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Posts Tagged ‘poland’

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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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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It’s June 1st tomorrow, guys, tomorrow! JUNE! How crazy is that. Almost a year since I graduated, a year since prom, a year since that amazing summer of campfires and long nights with the closest of friends. I realize it’s become a habit for me to say this per every text post, but time flew by so fast! I want it to slow down!

I am officially not the graduated class now, my younger friends are; it’s officially been about 9 months since we all went our separate ways and dove into new adventures. Yesterday, while I was tutoring Amelia in English, she asked about my friends and I told her how one of my closest friends is in Australia, how another friend was just in Brazil, that I was in Poland, etc. And she said it’s kind of sad how everyone goes off in different directions. And it kind of is.

Exams are coming up in a couple of weeks, and to be honest, I’ve really not been feeling it lately. I’ve lost motivation to do the work and try and understand the grammar, because it just got so much harder for me, and when I do my work it takes up so, so, so much time and I rather just go out with my friends. I’m a bad student. But this weekend is longer, so I think I’m going to try and catch up on my writing assignments and actually do my speaking-assignment for this week. Yeah. I’m really looking forward to the whole school-thing being done, but really not looking forward to everyone leaving.

My summer plans are a bit uncertain. Somewhere around the end of June, I’ll be going to Wrocław (mom’s side of the family), then hopefully more north (where I went for part of my winter holidays) to visit all my parents old best friends, hopefully see more of Szczecin and maybe a little bit of Gdańsk, then to Rzeszów (dad’s side of the family), then back to Wrocław, where I will be flying out! Wrocław to Frankfurt to Vancouver to Terrace! Three planes, from 8:00 Poland time, to 19:00 BC time, a grand total of 20 hours of flying and layovers, hopefully with no delayed flights! I’m really glad I’m flying into Terrace from Vancouver, instead of having to drive 16 hours, partially because it’s the fasted route home but mostly because I love the flight into Terrace – seeing that stretch of mountains – it’s beautiful, and it will be that much more special after not being home for almost a year.

Not much more to say! I’ve been laying low these days because it’s been raining the past couple weeks, and the forecast continues to say RAIN & THUNDERSTORMS. The thunderstorms are exciting though—we’ve been seeing them on an almost daily basis, where as in Terrace, you would maybe see one in a year, and that ‘one’ doesn’t even measure up to a Kraków thunderstorm! There is more humidity here I guess. The storms do move fast though. In the morning, I wake up to sunny and clear blue skies, during my classes we hear sudden thunder and see flashes of lighting and it’s pouring rain, and sometimes by the time I leave my classes it might be sunny again! Lately it stays gloomy and rainy though.

Right, so that is my weather update for you guys, and general summer plans. Nothing bigger planned for now, though I still have a few things I want to do in Kraków. Might go to a couchsurfing party tonight, as it’s been a while since I’ve been to one, and I might not get a chance to go again before leaving Kraków.

Oh! Making some headway on my future life plans. Sort of. I may have mentioned before how after I travel Europe with Paige next year, I’ve been thinking about staying behind and not coming back (at least not right away). Well I’ve sort of been looking at Scotland, and more lately/ more specifically, Edinburgh. And going to school there. And living in Scotland. That kind of thing. But only if they agree to charge me for school under my Polish citizenship, being part of the European Union, I would be charged the same price as UK citizens – otherwise, it’s more than triple the price and not worthwhile.

Yeah! Au revoir!

Joanna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Au revoir!

Joanna


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

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

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

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

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

P1140056a look out

P1140079there it is!

P1140107

P1140098

P1140078one last scenic photo on the way down

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

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

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

me and jess3

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

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

Joanna


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

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

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

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

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

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Lately, I’ve been having this overwhelming feeling that I love life, and not just here in Krakow, but my life as a whole; and that I’m going to always feel this alive[1]. And I like that, because it means that it doesn’t matter where I am and how far away I am from the familiar,  I can always find that feeling. Simply glancing back at old photographs brings joy to my heart. Maybe tears to my eyes, too (rarely). I just feel so lucky to have lived the life I have and so blessed with all the amazing people in it. But it’s not just remembering the past and being thankful for it. It’s living in the present, enjoying where I am, who I’m meeting, what I’m doing, and not worrying about the past or future.

I’ve been finding less and less time to blog. I had an urge to write a week and a half ago, I remember, right after the start of the second semester. But by the time I got home (I went and had coffee with new friends), did some chores, did my homework, and sat down by my laptop to write, my exhaustion was worthy of passing out—and I did.

I do feel a lot more exhausted lately, though. I think it’s just because it’s the start of the new semester. I remember when last semester started, and I was a fresh fish in the sea of Poland (haha), and how exhausting it was beginning to relearn this crazy language. Now, after a much needed three week semester break, mind utterly relaxed, I think starting the process all over again did the same thing. Semester 2 is more difficult. I moved up from a B1 level to B2. Theoretically, when we’re done B2 we’re supposed to be at the speaking level of a born and raised Pole. I don’t think that’ll come to happen, but I think (hope!) I’ll be a lot closer. Grammar just got a lot more complicated (and I was already having difficulties before), we’re increasing are vocabulary at a much faster pace than before (there’s so much more memorization than last semester[2]), reading much harder texts, and writing longer lengths. But, I am enjoying it, despite the work. I just love learning, yep.

Also, to my great satisfaction, I am doing a Literature course this semester! I’ve always been interested in Literature, but I’ve never had an opportunity to really study it yet—it was canceled in highschool because there wasn’t enough interest (just me and 5 other kids in a school of 500!) and this is my first year in uni[3], so! The literature is obviously Polish literature. The first class was incredibly intimidating, half of the students were C1s! ß Real Poles. :O It was really intimidating being in a class with them, and I’m not trying to make it sound like they’re another species. But when we did a writing response to a satire piece we read—I just felt like their creative writing is probably as good in Polish as mine is in English. And my Polish writing is pathetic—I’m still missing too many descriptive words not used in everyday speech, but used in writing. These things come with time, I think. Either way, I still really enjoyed the reading, the metaphors, the exercises, and this new way of thinking. I haven’t had any creative-language classes here yet, just straight-forward, analytical stuff.

The next class we started poetry! Was the Polish language made for poetry? Because I love it. I’ve never been a big fan of poetry, I’ve always had a hard time understanding it, and never very good at writing it. But I think I’m falling in love. Maybe doing poetry in another language is more constructive for me? Or maybe I’ve just been missing out on a creative-thinking class and my mind is revived from whatever I get. I’m not sure what it is. But I delved into some English poems today (of my own will!), and I feel like I’m seeing poetry with a whole new eye. (This is after one poetry class. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.)

So that’s the small update on school. We’re only a week and a half into the new semester, so I don’t have too much to say as of yet. Just an optimistic outlook that usually accompanies the start of something new with me. Before the semester started, I was definitely not looking forward to it: going through the same process, all over again!? It was terrible enough as it was. (I was not a fan of my teacher last semester). But this semester—I love all my teachers and every new student (mostly Americans this semester!) is delightful. I’ve met so many new people and have manage to have an excellent conversation with almost all of them. So this semester is looking up.

Righto! So, I have officially avoided homework for four hours. Time to really get to work now. Good day to you!

Joanna

Ah, also it’s my younger sister’s birthday today! Shout out to Nell, happy birthday! 16! Can’t believe it!


[1] Old age isn’t gonna hold me back!

[2] I felt like last semester was more of a review for me, whereas in this semester I will actually be learning a lot more.

[3] Uni—a shortcut for university. I’ve gotten used to saying it because my friend Jessica from England does, apparently they always say uni rather than university, which I always said.

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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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