and incredible
pumpkin pie maker
Three groceries stores and one broken oven later, I was ready to order pizza.  I broke the oven, like I didn't even think that was possible.  I was over this dinner thing.  But my wonderful friend Chelsea took over and kept her spirits high, making homemade pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, chicken pesto, and a delicious candied walnut salad.  My contribution was peeling the potatoes and watching the pumpkin pie cook in a neighbors oven for 45 minutes.  While Chelsea labored at the stove in our house, I sat in a neighbor's kitchen and for 45 minutes conversed solely in Hungarian with a stranger.  My expectations of the night and dinner were completely off, but I gained so much from that conversation with a stranger that I now call a friend.  And Chelsea pulled off a WONDERFUL dinner...props to you girl.

Chelsea, Thad, Ole, Me, Mari, and Ursula (Central Europe YAGM Family)
enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers and lots of UNO playing!
Chelsea got to make those homemade pumpkin pies again later that weekend when all the Hungary YAGM volunteers traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia to celebrate Thanksgiving with our coordinators and other ELCA volunteers.  It was a wonderful weekend of food and fellowship.  On Saturday we gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner and I was absolutely blown away by how delicious everything was, it seriously tasted like home.  I guess most of my expectations surrounding Thanksgiving were turned upside down and it has reminded me to keep my expectations in line, or rather to not have any at all.

It's nice to experience things as they are, and not have to compare them to how I envisioned them to be.  I've taken this knowledge into the Advent season and am fully enjoying the Holiday season in a new culture.

More later on Advent and Christmas