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Posts Tagged ‘Krakow’

I change my mind a lot. I was going to take the beautiful opportunity of a free morning/early afternoon today to go to a museum. And then I realized my next couple days[1] are going to be incredibly busy and there is one thing I want to do more than see museums while I’m still in Kraków and that is – buy a travel backpack. Yes, a big multi-compartment-padded hip and shoulder strap-overflowing with zips and ties-bulky yet small water-resistant—backpack. For my 6-month Euro-trip in approximately seven and a half months. (Wow. I remember when that was two and a half years away.)

I want to buy it here because a) it’ll definitely be a lot cheaper than if I was to get one in Vancouver and b) I live in a city right now[2] and I can find a large variety to chose from. If I don’t get one while I’m still in Poland, then I will either be stuck with poor small-town selection or the option of having to drive 16 hours to expensive Vancouver and buy something uber pricy OR, one more option, order online. Which, in my eyes and thinking of the pains by back does not want to endure, is not really an option.

Right. BUT THEN, the heat of the day stopped me. I’m sweating in my room let alone when I step outside and bike to the mall (I did that yesterday to buy new swim bottoms since mine have mysteriously stretched out and new sandals since I wore my flats to the ground). So I’ve decided to wait till the evening and hopefully a couple-degrees-colder temperature to start my search of my future home (the backpack).

Thus I was still left with an open late morning turning into an afternoon. I researched things I want my future backpack to have, wrote my uncle a couple emails (trying to arrange our transport OUT of Kraków), crossed off a couple things off my Kraków To-Do List, ate breakfast, annnd then thought maybe it was time to go by a massive cardboard box from the post office in order to squeeze all my winter belongings, text books, and other heavy clothes I rather ship back to Canada than put into my suitcase and have to pay fees for being overweight for three different flights. No thank-you. However, I want to compile my stuff with Dorothy’s and she had other afternoon plans (that may or may not have involved dozing and doctors).

And now it is past 12. And I have 3 ish hours to kill before I must go tutor Amilia for the last time. And I’ve been meaning to catch my friends up on my life here for the past couple weeks so here we go.

IT’S OVER GUYS. IT IS ALL, ALL OVER !

The course is finished, I had the last of my classes, then the last of my exams, then the year-end theatre presentation followed by a grand tram-party followed by the “after-party”[3], then the after-party clubbing, and so forth. THEN (yesterday) we had our graduation ceremony and received our diplomas. How crazy is that!? I can’t believe it’s finished and that we’re all done and that there are already some students I’ll never see again or my lovely, friendly teachers—DONE, FINITO, ADIOS, PA PAAA!

:’(

The last couple weeks were amazing (despite exams). You know how the closer the end is coming the closer you get with all the people involved? Does that make sense? I feel like that’s happening again – again being that it was like that with highschool. Or Camp Morice. Or right before I left for Poland. Or hiking trips. Anything really.

We all just sat in class for a semester or two trying to absorb as much Polish as possible and remember the billion exceptions and weird variations. I now catch myself saying polish words when the English ones refuse to come to mind, typing W when I really mean V, and confusing my English sentence structure.

And now people have driven home, flown home, are en route, or leaving in a few days. Dorothy and I are staying longer. We’re in Kraków till the end of June then in Rzeszów and Wrocław till the 21st of July. Some of my friends are actually staying in Poland, some got jobs, some are sticking with the program for another semester or two, some had always planned to live here. And some of us have fallen in love with Kraków and will be coming back here whenever they get a chance.

I’m going to backtrack a bit now. Skip over a lot and tell you about my highlights of the past month!

SO. In my last post I said I had nothing planned and upcoming. I didn’t. But things happen. The day after my last post, so June 1st, my friend Anne-Marie proposed a trip to Ukraine the next day for two days. And after a couple minutes of consideration (I would miss two days of school) I agreed. WEEEOOOOO! A trip! To another country!

We took a night bus to Lviv that arrived at 4 am (we were told it would be 6am). Stranded and unable to read anything we eventually asked a bus driver (in broken Polish) if her bus went to the town center and she responded in broken Ukrainian – Polish, that it did. We pulled out the money we had just exchanged (because you buy your bus tickets directly from the bus driver in Ukraine) and unfortunately we didn’t have exact change. I’m still surprised that she didn’t kick us off—maybe she pitied the sleepless girls stranded at the bus station much too far out of town but she waved her hand and said, “Siadajcie![4] Just like that. So we did. And the journey began.

To sum it up, our two days were filled with lots and lots of walking, sightseeing (monuments, museums, buildings, a cemetery, lookouts), going in the wrong direction, bar-searching, avoiding cars that almost ran us over, a lot of talking, bumping into the same sort-of-strangers three times, a cat hostel, crossing the border by foot, a bit of hitchhiking with only one scary occurrence[5], a four-hour layover in Rzeszów with the company of 2 multilingual over-friendly guys, and a SUPREME lack of sleep. Eight hours for three nights to be specific.

We arrived back in Kraków at 7:30am, I went home, dropped off the backpack, picked up my school stuff, tried and failed to make myself look presentable and took a tram to school (I was too exhausted to bike). I felt obligated though to go to school after missing two days and not having any class on Fridays. However, I think I ended up being useless on Wednesday, and I was so tired the next day that I completely slept in. So that was me being almost absent for a week of school before exams.

Now I’ll skip ahead to my next highlight of the month. Zakrzówek lagoon! Back in winter, Dorothy and I went on a walk with our Aunt to these cliffs (area that used to be a quarry). There’s a small park around it and we remember walking up to the top through a bit of snow and coming upon the lookout. It was nice but it wasn’t outstanding—maybe impressive. Jutting grey cliffs, a frozen over white lake and sunken boat sticking out, bla bla. But I did not expect the view in the summer. Dorothy, Jess, and I decided to push our bike ride to Tyniec to a later date and went on a walk to the cliffs instead. We took a similar trail that Dorothy and I had taken with our aunt back in winter. But the view that we came out on was stunning. I did not expect it. This beautiful lake surrounded by beautiful white cliffs, greenery, and flowers. And the water was blue, so so blue, the kind of colour it is in the Caribbean. So clear and clean and wonderful. It was like this hidden tropical destination in Kraków that we had stumbled upon two weeks before our departure. We saw people sitting on the lower rocks, jumping in, tanning, one girl was swimming across the length of the inlet. The next day we brought our bathing suits and towels and went swimming. It was so warm and refreshing and perfect and the best thing ever. Paradise. Going back there again tomorrow. Probably one of my favourite things in Kraków and we only recently discovered it.

Now for grad and things related. I had so, so, so much fun putting on gowns again and the grad caps. Woo! Like highschool all over again! Our ceremony was in Collegium Novum (please take a moment to google image that: (https://www.google.pl/search?q=collegium+novum&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.48175248,d.Yms&biw=1066&bih=531&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=BOzCUcjDE4_MsgariIDIDg) where all the important university things take place. I am never going to get tired of the amazing architecture and beautiful buildings in Europe. And the oldness and history of it all. Copernicus studied there! As did Pope John Paul II. And 183 professors were arrested and sent to camps during the Nazi occupation, right in the room where we got our diplomas! HISTORY!

And, another highlight and something that has been on my to-do list from the moment I first witnessed it—The Party Tram. Yes that is everything as it sounds. A party. On a moving tram. Dancing. Loud music. Screaming and waving to onlookers. The two treasured hours went by all too fast. I still can’t explain to you the level of fun I had. I had high expectations and the actual event still went far and beyond. I am so, so happy our school director decided for the first time ever, to throw his students a tram party.

And beyond that, all the partying I’ve been doing has been great. Just spending time with friends with a few drinks, clubbing, dancing on tables, meeting foreigners, saying goodbyes to places and to friends.

Goodbyes are always the hardest. I am honestly not looking forward to saying goodbye to my roommates, my closer friends, and when the time comes—my family. I wish I could skip over the whole thing. I’ve connected to a bunch of people now scattered across the globe and it could be months or years before I see any of them again. Like I foresaw before coming here, and as others predicted, Kraków has very much become a home to me and just as before, I don’t want to leave. But I know once my friends leave (the biggest part of home) Kraków won’t be the same. And then there’ll be nothing holding me back from the long-awaited journey home to the oh-so-distant ‘Beautiful British Columbia’.

Asia

P.S. Exactly a month and a day.


[1] actually the whole of the next WEEK

[2] for only a week more *tears* my time in Kraków is coming to an end

[3] a term used more by Poles than it is in Canada I swear

[4] „Sit, sit!”

[5] I’ve already told many of my friends this story, but basically the generally-friendly guy decided to drop a few things off at his place just as we were nearing our destination.- it was now dark and about 11pm. He turned onto a dirt road that gradually receded to an even smaller/rougher dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, more specifically a wheat (?) field coming up to about shoulder length. We both almost had a heart attack. He pulled into a dirt lot (the only dirt lot) and there was a big white house. He said he’d be back in a couple minutes and left the door open. I don’t know why that bothered me but it did. It felt like a horror movie waiting to happen, honestly.  We didn’t know what to do. Anne-Marie was ready to book it and I was silently wishing I had written down the license plate number. ANYWHO, nothing happened, he did drop off his laptop, we drove on, he dropped us off at the train station, said goodbye, all was well. Just an everyday nice guy.

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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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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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Before I left Canada, I didn’t want to leave because I felt that my life felt perfect. A couple months down the road, it’s hard to look back and try and remember exactly what gave me that feeling. Maybe it was being graduated, maybe it was seeing all my friends and spending time with them during the summer, maybe it was the family trip, and maybe it was the moments where the unexpected things happened[1]. I’m not sure.

I was sad to leave, but I am happy to be here (I know, I know, I’ve said that before). My life feels far from perfect right now, maybe that’s just being away from the comforts of home, but I am not complaining. How many times in your life will you even consider it to be perfect? I’m going to say a rare few times. So I’m not too downed by the fact life isn’t perfect here. I haven’t made as many friends, I haven’t visited my family, gone sight-seeing[2], progressed in Polish, and gone on any mini trips all as much as I thought I would. Two months, and I haven’t done as much as I imagined myself doing! But in my imperfect life now, I find perfect moments.

I swear I can find happiness anywhere. The freaking cloudy, overcast weather brightened my day yesterday. But really. The sun was setting, the clouds seemed to glow, and evaporating evidence of the earlier rain highlighted by the orange-gold glow of the sun? Beautiful.

But today, being a part of hundreds of people singing was pretty memorable. You just can’t find things like that in Canada, unless you’re caught in a flash mob. Unlikely. How many times in your life will you find yourself in the middle of hundreds of people singing? I guess if I stick around Europe, more than a few times. And it’s normal for the people of Krakow. But it was such a cool feeling for me! Canada doesn’t have patriotic songs like the old country of Poland (in comparison to Canada). Aside from our anthem… there really isn’t much. But some of the songs we sang, were history in themselves. And the sounds, and tones, of the kinds of music long since past. But brought back to life every year[3]. And being part of the crowd, granted singing words I didn’t always understand, was awesome. Perfect.

Afterwards I met up with a friend, who had accidentally slept through the whole thing and missed it (the shame!), had coffee, and freaked out for mid-terms together. Mid-terms (and the final exams) are worth half of my grade. HALF! I am a little worried for them. At least where the spelling counts and grammar is involved. Also, the pressure of reading fast throws me off. It takes me longer to do tests, because I read slower in Polish. I didn’t finish the entrance exam because of this[4]. My family is telling me not to worry about it, that it won’t be that hard… I have to completely disagree. This isn’t a slack course. This isn’t like my easy French tests, back in the day. This will be hard.

So excuse me if I don’t blog again till the end of November.

On another note, I started off November feeling confident in doing NaNoWriMo a second time ‘round. Nanowrimo, for those of you that don’t know, is an anagram for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. Its goal is to convince all us people that call ourselves writers, to actually write. Fifty thousand words in one month! 50,000! It is dedicating yourself, for one month, to finally write that novel!

I knew I was going to be busy this month, gone on a few weekends, studying for my midterms, but I felt I could do it because I’ve done it before, in seventeen (inconsistent) days time! So, I began writing right at midnight, though I wasn’t quite sure where it was going yet, because I had only made the decision to try Nanowrimo 2012 twenty-four hours before it started.

Unfortunately, I became stuck, really fast. And you know what I turned to for motivation? My novel from two years ago, it reached the 50,000 mark, but still remains unfinished. I was really surprised when reading it. After I reached the word count goal, two Novembers ago, I reread it and remember thinking how terrible it was. But now, reading it, I didn’t think it was bad at all! And that was two years ago! Yes, I could tell sometimes I was rushing and couldn’t think of the adjective I wanted, or sometimes an idea wasn’t entirely clear (and there were some ghastly typos!), but the writing wasn’t bad!

And I remembered the ease and flow with writing those words, how easily they came to me, how the words flowed naturally out of mind, through my fingertips, and onto the page. It was effortless! I had completely immersed myself in the character’s minds, was so attune with their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Somehow, this time, I was lacking that. I wasn’t as excited and motivated as last time. This time, it felt more like I didn’t want to do it, but was forcing myself to, because I remembered the end result, and how amazing that felt; to have 50,000+ tucked beneath your belt in a month’s time! I wanted that again, but I wasn’t motivated to do the work to get there.

I wish I could just dive back into my novel from two years ago, but November had already started, and it was too late to turn back. As a couple weekends passed, I was still only at 3099, where I should have been near 10,000! That wasn’t too discouraging, I had been that far behind before. What was discouraging was my computer freezing two days in a row when I had the time to write. It really angered me. I finally had some time to catch up, and BAM, computer freezes.

But enough with the excuses. I could have pushed on had I really wanted to. But after more homework, and now the stress of midterms, I made the choice to turn down the additional stress of NaNoWriMo.  After midterms, I still want to write down the scenes I had originally imagined, maybe aim for a 25,000 mark, but right now—school is my focus. And I don’t want to do Nanowrimo.

However, I will say, Nanowrimo is the best thing for a writer. It is all positive. I still consider finishing Nanowrimo two years ago one of my biggest accomplishments. And it’s one of the best feelings, it honestly is. Many writers go on to finish, edit, and publish their novels. I think there’s even an option now where you can get ten printed copies of your finished novel for free! How awesome is that? Having your own novel in your hands. Not only that, the most important thing Nanowrimo does for you is shows you, you can write, and you can do it fast. (Editing comes later.) Nanowrimo gets you in the habit of writing daily, and makes you fall in love with writing all over again. It really does! All that dedication to your novel, and you just don’t ever want to stop writing. I seriously recommend it for anyone who a) loves writing and b) wants to be an author.

Sigh, oh this made me miss my novelling days. I will get back to them soon! And that is a promise to myself.

Cheers!

Joanna


[1] Sorry, I just can’t list unpredictable-Joanna moments.

[2] “gone sight-seeing” I just tried sight-saw, sight-seed, sigh-tdsgadghjla and nothing quite seemed to work.

[3] Three times a year. A similar event is also done for Christmas and Easter. But I hear the material is different.

[4] Although I was one in many, so I didn’t feel AS bad.

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I decided I like parks. I don’t mean playgrounds, I mean the greenery in the middle of a city. Walking through a park, especially on a day as still as today, is enchanting, a remnant of what time was like before, where we lived, before the time of the city. It’s like being in another place entirely. If only the tranquillity was not disturbed by the sounds of speeding cars and the groan from the tracks as trams trembled into mobility. Either way, a park is a little bit of frozen time surrounded by a place where everything is moving to the speed of time. Giant trees, stretch their bare limbs across the sky, natural architecture. Leaves are sprawled across the grass in piles caught in cobble stone indents or pushed up against park benches and tree trunks as sun rays stream between the uplifting fog.  But not a single leaf falls because the air is so still. Captivating.

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I like to make a lot of lists. I realized this when my best friend went to California and brought me back a book of lists to make (which I really appreciated, by the way[1]). Recently I started a couple of new lists, such as Polish words that I come across that look unpronounceable to English speakers, in my opinion anyways. Some of the words on that list are also some I have a bit of trouble with but that is mostly to do with the length and amount of syllables in some of these words! Historycznoliterackich. Eight syllables. More than five—gets a little hard to read when the word is that long. And words like these aren’t like antidisestablishmentarianism, another long word. A lot of these lengthy Polish words are in common use. And Polish people speak fast. Understand why it’s a little difficult to keep up sometimes. I’ll share the words with almost no vowels –list[2] once I have a bit more on there. I only started it yesterday.

So it’s been three days of my classes now. It’s become obvious that I’ve had no training in writing, that is spelling, and reading. I think I’ll catch on soon enough but it’s frustrating not being level with where I’m at in other areas. The good thing about Polish is, for the most part, it’s spelled like it sounds. There are a few variations, but Spell-It-Out is a good policy[3]. Next week I’m going to start attending an extra course for spelling and expanding vocabulary, probably the two things I need most. I’m excited for it. Spelling and vocabulary are two of my favourite things and I can’t wait to start developing that in my second language.

Also, I’m not sure if it’s being surrounded by other people that make frequent grammatical mistakes or not being surrounded by my grammatically-excellent Polish family but I feel like my communication (speaking to others –skills) just got a bit worse. Seriously. Or maybe it’s because I’m more aware of the grammar mistakes I previously made and because of all the new things that have been thrown at me in a very little amount of time. Soon I’ll grasp it, but right now, it is all too confusing. Everyone keeps telling me things will get better, this is only the beginning, but it is frustrating. People who know me, know I get frustrated easily. I’m often uptight. And I don’t like not being able to express myself.

Frustrating more so is the few girls in my class I started to talk and hang out with[4]. Their first language is Russian. They all speak English and are learning Polish. I’d prefer to have conversations with them in Polish because 1) we’re practicing our criteria and 2) I understand their Polish a hell of a lot better than I understand their severe accents, grammatical errors, and loopy sentence structure in English. They really don’t like speaking Polish outside of class when they know I speak and understand English. (At least two of them don’t. I think I can work with the third girl :P) And part of this is because they also want to better their English, which I understand, it just doesn’t match up with my own intentions and does not make our conversing any easier. Sigh. Maybe we can arrange back-to-back days of Polish then English, I don’t know. Or I can hang out with others in the group that I think I am slowly starting to like more….

I think this has been a frustration/venting post… with a slightly more negative tone than typical- optimistic-Joanna post? Likely because today was not a good day and I haven’t really shared my negative thoughts yet. I really didn’t enjoy my classes and the assignments my teacher gave us today. Not much learning, not much repetition, not much of anything.

Dorothy wants sleep. I want food. Goodnight.

Joanna

To end this on a positive note, will add a photo of the lovely plaza (at sunset) I get to see nearly every day.

Image


[1] I said by the by there. Was that ever a thing?

[2] This is synonymous with the list of words that look unpronounceable to English speakers.

[3] Unlike for English. Seriously. Spelling it out can seriously fuck you over.

[4] Don’t worry, they’re all pretty sweet and super friendly, but communication is just a frequent problem.

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P1120544

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