Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘paula’ Category

Child Labour

Posted by Andy Hockley on 3 July, 2008

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Reforming Paula

Posted by Andy Hockley on 11 December, 2007

I’m quite sure there’s some pithy quote that is used to make it clear that children are destined to repeat their parents’ lives, or mistakes, or something. Anyway, assuming there is, it would be very apposite here, if only I knew what it was.

When I was very young, and I mean very young, way too young for me to have any memory of it, I was christened in the Church of England. (Christened is the CofE word for “baptised” – I’ve no idea why they use a different word). Anyway this christening came about despite my parents being avid non-church goers, because my (also non-church going) grandmother kind of pressured them into doing it, since it was traditional and the thing you did and anyway what would the neighbours say? So I was carted along, had my head washed a bit, and was granted some kind of curious non-blood relationship with some of my parents’ friends. Having come out of the church, they (my parents that is) turned to each other and vowed never to do that again with any future children as they didn’t believe a word of what had passed for the ceremony. Hence neither of my brothers were christened (much to my grandmother’s disgust and trauma and fear that whole country were talking about us).

When Paula was born, Erika and I briefly pondered getting her baptised, but since neither of us ever go to church or have a religion to call our own, this seemed a little bit silly. Plus we live in the 21st century and not the 15th, and so were not living in fear that Paula’s soul would somehow be forever in limbo unless some bloke in funny clothes put some water on her. But, increasingly we too became aware of grandparently pressure which was gradually being ratcheted up. This despite the grandparent in question (my mother in law) also, like my grandmother before her, not having set in foot in a church for as long as anyone could remember. Last weekend, with my mother in law fairly unwell, we decided to go ahead and perform this meaningless act, as a kind of get-well soon present.

So we fixed up with the priest (when I say we, I mean of course Erika, who takes care of most things that involve language beyond basic shopping vocabulary) to have the ceremony. We went for the Hungarian Reformed Church (since the other two options available in Csikszereda are Roman Catholic – and they are way too serious and would probably need some kind of conversion from me to agree to it – or Romanian Orthodox – which is kind of out of the question for many reasons). I’m not entirely sure what the Hungarian Reformed church is, dogmatically speaking. I don’t really understand all the various gradations of protestantism, but I think the Hungarian Reformed Church is Calvinist (though since I have no idea what “Calvinist” means, that’s not much use).

The Hungarian Reformed Church, as I discovered when we entered, is very Hungarian. By which I mean it has all the Hungarian paraphernalia on the walls, the red white and green banners and so on, and the priest was the most Hungarian looking man I’ve ever seen – the big moustache, the works. He should really have entered the church on a horse wearing a wide brimmed hat for the full effect.

Paula, of course, was restless and bored. We quickly discovered why people tend to baptise their kids when they are very young – they may cry, but they don’t try running all over the church. As the aforementioned moustachioed priest stepped up the pulpit, she looked up from whatever piece of dirt/hymn book/protruding nail she was focussing on and shouted out “Bácsi! Mit Csinálsz?” (roughly – at least as far as Paula is concerned – “What are you doing, old man?”). The service was, fortunately, mercifully short (another reason to favour the HRC over the Catholic and the Orthodox), and before long we were up the front going through the ritual motions. I have no idea what exactly I agreed to, but since I don’t believe in any of it, that doesn’t seem terribly relevant. An oral agreement is not worth the paper it’s written on. Paula took the opportunity of a break in proceedings while the priest told us our sacred duties or read out his shopping list or just talked about the weather for all I know, to scarper up the stairs to the pulpit itself, so I had to go and rescue/capture her. She was a bit stunned when he actually blessed her, which seemed to take the form of him spreading his arms wide, looming over her, and letting out an odd kind of barking sound in the manner of someone attempting to scare away a mountain lion, but she got over that quickly.

After the service, and after I had handed over a small envelope containing our donation (most transactions in Romania seem to end in this way – even going to the doctor) we repaired to our flat for a traditional slap up feast and traditional slap up palinka with the various new godparents, and other assorted hangers on.

The only negative side to the whole thing (as with more or less anything that involves organised religion) is that because there’s all this dogma and tradition involved, there are myriad opportunities to offend. Which we inevitably have unwittingly done and have pissed off about three separate groups of friends who felt that they should have been godparents. So what started out as a nice gesture to cheer up an ailing grandmother, has turned into some kind of icy friendship wasteland (a friendship tundra?). Obviously this is not the fault of religion or the church per se, but it does seem to match up with most of the problems that the church does create. Rigid adherence to arcane rules and bizarre practices, causing conflict and tension.

Anyway, just as Tőkés László is always referred to as a reformed bishop, Paula can now be referred to as a reformed toddler. Mind you, I have to say that she never stuck lego up her nose before she was baptised. There’s got to be some kind of message in that.

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Blame Denmark

Posted by Andy Hockley on 4 December, 2007

Toys and games tend to have these labels on them saying things like “Not suitable for children under 3”, and the like. Until yesterday, I assumed that the main reason for this advice/warning was to do with small pieces that could easily be swallowed. Paula, though, grew out of the sticking everything in her mouth phase some months ago, so I imagined that that, at least, probably wouldn’t be much of a problem, as long as we kept an eye on her. Sharp things we obviously keep out of the way, but she likes playing with some of Bogi’s toys, which, of course, are not technically for the under threes.

One of her favourite things to play with is Lego. Yesterday afternoon, for example, while she was with me, she expressed a desire to play Lego. “Andy,” she said (like Bart calls Homer Homer, Paula calls me Andy most of the time), “Andy, Legozunk” (There is no noun that cannot be verbised in Hungarian. Hence ‘Legozunk’ which means, roughly, “Let’s Lego”). Anyway, I got the Lego down, and we sat down together to legozni. This isn’t Duplo or one of those other pre-lego lego things, but real normal lego. While she started to busy herself sticking blocks together, I was making a small plane for her.

Suddenly, in the middle of my deep concentration at the effort of putting together some small plastic blocks, she piped up, “Andy. Lego!” and pointed to her nose. As I know her nose is not made of lego, and knowing also that she is fully aware of that fact, I panicked thinking perhaps she’d stuck some lego up her nose. I put her head back and looked, but couldn’t see anything. But something was obviously bothering her. I had her blow her nose, in the hope that if there was something up there, she’d easily get it out. Nothing. But she kept telling me that it tickled. So off we went to the nose hospital. They do cater for more than just noses, dealing with ears and throats too, but it was the nose bit that was of interest to us. We met Erika and Bogi outside the front entrance, and went inside.

I’ll gloss over the next bit, but at the end of a session of screaming and crying, the nurse had removed not one, not two, but three small bits of lego. So that’s why they say some toys are not suitable for children under three. Who knew that they’d want to experiment with pushing small objects right up inside their nose? Well, when I say “who” knew, obviously many people knew. In fact I suspect I was the only one who didn’t. I’ve already heard from numerous people since this incident “Oh, yes, when I was young I stuck a bean up there”; “My brother got a tic-tac up his nose”; “…peanut…”; “…beads…”; “…pumpkin seed…”; “…copy of ‘War and Peace’…”; “…The Hanging Gardens of Babylon…”; etc. etc.

Anyway the lego has now been put out of sight in a box on the highest shelf in the house. It may return to the regular shelves in about two years.

Posted in health, paula | 1 Comment »

Conversation

Posted by Andy Hockley on 29 November, 2007

…with a slightly-lingual-in-two-languages toddler(is there a word for that?)

Paula (at shelves, arms stretching up to show need for something out of reach): Apuka! [Dad] Puzzle!
Me: You want me to get you a puzzle?
Paula (nodding furiously): Igen! [Yes]
Me: Would you like the big puzzle or the small puzzle?
Paula: Igen!
Me (patiently): The big one or the small one?
Paula (still nodding furiously): Igen! Igen!
Me: Would you like the b-i-g puzzle or the s-m-a-l-l puzzle?
Paula: Igen!
(pause, light of understanding begins to dawn in her eyes, looks at me, and says very slowly and deliberately, as if to an idiot) Yes.

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Bilingual Stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

Posted in language, paula | 1 Comment »

Bilingual stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

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Chicken Varicella

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 May, 2007

Varicella is not, as you may have thought, a type of pasta. It is in fact more commonly known (in English at least) as chicken pox. Varicella is just the official name of the virus. Although to be more accurate the virus is actually known as “Varicella-Zoster” which sounds less like a pasta and more like a ski resort in Switzerland. Interestingly (or not), in Hungarian it is known as Bárányhimlő which means “lamb-pox”. The reason it’s called chicken pox in English is nothing to with chickens, just that it was perceived as a small and decidedly un-deadly version of smallpox, and the humble chicken seemed to fit the bill. I’m assuming it got named after a cuddly little fluffy lamb in Hungarian for the same reason. I’m afraid I have no idea as to what it is called in Romanian. Perhaps hamsterpox or something.

Anyway, cuddly and fluffy it may be by name, but cuddly and fluffy it isn’t necessarily by nature. Paula has had it since Thursday and this weekend has been extremely unpleasant for all of us (her particularly). Not only does she have a raging fever, but she is covered from head to toe in itchy spots which are driving her mad (and, indirectly, us too). In my investigative reading of anything I can find on the internet which might suggest ways of reducing her irritation, I have discovered that there now exists a vaccination for Varicella, which she could have had from 9 months old. I bloody wish she had, and that we’d known about it. Let this post be a strong piece of advice for all parents to go ahead and get your child vaccinated. Even if it’s not offered as a semi-compulsory jab in your state health system, it must be possible to buy the vaccine and have a nurse administer it. Do it. Believe me. It cannot be worth watching your own child attempt to tear her hair out in anger and frustration and exhaustion (did I mention she hasn’t slept either?), and to actually wonder, in all seriousness, whether it is possible to buy a baby sized straightjacket to stop her scratching.

One of the more intriguing things about using the internet as your primary resource for health tips is that it throws up all sorts of contradictions – especially across languages. For example, all English language websites I have found recommend a cool bath as a way to ease the itching. Whereas Hungarian ones say you shouldn’t have baths, only showers. We’ve noticed this before, but it seems particularly pronounced in the case of chicken/lamb pox. The most baffling thing is that apparently calamine lotion, which is used worldwide for the treatment of chicken pox sores (and many other dermatological needs), is actually banned in Hungary. There’s something about it causing infection – even though everywhere else in the world people are slathering it all over their pus-y and blistered children. It’s quite quite bizarre. (Fortunately it is not banned in Romania, so while Erika is nervous about putting it on – having read all this anti-calamine propaganda – we have managed to get some and are using it)

Posted in health, paula | 3 Comments »

Chicken Varicella

Posted by Andy Hockley on 7 May, 2007

Varicella is not, as you may have thought, a type of pasta. It is in fact more commonly known (in English at least) as chicken pox. Varicella is just the official name of the virus. Although to be more accurate the virus is actually known as “Varicella-Zoster” which sounds less like a pasta and more like a ski resort in Switzerland. Interestingly (or not), in Hungarian it is known as Bárányhimlő which means “lamb-pox”. The reason it’s called chicken pox in English is nothing to with chickens, just that it was perceived as a small and decidedly un-deadly version of smallpox, and the humble chicken seemed to fit the bill. I’m assuming it got named after a cuddly little fluffy lamb in Hungarian for the same reason. I’m afraid I have no idea as to what it is called in Romanian. Perhaps hamsterpox or something.

Anyway, cuddly and fluffy it may be by name, but cuddly and fluffy it isn’t necessarily by nature. Paula has had it since Thursday and this weekend has been extremely unpleasant for all of us (her particularly). Not only does she have a raging fever, but she is covered from head to toe in itchy spots which are driving her mad (and, indirectly, us too). In my investigative reading of anything I can find on the internet which might suggest ways of reducing her irritation, I have discovered that there now exists a vaccination for Varicella, which she could have had from 9 months old. I bloody wish she had, and that we’d known about it. Let this post be a strong piece of advice for all parents to go ahead and get your child vaccinated. Even if it’s not offered as a semi-compulsory jab in your state health system, it must be possible to buy the vaccine and have a nurse administer it. Do it. Believe me. It cannot be worth watching your own child attempt to tear her hair out in anger and frustration and exhaustion (did I mention she hasn’t slept either?), and to actually wonder, in all seriousness, whether it is possible to buy a baby sized straightjacket to stop her scratching.

One of the more intriguing things about using the internet as your primary resource for health tips is that it throws up all sorts of contradictions – especially across languages. For example, all English language websites I have found recommend a cool bath as a way to ease the itching. Whereas Hungarian ones say you shouldn’t have baths, only showers. We’ve noticed this before, but it seems particularly pronounced in the case of chicken/lamb pox. The most baffling thing is that apparently calamine lotion, which is used worldwide for the treatment of chicken pox sores (and many other dermatological needs), is actually banned in Hungary. There’s something about it causing infection – even though everywhere else in the world people are slathering it all over their pus-y and blistered children. It’s quite quite bizarre. (Fortunately it is not banned in Romania, so while Erika is nervous about putting it on – having read all this anti-calamine propaganda – we have managed to get some and are using it)

Posted in health, paula | 3 Comments »

Catching Up

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 April, 2007

Got back home on Monday evening, with much relief. A week is hard enough to be away, whereas I was gone for nearly 4. In my absence, Paula has stopped climbing on everything (or rather she’s no longer obsessively climbing on everything), and is now veryinto walking around on tiptoes. She is also calling everyone bigger than herself “Anyu” or “Anyuka”, which is a bit disconcerting. (For non-Hungarian speakers, these are roughly equivalent to “mum” and “mummy”, but its unusual even here for babies to skip over the interim “mama” step before going straight to the more commonly used version). Bogi on the other hand has come down with chicken pox (every year I go to to the same conference in the UK in April, and every year while I’m there, Bogi picks up some childhood ailment – last year mumps, this year chicken pox). Fortunately it’s a mild case and she isn’t itching, she just looks dead spotty.

Now, the next stage in the revolving door family has kicked in, as Erika left this morning for a project meeting in France. We are obviously an international bunch.

Romania made the international news last week twice – once for the political turmoil, with the government suspending the president, pending a referendum on impeachment which he will clearly win -an act that strikes me as being bafflingly time-wasting. But there you go. Secondly because one of the teachers killed at Virginia Tech was a 76 year old holocaust survivor from here.

More to follow, when I have a moment after the kids have crashed.

Posted in health, paula, romania | 3 Comments »

Catching Up

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 April, 2007

Got back home on Monday evening, with much relief. A week is hard enough to be away, whereas I was gone for nearly 4. In my absence, Paula has stopped climbing on everything (or rather she’s no longer obsessively climbing on everything), and is now veryinto walking around on tiptoes. She is also calling everyone bigger than herself “Anyu” or “Anyuka”, which is a bit disconcerting. (For non-Hungarian speakers, these are roughly equivalent to “mum” and “mummy”, but its unusual even here for babies to skip over the interim “mama” step before going straight to the more commonly used version). Bogi on the other hand has come down with chicken pox (every year I go to to the same conference in the UK in April, and every year while I’m there, Bogi picks up some childhood ailment – last year mumps, this year chicken pox). Fortunately it’s a mild case and she isn’t itching, she just looks dead spotty.

Now, the next stage in the revolving door family has kicked in, as Erika left this morning for a project meeting in France. We are obviously an international bunch.

Romania made the international news last week twice – once for the political turmoil, with the government suspending the president, pending a referendum on impeachment which he will clearly win -an act that strikes me as being bafflingly time-wasting. But there you go. Secondly because one of the teachers killed at Virginia Tech was a 76 year old holocaust survivor from here.

More to follow, when I have a moment after the kids have crashed.

Posted in health, paula, romania | 3 Comments »