First two weeks down in the books, and I can say with certainty the jort game is VERY strong here in Poland.
We were lucky enough to participate in an English immersion program called Angloville. I have to admit, I was iffy about Angloville. A program where we get to stay and eat for free in a nice hotel, and all we have to do is speak English? What’s the catch? As it turns out, Angloville really is an awesome program, and there is no catch. Now the days can get long, we “worked” from 10am-9:30pm, but, there are breaks and free time scattered throughout the day. I think it’s a fantastic way to not spend any money and get slowly integrated into a new culture.
The programs last from Sunday to Friday, with those two days being for travel to and from the hotels (our Krakow program was ~2 hours south of Krakow, and our Warsaw program was ~4 hours east of Warsaw).
During orientation on Sunday, our coordinator warned us not to play a game that the Polish people were fond of. He said in past weeks, many people from all over the world were victims of the game because they didn’t realize they were playing it. One minute you’re sitting there learning new cuss words in Polish and life is good, but by the time you figure out you are actually in the game- it’s too late. This game is called “Get the Foreigners Drunk.”
It was my duty to represent the United States, and more so Texas, as a delegate of drink, an emissary of ethanol, an ambassador of alcohol, a senator of spirits!
By the end of it, empty bottles of Żubrówka lined the table, and there I sat, melted into the couch, listening to jorted men bellow as I attempted to say Szczebrzeszyn.
Now I’m not sure what or if there’s a Polish word for hangover, but the bison grass vodka giveth, and the bison grass vodka taketh away. There’s a reason Żubrówka was banned until six years ago in the U.S.! What a Monday.
I got to meet (and drink with) some awesome people from all over the world, most wearing jorts, and even learned a few tongue-clicking Zulu words (thanks Thu). The conversations were awesome, A) because most of the Polish participants were alive and working when Poland was a communist state, and B) because of how interested everyone was in Trump’s America.
All in all, it was a fantastic two weeks in Krakow and in Warsaw. We ate excellent food, met excellent people and dove into the rich histories of these awesome cities.
Everyone in the world is the same… but everyone in the world is so different. These past two weeks, we have met people from Poland, Australia, South Africa, England, Canada, and even a few from the good ol’ US of A.
Everyone is the same because we were all there with a single goal- to teach (or learn) English. The Polish participants had ups and downs while learning and speaking. Many heads dropped in frustration. A lot of words were mispronounced and butchered. But the true resilience of the students prevailed. New words were integrated into conversation later. Smiles and laughter outweighed the negative tone that had been hanging just seconds before.
We were all the same- wanting to find a purpose and passion in life by learning about different cultures and ourselves. We all left families and friends behind to go on a journey, and we were/are all hopeful to return home one day a little better, with new memories and friendships (and maybe a little bit more fluent in another language.)
Now on to why everyone is different. WOW. What do you get when you put a Catholic, an atheist, and a Jewish person in the same room for a week? Angloville. It was the “Coexist” bumper sticker in the flesh and opinions fell around me like rain. Eh… I take that back. Let’s go deeper. Opinions poured down on me like a storm. Pro-life or pro-choice? 2 genders or 5 genders? (For reference- someone had filmed and directed a documentary on the 5 different genders in Indonesia.) To Brexit or not to Brexit? I am not taking a political stance here; it was just interesting to hear how and why people think a certain way. When you have a room with 20 English speaking strangers from around the globe mixed with some Polish vodka, things can get pretty heated. (Especially when you start playing the game Tyler described.)
One thing that Tyler and I talked about was, and maybe it’s just specifically with Angloville, but when someone from a different country asked an American a question, it was as if their words defined the opinions of the whole USA. For example:
In one corner
British Man: How do you feel about your new president?
New Yorker: I HATE HIM WE HATE HIM HE IS HATED
British Man: Oh yes that is what I thought.
In the other corner
South African Girl: How do you feel about your new president?
Oklahoma Man: WONDERFUL HE WILL HELP US HE WILL HELP YOU YES GOOD YES
South African Girl: Exactly what I thought Americans would say!
I don’t even agree with people from high school on my Facebook timeline, so I certainly can’t speak on behalf of the nation. This has caused me to become a little more cautious of generalizing and hopefully become more open minded.
Speaking of being open minded, I have tried a lot of strange food. There is a breakfast dish that looks like grey meat floating in cloudy jello. It’s called nozki w galarecie and 0/10 would recommend. The best thing I have tried is zapiekanka and it is a piece of French bread piled high with the toppings of your choice. It sounds simple (it is simple) but some Polish magic happens when they make it to order and present you with this open faced sandwich; cheese bubbling, bacon singing, and bread crisped to perfection.
The first two weeks in this new part of our lives have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what the next two, and next two, and next two will bring. We are headed to Gdansk first thing in the morning!