First Week: Jet Lag
There is nothing like uprooting your life in your thirties after establishing a solid education and career. No matter how much you plan and consider all of the possible outcomes, when you finally take the plunge, the unexpected seems to surface. At least, that was my experience this week. After an 18 hour+ flight and arrival in Hungary, I'm not sure what I was expecting but I was in for a whole lot of doubts about my choice to head back to school.
First, I should back up and say, why I chose to go back to school in the first place. I had been working in the non-profit sector as a fundraiser and doing pretty well at it. I enjoy this type of work, as it gives me a sense of accomplishment for the greater good of our community--but it's also really time consuming and often leaves little time for my own practice. I had been looking for a summer program to keep my teaching and performance skills current and had stumbled across the Kodály Institute. A friend of mine was enrolled there for a year of studies and it seemed to meet all of my criteria. I went to my first summer program in 2015 and I was hooked. Singing, playing, and learning about how new ways to work with children through music has been great. What really sold me though, was my work with one particular teacher, but there will be more about this in a later post.
My second summer was even more inspiring. Not only did I continue to sing and perform but my teacher had paired up with another amazing teacher to develop the ZeneZen course (Zene is the word for music in the Hungarian language, and Zen is the Eastern philosophy). I've been thinking for years about how to teach in a holistic manner that covers all the bases but also encourages self expression and connection to music, the way I did as child.
So, even with all of this motivation, it was hard to put my life on hold. The flight went well but of course there is the inevitable screaming baby on the flight seated in the next row, so sleeping is pretty much off the table. Then comes the navigation of an airport in another language. I first landed in Warsaw, which happens to be a great airport with friendly security, but panic set in upon realizing that my student visa wasn't as complete as I thought. I had flown to Ottawa in the summer to have everything taken care of but I learned that there is a second step that needs to take place once you arrive in Hungary. I'm starting to become quite anxious at this point, thinking, what if they don't let me into the country?!? And then your mind turns to, is this a sign that I am not supposed to be here? Well, the flight into Budapest, was fine but followed by an hour and a half wait for the transport to Kecskemét and forty-five minute drive to the new apartment. Having been there two previous summers, I felt confident navigating the supermarket and bought some groceries.
This next part is a little embarrassing but the next day, I woke up and with my head feeling like cotton, I decided to cook some chicken on the gas stove. We have gas stoves back home but they aren't quite the same as the European stove tops. This one had a glass top. Seemed odd to me but then, we have glass stove tops back home too. I proceeded to cook some chicken and boil pasta. After about thirty minutes of cooking, I go to put the sauce on the stove and there is a huge explosion! The entire glass top has exploded. As it turns out, it wasn't a glass cook top at all but a dust cover. Shame and embarrassment set in with the only option to immediately run home where everything is familiar. Luckily, my new roommate came back just in time to suggest we go out for dinner.
This all happened before school started on Monday. There were a few more surprises including a voice audition and an aural placement and written test. There were definitely highlights too - I sung Schubert lieder for the first time to an audience and had great laugh singing Aloutte for my folk song. We were welcomed in a beautiful opening ceremony where we promised to dedicate ourselves to our studies. I even learned how to order coffee in Hungarian, which if you know anything about this language is no easy feat.
The theme that has come up over and over again this week is humility. This is going to be a year of music practice but this is also a lesson in how to be humble, how to ask for help, how to stop being the teacher and become the student, take criticism, and see what it is like to be a minority. Over the past few days I have experienced empathy, that I am not sure I understood before, for those people who come to Canada with little experience speaking the language. It can be positively frightening shopping or interacting in public. However, I would't want to experience it anywhere else, as the people here have been so kind.