It’s A Small World

I love Disneyland. Many of my fondest childhood memories were created there, and each time I return it is a reunion of old sentiments and new excitements. Eating Dole Whip near the Tiki Room reminds me of my grandpa, and his stories of life in California as a kid; riding the Monorail reminds me of my sister and her NOT wanting the family to be separated on New Years 2000; Soaring Over California reminds me of my mom (and it reminds her of her dad); the Haunted Mansion my brother, he was the only one who would want to go in with me, and would always hold my hand if I got scared, and Autopia my dad, where he taught me how to drive with endless patience and encouragement as I ran into the middle section and other cars more often than not. These memories stand out to me, as well as many more with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings and friends. It’s these that greet me upon each entrance, as well as excitement like a child for the new adventures ahead. Albeit full of crying children, long lines, drained parents, child leashes, trying to figure out if they really DO set cats free at night to catch all the mice, etc., it still is and will remain, the happiest place on Earth.

While the Teacups at night are my favorite ride (the at-night part is very important because sparkly lights and short lines), Space Mountain a close second, and California Screaming races up to bronze third. It’s a Small World was never a ride that I really got behind. The best word I could use for it was “tolerated”, and tolerated I did in order to appease my mom, grandma, and grandpa, who all insisted we go, every single time, at least once every single day we were there.

I remember watching my mom’s eyes as she would point out the different dolls, explaining where they came from, and what language they were speaking. (There was no need to explain what they were SAYING in those languages) ((It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world)). Every time, without fail, she would light up when we arrived by boat in the Asia section, and she would always point our her little Filipino doll, dressed in white, dancing. This made me happy, but never as happy as my mom, grandma or grandpa. I simply can’t imagine the thousands of memories that are perched there along side that doll, but I am beginning to understand their deep desire to ride that ride (daily), as there was gold hiding within.

Before I left home, the world felt very big. Hungary felt like it was forever away. Once I arrived here, home felt even farther than Hungary had before I left. It wasn’t until I started forming memories both within the city and within my community, meeting people from near and far (even one person from CENTRAL OREGON) and just letting myself be here and only here, that Hungary soon began to feel more familiar. “Home” started to feel like it could maybe exist in more places than one (or two, looking @ you, Slum Home).

In a world that is increasingly obsessed with borders, and keeping people out, I find that community is more important than ever. I am learning that shared meals, saying good morning to neighbors, laughing with new friends, petting dogs on the street, making  mistakes, and trying new things make the world smaller for me every day. This is not a restrictive, claustrophobic kind of small, rather a refreshing discovery of the similarity of human beings, God’s children, my brothers and sisters. This is not a small where everything is boring, rather this smallness makes everything more exciting, and the world more approachable (my “oyster”, you could say).

This morning, I overheard a conversation where two of my fellow staff members were discussing how a person, knew a person who knew her dad. “It’s a small world” they both said. There’s a statistic in my head that I don’t know where I heard that has always stuck with me (very scientific and official, I know)… I was told that within six connections (friends of friends, relatives, someone who knows someone) you can connect with any person in the world. While I am not sure how realistic this is, it is something that inspires me to connect with people intentionally, especially while I am abroad.

My time here feels like it is going by far too quickly, especially this morning when a student asked when I would be leaving. “Next month” I answered, then had to do a double take in my own mind (NEXT MONTH??!! I thought… when dd that happen??!!). I am still loving every day here as my worlds grow closer.

(Also I get to go to Disneyland this summer and I’m excited to give It’s A Small World more of a chance.)

It’s a Small World,

Sommer

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Groundhog Day

This week marks my first week ~officially~ teaching full time, and it has already been an adventure in itself and an important time of growth as a future educator. People have asked me what teaching is like here, so here’s a story that I think pretty much sums it up:

If you weren’t already aware, last week Groundhog Day was celebrated in the states. A day of pure whimsy, when we use a rodent to tell us about the weather rather then science. (Maybe if we had a groundhog that predicted global warming people would take it more seriously? Ha ha ha, fun). I have always been a fan of Groundhog Day, not a die-hard-Punxsutawney-Pennsylvania fan by any means, but a watch-“Groundhog Day”-and-at-least-take-note-of-Phil’s-decision kind. (Side note: I watched that movie again this year and it’s actually pretty dark for a little bit is it not!?!! Kind of crazy how much stuff goes over your head when you’re little because I’m pretty sure I’ve been more-or-less watching this movie my entire life.) ((Tom and Kim can correct me if I’m wrong)). Also people write actual real life news articles about Groundhog Day, can you imagine being that person? Cause I’m about to be that person on a blog. Anyways, the only thing I ever really considered all that weird about Groundhog Day was the whole shadow=more winter idea. If the sun is out and Phil can see his shadow, it seems MORE REALISTIC to have spring come sooner because SUN. Whereas if Phil didn’t see his shadow then it would mean more winter because CLOUDS. Does that not bother anyone else? Just me? Okay great let’s move on.

So I offhandedly mention in the morning to my class, “Happy Groundhog Day” mostly out of the habit of finding as many things to celebrate as possible and they all just stared at me. Then I realized…. THEY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT AT ALL. Then, of course, they asked, “What is that?” and thus began one of the most bizarre days of my teaching career so far.

So I had to start with explaining what animal a groundhog was exactly. We also looked at a lot of pictures of groundhogs to get a grasp on this concept of them being not a pig, which the name kind of suggests. When I say we looked at pictures I really mean a lot, more than you can imagine existing. Finally, we knew what this animal was, what they looked like, what their babies look like, where they live, what they eat, what they look like all wet, ALL KINDS OF THINGS.

Next I tried to explain the holiday itself, which was, if you can possibly imagine, weird. Essentially it went something like this: “So there’s this town in Pennsylvania called ‘Punxsutawney’, and in that town lives a groundhog named Phil who lives in a fake tree (anyone who knows where he lives the rest of the year help a sister out). Can you say Punxsutawney?” -Me *children try to say it with their adorable accents, and it’s really hard* **Shows on world map where Pennsylvania is**. “Is Pennsylvania a country?” -Student A. “Pennsylvania is kind of like a country, but we call it a state, and it helps make up the United States.” -Me. “Is the United States a big country?” -Student B. “Well, yes, it is a pretty large country, it would take me a long time to drive all the way across it.” -Me. “But it’s not as big as Hungary right?” -Student C.”…”-Me. “…”-Student C (This is where I had to pause for a minute. Hungarians have a huge amount of national pride which I absolutely respect. Not wanting to crush her six year old perception I just kind of said…) “Well on this map the US looks larger to me, but I have never really measured it, and I have never been all the way across Hungary so I don’t know how long it would take me to drive.” -Me (deflection is an art, people) ((teachers have to make about a thousand and a half decisions a day, idk if I made the wrong or right one there but I stand by it)). “So in this town, on this day, these guys who are all dressed out pull Phil and ask him whether or not he sees his shadow.” -Me *every single hand in my class shoots up* “Does the groundhog always live in the fake tree?” “Does this groundhog talk?” “Why is he named Phil?” “Why did you take the groundhog away from it’s habitat?” (that question made me really excited cause it’s our focus in science right now, holla @ learning things). “Does the groundhog have a family?” “Why do you care about the shadow?” “How does a shadow decide the weather?” “Why do you do this?” “Do people worship the groundhog?” “Is this is church holiday?” etc. etc. etc. (seriously we had a lot of questions). After answering as many of the questions as I could I finally said, “It’s not a religious holiday, it’s more just a silly one that we think is fun.” And the ENTIRE CLASS ERUPTED IN LAUGHTER. Like rolling on the floor, laughing out loud, actual real-life laughter.

And then at that moment I realized they were so right, this is such a weird holiday, this is really funny. I laughed too.

We spend the rest of the day with the live feed of Punxsutawney, PA on the projector to refer to, since we didn’t want to miss the magic moment. We read a lot of books about Groundhog Day. We also did a STEM activity where we invented things that would either make sure the groundhog saw his shadow, or make sure the groundhog didn’t see his shadow. (Students got to choose which side they wanted to work on based on whether they wanted winter to stay or spring to come) ((I know you’re not supposed to pick favorites but DUH I didn’t want the groundhog to see his shadow, SPRING COULDN’T COME FASTER.)) (((The featured image of this blog shows their inventions.))) We did a test with the “sun” (my phone flashlight) and both teams were successful. Eventually, by the end of the school day, we watched the groundhog see his shadow (lame), and I basked in the glory of how well an absolutely unplanned day can go when you just let students ask questions and you answer questions and create together. Overall it was a Groundhog Day to be remembered.

What does this have to do with teaching abroad? NOTHING, just wanted you to read my story. I’m kidding. So far I have learned that when teaching abroad, you have to be willing to be flexible. A benefit to this, especially at ICSB, is that there is freedom to be (flexible). Something that I also experience in my teaching day to day is the necessity of integrating culture into my lessons. Talking about Groundhog Day opened up a great door to be able to talk about different holidays my students celebrate in Hungary. Being better informed about Hungarian culture will help my lessons be more applicable to students, and, obviously, help them learn better. Finally, I have learned to laugh a lot. I make mistakes all the time. Seriously all. the. time. I think I say “Good Morning” to an old woman down my street incorrectly every single morning (r’s are really hard here, guys) but just the other day she got so excited that I kept trying that she kissed me on the cheek. I laugh a lot about my mistakes. I laugh a lot about how much I’m learning about my own culture. I really had never considered Groundhog Day all that weird until trying to explain it.. and IT IS SO WEIRD. I have to laugh and I get to laugh.

So, all that to say, I am really enjoying teaching abroad.

Blogs Fly When You’re Having Fun

Friends and family,

So it turns out that MAYBE I shouldn’t become a professional blogger after graduation (not that I have any other plans yet ha ha ha). I have almost been in Budapest for ONE MONTH, and I am incredibly happy to be here.

God works ALL things together for good and I am so in awe when I think about each thing He pieced together in my life that has led me to be sitting in a bedroom in my house in Budapest (it’s funny cause the song).

The summer after my sophomore year of college I re-dedicated my life to Christ and got re-baptized on a mission trip in Haiti (fun fact: I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean AND the Atlantic Ocean) ((fun question: should I KEEP getting baptized in every ocean??)) (((just kidding, I don’t think that’s how it works ??!!?))). I remember that moment well, because I wasn’t going to do it at first. I felt silly for even considering getting baptized again, I thought I would be disappointing my family and sending a message along the lines of “hey, so, I know I already did this but I need to do it again”. I also felt like I was somehow cheating the system and getting an extra dosage of grace that I didn’t deserve (when in reality God gives His grace so freely and willingly). But in that same moment God silenced all of those insecurities. Full of grace, full of happy-tears, full of redemption, full of hope, I came out of that water and I was finally full. No longer putting my faith into people, into relationships, into plans, into school, into whatever it had been, in that moment I put all of my trust and faith into God.

Soon after that, I felt compelled to look more into something my professor had mentioned in class earlier that year that I had sort of taken note of, but mostly signed off due to being a homebody with a slight lack of courage. As I prayed and received more information from my professor, it became clear to me that this was something that God was calling me to do. I am a creature of comfort and habit, but God called me out of my comfort zone (and slum home) and into full trust in Him. For most of my placement process I had no idea where I would end up, and for someone who LOVES planning things, this also forced me to trust that God would provide a placement and that I needed to trust His plan more than my own. From visas, to Hillary’s flight ALMOST getting cancelled, to where I’m living, to my school and CT, I have had to trust that God will provide and that God has a plan, and time and time again He has provided for all of my needs.

A lot of people who are near and dear to me keep telling me that I am brave. While this is so encouraging (pls don’t stop, seriously it’s should food), I am also so humbled to hear the stories of some of those I have met here. My host family, who have been missionaries in Budapest for around 20 years, my CT, who followed God’s call to come and teach here, trusting that God will provide financially and deciding to stay here indefinitely until God leads her elsewhere. I find these stories, and so many more, so incredible and I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by so many faithful and encouraging people. I am loving my school, the 8 littles in my class, all of the staff at ICSB and my hosts. I have been welcomed into this community with open arms, and I am so grateful.

Hillary and I had an incredible time traveling together. We had a Buda-ful time in Budapest, a pig filled New Year in Vienna, and Venice went swimmingly (we didn’t swim, but there was water cause pretty canals). Some favorite memories: exploring Christmas markets, eating Kürtőskalács, getting lost over and over again, the Turkish baths, the guy on the bus who made the spit noise, trying to get up at 7 and always getting up at 8 or 9, all things New Years in Vienna especially pig hats and pig mugs, and especially not street food, waltzing at midnight, watching the symphony, trying to figure out how to eat soft boiled eggs, Hillary at the Freud museum, tea with airbnb hosts, cuddling, laughing, the fried apricot ice cream, Klimt paintings, running through modern art museums bc modern art, night train, night train perks, tuna fish pizza, the incredible seafood, learning about all the different types of Murano glass, getting lost in Venice, talking with the Jewish man about peace and home. The cat. More pizza. Riding in a gondola. Making my room a happy room, etc. Attached are some photos to speak more words than I can say.

Today is my big brudders birthday and I’ve been missing him so much. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BURSTY IF YOU’RE READING THIS, I’ve already decided that every holiday I miss will be one that I get to make up, so I hope you’re ready for your birthday in April too.

Please pray for GOOD HEALTH. I’ve been feeling sick and almost all of the teachers and students in our little community are feeling the same way.

A dear friend Sam is visiting me this weekend, and I can not wait to tell you more about what school is like in Budapest, so stay tuned for more blog posts (more often).

Sommer, the Brave Little Piglet

So, It’s Happening

As much as I can hardly believe it, this is actually happening. “This” as in me leaving for Budapest on Monday. Since finding out my placement in August, time has sped by leaving about two minutes to process. (I wish there was a better word to describe this semester than sped, raced? barreled? charged? Sommer-got-ran-over-by-a-reindeer? I’ll get back to you on that). Essentially, if my thoughts seem a little jumbled it’s because this is one of the two minutes I’ve spent thinking about all of this. Unfortunately jumbled is also sort of how my brain works, so this whole blog thing will be exciting for us all.

Let’s talk a little bit about the name of this blog that, yes, is a bit more sentimental than my affection for baby pigs. Who’s familiar with Winnie-the-Pooh? I’m not particularly currently. (I used to be a big fan, Tigger movie in theaters in the front row kind of big). Anyways, there’s a character named Piglet who’s shy and doesn’t take many risks and is generally a timid little guy. Sometimes Piglet is brave though and overcomes his fears and it’s all very exciting and fun. I think most people have their moments where their Piglet shows a little bit, but apparently as a child (read: as a child and always) my Piglet showed (read: showed and shows) a lot. In these moments of being shy, being timid, being scared, not wanting to talk on the phone to my own doctor, my mother, rather than coddling, would always tell me, “be brave little Piglet”. While she keeps telling me I’m allowed to stay home if I want to, I know she knows that I know she’s really saying it now too. (See what I did there mom?). So, essentially, even though I can be a timid little guy sometimes I’m very excited for this upcoming adventure, a chance to overcome any fear. The Brave Little Piglet is me. I’ll be the Brave Little Piglet in Budapest.

In Budapest, I will be completing my education training as a full-time student teacher. Hillary (my sister) will be traveling with me to Budapest to help me get settled. We will also be traveling to Vienna and Venice before my school starts in January.

Please pray for: courage, comfort, safety, many opportunities to show the love of Jesus abroad, protection, community, and peace.

Despite all of this excitement, I’m also taking some time to be still this Christmas and reflect on the hope and joy that Jesus brought to the world when He was born. Merry Christmas!