Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Billet Proszę

[ Ticket Please ]

I had fallen asleep and was startled awake by the train attendant requesting my ticket.

I had to almost pinch myself. Sometime during my dozing off the train attendants changed and there was no more German anymore – the director spoke on the loud speaker in Polish; The woman requesting my ticket had a pronounced Slavic facial structure.

Poland? Don't scroll down to see if there was a missing post or some bridge to this story - it flows just like this. Literally hours after hanging out with some of the new international students [I didn't even sleep - I packed in the early hours of the morning ] I was on a train passing Berlin, and heading to Poland. The trip was semi-spontaneous. I had no idea what the transition was going to be like in Göttingen, but I knew that between my Einführungswochenende and my first day of class, I had a gap of rare free time to spend a few days and meet my extended family in Poland.

Being woken up by the attendant – just like Saarguemines from Saarbrücken – I had a split second to realize that I was just over the border, and just that quickly in a new foreign environment.

Above all – this was Poland, a country that I have wondered about my whole life, and have in recent years embraced a growing fascination with as I have had an increasing desire to connect with my background of being 75% Polish-American.

Hearing the murmur of Polish around me of other passengers was actually a comforting feeling – I have heard Polish spoken like this around me my entire life. It was frustrating to me that I struggled and had to “reach back” into my memory bank for some vocabulary that I heard or saw on signs – not that I have neglected my Polish studies, but my adamant efforts at learning German may have used the same space in my brain pushing out the stressful hours of Polish grammar recitation at the University of Michigan. The frustration was more of “so much I want to learn, and the struggle to find the time and energy to do it all” which all stems from my ambition to truly make the most and learn the most from all the opportunities that come my way. [didn’t I mention that I wanted to keep up my Japanese too?… oof]

Looking out the window the train had stopped at a little village called Żary, which had a tiny brick building at the station, aged and weathered with a few tattoos of graffiti. Amongst the scenery of brown, tan, and green fields of tallgrass and brush along with the gray skyline and a misty fog hugging the ground, the drab image was strikingly beautiful and was oddly, but warmly, familiar. The streaming image out the window going by was as equally foreign to me as my other border-crossing travels thus far, but the significance that this adventure will hold for me possibly triggered that it is bigger and more profound for me as a person than I initially had anticipated hastily buying a ticket for a “little trip to visit family in Poland”.

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