It's been a rainy, cold, and dark day here on the Great Hungarian Plain. Umbrellas are open, collars are raised, and the bureaucratic machine is working hard.
One of the fun parts about living in Hungary (or any foreign country) is signing paperwork. Being an American, there's a lot of legal issues to deal with. The local government needs things, the Hungarian government wants things, the European Union has to have things, and I'm sure there are others who will demand something.
It's not uncommon to be handed a multi-page contract and be asked to sign it. "Don't sign anything until you read it," is the advice you always hear, and it seems like a good idea. However, people who say that have clearly never lived in Hungary.
"What does it say," I used to ask. My trusted colleague would give a very non-commital answer and explain that I have to sign it. So I gave up.
Some people at my school have been working very hard to get all my paperwork in order so I can receive my residence permit. I know of American teachers in other towns who were able to get theirs weeks ago. Their situations seem to be less complicated.
My flat is provided by the school, but apparently the town pays for some of it. Or all of it. So they need to produce paperwork to give to me to give to someone else. But someone hasn't given them paperwork so they can give it to the school who has to give it to someone else who has to give it back to the first person who has to give it to me who has to give it to a new person who will probably want something different.
Confused? Me too. But progress was made.
Yesterday, the headmaster made a threatening call to someone. This resulted in me being allowed to come sign something and get more gears turning. Now I know who wears the pants around here.
Two students in my first class were asked to take me to City Hall and get me to the right place. They were very nice and helpful. So what if there are two City Halls? The wrong one was prettier than the right one, so I'm glad we went there first. This will in no way influence their grades. It's not like it was pouring rain or something.
In all seriousness, they were very helpful. If they hadn't gone with me, I'd still be pointing and grunting with someone at the first City Hall. No one seemed to be able to answer their questions about where to go. At the second one, no one seemed to feel like trying to answer their questions. All this time I thought people just didn't like telling me anything, but I'm beginning to believe it's just a Hungarian state of mind. Or maybe there are more questions than answers?
To end my story, I signed three copies of a contract. For all I know, I'm now a member of the Hungarian army.
I was very sneaky, though, because I signed my last name first so it wouldn't really mean anything! Then I remembered that Hungarian names are given in reverse order. Oh well. There's only a slim chance that I sentenced my soul to eternal damnation.
Hungarian word of the day (learned from another teacher at my school who's teaching me Hungarian): Táska (pronounced Tash-caw), it means shopping bag, carrier bag, or any type of bag. Quite useful!