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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.

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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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Well, I am here. Sitting in a cafe at an airport in POLAND, in EUROPE. It is still hard to process. Waiting for my next flight. I was wanting to talk to people, but everyone is offline. WHY? Because it’s 4:30 in the morning. Right. I don’t think I’ve adjusted to Poland time, but I’m definitely not with BC time anymore. Lost somewhere in the middle.

I think my bum is permanently numb. No, this is not what I expected to blog about either. But seriously. Day one: 12 hours of driving. Sleep. Day two: 5 hours of driving, followed 2 hours waiting, then 5 hours flying, another hour waiting, then a 7 hour flight, and here I am waiting again for 2 hours, before my final 1 hour flight. I didn’t sleep overnight. Which was cut short because we were flying across time zones. I really can’t sleep in vehicles, not even completely dark planes. It’ll be three full days by the time I get to my grandparent’s home. THREE DAYS OF SITTING. It seems weird to think that my friends who I had breakfast with on Friday morning are going about their normal lives (albeit Joanna-absent lives), while I’m still in the same process of getting to my destination as I was when I left that morning.

But, as I said, I am here. And I want to be here again.

When I first made the split decision back in May to move to Poland, I quote, this is what I said, “I’ve never been so sure of something in my life; I’ve never wanted to do something as much as I want to go. Words cannot describe the collaboration of things I am feeling, but I will try anyway. I feel like my insides are being grasped and pulled my some unseen force. It’s hard to avoid clichés, and please don’t read it that way, but I feel called to be there, like I need to be there.”

Before I left, I started to have this uneasy feeling, that I shouldn’t be moving Poland. Not really for any good reason, I just didn’t want to anymore. After graduating, after having an awesome summer, I really didn’t want to leave my friends and everything Terrace has to offer1. I wanted my summer to continue by staying in Terrace and maybe working for a year or so. I seriously wished my flight tickets hadn’t already been bought so I could cancel my plans. It was a strong consideration. And after having to say goodbyes? It just didn’t feel worth it. Saying goodbye to my sister was the hardest. Not sure why. But my friends—we communicate. Parents?—meh. Sister—almost cried.

Yet, somewhere between Terrace and Calgary, as we passed from mountain shadow into mountain shadow (it’s quite the mountainous drive, and we did leave before sunrise2), it all started to feel right again. I love travelling, wherever it is I’m going. I love the feeling of the unknown, discovery, and finding comfort and happiness even in the unfamiliar. This is all going to be so worth it, I decided. I am living in Europe, Poland, where my entire family lives and I will actually have time to get to know them. I will be taking year-long language courses to really learn Polish fully. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do; to go back to Poland, to learn my Polish so I’ll never forget it, to really embrace my heritage. Yeah. I’m excited.

I don’t think this will be a regular thing, but here are a few (mostly well-known) songs I listened to on my drive from Terrace to Calgary.

“Endlessly” –Muse

“The Sandman, The Breakman, and Me” –Monsters of Folk

“Thistle and Weeds” –Mumford and Sons

“Chasing Cars” –Snow Patrol

“Human” –The Killers

“Paradise” –Coldplay

“Youth” –Daughter3 

“Get Home” –Bastille

A last thought. Where is home? It is a place we identify with. A place where we are our selves; a place where we are at ease. Somehow, this feeling grew on Terrace for me, very recently, and quite rapidly, and maybe that had something to do with me leaving. I don’t think Poland is my home yet4 but as I become more comfortable and familiar with its ways, it’ll become my home away from home. I do identify with Poland, somewhat, but I want Poland to become a bigger part of me. i

Joanna

ps. I am really excited and nervous to see my family.

_______________________

i sidenote: Wrote this from a collection of very short journal entries during the past few days, as I usually didn’t have access to my computer.

1 I know, I have no idea where this attachment to my hometown suddenly came from.

2 The drive to Calgary the past couple days was great. I forgot how beautiful it was. And it reminded me of my plans to drive across Canada with my best friend, which I now want to do next summer. I will need to take this up with her.

3 I bold this because I forgot how much I love this song.

4 Especially not with the language—it is so far been incredibly difficult. The words come, but they don’t come easily. But this is what I asked for.

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