Dance: A Universal Language

Me in my teacher clothes battling this boy who was cleary way better than I.

Me in my teacher clothes battling this boy who was cleary way better than I.

All my new friends. These children took a piece of my heart <3

All my new friends. These children took a piece of my heart ❤

Coco and I dancing some Salsa and trying to get some Hungarian dance moves down
My little friend Amanda. The sweetest little girl.

My little friend Amanda. The sweetest little girl.

watching the children play games

watching the children play games

Some of the children in the dormitory playing games

Some of the children in the dormitory playing games

Traditional Hungarian work and design

Traditional Hungarian work and design

The main school building where the Headmaster's office is

The main school building where the Headmaster’s office is

On January 9th, 2013 we went and visited a small village school in Abuiker, a town of 600 people about three hours outside Budapest. This school is a branch of the John Wesley Theological College, the school we have been working with in Budapest. This college also owns Heated Street, a homeless shelter and other organizations in the area that help those who need help. I am very impressed with this college and all they do to help others, it is very inspirational. The school we visited, the John Wesley Primary and Secondary school, serves about 1000 children of which 90 percent are extremely poor. This primary and secondary trade and vocational school is the biggest employer around the village. Some children have to travel 45 minutes a day to get to school and then to get back home, some live in the village and can walk to and from school while about 100 of the children live in the dormitory at the school because they live too far to travel everyday to and from school. The children who stay in the dormitory range in age from age 6 to 20. These children get picked up on Sunday early afternoon and go back home Friday late afternoon. I have never seen or heard of an organization like this. I was shocked that these children hardly see their parents. We were told that many of these children do not have electricity, heat or running water in their homes so they prefer the dormitory. The headmaster of the school told us that many of the children do not eat when they go home for the weekends and that the children hate having breaks from school, they dread having breaks. This really hit home with me and really made me think. I love school and have always loved school but whenever I had a day off from school I was very excited. It usually meant time to hang out with friends or time to do something fun with my family. The headmaster said it is usually only the rich children who enjoy breaks. This is a very true statement and makes me once again realize how rich I am. I remember in middle school I had a friend who hated breaks too. She told me she would rather be at school because she always got food. Her telling me this must have had some impact on me because I still remember it. I am mentioning this because I know it still happens in America too, but without being put into a situation to think about it, it can easily slip your mind. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to absolutely dread having time off of school.
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.

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Touring Szechenyi Istvan School of Trade: A Secondary School

This is one of the original light fixtures from 1912

This is one of the original light fixtures from 1912

another light fixture form 1912

another light fixture form 1912

This is how the secretary use to make the students schedules before computers

This is how the secretary use to make the students schedules before computers

One of the classrooms

One of the classrooms

Inside the elevator that has not been remodeled

Inside the elevator that has not been remodeled

A picture of me in the library

A picture of me in the library

Today, January 9th we had our first school visit. We visited Szechenyi Istvan School of Trade. We had a tour of the school, which was built in 1912, and then visited with some students. The tour was really fun because our tour guide, an English teacher at the high school, was so excited about everything he was showing us and was very proud of the school. He mentioned at least three times how impressive it was that this school was still standing after going through both World Wars. The school did appear a little run down but it still had its beauty. It would cost over 1 million US dollars to renovate and the school doesn’t have that kind of money. One of my favorite things our tour guide pointed out to us was the light fixtures. Some of the original light fixtures from the early 1900s were still present in the building and were absolutely gorgeous! Then he told us to look down the hall at what they had been replaced with and they were just plastic light coverings. I also thought the doors were all very beautiful. They were my favorite color, a teal color, and had intricate designs painted onto them. He took us around to the teachers lounge and offices, pointing out everything that was from the early 1900s. We also saw a schedule board and I loved it! It was this board on the wall that the secretary in the school would use to manually create student schedules. I have never seen anything like it before. Once thing I noticed about the classrooms was how bland and plain they were. Not much covered the wall, they still had chalkboards and the rooms were covered in books or other various materials as they are in the U.S. This surprised me. In Mexico the schools were like this; rather plain and in areas or buildings where there was space. Contrasting this to America where even in the school district I grew up in, a poorer school district, schools are built to be schools and have specific music rooms, lunch rooms, classrooms, and office spaces. I was expecting the schools in Europe to be similar to the schools in the United States. Szechenyi Istvan School is not a poor school either; I was told it was about average. Next we went into a tenth grade English class and talked with the students. We asked them questions and they asked us some. After that we went into the library, had some delicious coffee, and talked with some older students in the 13th grade who were getting ready to graduate. Once again, I was blown away by the hospitality of the people here in Hungary. It was the tenth grade English teacher who offered us coffee and of course gave us a chocolate to go along with it. It was so sweet of her. The older kids, one kid in particular had a lot of questions for us. I thought it was interesting how his first question was why Americans are so fat and why we eat so much junk food. I think we just said because it is cheap and easy. I had some other thoughts about this though. I think it is because everyone or most people in America have such busy lives that they resort to fast food for themselves and their family because they do not have time to cook. It is also true that in America healthier food is more expensive. It is so much cheaper to buy a liter of Coke then to buy milk. Also, relating to the overweight statement children do not walk as much as children here. Also, this secondary school just added P.E as a mandatory class for all grades. I took one semester of P.E. in my secondary school. I was impressed by how much more willing the kids in the 13th grade were to talk to us in English and to ask us questions.
It was interesting to learn that all of the students grade depends on their final exam. They said they have assignments throughout the year but they do not matter. They sometimes complete them and only do it as preparation for their final exam. They take national exams at the end of each course that determines their grade. They receive a percentage on that exam and it is covered to a 5- similar to an A or a 4, 3, 2, or 1. I believe they need a 3 to pass the course. I do not know how I felt about this for many reasons. On the students end, if they do not test well they will not have grades that accurately reflect their learning. This makes me think of a saying one of my biology professors had last Fall. She would always say if we mess up on one or two tests it is not the end of the world because we had 4 exams in that class and about 20 quizzes plus lab work and she told us that gave us many opportunities to show her what we know. These children do not have that opportunity. If my grades were all determined by national tests I do not believe I would look like as strong as a student as I am. Also, I believe this would cause the teachers to only teach to the test. I wish I would have asked the two English teachers we talked to if they had a curriculum and what guided their lessons.
It was also so interesting to me how the students pick their high schools. They decide if they want to go to a trade school, vocational school, traditional school and where they want to apply. Some of the children at this secondary school traveled 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to high school. They picked this school for Business. It was hard enough for me to pick a major in a University at age 18. I cannot imagine picking a focus at the age of 14 for secondary school. From what I observed the behavioral issues seemed better at this school. The kids got to class on time and treated their teachers with much more respect. I was wondering if this had to do with the fact that they picked this secondary school and more or less wanted to be there. I feel like these students had a higher value for education then seem by American students in secondary school.
One last set of observations I had related to the after school opportunities and school sports. They did not really exist here. All the children said they would go home after school. A few did hip hop, or swimming lessons. Those activities were not associated with the school. Other children sang in their church choir or held after school jobs. In American schools, so much is offered outside of school. In high school when I did dance team in the morning I would be at the school from 5:45 am to about 5:00 pm and would come back for study groups or sports games. I would also have an activity every night of the week after school. In the elementary school I volunteer at in Tacoma, there are so many after school programs. I work with two sisters who are at the school from 7 am to 6 pm most week nights. There is such a sense of opportunity in America. The two girls I work with have a hard home life but they are still given a chance. They have activities to do after school and someone to help them with their homework every night. I wonder what children who live in Budapest who do not have good home lives do after school? I learned so much from this tour and loved talking with the students.

Objective 6

Develop an enhanced understanding of their own culture as they encounter another:

How my understanding of my culture grows and changes and I live and learn in Hungary. The similarities and differences I notice between my experiences living in Hungary, Mexico and America.

Objective 3

Be able to articulate a personal understanding of the educational system in Hungary:

This category will contain my posts and reflections about my thoughts and understanding of Hungary’s educational system.