This has easily been my favorite day in Hungary so far. The children at this school honestly stole my heart. I would love to return and spend another day with these kids. It is amazing to me that although we cannot speak the same language through smiles, hugs, laughter and a translator a lot of communication can happen. Our day began with a three hour van ride to the village. We left early in the morning and I slept a lot of the way, which was a good thing because when I was awake I had a pulse about twice as high as it should have been. Our driver spoke little to no English and drove like he had never taken Driver’s Ed. Every time we ride in this van it is such an adventure. I always feel like we are going at least 100 mph, although I know we are not. To say the least driving in a snow storm added to the effects and I honestly felt like I was on a ride at Disneyland. I would call it Indiana Jones in the Snow. We arrived at the school and were escorted up to the Headmaster’s office were we were all seated. There were many other people in the room. The two English teachers who would be our translators for the day and spoke very good English, Gabour, a history and Hungarian language teacher, and Peter another secondary level teacher. I have honestly never experienced such hospitality. I am sure the definition for the word hospitality was created by someone who had visited Hungary. Everywhere we go and everyone we meet treats us like royalty. I am always amazed and how welcoming the people here have been to us. Every single person we have met has been extremely nice to us. Once again we were offered coffee soon after we sat down and were presented with a snack or bread and cheese and meat. The coffee was once again wonderful. I am never going to be able to drink coffee in America again. It is so wonderful here that I can drink it with just a little milk added. I could never drink black coffee with milk in America and enjoy it. We talked with the headmaster for a while through the two translators. He was such a humble man who clearly cared for the children. It is amazing how much all of the teachers and administrators loved the children. It was clear that their primary goal and concern was the children.
Next, we split into smaller groups to get a tour of the school. I went with Gabour and Peter. They did not speak as much English as the two women but did their best and we got by. This school has a day care, nursery school primary school, secondary trade and vocational school as well as classes for adults in the community. This school offered specific vocational paths for jobs as bakers, cooks, hairdressers and military training. We first walked through the special needs classroom. It was so different then what I had expected. These students were so well behaved. I remember hardly seeing special needs children at my high school. I felt like the acceptance of these students was much more apparent here. Later, when we visited the dormitory the children with special needs were 100 percent integrated with the typical children and from what I observed none of the other children were mean to them. It was amazing to see this. In all my years of public schooling I have never felt like the special needs children have been integrated at all. The children with special needs were so happy too. They danced along side with the other children and laughed and laughed. When we visited their classes they were so attentive and were full of smiles. We next went and visited the children in the cooking school program and well as a room full of first and second graders. There were only four first grade students and nine second grade students all studying in the same room. Observing the interactions between the students and teachers in each class it was obvious that all the students had really close connections and relationships with their teachers. The headmaster did tell us that the teachers here were like mothers and fathers as well to their children. This was evident during the tour. We also went and visited the day care where the younger children can stay during the day. The buildings were all kind of spread out. The main building with the headmaster’s office had about 400 students in it of which most were secondary classes. It was a bit of a walk to some of the other building. The dormitory and cafeteria were close by the main schooling building.
After our tour we ate lunch and then went and visited the dormitory. The children were out of school so everyone who was staying in the dormitory that night was there. We walked in to the children all playing games. They were going up and trying to put keys on a wire and being timed. I tried it and although I got all four keys I took about four times as long as some of the kids. Next we watched them all play a game with empty pop cans. It was clear all of these children had very little to nothing. We toured their building. There were 10 to 16 beds in a room with a small pillow and one blanket on the bed. In the rooms all I could see were coats and hats. There was very little space more extra clothes so I am assuming the children had what they were wearing. There were 81 children staying that night and 10 adult figures. This seems like a camp ratio to me. I thought about being a camp counselor and having 7 or 8 children to watch after at a time. Although this is a good ratio for camp I thought about when I was in elementary school how much time my parents spent with me; feeding me, helping me on homework, getting me ready for bed, taking me to soccer, church and dance. I cannot imagine what life is like for these children. They all seemed happy despite how hard some of their lives were. An older girl shared her personal story to someone in our group and it brought tears to my eyes and made me feel sick. I cannot believe what some kids have to go through. After getting a tour of the dormitory we observed all the children playing games from the second floor. It was Thursday night which meant it was disco night. They music started playing and all the kids crowed the open floor. It was so much fun watching them dance!! They were so good!! It was unbelievable what some of these kids were doing! They all knew how to move their feet! That is for sure. After watching for a bit we went and joined them! I had the time of my life dancing with these children! It was such a blast! We danced the evening away, about 2 hours straight. One little girl, Amanda, was a seven year old who clung to me for most of the time. I loved her. She had such a big smile and we danced and danced together. I loved her giggles. A lot of the little boys would take our hands and dance with us too! They were so good and too cute. One 11 year old boy was one of my favorites. He was so sweet and just had this sweet persona to him. When all the younger kids left for dinner we got quite the show by some older boys. I even battled one of them! I definitely could not hold my own but it was fun to try. They were fundamental! When we had to leave for dinner the children surrounded us to say goodbye. I received so many hugs and waves and goodbyes. I honestly wanted to cry. I was so overwhelmed with emotion. These children were amazing. I could have danced with them all night long! I could have stayed there the rest of my Jterm. I want to return badly.
I was never expecting to experience this in Europe. I was never expecting to see such poverty. When I embarked on my semester in Oaxaca, I had know the kind of poverty I was going to see and I knew I was going to work with street children. Embarking on this trip I thought, “Well it is Europe, I should bring my cute, nice clothes.” How ignorant am I to have thought I wasn’t going to see such poverty here. I know about the poverty in America. And I know when people think of America they do not think of a lot of poor people. It just shows that poverty exists all over the world. One thing I did notice though was the amount of opportunity we have in America. This school was an opportunity for these children. They could live there until they graduated with a secondary or vocational degree. In America there are tons of after school programs and before school programs to help children in need. Children can still join sports teams and find ways to fill up their time with activities offered through the public schools. I feel like public schools in America have a lot of resources for children who need them and although I believe that they could still do more after having two school visits in Hungary I realize how much our systems do offer.
Overall, this was the most incredible school. I would be my dream to one day work in a school like this. It was amazing to see an organization doing so much good in the world with such a wide array of offerings to the people in the community. It really touched my heart and was an amazing experience. I felt shell shocked during the three hour drive home and could not turn my mind off. I was never imaging to experience something like this in Hungary. I feel like I am still processing my experience and will be for a long time. My heart was truly touched. Children who do not speak the same language as me and can somehow still touch my heart. Children I may never see again have touched my heart. I have never wanted anything more then to take all of these children home with me, to give them all opportunity and a place to feel loved.