Barack (not the President) Pálinka

This is NOT Obama!

This is NOT Obama!

from left to right, my cousin Eva, my  great Aunt Elizabeth, her son István, and her son-in-law.

from left to right, my cousin Eva, my great Aunt Elizabeth, her son István, and her son-in-law.

I have been reading of late that Barack Pálinka, or apricot brandy is somewhat of a national Hungarian drink. I have also read that it is almost unheard of and actually rude to refuse an offer of a drink of it. The unfortunate thing is that one might end up in a state of inebriation because of it.

It reminds me of an experience I had between December 23rd and 30th of 1971. I was studying in France for the Academic year at the time and while in Paris one weekend, I procured permission, a visa I think, to go to Budapest for a week. My maternal grandparents were still in communication with their relatives and we had addresses. The plan was for me to visit my grandmother’s nephew, István Kovács, and his family.

Things went awry and I arrived only to find the address that I was searching for to be non-existent. I frantically asked for help on the street and finally, in broken English, Hungarian, and French, found someone to help. He helped me hail a taxi and I went to the American Embassy, not being able to find the address.

The Embassy people helped me send a telegram to my grandmother’s relatives in another part of Hungary and then find me a pension to stay in. That was on the 23rd of December; on Christmas Day I received word that gave me the correct address. I am not even sure how it occurred, but apparently my Esperanto-speaking Pension owner called them and within hours they came to pick me up.

We went to their apartment on the tramway and they told me how my friendly Pension proprietor told them to ‘watch me’ as I was suspicious in my behavior. He had given me ideas on what to do in Budapest while I was waiting to find my relatives and I did some of them but not all. Basically I did my own thing. These were the days of Communism and I had been creeped out as I walked along the Danube mid-afternoon only to find the sun going down. Being the only one there on a December afternoon, I actually even felt as if I had been followed!

The Pálinka story came when we took an excursion to Csepel in a very working class suburb (I think) of Budapest. There my cousin, István, his daughter Eva and I met my grandmother’s sister and her son-in-law. This is where the Pálinka came out and I was confronted with the most non-stop drinking ever experienced in my twenty-year-old life. I found it hard to refuse and ended up drinking a lot more than I wanted to. Little did I know that I was just following custom.

Great story, great time, but despite my trying to refind my relatives that I have lost touch with, it hasn’t happened. I have no connection whatsoever to any of the relatives and no hope of doing so. I took all of my names and addresses and sent letters in Hungarian (thanks to a student I took to France who happened to speak and write Hungarian) but no response. I keep hoping something will change in that arena.

Meanwhile, I could go for some Pálinka!

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Posted in Culture, French / français, Hungarian, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy, Travel | Leave a comment

On being unfriended

Wauconda / IL / Etats-Unis - 2/12/16

I don't know why I thought of this as a photo for 'unfriending' but this model of Marc Antony from the fim Julius Caesar, was worn by Marlon Brando.  Strangely enough, he went to school near the 'Folio' sighting and it happens to be the high school our daughter-in-law teaches at!

I don’t know why I thought of this as a photo for ‘unfriending’ but this model of Marc Antony from the fim Julius Caesar, was worn by Marlon Brando. Strangely enough, he went to school near the ‘Folio’ sighting and it happens to be the high school our daughter-in-law teaches at!

English is a vibrant and ever-changing language and does so at the drop of a hat. When I think of the changes that have occurred, it is truly mind-boggling. To think that a word like ‘unfriend’ would actually be in use is hard to believe. I think that the success of English as a world language is often due to the fact that it does so and does it without the help of a governing body that might actually hamper it.

I have written about the need to unfriend on Facebook when someone continually displays sexism, negativity, homophobic, or very odd political views. The political views are okay with me as long as they are not racist, sexist, or malicious, but somehow that does not always seem to be the case. Thus, the unfriending comes in to play.

Every so often you wonder about some of your Facebook friends and check out what is happening with them by going on their pages only to find that you are no longer a ‘friend’ of theirs. I find that surprising but I know that some people are not happy with those who might post often or at least more often than they like. Thus, ‘unfriending’ may come for reasons other than just being a negative force in life.

I post every so often or copy things that appear so that I can keep them for myself. I have found that Facebook has been an incredible resource in teaching and I have found so many things that I have used to ‘beef up’ my ways of making language learning easier for my students.

I know from MK that for whatever reason, someone who does a good amount of posting might literally drive her crazy. It is like the acquaintances we have. Some are very talkative and some are not. Each and every one of us has different reactions to this and those that some find tolerable are pretty much intolerable to others. Unfriending is a way of dealing with this.

In the past few months, I have noticed that I am no longer Facebook friends with some people and I just have to accept that and not take it to heart. There are also some new people that I know who have come on and I have decided not to friend, instead allowing them the liberty of either inviting me first or not inviting me at all.

Oh, the modern age and Technology and the interesting situations that they drop in our laps.

Posted in Libertyville High School, Life in general, Technology, Thoughts and philosophy, Tolerance, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A long Oakton day, missed Tutoring gig, Fuddrucker’s, and a visit with Lew and students

The Special Olympics Banquet was the culmination of the academic year with the students I worked with in Lew Goldstein's classroom.

The Special Olympics Banquet was the culmination of the academic year with the students I worked with in Lew Goldstein’s classroom.

Mondays have turned out to be longer days than I originally thought they would be. I have decided to return my Sunday to more of a day of rest so my students now have until Sunday evening at midnight to finish their work. That means that Monday, I can attend to the evaluation and do not have to do that on Sunday. On Mondays, I have to be on the Oakton campus by 10:00 or so for the ESL Conversation Hour, 9:00 AM if I have tutoring. Sometimes that has to be ‘jockeyed’ a bit and changed since I have to miss one Monday a month for a Shakespeare Committee meeting in the city.

I have decided to stay at Oakton to do my work of evaluation and yesterday, what with the time spent at conversation hours (I also do French Conversation hour), I ended up with barely time to even grab a bite to eat. At 3:30 PM I left Oakton to travel to Wilmette to tutor, with a 4:30 tutoring gig in mind. That turned out to be a bust since when I arrived, the boys Mom said, “Oh, I am so sorry, for some reason I thought you were coming on Tuesday.” It turns out that my tutee had been home ill and somehow our plans got confused. She went up to see if he might be okay enough for tutoring, but that was not the case. I ended up leaving and joining MK for a quick Mariano’s visit and then a burger before coming home at Fuddrucker’s, which is now open in a new location.

We always loved the burgers at Fuddrucker’s and are glad to see this new one in place. The burgers seemed slightly different but not appreciably so. The interesting part of this dinner was that we saw an old friend, Lew Goldstein, with two of the young men with whom he works. I met Lew many years ago at New Trier, he being in Special Education, and working with students with Down’s Syndrome, with Autism, and all sorts of serious issues. After the strike at New Trier, I initially went into Mary Deignan’s (she has been long deceased) class to teach French to her students in my spare time and then transferred to Lew’s EMH (Educable Mentally Handicapped) students. I would go in during a free period and teach some simple French and songs. I did this for quite a few years. It was a most rewarding moment in my day and in my career and it caused many a friendship and also caused many a thought of what these students really were capable of. To be honest, in the long run, what Lew and I never thought possible was that the students would be as capable as they were and that our work together would actually bring about more acceptance in the entire school of the students who used to be relegated to a small corner of the building.

While dining with Lew and former students Kenny and Tom (both were students of mine in the French class), we talked about what has been going on. Lew continues to work with his former charges, despite having retired in 2001, and mainly on a Special Olympics and activities way. We talked of what we had done, of students’ amazing successes, of how he helped them find living situations that were good for both the students and families and how he had managed to find success for pretty much all of his students in terms of jobs.

I remember going in to the classroom and working with Lew and his amazing assistant, Vivian Turcot. Vivian took them into the kitchen they had and taught them how to cook, to clean the dishes, to set a table, to load a dishwasher, all of those simple chores we take for granted. Periodically, I would show them something like how to make crêpes and I was even able to take my own students in there to do the same. We were doing inclusion before it became something fashionable or even required.

Because of our work, we ended up testifying before the state board of education in regards to the importance of language learning in everyone’s curriculum. We ended up even getting a grant to create a Pre-Language class called ‘HOLA’ or How to Optimize Language Acquisition. For several years, I taught this class in summer school along with a very gifted Special Education Professional by the name of Ludmilla Coven, to prepare students who normally did not even attempt to take language. They were very successful in the language venture.

Every so often I have run into Lew and to be honest, he amazes me. I have seen my share of dedicated teachers in my time, but he goes way above and beyond. The man eats, sleeps, and breathes the life of a dedicated teacher. There isn’t a moment that he does not think of how he can help to be a guiding force in improving the lot of his students. The fact of the matter is that he does, and he does it unlike anyone else I have ever seen. It is easy to see how this Highland Park resident never had the time to have a family of his own. His family is composed of students who continue to be a part of his life and who as adults address him as ‘Lew.’ Despite his professionalism, he also has a sarcastic sense of humor that he lovingly shares with his charges and which they fling back at him with great panache.

I still see my former students in the grocery store, working at this or that, usually baggers there. Tom, who used to be the most amazing cafeteria worker at New Trier, recently went to an automotive care concern and now rotates, removes, and repairs tires and does oil changes and other automotive maintenance chores.

What an evening! What a walk down memory lane, what an experience MK and I had on a mundane Monday evening, in such a serendipitous way! It was a delightful moment and one that happened just because my tutoring gig was canceled at the last minute. I believe it was meant to be.

Posted in Academics, Education, French / français, Friends, Life in general, New Trier High School, Oakton Community College, People and their characteristics, Special Education, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

Let’s change it out!

Deerfield / IL / Etats-Unis - 2/5/16

My Thursday had me feeling ‘relapsed’ as in the virus that I thought I had just gotten over. Relapsed is an exaggeration, as although I felt slightly under the weather, I managed to do everything I needed to do.

I managed to get the final Christmas stuff away, something that I had been meaning to but not succeeded in getting to. I packed away the ceramic Christmas tree and took down the stained glass ornaments from the kitchen window. I did three loads of wash and hung them up and managed to do all of this while working with MK and the two granddaughters we were charged with. After dinner, I took the remaining crêpe batter and finished off the crêpes, very pleased that the two Glencoe girls really enjoyed their Nutella laced dessert. The only Christmas thing left is the change out of the Christmas China and the Soufflenheim pottery.

The cold that I had had come back with a bit of lethargy, drainage, and a stomachache that lasted until I went to sleep. Friday morning I had a minor migraine right upon waking. I am truly feeling a bit hypochondriac-like but I plugged on nonetheless. I felt way better than the day before.

Friday morning had me taking the dog for a walk after making a major decision and moving Family Room furniture around to make it more practical and comfortable. Furniture moving is a tough one as MK has no ability to pre-visualize what my suggestions are. She actually has to see it in place before she can come up with a decision as to whether she likes it or not. I pulled out the couch, cleaned behind it, did the same with the love seat, and then put them into new positions. The big issue is that we have two large leather recliners that we really like and fitting them into the room is not easy.

So, I did that and in doing so I managed to put all of the grandgirls’ toys in the wall unit as opposed to having them out and visible in their mini-storage baskets. I ended up having to go through a large amount of photos, which I ransacked through, in making changes to the wall unit for toy placement.

All in all, I was successful, the room is still up for grabs with furniture placement but I feel we need to give the current configuration a chance before ‘toying’ with it any more.

Posted in Christmas, Furniture, Grandchildcare, Household and yard tasks, Life in general, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

My love affair with Calligraphy

Home - RJK Calligraphy

Mes Vers Fuiraient

Il Denaro

In the 80s, I decided to take a class in Calligraphy offered at New Trier Extension, something that was either free or very inexpensive due to the fact that I was a New Trier Faculty member. I had always wanted to do calligraphy and decided to give it a shot. It has sparked a life long love affair with ink, even though I don’t use it nearly as much as I would like to.

I remember having to buy a good pen, ended up with something called Osmiroid, a pen that seemed to be the best there was for the ability to use regular ink (via a bladder) and to be able to use different nibs and produce a different calligraphy or look.

My instructor was perhaps even more interesting than the subject itself, a wiry, seemingly older man with a very thick accent. Alexandru Ionescu-Lungu was his name and he was a native of Romania. My understanding was that he did jewelry making and was very interested in philosophy in his native country and that he had done time as a political prisoner before coming to the U.S.

I loved the class, it worked very well for me, and he provided us with instruction and then sheets of paper that he had photocopied. Our job was to practice the lettering and see how close we could get to his. I still have the many sheets of practice that he had given us with my less than perfect ink responses to what he had done.

I tried all sorts of different kinds of calligraphy styles and ended up liking ‘Chancery’ and ‘Italic’ the most. I never really ended up doing much work with it for others, finding it not cost-effective in that the amount of work it took never seemed to have an appropriate compensation. I did the birth announcement in calligraphy for Michael and even did the actual wedding invitation for Christian as well as doing all of the envelopes to be sent out. Here and there, I did things for family members.

Through the years, I was called on, mainly at New Trier, to do invitations for this or for that, and periodically for others. Strangely enough, I have no examples of my work on the walls. Nonetheless, it has been an important interest of mine for so many years.

In looking up my former calligraphy instructor, I found out that he had passed away, as I thought I had remembered hearing. He died in 1992 at the young age of 71. I have met my share of artists in my time and I must say that he was a most amazing man from so many standpoints and that his artwork with the calligraphy pen, was nothing short of amazing.

Posted in Art, Calligraphy, Fountain pens, Life in general, New Trier High School, People and their characteristics, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment