Topic of Next Lesson: "Not" Jokes

You know what I'm talking about, you say something that's not true, and then you say "not" and laugh.  For example, I'm going to give you $500!  NOT!  It amuses young children, and apparently some Hungarians.

Let me tell you about my day.  It was going pretty normal until I was asked to step into the office of the vice principal (not her actual title, but it's the closest interpretation I can come up with).  Not too unusual, but she seemed strangely solemn.  Plus, I had just taken a class on an impromptu field trip without asking, was this not okay?

"No need to be so serious," she says, "this isn't anything bad.  The school was awarded a scholarship to take some teachers and a bunch of students on a trip to Transylavania.  Can you go to Romania with your passport?"

I hope this is going where I think it is, "yes, yes I can."

"Good," she answered, "One of the other teachers, Zoli, has been organizing the trip but now he can't go.  It's the last minute, but would you like to go?"

"Yes, when do we leave."

As we rush back to the other room with all the teachers, she explains the group will leave on Wednesday and come back Saturday.  Then we get in there and about 5 or 6 people start arguing in Hungarian.  Suddenly, they all get a pissed off look on their face and look at me and say:


Well, okay, they didn't actually say "not" because I haven't taught that lesson yet.  Instead they said I probably can't go because I'm not a Hungarian citizen and the scholarship won't cover me.  More arguing ensued.  Finally, Zoli went and made a phone call to whoever would know the definite answer on the citizenship question.  It had a happy ending, because the person said an American can go.

I sit down with one of the other teachers who went through the schedule and translated it for me.  It said all the usual stuff, meet at the bus at 4:30 AM, we'll be visiting cool traditional Transylvanian places, lodging is included, breakfast and dinner is included but you will be responsible for lunch, bring plenty of garlic and holy water, ect...

This whole incident caught me as I was leaving for lunch, so now I finally headed home.  In the hallway I heard another argument between a bunch of the teachers, including Zoli.  Eventually they all storm off, but one lady looked at me and said, "It's not a language thing.  He speaks Hungarian.  He doesn't speak English very well but he speaks Hungarian."

I wondered if I should remind her that it is a language thing for me because I don't speak Hungarian and don't know what's going on, but she picked that up quickly.  "Now he's saying he may be able to go.  I was told this morning that I had to go and it's very inconvient because I have a family and my son is sick.  He had been planning to go and he suddenly canceled.  It's not like him.  And it's not a language thing because he speaks Hungarian."

Hmm, I thought.  Oh well, I'm hungry.  I ate my lunch and wondered how I would buy travel insurance (required), get a bunch of Romanian money, and pack my stuff in the next 48 hours.

For those of you not aware of the history of Transylvania, it is more than just the home of Dracula in Bram Stoker's story.  It's a region in present day Romania, but that doesn't make it Romanian.  It was a prized part of the territory taken from Hungary at the end of World War I, and they still firmly believe it is a Hungarian place full of Hungarian people and Hungarian traditions.  It's just a bit of bad luck that it's across a border.

After my lunch, I went back to the school and saw the vice principal looking at me funny.  She motioned and I followed her over to an uncomfortable looking Zoli.  He looked at me and said:


Again, this wasn't exactly how he phrased it.  Something more along the lines of, "I can go now.  I didn't think I could go but now I found out I can."

They apoligized for getting me excited and said I would be able to go next time.  I'm not really sure there will be a next time, but it was a nice thing to say.

So again my dream destination of Transylvania evades me.  It saves me the trouble of packing really quickly and going with a bunch of high-school kids, but reminds me of how close I am.  But I have found three positive aspects of the whole situation.  First, I have planned my next lesson ("not" jokes).  Second, I now know what to say the next time someone tells me something I don't want to hear:  "It's not a language thing, they speak English so it can't be a language thing."  Third, I know I'm in the right profession because I'll never grow tired of being told by my boss that I need to travel to Transylvania.  I believe it's rare to be so sure of your job.

You win this round Dracula, but it's not over.