I spent a week in Poland while traveling through Europe teaching music, and this short amount of time was by far the most interesting part of my 3-month trip. There is just something about Poland that really knew how to keep me on my toes. It could have been the unexpected influx of pierogis, the language I never got around to learning, or maybe the conversion rate that made me feel like a king.
One of my favorite ways to re-live a trip is by going back through my journal because the moments I chose to record are often the strangest and most memorable. I feel that the best way to capture the surprise and charm of my time in Poland with you would be to share a collection of moments from that week.
In my never-ending quest for the strongest Wi-Fi signal on Earth, I found myself in the middle of a soccer field (or football field, if you roll that way) behind the theater that I was performing at. Not in the bleachers, but in the middle of the field. Why? Where was this gift coming from? I quickly learned that every moment wasted asking “Why?” could alternatively be spent FaceTiming your long-distance lover back in the States. So that’s just what I did during every lunch break.
Walking out of a convenience store with a tote full of more chocolate bars than I had ever seen, I felt like I had just robbed a bank. Polish currency is called the “złoty,” since you’re dying to know, and it makes the US Dollar look like a damn fool. I wish I could tell you that the chocolate lasted longer than it did, but I’m not a liar.
My first homestay family was a 16-year-old girl named Dominika who spoke very little English. Conveniently for both of us, I spoke absolutely no Polish. She picked me up and silently guided me to the bus that would take us home. Assuming that the rest of her family was eagerly awaiting my arrival, possibly with cake and balloons, I was a bit shocked to find an empty apartment.
Through a fun little game of charades, it was revealed to me that she wasn’t mysteriously wealthy and living alone at 16, but rather, her mom wouldn’t be home until the final night of my stay. So it was just going to be me and her playing house for 3 nights. It’s not weird unless you make it weird… right?
Okay, so it didn’t end up being very weird. Though, to pass the time, we spent about 3 hours per night playing basketball. And if you know me at all, that much physical activity is weird in its own little way.
Dominika was quite the cook. And by that, I mean she really knew her way around a potato. (Minimal shade intended.) I was served up a different starchy delicacy each night to the point where I wasn’t sure how she could possibly transform a potato into a different entity.
The first night’s dinner was pretty dry, so I asked for some ketchup and immediately drenched my potatoes. I quickly learned that it was actually chili pepper ketchup (such a thing apparently exists), and being the baby that I am, found myself unable to eat any of that night’s dinner. I pretended to have an upset stomach, took the plate into my room, and flushed the food down the toilet after she went to sleep.
Good thing I had stocked up on chocolate bars that afternoon.
After tucking into our shared hotel bed one fine Polish evening, my good friend Rachel and I noticed an unusual thumping noise coming from beyond. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a ghost or our couple-friends getting nasty in the next room over. We got out of bed and decided to investigate.
We followed the commotion to the basement of our hotel and soon found ourselves in the middle of what can be best described as a wedding reception rave. In our pajamas.
But why turn back? We were in a smoke-filled room with blinding lasers and a blacklight. And “Dancing Queen” was playing.
In Poland, I did something that I’ve never ever done before, and… wrote a song? I bought a ukulele while in Germany and notoriously became *that guy*. It’s just a phase, and we’ve all been there. (Please tell me you’ve also been there.) One day on a long bus ride, I found myself particularly in my feelings and wrote a little ditty that I titled “Old Flames” about an on-again-off-again fling with my first kiss back home. I made friends with a student who still asks me to this day if I’ve finished it. Lena, I’m sorry to let you down, but I haven’t. And I just sold my ukulele last week because it’s not as cool as it was in a foreign country.
When my cast of fellow teachers and I were getting ready to leave our school in Lubin, a mysterious and terrifying thing happened. The kids who had given us tearful goodbye hugs moments ago had linked arms around our tour bus in an attempt to make us “stay forever.” I put quotes because they were literally chanting, “Stay forever!” Cute? Creepy? Inconvenient? Perhaps a mixture of all three.
It ended up taking us a full hour to get all of the kids a safe distance away from the bus so we could leave. As much as I wished I could have stayed forever, I also had to pee. And the tour bus bathroom was broken, so rest stop ahoy!
Got any Polish moments of your own? Lay them on me in the comments below!