Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Saints' Day - November 1

While Halloween is not the celebrated event in Poland that it is in America, they do celebrate All Saints' Day. I didn't know much about this day, so I did a little research.

All Saints' Day (officially the Solemnity of All Saints ) is predominately a Catholic holiday but has become a national holiday in historically Catholic countries. Traditionally this day celebrates the departed who have not been purified and have reached heaven. Wikipedia has a history on this, including the origination of the holiday, including how it became celebrated on November 1st (moved from May 13 by Pope Gregory III).

In Poland the traditions are to attend mass, spend the day with family, and remember those who have passed on. They also visit the cemeteries, and the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. I was invited to go to the cemeteries with friends. I really didn't know what to expect. I knew there would be candles, but didn't know how beautiful it would be. In the States our cemeteries have the was trying to picture a bunch of candles on the headstone and grass. In Poland the graves are much more grand, I don't know how to describe here are a few pictures.

The sarcophagus is raised and more ornate than just the headstones we have in America. The candles are also placed in holders (I was wondering how they stayed lit).

A friend places a candle on his grandfather's grave. Then you spend some time remembering the person you came to visit.
If you cannot make it to a cemetery where a loved one is buried....there are central spots you can place a candle to remember someone. Usually there is a cross and the candles are placed around it. My camera doesn't take great night pictures from a distance....but I hope you can see the images.

I just thought it was such a beautiful tradition. I was happy to be a part of it. I know in the States people light a candle to remember someone...but I've never seen anything quite like this.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kraków or bust...

A few weeks ago I made my first journey to Kraków...and loved it. Here is my story...

On Friday, September 2nd, I left my apartment at 7 am to catch the 7:12 bus to Katowice. I knew it was 5 złoty and would drop me off at the Katowice train station. The bus pulled up to the Żory Sąd (courthouse) bus stop right on time, but the bus was so crowded that I had to stand all the way to Katowice (about 45 minutes).

Once at the train station I saw a ticket booth and I bought my ticket to Kraków. I said, "bilet Kraków głowny" ("ticket Kraków main" - the train station was implied) and after handing the woman 18 złoty she handed me a ticket to Kraków. Here is where I made my first wrong assumption. I thought the train time and platform would be on the ticket. Like your boarding pass for a tells you what gate and what time the flight is...and what time you will board. Well, a Polish train ticket does not. In the main terminal there is a massive board with train times and platforms, but I could not figure out how to read it. I stood there for about 5 minutes and saw many different trains going to Kraków. I found someone who spoke English. She said I was on a regional train and that I was going from platform 4 at 8:40. I could see what she was reading and that there was a train to Kraków at 8:40 leaving from platform 4, but I still have no clue how she knew that was my train. By this time it is headed to the platform. A few minutes later a train pulled up and the sign on the platform said Kraków....I got on board. During the ride a man came to collect my ticket. I had no idea what he said to me, but I figured he was there for the ticket. I gave it to him, he punched, said
dziękuję, and handed the ticket back. I was on my way....

After two hours of riding through the Polish countryside I arrived in Kraków. The train station is attached to a massive mall, I guess I wasn't expecting that. I headed out onto the streets and started walking to the old town. I was surprised I found it so easily, I guess it was from the map of the city I studied on the way there. One thing I love about Europe is the architecture. Just walking from the train station to the old town was beautiful. I arrived at Florian Gate and headed down Ulica Floriańska to the main rynek.

Florian Gate - entrance to old town

View down Ulica Floriańska

I really can't believe how many pictures I took in the first 15-20 minutes of being in Kraków. It seemed like I was constantly seeing something I wanted to capture. When I first came out onto the rynek I actually had to catch my breath it was so beautiful. I had seen pictures of the rynek and of Cloth Hall, but something about seeing it for myself was different. I couldn't believe how massive it was.

My first view of the rynek and Cloth Hall. I can't even describe how big the rynek is....

I walked around the square for awhile....snapping pictures and taking it all in. I realized I still had my over night bag with me so headed to check in. I stayed at the Grand Hotel on Ulica Sławkowska....just steps away from the rynek. It was gorgeous and the service was outstanding. I dropped off my bag and headed out to enjoy the day and the city....

The rynek had so many restaurants and beer gardens....I picked a place for lunch because they had a Tyskie beer tent. I like it a bit better than Żywiec. After lunch I began exploring. I started with the sites in the rynek: the City Hall Tower, the Church of St. Mary, the Church of St. Wojciech, and Cloth Hall. Of course I did some shopping too. Poland is famous for amber jewelry. I bought myself a necklace and two rings....and I picked up a few gifts for friends and family too. Walking up and down all the streets of Kraków can really make you after a long day of walking around I stopped and had a beer to do some people watching.

When it started to get dark, I headed back to my hotel to change and find a place for dinner. I had a few places in mind when I headed out, but after reading the menus posted outside I decided on a Georgian restaurant. The restaurant was called Gruzińskie Chaczapuri. I started off with an appetizer of a typical cheese pie. I was actually very disappointed in this. It was more like a sauceless cheese pizza. I thought it would be more like a cheese tart. I had the spicy pork dumplings for my entree. These were delicious. I don't know what the spice was in them, but they were spicy. I had a honey "marlenka" cake for dessert.

The next morning I headed out early to go to Wawel Hill. Seeing the rynek was no people walking around was gorgeous. I couldn't believe I had it all to myself. On the way to the cathedral I passed the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the Church of St. Andrew. Of course, more pictures (all pictures are on Facebook). When I got to the Wawel, it was still pretty early. The entrance to the main cathedral wasn't open yet so I walked around the grounds. Like the rynek I had the castle courtyard all to myself. 

The grounds of Wawel Hill

the castle courtyard - early in the morning

As it got closer to the opening of the cathedral and the exhibits, it started getting more crowded. There were so many organized tours were arriving...I heard so many languages: English, Polish, Italian, German, and Japanese. I paid for the admission to go into the cathedral. The cathedral is the final resting place for all the former Polish nobility, among others important to Polish history.

After spending most of the morning walking around the cathedral, museums, and grounds I headed back to the hotel to check out....but decided on lunch first. I sat down at a Polish restaurant on the rynek and the waitress brought a menu promptly, but then never came back to take my order. So I left there and went to an Italian place...that was just average. But after I discovered Wedel Chocolate. Had an amazing dessert.

Finally checked out of my hotel and headed back to the train station. It was a little chaotic. I found a ticket booth that said regional, and figured since I took a regional train to Kraków that I would probably need a regional train back. The lady didn't understand me when I said I need to go to I wrote it down for her. Then she got it. She told me the train left at 14:15 (2:15 pm) from platform 2. Once again, it was not on the ticket. I really need to figure out how to read these boards.....

Got back to Katowice and needed to use the restroom. I walk in and this lady gives me a strange look. I didn't think much of it. As I am walking out she stops costs 2,50 złoty to use the restroom. Who knew? I was very surprised by was a public train station. Well, now I know. I caught the bus back to
Żory with no problems and was soon home.

Can't wait until my next adventure....which will be this weekend to Wrocław. And Vienna is coming up in November....stay tuned....

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Teaching in Żory

I now have a few weeks of teaching under my belt, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts...

I have to say I am really enjoying teaching and being in the classroom so much more than sitting in a cubicle dealing with dealers that don't have financing, marketing vehicles, and a wide variety of other responsibilities. I really love it...and I grow more comfortable with each class I go into. I don't think I was nervous at shaking of the book, or my voice....but it was a bit uncomfortable since I had never taught in the States. Well, there was showing someone how to do something and other training sessions at GM and CCAC (Chevrolet Customer Assistance Center), but no classroom experience. Getting some tips from Paul and Scott about using some of my personal experiences and likes/dislikes has really well as getting to know the students.

Connect English School uses the Avalon method. I really like the program. It has a strong emphasis in conversation, so there is a lot of talking. We correct the students when they make a mistake to help them get stronger. The most mistakes are a/an, the, and on/in. From what I am learning, they don't have the articles in Polish speech. There are also grammar and writing exercises and spelling tests. I have to say, I am really impressed with how well the students speak and grasp English. Even with the students in book 1 (there are 4 books). I told Scott either the Avalon method was a really great method or we have really smart students....Scott said it was the "superior teaching". Okay, I'll go with that.

One little anecdote....during one lesson with some of our more advance students I was trying to teach the word system. I had thought of a bunch of examples and was really trying to make sure they understood it. After going through all my examples and sentences using the word, one of the students tells me that system in Polish is....system. Of course it is. We were laughing and I asked him why he didn't stop me sooner. I went home that night and looked up system in my Polish to English dictionary....sure enough, it is system. Well, we can just add that to another Polish word I have under my belt.

Speaking of learning Polish....that is going well. I am really having trouble with some of the pronunciation and that the nouns change. I haven't been able to figure out why the noun changes depending on the is just part of Polish grammar. I am sure there is a rule about that, so will have to learn it. I am used to having feminine and masculine nouns from Spanish class, and Polish speech has that too. I am also used to the adjective changing from an "o" to an "a" ending depending on the noun or if you are talking about a man or a woman, but the noun really throws me off. Like the color white. It is biały. But on our package of markers for the white is completely different. It is recognizable...I know it means "white", it is just not biały. I just don't know why it changes. Come to think of it, I think I used biały when ordering a white hot chocolate. Either it doesn't change in that sentence or I ordered it wrong, but since I received a white hot chocolate I am not going to worry about it too much. In addition to my Rosetta Stone lessons, I am learning Polish through the Avalon method. Aneta is translating the book into Polish. I am determined to learn the language.

Another great thing about teaching is getting to know the students. Last night I went to the pub with a woman from one of the classes. It was really great to get to know her and talk to her about life in Poland (while she got to practice her English). While talking to her we spoke about life under Communist rule and what it was like growing up here. I've read plenty of books (fiction and nonfiction) that took place in a Communist country (mostly Russia), but had never had someone give me their first-hand account. It was really interesting to hear about and learn from. I hope to get to know more students and hear their stories.

And I now can make the Polish no more misspellings of Polish words. Like the title of my blog should be Żory Bound and not Zory Bound.
That's all for now. Do widzenia.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Things I Have Learned in Zory....

 1) Read a package of Cheetos very carefully....they could be flavored with ketchup.

Yes, I somehow bought some ketchup flavored Cheetos. It didn't even occur to me to look for that. I did check because I didn't want the flaming hot bag, but wow...ketchup? Now learning a bit more, I think the people of Poland just like ketchup more than I do (by the way, I hate it). One day ordering a pizza the waitress (kelnerka) asked if I wanted ketchup. When I said no thank you, she went on to explain it was free and seemed a bit surprised I didn't want any. When she asked me about ketchup I thought she meant extra tomato sauce...but no, it is ketchup. I saw her bring out a bottle of real tomato ketchup to another table and they squeezed it all over their pizza.

2) You can use jumper cables to fix a washing machine.

The laundry and washing machine had been a huge problem, but it is all fixed now. So, first I didn't even know how to use it. So Agnieszka gave me a quick tutorial. Then when I went to do the laundry it didn't work. I didn't turn the water on. So did that. Still didn't work. Agnieszka came over and she couldn't get it to work either. So she called her friend who is very Mr. Fix it. He's about don't get your hopes up. He comes over after work....but does not speak English. At all. Oh...except for one phrase that I will come to later. Agnieszka couldn't be here, so Aneta came over to translate. Basically the knob to turn the water on/off is a piece of crap and it broke in the off position. So he is asking if I have a wrench or pliers.....but Aneta translates this to scissors. I DID have scissors, but saw what I was holding up and said "nie" (that is no....but it is pronounced in such a way it kind of sounds like nyet). I realized he was talking about tools and told Aneta that I didn't have those. So he goes down to his truck to see if he has anything. He comes back and has....jumper cables. But he clamped it onto the little valve with no knob and got the water in the on position. But it is if there is ever an emergency I will have to turn the water off for the whole apartment. After that he held up the crappy knob and said, in broken English, "made in China". So I guess that's the same anywhere! LOL. Anyway, did some laundry. It seemed to take 2 hrs!!! Agnieszka says that is normal. So put the clothes on the line and went to bed. But have done a few loads now, and it works just fine.

3) My couch is a sofa sleeper.

I have a "guest room".

4) The hardest thing to say in Polish is "chicken wings".

At the time of the last post I didn't think I would ever be able to say "thank you". Well, I can now say it perfectly... and I say it quite a few times a day. But chicken wings is going to be tough....but I am sure I will get it eventually. In the mean time pizza and lody (ice cream are very easy to order). :-)

5) The bus to/from Zory to Rybnik (the closest mall) is the number 52.

That's self-explanatory.

6) There is a Chinese restaurant in Zory.

I don't know anyone who has tried it, so no idea if it is good. Right now not craving Chinese...but one day it might come in handy.

7) There are more people in Poland who know how to play Euchre than there are in California.

Okay, that might be completely true...but I have MET more people in Poland who play Euchre than my 10 years in Southern California. (And that is true.)

8) Some people who have a flat, also have a garden.

In Poland it is typical to have a lot plot of land to have a bit of the outside space....mostly people in apartments do this (and it seems almost everyone lives in an apartment or a flat...that might not be true, just my observation so far). I consider it somewhat similar to a Russian style dacha or country house...but most of the time these gardens are in the same city. Most have a small structure that has a kitchen and bathroom. A few people build a bedroom too, but mostly it is just to be used for the day.
Agnieszka's parent's have a garden space, and this past weekend there was a BBQ get-together. It was a lot of fun and I got to meet a few more people. It was a great way to spend a summer day.
That's all for now....hope to do some exploring this up coming weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My First Days in Zory

So much has happened in the past few days, I don't even know where to begin. But here are a few things I have learned so far...

1) While at the bank, if you don't drink coffee while waiting for all the paperwork....they offer you beer.

2) It is tradition to have a house-warming party.

3) The washing machine has "flaps" you have to close before you can close the top lid.

and 4) I don't think I will ever be able to remember how to say "thank you" in Polish.

Of course I will eventually learn. Every time I hear it....I can repeat it back perfectly. I just can't remember it 10 minutes later. I do have the equivalent of "thanks" down though. So now I don't have to appear as a deaf mute when I go purchase a bottle of water or a piwo (beer) at the local shop. I used to just smile at her. Now I can say thanks. I was told that if I said "thank you" in English that almost everyone will understand that. But I WILL remember how to say it.

As for the beer at the bank....that was a special circumstance. The bank manager is good friends with Paul and Agnieszka (one of my new bosses and his wife) and it was a social visit as well as me becoming a new client of the bank.

So far I have: opened a bank account, registered at city hall, have a cell phone number (but still need to actually buy the phone), have the internet hooked up, and gone grocery shopping. A few more things I still have to do though...but thanks to Agnieszka I have a translator for everything and she knows what we need to do. She even taught me how to use the washing machine in my apartment. Who knew there were "flaps" that close down over the clothes. I get it now is for the spin cycle. Since the basin of the machine is so small it spins more like a Ferris Wheel and not around in a circle.

 My overall impressions of Zory (there is a dot over the Z to give it a Jah sound....but I am not able to make that symbol on my American laptop....or if I can, I don't know how to do it) are great. I love it. It is clean and super cute. The people are very friendly....even though I can't communicate with them. (There are more pictures on Facebook, and more coming soon.) I love all the beer gardens and pubs on the main square and the cobble-stone streets.

My apartment is great. It is close to the city center/market square and work (well, the school is on the main square). The bathroom is lime green. At first I thought it was going to be a little bright....but I love it. I love how bright it is. It is small, but it has everything I need. The rest of the apartment is very open, light, bright, and airy. It is small (only 356 sq ft), but has everything I need. The mattress is on the floor...but I will be getting a frame soon. The feature wall is bright yellow with some zebra squares (they are panels that had a peel off backing and are arranged on the wall). The zebra squares are not my favorite...but are growing on me. But the big windows, morning sun, and balcony more than compensate for any decorating flaws.

Also, as I expected, no garbage disposal. I will have to get used to not putting the rest of dinner down the sink. The dumpster is also a bit of a taking out the trash in the winter won't be much fun, but I'll survive.

As I get settled I will update with more specific stories and experiences. So much has been happening it is hard to get my head around everything. I do have a journal I am making note of it all. But I wanted to get something going to let everyone know I am here and doing well!

And I will let you know about a house-warming party......

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Packing w/Zoe

Well, packing up and have boxes everywhere. Poor Zoe is sick and I think this is really confusing her. You can't see in the photo, but she is so super thin. She actually indents on her sides. She has her good days and bad was pretty good. Deb came by and get to see her and pet her a bit...and I gave her some chicken for lunch, which she just loved.

As you can see behind her....her "princess pillow" is still on the couch. It is still her favorite place to sleep. You can also see that my rug is no longer under the coffee table...looks so different without the rug down.

That's all for now....
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Testing this out....

Hi there! Just testing this out. I want to make sure I can type up a blog post and successfully post it before leaving. I will arrive in Zory on August 21st....and will keep this site updated with all my new adventures. My experiences teaching, learning my new city and learning Polish, exploring my new town, and travelling around the rest of Poland and other parts of Europe.

So, all I can say now is...TO BE CONTINUED....