The things I take for granted…
Trip Start Feb 23, 2010
15Trip End Jun 21, 2010
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Ok, so I left off on Saturday with my last entry. Saturday night I decided to stay in because I was tired and feeling quite homesick. My intentions were to go to bed at a decent hour because one of the Polish girls here wanted to take us to a National museum by 10 the next morning. Well it turns out our neighbors decided to have a party that night….until 5am! Finally at 4:30 I decided to just get up and go over there because they invited us earlier anyway. They are very nice neighbors, and this is the only time they’ve done that so far, but I guess I’m going to have to get used to staying up late!
So Sunday we didn’t go to the museum until about 3, because we needed to sleep in! The museum was neat, but nothing totally amazing. We were able to try on some old armor and war clothes though, so that was fun. I have a few pictures of that. After that Andrea and I were starving (we’ve been living on about one meal a day so far) so we found a McDonalds. I never thought I’d say this before, but man was it ever good! It was food we knew and I finally had some meat! That night, us three UNI students and 3 students from Washington DC walked around town for a while. We ended up stopping at a coffee place to warm up and just talk. It was very nice!
Yesterday (Tuesday) we finally met with Barbra and Professor Mazur to discuss classes, cell phones and food. It was a really tough day for me. It was all just a lot to take in. I’m a person who needs structure, and everything here, especially school, is far from it! Then, to top it off, Andrea and I received our first fine here! We haven’t gotten our month pass yet for the buses and trams so we need to buy a ticket every time we use it. Well we bought a ticket but when we used it with Barb we didn’t even have a ticket because we went during “rush hour.” Apparently the “controllers” don’t come around during then because it’s so busy. Well we decided not to verify out tickets because it seemed pretty busy, but we had it in case we saw one come we could verify it quick. We also remember Barb telling us that usually when a controller gets on, one goes on the front, one in the back and they usually announce it. Well we were about a minute from our destination and a controller was asking us for our ticket. No announcement, and only one of them! If only we would have been turned the other way we would have seen him coming and we would have verified our tickets. We tried to pull the “but we bought a ticket, isn’t that all we have to do? We’re new here…” kind of thing, but I guess they hear that a lot. Haha! Turns out we had to pay 72.50 zloty, which is about a $25 fine! It kind of made me mad at the time, but we did know better, so we were able to laugh about it afterwards. Live and learn, right?
So then last night we met up with Barb for supper again. She was telling us that she goes to a town called Tarnow (roughly pronounced “tar-nuv”) every Wednesday to teach English, and that we were welcome to come along. Well, being we had nothing better to do, we decided to go along. We had to get up this morning at 6:30, which was really tough, because we haven’t gotten up before 10 yet! Anyway we spent the day there with her and in each of her classes she asked 2 people to take us around town. This way we got to see the town and that counted as their class period because it required them to have an English conversation with us. It was really quite a neat experience. We also experienced our first kiss-on-the-cheek goodbye today! It kind of caught me off guard because I forgot they do that kind of thing over here! It was from the 2 girls in the first class that took us around town. We had a very fun time with them and they asked for our email addresses, in hopes of meeting up again soon. They were pleased to have spent that time with us and said it was nice to meet us—that’s when they shook my hand and laid a wet one on me!! Haha! That’s how they do it here, and it was a nice gesture, but for some reason I find myself giggling about it to myself right now—maybe, like I said, just because it caught me off guard!
We talked to Barb about the school system in Poland, though, and it’s really quite sad. She says that her students are terrified of her because she wants to engage in conversation with them, sounds pretty fun and easy right? Well it turns out that in primary school here, children are punished for engaging in class. It is drilled into the students that they are worthless and will never be successful in life. Until about 10 years ago, children were still beaten in schools here. Absolutely no one has a positive attitude. If you are a bright, successful student, the teachers strive to take you down. Apparently engaging in class discussion and asking the professor questions is considered rude and the professor sees that as you trying to embarrass them and prove to be superior to them (completely opposite from any university in America). I could go on and on about how horrible the schooling system is here, but it’s just soo sad. Most Polish professors do not like Barb because she engages her students in class and wants to have fun with them. They completely look down upon this.
We decided that we really enjoyed going to Tarnow with Barb and that we wanted to continue going. The best way to help the students learn English is to interact with native speakers like us, and Barb said they may be more willing with people their own age. We decided to drop the class that we would have been taking on Wednesdays and try to make a difference in these students’ lives instead.
With that said, I think we have our class schedule figured out. Because the credit system here transfers back as only half to UNI, we were afraid we were going to have to take a bunch of classes (Example, an 8 credit class here is only worth 4 credits for us at UNI). However, this professor that we met with teaches an American Literature class that would transfer back as 8.5 credits. Even though it is a class that I may not find very interesting, it means we only have to take one other 4 credit class (we need to take 12 UNI credits to be considered a full time student). This class, however, doesn’t start until March 30th, because it is a fourth year class and these students are taking some kind of tests until then. So I have until then I have to read an 800 page book! Yuck! We’re expected to have it read by then but were told that only the foreign exchange students will be the ones who have read it by then. Polish students are known for being very lazy. They even tell the professor that they don’t want class at the time scheduled, and make them change it. Basically they do what they want. So besides that class, we are taking a Poland history class. So my weeks look like this:
Tuesdays: Poland History 10-11:30, American Literature 1-2:30
Wednesdays: Spend day in Tarnow with Barb
Thursdays: Poland History 10-11:30
So the things I’ve learned in the past week that I take for granted back home:
BIG #1: Our school system! I’m not even going to get started again, it’s just soo sad!
#2: Structure – we were told that we probably won’t know what our grade is even based off of in our classes. “But don’t panic, it all works out in the end, I don’t know how, but it does. Don’t expect anything to make sense, but that’s the way it is here.” - Barb
#3: Clean air – Have I mentioned EVERYONE in Europe smokes? And that it is legal to smoke ANYWHERE? Our entire hallway in the dorms is filled with cigarette butts. ALL of my clothes smell like smoke. I guess I’m going to have to get used to the extreme second hand smoke exposure here! I feel like I’m suffocating sometimes!
#4: Food – Anywhere you go, almost everything in Poland is fried! Yuck! My stomach can’t handle that, it appears as though I may live on peanut butter and jelly for the next four months!
I’m sorry these have been so long, but it feels good to be able to “tell” you all about my experiences here. It makes me feel connected with everyone at home!
Please, continue to leave me comments (on my pictures too)! I love reading them!
Still missing you all,