What’s a Poland? Good question. Poland is a legit place that I feel very lucky to be a part of. Are the stereotypes of vodka, women, and pierogies true? Why yes it is. Are they also quite serious, a little tough to get to know and not big fans of people with massive cackle laughs? Yes to all three. While Poland might not be on the top of your European hit list, let me try and shed a little light on my home for the past four months.
Let me tell you a quick story about my most recent travel gaffe. The majority of poles are catholic so Christmas and Easter are huge here. We have been practising for our Christmas show for the last two weeks and my grade 5 show happened Monday and my grade 4 show happened on Tuesday. I would say both were successful. For my grade 5’s, I wanted to do something a little less traditional so we rehearsed a Christmas mashup to this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3U1vnvfumc. Now listen to it another 80 times and you will be on my level with IM5. After the show, parents brought in food and drinks. My Polish teacher welcomes them in Polish, I say a few things in my broken English and the eating begins. I get passed this:
Great. I’m hungry. Put on some Christmas music, eat my wafer, glad the show is over. Minute or two later, a student comes over, offers me their wafer, wishes me a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. He or she (I forget) tells me that I’m not supposed to eat my wafer but to go around the class, wishing people Merry Christmas and all the best in 2016. My wafer is now about 75% gone. Great. Can someone find me a new wafer? Embarrassing to be sure but I thought it was similar to a catholic communion where you eat what they give you. So this evening, my other Polish teacher asked me if I knew what to do with the wafer. Where was she yesterday? Polish people might find this funnier than you do but the lesson to be learned is if you are unsure about how to act in a new country/situation, give it a minute and act like everyone else. I also like the tradition because it is social and is an easy conversation starter.
I saw my first wild boar family last week. At first glance I thought it was a bear. I’ve seen bears before in Canada but not wild boars so that was a surprise and a relief. Also had baby boars with it so that spiced up my Tuesday night. Apparently you need to run in a zig zag to elude them. Stupid boars.
Poland is definitely on the cheap side for Europe. Grocery shopping, Uber, alcohol, and most things are cheaper than in Canada. Most young people can speak English but there is a tipping point around 45-50ish and for sure grandparents are no hablo ingles. The amount of students, schools and studying that goes on in Poland is bonkers. Almost everyone who strives for a higher income/lifestyle has a Masters and is probably studying even more. Old or young, education is king. People from abroad and throughout Poland are a big reason I have a job so thanks Poland.
Making friends for me in general is a little tough because I’m not super outgoing and social to new people so by chance, one night we crossed the river into Praga, known as the more dangerous/seedier side of Warsaw to see what’s up. A random Australian and his friends started a conversation with me and another Canadian that I work with and we all hit it off. He works at a hostel in Warsaw so he likes talking to people and a hostel is a good home base to have to try and make new friends so progress is being made in the friend department if anyone out there is worried I’m staying in all weekend catching up on Touched by an Angel.
Two week break coming up next week that I’m greatly anticipating but I have another two week break in February that I’m even more excited for because I will be visiting Toronto, friends and family. Europe and travelling is great but family is what’s up. And snowboarding. And Underground.
This will be my cheapest Christmas since I’ve been a kid due to lack of family nearby and a wide circle of friends in Poland. Weather has been quite warm which makes my 5 minute bike rides to school even more bearable. I’ve discovered that getting a masseuse to come over and get a hour and a half massage is only about $45ish dollars which I will be maximizing from here on out. Thailand was cheaper but I had to leave my house. Also paid someone under $20 to clean my apartment to a standard way over what I would have for myself and ironed my shirts. It’s the little things that get me about a country.
First few weeks went by a bit slowly but things are picking up now and I’m finding my groove. Will try and post a few more before the end of the year. Hope you killed it in 2015 and 2016 surpasses the expectations that you shouldn’t even have had in the first place. Don’t be a stranger.
“Three things cannot hide for long: the Moon, the Sun and the Truth.”