23 April 2005

Celebrating Aging

So I finally got to go out & celebrate my b-day last night, only 2 days late. Wednesday was just too crazy to do anything, after working from 9:30am - 8:30pm. Not without breaks, but it was still a long day. Anyway, I met 2 friends at one of my favorite places in Poznan, a great cafe called Kamea, and we spent 4 hours chatting over ice cream & liquor. Now THAT'S how to spend a birthday! :)

The downside was, I had to get up at 6:00 this morning & take a 3 hour bus ride to Walcz so I could study with some friends for an exam we have coming up in 2 weeks. It's in my favorite class, the lecture where we get to write everything down verbatim. But the studying was good, the company was good, and the pizza wasn't bad either. It was just the long bus ride there & back that was less than enjoyable.

And tomorrow, usually my one guaranteed sleep-in day, I'm getting up early to attend a linguistics conference at the university. No, I don't have to go, so I really shouldn't complain about getting up early to do something I actually really want to do. Victoria Bergvall is here to talk about how the media presents gender differences in brain research, and to discuss the recent comments made by the president of Harvard in relation to that same research. I got to meet her last week, she's incredibly nice & really knows her stuff, so it should be a great lecture.

Just in case there was any doubt, I think I've officially confirmed my freakishness by admitting my excitement at attending a linguistics conference.

A note to the new PCT headed to Bulgaria, good luck & have a great time! You probably won't be happy every day of your service, you may even be downright miserable some days, but when it's all over you'll be so glad you did it!

And to Basia, I think I'm listed in the RPCV directory, see if you can find me there. If I'm not, I'll try to make sure I am soon.

21 April 2005

Feeling Overwhelmed

Now I know how famous people must feel when they get fan mail! I really appreciate all the comments & will try to address as many issues being brought up as I can.

I'm thrilled to hear from a fellow RPCV, which group were you in? I was Poland XI, and never thought I'd come back after 2 years in a coal mining village (near Konin), but here I am!

As far as tips on learning Polish, all I can suggest is to find someone who speaks the language & speak it with them as much as you can. There are several books & CDs available that claim to teach "Polish in 4 Weeks!" or some other unreasonable amount of time. What I can offer you is the knowledge that Poles are thrilled when people try to speak their language, they're very aware of how difficult it is, and a huge number of them speak at least passable if not very good English.

I'm currently teaching at 4 different private langauge schools, and hoping to get a job at a university for next year - I have an interview tomorrow, wish me luck!

It's nobody's business how old I am!! But I'm old enough to feel nostalgia for The Banana Splits, The Muppet Show, and Schoolhouse Rock - which I have used in some of my lessons! :)

And lastly, sorry to have to get a little mean, but if you don't like the words I choose, don't read my posts. As I've stated, this blog is for me to keep in touch with family and friends. Others are welcome to join, but I'm really not interested in which words you do or don't like, so keep your opinions to yourself. And that goes for proselytizing too, enjoy your religious choices, and leave the rest of us free to make our own. I'm sure there are plenty of religious blogs out there, maybe you should go find one. This isn't the place.

Now, back to making the world a more annoying place for EFL students everywhere! Or at least in Poznan.

20 April 2005

Sudden Popularity

I don't know what I did to become one of the "Blogs we've noticed recently," but I'm pleased & honored to be there! (OK, I DO know what I did, but I'm not telling!) Though I have to admit to feeling more pressure now to come up with interesting tidbits about my life in Poland - it was easier when only friends & family were reading!

Responding to a couple of comments, I didn't mention what breed of dog bit me because it's a little embarassing - it's a dachsund! He/she (I didn't want to pry) is only big enough to reach just below my knee, so that's where the bite landed. I'm actually on very good terms with the owners, and we always say hello when we see each other, with or without the dog, but apparently the hallway is the dog's territory. (I've really got to find out the poor creature's name, so I can stop calling it 'the dog') I even went into their apartment & had a chat for about 30 minutes on the day it bit me - they had to put its muzzle on it before I'd go in the door! I have thought about carrying dog treats with me, this may be what I needed to finally make me do it.

It would seem that I spend too many of my posts focusing on the negative aspects of being here, which is a disservice on my part. Poland is a great country, full of wonderful people and beautiful places, so I'll try to mention more of them in future posts.

Sadly, at the moment the weather sucks, so I'm not seeing as many positive aspects of life here as I could. Spring has given way to winter, which is rather confusing for everyone - I really hoped I was done with wool for this year! But I'm promised things will warm up again next week, just in time for my friend Kellie to arrive for a visit.

I don't have much to say yet about the new Pope, other than - German??? Not the first country I think of when I think about Catholics. But he's really just a transitional Pope, more to give the cardinals time to figure out where they want to go after John Paul II than to stake any real claim of his own on the Papacy. At least, that's my opinion, I haven't spoken to any Poles about it in depth yet, I'll keep you posted as I hear other opinions.

Well, that's enough rambling for today, I still have lessons to plan for tomorrow. A hearty welcome to my new readers, I'll try to keep things as interesting for you as I can, but my main purpose is to keep a link with family & friends back home, so I won't feel too bad if you get bored & wander off somewhere more amusing.

PS Happy Birthday to ME!!! :)

14 April 2005

Getting to know the neighbors

My new Polish phrase today was: "Has your dog had all his shots?" Not a phrase I ever really wanted to learn, but sometimes things happen. Before anyone freaks out, the dog barely nipped me, but the skin was broken a bit, so I had to have a chat with the neighbors. They're very nice people & they couldn't stop apologizing. I don't really understand why the dog hates me so much, he barks every time he sees me & today I guess he felt like the hall was his territory, not mine.

So anyway, that was the exciting start to my day. And the end was when I smashed my thumb in the window I was trying to close at work this evening. Apparently, I'm going through a self-destructive phase. Let's hope it ends soon.

11 April 2005

Linguistic Frustrations

Just a little rant about Polish, possibly the most confusing language on the planet. You just have to wonder about a language where singular is plural (The door are closed.) and plural is singular (There is six students in our group.). I'm not making this up, these are direct translations!

Remind me again why I wanted to live here?? ;)

09 April 2005

The Funeral

They rang the church bells at 10am yesterday, followed by sirens. The bells rang again around 12:30, when the service in Rome finished. I didn't actually see any of the official funeral, since I don't have a TV, but I'm told it was very international.

I did go to a gathering in the evening, which turned out to be a mass. There were more people on the trams than I've ever seen before in Poznan, all headed for the same place. When we got there, we weren't able to get close enough to even see the stage, but they had big screens set up so everyone could see the priests who were presiding over the service. It lasted just over 2 hours (why do I only end up at the really long masses??), during which it started to rain twice. Ever been in a crowd of thousands when people suddenly decide to put up umbrellas?

Afterwards, we walked around the city a bit, since it would have been hopeless to try to get on a tram. I was really surprised by how many restaurants were open, I thought everything was going to be closed all day. I guess they decided that people still need to eat, even when their national hero dies.

I didn't really get much of a sense of despair or loss from the people around me, which could mean they've had a few days to get over it, or I'm just not that observant. Some of my students suggested that people are only going to all these church services because they think it's expected of them, and they don't want the neighbors to think less of them. I hope that's not the case for everyone, but I kind of think it might be for a lot of people.

I'm really interested to see the reaction here to whoever gets chosen as the new Pope. No matter who it is, it'll never be John Paul II, so they'll probably have a tough time winning over the Poles. But we'll just have to wait & see.

03 April 2005

A Country in Mourning

The bells rang for 30 minutes last night, probably longer in Krakow. When I went to bed, I noticed lit candles in most of the windows I could see.

Flags are everywhere today, with pieces of black cloth tied above them. People have arranged candles and flowers in the shape of a cross in front of national monuments. I went into a church & watched as a constant stream of people came in, prayed for a few minutes, and left. A friend told me she feels like she's lost a relative.

And yet, life goes on. Kids are still playing soccer and basketball on the field behind my building. Tons of people were out walking today, enjoying the first really nice spring day we've had, eating ice cream, sprawling on the grass.

I'd like to say this has had some impact on me, but I really don't have any personal feelings about it. I wonder what the rest of the week will be like - the country is in mourning until the funeral. I'll post if I notice anything worth mentioning.

02 April 2005

Zegnaj, Karol Wojtyla

The church bells started ringing about 2 minutes ago. I don't know how long they'll continue, but I'm sure the effects of the death of Pope Jan Pawel II will be felt in Poland for some time to come.

I don't have a strong feeling about the event. Obviously, it's a great loss to Poland, the Catholic church, and the world. Whatever your religious beliefs, I think we can all agree that he was a very compassionate man who did what he could to make the world a better place.

I'm very interested to see how Poland marks the occasion, and will post some of my observations in the next few days.

Ten minutes and counting...