Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘family’

What a month!  Just to look back at this month now = awe. It was an array of emotions, some really mixed feelings, and I am going to go into detail of every one of them.

[It has been a while, and I’m throwing you my excuses straight up—my last month in Poland was spent road-tripping and saying goodbyes to family, most of the time without a greater internet connection.] But here we go!

The first feeling was despair. After leaving Kraków, I felt so lost. I loved my life there, I really did, everything about it. To be leaving was signalling the end of that life. Everyone moved on their separate ways, finding jobs here or there, or moving back to their countries and continents. It was over. And I was sad. I mourned, I really did. I didn’t want to accept it, and I didn’t know how to go about leaving. It seems really melodramatic to look back on now but that is honestly what I felt.

The next feeling was a sudden and rapid emotion that took over my depression—longing for home. Now that everyone had got to go home after uni was over (to their homes across Poland or across the world) I was jealous that I couldn’t be experiencing the same thing. It was over 9 months ago, after all, since I had seen everyone last (with the exception of my dad, who came to visit for Christmas). I felt like I was lulling around, homeless in a sense, going from one family home to the next, living out of my suitcase.

I guess I was just sick of goodbyes and I wanted hellos. Not to say though that I didn’t enjoy the month road-tripping across Poland. It was incredible. It was hard to be longing for home but enjoying the travelling at the same time. It made me go through mood swings as fast as weather changes.

My aunt took Dorothy and I on a road trip up north to the sea, which we did swim in, and it was beautiful, so so beautiful. The sandy beaches with squeaky sand, YES squeaky white sand, the fight against giant waves crashing in to you, the tanning, the smell of the sea, the wind, I loved it all. I love salty waters![1] I love vacation! It was relaxation to the max. We even went on a sandy peninsula and walked by beach to the border with Russia! (The border consisted of a fishing net fence, and a sign, ha!). We also spent a day in Gdańsk, an amazing and beautiful city, and went to Malbork, home to the biggest castle in Europe (by surface area) and holder of the largest bricks in Europe! After returning back to Rzeszów and Wrocław, my time was spent saying last goodbyes, meeting family in other towns and villages nearby (ish), soaking up their presence for the last time and them mine. I don’t want to talk too much about it, because it makes me sad to remember. I miss them.

As the days were growing less by what seems an immeasurable speed, I began to feel that I really didn’t want to leave Poland. Leaving was putting a stamp on the end of my life there, on the Europe-life, a final goodbye to friends, an end of the close connections and communications with my family – most of which, as mentioned earlier, don’t have internet and communicate nearly 100% face to face. (I think I’m going to take up letter writing.)

Then the moods reversed. The growing intensity of just wanting to be home and wanting the goodbyes to be over, came back, stronger. Every night I started to dream about home, just being there, doing the simplest of things. I swear I envisioned myself buying a French Vanilla at Tim Hortons or ‘sex in a pan’ at the Elephant Ear cafe, or speaking to the most random people in passing on the street. I missed small town Terrace. I dreamt at night and daydreamed in the day—it was all I could think about. I was beyond ready for hellos.

With this longing for home however, came a mixed feeling of something like nervousness. I was really worried that people had changed. I had heard most of my friend group had split off for various reasons, I heard reviews that some of my friends had drastically changed, and I was worried that things just wouldn’t be the same with those people I didn’t keep in touch with. A lot can change in a year, I kept thinking. And I wasn’t completely lost as to whether or not I had changed.

Lastly I was not keen for the long ordeal/journey home. I usually love flying, I really do. But this time I was nervous, really nervous, which is really abnormal but that’s the truth. I think it just meant more this time, there were so many unanswered hopes and fears that all the nervousness I had been feeling the past couple weeks transformed into a sudden fear of the flight home[2].

Even while writing this, tears come to my eyes. Tears were in my eyes when I left Poland and they were in my eyes when my plane landed in Terrace, BC, home. Leaving and arriving has never been so hard. I didn’t know what was coming when I left last year, I really didn’t. I was ready for the adventure but I did not expect the end to be so fatally emotional.

Right now, I am so so SO happy. Despite the tears—every tear I’ve cried since I’ve returned home has been a tear of joy. I’ve never been so happy in my life. (I’ve never cried this much, Jesus). There are no words to describe how happy I was to see my family and friends, to see that nothing has changed. I was so worried that things would be different but everything fell back into place like I had never left. I feel so loved and happy and just blessed to have all the people in my life that I do.

That’s basically it. We end there. I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do with this blog. The journey is over. I documented my experiences and feelings as best as I could. And I’m glad I’ll have this all to look back on. Right now, I think I’ll leave the blog be, maybe post a few photos from my road trip once I download them, and go back and post more from the year, or Switzerland, or just keepsakes. When I start off on my Europe trip in six months, I’ll start a new blog. (I really like new blogs for new occasions).

Though I’m not really sure who my random readers from across the world have been, thank you to those who have stuck with me on this escapade from home. Making the move to Poland is something I’ll never forget nor regret—it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Cheers & take care,

Asia

Endnote: There is one more thing I thought of to add to this post. Yesterday I was reading a quote that has been on my fridge for years that I was never really fond of before. “Ships in harbour are safe. But that’s not what ships were built for.” I remember never really liking it, and was never really sure what the author intended. Now though, I can expand. Maybe we feel safest at home, maybe we never want to leave, but humans were made for exploring, to delve in the unknown, to challenge our barriers and perimeters, and I think that anyone who seeks to do that will never be left unsatisfied with the journey that ensues. End sentimental note.


[1] Haha, couldn’t decide if I wanted to say ‘ocean’ or ‘sea’ so I went with ‘salty waters’ lol.

[2] Obviously the fears diminished as soon as I was up in the air—my love of flying will never die.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

I must say, this year’s Christmas was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had, the best in a long time at least. And I don’t think it has differed oh so much tradition-wise from the past few Christmases, maybe my partakedness. (Wow, you know I’m forgetting my English when I start making up words. Traditionwise and partakedness? What is this Joanna!?) [1]

A big part of what made this Christmas awesome, though, was family. I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve missed out on the whole extended family thing my entire life. I’ve never spent a Christmas with any family other than my two parents and two sisters. This year, spending it with my dad (who flew in from Canada), sister (who is here with me in Krakow) my aunt, great-aunt, grandma, and two cousins was something new and it felt really special. Actually the whole week was special. I’ve learned more about my family and their history than I have in the past few months. My dad’s presence in Poland just released a string of reminiscing for my family. I endlessly heard stories about what it was like under communistic Poland, about my dad and aunt’s youth, about my grandma’s and great-aunt’s youth, about even their parents, which I really don’t know much about. I really enjoying listening to their stories, not only because it gives me a better understanding of the way my family came to be, but because it gives me more depth into Poland’s history, particularly during the Cold War period. I took a semester of History last year, focusing on the 1900’s, and thoroughly enjoyed the class. I really do love history. But what’s great is my family, my own parents, lived through those times, and were involved. I also become more insightful, though not as much at the elders of course, of how times have changed. The times are really freaking different these days.

Back to Christmas! And back to the beginning. Christmas already started to feel different months ago. By that, I mean, it didn’t feel like Christmas yet at all. In Canada, you will start seeing ads for Christmas, commercials, products, chocolates, decorations in October. I swear I see my first Christmas commercial every year in September. It’s ridiculous! Christmas is so commercialised, so advertised, so… fake. Movies paint the scene, Santa Claus holds up his Good and Naughty Lists, presents and decorations explode everywhere you look, and Christmas-stress beats down on you. Yes, that is a thing. The shops are filled with people searching for present after present, for months. But particularly dozens of presents for kids.

I’m not saying Poland is an exception to that, but I can attest that it is significantly less. Mountains less. Continents less. Sorry, I do think it is a difference of continents though. North America vs. Europe. And there are some amazing traditions that Poland upholds. I love how filled with tradition Poland is. Granted, my family celebrated Christmas the same way back home, but the atmosphere is different when it’s the whole of the country doing it with you.

I think the whole of Christmas unravels the week before Christmas. You set up your Christmas tree a week earlier at the earliest. We set ours up a day before Christmas. Family starts arriving. We spend time together. And the cooking begins. Cooking, at least by my observation, is the focus. And I enjoyed every part of it. Traditionally, there are 12 courses on Christmas. Granted, there are many to chose from and the number starts to vary towards people’s preferences. And this isn’t your every Sunday kind of dinner, these are your once-a-year meals. On Christmas. So the process takes days to cook everything, to prepare everything. And it’s a time for the whole family to work together, back to back, all day, kneading out that dough for perogies, making those ears for barszcz, baking pies (we brought in some Canadian desserts to the delight of our family), etcetera. It is backbreaking, time consuming, frustrating work, enjoyable, yet stressful. Can we prepare all this food before 5pm? Christmas day (that is, the twenty-fourth, when the big Christmas dinner is held) was insane. Everyone got up hours earlier, and hauled away. I ate breakfast at ten, and I swear I didn’t sit down or eat again till dinner time. We were all so consumed with cooking that I didn’t even notice I was so hungry until we sat down. And that is how it should be. The satisfaction you feel sitting down, to this amazing dinner, that everyone worked towards, was immeasurable.

Except, as soon as we all sat down, we stood up. Because, one of my favourite things about Christmas, it’s time for skladania zycenia! What this basically means is the exchange of wishes between one another. Everyone has a piece of bread (ceremonial bread, alike to the kind a priest breaks over the alter) and one-on-one exchanges greetings. It’s really special. This isn’t your casual, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, this is saying all the things you always wanted to or wished you could say to the person. Your thoughts and feelings tie in to it, and you heartily wish people the best. I came close to tears a few times, and was really moved by some of the things said to me.

Afterwards, we eat this 12-course dinner. Bloated, there is barely energy for dealing with dessert, let alone opening presents. (Unlike the ritual of North America, presents are opened traditionally after dinner on the twenty-fourth.) But we somehow managed. Kolendy, that is, Christmastime carols are sung; and Poland has some really great songs. Old, traditional, religious, and beautiful. Presents are opened z przyjemnoscia. We thank each other (though when I was a child, I believed the Star brought presents), and get back to the singing, talking, laughing, spending time with each other, and celebrating of Christmas.

I really truly felt happy this Christmas. Previous Christmases were spent stressed out and among a family that wasn’t really together a family. This year it felt real, complete, and joyful and, well, like a Christmas I never really knew.

Joanna


[1] *thinks a while* partakedness = participation. Traditionwise……..traditionally? Facepalm.

Read Full Post »

I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had grown up in Poland, if my parents hadn’t moved away from the communism that, to the shock of the everyone, ended only months after they left. Who would I be? How influenced would I be by my family, how conservative? Would I have stayed shy, that person that never did anything outside her comfort zone, and outside the Catholic church’s beliefs? Because I once was that person, as hard as that is to believe for some. Would I not be my blunt, adventurous self? Would I still have the same interests, the same sense of humour? Would I still be just as passionate about travelling and other cultures?

Travelling. It is honestly the thing I love most in the world, the thing I want to do for the rest of my life. I try to think back and pinpoint the moment I fell in love with travelling. But I’m not sure when it happened. I feel like it’s always been there, part of my life, my mindset. I had grown up knowing my family connection was across the ocean on another continent, I had heard plenty of times of my parent’s “fresh start” in the foreign country of Canada, and how prior to that my mom lived in Germany for a year, Spain for two, and my dad in Alaska for 3 years during that time, while they waited for the papers for Canada to get through. And my dad. He’s always been a traveler. His early occupations took him across the globe and I’ve heard memory after memory from his adventures country to country. I remember how he once counted to forty-three countries he had visited[1] and was unable to remember the rest. When I was five I traveled for my first time to Poland. I may not have understood much of what was happening at the time or what Poland was, just this far away place where my parents were from. I still remember the split second of being scared before meeting my grandparents for the first time, not remembering their existence when they long knew of mine and awaited the first time they got to meet me. They were strangers to me[2]. And yet, that first trip to Poland was the first installment of the feeling of travel. My understanding of the world, recognition of its size, variety of people, and cultures grew as I did, this drive to know more about the world and all it had to offer. Travelling just became a dream.

I can picture a different life that would be mine if my parents had stayed in Poland, I can picture the family connections and holiday time we could have shared, of summer orchards and apple trees that my mother often spoke of, of small trips to visit the different regions of Poland, city streets to hillsides in a half hour’s time. I can picture myself there. I can picture that life, but I can’t picture that person, that mind. A different set of memories, of upbringing. I can’t picture my life without the people that have impacted this one. I know that, wherever you are born, wherever you live, you find your niche, you find people that touch you and a home that becomes a part of you forever. If my parents had moved to Australia[3], I would’ve found my home there. If my parents had stayed in Poland, I would have found my circle there. But they moved to Terrace, BC and that is where my life is, my friends, and most of everything that means something to me, and I can’t picture myself without the past that I have[4].

To get off that cliché ending, I’ve been realizing more and more that I move on from things fast. People. Feelings. Places. Connections. I don’t know if it’s that I can easily detach myself from something and move on, or because I never have that strong attachment in the first place. I want to argue for the former, because the second sounds unpleasant a quality. One way or the other, I think it’s a good thing for me. To have no attachments that can hold me down from what I want to do, and where I want to go[5].

I was thinking of that because it’s now been a month to the day since I left, and I still feel good about things. Sure, I miss some aspects of home, friends, and family, but not to the extent I thought I would. I know I’ll be back, and it doesn’t bother me that I’m gone now, for however long it is, nor does it bother me that I’ll likely be gone again for much longer. This is the way to go.[6]

Joanna


[1] Only counting the ones he had stayed in for at least a week where he had seen some of the country.

[2] I also have this dim recollection of having a fear of the elderly when I was little.

[3] Which was plan A.

[4] This is why I sometimes wish we could live more than one life. Just to see.

[5] I think this quality also ties in with my quality of not being able to commit to anything very well. Discussion for another day.

[6] There’s still a lot of time for me to start missing home, but for the time being, I am happy where I am and with how I’m feeling.

Read Full Post »

“Polish has a thousand unnecessary rules.” A statement my sister seconds ago repeated to me; I do not think this is true, but I don’t blame anyone trying to find claims in this either.[1] When I was going about being reintroduced to my family a few weeks earlier and answering their questions of my study of interest, I always replied “Jęnsyk Polski”. (The Polish language.) This was met by many with widened eyes and a tightening of the face. Sometimes some slight teeth gritting. Kind of an ominous you-have-no-idea-what-you’re-getting-yourself-into look. When my seven-year-old third cousin was asked what he thought of that, he furiously shook his head. And his twelve-year-old older brother looked as if he could not imagine something so awful: going to school for just Polish language classes. As they are both in elementary classes they are also starting to experience the extensive grammar rules of Polish they are required to learn and excel in. Students in their class dread Polish class as much as many of us British Columbia kids hated taking the French course taught by a teacher who seemed to only be a lesson ahead of us at a time[2]. So what I’m saying is, it’s difficult. Polish is a really difficult language, one of the hardest. And I’m not just saying that from a confused student’s standpoint. This is in plenty of sources across the internet, murmured among linguists, bragged about by teachers that teach it, and assured by my family who has survived those classes long ago.

So what have I gotten myself into exactly?

I can’t help but like the challenge. I do like a challenge. I’m not all too fond of the work, study, and repetition that comes with it, but it’s the end result I have in mind that I can only hope to achieve one day. Even after the completion of my two-semester courses, I’ll still be a long way’s away. But perhaps a few steps closer and a little more straightened out. I want to be fluent in Polish. Fluent as in, have a large vocabulary, speak without grammatical error, speak confidently, write well, read well, think in Polish. I don’t want to struggle for words, to get conjugations confused and to not understand the hundred or so grammatical terms that were thrown at me today that I’ve never heard in my life. I want Polish to be a breeze. And after each grammar class (I’ve now had three), I feel like I’m just on the edge. On the edge of so much more. There is so much I don’t know, so much I was never aware of, being brought up learning Polish by ear much as one learns an instrument by ear. I don’t know what notes I’m playing, I sometimes don’t know if the note exists, but it sounds right, and I’m going with it. I can’t read music, but I can learn, and the learning process will go a little bit smoother for me.

All my teachers, most of them with decades of experience, seem fairly confident we will walk out a great deal better than when we walked in. My grammar teacher today said we are here to understand the language and to learn to speak without errors. He said this is pleasant to Poles, to all native citizens of an area, to hear a foreigner speak accurately. It’s easier to be around, more pleasant to converse with. A little bit of error, sure they can let that slip, they can correct you. But when you’re tripping over error upon error; it’s just unpleasant. I’m sure everyone has had experiences with a foreigner (or maybe even someone living in the area for years) where you just can’t communicate fully. My teacher said speaking with a foreigner who has correct grammar just has a nice “taste”, in his attempt to explain it. And I think I get it. I’ve talked with many foreigners, the place I come from being quite multicultural, and with many exchange students. The better your English is, the more I enjoy speaking with you[3]. It’s respectable, too, I think.

Wow, is learning a language ever hard though. Here I am having these thoughts, with barely a grasp on the physical language at hand, an immeasurable ocean of knowledge to learn ahead of me. I really do feel like I’ve just breeched the shallow end of the pool[4]. Things are about to get much more complicated. I see the students that are taking their very first language courses in Polish, I hear their small, jumbled sentences, and only feel that much more in awe because they’re starting from base zero. I have some intuitional feeling of what sounds right and wrong. They, however, have nothing. Pretty impressive.

On to a different, mostly unrelated topic: family. Last Sunday I spent the better part of my day at my great aunt’s house (the only close family I have in Krakow), going through our family photos, some of these photos having reached beyond 100 years old, talking about the history of our family, the different connections that there are, the lines and lineages sprawling in different directions. I saw photos where everyone photographed is no longer living except for my aunt and grandma, being the youngest of their generation. I asked about the kids, grandkids, great grandkids of those photographed, where they are, what they’re doing, who what when where why, astonished and fascinated by all this existing information I’ve never heard of. Again, I was left feeling like I was just touching on something. Like I know a tiny fraction of the family I have, and not just in Poland! The wars spread my family apart to all corners of the Earth. India, Africa, Siberia, England, New Zealand, Toronto—wow! I was a little mindblown. A lot of my family that was moved and sent out to different parts of the world returned to Poland afterwards. But some stayed. Some put down their roots. Granted, these relatives are no longer a close as they once were, third cousins and further so. Nevertheless, family.  I want to contact some of them before my Europe trip next year. Get to meet some of them, bring connections back to life[5].

I heard war story after war story, of family being slaughtered, of my great aunt going fifteen years not knowing whether or not her brother was alive, of another great aunt marrying her husband a day before he was situated, of yet another great aunt[6] being involuntarily sent to Siberia, of my great grandparents (teachers) educating youth in secret, of Jews being helped and hidden, and many, many occasions of people having to leave everything behind. And I have family that has lived through all this, that remembers it, that lived in an entirely different place and time than the one they live in now.[7] I was in awe. Again, I feel like I’ve just touched on something, I am on the edge. There is so much more to find out, and I have a whole year to do it. To learn everyone’s names and stories by heart. To record this and track this and remember.

I know the idea is a small one, but I think a family reunion would be something very worthwhile, and I want to arrange it.

Joanna


[1] I realize a fair portion of this content of this blog is going to be me talking about (sometimes ranting) about the Polish language and my progress in it. Just a further head’s up in case you haven’t gotten that memo yet.

[2] The French Immersion program is great. But taking French as a second language here, a notion pushed on my teachers and parents as hoping their kid will have more prospects to off and a greater selection in universities, is pitiful.

[3] I myself being quite the grammar Nazi at times, find it frustrating to hear grammatical errors in regular use which people can never seem to improve on, no matter how many times corrected.

[4] Pretty sure I’ve used a deep-water metaphor before. My bad.

[5] There’s a whole side of my family, my dead grandpa’s 6 siblings and their relations that isolated my grandpa’s side of the family because of his involvement in Communism.

[6] There are a lot of women in my family.

[7] Those who lived during the second world war—few remain. But I’m also referring to the cold war, another great war that was very real for some and is well remembered.

Read Full Post »

Here I am sitting in a train. Now this is a European train, not the shitty VIA rail variety. Dorothy and I have our own personal carriage, with wide stance seats, comfy head rests, and a ton of extra room. Our own carriage. Harry-Potter-esque. I need to reread that series, but for another time.

I don’t think I’ve talked much about what I’ve done here. I haven’t done too many touristy things because I have the whole year for that. I’ve been spending more time with family and “re-meeting” everyone. And it’s been great. I’ve missed out on the whole extended family thing my entire life, as it is just my parents and my sisters living in Canada.  99% of everyone else is still living in Poland[1]. I’ve never had the care and support and interest of other family, and never really managed to uphold connections because of the distance and language barrier. And now, as I’m reintroducing myself to everyone, it feels so nice. Everyone is so kind, caring, and really interested in what I am doing. They’ve attacked my sister and I with questions and questions about Canada and our intentions in Poland and what are lives look like, etcetera.

Yesterday we had rather an amusing conversation about the “Indians”. Excuse my family, but that is really the Polish word for Natives/First Nations/Aboriginals. It doesn’t have the same negative connotation it does in English. But their questions were outrageous. Horrible yet hilarious. “Do they live on reserves?” “Do they live with your society?” “Do they speak English or their Native languages?” “Do they go to school with you?” “Do they wear their cultural clothes?” It went on and on. Strictly speaking, it is understandable that they had no idea. The last time my older relatives saw a history text book, not much had been updated since the colonial seizure and initiation of reserves they had heard about in Canada, Australia, and America (and communication between some of these tribes and colonies was still developing). They really had no idea how much it has progressed since then[2].  Similarly, they asked if Blacks and Asians also lived in Canada.

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say many Polish people are a bit racist. In Poland, 98% of the people that live there have 100% Polish ethnicity. It is not the multicultural place Canada is. Their upbringing is a very one-sided, one-culture view and they don’t really understand the appreciate for culture I have. A lot of my family members have been asking why I decided to come to Poland, what good will that do me -kind-of thing. Will it somehow benefit me? How is English not better? They don’t understand why I came here. For the culture. In Canada, in a place that has a variety of ethnicities, culture is something recognized and identified with. People are asked what their backgrounds are. And it is normal to say just Canadian, many of my friends are. Because some people honestly have 145 years of a Canadian background and may have Scottish and French roots, or something. But when it’s something else more recent, you identify more strongly with that, and want to have that connection. One of my good friends  moved from Panema when she was 8. She has lost most of her Spanish, but wants to go back as well to retain it. Her culture. My parents are both from Poland. My friend’s parents are from China. And it’s easy to lose that connection once you moved to Canada and get assimilated into English speaking place, like me. My Polish was practically nonexistent. But I don’t want to lose my heritage. So that’s why I came back. When my Polish catches up to my English, I’ll better explain that to my family. But what I’m saying is they don’t have that appreciation and understanding because that’s all they’ve ever been raised of. The whole of Poland is almost entirely the same. Polish after Polish heritage. Not many mixes.

On another note, I am really starting to miss Terrace! Not just the people but the mountains. Poland is pretty flat… occasionally some far-off distant hills, but yeah. My family says Poland does have mountains. I have seen these ‘mountains’. They are not mountains. Terrace has mountains. Poland does not. It is definitely more of an agricultural place. When driving out of town, you just pass pastures upon pastures. Lots of corn fields.

Hmm other then going paragliding[3], going to this plaza[4], having my first legal drink, and going to a water fountain / light show, that’s about it! The drinking age is nonexistent in Poland…you have to be 18 to buy alcohol, but you can be caught with alcohol at any age and it’s fine. After my cousin ordered us shots of nut vodka (a flavour we don’t have in Canada, it was really good!) I bought a drink called Sex on the Beach.[5] And on Friday I might go clubbing! I love being legal!
The water / lights show was actually really sweet. Clippits of songs played for about a minute long and this giant fountain spewed out water at different intervals to go with the beat. Different coloured lights were shone, colouring the jets of water, and further supporting the beats and flow of the music. It was so cool. Sometimes they also project movies onto a surface of the water fountain (I hear they also do this in Disneyland) and yeah. I think that would be a pretty sweet job, to coordinate the different parts of the fountain to move to the beats of the music. I think my favourite was a dubstep song. Soo legit with the water and lights. Yeah.

Next Sunday, I’ll be driving to Krakow where I will reside for the next 9 months, go to school, and party and what not. I am pretty excited. I really miss having a group of friends and people to hang out with, so I’m excited to meet new people and put down some roots. I’m also excited because this is a new beginning. Once I finally get to my dorm and get set up in my room, I’ll feel more at  home with where I’m at, and can just start exploring. And have time to Skype with friends! Can’t wait! Things will just get better.  I have a hopeful outlook on this place.

Joanna


[1] I recently learned my third cousin is studying in England. That’s the only other out-of-Poland connection I know of.

[2] Although I don’t think you can necessarily count the loss of so much culture as progress, but speaking from their point of view

[3] My uncle is a paraglider. Flyer, trainer, and driver, who knew! So he took us out a couple times each. Super fun. The goal is to stay in the air as long as possible by flying into “wind tunnels” which just take you higher and higher and maintaining  the height. It didn’t feel too hard. I could definitely see myself getting into it in the future given the opportunity.

[4] A old square surrounded by old-fashioned buildings, a fountain, cobblestones streets, horse carriages, totally what you picture when you think of Europe, and I really regret not having my camera on me! So beautiful. I will definitely get pictures next time in Wroclaw.

[5] Saw the name. Had to get it. People that know me well… you know why.

Read Full Post »