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This trip to Europe with my best friend has been in planning for years. It’s been our idle Sunday afternoon’s daydream, our weekly cafe chitchat, bursting with ideas and places we needed to see, our long-term goal, our only definite life-plan. As February 2014 approached, the gap from dream to reality was slowly shrinking.

It became real 8 months ago when we bought our travel backpacks, 5 months ago when we purchased our direct plane tickets from Vancouver to London, gateway to Europe, 3 months ago when we bought our tickets from London to Naples, our official starting point, and a few weeks ago when we walked from one insurance firm to the next, researching our best travel medical insurance options. It’s just over a month away, and it’s become real. Not this dream we’ve had for more over five years, it’s 30+ days away.

The fact that this trip (that’s been my long-term goal for so long) might not happen as we planned it, absolutely devastates me. That it might be canceled or postponed for the sake of an accident frustrates me. It was so perfect, so real now. I wrote up what is probably my last to-do list before the one I’ll write the day before leaving, ready to purchase my last necessities and little commodities for the road. I received a lovely Penguin Books bright orange on-the-road travel water bottle for Christmas, two Canadian-themed tanktops too, ready to flaunt my nationality from border to border. Besides the packing, we are all but ready to go.

And then I went skiing, a favourite sport of mine, on the lovely ski hill our town boasts, 30 fresh cm of powder over night, new skis on the ready—and I had an accident. Knee swollen, pain increasing, there was little the doctor could deduct from my leg that could barely be moved and the x-rays that couldn’t be read. The doctor’s assumption is that I tore my ACL, “snapped” was the word he actually used, an injury that could cost me my job for weeks, an average recovery time of 6-9 months, and an almost definite surgery required. A top verdict of Europe-trip cancellation or long postponement.

First denial. My initial (hopeful) thoughts on the injury were that it was only a bad twist, or perhaps a fracture, with an easy solution of a cast, rest for a month, and more or less back on my feet and ready to backpack Europe before I leave Canada.

That’s not to say it’s not fractured, maybe it’s a fractured patella, or the side of my tibia. But I know what fractures feel like, and granted I’ve never had one on my leg before, the pain isn’t the same. The swelling hasn’t gone down, my mobility is no better at the joint, I can’t bend my leg without causing myself serious pain. I think it’s ligament damage, I just really hope it isn’t a serious one.

I guess I’ve just about mentally prepared myself for receiving the news, the confirmation that is could be, and might be a torn ACL, at my next doctor’s visit in a couple days.

What I’m not prepared for is breaking the news to my best friend (so far I assertively denied any chance that I won’t be up on my feet and healed in a month, totally repulsed by the idea that we would cancel our trip, how dare she even suggest that—via texting). I’m not prepared to call the travel agency and try to bargain my tickets back, to apply for EI, to be told I need surgery, to postpone the trip to past that of what was supposed to be our return date, to stay in Terrace longer and heal, to email and phone all my family and friends on both continents about the accident and cancelation.

No. I don’t want any of that. I want to live what has been my dream for the past five, six, seven years. I’m a believer that everything happens for  a reason. But I can’t understand this one.

Here’s hoping it’ll be alright.

Joanna

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Sometimes I feel like my trip to Poland didn’t exist here. As in, time stopped in Terrace, in BC, in Canada where my friends and family are and kind of went on just for me when I moved to Poland. It was just such a separate event, this big new chapter in my life that didn’t really relate to much of anything else beforehand. And since I’ve been back, for the most part, it felt like life picked up from where it left off when I moved. But that’s not true. A whole fucking year went by, and sometimes I forget how much time that is and how much distance that did put between a lot of my friendships and how things have changed.

I don’t want the past year to be the only chapter of my life spent abroad in Poland. I don’t want that to be my only time living in Europe. The only thing is, I feel like when I leave again, my life will stop here. And I’ve grown really, really attached to the life I have here since I’ve returned. I don’t want it to change without me again.

Actually my situation at home is really frustrating and stressful right now, but that’s not what I mean when I say I’m attached. It’s not the physical daily-routine life at home I love. It’s just being in the place you grew up, around people that have known you or your sisters or your parents since you were five, the backcountry and mountains, and just TERRACE. It’s home. And I feel like I don’t want to leave / that after my Europe trip (coming up in four months!) I do want to come back.

It’s so back and forth. Three years ago, two years ago, a year ago, I wanted to get as far away as possible from Terrace, from BC, from Canada, pursue my ambitions, travel as much as possible, explore Europe, all that. And up until a few months ago I STILL wanted that. And part of me still does. But what’s new, is my attachment to Terrace, and wanting to come back? I never wanted to come back.[1]

One of my friends recently told me not to. He said for years I’ve talked about the European life, and living in Scotland, or Italy or who the hell knows where and that I wasn’t meant for this small town. And that used to ring so true. But now I don’t know.

It’s fucking frustrating how indecisive I am about my future.

~

To be honest, I wanted to give the world an update on the amazing summer I had after I returned, and how I spent a weekend on Haida Gwaii for a music festival which turned out to be one of the best (sort of last-minute) weekends of my life, about my two jobs, and working routine, and a general update on my life and even the weather and how fast summer turned into autumn but how I’m actually enjoying the crispy air and trees changing colours and just things going on but—I just feel too exhausted to do that now. All that’s on my mind is what I wrote up there.

So maybe next time.

Joanna

P.S. I’ve decided, that even though a year goes by immeasurably fast, a year is still a long fucking time. So much happens in just one year. Six months is half of that. Six months will be the length of my trip. How different will six months be?


[1] In the back of my mind I’m telling myself I might devise a plan to let go of all attachment / all things holding me here before the time I have to leave. (Four months.) Everyone knows I don’t like having things holding me back.

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Hey everyone. I know it’s been a while, and Switzerland feels like a trip long ago. Things are going by too fast for my liking. I keep counting down to the time that I have to leave and get really sad. There is exactly a month left to my final exam, till the program ends. Then Dorothy and I will spend a few days still in Kraków, and off everyone goes. It’s sad!!! This year wasn’t long enough!

It’s amazing to think that no matter where we end up, we will always find people we connect with, we will always find something that can hold us there. And I’ve definitely found that in Kraków. I love it here, the city, the people, the lifestyle, everything. I remember leaving Terrace, and not wanting to, because I felt my life was perfect—and it was. I remember thinking how I couldn’t imagine that, by the end of the 10 months, I wouldn’t want to leave Kraków.
And I don’t. But I will, and it’ll be okay. I know I’ll be happy to be home-home, to see everyone (REALLY happy to see everyone) and to be surrounded by the mountains I grew up around. I’m a little bit worried about how things have changed—change is irreversible and is constant. I know things have changed with people (some drastically, other not) and I do worry a bit how that will affect our friendship when I’m back. And, I guess, I think I’ve changed too. Not a whole lot, but enough.

Uhh, what else. I don’t exactly know the right way to phrase it, but lately I’ve felt sort of behind. Behind on Terrace-life, on people there, definitely out of the loop. But also in my own life. Sometimes I wonder what I’m actually doing, and where I’m supposed to go. And travelling Europe next year—I’ve even had a little bit of a doubt on that. Should I just, go to school, use my 10,000$ on that, try to get “ahead”? Even for a year, see how it is? (Obviously I won’t, I have a commitment to Paige, but it’s been a small thought). When I come back, everyone will be ready to start their third or fourth years of university. And I’ll still be at level-0, no idea where I want to go, no direction.

I spend a lot of time outside these days. It is SUMMER. So hot, and I would say definitely a bit more humid than Terrace. Unfortunately, I’ll be spending today inside—really need to catch up on some homework, grocery shop, clean my room, that kind of thing. It’s tempting to bring my school work to the riverside, and do it there, but in most previous cases of that, I have become very sleepy and unproductive. And today is a productivity day!

Right, so now I am properly going to try and catch up on my life. Starting with Switzerland. What can I say, my first impression of Switzerland was great—and it definitely reminded me of home. The flight in was beautiful (but I kind of think every flight is beautiful..I really like flying),– much more forested than the airplane-view of Poland, much more hilly and mountain-y, just more green. It was nice. I think what I most loved were all the houses, old and new. They were so cute and old fashioned, and every house had shutters. And very colourful, tons of faded pastelly colours, others a bit more vibrant (I did see a few hot pink and lime green guys sticking out on hillsides).
What I also really liked, was the extravagant gardens, in my eyes. Nearly every house had some adorning greenery, bushes, trees, flowers, et cetera. It really made the cities feel smaller than they were, small town feel! Oh and the fountains! There were fountains everywhere in every center, with clear, clean water you could drink—always.

My first full day in Switzerland was chill. We biked around Winterthur (where we were staying), such a cute town, biked to the science museum… spent 5 hours in there… I blame Dorothy for most of that, went home for dinner, and went out for swytzli drinks in the evening (yes, that is what they were called).

The second day was one of my favourites. We went on a day-trip with Bettina’s parents to Appenzell by car, and stopped at St. Gallen on the way. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to walk around it’s center more, but what we did see was well worth the visit. We went to see Abbey Library of St. Gall. Everyone, please just google that right now, and look at it. It doesn’t matter how big your laptop screen is, you cannot equal being in that room. It is the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in. It was enchanting. I think my jaw literally dropped when I walked in. I was stunned. This ancient, old, library so well preserved, so well-kept was a testament to time. I think I could have sat in there for hours at peace. Just to look at the books, weighing tens of kilograms—really! There was an bible from somewhere near 500AD weighing 20 kilograms. Twenty! In that room, there were biblical contexts on display, behind glass, beautifully once handwritten by monks. It was all just really fascinating. I wish we could have stayed longer. Pictures weren’t allowed, but I think that sort of preserves the magic. I bought a bunch of postcards, to send to my book-loving friends (sorry I’ll try and do that today as well!), and I refrained from buying a giant poster to put on my wall.
After the library, we had a picnic on a hilltop. Yes—exactly as it sounds. The drive, I forgot to mention, was beautiful. It was so picturesque, hills everywhere, and houses dotting every one of them. We stopped near one hill, climbed to the top, where there was conveniently a bench under a big tree, and ate our home-made cheese-pickle-tomato-ham sandwiches (mine without cheese of course!).
Afterwards, we continued the drive to Appenzell—known for some very old, old houses, some of the oldest in Switzerland if I remember correctly. We walked around the town for a couple of hours, bought delights, ice cream, took pictures at every corner, and just enjoyed the nice weather.

The most memorable thing on the third day was biking to the Kyburg castle, just outside of Winterthur. Biking was so much fun. We biked for about 45 minutes, through a forest on a patchy dirt road—haven’t done that since Canada, till we got to a big creek, which was pretty beautiful in itself. Such clear water in Switzerland! We took a few photos there, and some jumping photos in the car tunnel, then set off. It probably took us another half hour or more to climb up to the castle, a small hike through a forested area with big wooden steps leading up. I guess the process of getting to Kyburg was more fun, than seeing the actual castle—which wasn’t too stunning as castles go. We walked a bit around it, walked around the little town situated there, and also spent an hour laying on wooden benches resting and tanning. We had some surprisingly nice weather in Switzerland.

On the fourth day, Bettina, Dorothy and I took a day-trip to Zurich! We walked around the town for hours, climbed two towers to have a huge view of the city, went to the botanical gardens, listening to a random singing group, went on a boat tram for a little tour, walked in and out of many shops, and headed home in the early evening. It is a really pretty city, sitting right on a lake with a view of the distant mountains and a river flows right through the city, splitting it in two. At precisely 5pm, in the Zurich train station, we were witness to a flash mob! The Switzerland symphony put on a piece and the ballet students of Zurich danced a ballet piece – very grand! I really enjoyed it—I also had the best view. Bettina was a little bit behind me, but Dorothy got more caught up in the crowd and I don’t think she saw much.

On the fifth full day we took a day trip to Luzern! I really liked the feel of Luzern. It was a little different I thought. Just walking around the town was easier than in Zurich I thought, where the city functioned well within the center and we always had to wait long at crosswalks. I guess I wasn’t use to that, because the center in Kraków seems to be more reserved for tourists and there really isn’t much car traffic around it, other than police vehicles making their rout. Anyways, Luzern had this old wooden bridge, Kappeler Bridge (rebuilt, because someone had burnt it town ten or so years ago) and, one of our favourite things, a giant, giant, giant lion monument carved into a Cliffside. It was massive, like the size of the side of a house. Really well done too, and had a pond right in front. I think it was just an unexpected sight—when Bettina said there was a large lion statue, I didn’t realize how big it really would be.
I know I’m lacking pictures in everything I talk about—I still haven’t had a change to go through them. I’ll have to do a picture post when I do :)
After seeing another cathedral[1] we rented a pedalo and boated (pedalled?) around the lake in front of Luzern. Quite fun.
In the evening, we returned home, ate another amazing dinner and watched a Disney movie we had never seen before, ‘The Rescuers’.

I think the last full day was also one of my favourites. We started the morning off with eating home-made bread, something I have not had in years, then we made a homemade pizza for lunch, and set off on another day trip with Bettina’s parents (such wonderful hosts!) We drove to Rhein Falls, the largest/widest in Europe! And they were quite a sight! Enormous and powerful—I really like waterfalls I decided. There were different walkways to the falls, so we could get close to a few different places. There was also a lot of soaking mist from the falls, it reminded me of the Exstew waterfall just outside of Terrace—though with that one you get drenched from being in its vicinity.
Afterwards we walked through this littler town, Stein am Rhein, a place not very well known to tourists yet. There there were also some very, very old buildings, with old pictures and drawings painted on them. It was really cool. I also had some of the best icecream I’ve ever had in my life there. We sat on the riverside for a bit, then started walking back to the vehicle. It was time to go home!
I was pretty sad to leave. I easily could have stayed there for another couple weeks had I the time and money. I had a really great time in Switzerland, and feel there is still so much to see! Bettina’s family were wonderful hosts, all of them. It was easy to talk to them, to play their instruments, … eat their amazing food. I always felt at home.

I think going to Switzerland made me realize how much I miss home. Bettina, Dorothy, and I spent a lot of time just talking about Terrace, and the people there, and reminiscing. (She was an exchange student there 3 years ago, and had recently gone there in February to visit friends). So I guess when I went home to Kraków, it made me homesick for my other home.

That’s Switzerland! Since then, I’ve been trying to do things that are on my list in Kraków. I finally got a chance to go to Auschwitz—something worth seeing. It was powerful. It’s always different seeing something than reading about it. I’ve read lots about the war and the horrors of the camps. But being in Auchwitz was something else—walking where thousands were murdered, seeing the gas chambers, the wall were people were shot, seeing the braids and chunks of hair of people all murdered, seeing their most prized possessions, their clothes, and their shoes, the blankets where the very first people were rescued from, untouched, unmoved. To think there were four million people that were murdered.

The day before, I had gone to the Schindler’s Museum. That was also really cool—one of the best museums I’ve ever been in. There was such a variety of displays, and quite a lot of creativity in displaying them. If you’re ever in Poland, it is definitely worth a visit. I think Dorothy and I spent about 5 hours of there. We were exhausted and starving when we walked out!

Ah, before that (going a little backwards here) there was the week of Juwenalia! Basically a week to the students! Many (most) take the opportunity to drink—and I mean drink like you’ve never seen before. The AGH student town area… was disgusting. Every night for a week there were hundreds of mini grills and drinks going around—by the end, AGH area was littered by glass everywhere, trash, bottles—like a zoo had ravaged the remaining grounds of a bottle depot. It really was disgusting. I took as little part in that as possible, surviving no more than an hour there. It’s just not my scene.
Looking to a more positive side, there were concerts put on every night by different Polish bands and artists. I went to two and had a really good time at both. The first being Brodka—she isn’t my favourite but there are a few songs of hers that I like, and I think most people really enjoyed the concert. The second being Zakopower. I had heard of them but never heard their music (my attendance at this concert was unplanned, got in late for free with Monika!) but I really, really enjoyed it. It’s a folk rock band, and they put on a great live show. Definitely going to look up their music! On Sunday I had bought tickets for another show featuring Hey (another band) but unfortunately was too tired, had quite a bit of homework to do, and it was raining. So I passed it up.
Another fun part of Juwenalia was the parade! Students from all universities dress up in the craziest of costumes and march to the city center. It was insane—way more people than I expected, cramming the streets, overwhelming old people trying to make it to their homes, singing and yelling patriotic songs (or the AGH students with their AGH patriotic songs…). The rynek was then packed with people all day. I hovered around for a while, and will not deny getting a couple of drinks in the day – but I really enjoyed it. I spent the rest of the day sitting, chilling, chatting with friends and a bit of drinking first right by the castle overlooking the river, than a pub, than later on one of the little grassy hills by the river, and then I went to the Zakopower concert I mentioned above. A good day!

More recently, yesterday, finally went to Kopiec Kościuszki, something else that has been on my list for a while, and in sight for longer (I bike by błonie / the fields every day, and the Kościuszki Mound is just past) with Dorothy, Jessica, and her visiting sister Laura. Actually, we started the day off eating brunch at this French restaurant—I had granola and yogurt (my attempt at trying to be healthy) and they all had some forms of croissants I think? Anyway, made me realize how much I like going out for breakfast, I don’t think I’ve done that since the day I left Terrace with Paige, Laura Fred, Josiah B, Chris, and Jordie! That feels like ages ago.
After our enjoyable breakfast, we walked by the riverside trying to find a pedalo to no avail. We did find some kayaks to rent but decided against it. And then we walked up to the mound, Dorothy breaking off from the group with her bike trying to prove she had found a shorter way to the top from where we were (she did and had to wait 45 minutes for us to go the longer way).

Right. So that is the past 3 weeks of my life in a nutshell. Seeing as I’ve had nothing to eat but the chips I bought for the unsuccessful pedalo ride, I am going to go grocery shop!

Au revoir!

Joanna


[1] We saw quite a few in Switzerland, and to be honest, I liked most of them! They, as always, were huge and ornated but I found the Swiss cathedrals to have nicer colour schemes.

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I can’t believe how fast the time is flying by. Summer is finally here (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and I feel like I don’t have enough weekends left to do everything I want to do before I have to go back. It’s already sad to think about, leaving Poland. I know it’s still 3 months away, but looking at the past 3 months as an example, that time will disappear so quickly.

I’m trying to think of everything that’s happened the past while and it all feels like too much to remember. I haven’t Skyped with anyone in months because I’ve been incredibly busy[1]—but with what I can’t quite recall. A while back I was gone for a few weekends in a row visiting family and then was studying[2] for the mid-terms, which are finally all over, and I know my marks for almost all of them—passed, with varying colours ;) But I’ll start with what I do remember!

Last weekend, Dorothy and I signed ourselves up for a weekend-long hiking trip, into the mountains! It was a much needed get-away. It felt so great to be in the mountains again, to breath fresh hair, to be surrounded by trees and silence, to gaze at the snow-capped mountains, to sleep in old cabins, to be challenged by a trail, to sing songs around a campfire—haven’t done most of those things since last September! It was also fun spending time with new people, getting to know them, and just the process of hiking. We hiked for 2 hours the first day, 8.5 hours on the second day (granted with breaks), and 4ish hours on the last day. And the process was an ordeal!: cautiously stepping through thin and thick snow, leaning away from the all too-near cliff sides praying your foothold doesn’t slip out from beneath you, walking through the snow run-off (that is, a stream) that found a suitable path to the bottom of the mountain (that is, our path), and manoeuvring yourself up steep slopes, grabbing onto tree branches and the snow itself to prevent yourself from falling, meanwhile not trying to think about how you’ll ever get down[3]. The only constant thought was to just keep going forwards and up and up and up.
And it was so worth it. Getting to the top is always worth it in the end. The view was stunning. The mountain, by the way, is called Babia Góra and we made it to the top on the third day. On the first two days, the mountain, of 1,725 m[4], seemed like this giant obstacle. We could see in the distance, sometimes when we made it to a clearing, this looming white-covered thing surrounded by a haze of clouds. To be honest, I didn’t believe them at first when they told me that was the mountain we would eventually get to. In between our starting point and it, there were quite a few hilly mountains—it just seemed ages away. But the experience was really worthwhile, climbing over and around hill after hill and seeing it a step closer.

Here are some photos from the last day—I was too busy trying not to fall or slip to take many photos in the first two days.

P1140056a look out

P1140079there it is!

P1140107

P1140098

P1140078one last scenic photo on the way down

Other than that, I have been spending my time casually in bars and pubs, drinking beer after beer, some occasional shots, some occasional cake, grabbing one too many meals (pizza or a kebab) at the “local”,  meeting friends of friends and new people, spending time lounging in the sun by the river, biking (I bought a bike!), walking, sightseeing, and planning my evenings with friends.

I’ve grown more and more to love the life I have here, and now with the warmth and sunshine (at last!) it doesn’t feel like it could get any better.

This feels kind of weird, because I know she reads this blog, but one of the people I have come to spend most of my time with[5] is the amazing and wonderful Jessica :) I can’t believe how fast the time has flown together and how quickly and easily she’s grown to be one of my closest friends. Here’s a picture of us today on this very warm (27 degrees!) day this morning:

me and jess3

On Sunday, I have potential plans to go to Auschwitz (finally!) if I feel like I’ll have enough time afterwards to pack, because on Monday I am flying out to Switzerland!!! Again, I can’t believe that the Swiss-trip is already here! The tickets were bought last February. Anyways, I’m not too sure of what exactly we’ll be doing, but I’ll be sure to write something up about that afterwards! I’m really excited to be seeing some more of Europe, especially a country like Switzerland! Dorothy and I are going to visit our friend Betina there, who was in Dorothy’s school three years ago in Canada on an exchange. Things will be fantastic. My only worry is wondering how I’ll work my way around the disgusting thing that is cheese….

Hope things are well with my friends back home! I know most of you guys are back in Terrace (/Prince George!) as universities in Canada are out for the summer now. It makes me a little sad that I can’t be there with you guys—if it was only possible to be in two places at once! But, I’ll catch the end of the summer with you, and though I can’t quite picture August yet, I know I’ll be happy to be home.

Joanna


[1] Also, with the 9 hour time difference, it was impossible to find a time that worked.

[2] By this I mean sitting by the river or in a cafe and trying to study

[3] “Getting down” the steep last slope, was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a while. The steps that had been dug into the snow were so worn down by the end, it was nearly impossible to make our way down them. Among others, I took out my rain jacket, tied it around my waist, and slid down the slopes as if I was sledding. It took us almost 3 hours to get to the top of Babia Gora, and only 30 minutes to get down. You can imagine the speed :D And you all know I like high speeds.

[4] I just realized that’s not as high up as I imagined…I mean I’ve skydived from higher than that. But from the ground, it doesn’t seem that small!

[5] And you can blame her (partially) for not finding the time to blog!

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I think I’ve decided I want to stay in Europe. Just thoughts I’ve been having lately, it’s hard to sum up. I love the town I grew up in, I love what Canada has to offer, and I think it is a great place to raise a family or to settle down in. It’s peaceful and beautiful and different. And I know people born and raised in Terrace, BC, I know people who want to spend their entire life there, and that is fantastic. But it’s not for me.

But I also feel that a big portion of the youth in my town are wasting their lives[1], and when I’m there, I sometimes include myself in that. When I’m “home” (Terrace), I feel like I forget about my ambitions and dreams, or just feel that they’re so far in the future. But they’re not. They’re now. I want to be living my dreams now. And I don’t think I can do that there. Camping and late nights and partying—I do always have fun back home. But I feel like I’m just going in circles, nowhere. I want that to stop. I want to be focused and, as I said, I want to go after my dreams.

So, back to thought number one, I think I want to stay in Europe. This isn’t a plan, this is just the outcome of a combination of thoughts I’ve been having lately. I know I change my mind a lot, a lot, so a year from today, I might be set on who knows what. But right now this is it.

Travelling. That’s what I want to do. That’s all I want to do. I don’t know how it’s going to be possible yet, but I think I have better opportunities here, in Europe. Where the countries and continents that I want to travel to are closer, where there are cheaper airlines, where there are many languages, where there are people from everywhere—this is where I feel I need to be.

If I could stay here in Krakow this summer, I would. But I’ve done the calculations and if I want to make enough money to travel Europe with Paige next year, February 2014, then I have to go back to Canada to get a higher paying job. Staying here, I would make about 1/3 of what I need and I’d be paying rent somewhere. In Canada, I would make more than enough, the cost of flight tickets included, and I’d be living at home with my family. But that’s okay. I’ll go back to Terrace, for 6 months, work, save enough money, travel Europe for 6 months[2], and then stay. I think. And maybe have a bit more of a plan by the time I get there.

I’ve met some really amazing people here, I think I’ve mentioned before, from all over the world. And everyone has amazing stories. Everyone has dreams that they are pursuing, or are on an unknown journey. I want my life to become that, too. Staying in Terrace, going to UNBC or a nearby university in British Columbia, I don’t think that’s ever been my dream. And it definitely isn’t right now. I’ve been inspired by the people that I’ve met. I want to find my passions, pursue them, and be happy here. The people I’ve met and spent time with—are alive. Whether or not they had a plan when they set out on their journeys, I think they’ve all ended up where they’ve needed to be.

Some people are on my back for not wanting to go to school. Right now, I am clueless as to what I want to pursue in the future, in terms of career. But when I figure that out, if there is schooling required, then that’s what I’ll do. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve met people between the ages of 25-30 that are still travelling and unsure of their future, or that have only began university to lead them to what they want to do—which they discovered on their adventures abroad.

So far, I’ve been doing what I’ve wanted.  I’ve regained what Polish I knew (which was a lot less than I thought it was), learned some new things, gotten to know my family, history, culture, everything I wanted. And I want to continue that. My 6-month Europe trip with my best friend has been in the books for a while. Now, the question is, where to next? I want to keep making choices I’ll be happy with.

Me, being a person of lists, has started to build one for this summer when I return. Things I’ve wanted to do in Terrace the past few years but haven’t gotten around to doing. Considering that it may be my last chance in a while, I am going to give it my best shot, and really try not to waste a single day. There are places I’ve wanted to hike, there are still local sites I want to see, there are languages I want to start learning (meaning I might find time to once I’m back), and there are people I want to spend more time with. I have a lot to do when I get home, and six months to do it in. Two trips I’ve really wanted to do are a Victoria trip and an Alaska trip, but as I’ll be working full time, I’m not sure about those two. But it’s going on the list!

Right. So this is my informal announcement and uncertain plan: I think I might stay in Europe after travelling it next year. Not necessarily Poland; if I want to learn French and Spanish, I think the best way to do that is to immerse myself in the right country. I know I will come back to visit Poland, though, I’m just not sure for how long. Ladeeda!

 

Joanna

P.S. Title refers to the song by Switchfoot, one of the songs I listened to while writing this, look it up!


[1] No, I do not mean you guys, the friends back home that are reading this. But you know who I mean, I think.

[2] The rough country-list-plan right now is: Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Ireland.

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One of the reasons I love being in Krakow is because of the ethnicities you meet. Don’t get me wrong, Poland is about a 97% all Polish people. But Krakow is one of the tourist capitals of… Poland? Europe? Let’s say about 90% of people you meet in the Stare Miasto (Old Town) are foreigners, tourists, travelers, etcetera. It’s great.

I come from a country known for its multiculturalism, and that’s true. Canada is incredibly diverse; so diverse, it lacks its own “Canadian” traditions, culture, songs—things that most other countries have. When I’m in Canada, I see a range of racial ethnicities: dark, black, brown, pale, white ~ Russian, East-Indian, Native, Chinese, Filipino—on a daily basis. But a lot of these people with this range of backgrounds have lost what traditions were upheld by their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. People say they’re, for example, Irish. Or Dutch. Or Filipino[1]. But for the most part, that’s just telling people why they have pale skin, or freckles, or blond hair, or beautiful brown skin. (I’m not aiming to be stereotypical here.) For the most part, if there’s any tradition upheld, it’s a bit of the food. A few words of the language. Maybe your uncle knows a song. It’s great, being in Canada, and getting to see a racial mix upon faces but for me, what’s lacking, is the culture. A lot of it gets lost through the generations.
On the other hand, we’ve all met people who live in Canada and despite being a second or third generation away from the “homeland”, English may not be their first language, they know their dances, their songs, their holidays. (As always, I’m speaking from my own observations, nothing that is fact.) When we have community potlucks, they own the floor, they are proud of where they were born, or where grew up, or which nationality they were raised with. People like that do exist.

I saw a really cool post the other day, about what it means to be Canadian.

A Canadian can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish,  Russian, or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Arabian, Pakistani or Afghan.  A Canadian may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as Native Canadians. 

A Canadian’s religious beliefs range from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islamism, Hinduism, or none. The key difference is that in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses.  Whether they have a religion or no religion.

A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which recognize the right of each person to the pursuit of freedom and happiness.

A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. 

Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least – the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected. These are the people who built Canada . 

Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be a Canadian.

I really like the last line. Most things you come across on the internet about Canada, will tell you that the meaning of a being a Canadian is: loving your hockey, drinking your Timmies, slapping that maple syrup onto your pancakes, and saying “Eh.” Though that does quite well describes Canada in a nutshell, I really like how someone took a moment to seriously answer the question. We are not one race, we are not one culture, we are not of the same background, but we are “the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom”. Epic.

So when I say I like Krakow because of the ethnicity you meet; I mean that a little differently than when I say I love Canada because of the range of ethnicity. In Krakow, you mostly meet other travelers. And mostly from other countries in Europe. Some from Asia, a few North-Americans, but mostly Europe. But what I love is how alive these people are. You can truly see that they’re British or Italian or Russian.

The other night, upon finishing our exams, my roommate and I went out for the night. From 8pm to 6am, we went from a cafe to a house party to a bar to roaming the rynek to going back to the first bar to a restaurant to home. In between that time, in one night, I met people from Spain, Italy, Britain, Mexico, China, Russia, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Lithuania, America, and Canada. I actually spent about 75% of the night with 3 Spanish girls and 1 Spanish guy! I learned some dance moves to traditional Spanish songs, took a shot of rum with a Lithuanian, rejected a dance to a Norwegian, disagreed on terms of nationality with a British guy, and was hugged and kissed by a bunch of Belgians[2].

Granted, part of that was because I spent the beginning part of my night at a Couchsurfer’s meet-up, but honestly, more than half of those ethnicities I listed were people I met in the rynek.

So Cheers to Krakow! This is what has made living here a fun time. I’m meeting people from everywhere, having memorable nights with strangers that feel like friends by the time the night is over, embracing the ethnicity, and feel like I am enjoying life.

Today marks the halfway point. Exactly five months ago, I left Canada—and finally Krakow is starting to feel like home. However, in another five months, I will be on a plane back to Canada, my homeland. I have no idea how I’ll feel then.

Joanna


[1] Okay, for the reference, all Filipino people I’ve met DO uphold their traditions. Go Fili! <– I do not know if that’s a thing… probably not.

[2] No joke on that one! They adored me like I was Mary.

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I meant to write about my winter vacation in northwest Poland a week ago, however the return to school issued instant concentration towards homework and whatnot. Duties aside, I just hope I remember the thoughts I was having on the eleven-hour drive back to Krakow. I’m not sure what it is, but it is always a good, long road trip that makes me want to write most. Watching the scenery change second to second just flicks off a switch in my head; new thoughts, ideas, intentions, just these muses hitting you from all directions. The road trip home fell nothing short from that either. (Home being Krakow, of course.)

After an amazing Christmas, as written about in my previous blogpost, New Years followed suit. I will be honest. At first, I wasn’t interested in spending New Years with my dad, and his 50+ aged friends, in a small town, somewhere in northwest Poland. I wanted to be in Krakow with friends, find a club worth the party, and have a memorable night.

But I take it all back. I had a superb time. I met my parents’ friends. Friends they’ve had since their own university days, since they were in their early twenties! I had heard about these people my entire life, how Betina lived in Germany with my mom for a time, how they wanted to move to Canada (unfortunately, not all papers went through at that time, and my parents’ friends had to return to Poland), all of their travels together, living in dorms together, their group’s mountain-venturing adventures, drunken moments, campfire singing, I have heard it all. Spending a week with these people put me back in time. I could picture all of them, exactly how they were thirty years ago. I could see my dad, just the way he was, and still is. Some people never change.

We spent plenty of nights drinking vodka, and singing songs from their song books like “Sokoły”. My dad and Zbyszek had guitars and songbooks, that they browsed through and they sung every song they recognized. It was really beautiful to watch them meld back into youth singing songs that still rung true to them, that reminded them of their lives back in communist times. Sometimes, they couldn’t remember the words to a song. But as a right chord was strung, as someone remembered the first few words, suddenly someone remembered the rest of the verse, and so on. They could manage to sing a whole song that no one even remembered a word of at the beginning! It was full of trial and error, of singing the wrong key, of missing a verse here and there, a wrong word, or a slip of tongue or strumming pattern. It was this unravelling, decrypting, and remembering of songs they hadn’t sung in thirty years. I was blown away by how much came back to them. On a whole, I really enjoyed listening, singing, and the storytelling that came with each song, and just being with them, even as an observer.

Watching them over the week, my dad and his closest friends, despite the time and distance spent apart, really reminded me of where I want to be in my life. I want to have friends like his, I want to be like them. So relaxed, so cheerful, understanding, loving, and constantly happy. They were like a family. And that’s how it should be. That’s where I want to be when I am fifty-three years old; surrounded by my oldest, closest friends, always finding something to laugh about, not worrying about anything. This effortless relationship, unchanged.

Another thing that made the last part of my winter break great was the sightseeing. Before then, I hadn’t really seen much of Poland, especially not up North. Driving to the sea, to the town of Kołobrzeg, was really great. It was a rainy day and, maybe more-so because of this, reminded me of Prince Rupert[1] and felt a little like home. (Home being Terrace, this time.) I only drive up to Prince Rupert a few times a year, but having Rupert there is some kind of comfort, I guess. I like being near the ocean.

Kołobrzeg

Next, we drove to Kamien Podmorski and Szczecin. We drove to Kamien Podmorski because it was where my parents wanted to move to before they decided to move to Canada. Honestly speaking, there isn’t much in Kamien Podmorski. It was sort of like a trip for Dorothy and I to walk in my parents’ footsteps. Likewise was Szczecin, though there is definitely lots there. Szczecin is where my parents and their friends all went to school, met up, basically lived a big chunk of their lives.

Unfortunately, because of hangovers and lack of sleep, we arrived in Szczecin late in the day and after visiting with a couple more of my dad’s friends, there was only an hour left of sightseeing, and half of that spent inside in my dad’s old school, looking at old photographs, walking down old hallways. The other half hour was spent driving out of the city, stopping at a couple places to see exactly what houses my parents lived in while there was still daylight, and onwards to our friend’s place where we would be spending the night. Despite the lack of city-sightseeing, there was something I really, really liked about Szczecin. But I can’t pinpoint what it was. Small things, the way the city was laid out, how it wasn’t completely flat like Krakow, the architecture of all the buildings we passed, but something else, I’m not sure, I felt very drawn to it, perhaps because it was the city my parents called home for quite a few years[2]. I was sad we didn’t have more time, but I think Dorothy felt similarly and I am almost positive we will go back to properly sightsee the beautiful city and to visit our new ‘family’, so to speak.

Lastly, we went to the Słowiński National Park. To be found there is, yet again, the Baltic Sea! Embroidered by the long-stretching grey-white beaches, towering sand dunes, and pine forest, it is a well preserved area and I really freaking loved it.

Who knew how much I was missing nature. Frolicking[3] through the forest[4], jumping over streams, crossing wild boar tracks a time too many, spotting deer, climbing giant hills of sand, walking on the edges of the shoreline where the water just reaches your feet—yeah, it really made my day. I could’ve spent hours more there, but the time always comes to leave as the sun sets.

So my winter vacation had an excellent finish. I met amazing people, new family, I went to the sea, I walked in my parent’s footprints, I saw a new city, and I got to spend almost a month with my dad. Life felt good.

I will leave you now with one last picture!

As it is getting dark, on a highpoint, in view of the forest and ocean, leaving.

Joanna


[1] Prince Rupert is a port town right on the ocean, similar in size to Terrace and one and a half hours away from Terrace.

[2] Though I definitely don’t feel that way about Surrey (the place I was born) or Vancouver, where my parents also lived a few years.

[3] Because I did frolic.

[4] Yes, it was an actual forest, a pine one at that!

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