Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dowidzenia, my dear friend

Wrocław group at the airport
Kocham Cie, Robson Veronese <3

Yesterday, I said goodbye to Robson Veronese- my best friend, my partner in crime, and one of the kindest people I have never known. I have had to do this twice now- the first teary goodbye came in January when my Australian friend Kaila Rocca got on a plane and flew to the land down under.
It is nine am and I still have not gotten used to the fact that I will no longer see Robson's smiling face, he will no longer be here to comfort me when I am immensely homesick, he will no longer be here to enjoy this daily day to day existence in our temporary home- Poland.
With that thought, I am filled with a sense of dread. It is hard to put into words the type of bonds that an exchange student forms with her friends. Goodbyes become much more painful when there is no guarantee you will meet again in the future.
I stood in the LOTNISKO (airport) with Lucy and sobbed. We literally sobbed at the idea of losing such an important part of our lives here. I clung to Robson, shaking him, hitting him, punching him for leaving me. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "Julia, you are not at a funeral. No one died." At that moment, I felt just as bad as I had at any funeral I've ever attended. It felt like someone was being ripped away from me.

But, such is life. The reality is that in life we meet many people who establish a place in our hearts. These people come and go and change and move on, but in the end, they are always there, rooting for you, missing you, and hoping they will meet you again. This year, I have made friends that have become more than friends. These people truly are my family here in Poland- we've seen each other at our best and at our worst. In three months, it will be my turn to leave, and while it will be incredible to see everyone I left in small town Milford, NY again, I believe it will take some time to get used to living without these people.
So we let go. We let go, we reach out and form new relationships, but we never forget the people who left big marks in our lives.
I miss you so much Kaila Rocca, and I will miss you more than you will ever know, Robson Veronese.
I will always remember Robson's words as we hugged goodbye "It is always a storm with you, Julia, always a storm," because no one has ever been able to sum up my crazy, emotional, dysfunctional character in such a simple, beautiful way.
Its always a storm with me- but in this case, creating a storm was justified.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Over Halfway?! "NO MAMES WEIIII."

Six months.

It is now mid-February. The sky over Poland is gray, the temperature rarely hovers above -15 celsius, and the streets of Wrocław are covered in dirty snow. I walk around my city, my home for one year, and I cannot help but feel like I am in some old World War II movie. Winter is rough in this part of the world. I feel the uncomfortable cold- it cuts to the bone. I watch mothers fret, fastening mittens and wrapping scarves tight around the necks of small children. I can no longer remember being that small. I often find myself recollecting old times, remembering moments from my childhood, from middle school, from senior year. In six short months, I have grown up in ways I never could have imagined possible. Far away from everyone and everything I have never known, I have begun to recognize who it is I am, and who it is I would like to become.

I came here on a plane six months ago scared, nervous, timid, and extremely unsure of myself. I can admit now that I was a mess. I treated my friends badly, I treated my family badly, I was blinded by something that resembled love, I forgot to take care of myself- I lost myself somewhere in my own selfish and dull day to day routine.

I do not know how I ended up here. When I am in an especially beautiful place here, or if I see something especially interesting, I often think to myself, “who would have known, one year ago, that I would be here.”

I am not sure how to explain to those of you who have not studied abroad, or been involved in a program similar to Rotary, the life of an exchange student. It is a lot different than I expected it to be. Some days, you float around in an euphoric state. Even the garbage that litters the sidewalks possesses some sort of beauty. Some days, you wake up and you dread the start of another day without your family and friends, without people who understand you and know something about your past. Some days, you are just content.

My three best friends are from different parts of the world. Two mexicans, one brazilian. And I can thank the three of them for freeing me from the worry that used to plague me. My friend Robson (brazilian), when I find myself in frantic worry, always puts his hand on my shoulder, and says to me: “Julia, life is to enjoy. Stop making storms in glasses of drinking water.”

“Look at the view, young lady, look at the view.” On the days I feel like I am trudging through a scene out of an old war movie, I remember this quote, and suddenly the sky looks a little bit bluer.

I am writing this in Italy. My host family took me to the Italian alps for vacation. I am so lucky, so ridiculously lucky, to have seen and experienced so much here. Europe is a continent full of rich history. Poland is a country with rich history. I learn something new everyday.

And not just world history. I have learned how to conquer loneliness, fear, and to see beauty in all of the small things. I have learned to appreciate the sound of my own voice, the shape of my own body, the words that flow freely from head to paper. I have learned to appreciate the talents I have, and to work on the many faults. I RECOGNIZE the faults now, whereas before I was too stubborn to pay them any notice. I am content in knowing that I can be my own best friend. I am content in knowing that I can learn to live with differences, that I can understand people of different backgrounds even if I do not necessarily understand their actions.

I am ready for the next four months. And I cannot believe how fast time flies by.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Let's Talk About the Toilets

In case any of you decide to hop on a plane to Poland in the near future, a few words of wisdom:
Beware of bathroom doors.

In the four short months I have lived here I have been locked in polish bathrooms more times than I can count. At least once a week I find myself frazzled behind a closed a door, pulling anxiously at my arch-enemy: the door handle.

The first incident occurred during a Rotary orientation in mid September.

I was enjoying a wonderful dinner of stale bread and fattening perogies when I felt the need to leave the table and find the "TOALETA." Not sensing any danger, I left the table, unaccompanied, and ventured to the bathroom. The bathroom was located in a separate dining room where the Rotarians sat devouring an appetizing feast.

When in Poland-
Never go to the bathroom unaccompanied. I learned this lesson the hard way.

I closed the bathroom door. I did my business. I washed my hands. I looked at myself in the mirror. I applied mascara. I hummed a tune. All was well.

Until I tried to open the damn door.

It was stuck. It would not let me out. I was a prisoner in a cramped, whitewashed bathroom. I punched, kicked, and wrestled with the bathroom lock until a waterfall of tears spilled from my eyes. I started screaming indecipherable polish ( My polish teacher had not taught us to say "HELP ME GET OUT OF HERE,"shocking, I know. ) After what seemed like an eternity, another exchange student heard my distressed screaming and fixed the door jam. I came out of that bathroom looking like I'd survived a tornadoe, or a shipwreck, or both.
I have been terrified of bathrooms ever since.

This bathroom door talk is no joke. I have since been locked in school bathrooms, McDonald's bathrooms, club bathrooms, public bathrooms, house bathrooms. You name the type, I've been locked in them all.
My fear of bathroom doors has heightened so much over the past few months that I absolutely REFUSE to enter a bathroom without a friend standing guard outside. I do not trust the poorly constructed things. I despise them.

Each time I emerge from a bathroom with a poorly constructed lock, the managers of the stores, or the homeowners of the homes ask me the same question. "Are you alright, kochanie?"

And I always respond the same way:

"Do I look like I'm alright."

Why am I wasting my time rambling on and on about polish bathrooms? For those of you who know me, I left the United States as a terribly anxious worrier. Honestly, I was the biggest worrywart on the planet. After living here for four months a lot has changed. I can ask for directions by myself. I make friends on trams and buses. If I am lost, I calmly figure it out. I no longer worry about the trivial things I used to worry about. I have never felt more peaceful, more relaxed, or more myself.

This toilet talk serves as a metaphor. I am afraid of the bathroom door. This is a logical fear- because the door locks actually do not work. Maybe I am just too stupid to figure them out, but I do not think that this is the case.

Anyway, the fact that a stupid bathroom door is my biggest fear presently allows me to recognize that I've come along way. Everyone told me that exchange would change my life but I did not really believe them. I knew that my year away from home would be an eye-opening experience, a challenging experience, and certainly a completely new experience, but I had no idea that living far away from every thing I had ever known would allow me to figure so many things out about myself.

Sometimes, I feel completely ecstatic about living here. I wake up and think about where I am and goosebumps rise on my arms and legs. Sometimes, I feel the complete opposite way. It is christmas time, and christmas cheer is everywhere but I am not feeling the christmas spirit. I see families together and it makes me miss my own, I see friends laughing with each other on the streets and I think about what my friends are doing at home. I love my life here. I try to enjoy every moment of it because before I know it the year will be over. It feels a little bit like I am living in a fantasy world: this one year is not reality. However, I feel that this year is the start of the rest of my life.

I have six months left.

By July, I am confident that I will be confident enough to brave the bathroom door.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I am back in Poland.

After one month of traipsing around Europe- visiting Spain, Switzerland, France, and Portugal- I am glad to be home again.

Getting readjusted here was not as difficult as I originally thought it would be. Poland is much different than the parts of Europe I spent most of my November visiting: much less wealthy, much colder, much darker, much gloomier in general.

I came back to find Christmas cheer everywhere I looked. Christmas trees now line the Rynek, bright Christmas lights hang from all of the lamp posts, and rows and rows of vendors selling traditional polish goods have set up shop. In about a week, a huge ice skating rink will take up half of the city center. The city has never looked so beautiful.

At first, it made me a bit nostalgic for home. Actually, that is an understatement. I sobbed on a bench as my friend Lucy consoled me. When the crying subdued I looked around and realized how silly it is to waste even one day here being upset. I feel like my exchange year will never end (because I never want it to) but, all good things come to an end and lately I have been trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want to get out of this year.

Here’s what I have thus far: I want to learn polish- well. It is really frustrating to look like a bumbling fool all of the time. Even the McDonald’s cashiers stop me mid-sentence and start speaking fluent English. I get really nervous every time I try to speak, because it is LITERALLY difficult to make my mouth form the sounds required to speak well.

My writing abilities have sharply declined- I spend most of my time here speaking broken English or broken polish. As a result, this blog is choppy and poorly written. Przeprasam, Mrs. Webb.

Lately, I am struck by the small differences I now notice between polish and American culture. Yesterday I attended the funeral of my host mother’s mother. The church service was beautiful. The catholic high mass here is sort of breathtaking: the music is unbelievable. I could not really understand the sermon because I definitely cannot understand rapid polish, but the atmosphere gave me goosebumps.

Family comes first in Poland. This is not to say that family is not important in the United States, because it is. In Poland, it is important on an entirely different level. On Sundays, most families have obiad (lunch) together and spend the day relaxing at home together. As an exchange student, I have had the opportunity to meet many different host families of my fellow exchange students. All of these families do things a little bit differently but the importance of family is constant. When I visit another exchange students home, the “mamo” always makes a gigantic dinner for us- its incredibly generous. At home, it is never expected that my parents prepare a feast for my friends when they come over. I am perfectly happy preparing spaghetti to feed the masses. In Poland, I swear, they genuinely enjoy cooking and watching us eat. The four kilos I have gained since I arrived here has something to do with this. It’s the best weight I have ever gained. The food is delicious.

It is hard to describe my life here. I find it dull to simply recap each day’s events- because if listed off in bulleted form they are not all that interesting. But each day is a learning experience. Henry Miller said that “ each step is a leap in the dark.” And each day is a step toward something. I cannot figure out what that something is quite yet.

I have never felt more alive. That sounds pretty stupid and naive, but it is really true. In three months, I feel like I have found out things about myself that I never would have found out had I not come here. I was talking to Patrycja the other day when I was feeling a bit homesick (I feel homesick from time to time, but I have learned how to cope) and she said something that I will remember for the rest of my year here: “Julia, exchange in Poland is not easy. But I swear, living in Poland makes you stronger.”

And she is right. This language is bardzo trudne. Very difficult.

The people are not crazy Mexicans or boisterous Brazilians.

It is hard to make friends because polish teenagers are often shy.

Poland makes you stronger. This place really helps a person grow.

I am currently sitting in Starbucks. (Starbucks here is really cheap, and it has free wireless so its the perfect place to come and write.) It is eight in the morning. I woke up at five fifteen and got to the city around seven. I love this city in the morning. I am here because I am trying desperately to start writing the book I have said I’ll write forever now. I want to finish it by the end of the year. Wroclaw, Poland fosters the creative spirit. Everywhere you look there are artists, musicians, and aspiring writers on the streets, in cafes, riding trams. They call Wroclaw “the meeting place.”

Tomorrow is thanksgiving! I will try (gasp) to make a thanksgiving dinner with my exchange “family” because my exchange friends really have become my family away from home. We will make dinner for my host mom and hopefully it turns out alright. I am not going to lie: it is difficult to be away from home for the holidays, but in a month they will be over and it will be better.

I’m off now. More later. :)

Happy thanksgiving! Love and miss you all!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Julia, ty mowisz SLABO po polsku"

I stupidly forgot my blog password so I have been writing blogs and not posting them for some time now. Here is the most recent one and expect another in the next week or so because I have so much to write about.

“Julia, ty mowisz slabo po polsku.” Dziekuje, tato.

( Julia, you speak bad polish )

And he is right. I speak bad polish. Polish sounds like television fuzz. Not sure how else to describe it to a person who has not been living in this incredible country for two and a half months.

I am angry. I am angry because I have this ugly, disgusting, horrific, terrible, and a hundred other negative adjectives, american accent. I order something in polish at a McDonalds, and the poor souls who have fetch my french fries respond in English.

So, it is true. Ja mowie SLABO po polsku.

I will start saying “Nie rozumiem po angelsku.” I do not understand english. I do not understand english.

Wroclaw has, after two months, become my home. I know how to read all of the tram stops now, I no longer wind up in the middle of nowhere, lamenting in despair and anxiously texting Patrycja for help. I’ve walked every inch of the Rynek, been to all of the major attractions, and sought out all of the best dance clubs. I have grown up in ways I never imagined possible before I hopped on that plane two months ago. I have never felt more like myself, more content, and more inspired. The world is truly a beautiful place.


I did not choose to come to Poland. I was too old for every other country. When I opened my Rotary acceptance letter almost a year ago (scary!), I crossed my fingers and shut my eyes as I tore through the envelope hoping to see a country name like ITALY, GERMANY, NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM spelled out in type 14, Times New Roman bold font. I was met with POLAND.

Poland?! I did not know anything about Poland. I had no idea what the people were like, what the land was like, the climate, the food. I was completely in the dark about Poland. I was not that excited about coming here. I envied Mariah (Mexico), Krystal(Germany), Emily(Belgium). At our orientations, no one thought Poland was all that special. “Oh, you’re going to Poland.... right.... and where is Poland again?”

I would not change my placement for any place in the world. I love this country. The language is ridiculous, but I cannot wait to learn it. The food is fattening, but the extra three kilos feel good on my hips. The boys buy the girls flowers even if they are just going out for a coffee. The streets are alive at 5 am. We dance, we sing, we laugh.

Of course, I miss home at times. Little things remind me of sleepy Milford. Right now, beautifully colored leaves scatter the sidewalks and I miss the hills on fire outside of my bedroom window. I really miss little kids, I do not have younger host siblings and rarely interact with anyone younger than myself.

I have made polish friends, finally, and they are so much fun. It is helping a lot with my language skills. My host family is awesome, even though communication is still difficult. I can usually understand my host parents but sometimes I get nervous and miss what they are saying completely. I cannot really communicate my thoughts fully yet, but hopefully I will get there soon.

I leave in two days for EUROTOUR! I cannot believe it is already here- I will spend November in France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland. I cannot wait, I love the other exchange students from around Poland and it will be an amazing trip.

What else?

Jestem BARDZO zmencona. I am very tired.

I will write more later, przeprazam.

Love you all!


Life teraz


Przepraszam. (I am sorry)

Ahhhh! Where has the time gone to? I have not written since after week two- it is now week eight. To all of my fellow exchangers that update their blog on a weekly basis, a question for you: HOW DO YOU DO IT?!

I have really settled into my life here. Wroclaw is my new home. I love this city, every inch of this place is teeming with history- sometimes I have to stop and just stare in awe at all of the new things I am seeing. Most days I spend my time wandering around, stopping to sketch a cathedral, or a particularly picturesque view. Wandering around has helped me to learn this city, its people, and the way of life here in beautiful Poland.

Before I left, when I told people I was going to be an exchange student in Poland, no one was incredibly impressed. "Why Poland?", "Julia, Poland is like the cesspool of Europe." To be honest, I really did not know why I chose Poland- it looked interesting, I was not really thinking about how difficult the polish language was, and I knew I did not want to go to France, or some other popular european tourist destination. I do not know why I chose Poland, but thank GOD I did. I love this country. I love the polish demeanor, polish houses, polish friendliness, polish food (above all.) I have made many friends and going out with Polish people is so much fun: poles love to have a good time.

My exchange student friends have become my family, and together we explore Wroclaw on a daily basis, with our polish friends whenever possible. We spend a lot of time at cheap cafes, sitting in the city center, taking photographs, eating food. Next week I will start Yoga classes, art classes, and photography classes. I now have vocal classes and art classes through school: they switched me to the school with the other exchange students because my school was not working out for me for various reasons. It is better now because I am able to take classes with students who are not studying twenty four seven for their graduation test, the Matura exam.

In November I will go on EUROTOUR! I am so excited about this- all of the exchange students will be traveling to Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and France. I love Poland and I do not really have a desire to leave for awhile but this tour should be incredible.

It is really early in the morning here, the sun just got up and I along with it. All of the details of my last month here are really fuzzy so I cannot really remember any particularly amusing stories. My polish is improving- I now understand almost everything, or get the gist of it at least. I can speak better than I could before, in broken polish but I can communicate myself. Polish is such a cool language, I can't wait to be able to say I can speak it well: the day will come, I am crossing my fingers.

I will try to update this from now on a more regular basis. This post is a bit lame because I can remember nothing and my new life here just feels like a new life now. Check back next week for a new post: it will be here, I promise!

Do widzenia!
Kocham cie!



Week two adventures

Czesc! (Hello!) from Krakow, Poland. I am currently sitting in a gorgeous flat a few blocks away from Rynek, the city center. It is 9:15 am and I cannot wait to explore Krakow which is what is on the agenda for today.

It is Wednesday but I am writing an update now and will add to it at the end of the week and by the time this is posted it will be Sunday. Too much happens each day to recall a whole weeks worth of events each Sunday. This is my solution.

August 30,2009-SUNDAY/niedziela pronounced:nye-jye-la (I know.)

After the delicious dinner mentioned in my previous post we caught the bus and headed to the water fountain show I was talking about. It was so, so, so, so incredible. I do not even know how to begin to describe how awesome it was. It was the anniversary of Solidarity in Poland so the show was created to celebrate Poland’s break from Communism-(I hope I am explaining this correctly.) Anyway, there were lights and music and insane graphic images in the water and there must have been a couple thousand people there watching. I have videos that I will post on facebook in a few days-make sure you check them out if you are a facebook user.

I was supposed to go to a party after that but it was already 10:00 pm and Maciek and Robson would have had to leave the club to get me outside and then they would not have been able to get back into the party- so it didn’t work out. This was not a problem because I went to a dance club with Patrycja and Elysha instead and it was a really good night. I am actually learning how to dance-all of you who know me well know that I am not the greatest dancer on the planet BUT here dancing is so much fun and no one cares what anyone else looks like and so it is easy to dance. I am also taking hip hop dance classes (should be interesting). Classes start in a few weeks. Next time you all see me, I’ll be ready for a Sean Paul music video.

August 31,2009 MONDAY/poniedzialek pronounced: po-nye-jya-wek (yeah.)

On Sunday night we slept at Patrycja’s grandparents flat in Wroclaw, and so we did not have to ride any buses to get into the city. Patrycja’s grandma made us a fantastic dinner of something I don’t know the name of and then we headed into Wroclaw to shop for the first day of school.

Okay. In Poland, the first day of school is bizarre. First off, school starts at 9:00 and lasts until 9:30 on the first day. A half an hour. Which would not be so bizarre except for the fact that on the first day of school, every high schooler in Poland has to wear formal black and white clothes. Everyone has to get all dressed up for a half an hour. I had nothing to wear for this occasion, so I had to buy black pants and these really sweet black boots that I will probably wear everyday from this day forward. I had to spend a considerable amount of money on the pants and boots and that was annoying because I am now a poor exchange student living as an expatriot in Europe. It sounds so glamorous :).
After shopping we went to Rynek, the city center. Every city in Poland has a city center and every city center I have been to so far is extremely pretty. We picked up a cup of coffee and then I walked (by myself) to my Rotary meeting. Unfortunately Rotary was located at a museum on this night and I did not get the memo. Instead of freaking out, which you all know I am very good at doing, I thought I handled the situation pretty well. Maciek’s father ended up picking me up from the center. The museum turned out to be only a block away but I had no way of knowing that.

At Rotary I met all of the other exchange students which was SO exciting. All of us really wanted to make friends and it is amazing how quickly Rotary students can become friends. It is a bit like having an instant family. I will briefly describe these eight individuals because their names will probably be mentioned a lot in my next posts:

Lucy- Mexico-17

I really love all of them- I was upset because I am not going to school with them, I am going to my host sister’s school. They sent me text messages on the first day about how they missed me and it made me feel better. We are making plans for the weekend. :)

After Rotary I came home, showered, packed for Krakow and called some people from home. Monday, poniedzialek, was a very good day.

September 1, 2009 TUESDAY/wtorek pronounced: fto-rek (I will get it eventually.)

First day of school.

Hmm. It was alright. Kindof weird because no one knew I was an exchange student and I am used to Milford where the exchange student is treated like Hannah Montana or Zac Efron. I met a few people and they were really nice but even my class teacher did not realize that I was an exchange student- she handed me this lesson book and thought I was some other Polish girl. School was only a half an hour long so I cannot really tell what it is going to be like. However, I do not have my own classes because I am just taking Patrycja’s classes. I am taking French without her, but that is it. I will probably make more polish friends because I am not in school with the other exchange students, but at the same time I really want to be with the friends I have already created. I don’t know. We will see.

After school we ate at a gyro place in Galeria Dominikanska- a huge mall. We then picked up our bags from my host father’s work (he is chief police of all of Wroclaw and his office is huge and important and really awesome to look at) and Patrycja, Elysha, Lukasz, and I headed to Krakow. We arrived in Krakow after about four and a half hours in the car and checked out our flat before heading out into the city. We were really hungry so we walked for what seemed like an eternity to find a restaurant. Eventually we found an awesome place to eat- it was a traditional Polish restaurant and it was designed like an old Polish kitchen- it was gorgeous, the food was incredible and cheap.

We decided to go back to the flat because after we had finished dinner it was already 10:15. We watched some polish television ( I hate watching TV here, too confusing, too much dubbing, and blah) and went to sleep.

Now it is:

September 2,2009 WEDNESDAY/sroda pronounced: shro-da (that one is not too hard.)

It is Wednesday morning and I have just written all of what you just read. Today we will explore Krakow and tomorrow we will visit Auschwitz. Now I will go eat breakfast and drink some KAWA, coffee (yummmm, kawa is so good here.) More on today’s adventures later.

continued: Krakow was absolutely gorgeous. We spent the day walking around the city center, eating lody, visiting castles and cathedrals, and walking into over priced boutiques. Krakow after dark is stunning- Poland is gorgeous.

September 3, 2009 THURSDAY/

After a breakfast of polish breakfast sausage- aka- hot dogs! ( I did not eat this breakfast) we went visited the Auschwitz/Birkenau nazi war camp.
When we arrived at Auschwits I felt almost sick to my stomach. I cannot really describe what I was feeling as I stood there. I could not believe that I was standing on the same ground that witnessed one of the worst human rights violations the world has ever seen. Auschwitz is mostly ruins now, we saw restored living quarters and walked through undressing rooms. It was a little bit creepy, and utterly depressing. I will post a few photos here but I have a huge album on facebook.
After Auschwitz, we drove home in a huge storm and I slept for a long time. I am always tired here.

September 4, 2009

Friday was a very eventful day. It began with my first polish class at the University with the other exchange students. In order to get to this class I had to ride the tram by myself for the first time without my host sister. It was actually really easy. I got off the tram and I had to find my host father’s office at the police station. He is the chief police of Wroclaw, and his office is huge and intimidating. I had to get to another high shcool where the rest of the exchange students attend school and so some police men had to take me. We got lost and there was lots of yelling polish into telephones until we figured out where I had to be. It was an interesting experience.
Eventually I got to the highschool and traveled with the other students to the University. It was so good to see them. As of now, they are the people I am closest to. I know polish people but I cannot really communicate with them at a deeper level than, “Czesc, Jak sie masz?” (Hello, How are you?) so it is very difficult. Some exchange students that come to Poland do not make a real effort to learn the language, and I understand why because Polish is quite frustrating. I get worried sometimes that I will never understand but I know it will come eventually. I really want to make polish friends so I will----> In order to understand this culture I have to start getting to know the people.
Anyway, after class we went to the mall to eat and then to the Arkady- or movie theater to watch “The Ugly Truth.” It was wonderful to watch a movie in English- and reading the polish subtitles was actually really helpful for my polish. On a side note, in Polish movie theaters you have assigned seats. I thought that was pretty bizarre.
After the movie I went out to dinner at Pizza Hut with Lucy, Claro, Kaila, and Kim. Pizza Hut is kindof fancy in Poland, and its much different than at home. Oh, and in Poland, everyone eats pizza with ketchup. Weird, I know.
We finished dinner and Kaila and Lucy had to go home so Claro, Kim and I went to a Mexican bar. I think Polish Mexican bars are a little bit different than actual Mexican bars.
Kim left after that so Claro and i went to Daytona, a dance blu in the Rynek. We met up with my host sister, Elysha, and Lukasz. We stayed at the club until 2 am and I met some Polish girls and danced with them and it was all around an enjoyable night. Dancing is a huge part of this culture: it is very different than what I am used to.

September 5,2009: Saturday

I slept in and did nothing for most of the day, which was just what I needed. Patrycja, Elysha and I just hung out, listened to music, and ate a lot of food. At five we went into Wroclaw so Elysha could buy souvenirs and I was supposed to meet a few exchange students but plans fell through. We came home around eleven and I went directly to bed.

September 6,2009: Sunday

Elysah and I woke up and made banana pancakes for my host family. It was actually a lot of fun to make food from home and the maple syrup Elysha and I brought from home tasted so good.
After breakfast we went into Sbotka to buy school supplies and groceries. When we came back we ate an enormous meal of gwampki? I do not know how to spell it, but I guess Americans know them as cabbage rolls. They are delicious. All of the food here is delicious.
My host parents went to a party so we lounged around the house again. I talked to my host brother, Hubert, on skype for an hour and a half. It was great to talk to him because he is in Cooperstown and I am in Wroclaw so we can help eachother out a lot I think. He taught me some polish and his English is already improving after one week. I am jealous- he is able to communicate with his family far better than I am mine.
Hubert told me about a soccer field right next to my house that I had not noticed before. I put on some sneakers and ran down to the field and kicked the ball around and it felt SO GOOD TO MOVE AGAIN. I will go there anytime I have a chance now. It is in a really pretty spot.
September 7,2009 Monday
Today was my first real full day of school. It was.... interesting, frustrating, fun, boring, a million different things wrapped up into one.
I had four classes: Knowledge of Culture, Polish, English, and Geography. School here is really different. A person’s schedule changes each day. On Mondays, I start school at 7:30 and end at 3:30. On Tuesday, I start at 11:00 and end at 1:40. It is a lot to get used to. Classes are very, very long and I could not understand anything so it was pretty boring for me. Between classes we have ten or fifteen minute breaks. There is no lunch break, just ten minute or fifteen minute breaks every forty five minutes.
The students were nice to me, but I could not really talk to them. They smiled at me a lot and made fun of me. They kept on telling me to say things in Polish and I could not really say them succesfully. Once I get to know them, I think I will have a lot of fun with my class- ( in Poland you stay with the same thirty students pretty much the whole day long) I can already pick out people I think I will be good friends with eventually. Some of them are really funny, even though I do not know understand the jokes.
I went to English class. That was quite interesting. Our English teacher has a british accent, its bizarre, and she speaks British English. I listened to my classmates have conversations in English similar to the ones we had to do with partners in French class except they are all really good at English. Unfortunately, they are shy to speak with me because they think they will make mistakes. My knowledge of the polish language is pretty much non-existent- so I wish I could compliment them all on their English. Bravo to them.
After school I went to the park with Zac and Maciek and some of Macieks friends for an hour or two. I met Patrycja and her best friend Paulina at KFC and went with them to H&M. We caught a bus home at 5:30 and since then I have eaten dinner, laid in my bed, and relaxed. I am so tired and I will probably sleep really soon.
I miss you all- I know this is really long and probably a little boring. If you read all of that, you are a truly amazing person.
Until next week, Dowidzenia! (Goodbye!)


Nie rozumiem popolsku. (I don't understand Polish) YET. :)

It is hard to believe that I have only been in Poland for one week. I have already seen and experienced so much here that it feels like I have been here for a lot longer. I decided that today was the day to write my first blog post from overseas because the details of the first week of my exchange are already fuzzy- I cannot even remember all that has happened- but I will try so here goes nothing. :)

I was really nervous before coming here, but I have finally settled in and have begun to make friends here. It is difficult because I can speak almost no polish, the language is so difficult. For the first three days I was completely overwhelmed by language difficulties- I would wake up in the morning to the sounds of the voices of my host parents and the television and it felt a little bit like a crazy dream. I still cannot really communicate with my host parents. My nineteen year old host sister Patrycja speaks almost perfect english so she translates. Thank god for her. I can now get by on basic phrases. I know how to ask "How are you?" and how to say "I cannot understand or speak Polish. Can you speak English?" I know it will come in time: I study a little bit each night and after one week I am able to grasp the topic of conversation- I just cannot understand the opinions being expressed.

My flight was a disaster. My first flight from Albany to Detroit was delayed because of weather and plane complications. This delay caused me to miss all of my connecting flights. I was so nervous to leave anyway so I was quite distressed by the situation. Fortunately, when I got to Detroit I was able to rebook my flights to Amsterdam, Warsaw, and finally Wroclaw. I arrived in Wroclaw six hours later than scheduled so my Mom had to call my host parents and the emergency travel agency line and my host club counselor in Poland to let them know.

Because I missed all of my connections I never met up with other exchange students going to Poland. However, in Detroit I met Grant- an American going to Germany on exchange, and Ian, a boy from my district who was also going to Germany. This was wonderful because I spent a six hour layover in Amsterdam with them. We met up with two other exchange students, (both going to Germany) and they left a little bit before me. I was sad when they went- maybe I will see them back in the States.

I can't really describe what I was feeling as I flew into Wroclaw. It was night, and from the plane I could see this huge city all lit up- it was breathtaking. I was excited, scared, sad, happy- I have never had such mixed feelings before in my life.

Any fear I had dissipated when I arrived and met my host parents, Grazyna and Marek, my host club counselor Mr. Keidrowski, Kaila, an exchange student from Australia, and Patrycja, my host sister and her boyfriend Lukasz. They were all so friendly and welcoming. I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying to me, but I knew they were nice immediately.

We went to a party from the airport. My host parents friends were celebrating an anniversary and so we had dinner with them. the Polish people are crazy happy :) and very energetic. It was so much fun to just sit there and watch them even though I could not join in the conversation.

The next day I slept until 1:00 pm. I didn't understand military time so I did not know what time it was- I am proud to say that
I've got it down now. I slept through breakfast so I woke up to a huge dinner of amazing soups and meats (no longer a vegetarian, its impossible and the meat is so good anyway. I just eat a little bit of it and when I come home I think I will go back
to being a vegetarian. Later on Patrycja and I went to meet Kya, Patrycja's best friend and we went shopping at a large mall. I immediately fell in love with the city: it is absolutely GORGEOUS, and it is over 1,000 years old. There is a lot of German influence here because Wroclaw was a part of Germany during World War II. After shopping we went to Patrycja's uncle's flat and got ready to go to a dance club. At the dance club I met Paulina, Patrycja's other best friend who spoke English with me after some time. Most teenagers here speak English very well but they are shy and afraid of making mistakes. Paulina was really nice and I spent the night talking to various people. They are very interested in the fact that I am from New York, but all automatically assume I am from New York City. Robert, a student at the University in Wroclaw, asked me if I had ever met G-Unit and 50 Cent, and he was completely serious. :)

Day number three was a good day: woke up, met my host grandparents. They spoke only Polish so I was tired by the time we left their flat from listening to so much of another language. We then went to KFC where I met Hubert, my host brother for the first time because he was on a vacation with his friends. He just left this morning to go to Cooperstown for a year on exchange. I am so excited for him and a little sad that he left today- he is so nice, so anyone from Milford or Cooperstown reading this, introduce yourself. Hubert and I went to a Rotary meeting where I met three exchange students and introduced myself, in Polish, to the Rotary Club that is sponsoring me. I loved meeting the other exchange students, and tomorrow we will meet again. There are nine exchange students in my city.

The next day Patrycja's host sister came to Poland. Patrycja was an exchange student in Canada two years ago and Elysha's family hosted her. They had not seen eachother in two years. Elysha is still here and will be here for another week. In three days we will go to Krakow for a few days. I am really excited :) It is nice to have Elysha here because English is her native language as well :) and Poland is so different for both of us.

On Wednesday I went to Boscowo with Elysha, Patrycja, and Lukasz for three days. Boscowo is located on a lake so we spent our time there swimming and eating. Some of Patrycja and Lukasz's friends were also in Boscowo so we spent the nights with them and it was good fun. Polish people are very loud, they stay up very late, and they are very good at having fun. I was a little homesick because the lake reminded me of Otsego County and I felt as if I was still at home- (minus the ridiculous language being spoken everywhere around me.)

Yesterday was the best day yet. Elysha and I got a tour of the city from Maciek Cieslak. Maciek was an exchange student in Unadilla last year so I met him a few times in the United States. He actually is a paid tour guide in Wroclaw for German visitors. we walked EVERYWHERE: through Japanese gardens, breathtaking cathedrals, over and across many bridges. Wroclaw is called "The City of 100 Bridges." Robson Veronas, an exchange student from Brazil, lives with the Cieslaks so I got to spend some time with him on our tour. It is nice to talk to someone who is in the same situation as you. I do not understand why the American Rotary discourages exchange students from hanging out with other exchange students. I get to learn about Polish culture from my Polish friends and other cultures from my exchange student friends. I would say its a win-win situation. I wish everyone from home could visit me. Every time I am in the city I fall in love all over again. Walking around at night gives me goosebumps because I am amazed over and over again by Wroclaw's beauty.

I just ate a scrumptious dinner of Pierogi's and soup and now I will get on the bus to go to Wroclaw with Patrycja and Elysha. we will go to watch a water show- really hard to explain but its basically lights and fountains and Mozart playing loudly. Afterwards we will go out and then I will with Maciek and Robson to an eighteenth birthday party for some girl I have not met yet at a dance vclub. There will be about 300 people there, so its really different here than in Milford. :)
Polish people stay out really late and it is impossible to be bored on Friday and Saturday night.

On Tuesday school starts. I am excited to meet new people.

This experience is already amazing and I know I am going to grow up really fast here. I miss you all so much and I know this is really long and probably a bit tiring to read. My next posts will be shorter and will include some pictures.

Until later,
Dowidzenia! (Goodbye)



In ten days I will leave for Wroclaw, Poland and I thought I would post something before I even leave the USA so that I can look back in a year and remember what this felt like.

I leave on the 21st, and it will take me a day and a half to get to Poland. I am really nervous about the flight- I despise air travel. I think I might be more nervous about the flight than about the actual exchange. :)

Wroclaw looks so beautiful- and with a population of 700,000 it will be a completely different living experience for me. I am really nervous about learning the Polish language which consists of a lot of consonants and very few vowels inbetween. I think I will get it eventually (I hope).

I will stay with Marek, Grazyna and Patrycja Szmigiel. Patrycja is my 19 year old host sister. I also have a host brother. I don't know his name, but he will be staying in Cooperstown, NY for a year which is really awesome because I will see him for a few days and I will be able to tell him a lot about upstate New York. Haha. :)

I think the scariest part about this is that I do not know what to expect- and that is really exciting and really frightening at the same time.

I will post something again in a couple of weeks, after I have been in Poland for a few days.
Stay tuned.

Dobranoc! (Goodnight!)