Friday, May 28, 2010

Just a taste

Another glimpse in the academic aspect of my life here in Poland... enjoy. And a special thanks to my roommate Paige for sharing this article.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your lips are moving, but all I hear is Blah Blah Blah...

I spent this past weekend in Warsaw visiting my friend Emilia who I lovingly refer to as my "Polish Guardian Angel." We met when I lived in Poznan. She was a mentor of sorts, picking me up at the airport, moving me into my dorm, showing we around the city etc. etc. Thankfully now, my polish is good enough that I can ask for a lightbulb if I need one. Anyway, in the few months I spent in Poznan, she became a close friend. So I knew that I could not leave Poland without seeing her this time around. We talked all weekend about random stuff. Hearing her talk about her job and current pursuit of a translation certification, got me thinking about translation in general. At first I thought that it couldn't be that difficult. If you know one language and learn another, then you can translate. Of course on a day to day basis and in normal conversation this is true, but what do you do when a word in English simply does not exist in Polish? How does one translate a sentence like "I hereby bequeath to you etc. etc."? According to Emilia, 90% of the time you can literally translate words, but that doesn't always mean it will make sense. Her job focuses on documents pertaining to law. (She's a big John Grisham fan and is very interested in law translation.)
Even simple things like watching a movie in interesting. There is a theater here in Krakow that is located near the main square that my friends and I frequent. For one thing it is cheaper and secondly it is in a renovated mansion, so it doesn't have that corporate feel. I lovewatching movies with Polish subtitles because I find it interesting how certain words and phrases are translated. Like a verbal pause for example. In english during a conversation someone can say "Look, I'm really sorry" or "Listen, I'm really sorry." We have multiple choices, however in Polish, I noticed they mostly use "Słuchaj" meaning "listen." This is a very simple example, but the point is how difficult and interesting translation can be. How something said is lost because it doesn't translate the same way from English to Polish, so the non-english speaker doesn't quite get it, or vice versa.
I hate sitting in class and struggle to communicate what I am thinking. Of course my professor doesn't exactly help that situation, but that's an entirely different story. Of course it is a lack vocabulary knowledge, but also there are times when I want to say something, but there just isn't a way to say it. Especially with idioms. I once asked my professor if there is an equivalent to "biting my tongue" and she didn't quite understand. I'm sure there is an expression of sorts, but we just couldn't seem to reach an understanding of what I was looking for. Basically, I have an appreciation for translators around the world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Where is Noah when you need him?

May is suppose to be a month of warmth and sunshine in Poland. However, that is not the case this year. For the past several weeks the rain just keeps on pouring in the souther part of Poland. The Vistula river is extremely high forcing some bridges to close and classes to be canceled. Below are some articles and links to pictures of the serious flooding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pains and Pleasures.

Obviously, I love Poland. Now, while there are many a thing I will miss, there are also plenty of things I will not miss.

What I will Miss: Pleasures.
1) Coat Racks.
I realize this sounds odd, but no matter where you go, there is always a coat rack of sorts. Be it a restaurant, classroom or cafe there is always a charming hook to hang your coat or umbrella. I've come to appreciate this little convenience because it can get pretty annoying to hang your coat on the back of a chair.
2) Cafes
Duh. I spend so much time in real cafes and America will never live up to the standards set by Poland, well, Europe in general. Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks or any other corporate chain is not the same. There is something cozy, warm and comforting about going to a cafe in the city here. Free Wi-Fi and a cappuccino in an original cafe. They are all one of a kind. (Ok, I will admit I do enjoy Dunkin Donuts ice coffee.) But I will miss having a place to bring my computer and sit for hours and only have to order a coffee. Future investment of mine is a cappuccino machine.
3) History.
I don't mean my class. I mean the history of the city. You walk around on cobble stone streets and see old beautiful buildings rich with stories. Its interesting to be in a hip club in the basement of an old building with arched brick ceilings. Its kind of unreal and just something you need to witness yourself. So... come to Poland and you'll see what I mean.

What I won't miss: Pains.
1) People demanding exact change.
Seriously, I've never bought something where the cashier did not ask for exact change. Actually, the worse situation was when I bought some food it cost 12.20 zloty. I gave 20.20, therefore needing only 8 zloty back. The woman looked at me, grunted a request for 2 zloty. I didn't have it. She rolled her eyes and handed me back my change. She was so frustrated that she had to count out 8 zloty instead of handing me a 10 note. Seriously? Is it really that difficult for you to give me 8 zloty? Do you lack the ability to count change?
2) The Post Office.
I won't miss waiting in line at the Post Office. Quite honestly, its hell on earth. The idea of having to stand there only to be greeted by the annoyed postal service worker who hates me because my Polish isn't perfect deterred me from sending postcards to friends and family. Sorry dear loved ones.
3) Lack of customer service... sometimes.
The phrase "the customer is always right" doesn't really exist here. No matter what happens, it is always your fault. The only thing I appreciate here is that restaurants do not try and rush you out. You can sit for as long as you want. YOU must ask for the check. They won't just bring it to you or ask if you want it yet. Its nice to have a meal in peace without a fake, in your face server hoping you move your butt so the next table can sit down and leave them more money. (Listen, I've been that waitress/hostess. I get it. Servers don't rely on tips here the way they do in America so there is no need to serve as many tables as possible.)

These are not the only things I will or won't miss about Poland. But seeing as my time is coming to an end its time to recount my the last 10 months of my life here in charming Krakow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Places I frequent: Part One.

There are several spots in Krakow that I frequent. I love to explore new restaurants and new cafes, but when in doubt I know I can always resort to specific places that will never let me down. So should you ever visit Krakow, which I highly suggest you do, please don't hesitate to check these places out. I will update periodically with other hot spots, but for now, enjoy these two.

Hot Spot Number One: Da Gregorio Pizzeria AKA "Pizza Bacon"
Ulica Stradomska 11, Krakow

One night, several friends and I were searching for a restaurant to grab some dinner. Literally, walking around the city forever, our friend Dave noticed a pizzeria. Since we were all starving, anything sounded great. This small quaint pizzeria turned out to have THE BEST pizza in all of Krakow. Seriously. We ordered a house special pizza called "Pizza Bacon." This pizza was so delicious that it is the only thing my dear roommate orders when we go there for dinner. From that point on, we called the restaurant "Pizza Bacon" rather than its actual name. To be honest, I couldn't remember the actual name until I looked at this sign. At least once a week we go to "Pizza Bacon" and now the waitress there knows who we are and what we want. This restaurant is hardly ever full, but don't let that fool you. It has won several awards and deserves every single one. So, if you are ever in Krakow and want some pizza go to Da Gregorio.

Hot Spot Number Two: Camera Cafe
Ulica Wiślna 5, Krakow

When walking into this cafe, one will notice the photos all over the walls of American Movies. It is not exactly a cozy cafe and is a little expensive because of the location. It almost seems like a chain cafe (though I'm not sure if it is.) So, why would I frequent this establishment when there are so many smaller, cozier and more original places? My friend Caroline and I both agree on this one fact... Camera Cafe has the best hot chocolate in Krakow. Honestly, I've tried hot chocolate in other cafes and the kind Camera Cafe serves is superior. There are several flavors (plain, mint, raspberry etc. etc.) and all are delicious. Its thick, creamy and perfectly sweet. It was the ideal way to warm up on the many cold days this winter. So when I am craving something chocolate and sweet, without fail, Camera Cafe will satisfy my craving.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Poznan: Round Two

My spring semester junior year of college I lived in Poznan, Poland. It was my first time living in Poland. In fact, it was my first time living abroad. While there, I did not have an intense Polish language class, the way I do now. My classes met once a week and were taught in English. I was one of four Americans that I knew of in Poland, so needless to say I had a lot of alone time. I also spent that semester traveling as much as I could. It was an important part of my life and is the reason I developed an interest in Poland and Polish culture.
Granted it was only two years ago but going back this time was... interesting. I realized how much has changed in my life and how much I've changed as a person since my time there. I couldn't help but laugh to myself at moments. I thought about how I managed to get around Poznan hardly knowing the language, except for survival phrases. Not knowing Polish, or the language of a country you happen to be living in, can really affect how you explore and embrace the new environment. Here in Krakow, my Polish is not perfect, however, I know significantly more Polish this time around. Therefore, I explore cafes weekly, walk into shops, and go food shopping without hesitation. I'm not nervous about making a fool of myself as I was when I lived in Poznan. I could physically feel the difference when I was in Poznan this time. The challenges I faced the first time in Poland made me hesitate when I was granted the scholarship that brought me to Krakow. I recalled feeling out of sorts and completely out of my element in Poznan which made me worry and question moving to Krakow. I, of course, accepted this scholarship because I would be stupid not too. I'm thankful I did, because my year here in Krakow has been one of the most fantastic and unbelievable times of my life. This will be a year I will never forget. Ever.

So, even though I felt different this time, Poznan... not so different. Aside from a few American chains, the city is exactly as it was. I love Poznan. It is a beautiful city. It has the charm of Krakow, minus the tourists. Historical buildings and tall business buildings co-exist, creating the perfect combination of history, culture and modern day. Poznan will always have a special place in my heart.