January 29, 2002
Our agenda for the day was to interview banks for our business account. Our attorney suggested that we go to a couple of banks and see if there is a manager that speaks English well, find out the service charges, see if they are easily able to transfer money to and from our California account, get bank machine cards, and have a branch convenient to our apartment/business headquarters. We found that the Dutch, Italians, Germans, British, and Americans own ninety-five percent of the banks in Hungary. The Hungarians own the last five percent.
We started with the first bank that was recommended and found one of the officers who spoke English somewhat. He was not able to pull off the computer the list of charges in English, so gave it to us in Hungarian. He started to explain the fees and write them down supposedly in English, but it was more Hungarian. Fernando, we need you! He did say that if we returned later, he would have it in English for us.
The second bank was on hold. We had set up a meeting with Damon at the embassy to look over his library of teaching resources. He has stated that he was going to ship the contents to Romania since it is underutilized here. With the aftermath of September 11th, entering the embassy or related buildings is a chore, which perhaps is one reason for the lack of use of the library. We had to show our passports and state our reason for coming in. Then we received plastic cards for entering the gate to go through security. We had to show our passports yet again. Damon’s office is not even in the embassy; it is in a bank building next door.
Damon and his assistant gave us a bag full of books, magazines, and other resources for TEFL that are distributed to teachers and students alike. There are some great pieces of material here that will be enormously helpful. The library is much smaller than I had anticipated, but the materials are current and can be checked out for a month at a time.
We were advised that we should register with the embassy in case of an emergency, so his assistant took us to the embassy building to do this. The back of the embassy is blocked off and all pedestrian traffic, so the front is the only entrance. This is roped off and there are a few security guards standing around that will not let anyone linger for more than the time it takes to put one foot in front of the other. After seeing our passports, they allowed us through the barrier. Inside, we had to have our things x-rayed and we had to walk through metal detectors. Registering was a matter of filling out a card and having them photocopy our passports. It was a simple procedure.
Ron and I went to a café that Damon’s assistant recommended and then I went on to view a teaching demonstration for a school that was interested in hiring me. That lasted for one and a half hours. It was a group of five students that are all employees of a bank. The class is offered on their work time and the bank pays the bill. I am supposed to write up an evaluation of the class, but I dread it since this teacher was not an effective educator. When the class was over, he shared with me that he had been living in the Czech Republic for five years teaching and was in Budapest for two. Due to some personal reasons, he was returning to the States at the end of February or early March, permanently. He had not told the school yet. He said I would probably pick up his twenty-six hours if I wanted them, since the other teachers were booked solid. After hearing all of this, I do not have the heart to be very honest in my evaluation, so I will stick with the positives and downplay the negatives. That will be a real piece of creative writing. This teacher, Steven said that after a while you feel exploited by these schools working for such low wages. With a laugh, I said I have a doctorate, I feel exploited already, but I need the experience since this is such a closed field in the world of academia.
When I returned home, Ron said I had a call from a school that was urgently trying to reach me. When I called back, they had a class for me that starts next week, two days a week for sixteen weeks. I accepted it. Supposedly, I am to start training with Berlitz next week. After leaving the second ‘interview’ and thinking about it, I had some reservations. You have to sign a contract with them that you will be available whenever they want you and that you will stay for one year or pay 50,000 Huf for your training. With these restrictions, since they also have Saturday classes, this would prevent me from doing any consulting work that Damon would be able to throw my way. In addition to this, I was getting some negative feedback from other schools that stated that Berlitz is only used because it is a brand name and their costs are too high for the average Hungarian to afford. They have a high turnover rate of teachers and they are not accredited by the Hungarian agency that accredits language schools. They have tried for years, but have not been successful in getting this official recognition.
When Ron checked his e-mail, he had a request for an interview with the same school that offered me the class. I had suggested that he drop off his resume since the supervisor told me that they had classes starting and had not had enough teachers to fill the needs. He is on his way.
In the meanwhile, we are waiting to hear from Daphnee about the collection that is to be Fed Ex’ed to us. Her Internet provider went bankrupt and under court order, the company has had to provide intermittent services through other providers. Because of this, she has been able to receive e-mails, but none of her out-going e-mails go through. We have been communicating through her secretary, who I am sure is sick of me by now. Every day, I watch the days tick off the calendar as our deadline approaches. I told Daphnee that we would be living in Timbucktoo, Turkey for six months when we get kicked out of Hungary if I don’t get them soon. I have not heard a word from her. As Ron said and he did not have to remind me, Daphnee had never let me down in the past, but the waiting is nerve wracking. WHERE THE HELL IS SHE? To make matters worse, they are leaving on vacation on February 1st.
My father had called Daphnee, said that he had a bag of mail at his house, and wanted to know what to do with it. She suggested that he drop it by her office, which is about ten miles from his house. She did not know he had been hospitalized and at the time had an angioplasty scheduled, so that would be difficult and he did not share the information. Adding to the impossibility of it is the fact that Slut-whore has his car every waking minute, so he is stranded at home all of the time. No one wants to go there with her there, so the mail is in limbo. I know there are things there that I need for taxes, since Daphnee never reported receiving them at her house. I had to break down and ask my brother to pick up the mail and deliver it to Daphnee. He does not like going there anymore than anyone else and he could have written the book on procrastination. I am crossing my fingers that he will agree to do this, but it will not surprise me if he will not.