Friday, October 23, 2009

Gotowanie naleśniki

[ Making Naleśniki ]

[relative ease ]

Just some fun photos from my stay with Kaśka and Michał. We may have been out an about town all day, but in the evening we had great times relaxing at the apartment, watching movies, cooking dinner and making skype calls. Here are our attempts to flip our Naleśniki [ Polish crepes ] the best. The plan is to make some American style pancakes over the weekend! [Kaśka has Canadian maple syrup from her trip this past summer!]

[ Look at that concentration! ]

[ almost a failure ]
[ Success! Let's Eat! ]


[ Go-Karts ]

In the morning I woke up and had breakfast just myself and Michał. In his bedroom connected to his laptop is a steering wheel for some racing game, so I knew that Michał liked cars, so when he told me that he had a go kart place in the city he wanted to check out later, I really didn’t know what to expect. We took the tram not too far, and at our stop we were crossing Wawel – catching my attention, but for others just an everyday figure in the city.

Kraków has some beautiful sights, with Wawel amongst the many, but as I had mentioned in my first impressions, Poland does have a feeling that it is still rebuilding itself, and from the looks of some areas it is a trial and error process. Along the beautiful riverfront one can see the docked boats, and Wawel hill forming the crest at the horizon, however at the other side of the river, more unnoticed than an eyesore in the construction feel of the city, stands a gray, cement slab-like building of an abandoned hotel. A little reminiscent to me of Detroit – turn one way and you can have a beautiful, awe inspiring view, turn the other and there is a stone skeleton with its windows smashed out.

For me this has less of a feeling of despair, but more of one of motivation for work to be done. As Michał and I came closer to the abandoned building I realized that, whereas it wasn’t a hotel anymore, it wasn’t necessarily abandoned either.

In the parking lot was an entire go-kart course lined up with old tires. It had a comical look, seeming very sketchy, but it still seemed to have potential to be fun. As a matter of fact, the entire facility was being used [under a license … or just taken over?] as an entertainment complex with the Go-karts outside, and in the hotel one part dedicated to laser-tag and the other to paintball.

Michał and I picked out our karts and the assistant gave us our helmets. He revved Michał’s engine and he was off. Then he said something rapid to me and nervous with my helmet on I had to sheepishly yell – Nie mówi po polsku!


My right foot punched the gas and I was flying. These were no regular go-karts. I learned later they were something around 10 Horsepower… for a go-kart?! These things probably wouldn’t be necessarily legal for some parking-lot go-karting in America. I think that was half the fun about it.

Michał passed me three times, and I don’t know if it was because his kart was faster or because I was just a timid driver with screeching turns [probably the later], but the experience was really cool. In fact the entire event got me thinking. For being a place abandoned and slated to be razed, the entertainment complex it was currently being used as was a pretty good idea. I wonder what the paintball and laser-tag inside was like. I suppose that if careers don’t work out for my brother and me, we could find some windowless building in Detroit and start something similar with a paintball zone or a go-kart course.

The idea is perfect.

We will call it The Crac-house.


[ The Project ]

After spending the morning with Michał we went to visit Kaśka at work to have obiad [I can’t call it lunch because it is dinner… Americans do Breakfast lunch and dinner, and Poles traditionally do Breakfast, Obiad [dinner], and Kolacje [Supper], with Obiad being the largest meal of the day]. Just around the corner from Kaśka’s office is a little restaurant that specializes in local Polish dishes. The back courtyard, surrounded by the cluster of apartments with little balconies, makes the setting really nice. She said that it was a favorite of the office, with the employees going there very often, and I see why. Great Polish food, good prices, and you can see the plate for yourself. Placki z gulaszem potato pancakes and goulash - smaczne!

As Michał went off to his classes, Kaśka and I had the chance to spend time together. She finished up her work day, and then we walked around checking out other corners of the town. We wound up at the Vistula river and along the riverfront were some boats docked at the side that served as restaurants. We both stopped to get somethink to drink and enjoy the scenery – and walking up to the open air dock of the boad, what scenary it was! From the river, looking up the hill was the side towers of Wawel castle – the castle that had only earlier dwarfed me physically and mentally with its prestige.

My conversations with Kaśka began very casual, and began to lead into more about ourselves – as I had mentioned, we were as comfortable as if we had been cousins knowing each other our whole lives, now we just had to catch up to fill the void and learn about our backgrounds. It was very nice to hear about Kaśka’s stories from when she visited the states, and I was very proud that she was able to experience how great and hospitable my family really is.

Kaśka made some very valid points and opened my eyes as to how important visiting with my Babcia was to her – someone she hadn’t seen since she was a young teenager – since this was her last link to learning about her own grandparents and where our entire family stems from. This is not to say that I have not realized this myself – I think knowing that Babcia is the last lineage to that generation is part of the reason I have been striving to learn more about my background and culture. Talking with Kaśka just emphasized that what we can learn from Babcia is really our most important connection to who we are as a family.

I excitedly told Kaśka about the very cool classes that I took at UofM discussing the counter culture movements and turmoil in Communist Poland and as we stared off into the hills of Krakow along the river, she could only develop a scene as to how much the city had changed in just years. Now in her late 20’s, Kaśka told me about her vivid memories standing with her Dziadek [The husband of Babcia’s sister] waiting for long hours just for some rationed petroleum, or how he would sneak her chewing gum even if it was a luxury beyond the means of the family.

Not to say that our family connections would have been lost, but Kaśka had a valid point that it was very important to her to bridge the pan-atlantic gap of our family now so that it was not just the generation of our grandparents that connected our families together. I had been planning to visit Poland at some point this year as well, so it could just be like-minded people and fate that brought us to feel the same way of solidifying our roots.

Kaśka told me about the long talks into the night with my Babcia discussing anything that she could describe and still remember from her childhood. These are stories that Babcia has revealed only abridged to me, possibly to hear once I was able to truly comprehend and grasp their importance. Kaśka and I could only sit, stare into the golden glow of the sunset on Wawel, and sigh – it really was a lot to take in. Discussing old photos, hearing stories from war torn Poland, learning about our family, blogging – we were planning a project without even realizing it.

I feel as if I am coming into the opportunity too premature – I don’t know Polish, let alone my relatives here in Poland, but with the upcoming weekend I had a lot of people to meet and much to learn. There is so much history that I would have the chance to grasp and cherish, and with great cousins like Kaśka that feel the same way, in the months and years to come, hopefully we will be able to make something of the great story our family – at its roots I can already see how they represent the struggles in Poland, but also the meaning of starting life new in America, and it excites me – and overwhelms me – that I have this great blessing, connection and opportunity ahead of me to discover.