Remember, remember the Sixth of October,
Listen to poems and pout,
I know of no reason
To tell the American teacher
He shall figure it out.
-My translation of a Hungarian poem I heard this morning, notice the similarities?
This morning, I was running a little bit late. I arrived at school at 7:45, the time my first class was to begin. I dashed through the doorway of the school, and headed to the teachers room on the second floor (or first floor, if you're a European). On my way, I couldn't help but notice a whole bunch of chairs set up in the lobby, and three microphones on the stage-like area in front of the stairs. I see this about once a week, when someone is giving a presentation on something. No one ever tells me about them, but it's never anything that applies to me. Until today.
I passed three older Hungarians on the stairs, and thought it was a little strange that I didn't recognize them. Then I noticed they were followed by the school director (in a suit - also unusual) and other important people. I pushed this from my mind, though, because it's very common for me to see unexplained things like this.
Then I arrived at an empty classroom. I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but I always meet the students at their classroom (a big difference from high school in the US). Sometimes times change. Sometimes rooms change. Sometimes classes get cancelled. Sometimes people tell me about these things in advance, but I don't count on it.
Usually, I go ask someone if there's a change if I should know about. But, everyone who would know was busy. The three unkown people were at the microphones reading something out of a binder. I assumed my students were among the big group listening.
I walked to the back stairway and went upstairs. I realized all the classes were listening to these speeches over the PA system, if they weren't watching it live. The lobby is a circular room that is open to all four floors of the school. I leaned against the railing upstairs, with another class, and listened to a 45 minute reading in Hungarian. I didn't understand one word.
It sounded serious. Everyone looked stern. Who were these three people? Has a war started? Has the government been overthrown and these people are telling us the rules of the new one? Why does it have to be during this class, I like this one. Can we reschedule this for one of my classes where they don't behave?
Finally, they finished. Everyone got up and went about their day. The chairs were put away and the microphones unplugged. No one mentioned death on a massive scale or how unreasonable the new laws are, so I figured I was safe.
After a while, I began to wonder if I imagined it all. I asked another teacher what it was all about. To no surprise, I was given a typical Hungarian response:
"In 1848 we had a revolution against the Habsburgs. The leaders were killed on the Sixth of October in Arad. You know where Arad is?"
I said yes, I know Arad is a Hungarian city that's now in Romania. She smiled and walked away. The mystery was solved. It's some sort of commemoration of the "13 Martyrs of Arad". They led a revolution against the Habsburg empire, but unfortunately, they weren't successful. They were executed but are now remembered as Hungarian heroes.
It all makes sense, except for the little part about what they were reading. A poem? A story? The Hungarian translations of my blog posts? I guess I'll never know. I'll just stick with the typical Hungarian response to a question of why something's done, it's tradition.