Monday, March 22, 2010

Peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers....

Learning Polish is a challenge. Period. Grammar is difficult. You try mastering the 17 different ways to say the number 2 (actually, I think there is more than 17). However, the biggest challenge I face with learning Polish is pronunciation. Shocking. Because it should be easy to say a word where four letters in a row are "szcz" like Pszczyna or Szczecin. Or to say "Konstantynopolitanczykowianeczka" which is apparently one the longest words in Polish meaning "a little girl from Constantinople." Basically my days consist of spitting all over my worksheets.

Last week my professor thought it would be entertaining to teach us Polish tongue twisters. As if learning Polish isn't a tongue twister all on its own. Needless to say, I epically failed. Seriously though, if these tongue twisters are difficult for native Poles, then there is clearly no hope for me. Below are some tongue twisters. I'm not even going to attempt to spell them out phonetically. Enjoy. Class was pretty entertaining that day.

Zaszeleściły szuwary, szary świt przepłoszył drzemiące stadko srebrno-rdzawych kuropatw.

Król Karol kupił królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego.

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Yesterday, several friends and I took a day trip to a town right outside of Krakow called Pszczyna (Yes, there is a way to pronounce it.) The first day of spring was beautiful, so it was a perfect time to take trip. The main attraction is the Pszczyna castle which was constructed in the 13th Century but because of the various renovations it looks more like a palace today. What I found most interesting was William II resided there during WWI and served as a headquarters of sort. Just after WWII it was turned in a museum. Its very beautiful inside, especially the music hall with high ceilings and intricate decor.

The town itself is very quaint. The main square is small with several restaurants and shops. There is also a park dedicated to Bison, however we did not go inside (wasn't quite worth the money.) The park on the castle grounds is nice as well and being the first warm day in quite some time, many families were out taking a stroll.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Semester Goals

I have a habit of setting goals for myself and then to not follow through with them. So in order to prevent this habit from haunting my life in Poland, I plan to share some of my goals with you. I'm hoping because it is in writing, I will accomplish what I set out to do this semester. You can hold me to it and guilt trip me at the end of my stay here in Poland if I fail to live up to my own expectations (although I hope this won't happen).

Goal 1: Review everyday for at least an hour. The hour will focus on what I learned that day. If I take a little time everyday to review, my Polish (I hope) will improve. I tend to put it off until the weekend, which becomes overwhelming when I shuffle through worksheets and written notes, trying to remember what I couldn't understand. This goal seems rather obvious, but distractions live on every inch of this city.

Goal 2: Explore and find at least three different cafes a week. Krakow is full of little cafes hidden in alley ways and small streets. Kazimierz (a part of the city, my favorite actually) is brimming with cafes. It is impossible to walk down any street and not pass at least four.

Goal 3: Travel more. This does not just pertain to huge trips around Poland, but also includes day trips to small towns around Krakow. I have yet to visit Czestochowa, a problem I hope to remedy in the near future.

Goal 4: Read more. I'm attached to my computer. Its an outlet for frustration and the easiest way connect to friends and family. It is also how I keep up to date with current events in America. Really glad I don't own a Toyota by the way. However, I know I can accomplish what I need to do on the computer in a designated time span everyday. It is not necessary for me to check my email 600 times a day (I wish I were that important). I want to spend my recreational time reading, not surfing. The first time I lived in Poland I think I read 6 or 7 books, no great feat, but I have yet to read that many to date. This time I plan on reading more than that. I don't have a set number yet, but when I figure it out I'll be happy to share. This being said I am open to suggested readings. Keep in mind I live in Poland and my resources are limited. One of my favorite places is Massolit, an English Used/New bookstore. Their selection is extensive, but its not a Barnes & Noble.

On a side note, Goal 2 & 4 are in full swing already. Current book of choice: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I've been moody lately, really moody and Jane Austen is the best literary pick-me-up. Cafe of the day: Cheder Cafe. Located in Kazimierz it is a cafe with a small library. Extra plus is the no smoking policy! It is hard to find cafes that are non-smoking, so my lungs especially love Cheder Cafe.

These goals are not extreme. They are not impossible. I promise to keep you, my dedicated readers, up to date with my progress.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gdzie jest tolieta?

The simple question one learns before jetting off to a foreign country is "Where is the bathroom?" And even through broken english, one can usually decipher the directions to the desired destination. Even if a wrong turn is taken, the bathroom is usually found. Logical steps take place next. Girls enter the bathroom that either says "ladies" in the native language or the door is equipped with a picture of woman in a skirt. Once inside, your business is your own.

However, in Poland, the simple act of using the bathroom stresses me out. Mostly because Poles don't feel the need to use the word "kobieta" for woman, or even use that famous image of the skirted damsel. No, no, no. That makes sense and this is Poland. The method used here is the circle and the triangle. Women are circles and men are triangles. I've lived in Poland for about a year now, if you include my semester in Poznan. I can never remember which is which. Before I leave the dinner table or movie theater lobby, I have to double check with my friends that the circle is meant for women. As a result of frustration, I developed a way to remember that the circle is for woman, but sorry my avid readers, its not quite appropriate to share. Yet, even with this little game I have in my head, I always need reassurance from whomever I'm with at that particular moment.

Perhaps by the end of my time here, I'll remember, but until then I hope a friend is around whenever I need to use the restroom.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Poland vs. France... in the battle of Holy Communion?

Nuns publicizing threats? Who would have ever thought that such a Catholic country like Poland, would allow a secular factory to make communion wafers? And what makes one communion wafer superior to others?

Enjoy the article here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ok Warsaw, You win.

I recently spent two days in Warsaw where I attended the TEDxWarsaw. For those of you who do not know what TED talks are, here is the website. Basically, it is an all day conference where people come and share their ideas. It was quite an interesting event. It was the first to take place in Warsaw and I believe in all of Poland. The main theme of this specific conference was "Collaboration." The topics ranged from Politics, Religion, Music and Storytelling. Each speaker emphasized the importance of working together for a greater cause.
I found one speaker captivating as he spoke about Jews in Poland, specifically Krakow, post War World II. Prior to War World II, the Jewish population was pretty high. However, post WWII, it changed quite drastically for obvious reasons. This speaker, Jonathan Ornstein, talked about how there is a gap between Jewish generations. Older generations of Polish Jews are still in touch with their roots as younger generations of Polish Jews are slowly getting back in touch after discovering they even had any Jewish heritage. It is the middle group, the post WWII generation that is missing. The generation that grew up either hiding or not even knowing about their Jewish heritage. Jonathan Ornstein talked about the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, and hopes that this is one small step for Polish Jews to get back in touch with their roots.
Overall, the conference was interesting and successful. Between mingling and networking, I came across some intriguing characters with fascinating stories, as well as some seriously egotistical people. But I guess that is to be expected.

So in regards to the title of this post... The first time I visited Warsaw was back in 2008 when I was studying in Poznań. A friend and I had just spent several days in Stockholm, an unbelievably beautiful city, if ridiculously expensive. We decided to fly in Warsaw, because it was cheaper and we both felt it necessary to visit. However, upon arrival, we were miserably tired and broke. Neither of us wanted to be there and after spending time in Stockholm, we underestimated the value of Warsaw as a city. You see, Warsaw was destroyed during WWII so much of the architecture is Soviet Block buildings, aka, square building next to square building next to square building and so on. In short, we hated it.
So, this being my second time in Warsaw, under different circumstances, this city had one more chance to prove itself. And, it did. Now, I still find Kraków superior is most ways, but I have a new appreciation for Warsaw as a city. Its much less romantic and far more urban that Kraków, a trait that I believe many overlook. I enjoyed my time there, even though it was cold, and look forward to visiting again in the Spring.