This is something I wrote a few months ago, with the help of a couple other CETPers, current and former. Since this week I’ll be heading up to Budapest to meet the new group of CETPers who are arriving for second semester, it seemed like the best time to finally post it.
Nine people you’ll meet in CETP:
The professional EFL traveller– Normally they wouldn’t have bothered with a position in Europe, but since they’ve already taught in China, Columbia, and Azerbaijan, a change is always refreshing. After their Peace Corps experience in Chad last year, the Hungarian salary and fact that you can drink the running tap water will amaze them. Hang out with them when you’re feeling down, because their war stories (sometimes literally) of their past experiences will put to shame your own problems in Hungary.
The gap year – With lack of anything better to do and the job market somewhat iffy in America, these people chose to come and do charity work in Hungary for a year. The fact that it’s not charity work ( it’s a real job that you get a real salary for it!) doesn’t matter so much to them. Teaching is just something to fill the gaps between weekends, anyway, and this whole year is a once-in-a-lifetime excuse to try everything before going back home and starting real life.
The Daddy’s money – Frequently overlapping with the gap year, above. This person has a separate source of income and the attitude to go with it. On the one hand, it’s nice to hang out in their air-conditioned penthouse surfing a jillion cable channels on their massive TV. But jealousy of their dishwasher, clothes dryer, and full-sized freezer will eventually drive you to hate them…. hate them quietly, that is, while you loll on their leather sofa and drink their imported beer.
The Gone native – They’ve been here a few years and probably have a Hungarian significant other. Who they can speak to in rapid, slang-laden Hungarian, persze; hagyorsanbeszélekakkorúgyseérti. They are irritatingly full of information about Hungary, including why everyone should want to spend their lives here. Ask a simple question about how late the trains run and you’ll get a long, detailed answer, including a list of Hungarian holidays that may affect travel and which political parties have plans to improve public transport. Still, no one knows more places to buy peanut butter, or the easiest way to file taxes in Hungary.
The Photographic artiste – You may never meet them again after orientation, (and if you do, you won’t recognize their face without a camera in front of it) but you’ll know every single detail of their life via the stunning pictures they will post online. Every day. Of every moment, every bite of food, every trip taken, every site visited. From every angle possible, with different filters. You’ll marvel at and drool over their gorgeous pictures, wondering uneasily why your experience seems so pale in comparison.
The Leave-At-All-Behind-er – On the one hand, there some perfectly nice people who for whatever whim of reason have decided to sell their house and move to Hungary for good. Or at least for a semester. You may be a bit freaked out by their casual and total abandonment of American life, but at least they’re upfront about it. The second type of leave-it-all-behind-er has other reasons for fleeing the country… and fleeing is the key word. At first they’ll be vague about why they wanted to come to Hungary, but eventually there will be an evening with one pálinka too many and the whole seedy story of tax evasion, broken hearts, and guilt will come tumbling out.
The Linguist – They arrived at orientation having already finished the third chapter of Teach Yourself Hungarian, and immediately corrected your pronunciation of Buhdahpessshhhht. When later in the week you manage to spit out a fairly-intelligible “köszönöm”, they just look at you pityingly. During the language lessons, while you’re struggling with counting to ten, they side-track the teacher into a conversation about why the temporal case doesn’t take vowel harmony. If you go out with them, they may end up buying rounds, because they are the only one who can order anything.
The Living Guidebook – This person knows everything about everything about Hungary, due to the fact that they were here in high school for two days (or maybe it was Vienna?). Or maybe because they have Hungarian relatives, or a possibly-Hungarian last name. Or they’ve read all twelve guidebooks about Hungary. Or they had a Hungarian friend once in kindergarten. Whatever; they are THE expert of everything, and will get highly offended if contradicted, even if it’s just Hajni giving them practical information.
The Magyarphile – Unlike the Guidebook and the Linguist, this person may know next to nothing about Hungary or the Hungarian language, but they are too in love to care. Hungary is simply charming. The food is delicious, exotic, and wonderful. The people are warm and caring, and their pessimism is just a cover-up, really. The buildings are classically old-fashioned and the graffiti is so creative. The landscape is breathtakingly lovely and perfect in every way. To the Magyarphile, every late train and broken appliance is part of the charming quaintness of life in Hungary, and nothing will ever dull their optimism.
So, which are you? Or which do you want to be?