On Friday I walked to Ildiko’s house in the dark. It was only 5 o’ clock, but a number of factors have conspired to give us here in Transcarpathia an early dusk. Firstly, we’re kind of northern. Sometimes I forget that we’re over 49 degrees north, as close to the north pole as parts of Hudson Bay. That’s several degrees above where I learned to understand the rising and setting sun. Additionally, we’ve attached ourselves to a different time zone than our official one. The entirety of Ukraine sits within one timezone and operates on Kiev time, GMT +2. Except for the Hungarian people in Transcarpathia – they operate on Budapest time, GMT +1. And Budapest is pretty far east (and therefore dark earlier) even for it’s own timezone.
All this to say, I could see the stars quite clearly on my walk to Ildiko’s house. Every Friday evening, I walk to her house to tutor her children, Szebi and Cintia. After about 45 minutes of English games and lessons (during which time I have to keep Cintia from cheating and keep Szebi active enough to focus), we sit down for dinner. I don’t think Ildiko would ever let someone leave her house without eating something, which is certainly fine by me. She fed me a scrumptious dumpling soup that evening.
After dinner we talk. I credit most of my progress in the Hungarian language to Ildiko’s masterful conversations-with-a-non-native-speaker skills. Our first conversations were halting and mostly centered on each other’s families. Van egy lánytestvérem és kett fiutestvérem. (I have one sister and two brothers.) Etc…. We have since progressed to things like different marriage customs and Christmas traditions, what we did last week, and banana bread. She was having a hard time imagining the foods banana and bread together, so I gave her the recipe this week. I’m just hoping I translated it correctly.
Cintia usually pops in and out of these conversations, and this week she peppered our talk with attempts at singing “Head and shoulders, knees and toes,” a song which had been part of that week’s lesson. Except that with her accent and tender years (she’s seven) it came out more like “Hair and soulders, peas and toes.”
That song has been mercilessly stuck in my head, by the way. That’s what I get for teaching it to half of my classes. I hummed it the whole way back to the school, looking up at the long-dark sky and having to remind myself that it was only 8 o’ clock.