sweet szophia

October 21st, 2016

Among the many lovely Hungarian people I met during my week of teaching in the countryside, I was very happy to meet Szophia. We were fast friends as we were the only regular smokers that week, and after lunch and after dinner that first day we had our first conversations. She is my age and works as a vet at poultry farms and slaughter houses. She was eager to learn English because she had a new boss from Israel and wanted to better communicate with him. One of our first conversations was about boys and her relationship of 5 years, and how she wanted to get married and have babies but her partner was not as inclined. She felt that it was about time to break up with him. We talked about whether I had a boyfriend and I admitted that maybe I travel too much… but maybe also there would be someone at home for me, I will have to see when I return. Her English was pretty limited at first but we seemed to understand each other quite well, really. We were really on a level and enjoyed each other`s company regardless.

The first day when we were to have our mentor-mentee meetings, we were excited to learn that we were together. We could sit outside in the morning in the sun, and the first day, we got to know each other more and talked about our families. She has an older brother that she is very close to that lives in the UK, and I told her about my siblings and my family. We discussed what she would like to do for her presentation and instead of something heavy like her job, she wanted to do something light, and as she was very inspired by the cultural exchange that was happening there at Angloville and the few other experiences she has had, she wanted to talk about international relationships and how they help people realize how even though we are all different, we are really all the same. I was so surprised by this, and found it so kismet that we were paired as such, since this is something that I have been looking at closely throughout my travels. I was a little overwhelmed though, because I could not tell exactly what she wanted to say about such a big topic, and to narrow it down into a short presentation, I suddenly felt a lot of pressure to help her do well. I realized quickly that I should not feel such anxiety, because regardless the subject, the presentations were more to just help the students feel more comfortable with presenting in English, and it did not really matter what she spoke about as long as it was something she wanted to say.

We had a lot of fun with each other throughout the rest of the week, and we were very compatible and relaxed throughout our engagements. I helped her as much as I could with what she wanted to say, helped her formulate a plan and prepare a slide show with little pictures to correspond with her experiences and such. Although she had never been on a plane or done much traveling, she was inspired by things like the international exchange day at her university, where she tried Guinness and escargot, and meeting a Chinese friend of her brother who taught them all about his tea rituals. She spoke on the idea of nonverbal communication and how there is a lot we can say to each other without language, and how animals communicate without a spoken language, but as humans, we can go further and learn another language and in doing so it helps us recognize ourselves in each other, and understand better our similarities and how we are all the same. Her last slide, which she was very proud of, was a meme of a bear at the picnic table with the caption of something like black, white, Muslim, gay, or straight…. they all taste like chicken! It was really an adorable presentation and I think everyone there that week could relate and appreciate it.

Our last night all together, for entertainment hour and after the presentations, we all got pretty drunk, as one of the participants, the one with the organic juice, also brought us a lot of palinka, which is like Hungarian grappa, thus usually very strong. We all had a lot of fun I think, listening to music and playing guitar and singing karaoke online. Me and Szophia were up so late, and although I do not remember much of what we talked about it, we really had a lot of fun, and were chatting all evening and taking strolls under the moonlight. ¬†Our last morning together we spent outside with the horse, not really talking about much but just commiserating about our hangover and about how she had to leave. We made plans to see each other next summer because there is a music festival in August in Budapest, and I plan to go to Poland at the end of July for a wedding. I really hope it works out, and if she could even come to Chicago, that would be so cool. I learned since that she did break up with her boyfriend and is looking for a new apartment, so I hope she is successful at work and with such new arrangements. I hope we do keep in touch and she improves with her English even more because I do not think I will be learning Hungarian…