30 October 2006

Ten Years Later

When I first came to Poland, I spent many of my weekends in Poznan. One such weekend, I passed by the symphony hall and noticed there was an international violin competition going on. I think it was the last day, and of course I was too late to get tickets. And it only happens every 5 years, so I kind of figured I was out of luck, seeing as I didn't plan on spending a while lot more time in Poland.

Ten years later, I finally made it to the competition. It was the last night of the final round, and I got to hear 3 concertos I'd never heard before, performed (it turns out) by the first and last place contestants. They both did the same Sibelius concerto, and each of them performed a Wieniawski concerto as well. Makes sense, since the competition is named for him. And yes, there was a marked difference in their abilities.

I do wonder if there was a bit of a home-field advantage, as the first place winner is a Pole. Regardless, she was amazing. I didn't hear any of the other contestants, but from the way she played on Saturday, I sure would have voted for her!

Anyway, it's one of those things I've wanted to do for a long time, but didn't think was ever going to happen. I'm very happy to have been proven wrong.

27 October 2006

Proof of My Heartlessness

I came home a few days ago around 9pm, pretty normal for me. As I opened the door to the stairwell, which leads to the door to my apartment, I heard snoring. Really loud snoring. I turned on the light, looked down the stairs to the next landing, and saw a man sleeping (i.e. passed out) on the floor. I had two choices at this point. I could either open my apartment door, lock it tightly behind me, and go to sleep, or I could try to get rid of the guy sleeping on the floor, a mere 10 feet from my home. Any guesses?

Of course, I didn't relish the thought of waking this guy up & asking him, in my less-than-perfect Polish, to please find somewhere else to sleep. So I went across the hall to my neighbors - you remember them, the ones with the vicious dog that likes the taste of my knee. I managed to stumble through something about there being a man asleep on the stairs, at which point my neighbor (someday, I have GOT to learn their names!) checked it out, said he would call the police, and told me, under his breath, "He's probably homeless." Um, thanks, I had a hunch.

About 20 minutes later, I heard the door to the stairway close, and the muffled sound of someone waking the guy up. I assume they escorted him out of the building. Regardless, he was gone in the morning & hasn't been back.

So here's my question, which I know no one can answer for me - why didn't I just let the poor guy sleep it off on the stairs? I would have been perfectly safe behind 2 locked doors, and he would have had a warm place to sleep for the night. Although, having had a warm place to sleep for one night, what would have stopped him from camping out there all winter?

OK, maybe I have my answer. But I still feel some of that middle-class, liberal guilt about the whole thing. I really do believe there should be shelters available for the homeless. I have no idea if such facilities exist in Poland. However, I don't want the stairwell of my building to be one of them.

20 October 2006

I Wendy, I Wanda, I Wonder...

We had a teacher's meeting at my school this evening, and the topic of fraternities and sororities was brought up. This is a completely foreign concept to Poles, most of whom have never even heard of it, so naturally, they turned to the 3 resident North Americans for information. The only problem is, none of us were involved in the Greek system, so we all have a fairly negative viewpoint on it. The closest I ever got were a couple of frat parties, and walking through Greek row on my way to campus at WSU during my senior year. I have less than fond memories of seeing the frat boys passed out on their lawns at 10 in the morning.

So here's my question: other than the networking opportunities - that whole we're-sisters/brothers-even-though-we've-never-met thing - what, exactly, are the benefits of being a member of a fraternity or sorority? Really, I want to know, because from my perspective it's just an expensive clique that not only charges you to join, they torture you first just to see how badly you really want to get in. I'm curious about the insider's take on the whole thing.

14 October 2006

Mysterious Flies

Flies keep appearing in my apartment, and I have no idea how they're getting in. I haven't opened any windows lately, since it's gotten to be rather fall-ish out. But every time I come home, there's at least one fly buzzing around the (closed) windows, trying to find a way out. One day there were three of them. And then, they disappear. Are they dying? Going out the way they came in? Is there a tiny fly hole in the wall? Or have I simply, finally, completely lost my mind, and my insanity is manifesting itself in the form of imaginary flies?

09 October 2006

The Power of Labels

All the offices at the university have the names of the teachers who inhabit them posted on the doors. There are several people in each office, due to space restrictions - mine has 6 desks and 8 people. But we're not usually all there at the same time, so it's not a big problem. I haven't even met all 8 people yet.

None of this is my point.

A few days ago, they updated the names on the doors. And there I am, with two little letters and two little dots after my name: M.A. I get a little thrill every time I see it. I wonder how long it'll take to wear off.

03 October 2006

First Day Fun

Ah, the first day of classes. (Yes, I know it's October & most everyone has been back at school for a month already, but this is Poland, and the universities start in October - lucky me!) The excitement, the confusion, the running up and down stairs...

Class number one was in a lecture hall. There are 12 people in the class. The space was a little, shall we say, overwhelming.

Class number two was in the conference interpreting room. A room which I could not at first obtain the key to, because I'm not yet on the list of authorized people who can have a key to that room. Hence the running up and down stairs - down to the key booth (ground floor) where I was refused the key for a reason I didn't understand, up to the secretary's office (6th floor) to see if the key was there, down to the offices (3rd floor) to ask my colleagues for help, down to the key booth with said colleagues to find out why I was refused the key, up to the secretary's office to get permission to get the key, down to the key booth once I had permission, up to the classroom (3rd floor) to start the class. In a room with chairs with no desks, and listening booths. It was a writing class.

After all that, I've managed to change the room for the rest of the semester, to one that actually has desks. It does not, unfortunately, have a board for me to write on.

Obviously, we're a little short on rooms this year. I was originally scheduled to go across town for the writing class, to one of the other buildings. In 15 minutes. Those of you who know how much I hate to be late will understand my reluctance to accept that schedule. For those of you who don't, let's just put it this way - when I'm 10 minutes early, I consider myself to be on time. When I'm on time, I feel like I'm horrendously late.

So that was my first day of classes. Tomorrow I get to stay in the same room for 2 lessons in a row! :)