February 4, 2002
I had an early interview this morning with yet another school. The director was late, so I was invited to browse their library. They had an impressive number of books on teaching English with texts, workbooks, methodologies, videos, and cassettes. I could have spent the day there with a boxed lunch and a “Do not disturb” sign on the door, but the director showed ten minutes after our appointment. After I observe another teacher and then teach the same class the following week, we will talk again.
From there, we had to rush off to meet the attorney at the notary’s office. She too, is an attorney and all attorneys here are afforded the title doctor, which they use freely. The system for having something notarized is the same here. They log it into a journal and we signed the journal followed by our incorporation forms.
We were officially on our way to incorporation. With these papers in hand, we went to the bank to open our business account. The attorney came with us. We had ‘interviewed’ banks and decided on Citibank. It is American owned and they have a phone line for paying your utility bills, so this seemed to be the best. Sitting in front of the bank officer for new accounts, we found out fast that she did not speak English, nor did they have the forms in English. Our attorney sat down and filled out all of the forms for us. The bank was unwilling to initiate a transfer of money from our California account and said that had to be done with the sending bank. They would not do a cash advance on a credit card and deposit it in the account either. Finally, I asked if I could deposit traveler’s checks, but that was a no go idea too. I did not want to walk around with $12,000 in our pockets either, so I have to brainstorm a solution. However, I have time for this, since once you do the paperwork, it takes two business days for them to decide if they want your business and then they give you an account number. We cannot make our required business deposit until that time. Therefore, our paperwork cannot go to the courts until then as you only have seven days after the papers go to court to have your initial three million forints in a Hungarian account. By the time we left the bank, I was mentally drained. We turned over 80,000 forints to the attorney for document fees. Our pocket was drained at the moment also.
The attorney walked with us almost to the apartment since that is where he left his car. As we are walking, he said, “Oh, by the way, I think you may have to return to the United States to get your Residency permits after all.” I am not sure what dropped first, my mouth or my heart. This was one of the major reasons for starting the business and now it would not factor into the equation. When I questioned this, he said that the laws as of January 1st, have confused matters so much and this is what his researcher has told him. Again, I reiterated that we could not afford the money to fly back to New York City or Washington, DC where the Hungarian Consulate and Embassy happens to be just to stand in line for an hour, get our papers and fly home again. With our starting work and school, we no longer have the luxury of a stay, plus we could not afford flights, hotels, food, and a rental car on top of the expenses of the business operation. He agreed to check into it personally.
Thinking we would have time to have lunch and a short rest, we headed home. I had a teacher observation at 2:30, so tried to lie down for a half hour. I had just relaxed when the doorbell rang. The workers were here to finish installing our new shower door. These two guys are like some disaster movie. It seems that they bang, drill, cut, and then measure. They decided they had to cut the bottom of the door and lower it. Of course, this meant more holes in the tiles. Then the door was not wide enough to fit the opening. Did I mention that the door was custom made based on their initial measurements? They put a strip of wood along one wall and attached the door to that, but now there is three inches at the top to allow some light in. It seems that we have seen this scenario in Three Stooges programs, but the two of them were just as incompetent.
Giving up on a relaxed moment, I went to do the teacher observations for one of the schools. Even if I had never taught English, I could teach rings around these teachers. That is not conceit, but fact. They are okay, but not great. There are skills to teaching that are across the board regardless of the level or subject. They may know the subject, but they do not have the teacher skills. Both of these observations were with Hungarian teachers who learned English. When the students are stumped, they revert to Hungarian, which to me is another downfall for a serious student. There are other issues too.
While in the neighborhood, I walked over to an English bookstore that we had just discovered. It was closed at 2:00 on Saturday and we missed it by fifteen minutes. They have a large selection of books, but the novels are only those published in England. Funny, but for a while I thought I was looking at my own bookcase back in the States for there were well over a dozen titles of books that I own and have read. They may get some business from me, but not a great deal. Interestingly, the books that are published in England feel different than ours. The binding on the paperbacks does not seem as sturdy as ours and the paper feels like a lesser quality. I wonder if these are the copies for export or if all British paperbacks have this same quality. I did not notice while in England or Scotland.
Down the street, a couple of blocks is the first and only all children’s bookstore, so naturally I had to investigate that too. Ninety-five percent of the books are in Hungarian, go figure. There were some in English and I found this ‘darling’ book about these animal characters from Canada that take a vacation to Budapest. It is like a children’s tour book and it is wonderful. If you flip it over and turn it around, the same story is in Hungarian. This will be a continual hang out.
When I got home, Ron had already left for his Hungarian class. I threw a load of clothes in the wash, started dinner for when he returned, and cleaned up after the two stooges’ mess in the bathroom. I called Bank of America collect to find out how to go about transferring money to the Hungarian bank account and was put on hold “Due to unusually high call volume, you may have to wait until your next birthday before we get someone on the line who will have no idea about what you want to know, so please hang on and by the way, your call may be monitored by Big Brother, but we call it quality assurance monitoring.” It was their charge and I wanted time to relax, so I could sit there with a phone to my ear without a problem. When a live person answered, I posed my questions about cash transfers. Of course, she did not know the answers and had to put me on hold. Five minutes later, I hear a ringing and I am transferred to the phone tree again for my options. The option I wanted was not available, the ability to reach through the phone and strangle someone for doing this to me. Settling for option zero, to speak to yet another live person, one that breathes, but cannot think, I was put on hold yet again with the same nauseating message about the wait time. Thirty minutes later, I am serious, thirty minutes later, I speak with someone who tells me that I cannot do a transfer of funds without coming into a branch office, but gosh, golly gee, since I am in Hungary that would not be prudent would it? Well, option two is to call my local branch and see what they could do.
After getting that number, I called them collect. Same story, different voice, but I put up a fight this time. Well I could Express Mail them a letter detailing my reason for needing this done and then they could decide if they could handle it or not. My shortage of time did not impress them into a swifter solution and we were back to inaction. I said fine, I will take cash advances on my credit cards and then clean our accounts to the bone of the last decimal point to pay them off. There is no sense in your using our money if you would let us into the game. Not being a corporate account, they could care less. Yet, they have the nerve to charge us $1.00 for an ATM charge if we do not calculate the day’s exchange rate correctly and try to take out more forints than our day’s allotment of $300.00.
As I am going through my tirade, Ron walks in the door two hours early. My initial thought was that he was going to make the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest student to flunk a Hungarian language class. The school told him it is tradition to use the first day of the week for stating when a class begins, but it actually starts on Tuesday night, not Monday. So, he now has lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays and not Mondays and Wednesdays. We may move from culture shock to culture coma, but at least they would have a more difficult time getting our bodies out of the country.