I returned back to Sokolov from my spring break tonight. My legs are sore from oppressively long bus rides but I wanted to write about it while it was still fresh in my mind.
First some background. My organization, TeachOverseas (ESI), has teachers in a few different regions around the world. My region is Central Europe. The countries teachers are currently in include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. I live and teach in the far western region of the Czech Republic named West Bohemia (or as we like to call it, “West Bo”). This spring break saw me return where I visited in October, to Budapest, but also farther afield to the small town of Sarospatak. This town lies in the extreme northeast of Hungary and is a four-hour train journey from Budapest. It represents the other side of the ESI-universe over here. We have two teachers there this year and I thought it it would be good to visit them for a few days (they didn’t have the past week off like us in the Czech Republic.) And it was.
An extremely brief recap of my trip. I got even more experience on Prague public transport en route to Hungary. I then proceeded to educate myself a bit better on the geography and transportation options of Budapest. I saw teacher friends and enjoyed some of the best hospitality I have ever experienced on two consecutive nights. I went to an awesome church service singing Hungarian songs in English and Czech. I survived a train ride across a country where I knew nothing of the language. Little old Hungarian ladies helped me. Note to Hungary railways: invest in signs at your stations. Thanks.
I delved deeper into the history of Hungary during the week. A short summary: First imagine America, big, strong, won most wars, proud to a fault and deeply patriotic. Now imagine a country that used to be big but has never won a war and directly related to this fact now has around 33% of its ethnic population outside its borders. Welcome to Hungary.
I saw a really cool castle and spent some great time hanging out and reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen since Thanksgiving time. No doubt this was a holiday. I slept a lot and relaxed even more. But it was also a time of fellowship and I think I benefited greatly from it. To be honest, I’m not terribly excited about school on Monday. But I will be ready and rested after this deeply fulfilling, all too-brief week.
Note: Educational Services International is TeachOverseas international name. When I say ESI I mean TeachOverseas. Apologies for any confusion.
This is a bit overdue, especially for me, but I wanted to tell you a bit about what I got to do two weeks ago.
Being with an organization like ESI has many benefits, both tangible and intangible. One of the most tangible benefits is the retreats that we have four times during the year. The biggest one just happened the weekend after Thanksgiving. All the ESI teachers from the Central Europe Region meet together for a long weekend to fellowship, worship, eat a giant Thanksgiving meal and reconnect a bit. There were over fifty people total.
It was really great to see teachers I hadn’t seen for a few months, some since training. In fact, some I hadn’t met at all yet since they had not been able to get to training during the summer. It is pretty cool to see all the people God has brought together in this region of this world to teach and to do his work. I had lots of fun. I played in a raucous game of American football one afternoon and went for a short but refreshing run with some teachers the next. Running with other people is a pleasure that I don’t often get to enjoy so it was nice. A very cool thing: I got to sing worship songs in ENGLISH. After 3+ months of Czech worship it was nice to really understand things again.
ESI has provided a great support network for us here overseas. It’s not as close-knit as Thrive was but that would be impossible to replicate in this situation. In any case I am truly thankful I am with this organization and that they “have my back” so to speak while I’m over here.
I had a long weekend break from school this past week. I wanted to go somewhere and after discovering a cheap bus ticket to Budapest I was on my way. ESI has a number of teachers in Hungary and I was going to stay and meet up with some of them. While I did a fair amount of sight-seeing and this trip cannot not be construed as anything but a vacation I also got to see the body of Christ in action.
It’s neat to visit other teachers not only to see them but to see what their experience and ministry is like where they are. Every city and town with ESI teachers is different. This past Friday myself and another first-year teacher went to a YWAM (Youth with a Mission) supported coffeehouse in central Budapest. It is only open Fridays currently but its vision is to open full-time everyday. The goal of the coffeehouse as I understand it, is to be a place where Christians and non-Christians can come, hang out, enjoy a good cup of coffee and build relationships. ESI teachers in Budapest currently bring interested students here each week. It needs more funding but it looks like it finally has the leadership to push this idea all the way to its completion. When it opens it will start offering 9-month internships to American Christians who want to be a barista and serve people in Hungary.
I would be a terrible barista. Just not the thing for me. I have done a bit of retail and I did fine, but add food into the equation and it would end pretty fast for me. Despite my natural inability to help directly with this effort it was a pleasure to experience. The coffeehouse was bumping the night I was there. There weren’t enough seats for everyone. The cappuccino I had was excellent. I have a good feeling about this endeavor.
God has gifted us to do different things. He put me in Sokolov this year. He has put a bunch of Christians in Budapest. We are doing very different things. But experiencing the body of Christ in all its holy variety is truly a pleasure. And in fact, as I sat relaxing in that coffeehouse, soaking in the atmosphere, the idea nearly crossed my mind, in the small, subconscious part of my brain, and only for a split second: this might be something you might enjoying doing Matt. It was nice.
Written August 6th, 2009
I thought it would be good to write a bit about TeachOverseas and what training has been like.
First, TeachOverseas is known overseas as Educational Services International. ESI has always been its name, it only changed its name stateside recently to better reflect what they do. I think it has also served to bring more teachers into the program. If I mention ESI keep in mind I mean TeachOverseas.
There are a number of things I’ve learned here that make me like ESI even more than I did before. First, they are open to Christians of all backgrounds and denominations while maintaining a solid Biblical mission and basis. Secondly, this is a very diverse organization. By this I mean there are young singles (like myself) but also married couples, families, and older singles as well. Anyone who wants to teach is welcome. Finally, while the training is admittedly rather quick (a month) it covers things comprehensively.
Every morning we have Teaching English as Foreign language (TEFL) sessions. This goes over the ins and outs of the teaching part of our work. After a general session we usually have a region-specific session about what life will be like teaching where we will be. I’m in the Central European Region along with Hungary and Slovakia. In the afternoons we usually have big general sessions about living overseas. My time in South Africa has richly informed this part of training for me and I am truly thankful for it. Recently we have started language and cultural training about our specific countries.
In the evenings we usually go to Practicum. This is where we teach people English at a local community center English. This was a nerve-wracking thing at first but fantastic practice for our time overseas. In addition we have gotten to meet some great local people and help them with their English.