Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steph on EVS in Hungary - 2011

A Lot of Red Tomatoes

My hosting organisation’s website proudly bears the moto ‘Everybody is other in another way’. I like this sentiment, a lot, it summarises perfectly how it feels to be here. The language barrier, interacting with the disabled residents, how everything is different yet oddly fits together to make somewhere I feel I can call home. My first two months have gone so fast it feels like I finished hanging my photos on the wall of my room only yesterday, yet when I think of the things I’ve done and the progress we have made it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. The first few weeks were all about guided tours around our new lives and the paperwork to suit, but as the days marched on we soon found ourselves making friends and finding novel ways of communicating with the world around us.

For those who don’t know, Hungarian is an isolated language which contains many unnecessarily long words and bears no real resemblance to any western European language. This coupled with the fact English is not often phonetic makes remembering how to pronounce things almost impossible and as such I am sceptical that I will ever become proficient but I will endeavour to continue trying. Another hindrance is the pesky English accent I own as, when we go round the room practising pronunciation, the Germans get a big thumbs up, the Dutch make a reasonable attempt and I get a 'well at least you tried' kind of look.

The first word I mastered was, of course, thank you, as this knowledge alone can, with the assistance of lots of hand gestures, get you pretty much anything you want. Next I memorised the days of the week and the words 'open' and 'closed' so I could read the opening hours of all the shops and the local outdoor swimming pool. Since then my vocabulary has become a lot more eclectic as it has been driven primarily by the autistic people we assist. Colours were fairly easy to remember due to the extensive drilling which comes with overplaying Jenga and colouring in picture books. Next I progressed onto the phrase 'a lot of red tomatoes' which evolved due to one of the residents who carries a Spar offers magazine everywhere with him

which contains a picture of a punnet of, yes you guesse d it, red tomatoes on the bottom right-hand side (half price at only 210 forints in case you are interested). My latest language acquisitions are the ability to say ‘come here’ and ‘change your shoes’ in an attempt to maintain some level professionalism being able to assist with day-to-day duties when the clients are not themselves working in the sheltered workshops. Finally I can now say all of the characters from the tale of Winne the Pooh in Hungarian, thanks to a game of memory, well you never know when this might crop up in conversation. So yes, you are correct in thinking that I can’t (yet) coherently buy a train ticket to Budapest but I can tell you that Winne the Pooh is yellow.

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