Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coolness (Working Title)

There is a coolness living in me:
Unexpected. Necessary.
Possessing me as a wraith,
Yet woefully accepted and indeed welcomed.

In my eyes: piercing twin icicles.
In the twitch of my disapproving lips,
Which have long been dry of any hope.

Coolness--
Ingrained in the chapped skin of my hands,
(Refusing the warmth of naive gloves,
And instead choosing a numbing frost)
Palms turned only towards myself,
As I unhappily peel away layers of lies.

Coolness--
In the whole pulsating being of my body,
Shuddering in the face of this everlasting winter.
It is not in my nature to carry on this way,
But winter has always turned me into a child.

It is a coolness
That can no longer be melted away.
An exhausted ember
Which cannot be revived
with any amount of tinder.

It cannot be combated,
Only submitted to.
All that is left to do
Is walk among graveyards,
Where winter can only inevitably lead,
Among new beds and old.

I can only become the flowers
Twining
Up towards the sun
Away from the coolness of stones.

Poland, Day Twenty-Three

Day Twenty-Three, July 28, 2008

Last day...

Woke up around 10am, went to the store, got IDed for beer for the first time in Poland, foreshadowing also. Uncle Chris came over and we sat around with grandma and drank some beers, then my family friends came and drove me to Warsaw.

At the airport, the check-in guy at Lot ALSO thought I was under 18. Really, it was starting to get peculiar. I had to repack my backs because one of my suitcases was too heavy...Darn presents.

At the airport I did a lot of people watching as always, which is tons of fun. Boarding took a long time so I just sat down during it and when there was a really short line got up. I also didn't understand why the flight back to Newark took about an hour and a half longer than the flight to Warsaw.

There was a baby on board, but surprisingly didn't cry for that long. Had some unsuccessful attempts at writing. At hour 7 I started getting some crazy cabin fever and wanted to do anything just to get out of that plane.

Weird headphone thingies:



And then, I actually wrote something I'm okay with it ... I'll post it after this.

Finally got to Newark...baggage claim took forever. Customs guy also thought I was under 18. WTF was up with today, everyone was shocked that I'm 20 years old. Ridiculous.

Okay, I'm done. It's 6:30am in Poland right now which means I'm pretty dead.

Poland, Day Twenty-Two

Day Twenty-Two, July 27, 2008

No breakfast. Went to the cemetery with my grandmother to visit the graves of my grandfathers and my other grandmother. I feel bad because my grandmother can't walk really well, she uses a cane and it takes her a really long time to get anywhere. She's a total trooper though.

Picture of my grandmother walking along:



We also went to go visit my aunt Lika, which was nice, I haven't seen her in a while. We had some dinner, drank a bottle of wine, pretty awesome.

Picture of me and Lika:




All I did after this was go back to the dorm, grab the rest of my stuff, surf the internet a little and then went back to my grandmother's. It was a short night, I was pretty exhausted from Lvov.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Poland, Days Twenty and Twenty-One, Thoughts

In case any of you were interested, here's a picture of a grave in the Ukraine that depicts how into cemeteries Eastern Europeans are:



It also happens to be of a Polish woman.

Moving on.

Name Days
In some families, birthdays are strictly celebrated within the family, whereas name days are made into a really big deal where friends get together. This is because these name days are all clearly on the calendar and celebrated by everyone, which is not the case for birthdays, of course. I spoke with Miroslaw about this as well and how it is celebrated in Slovakia, and he said that each name day in Slovakia occurs only once a year, whereas in Poland these days occur multiple times for different names, and you're supposed to choose the one after your birthday. Anyone else have experience with these sort of celebrations in their own culture?

Language Barrier in the Ukraine
This will probably short, but something I found interesting was the Ukranian people don't really put effort into understanding foreigners. Where I was able to understand that "gallerio" in Ukranian where in polish its "galleria," a Ukranian might not make the connection between the two. We asked one girl in a store where the art gallery was, using the word "galleria" but she really didn't know what we were talking about. The same thing happened in the cafe when we got food. I was saying words to the woman in Polish that are quite similar to Ukranian words, but she wasn't getting it. Wheras she said something that sounded like "ziemniaki" and I understood that to be potatoes.

Unfortunate that I'm leaving Poland, but I'm excited to be home soon. At this time tomorrow I will already be a third into my flight.

See everyone soon!

Poland, Day Twenty-One

Day Twenty-One, July 26, 2008

Lwow/Lvov/L'viv!

So myself, Evelyne, and Mikolaj got to the meeting place at about 2:15am. Which was INCREDIBLY early, seeing as how the bus wasn't leaving until 3am. It seems Mikolaj thought we had to be there half an hour before, I thought we had to be there 10 minutes before, and we ending up getting there 45 minutes before. Oh well. We just hung out for a bit and relaxed, and since we were a little tired the time seemed to go back faster.

The bus was incredibly uncomfortable for sleep, which meant I went that night without sleeping. Saw the sunrise. Unconvinced of it's beauty, sunsets are much prettier.

Got to border around 5am. Border control is so scary, I can't really explain it to you if you've never been. First, it takes FOREVER. There are lines of cars and trucks for miles. Border control officers are pretty frightening because they can basically detain you between countries. Also, they wear badass uniforms. One day, if I ever live in Poland or something, I want to live near a border and date a border control office. True story.

The border...Shhh, You're not technically allowed to take pictures here ;)



My stamped passport:



Finally, we crossed the border about 1 1/2 hours later. Immediately upon entering the Ukraine, it feels like this incredibly faroff place (which I suppose it is, in comparison to New Jersey) simply because all of the signs are in Cyrillic, since that is the alphabet Ukranians use.

For example, I'm PRETTY CONVINCED this is a Lukoil. EXCEPT...



Crazy Cyrillic!

First thing we did in the Ukraine was stop in this small town to visit a castle and a few churches. The castle isn't really that much from the outside, kind of boring, and churches...well. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. Some of them can be quite nice, but only one of the churches we saw in this town was nice, and it happened to be not a catholic church, so there you go.

Mikolaj, Evelyne and I decided to go to the bus to sleep for a bit just because we were exhausted. Before that, we trekked into a public bathroom. Here is what I found in the ladies room:



Shock of all shocks, really. Apparently these types of toilets are very popular here. Why? I don't know. You obviously don't sit down on them. They're supposedly ecologically friendly. Ummm. Unconvinced.

Finally, we get to Lvov. We climb up a massive hill to get to this overlook, which was actually quite nice, though it started raining. Me at the overlook:



We then went to a very large cemetery that has a lot of Polish people buried there. I took a few cool pictures, but Mikolaj wasn't feeling well and Evelyne and I were tired, so we left the group and sat down at a cafe to have something to drink and Mikolaj ate something. It was our first successful transaction in a foreign country where we didn't know the language at all. Conveniently, a lot of Ukranians in Lvov know Polish, and in general I can catch on to Ukranian a bit, so that was how we communicated.

After the cemetery, we visited another church. Then we drove into the center, but as soon as Mikolaj and Evelyne and I saw that we were about to go into yet another church, we decided to break off from the group and do our own sight-seeing.

First things first, we went to a cafe to get something to eat. Of course, the girl didn't understand a lick of Polish and I was able to understand a little bit of Ukranian because of the similar words. More on this in thoughts. What ended up happening was that we all got something to drink and we got one dish of food to share that the waitress recommended, simply because we didn't know what else to do. I mean, jeez, the menu was in Cyrillic and the only things translated into English was wine and spirits.

After the cafe, we went off to try to find an art gallery, which we did find and we spent about an hour there. This was really cool, though I wish we had more time to look around there. I jotted down the names of a few artists I want to look into. Definitely nice.

After the gallery, we walked into the center of the city, and of course, it started to pour. So, no shopping for us--we ran to the bus to hide for the half hour we had left.

Before leaving Lvov, the group was driven to a supermarket so we could get some food shopping done. I stocked up on snack foods to get me through the bus journey back--three pastries filled with meat, some chocolate, water, and crackers. I also bought a bottle of wine (I spent 10 minutes in the alcohol isles, looking confused and trying to decipher Cyrillic) which I hope will be good.

Then, back on the bus for another 2 hours to reach the border. The border control officer this time was suprisingly nice, looking at our foreign passports and greeting us in our respective languages. I also came to the decision that Ukranian men are much better looking than Polish men. This may be because they have hair and don't shave their heads like all idiot Polish guys.

We got to the border at 7pm, and managed to get passed the border at 9:30. Woof. 2 1/2 hours. Border control is brutal, I tell you. There was a lovely Polish border control officer though, first good-looking Polish guy I've seen the whole trip, but unfortunately he was married. Alas!

We got back to Lublin at midnight. I was exhausted so I went to my room, and then my doorbell rang. Armina came to visit! She came to say her goodbyes :( After she left I went to Evelyne's and Mikolaj's for about half an hour, but quickly came to the conclusion that I was entirely too exhausted to keep hanging out. Therefore I returned to my room and passed out!

Poland, Day Twenty

Day Twenty, July 25, 2008

The last day of class! We finished up the workbook, and then took a class photo. I had to run out and find someone to take it for us, and lucky for me, Miroslaw was just hanging around so I got him to take it.

My class! Find me! :D



After class, I went to my Grandmother's for a spot of lunch, and then we headed over to my Uncle Chris's because it was his name day. For those of you who don't know, the "name day" tradition in Poland is a tradition that is just as important as the birthday, if not more so in some families. Every person in Poland is named after a Saint, and Saints have certain days throughout the year on which they are celebrated. So for example, for me, my name day is September 26th. I'll talk a little bit more about this tradition in my thoughts post.

Chris lives with his and my father's uncle, who is quite old now, whom my grandmother doesn't like too much because apparently he can be a real jerk. However, he behaved himself when I was there.

A picture of myself and Chris, toasting his name day:



I also took a really nice picture of my grandmother while we waited for the taxi to get back to her place for dinner:



At my grandmothers, we ate and I asked her to tell me some stories about her experiences with the Nazis, which were very interesting. I also found out from her that my great-uncle, Bogdan, the one with whom Chris lives, wrote kind of an autobiography that is at my house in Livingston right now, so I need to ask my father where it is so I can read it. Bogdan, contrary to what I actually though, was at Auschwitz for about 3 years. I originally thought that he had been at Majdanek, but that's incorrect. I'm really interested in reading what he wrote about his life, it would be a really fascinating look at a first-hand account that would be really personal for me.

My grandmother also told me about a bunch of times that she had some run-ins with both the Nazis and the red army, which were equally enlightening and horrifying, because if she hadn't survived those, it's weird to think I wouldn't be here right now.

I went home to my dorm after that, and got ready to go out, since it was the last night I could go out with everyone here. We went to the stare miasto and went to this place called Desperado. I went inside at one point to go to the bathroom and they were playing Eddie Murphy "Party All the Time" so that kind of made me happy.

At Desparado:



After that we went to a different pub, I'm not clear on the name but we shared some pizza there and that was nice. We were all a bit tired and for some reason the town was really empty despite it being a friday night. We stopped at a club for a split second to see how much it cost to get in, but no one really felt like paying and I didn't feel like dancing (shocking, I know) so we just went back to the dorm and I relaxed for an hour to prepare for Lwow.

What are we going to do tonight, George?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poland, Thoughts, Days Seventeen-Nineteen

First and foremost, I'm a little bummed that I haven't been writing lately. And by writing, I mean writing poetry. I haven't had nearly as much time here as I would like to sit down and write poetry, and I'm really hoping to change that once I get back to the States. It's really important for me to continue writing poetry, since it is rather cathartic and in general just worthwhile for me.

Next topic.

Cemeteries
When we were driving to Wojciechowa on our way to the BBQ, we passed by a cemetery, which made me think about something. Maybe I am overgeneralizing this, since I have never been to a cemetery in the US, but it is my understanding from personal experience that in Poland, cemeteries are a much bigger deal. If you go to a cemetery in Poland, almost every grave is covered in fresh flowers, with candles, and there are always tons of people. In Poland, to go to the cemetery is not just an excursion, it is expected. I don't know if there is a fascination with morbidity, I think it is just that Polish people have a lot of respect for the dead, and to not visit graves of your family and bring new flowers and such would be extremely disrespectful. If anyone has any experience with cemeteries in America or other countries, please do comment, I'd like to hear another side.

No Sunglasses
Worthy of note: I have survived three weeks without wearing sunglasses ONCE!

British and Swedes
When I was in Krakow, I didn't mention this in my posts, but there was something that I found incredibly interesting. There was a group of guys running around wearing Fred Flintstone costumes. Apparently, according to Ciara, a lot of British guys will come to Krakow (because it's cheap and nice) for their bachelor parties. I thought it was really funny, but after speaking with some other people, I've realized something else...These groups of British men (and apparently this applies to Swedish men as well) are turned away from restaurants and bars a lot of the time because they will go into a place and literally destroy it. Lukasz's girlfriend was telling me that she has worked as a bartender in Krakow before and that on some doors to place it says that they will refuse to serve Brits and Swedes. This is a mindboggling sort of thing for me because in America, that would be considered blatant discrimination that warrants suing. I just thought the whole concept was really interesting. Poles don't have anything against these groups of people, only if they know that these people have come to drink and wreck havoc do they get a little prickly.

Pancakes
Worthy of note: This morning I had a pancake craving at 9:43am. I am now dreaming about making pancakes when I return to NJ.

Pets
In my Polish class today, my teacher was talking about how her friends had a pet turtle once and it ran away. This just made me kind of think about how some animals really don't love you--sorry!--and that animals like cats and dogs, depending of course on how you treat them and if you trust them, may very well love you but they also may just depend on you. Take my cat for example--she is allowed to go outside on her own and do whatever she wants. Therefore, nothing in the house gets scratched up because she can just do that outside. She follows everyone around kind of like a puppy at times because she likes being around people. She can clearly catch her own food, since I know very well how many times I've had to extract mice from under the refrigerator and let them go free. So, do I think that my cat loves me? I think that she probably finds it easier for us to feed her than for her to catch all her own food, but if she didn't enjoy our company I think she would have just run away.

Also my teacher mentioned something about how sheep are considered calm animals because they calmly walk to their slaughter. I thought that was kind of screwed up, and it made me second-guess my omnivorous ways.

Fin

Poland, Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen, July 24, 2008

Slept in. Like whoa. Woke up at 7 and decided...naaah, going to just spend the day in bed. Which is what I did! I woke up around 2 and went to lunch.

And who did I see but my cousin? My cousins live in Zakopane, which is pretty much the opposite end of Poland. I had been in email contact with my cousin Renata, but she's in Austria right now studying german. She had mentioned that her brother, my cousin Lukasz, would be coming to Lublin but I had no idea when or why. It's a really small world that he just happened to be there at the same time I was. I was just walking along in the university area, when I just hear my name. I look in the direction it was coming from, and try to figure out who exactly it was that was saying my name. Sure enough...It was Lukasz! He came to Lublin with his girlfriend (and their cat, amazingly enough) all the way from Zakopane just for the day to meet my grandmother.

It's kind of the sweetest thing ever, because my grandmother is the nicest person ever created. She is the sunshine of my days. I want to be as happy and open as she is when I am her age. I'm pretty sure she is between 85 and 87. She can't really move around as much as she used to of course, but she is mentally still full of energy. I really admire her. If there is anything that I have gotten out of this trip it is that I have come to a deeper appreciation for her.

I exchanged numbers with Lukasz, and he said he'd call me later because he was planning on going out with his girlfriend and meeting up with David, our other cousin.

After lunch, I didn't do too much. Right before dinner, at 5:30, we had our "graduation" ceremony. Everyone was called up one at a time and received their diploma. On my papers, it says that I took 50 hours of polish and various other hours of different classes, even though I didn't go to them...Haha. For the course, it says that I got 5 credits at the university. Pretty interesting, I'm going to find out if Rutgers will accept them, though I doubt it.

I see that I got a call from Lukasz while at dinner/graduation, so I call him back and he lets me know they're at Szefcas. I get back to my room, gather myself together, and then Miroslaw and I headed into town. We made a stop at this pub called U Biesow, which my dad suggested to me. It's in the basements of the old town, and it's pretty cool, the menu has the seven deadly sins as titles and then has food and whatnot underneath those titles.

We had a beer a piece then moved on to Szefca. All in all, it was really nice seeing my cousins. I'm pretty happy that I chose to meet up with them instead of going anywhere else. Frankly, I've seen a lot of the people here for three weeks, and I haven't seen my cousin in three years. There are certain priorities! We had some really nice conversations, some really intriguing ones that I will probably write about a little later in my thoughts entry.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures for this day because I'm an idiot and forgot to put my recharged batteries in my camera.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Poland, Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen, July 23, 2008

Another nice day! Went to class in the morning, lunch, then went into town even though it was a bit rainy. Only bought one thing, a new tank top. So cute! Has hearts on it, of course. Other than that we (Armina, Ciara and I) walked around. We got dessert at my favorite place in Lublin, Cafe Vanilia. It's this posh little cafe that is beautiful and has the tastiest desserts of my life. True fact.

So, I had some tea and this dessert called the deser frida. It's basically raspberry preserves with whipped topping and fruit garnish. Ciara got the tiramisu, and Armina just got green tea. Ciara and I had to call into question her good taste as she added sugar to her green tea.

The deser frida:



Afterwards, just had dinner and gossiped a lot! Oh, us girls. We went to Paragraf 14 in the evening. Ciara challenged me to a chugging contest, which of course I won.



Evelyn and Maite met up with us there and hung out for a bit, then Armina, Ciara and I left to go to a concert in the park, until we were informed it was already over. So, back to paragraf 14. Then Ciara was hungry so we were going to walk into town to mcdonalds, and I texted Mikolaj to see where he was at. He was at Chatka Zaka, so we headed over there for a bit.

Kasia, Mateusz and Mikolaj were there, and a bunch of other people from our course had just left. We sat around and drank a bit, I ended up having to the finish beers (again! earlier at paragraf 14 I had had to finish Armina's beer).



After Chatka Zaka, I went to Armina's flat for a bit, and all of her flatmates and Marek, a german guy, were hanging out in the kitchen talking about gay marriage. I'll talk about this in my thoughts post, which I'll try to post tonight or tomorrow.

Poland, Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen, July 22, 2008

This day kind of ruled, a lot. In the morning I went to class as per the usual, but the point of interest for this day was the barbeque. Blogger is trying to tell me barbeque is spelled barbecue, but I disagree. Anyway, in the evening for dinner we all piled onto a bus and went to Wojciechowa for a barbeque. I was under the impression this was going to be a bonfire, but it still turned out to be really cool.

There was a dance floor, a live band, a field to play around in, and amazing food. And also ... FREE BEER! There was a long line for beer so I hopped on and got two, since I figured it would be easier. Check it:



How cool am I, seriously. The food ruled, there was amazing kielbasa and there was a whole pig. I felt totally at home! Unfortunately there were these really annoying Russian ladies. There is a group of old Russian ladies that stick together and what ended up happening was while I was on the beer line they all kept cutting in front of me and getting two each because one of them was online in front of me. Then they did the same thing for food...Got about 20 plates full for one woman before I was able to get my first plate! Ridiculous.

The piggie:


The band was awesome, they played mostly Polish music. I learned how to waltz (kind of!). Sebastian is this incredibly dancer and having never waltzed in my life before, I was still able to dance with him just because he is THAT good. I felt like a fairy princess, he was twirling me around and it was fantastic. Straight men need to learn how to dance. Literally, I felt like I was in a movie: everything around us was blurred and all I saw was his face! Haha. Mikolaj taught me how to cha-cha also, so that was fun. We were terrible but we had a great time. I love dancing. I was given the nickname "Dance Machine" by some people here...Which suits me rather well haha! I'm now determined to learn how to ballroom dance, I just need to find a partner.



We got back late, around 2am.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Charles Manson...

Dear Charles Manson

In the late 90s, Bill Geerhart wrote letters to people like Charles Manson and Ted Kaczynski in the guise of a little boy named Billy. Ted Kaczynski officially has the most beautiful handwriting I've ever seen in my life.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Poland, Thoughts, Days Thirteen-Sixteen

So, here's a little quick thoughts post.

Sightseeing: Alone vs. Group
I'm come to the decision that I really like sightseeing on my own because I'm able to absorb things a lot more. In a group I'm more apt to get bored and get swayed by others' thoughts. By going around by myself I'm able to come to my own unbiased conclusions. Being in a group is sometimes nice because I may learn things from tour guides I wouldn't otherwise know, but in general...I do like being on my own more.

There's also a girl here I know from Belgium and she speaks English, but she uses the word "boring" in a way that doesn't make sense sometimes. It's interesting. She uses it as an adjective for everything!!

I don't really have much else to say right now, it's late. I found out tonight that Miroslaw is studying Norwegian, so we had a bonding experience over how awesome Norway is.

Until tomorrow.

Poland, Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen, July 21, 2008

Slept through breakfast again. Went to my Polish classes, skipped the other lectures and went to Grandma's for lunch. Before I went there I wrote a blog post and had to jot down a poem by Walt Whitman that I'd need later. But I'll come to that in a bit.

Had pierogi at grandma's (homemade!) and just hung out and talked with her, which is always a pleasure for me. Took a nap. Had dinner. Daddy called. Then I went to the "National Evening"...Basically a talent show that showcases everyone's cultures.

A picture of a guy singing a Russian song and everyone singing/dancing along:



I read "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman. For those of you who know me well...You know he's my favorite poet, and that is my favorite poem. The poetry reading has gone over well though, people really like listening, which is nice.

Here's a blurry picture of me reading on stage:



There was a film crew there too, from a Polish television station. They left rather quickly though. There was a lot of cool stuff there, people sang, people danced, and my Czech and Slowakian friends showed a film which was actually really moving. I need to find out the name of it.

There were also some really annoying Russians who took about 2 hours for their own private little show. Really annoying.

After the show, I went out with my Czech and Slowakian friends to a bar for a bit. The girls are from Czech, and then my friend Miroslaw is from Slowakia. The girls left early, and Miroslaw and I stayed around until closing, just drinking and talking, which is always fun.

I have an exam tomorrow........:x Good thing is that it doesn't matter what I get on it, I'll still get my diploma.

Poland, Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen, July 20, 2008

Didn't wake up for breakfast. But I did however go to the sightseeing. We went to Wawel, which is the castle in Krakow, and is always nice to visit. It was a little boring though, actually, since I've already been there. I wanted to climb to the top of the tower, but I ended up sitting down in the cathedral and losing the group, so I just left and took a bunch of pictures and went into town.

A picture of Wawel (really just the cathedral):



View from Wawel over the Wisla river:



I went around the main rynek again after Wawel, didn't do anymore shopping other than buying a shirt for Katie. Then met up with everyone for lunch. After lunch, we all piled back onto the bus and headed back to Lublin. We had one stop this time, at Sandomierz. There is a castle there, but we didn't go see the castle, just stopped at a gas station for a bit. I slept most of the ride.

Picture of myself and Sebastian at the gas station:



Got back to Lublin pretty late, around 11pm. I didn't do too much, pretty much took a shower and went to sleep.

Poland, Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen, July 19, 2008

Woke up around 12:30pm...;) Got to sleep in after a long night out! In theory, I planned on waking up earlier, but I didn't set an alarm and the people I was living with didn't wake me up. Which I guess I don't mind, all the sight seeing that was done was the old town in Krakow which I've already seen.

So, I met up with everyone for lunch then just went around town by myself...Which was actually really nice. I prefer going around by myself, I'll write about this more in my "thoughts" entry. I spent the day walking around the rynek, or market place, just shopping and really absorbing a lot of stuff. Before I went off by myself, Armina, Ciara, Theresa and I got some dessert at a bougeois cafe. Seriously!! It looked like a hotel inside. Nicest bathroom I've EVER been in.

At the cafe, I got a szarlotka, which is apple pie in the polish style, a strawberry smoothie, and an irish coffee--MMMM!!!!

Then I broke off from the girls, since I'm more comfortable shopping myself. I bought a few scarves (since I'm clearly obsessed with scarves), 2 leather thingies (coolest things ever...they are these pieces of leather that have prints on them), and eyeliner (which actually is terrible). After I finished all my shopping, I sat at a cafe, had a beer, and wrote a few postcards. It was nice, I just relaxed and people-watched. There was an outdoor concert happening in the main square, which I was listening to as well. A huge stage, with some Polish bands playing originals and covers of American songs, there was some sort of "x games" style thing going on as well. There was a rock wall, basketball and volleyball courts, etc. Pretty interesting. There was also a skateboard ramp, which I peeked for a bit.

A shot of the beautiful architecture in Krakow:



I went back to the room after all this, dropped off some stuff, then we went back into town. We went to Kazimierz, which is the old jewish part of Krakow. Not too bad, we went to a really cool dive bar but the thing is it had a lot of art and stuff on the wall, it wasn't that cheesy.

Here's a shot of Theresa, Me, Henryk, and Evelyn:



After that bar, we went to a really awesome club, or discotek as they call them in europe. We danced the night away! For real. I really enjoy dancing, and this place was great. After the discotek, most people went home, but Henryk and I decided we wanted to walk and get another beer, so we went back to the place we were at friday night. We only had like another beer a piece then walked back. For the second night in a row I tripped up the damn stairs which is annoying, I scrapped my shin a bit. I got home around 5am! Jeez, party animal.

Poland, Day Thirteen

Day Thirteen, July 18, 2008

Early morning rise, as always. We were leaving for Krakow at 8-8:30am so I had to get up way early for breakfast. I ended up getting to breakfast around 8, but we didn't leave until 8:30 so I was able to eat a little something.

The drive was brutal, as bus rides always are on terrible Polish roads, but it ended up not being too bad because I just slept for a good part of it. I also read and listened to my ipod (life saver!).

Here's a picture of Sebastian and I on the bus:



Last time I got shafted with the bus that didn't have air conditioning, but this time that wasn't the case, which ruled. It wasn't too warm, but it still helped to have that backup.

We stopped three times in total. Once at a gas station, and then the next time at this town called Checiny for some sightseeing and some lunch. In Checiny, there are the ruins of a castle. It actually really wasn't that interesting--I've seen nicer and cooler ruins. I think what really ruined it for me was that everyone that we encountered there was incredibly nasty. Everyone that worked that was really preoccupied with money--the guy who was guarding the parking lot demanded money before we were even allowed to park the bus, you had to pay to use the bathroom. There were these helmets that you could take pictures with for free, but then someone ended up scamming one of my friends and demanding she pay.

In addition, the english tour guide was reading from this little notecard of stuff written in really broken english, and once he was done he looked up at the manager and said, "I'm done!"

It was really infuriating, because the manager contended they had no idea we needed an english tour guide, when the lady in charge of our program had called a few times. Also, the guy had the card!!! It would have been impossible to write down all of that in a matter of seconds when we arrived. It just really bothered me personally because it just seemed as if all the people there were scoundrels.





Then we had lunch at a restaurant in Checiny that we were late for. It was okay, as they always are. Soup and meat, nothing to die for.

Our third stop was Wieliczka--a salt mine near Krakow. I've been there before but I figured it would be nice to go again, and indeed, it was. It's an interesting place and quite beautiful at times. There is a gorgeous chapel...Most of the structures in the mine are made from salt, which is wild. Just salt and wood!

After Wieliczka, we got to the dorm we were staying in. Not really the best accomodations. Three people to a room, two rooms, one bathroom per apartment. I've also come to the conclusion that all of the showers in Poland are skeevy. I miss drains that work.

We went out, of course, because it is silly to visit Krakow, one of my most favorite places in the whole world, for only two days and not take advantage of it. We went to the glowny rynek, which is basically the main marketplace. It's a huge square that is surrounded by cafes and stores. Krakow is gorgeous...I always love going. Not to mention, the great nightlife!

We went to a cafe (Armina, Theresa, Ciara, Charlene, Andy and I) for a few beers. Henryk, Andy's friend, and Justin, Henryk's friend, met up with us at the cafe. The girls ended up going home earlier, around 11:30pm, but the rest of us still wanted to hang out and enjoy the beautiful night. So we moved on to a different bar. This bar was pretty cool, and we stayed there for a good long while. We met someone who confirmed again that Polish people are obsessed with my accent.

Henryk is really awesome, he's this humongous guy who happens to be from Iceland, of all places! So of course we talked about Sigur Ros. Justin is from Oklahoma City, so we shot the shit a little about America, and I was littered with compliments which became uncomfortable after a while. It was a little silly, and a little overboard.

Andy left early, and Henryk, Justin and I walked back. You wouldn't believe how safe I feel with Henryk walking home, considering he dwarfs pretty much everyone.

I got back to my room at about 4:30am. A successful night.

Blog at Your Own Risk!

Here is another example of Americans destroying the Constitution one day at a time:

Lawsuits Against Bloggers Seen Rising

The Constitution is just a piece of paper, I guess. Doesn't seem to mean much anymore.

Everyone needs to start paying attention to these kinds of news stories and actually understanding what they mean. Please, I'm begging you, TUNE IN! TURN ON! Drop out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Poland, Day Twelve

Day Twelve, July 17, 2008

Today was fun!

Woke up a little late, went to class. Then went into town! Did a little shopping with Kira and got some lunch at Zloty Osiol (a restaurant in stare miasto). Got pierogi with meat...Turned out they were DEEP FRIED!!! SSOOOO GOOD:



Mikolaj, Evelyn and I bought tickets to go to the Ukraine on July 26th for the day which is going to be awesome. It's a bus trip from 3am the 26th, arriving in Lwow around 8am, touring Lwow for the day, returning to Lublin around midnight. Super fun, I'm really happy about it.

Afterwards I went to dinner, then Mikolaj, Evelyn, Miete and I went into stare miasto for a concert! The name of the group is Kroke, and they're known as a klezmer band (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klezmer). They were really, really good. I'm going to buy a cd of theirs soon. They're from Krakow...They have a lot of influences, including folk and jazz. Here's a picture I snapped tonight:



Sorry this is such a short post, I don't have any thoughts to add, I'm going to Krakow tomorrow morning for the weekend and it's pretty late now so I have to get to bed. I'm sure I'll have an incredible amount of information to share when I get back from Krakow...

Until then. Love you all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poland, Day Eleven

Day Eleven, July 16, 2008

Today started off normally enough. Went to breakfast, went to class. Skipped Politics/Linguistics and just walked around the mall for a while. I also sat down and had a cappuccino and did some homework, even reading a bit of A.K. It was nice.



Afterwards I had another class in which I got back the exam I took yesterday. Got a B-. Not bad, not exactly great either. Then there was lunch, then went BACK to the mall with some friends to accompany them, they needed to buy some stuff. Then...song/dance class!!!

We learned how to dance the polonaise which was INCREDIBLY fun! I really enjoy dancing, and I love learning ballroom dances. I wish more young people these days actually knew how to dance! It really is a lot of fun, because no one really knew what they were doing and we were all just messing around. Pretty relaxed.

After class I went home to pick up a few things then went over to my grandmother's to spend some time with her. Had dinner there (pierogis...mmm) and just kind of hung out for a bit. Then I came back here with the intention of going out, but none of the people that I regularly hang out with actually wanted to do anything. Pretty unfortunate. But, we're all going to a concert tomorrow which is going to be pretty serious, and friday we leave for Krakow. So, I guess it's okay if I have another night off ;)

That's it for today, no special thoughts either for today, I've just been trying to relax a bit.

The next few days are going to be extremely hectic, so we'll see how things pan out.

Au Revoir!

Simon's Cat

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Poland, Days Nine and Ten, Thoughts!

Days Nine and Ten, July 14 and 15, 2008, Thoughts

I was thinking about the effect of the internet on communication between people. I'm actually really interested in possibly pursuing this topic for my thesis paper. For the paper it would be more specific-how social networking sites have impacted communication and the "art" of meeting people. But I was thinking about this topic more generally the other day. I find that a big way I stay in contact with people right now is through the internet, whether it be through emails, myspace, facebook, or instant messenger. It's a wonder how the phone age is slowly drifting away and communication is becoming more and more text-based (I'll included text messages in this). I can't imagine calling of the people that I stay in contact with now everyday because I think it would take a lot of time and cost a lot more than just using the internet. It's a function of necessity on my part as well as ease.

In general, I am not a big phone talker, but on occassion it is nice to sit around and shoot the breeze over the phone and feel like you're in contact with a real person rather than an ethernet cable. Talking online is false and fake in my opinion. I really enjoy raw interaction with a person--preferrably face-to-face but the phone is second-best. I think that not only do you learn more about people in these kinds of interactions, but you learn about yourself as well. The internet at once gives people a way to concretely control their social interactions. This was discussed in my Comm 102 class last semester, and I found it all really interesting.

Another thing I was thinking of is -- what do you do when you have shitty friends? In the past, I have simply cut ties with people. I had an incident a few years ago where a bunch of people I regularly hung out with were actually not the kind of friends I thought they were. I effectively cut them off and let them know what I thought of them. But what do you do when you have mutual friends? At this point I am grappling with a situation where I am acquainted with someone whom I thought was a friend, but I am slowly realizing this person doesn't really care about my feelings, only their own. This person is intimately involved with another one of my best friends, though. So I can't really just say, we aren't friends, I don't want you around, no matter how badly I want to. Has anyone else had situations like this?

Third, how the heck can I save money? I'm trying to set aside money from my allowance to be able to pay for rent when I return to the States, and now I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to be able to pay for Montreal when I go with my coworkers. We're going for a few days and it's going to be approximately $230 for the week for housing. Which isn't terrible, but it isn't good either. What do I do??!?!

Fourth, somethings that were brought up in my classes. Destiny vs. free will. What do you believe in? For myself, I am a firm believer that people choose their own paths, and if anything, destiny and free will may be intertwined in that it's more like a choose-your-own-ending goosebumps book, except for life. ;)

Can a name suit someone? What's in a name? In my Lit Theory class last semester we talked about how a name can at the same time give someone meaning but also take it away because it is limiting. What do YOU think?

Last, I had some pretty interesting conversations with two Russian girls dealing with American politics. These conversations confirmed my fears about how Americans are viewed abroad. Apparently, another girl who is a part of the program is from the US and also from the tri-state area, but seems to be a blumbering idiot. In that, she communicated to the Russians that "most Americans like Bush" and that "at first they did not support the Iraq war, but now they do." I'm sorry...isn't it the complete opposite? Granted, a lot of people did support Bush and the war, but approval ratings have plummeted and that's not really just a coincidence. It was kind of heartbreaking for me that this girl was able to singlehandedly confirm for the Russians that Americans are ignorant. I did admit to them, shamefully, that most Americans do not in fact care what is going on in the world, and chose to stay ignorant to the news. Honestly, I almost didn't know what to say. Seriously, it was just complete lies that spewed out of that girl's mouth. It's something different to say you support Bush despite what is going on and so on and so forth, but it seemed like she just made things up.

The unfortunate fact is that most Americans are ashamed to admit faults to foreign countries. A lot of Americans are bullheaded and though they might disagree with something, if the ideal of "America" is challenged, no matter what twisted bill is thought up, someone will support it. And I think that is the real danger to society today--overwhelming fears that cloud judgement.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll go back to it at this point. Americans champion freedoms, yet at every turn they beg for their freedoms to be restricted. Yes, it is difficult to live with completely freedoms, but there is a certain point we have passed in this country that points to our civil liberties being taken away and the constitution being blatantly and metaphorically spat on. Yet, no one cares. Everyone pretends not to notice, and strangely enough, to defend it.

This country was created for a reason. I believe that that reason is beginning to become lost to modern Americans who have become comfortable in their homes.

Poland, Day Ten

Day Ten, July 15, 2008

Another long day. Began with me sleeping in and opting out of breakfast in order to sleep an extra hour. Was a good choice.

Polish class started at 9 and I had an exam. It was REALLY difficult! I was kind of unhappy about that, I hope I did well. Afterward instead of going to Politics I opted to go to Linguistics instead. Typically I think linguistics really interesting, but once again, a swing and a miss. I might have been tired though.

Then there was lunch, and then we all caught a bus (all 50+ of us) to go to Majdanek, the concentration camp that was located in Lublin. I have been here before with my father, but it was quite a few years ago so I decided it would be worth it to go again. It's kind of ridiculous because even when you visit, you feel almost apathetic or indifferent because your mind can't really grasp that these things actually happened (or at least this was the case for me).

Barbed wire fence around Majdanek:



One of the most interesting things about the trip to Majdanek was that the photography Edward Hartwig's work was up on display. Apparently, he took a lot of pictures of Majdanek and had even been enprisoned there at one point. The reason I found this so interesting is because the last time I was in Poland, my grandmother and I attended an art gallery opening that featured Edward Hartwig's work. It was just a little coincidental.

One of Edward Hartwig's photographs that was hanging in the gallery of the informaton center:



It is hard to imagine that ordinary people commited these extreme immoral acts against fellow human beings. It's really something else. For me it is difficult to wrap my head around. It was supposed to rain today, but ironically it ended up being rather sunny as we visited the muzeum.

A picture I took in the bathhouse:



For more pictures that I took at Majdanek, see my flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/justinebienkowski There's a bunch.

After Majdanek, I went to H & M with a friend, Armina, and we spent a good hour there just walking around. I only ended up buying one dress and two scarves, which I sorely need since it is chillier here than I thought it would be.

We were supposed to go see another movie in the park tonight, but we all decided we are a little tired and group C has an exam tomorrow. This was good for me, because I had a lot I needed to do tonight--answer some emails, take a shower, blog, read... Shoot. I was going to write some Polish homework. Ahh, I suppose I'll do it tomorrow during my break. Actually, I won't have the teacher the homework is for until Thursday afternoon, so I guess I can do it either during my break tomorrow or tomorrow night. We'll see how my day pans out.

Fin!

Poland, Day Nine

Day Nine, July 14, 2008

This may be a long one (that's what she said?)

Happy Bastille Day! I went around saying this to people today and they just gave me blank stares. I mean, come on, it's not America, you should know what Bastille Day is!!

This day consisted of going to Polish class in the morning, then going to a Politics class which was surprisingly boring. The woman was a terrible lecturer, which was unfortunate, because in general I think the topic is quite interesting. After that was another Polish class. Then there was a Singing class, but I skipped it because I couldn't really deal with it, and instead went to the supermarket and bought cleaning supplies.

The next hour consisted of me sweeping all of the floors in the apartment and then getting on my hands and knees and scrubbing each tile. I'm sorry, I just can't deal living in a dirty apartment...The dirtier it is, the less you know who else is living with you... (This is an inference to bugs living in corners and such). The showers clog immediately once you start showering, so I bought some declogger (sorry, I don't really think this has a proper term) and tried using that. It worked on the sink, but not so much in the shower. I think there is probably a big clog somewhere in a main pipe, because people in other apartments have the same problem. Oh well. Nothing I can do about it, planning on talking to the grounds guys soon and seeing if they can get it fixed.

After my cleaning extravaganza, there was this "National Evening" which was people going up on stage and doing something related to the culture of their country of origin. The French people had us sing a French song and they had made crepes. The Slavic people of various nations started a Russian sing-a-long. It's amazing how people in Europe know at least 2 foreign languages, sometimes 3. I am envious. If I hadn't hated French so much I would have taken more of it...Three years was more than enough for me! Unfortunately, now I only remember bits and pieces of it, so when the French people speak I can only somewhat gather what they are saying.

A lot of people didn't want to go up on stage and do anything, so I caved and decided I'd read a poem. All the computers in the library had been turned off by that point, but they turned one on for me and I printed out a poem to read. I ended up reading "Birches" by Robert Frost, because Robert Frost is a pretty pivotal American poet and that is one of his most famous poems, also being one of my favorites.

One the "National Evening" concluded, a few of us gathered together and went to the bar--Paragraf 14 again! It was a larger group, and we sat downstairs. Here I'll include a picture of (most) of us (Kira is taking the actual picture):



There are more pictures on my flickr. I thought this one was appropriate because it included almost all of us.

All of these people went home around 11:30pm, so I sat down with a different group...Two other girls were sitting upstairs. We stayed at the bar until about 1am, and actually had some really intense conversations which I will touch upon in the "Thoughts" post for this day.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Poland, Day Eight, Thoughts Included!

Day Eight, July 13, 2008

Another lazy day. I slept until 1:30pm today, instead of going on the trip to stare miasto, since I have seen everything there is to see there. Once I woke up, I went to my grandmother's and had lunch there, then slept for another two hours, after which I woke up and did my homework with her help (EXCITING LIFESTYLEZ OF THE POLISH). Then, of course, was dinner. I took a shower. My parents called.

I came back here and went to my friends' apartment, had a beer there, then we went and saw a movie in the park. There's this huge stage just in the middle of the park where they have concerts and do other things. For the next few nights, they're showing films. Tonight there was a Japanese Anime playing, called something along the lines of "The World of Gods." It was kind of interesting, there were a lot of people there just watching it and drinking beers. It ran until late, about 12, so afterwards we came back since everyone has class in the morning.

I have no real thoughts to add to today, just a few I have remembered from past days.

Thursday night at the opening, there was an arch-bishop there, and I mentioned this in the day post but forgot to talk about it in the thoughts post. Anyway, so everyone gave him a standing ovation which I thought was rather strange. I mean the rationale behind it is that Poland is a very religious nation, and that he had been very involved in the program in past years. Yet it just kind of seemed like people put more stake into their priests here than in their beliefs in god. Why are people giving a standing ovation to an arch-bishop? It seems to give him a lot of power, and worship. But aren't people supposed to really be doing this for god? Do people consider priests the form of god manifest on Earth, or at least the closest thing? It is a strange idea for me.

In Poland, they have these things called "grzanie" which is basically beer heated up in the winter when it's cold. Also weird.

I saw a baby horse en route to Kozlowka.

Love, Justine

P.s. Updated flickr. flickr.com/photos/justinebienkowski under Poland Summer 2008

Poland, Day Seven, Thoughts Included!

Day Seven, July 12, 2008

Day Seven was pretty intense. Woke up rather early (8) and we all piled into a bus to go to Kozlowka (a palace/museum type place) and then to Kazimierz (a cute artist town).

Of course, as luck would have it, I was put on the bus with no air conditioning so I had to suffer through 85 degree weather in a bus where the sun happened to hit me straight in the face. Extremely unfortunate. It only took about an hour to drive to Kozlowka, and the funny thing is once I got there my family friends were there! I had tried to get in touch with them the night before, but their line was busy. Apparently they ended up calling my grandmother back and she let them know that I was going to be there. They live really close, and it was nice to see them, even though it was only for a little bit because I had to go on the tour and such with my group. They brought me chocolate. Oof. As many of you know, I don't really eat sweets, and I'm not the biggest fan. In addition, the box was huge, so I had to lug it around with me all day. Annoying!

Anyway, I've been to Kozlowka before, it's pretty nice. The aforementioned family friends' daughter works there, so last time I was there I was able to go around on my own and take pictures, where pictures are typically not allowed. I had a hankering for an ice cream while I was there but the lines were long all the time so I just decided to wait until Kazimierz.

My favorite part of Kozlowka are the beautiful grounds. There is a really stunning rose garden, and then there are more gardens around the whole area. It really is just breathtaking. After touring the castle and then wandering around a bit, I went with my friends to the Socialist exhibit, which is also pretty neat. It has a lot of art and propaganda posters from the time period.

Then, onto the bus to Kazimierz! Another hour's drive in extreme heat and sun. Sad girl. We got to the town and then walked into the center. We also went into the Cathedral, which was nice because it was extremely cool in there. Something that kind of confused me about myself is that I am not religious, and consider myself agno
stic, yet it really irked me that people (girls) walked blatantly into the church without covering their bare shoulders. I mean despite not being Catholic, I think it comes down to the fact that I still respect the fact that to some people it is a holy place.

After the Cathedral, we went on a boat ride! It was another nice way to cool down. We had no destination, we just went up the Wisla river and came back. It rained for .5 seconds, which was kind of amusing. My friends saw the rain coming across the waters towards us "like something out of Lord of the Rings." I tried this flavored beer called "Redds" while on the boat. Tasty, but not very beer-like.

We then had about an hour to ourselves, so of course we sat down at a cafe and had a beer. I bought some postcards and a nice stained-glass piece--I'm obsessed with stained glass, I think it is very pretty. I want some stained glass windows in my house!


It took an hour and a half to drive back to Lublin. Everyone separated to take showers, then we met back up and went to a bar called "Paragraf 14," which was only a 5 minute walk from the dorm. It was nice there, pretty peaceful. Only myself, Eveline, Miete, Mikolaj and Mateusz went. We found out Mikolaj is a lightweight, and now make fun of him mercilessly for the fact that he is German and yet after three beers is drunk. Amusing.

Here's a picture of me, Miete, Mikolaj and Mateusz at Paragraf 14:



Mikolaj and Mateusz are making some absurd faces, haha.

That's it for day seven!

Poland, Day Six, Thoughts Included!

Day Six, July 11, 2008

Day six consisted of me taking a day off from class and sleeping until (seriously) 2pm. I'm a lazy little thing ;) No but really, I needed a day to myself, the night before (as was in previous posts mentioned) was spent at the bar and then writing 7 new blogs...Tiring, for real.

I did end up going to my Polish Traditional Songs class, which was fun. We sang favorites like "Sto lat," pretty much the most well-known Polish song ever. It is sung typically at birthdays and name days, and on other occasions where people are given due. We sang "Hej Sokoly," another classic, which is more traditional and deals with the period of time where Poland was under pressure from Russia and Prussia and wasn't independent. Some other songs were sung, but I won't include their names since no one is going to understand them anyway.

After that class, we watched a movie called "Czlowiek z Marmuru," in English, "Man of Marble." Here's a pretty great review of the film I found on imdb:

"
Wajda's MAN OF MARBLE is one of the most compelling attacks on government corruption that I have ever seen. It is a "Citizen Kane"-styled story of a female film student who tries to trace the history of Birkut, a long-forgotten "hero" of the Polish Communist government.

She begins by viewing propaganda film that praises Birkut as a devout worker who slaves away at brick-laying for the officials. He has the appearance of a vigilant, Hercules-like strongman who breezes through the labor without breaking a sweat. Then she goes to interview the director, who was hired by the government. He tells her about the reality of making the film, such as how Birkut was given extra food and water (unlike the other bricklayers). Wajda uses these two conflicting scenes to deconstruct the false imagery that propaganda gives its viewers. He shows us how officials manipulate such situations to their own political good.

The student goes on to interview other subjects who describe the brutal reality of Birkut's off-camera existence. In one devastating scene, she meets his wife, who breaks down and tries to avoid being interviewed. As the truth becomes clearer and clearer, the government begins to intercede in the production of the student's film.

Wajda was a film-maker who was not afraid to criticize the harsh Polish government that eventually was defeated by individuals such as Lech Walesa. MAN OF MARBLE is a testament to those who had to live through the oppression of Communism, and also to those who are still living under its iron fist."

All in all, it was a pretty engaging film, and I'd like to see it again because at times I got a little lost in it.

[Side note--someone is blasting 80s hair metal right now. Huh?! Awesome.]

After the film, I went to my grandmother's for a spot of dinner, then returned to the dorm to meet up with my friends here to go out. We walked to the town center into the old city, and encountered a great surprise--some huge concert-type thing. There was cool lighting and TONS of people milling about. It took us a while to find a table, but finally we did and sat down to have some brews. After that bar, we moved on to a "disco" as they call them in Europe. It ended up being a club-type scene and then there was another bar on the roof, half of which was split into a regular bar and the other half was beachy. There was sand spread out over that part of the roof, and then there were beach chairs set up. It was pretty cool! The only other time I've been on a roof to party was in New York, last year, when Zach and I went to visit Anthony at his apartment. That was fucking awesome too.

That about wraps up day six. Sorry there weren't more meaningful thoughts in this.

i is a beard

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Flickr

P.s., You can now follow my trip via pictures through my flickr site -- http://flickr.com/photos/justinebienkowski/ and you can click on the Poland Summer 2008 set. A lot of the pictures won't be going on facebook or anything, so you can keep tabs through that. Just think, more ways to stalk me! How nice.

Poland, Day Five, Thoughts

Day Five, Thoughts, July 10, 2008

There aren't many thoughts for today, I was a little braindead today. But, I did want to include this:


"O Lithuania! My homeland! You are like health;
Only he will find out how cherished is your wealth,
Who has lost you. Today, your beauty in full view
I see and describe, for I am yearning for you."

-Lines 1-4 from "Master Thaddeus" by Adam Mickiewicz

I know that I haven't been properly citing in this but, come on, it's a blog. Shut yo' mouth.

Regardless, I thought this passage was interesting and thought-provoking in that no one really thinks about or appreciates anything until they don't have it, and that is sort of a silly human downfall.

As a treat, now I am including a poem that I translated from Polish. It is from the poem "Kot w pustym mieszkaniu" by Wislawa Szymborska.


Cat in an Empty Apartment

Dying--You can't do that to a cat.
Because what is a cat to do
In an empty apartment?
Climb the walls.
Brush up against the furniture.
It would seem that nothing here has changed,
yet things have shifted.
And at night, the lamp no longer shines.

Hearing footsteps on the stairs,
but they are not the ones.
The hand that puts fish on the plate
is not the same as the one that used to.

Something here is not beginning
At its proper time.
Something here is not happening
As it should.
Someone had once been here and been here,
And then suddenly disappeared,
And is now stubbornly absent.

Every closet was peeked into,
Every shelf run over.
Even the area under the rug was checked,
After squeezing beneath.
Even the rule about not scattering papers
Was broken.

What else is left to do?
Sleep and wait.

If only he would just return,
If only he would just show up.
Then he'll find out,
That you simply do not do this to a cat.
He will be approached,
As though unwillingly,
Slowly,
On very offended paws,
With no jumping or squeaks at first.

Poland, Day Four, Thoughts

Day Four, July 9, 2008

Being in classes again makes me excited for the Fall semester. I'm really excited to learn. I love learning. Does that make me strange? I just love assimilating new information and working with it. Gee willikers.

From my Polish Literature class...Here is the 19th lament by Kochanowski:

My gracious Ursula, where are you gone?
Along which way, to which land are you borne?
Are you raised high above all the heavens
And numbered there among little angels?
Are you in Paradise? Or carried to
The Blessed Isles? Does Charon ferry you
Across lakes of sorrow and make you drink
Waters of oblivion so you know nothing
Of my tears? Have you shed maid's form and dreams
And taken the nightingale's shape and wings?
Or purged in Purgatory, if a minute
Bodily stain has yet remained on you?
Did you go after death to where you were,
'Ere you were born to bring me deep despair?
Wherever you are, if you are, pity my dole,
And if you are not able as you former whole,
Console me, as you can, and make an appearance
As a dream, a shade, or an illusory substance.

- Jan Kochanowski

This got me thinking. A lot of people claim to see ghosts--How interesting is it what our minds do in order to cope with grief? In order to physically and emotionally keep a person alive, the brain will invent events in order to cope.

In my translation class, there was an interesting conversation about globalization, too. My professor (the director of the program) brought up some points that I have previously brought up in this blog. She talked about Uganda and other African countries where even though we see what's going on, at least for some people who pay attention, all we have ever done is blame people but not do anything about it.

Poland, Day 3, Thoughts

Now for the most important and more enjoyable part of my blogging experience...Bringing up thoughtful ideas.

Day Three, July 8, 2008

In History, we spoke about the fraudulent elections in Poland during Communism (Tak x3, where allegedly Poles voted predominantly in favor of the Communist party). This got me thinking--What if this really was true? Contemporary Poles contend that these elections were fraudulent and the statistics were drawn out of thin air, however, what if at the time Poles really were in favor of these changes, and only now are they making excuses for it? Of course, it isn't the ideal situation. I know my parents personally were hot-blooded against Communism, and that to this day it still greatly upsets them. Yet, isn't it possible that some people may have thought this was good? The natural reaction now would be to say, of course Communism is bad, what a silly question! But a lot of people's living situations were not ideal at the time, and to be found out to be mutinous against the Communist party would be a death threat to the survival rate of any family. Kind of something interesting to think about.

"I never want to be part of a couple that is ALWAYS holding hands" - Excerpt from my notebook. No, really. I'm not against PDA, but there's something about couples that constantly hold hands/are on top of each other all the time that brushes me the wrong way--it's a form of marking your territory. I never want to be in a relationship where I feel I have to be that way.

Another interesting thing I realized is that everyone here who speaks English, speaks in a British accent. I've consulted with my Welsh friend, and she contends that they are speaking with an American accent, so we are at an impass. In my opinion, though, the accents seem rather like the British.

Speaking of accents...One of the strangest things that I have realized while here is that when I am speaking with someone who is speaking English in a strange accent, I take on an accent too. Not necessarily the same one, but just an accent in general. I don't know why. I can't help myself. It's not that I'm mocking them. I think that I am just a naturally empathetic person, so in order to help someone understand me I guess I bring myself down to their level to an extreme degree.

I also noted down that it would be interesting to find out if my parents ever got Communist Party Member cards.

Something else that was brought up in History were the pros and cons of Communism. Having spoken with my parents and other people who have lived through a Communist regime that has affected them immensely, I don't see many pros from Communism (other than me being born, but that was really because they escaped it). A girl was arguing with the professor that there were many pros to Communism and all everyone else wants to talk about are the negatives (pros being education for everyone, etc.) Personally, I think she is being a little ignorant. Everything she talks about is her information from books rather than family experience. I don't know, maybe it wasn't that bad in Romania, where she is from. But I would never, EVER wish upon anyone what happened to my parents in their lives. Ever.

Poland, Day Five

Day Five, July 10, 2008

Today was nice. Stuff happened, but not too much that I was overwhelmed. I still have some homework to do, but I think I will wake up early and do it. Seems more logical to me, as right now I just kind of want to relax and vegetate in bed, maybe read a bit, but that's all.

Today I had another long day of classes...But again, I find them really interesting, and I'm trying really hard in my Polish classes to learn a lot so that I can hone my skills. I really like my professors!

I was pretty tired today as a result of getting back home around 2:30am last night, but, ah well. It happens. Wanted to take a nap all day but didn't really get a chance to. Got out of class, went to lunch, spoke with the director, took a shower, then went to an event...The event being...

Opening night! There was an official opening night tonight for all of the programs. A lot of unnecessary speeches were spoken, a lot of proverbial backs were patted...You get the jist. What WAS fun, though, was that after the speeches was a presentation of the university's traditional song and dance troupe. They sang a lot of traditional songs and danced the dances of old...And the whole time I sat there trying to figure out whether these were dances created by the gentry or the poor...or both. I need to look into it.

There was also a guy with a SWEET mustache. Check out my stalker action:



Here's a picture of the traditional folk band and a girl singing:



After the presentation, there was a nice(r) dinner, with meat and potatoes. A nice change from the usual kielbasa every single night (ZINNNGGGGGGGGGGG)! No but really...There was even wine with dinner; a nice treat. I wanted a refill but it didn't seem they were giving them out ;)

An arch-bishop was at the event tonight, and it was kind of strange, everyone gave him a standing ovation. More on this in my next posts, which will be all about thoughts on the last few days. At the dinner, he said a prayer, a little strange, but understandable since Polish culture is so intricately woven together with the Catholic church. He was also very involved in the foreigner program at the university for a while.

After dinner, we (the Belgians, the Anglicans, and some Spaniards) went over to the bar nearest our dorm (rather than taking the half hour trek to stare miasto). It wasn't bad, it was pretty chilly so we left early. But it was neat that we added a new language to our troupe! Unfortunately I don't know any Spanish, and only a miniscule amount of French. But at least I can sit around and look pretty.

Mieta, Sebastian and oldladyteacher from left to right: