Néptánc (traditional dance)


Jumping around to reggae music wasn’t the only dance-related program from a couple of weeks ago.  Panka also had a recital for her dance group at ovoda (preschool).  Each week she goes to a traditional Hungarian dance class pankagreti(néptánc) for 1 hour, and her group was part of a big program featuring children’s dance groups from all around Budapest.

Panka and her group had a lot of fun.  They gathered in a classroom at the school where the recital was held and all dressed up in their colorful outfits. They played and ate and did there hair, and when the time came, kids and families all made there way to the activity room for their chance to perform.  The kids danced for about 5 minutes — lots of twirling, spinning, clapping, kicking and stomping (no injuries were reported).

Hungarian Reggae

Last weekend, we had one of the more unanticipated experiences during our year in Hungary.  The father of one of Daniel’s classmates is a musician; more specifically, he is in a Reggae band.  The band — Riddim Colony — claims to be, “the no.1 authentic reggae band of Hungary”, a not-so-lofty claim that is probably true.  The band was looking to make a video featuring dancing children for  their new song, so Daniel’s class was invited to the rehearsal space last Sunday to participate in the video shoot.

It turned out to be a fun and enjoyable experience for the kids.  We took the streetcars reg1across the river to the Pest side, eventually coming to an old industrial area where one of the old buildings has been converted into rehearsal spaces for Hungarian bands.  Riddim Colony’s cave was brightly decorated in Jamaican colors with lots of Reggae posters. The shoot was pretty well organized — lots of lighting, sound, cameras   The kids, as you can imagine, were substantially less organized, though the band members were really good with the kids and all were having a lot of fun. They managed to go through 3 separate scenes (multiple takes of each) with lots of dancing and jumping and a real happy vibe.  They’ve posted the video at the top with the song and scenes from the recording process; Panka and Daniel are in there quite a bit.  I’m sure the actual video will take some time to edit and will be out as some point.

Final Exam Season

Two of my friends in the group, Balázs and Bálint, showed up at the university dressed up in 3-piece suits, white shirts, and ties this morning.  I haven’t seen much of them since the beginning of the year; they are both masters students and are in their final exam period now (today was their Physical Organic Chemistry exam). They join the smaller-than-usual, but better dressed-than-usual group of students that I find at the university each day (and Hungarian students are already better dressed than their American counterparts — no flip-flops, slippers, sweatpants, or PJs).  Students spend most of their time studying and only come in for exams, which are held between December 17 and February 1 (yes, 6 weeks!).

Why 6 weeks and 3-piece suits for exams, you ask?  Well, let’s just say the final exams are very important.  That’s actually an understatement — they are everything.  I asked Balázs and Bálint whether they had any other assignments, quizzes, exams, papers, etc in the Physical Organic Chemistry course yet.  Nope, just this final exam — an oral exam with just you and the professor.  The topics are wide open and can include any material covered during the semester.  I suppose that procrastinators don’t fluorish (or survive) in this system.  Good luck Balázs and Bálint!

UPDATE: Balázs has returned and received a 4 for the exam/course (5 is the highest); everyone seemed pleased. Bálint actually has a different exam: a comprehensive exam covering all of his inorganic courses.  It is also an oral exam (with 3 professors) and starts in 30 minutes. I asked him how long he expected it to be; he didn’t know but said (sarcastically) that he anticipated “long fun”.

Panka’s Óvoda (preschool)

While Daniel is trying to navigate his way through the second grade, Panka is enjoying another year of preschool/daycare.  Panka is 5 years old now and would be in kindergarten in the US (and is being taught the kindergarten material at home), but there is no kindergarten in Hungary.  In fact, it seems as though many (most?) children don’t begin school (1st grade) in Hungary until they are 7 years old; Daniel is 7 with a February birthday and he is the youngest of about 25 children in his second grade class.

Anyway, onto Panka’s school…  There seems to be a variety of ages in her class, ranging from about 4 to 6 years old.  They play some games and sing songs and do quite a few crafts.  Here is a picture of Panka at the entrance of her school:

On Friday, they had a special harvest celebration at her Óvoda. All of the children brought in some grapes and other treats, and they pressed the grapes to get the juice (nothing like teaching the winemaking tradition early). In the afternoon, all of the families came for a program where all the children were dressed in traditional outfits and there was dancing and then refreshements.  Here are some pictures from the dancing:

Below you can see Panka with a couple of her friends.  The girl behind Panka in the beige skirt is Lola.  Lola is Panka’s best friend, since her dad is British and she is able to understand English. In front of Panka is a small boy named Mark.  Mark just started at the Óvoda at the same time as Panka and really has taken a liking to her.  When she arrives in the morning, he usually comes to the door and grabs her hand.

Finally, here is Panka with her two teachers, Kati néni and Rita néni.  Both are really great with the children.

Ready for School!?

Well we did some shopping for Daniel’s school today.  It was wayyy more complicated than I expected.  We had a list from the school of the things that he needed, and it was very specific.  It took a good 2 hours of wandering through the back-to-school section of Tesco (a WalMart-like BigBoxStore) to assemble all of the materials (though Dora just informed me that there are still 8 items that we have yet to buy).  Among the things we purchased were a bunch of small notebooks (with different pages — some graph paper, some for music, some for composition), math supplies (clocks, rulers, a pretend thermometer), a lot of writing/drawing/art supplies, and 2 pair of shoes (one for inside, one for gym).  Here’s all the stuff:


Last night, we returned from the lake to Budapest for Daniel’s Évnyitó. Évnyitó (directly translates to “year opening”) is the celebration of the beginning of the school year.  All of the students dress in black and white and gather in the courtyard of the school for a short ceremony.  From what I could gather, there are some remarks from the principals, an introduction of the new 1st grade class (there is no kindergarten), some oaths and the national anthem, and some recitations of poems and verses recited by some of the children.  Here are a few scenes from last night.

Daniel all ready for his Évnyitó:

Daniel and his classmates:









Scene from above.  All the 1st graders are seated in front:





The principal makes the opening remarks: