Monday, September 2, 2013

A few words on Seamus Heaney, and other news

Late last week, a Nobel laureate and artist of words Seamus Heaney passed away.  I vividly remember reading and writing about his work in Dr. Looney's class, particularly his poem "Digging".  More on Heaney, and "Digging" here.  

Heaney once remarked, "I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written." These words resonated with me again on Friday and over the weekend as I thought about how I'm sharing my experience through written words.  There's a lot to be said and shared right now, and I haven't done a very good job yet.  But gradually I'll write what I can--descriptions, reflections, other musings.

So here's a very brief update of several notable things thus far:

Hungarian Lessons:
Vagyok Thad.  Beszelek Angolul es egy kis Magyarol.  or My name is Thad.  I speak English and a little Hungarian.

 Late at night, studying Magyarol

Learning a new language with 3 hours of instruction each day is challenging but fun.  It makes me realize how much I miss being in school, but also how much I don't miss homework.  Ironically, all of my high school español is coming back to me now and confusing the whole process.  Hungarian is easy when it comes to tenses; there is a simple way to express past, a simple form for future.  Other forms of grammar are delivered through suffixes to the original word instead of many separate words.  With 4 days to go, we should have the tools to help us continue building vocabulary and listening for more complex forms of speech.


Bratislava skyline - St. Martin's on the left

Hungary is actually our third country so far.  We landed in Vienna, hiked along the Danube in Hainburg, Austria, and continued to Bratislava where we spent four days with our coordinators, Miriam and Jeremy, and their family.  Miriam is the pastor at the Bratislava International Church which we attended on Sunday morning.  The congregation looks different every Sunday.  Some expats from around the world attend to hear a service in English; some travelers seek out the church on their way through Bratislava.  The eclectic mix of people and stories made for a great fellowship hour at a cafe next to the the church.  

Bratislava is one of Europe's smallest capital cities with just half a million people.  We stayed within a small pocket of the city--albeit the most beautiful and historic pocket of the city.  For centuries, Bratislava was an important city for Central European politics.  11 Austrian and Hungarian rulers (for a time joined as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) were coronated at St. Martin's Cathedral in the heart of Bratislava's Old City.  Across the Danube, we could see well over a dozen communist-era apartment blocks which have since been painted to conceal their dreary gray color and gloomy history.

In Bratislava, we met up with about 20 English teachers who are now scattered across Central Europe and also work through the Lutheran church.  Several of the teachers living in Bratislava share an apartment with an incredible view!

 Sharing a meal with Lutheran English teachers from one of the best rooftops in Bratislava

Lake Balaton:
During our language training, we're staying at a Lutheran conference center on the north shore of Lake Balaton.  The lake is 147 miles in circumference, and is the largest fresh water lake in Central Europe.  It also happens to be a beautiful place to spend two weeks before we head off to our work sites.

View of Révfülöp, a small village on Lake Balaton

Day trip to Balatonfüred 

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