Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Refleksji o Polsce

[ Reflections on Poland ]

Here I am now, sitting in the first class booth on a Deutsche Bahn ICE train [my ticket to Poland was part of a coincidental special ticket package from DB!] trying to tie the loose strings on my writings about Poland, constantly refering back to the great photos that I took with everyone to remind me of my great time there.

Departing from Kraków Głowny, I was sent off after some big hugs with waves from Kaśka and Ania. They stayed until the train pulled away, and Kaśka rubbed a smudged smiley face onto the window before the train started up. My time spent with them was really exceptional.

Writing about Poland was hard. The weight that the trip carried was immense, and the posts that show for it are lackluster at best. Going to Poland, as I had mentioned before, has been something that I have wanted to do my entire life – and just like Paris, you get off the bus/train and you think… “what the heck… I am really here?” as if it isn’t true from the spur of the moment decision to travel there.

Similarly on a whim with my fortunate college scheduling, I was able to go to Kraków much like Paris – no planning, just going and we’ll see how things happen. I didn’t want to write about Poland like Paris however – In Paris I was a definite tourist and I observed and wrote like one – In Poland I was living with family, exploring my roots, ultimately being escorted around and checking out the city like a tourist, but I didn’t want to reflect like one. I really wanted to see Poland and learn about the life, and analyze the history and the people, and where my family’s history fit in … and in essence do exactly what I am doing in Germany now.

[ Blessed natural water for drinking, with minerals. It tasted like scrambled eggs... so much sulfur. I guess it was healthy though, thats what the sign said ]

I had to admit to myself that the short trip may have introduced so much to me – and I would actually toss in bed thinking about what I wanted to compare next, but I held back. It just didn’t fit – not yet at least. I wasn’t there long enough and I wasn’t living on my own. There are still many stories or cultural mishaps that I wasn’t able to share –

One of which was with Wujek’s mother, the other Babcia of Michał, Kaśka and Ania, who may not be blood related with me – but heck, with all the family that I met in one rapid weekend, she might as well be. Well, at the door, I was introduced as Zosia Partynska’s grandson from the states and she knew where I fell then in the family tree and I reached back into the think tank and greeted her with a polite “Bardzo mi miło pana poznać” … only that is the greeting for a man – nice to meet you sir… I needed to say panią.

And it is little quirks like this, or observations from TV or people in the street that I wanted to note, but my trip was too short and the observations still too premature. There have been scholarship opportunities to study at Jagelloński University in Kraków, and I really would like to work hard, study for some decent Polish skills and experience a year in the great city.

But maybe I am ahead of myself – what else is new – I have an internship in Germany to find, my first political science lecture auf Deutsch this week, as well as a night course for Japanese language ... with Grammar taught in German, go figure. One step at a time.

Seeing so much of Poland, however, in such a short time really was like jumping in two feet first. I was surrounded by the language – my listening improved quickly, my speaking not so much from my cowardice to refrain from grammatical mistakes – but I gained a little more confidence that I could one day actually pick the language up if I really tried.

Poland has so much culture and things to see, from the performers in the street, to the great museums [ and surprising ones like Manggha]. The history really captures my thoughts of what government, law and politics really are at their roots and theory, and I feel would be very beneficial to learn from. The people are extremely hospitable, and really just like my family back home, which was something I was so happy and humbled to find. It is a great feeling to know that you have these kinds of roots to discover and so much to learn if I just work to understand it.

[ Lots to discover - Kinda looks like the DaVinci Code, yeah? ]

I have many goals and desires – like seeing Poland from a new perspective side by side with my Babcia, or seeing Poland and being introduced to things with my Mom who has never been – but speaks fluent Polish. Someday I can learn the complex, but beautiful language, possibly take some courses at Jagelloński, document my family’s story, see more pictures, write down more recipes, explore the great night atmosphere and wrap up the information-packed days getting a kiełbasa at 2 am from one of the friendly vendors creating makeshift coal-fire grills on the street corners as everyone heads back [or out from] home.

From hundreds of meters above overlooking Zakopane, to hundreds of meters below Welicka, I really went all over with Kaśka, Michał and Ania and I am really so fortunate to have them as cousins, to have gotten along with them so great, and I really can’t say thank you to them enough. Like Michał said – it was nice to meet you – all of you, and I am looking forward to being in very close touch in the future. A new close bond in the family has been bridged and I hope it will lead to many other great gatherings in the future!

Pulling into Berlin, I had a bit of a shock that I was back in the German speaking world – and I had to brush up again with my entschuldigung’s and Danke Schön’s , since even after a few days, now, Przepraszam and Dziękuję want to slip off my tongue. I start classes tomorrow so I need to get that dictionary back out and get back to work. Sitting in the train, I still have that smudged smiley face from Kaśka grinning at me as a reminder to just enjoy it as it goes.

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