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Posts Tagged ‘Polska’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kołobrzeg

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

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

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

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

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

I will leave you now with one last picture!

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

Joanna


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

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

[3] Because I did frolic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joanna


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

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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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