Orphan Day Part 1

The day did not begin as planned. In fact, not one of the day’s moments unfolded as planned. I am in Hungary though, what did I expect?

I planned to sleep in. To rest in my top bunk for as long as my weary, travel-worn body would remain stationary, to rise slowly with a yawn and a stretch, before plodding down the ladder and starting the day with breakfast. It would have been a good breakfast too; a warm bun paired with some specialty European cheese, a side of granola, yogurt and some fresh peach slices. I would have observed breakfast on the terrace, yes, our hostel has a rooftop terrace, while overlooking the unobstructed picturesque skyline of Budapest. I would have, no doubt, achieved ultimate Zen on that terrace, with my fancy cheese and intellectual leanings. Presumably, I would have solved many of life’s most challenging conundrums. Unfortunately, the day did not begin like this. The day did not begin as planned.


“Wake up! It’s 8:00am. We have to be packed and out of these rooms pronto.”

[Sounds of personal belongings being haphazardly tossed from the floor into overlarge suitcases]

I reluctantly open my weary eyes, hoping against hope I am dreaming. No. This is not allowed to happen. Every day of orientation has been hectic, every single scheduled event has been reworked. Today is supposed to be different because today, technically, is not orientation. Orientation ended last night. Today we leave the hostel and move into real homes playing the role of real English teachers. Today is the beginning of our real lives in Budapest. I roll over and peek under my bunk to see how Caroline is handling the wake-up call. We make eye contact. She shakes her head, Hungary. I nod, yea, what the hell?

I roll back over and pull the electrified-flamingo pink duvet cover to my chin. Note, not a real duvet, the hostel never actually gave us comforters. We have been shivering under double thick sheets for a week. C’est la vie as the French say. Don’t ask me what the Hungarians say, I’ve only been here a week. Since today is the big day, I might as well shower. If I’m going to get any hot water, I have to quietly race there before the other 11 sleeping beauties in my room awake.

The shower, fortunately, proceeds as planned. I shampoo, I condition, I slip and fall on the sopping floor. It’s comforting to know there are still things I can predict.

In the kitchen I arrive in time to snag a bowl of European knock-off Corn Flakes. A knock-off of an already insulting attempt at breakfast cuisine.  I mean, come on, Corn Flakes? Billions of dollars poured into advertising and the best you can feed us is a fake vegetable flake! I drown the ‘flakes’ in room temperature milk and observe the kitchen’s bustling commotion.

People awkwardly amble in and out in varying forms of undress: those who want coffee before they pack and those who can only could pack when coffee is the prize.  No one seems to know why we are awake. The itinerary, ridiculous that we even have one, clearly shows that our BIG MEETING isn’t until 1pm. We have nothing on the agenda until 1pm. I glance at the Rubik’s Cube clock mounted on the wall. It’s 8:45am.

No one has answers so I trudge back to my room. Signs of life are emerging everywhere, tousle-haired, bleary-eyed, and shivering from beneath double-thick sheets. No one seems to be able to articulate their confusion. We mutter and grunt as we search for lost socks and that “cardigan I swear I wore last night.” Three girls muse on the disappearance of all the hot water. I focus intently on my quest to find my left boot and avoid eye contact.

With my bags packed and both boots accounted for I head into the hallway for some answers as to why it is 9am and I’m already dressed and vittled.

I open the door to an unnatural silence. Kate is already in the hallways and points to the Common Room packed with unfamiliar adults. My jaw drops.

To explain, we booked the entire hostel for the week of orientation. No one but CETP teachers have been in. We’ve had the run of the place, buddied with staff, had the pickings of food, and spent every waking (and sleeping) hour with the same 40 people all week. In short, we’ve lived the equivalent of a teenage summer camp stereotype.  To experience a strange pack of Hungarian adults invade our groovy, Ikea-sponsored Common Room is shocking.

“Who are they?” I whisper.

Jen, a second year teacher and orientation staffer turns to me with a mammoth grin, “They’re your new parents!”

“Really” I question glancing down at our schedule “but this isn’t in the itinerary.”

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