Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cooking Adventure

On the last day of the year I did something I've never done before. I made scones for a late breakfast, or as it would be called in Poland, Second Breakfast. They came out quite well, so it will not be the last time to make scones.

Take it easy everyone on New Year's Eve. Here the temperature is a roaring 3 degrees -- on the Farenheit scale! I'm spending the day watching DVDs primarily, since the TV channels have decided no one wants to watch TV, so there is nothing on TV worth watching. I just finished The Courtship of Eddie's Father -- good movie and interesting to see Ronnie Howard in a different role than Opie. I have a good stack of books to get me through a couple of very cold days, too.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Step for Moving

Hurrah! A very, very old sofa is out of the house along with a very tippy computer table. More would have gone if the weather was better. Many things in the basement need to leave. When the weather is better I will do that.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reservation Adventure

Today I got the final dates for going to Poland to teach English. I did my plane reservation and when it came back, I realized I had the wrong flight home. It was to leave Warsaw at 6:45 AM, and that would mean I have to be at the airport at 4:45 AM. Considering that I will be staying about a 90 minute drive away and couldn't leave on Friday night even to be in Warsaw, my heart dropped, almost literally! Lucky for me! I found this mistake soon even to change the reservation, without fee!!!, for a 12:30 PM departure, much better!!! (The fee for changing a reservation would be $250 so I'm very glad that I made a correction quickly.) Unfortunately is costs twice as much to fly in the summer as the winter. I'm sure the fuel costs the same, as the does the cost for the crew! Perhaps when I retire I can do some volunteer work in the winter!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Steps Towards a New Adventure

Today I went to see if there was a piece of luggage on sale that would help with my upcoming Poland trip. Hurrah! I found a very nice piece, called a tote, that will hold my laptop plus a lot of other things at the same time. I'd like to take my laptop with me this summer to use it at least with the high level students during English classes. For example, it will be interesting to acquaint them with microlending through the web site, but also I think we could use some of the English translations on this web site for polishing up English translations. This piece of luggage is just perfect for my upcoming trip.

And I've sent an offer to teach an extra class at the Reymontowka site for village kids who come from families who can't afford the two week overnight summer camp. The kids who come to summer camp aren't from rich families; yet I know I've met kids who come from families who couldn't afford the summer camp, and I'd like to help them too. I hope this will work out.

Warning! It's six months yet until I leave. Undoubtedly there will be other preparatory activities mentioned in the blog.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

DVD Adventures

I can't remember the last time when I didn't have to be working like crazy. I have all the websites nearly ready for the Spring semester, but discovered today, I need to fine tune them just a bit, but that can wait.

Yesterday I wandered up to the nearby library to take back a DVD after returning the case only last Tuesday. I found where the foreign language, including the Polish DVDs are hidden in this library. I brought home Noce i Dnie and have now finished it, all 4 + hours of it. I really enjoyed it. I have Vabank II waiting. (Earlier this fall I also watched Pod Niemen). I've also finished watching One, Two, Three, set in Berlin in the early 1960s. I didn't know that Jimmy Cagney could do comedy. I've only seen him in much different roles. My daughter and I watched an interesting Australian film on Christmas Day, too. It is Bush Christmas. We watched the original one made in the late 1940s. Netflix says that Nicole Kidman starred in a remake of this film, but Netflix apparently doesn't have this version.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Adventures with Animals

A picture was passed down to me through my father's family. It is a pastel drawing of a collie dog and cat, done by his cousin in about 1916. I didn't know quite what to do with it during the house downsizing project. My granddaughter loves animals, so I wondered if she would want it. I showed it to my daughter expecting to get a very negative reaction, but she said we needed to keep this in the family -- that was enough a surprise to make me almost fall off the couch! She asked, however, if the frame could be changed. I agree with that, for the frame was quite ugly. The nearby frame shop fixed it up with an antique, but greatly attractive frame, and also made it acid free so that my granddaughter can pass it down to her granddaugher some day. Much to my delight my granddaughter loved the picture.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Adventure --Early

Yesterday I started out to fly to Lincoln, NE. I found my seat and then a woman, obviously from Africa, sat next to me with a very tired and crying infant. She also had two boys traveling with her; one appeared to be about five years old, the other maybe around three years old. The two boys were to sit down across the aisle, but the little one wouldn't. He was even in a seat in the wrong row. I offered to change seats, sitting with the oldest boy so that she could have the younger boy with her. Just as we were about to take off, the flight attendant arrived. Without my knowing it, the boy had rung for the flight attendant.

The flight attendant had just again returned to the front when again she came down the aisle, past us asking, "Do you need something?" Quickly she returned to the front as if to get some supplies. As she started back she asked, "Is there a nurse here?" Another woman jumped up and went with her. After a bit of time we were informed that a passenger had a medical emergency.

We waited for the paramedics to come on board. While this was all going on the boy with me told me the last plane he was one had a TV screen in the seat. Thus, I knew he had been on an international flight of some kind. He went asleep, really hard.

After awhile we were told we all had to leave the plane to allow it to be cleaned. I could not awake the boy, the mom had her hands full with the two others. A man nearby offered to carry the boy off the plane. When we got into the gate area, this man went into his briefcase and came out with packages of cheese, crackers, and carrots, and offered these to all the little kids associated with this flight.

I called my friends to tell them I was in the gate, not on the plane. After a few minutes the African woman asked if she could use my phone to call those in Lincoln waiting for her. She showed me the number and, since is started with +1, I knew she been calling them internationally. With a bit of trial and error, because even leaving off +1 left too many numbers, we were able to connect.

Finally came the time to get back on. My "boy" was still almost sound asleep and I walked him on the plane that way. The flight to Lincoln was uneventful. But by now we had three sleeping children, luggage to pick up from gate check, and only two adults. I called my waiting friends and asked them to come to the gate as closely as they could rather than waiting by baggage. I just couldn't imagine how we could get these sleeping children down the escalator safely.

Now another man offered to carry the sleeping infant, the mom guided the younger boy, and I got the older boy off the plane. Have you even tried to walk a sleeping child across that 12 inch wide step that connects to the jet way? We picked up the gate check luggage and got out into the public area. My friends met us all there, grabbed the luggage we were toting, and directed us to an elevator. I had flown through this airport many times and never knew there was an elevator.

My friends and the extra man helped the woman collect her luggage from the baggage area. I tried again to call her friends, but only got voice mail. I explained to the woman that her friends must be on the way, that the airport was small, they could easily find her. She gave me hug and thanked me for helping. This whole experience is really what Christmas is all about and it can happen any day.

When I was sure she was safe and OK, we left. My friends drove about ten minutes and just as we were parking at a restaurant, my phone rang. It was the mysterious number. I told the caller that the people from Uganda had arrived and the children were very sleepy.

I learned the woman had started out from Uganda. I can't imagine making a trip that long across so many time zones with three children.

This morning we wondered if those boys were still tucked in bed sleeping.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Glorious Adventure

Last evening was university graduation. Since I go to graduation twice yearly what made this glorious? My younger daughter graduated. She looked beautiful. I met her as she exited the stage and gave her a big hug. She worked hard for this, as do all the students in our university, a university with a mission to educate working adults.

Good thing I had a bit of a glow for it took me nearly one hour to get out of the parking ramp!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Adventures with Dogs

Today I was scheduled to meet with a doctoral student in a small town usually about a 35 minute drive from here. The weather yesterday made the drive anything but usual. The streets were the next thing to really slippery. I started across the Mendota Bridge and then I saw the dogs. The sun was square in the middle of the horizon and I saw the two sun dogs on either side. My view was even more spectacular than the picture with this message -- this picture posted on Kare 11 TV's site taken by one of their photographers. The sun dogs were very, very vivid. They truly looked like two vertical rainbows. I saw this view the whole way to my destination. I'll remember this day for a long time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Global Brunch

Today I had the pleasure of taking two guests, one from China and one from Poland, to brunch. We had a lovely time at the Nicollett Island Inn. The food was wonderful, but outshadowed by the good conversation. We talked about what Americans find strange when they visit China or Poland, and what my friends find strange about the United States.

After brunch, my Polish friend and I participated in an American custom,taking things back. She had purchased some shoes and then after speaking with her husband decided to exchange them for some better choices. This great custom of return doesn't take place in Poland. I told her to go home this this: On December 26 a store such as Target will have a multitude of tables right at the front door to take care of all the returns coming in that day.

I feel so fortunate to have stumbled into an activity that allows me to do something such as having brunch with people from two other countries.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Aluminum rims

For the 2nd time in two months, I've had to take my car for repairs because a tire was getting very low. Again the answer is a leak around the rim, a problem with aluminum rims. This car is 7 years old and this is the first time I've had these problems. Annoying, but at the same time, compared to most in the world, I should be thankful I have a car.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Airport Adventure

Today is a day I've awaited for for a long time. Dorota arrived today from Poland. I started watching her flight from Europe on the web about the time that the plane reached the Canadian/US border at New Brunswick and Maine. She came via Paris to Atlanta. I cleaned up all kinds of odd jobs off my desk while watching the plane move down the eastern seaboard. I saw it arrived in Atlanta late and that she only had an hour to catch her flight to the Twin Cities. I was happy when I saw the next flight come up with a late time! I left home when I saw this flight was over Indiana, mostly because I could hardly stand the waiting anymore.

At the airport I saw a huge group of people gathering where I was waiting. I asked a woman who they were expecting. She explained her daughter and son-in-law where bringing home a baby from Colombia. Oh, did that all bring back memories. And was this little guy a heart throb when he got here.

Meanwhile, where was Dorota? Finally my cell phone rang and she asked where I was. She had come down a different stair, had collected her luggage, and was waiting for me at our fall back meeting place of a coffee shop in the baggage area. It is so good to see her here again in Minnesota!

I brought her to the family she will stay with while she is here, arriving there at about 8:30 PM. She has been up and traveling since 10 PM last night Minnesota time! Now we will have some fun later in the week.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Winter Adventure Begins

Dzień dobry

Dzisiaj mamy śnieg!

Oh, did I learn Polish overnight? No, just discovered a good translator -- and that's part of whole different story sometime.

We have 3-4 inches of fresh snow this morning. This will probably stick around for a good long time, so the winter adventure begins.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One Step Towards a Great Adventure

Today I received the letter from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars which adminsters the Fulbright programs. I have been recommended for a Fulbright Lecturing Award in Hungary for the 2009-10 academic year. The next step is that my application now goes to the Hungarian-American Commission for Educational Exchange. Even if I make the cut in Hungary, it isn't a done deal, for as this letter advises: "the number of meritorious applicants routinely exceeds the number of available grants."

It does feel good, however, to be recommended.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Adventure

Today while millions of people were shopping, about 200 people and me were at Unity Unitarian church observing the Frist Black Friday service. This is a new effort designed to help all deal with the cultural and spiritual aspects of a holiday that is somewhat out of control. We had magnificant music an acoustic group specializing in Southern US and Celtic music, a story by the magnificant Kevin Kling,and conversation with those near us in the sanctuary. Children 4-10 had their own discussion group, considering the question: Is it possible to get too many Christmas gifts? They seemed to consider more the consequences of too many gifts: One would have to take over all the houses in the neighborhood for storage.

Press photographers were there, too. The idea of celebrating the season with music and thought rather than shopping seems to be novel. Here's a link to the Minnesota Public Radio story:

Later in the day-- our church made the news such as news is these days -- about 30 seconds -- as something that is new totally in the United States and something that may move to other faith-based communities next year.

Later yet: Here's the story on the KARE-11 web site:

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Evening in Europe

No, not by Concord flight! Tonight I watched a new PBS program, The Rape of Europa. This is about the stealing of art during WWII and efforts undertaken to return the art to rightful owners. Find it on PBS. It's wonderful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Another Trip to Central Europe

My church is one of three others-- another in the United States and one in the Netherlands-- that has a partnerships with a church in Transylvania -- a part of Romania now, separated from Hungary at the end of WWI. The persons in this area consider themselves Hungarian and speak Magyar as their first language. Today we honored that partnership. One of our church members is a member of Mila, a women's vocal ensemble which specializes in music from Central Europe.

However, we began with two Hungarian songs presented by the Children's Choir. In the service Mila presented music from Georgia and Bulgaria in addition to Hungarian songs. I understand none of these languages and enjoy them all.

Curious -- See more about Mila here:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Adventures in Poland

No,I'm not in Poland, but I've just spent 15 minutes in Poland via You Tube. It was such great fun to see some of the kids I've taught, another video with the camp director which whom I've worked, and others of Siedlce folks that I know. Curious, go to You Tube and search for Siedce, Reymontowka, or my very favorite, Ania speaks Hungarian.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Found it -- Adventure!

I had read in many guidebooks about the Milk Bars in Poland. These are getting hard to find. Thus I was glad to find this one in Torun and preserve it with a photo, knowing that perhaps the next time I'm there, it will not be there. This bar is near by park in my photo from two days ago. I noticed many stopped here for a snack that they ate as they crossed the park on their way to either a bus or tram.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Many Ways to "Skin the Cat"

One of the lessons one learns when traveling is that there is more than one way to solve or deal with a problem. In the middle of this picture one can see a spire. This is the top of the "Palace" that Stalin ordered built in Warsaw. Every Polish person has an opinion about what should be done with this building. At the time of freedom in 1989 there was a great bit of sentiment favoring knocking it down. The more recent strategy, however, seems to be building around it and soon no one will be able to see it. This strategy seems to be favored by the under 25s that I know, and one that appeals to what I call the "wicked" Polish sense of humor, -- and I mean that all very respectfully.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Still Looking for the Sun

November is the gloomy month in Minnesota. Pictures have sun! This is one of the granaries in Torun. The building is now used by the university there. This park is between the Rynek and a busy street where the buses and trams stop.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Green rather than Gray

It is November, and that means gray, gloomy days. Today was a cloudy day so even the sky is gray. Time to remember other colors. Upon arriving at Reymontowka last summer, I noticed buildings up the road that weren't there in 2007. In 11 months a barn for horses and a home for a stablemaster had been constructed. The horses were enjoying a cool summer evening. Now, I wonder what I'll find different next summer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Planning Adventures

I've made all my hotel reservations for Summer 2009 in Poland. I intend to fly into Warsaw on June 24 and have reservations to stay at the Boutique Bed and Breakfast on ul. Smolna. I made this reservations by e-mail during the past 12 hours. What would we do without e-mail?

I'll have my same room back. Here's a photo of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Adventures with the Computer

Oh, it's been one of those times. Suddenly I couldn't access my personal e-mail account from my home computer. I could do anything else on the net, and I could access my personal e-mail from other computers. I tried rebooting the modem. That didn't work. I tried emptying out the cache, that didn't help. So I called Comcast, and the technician helped me really clean out the cache. Now no internet memoray. I've been very bad at book marking sites I use all the time, just scroll down and there they are. Now I've got to reconstruct all this again, but at least my e-mail works again.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Real Adventure

Still working on editing pictues from my summer trip in Poland. I have called this a "real' adventure because these are the colors of that July evening, not a Photoshop invention. We were watching a kids' program at language camp when I saw the color of the sunset. I excused myself saying this was simply too good to miss.

The house is just up the road from Reymontowka. For me it is a special house because I watched its building progress from between 2004 to 2007. My team members in 2007 were all new to Reymontowka and couldn't/didn't share in my delight in seeing it all done. Seeing the changes over time is one of the things I've enjoyed during my various trips to Poland.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Photography Adventures with the Stork

The change of seasons made me think of the storks I saw this summer in Poland during my stay at Reymontowka. I imagine the stork is now enjoying warm weather somewhere in Africa. At Reymontowka, there is a nest board on the historic cottage. Of course, the storks decided instead to build their nest on one of the lodging buildings. I could not believe it, when the first time I was being driven to Reymontowka, I heard there were storks in the area. Since then I have seen them in the fields many times, as well on chimneys at nearby farms.

This summer gave our best view when a pair decided to nest at Reymontowka. I watched for days and days following advice to up and about at 6:30 AM. Then while doing a teaching activity my students on the patio, I suddenly got this view of the stork instead in the mid-morning. The approach of winter is a good time to begin to relive summer memories. I'll be back in 7.5 months -- not that I'm counting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Won't be an adventure

Amazing election story! I mentioned my cell phone comes from CREDO. Today we received an e-mail message from CREDO saying the company will fund 1000 parties by giving $100/party to celebrate the end of Bush. I won't be having a party but may watch the web site to see if someone nearby is having one.

I can't remember anything like this ever before associated with an election.

Election Adventures at School

I called to find out what my grandchildren's perceptions were about this election. Because each of has African-American heritage there is no surprise that they are happy. My grandson is in fourth grade. He said they didn't discuss this at school, but it was the talk of recess and lunchtime. He said there is one classmate who was for McCain, but "she didn't say anything; she just played tag with the rest of us." That's really what peaceful transfer of power is all about.

My granddaughter who is seventh grade has picked up the theme that it is time for change. She said they discussed this election in their history class, which right now is centering on President Arthur. (Well, I'm certainly going to have to do a google search after this to recall anything about that President) When I last helped her with history she was studying the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. She shared that the principal of the school has asked the students to make posters of what they want this president to do. I cannot remember such engagement before in an election.

Another Election Adventure

One of my work colleagues took her children to the DFL celebration in St. Paul last night. They left after the news came about the new President. She says there was a Somalia man outside doing High Fives, saying with great joy: "Anything can be done!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Adventure Begins

It is 10 PM Minnesota time and the networks have just called the election for Obama. About 30 seconds after the news hit the TV my younger duaghter called with the news, too. That demonstrates how this election has changed how people feel about participating in government. During the last election she was taking an African-American History class. Her professor felt so strongly about students voting that he told them he would excuse a quiz if they could produce the "I voted" sticker. She didn't even vote under those circumstances. This time she was even buying me campaign T-shirts.

Recently her children have either been misbehaving or not studying well for school and they lost their TV privileges. I called her this evening saying I thought the privilege should be restored for this evening so they could participate in history. I remember exactly where I was when watching people walk on the moon for the first time, and I thought they needed to start building such a history for themselves. The kids did get to see this change in our country.

For those of you in Europe perhaps you didn't see the huge collection of people in Grant Park in Chicago -- 500,000 perhaps. Tonight I saw a woman with tears of joy running down her cheeks. I can remember seeing the police beat up people in the same park during the 1968 convention in Chicago.

For those of you elsewhere, you may also not have seen McCain say it is good that our country has set aside bigotry -- that he could remember when African-Americans were not eligible to be guests in the White House.

Election Day Adventures

This election is like no other before. When Poland had the election that resulted in Tusk being named Prime Minister, I watched it with fascination, believing I was seeing the first election influenced by the Internet and other 21st Century technologies. Whether it was true or not, I enjoyed the story that text messages flew around Poland, saying, "Hide your Grandmother's ID card." For American readers, this is based on the view that the older generation supported a different political party than did young professionals and university students.

Well, we've now had the first 21st Century election as well. "I read it on the Internet" is commonly heard. And certainly the candidates did a good job of filling up our e-mail boxes.

Today is still a very warm day -- anytime when one leaves without a coat, wearing sandals -- November in Minnesota -- that's a very good day. I truly thought I was going to be home all day reading papers, that a meeting had been cancelled, but then yesterday came an e-mail telling me that I was wrong. I had to go into the office for a 2 hour meeting. I started home after the meeting, and due to a snack food truck being parked in the wrong place, I ended up having to take the freeway home rather than the city street I usually do. Not usually a problem, but the freeway was plugged due to a bridge repair project. I finally got off on an exit, only to find that I had chosen the intersection at which someone had crashed into a fence and then taken out the signal lights. (I heard later this resulted in a loss of power to two election sites for a short time.)

After much frustration, I saw high school male students standing on a corner campaigning. What is unusual about that? Well, they were shirtless with slogans and letters painted on their chests. Now that is another unusual sight in Minnesota in November.

I read two papers and then decided to take care of some errands and get some lunch. I reached for my cell phone to call one of my daughters and discovered I had received a text message from my cell phone provider, CREDO, urging me to vote.

Oh, by the way I had voted before the text message arrived. I stopped and voted on the way home, but couldn't complete my errands then because it was recess time for the Catholic grade school up the street. A zillion kids were crossing the street, and it just wasn't the time to try to get to the shoppiong area.

Later in the day -- More papers done! And I went to the KARE-11 web site to see what the news is. I found a very touching story in one of the reporter's blogs. He explained he had been at a school in Minneapolis in which those who are immigrants/refugees went for training about elections. One of the refugees did his practice ballot and then asked, "Where do I sign my name?" He could not believe he didn't have to sign his name on the ballot so that the government would know not only that he voted, but who he had voted for.

This is an important election!!! We need to preserve this freedom that we often take too much for granted.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Adventures with Global Warming?

It's November 2 and at 5 PM it was 70 degrees (21 C). It is more unusual actually to have such a warm high temperature. The major effect of global warming in Minnesota is that the low temperatures are rising, both winter and summer.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Adventures in Learning

Today is a very special day in Poland when families visit cemetaries and honor their lost members. One of the things an American quickly learns is how different are Polish cemetaries from the average American cemetary. This picture shows the beauty of the old cemetary in Zakopane. I invite you click on this photo so that it opens up larger and you can see the detail.

One time while visiting Warsaw I ran into a weekend of very rainy weather. I had a half day before departing to the airport, so decided to walk through the cemetary near my hotel. I was totally fascinated by the beauty and history I found there, but with my American view, it seemed like an odd way to spend a morning. Upon returning home I happened onto visiting this cemetary as one of the top 10 things to do while visiting Warsaw!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to all. This fair belle comes from a scarecrow competition at the Minnesota Arboretum. My plans are not to dress up. I'm going to duck the trick or treater by going to a cafe with free Wi-FI and continue to read the 40+ papers I have to get through during the next few days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventures in Indianapolis

Yes, there is a there, there. The conference I went to was very good. What I will remember is being cold. The hotel room was cold, no matter what I did with trying to change it. The conference rooms were cold. Now I'm from Minnesota and I was wearing clothes I would wear to work in the winter. It was cold!

The best thing I did was go to a museum of Western Art and Native Americans Art. This is so good that one go to Indianapolis just for this.

I was very glad to get home to my blankets!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Traveling Adventures

I'm off to Indianapolis for the next few days for a work conference. I've not been there since there is a there - there. Once in my career I had to go there four times in one year and was deeply impressed with how rural and underdeveloped the place was. I hear now there is a town there. More later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Adventures at the Credit Union

I paid off my home mortgage early this summer, but had a small home equity loan still in place. A month later I got a letter from the credit union specifying my new payment. Well, I began to worry. Good thing. I went there today and learn after the primary mortgage is paid no longer is there an escrow fund for taxes and insurance. Thus even though I had been paying a large payment, none of it was going to escrow.

We looked up on the web and found out that I was 6 days behind on my property taxes. Due to the theft of my purse, I didn't have any checks to use for the payment. (Getting new checks at a high enough number that they will be honored was another task completed today.) I paid the taxes online, but through a private bank that the county uses for this service which, of course, charges a convenience fee. The troubles compounded upon themselves resulted in a penalty payment of $30 some dollars as well as a "convenience fee" of $30 some dollars. I guess any day one gets out of trouble with only $60, that's not a bad day.

I also arranged to start participating in the preferred Realtor plan through the credit union, to start getting the show on the road for selling the house and getting somewhere else. All in all not how I like to spend my time, but adventures in banking were a real lesson today.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Just Like It!

I'm posting this picture of a tram in Torun, Poland, for no other reason than I just like it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Traveling Adventures

One of the joys of traveling for me is finding unexpected signs indicating destinations. I always feel like I'm far from home for example when I see a train schedule that include Moscow as a destination.

While working for the Minnesota Department of Health I occasionally had to travel to the very northwest corner of Minnesota. Up there it is common to see the road signs indicating it is 75 miles to Winnipeg. It always seemed strange to be working for the state of Minnesota but much closer to a major city in Canada than anything in our state.

I've attached a picture taken in Torun this summer. I found this at the end of a park. Part of the reason for this sign is that this Sweden city is a sister city of Torun. But seeing it made me feel like I wasn't in Kansas -- or even Minnesota -- anymore.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Speaking Adventure

Today I did a Global Volunteers presentation at Pilgram House, a Unitarian-Universalist fellowship. Since my Global Volunteer experience is basically about Poland, I spoke most about Poland. I believe all learned more about "new" Poland, both through my presentation and then informal conversation afterwards. People are funny. One man sat down beside me and said, "I'm here to give you a bad time. You said there was a program in West virginia. You go there to teach English?" I explained the program there was home renovation with high school students and also some tutoring of GED students. He laughed and said his whole point was to give me a "bad time." This was a lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday morning.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cultural Brokering Adventure

I was hurrying out of my office on Wednesday to drive very far north in Minnesota for a conference. The warning sirens were blowing, and I realized it was 1 PM on the first Wednesday of the month. To leave the parking lot, I swipe a card. However, the cashier opened her window. She was obviously an African-born young woman. She asked me what was going on. I explained that the warning sirens were tested every first Wednesday at 1 PM. She was much relieved with my explanation, for she was puzzled by way the wiring sirens were blowing on a beautiful day. Things we forget to tell to new people!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surprises on the Way to Work

This morning I woke at 5 AM and started work at home. I had a 10 AM appointment in my office, so left the house to make that appointment about 9:30. My usual drive is along Shepard Road; on one side is the Mississippi River and on the other side is a railroad track. When one approaches downtown St. Paul it is usual to see a steam plume from the District Heating Plant, but there was a huge amount of white steam this morning. I couldn't figure out what it was; the steam was clear white so this clearly wasn't smoke from a fire, and it the plume was right on the railroad track. Then I saw it -- a steam engine pulling a series of antique passenger cars. There were people around everywhere taking pictures, so quite obviously this was planned. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

No photo. It is not a good practice to talk on a cell phone while driving. It strikes me as even a poorer practice to try to take a photo with a cell phone while driving!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Memories of Summer Adventures

The days are getting shorter and the light is changing. Fall is coming in. Summer seems far away. But the pictures help me remember summer days in Torun. Here are two pictures of churches in Torun. After the churches of Warsaw and Krakow, these seemed so "plain." The difference seems to be that the walls are not as decorative as churches elsewhere in Poland.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Retirement Adventures

I'm not retired! But it seems the world thinks I am. In late August I started receiving a number of phone calls about the fact that I had retired. The phone calls were all in a panic from my daughter's social worker saying I had messed up my daughter's disability Social Security due to my retirment. It took me awhile to straighten the rumors of my retirement.

Then on Thursday I met a former Minnesota Department of Health colleague. He asked me how I was liking retirement. Again I had to explain I wasn't retired. Today at a neighborhood restaurant I met another former Minnesota Department of Health colleague. Same question. I'm working 60-70 hours per week. Why does everyone outside my work setting think I'm retired?!?

Retirement Adventures

I'm not retired! But it seem the world thinks I am. In late August I started receiving a number of phone calls about the fact that I had retired. The phone calls were all in a panic from my daughter's social worker saying I had messed up my daughter's disability Social Security due to my retirment. It took me awhile to straighten the rumors of my retirement.

Then on Thursday I met a former Minnesota Department of Health colleague. He asked me how I was liking retirement. Again I had to explain I wasn't retired. Today at a neighborhood restaurant I met another former Minnesota Department of Health colleague. Same question. I'm working 60-70 hours per week. Why does everyone outside my work setting think I'm retired?!?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventures in Perception or maybe Misperception

This evening I was at a reception given by the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota. I saw a colleague I had not seen since leaving the Minnesota Department of Health 6 years ago. He said, "How do you like retirement?" I laughed and told him that "for other than the 60-70 hours per week I'm working for another employer, retirement is great."

Then in the car I opened my wallet to get out some change to pay the parking ramp toll, and found the parking ramp lights making my Nordstrom silver-colored credit card glow in shades of red and green. I've had this credit card for years and this is the very time I learned there are dancers embedded into the card. Under those parking ramp lights, they were way cool!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Funny Moment

This morning I was in the nearby neighborhood cafe for breakfast. There is a round table in the back occupied by the men who solve or debate all the problems of the world. It's very much like one finds in any small town.

I overheard first: "Of course Minnesota votes for Republicans. We have a Republican govenor and a Republican Senator." Then I heard a woman say, "But's when is the last time Minnesota voted Republican for a President?" There was a long pause and then came the answer with a male voice, "Abe Lincoln?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Funny Adventure

This past few days have been very stressful in my private life. This afternoon I went up to the laudromat. I noticed a man, who almost looked as if he was homeless, come into the front of the laundromat apparently only to play a video game. When he turned, I saw his T-shirt which is priceless. It said, "The Bible says a lot about Saint Paul, but nothing about Minneapolis."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adventures with Wildlife

Coming home today along the road by the Mississippi River, I had to slow down for turkeys! We are used to geese everywhere. This is the second time I've seen groups of turkeys, the first time being almost 18 months ago now. When I see articles or exhibits about making habitat for animals, I think if we have more habitat for animals, they will have to start making habitats for the people. Yesterday I scared a rabbit out the flower bed. And there is a chipmuck that lives in the flowerbed by the front door.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Adventues with Good Fortune

After a bit of a stressful time thinking my purse was stolen on Thursday, and the efforts I took to protect my banking account, it was good news this afternoon to received an e-mail this afternoon saying the University Security staff and located it. They say they believe there is nothing missing. I had a strong feeling when I got stopped on Thursday evening by the young woman needing help, that the universe was making a deal with me.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Adventures with Technology

We have all heard that we are on video cameras more than we know. After I reported to the safety officer that I had a missing purse, he asked for my schedule yesterday. He found video pictures showing I had it when entering the office in the early morning, had it when I went to a meeting in the library, but didn't have it when I was walking back to our office area. Thus, I had left it in the meeting room, which was supposed to be locked as soon as we left, and it disappeared before I made the trip back 2 hours later to locked room to see if it was there.

Today I got my driver's license replaced and renewed -- it was due to expire next month anyway.

So I'll keep watching my bank statement and make sure no checks are sneeking through.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Adventures in an Alternate Universe

Today will go down as one of the craziest. Well, certainly better than another September 11, but I felt like I spent all the day in alternate universe. The story starts a bit before today. I was really in need of something better to sleep on, and anticipating the move I want to make, decided to get a small sleeper couch with a very good mattress, so I'd have something to sleep on until I could buy a new bed. The couch was delivered yesterday and I was very pleased. My eye was right. It is the right color to go with a painting that will always be part of my living room.

Last evening I went to Ikea and found a duvet and what they call a quilt cover, and then made up a bed the Polish way with a sheet on the bottom and simply the duvet on the top.

I woke up this morning thinking I had rested very well. Then I realized I had overslept. I have been using my Ipod for an alarm clock. Looked and realized it had not gone off because somehow it was now measuring time in Central Standard time while we are still on daylight time. I could not make the Ipod control do anything.

I grabbed a yogurt and ran out of the house. On the way to work I stopped at a coffee shop and got coffee.

Then I was in a meeting all morning, had a short time to eat some lunch, a sandwich I had packed, and then was off to another meeting. At 3:30 I had a hair appointment. I was watching the time click off on the computer task bar, and about 3:10 started to pick things up to get out to the hair salon. Where's my purse? Maybe I left in the car and carried in only the tote bag. No, that wasn't it. I looked again and again in my office, no purse. I went to security and had them open a room in which I had the second meeting in case I had left it there. No purse there either. I ran back to my office and left a voice mail message for my hair dresser. Then I went to the coffee shop where I had stopped about 8 AM asking if I had walked out and left my purse. No, it wasn't there. My next stop then was my credit union where we cancelled my credit and debit cards, and put a big watch on my checking account.

Next I drove to the hair salong and found my hair dresser just heading home. We made a new appointment for tomorrow.

Nine days out of ten I leave my cell phone home, but somehow this morning I managed to take it with me.

I found when I hooked the Ipod up to my computer it got right with the universe again.

I located a public phone at the nearby community center building and phoned CREDO and have a new phone on order. While at the community center I went into the library and go a new library card. On the walk back from home I was stopped by young woman who appeared to be from Sri Lanka or southern India asking for help in finding the library. Obviously I could tell her. I thought perhaps this was a way to balance out the crazy universe today.

Tomorrow the first task is to take the bus to a driver's license center and get my license replaced. Then when I'm legal again, a stop at the insurance office to get my car insurance cards replaced. Wonder what else I need to attend to?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Teaching Adventure

My university has the first program for Peace Corps volunteers who wish to complete their BS or BA degree. I will be working with one of these students during this acadmeic year, helping her to demonstrate the learning and competencies she developed through her Peace Corp experience in Uganda. This student lives in another state so all our interaction will be at a distance. I'm doing this because her course work all relate to public health. It's nice at this stage of a career to have a new activity.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Adventures of RNC Volunteers

Anyone who has read my blog knows I'm not a fan of the Republican Party nor was highly enthusiastic about having the RNC convention here. To add a bit of balance, and I'm not sure why I think balance is needed, but to be fair, at least one participant in the RNC actually did something for the community. See what happened at the nearby Salvation Army headquarters building, about 5 blocks from the convention site:

I'm actually more pleased that I can recognize the Salvation Army captain than the Republican political figure that is prominent in these photographs.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

More adventures at the nail salon

Today the conversation started somewhere about wine, and I told how much I liked the Georgian Wine that we had at the wine shop in Zakopane. (The winoteka is pictured here.) One of the Ukrainian ladies told me a liquor store she was certain had Georgian wine.

This exchange led the other client to ask about my being in Poland. Then she began to tell me about being in Warsaw in 1979 on a faculty exchange. It was fascinating to hear what life was like as an American in Warsaw then. She went on to tell me the Polish director to whom she reported during this time gave her the standard party speeches about what she could and could not do. She said that she did some things on the not to do list such as exchange money on the black market. She also told me she smuggled in paper and ink wrapped as Christmas gifts to be used for underground newspapers. She said after Poland gained its freedom the Polish director wrote her and thanked her for all she had done for Poland.

What a blessing it was for me to be at the nail shop at just the right time! I think I have more fun at the nail shop than anyone -- this may also serve as a commentary to the blog entry from David in Poznan about women seem to have a different hair cut experience than men.

Adventures in Reading

They're gone! Our city is returning to normal. Thank heavens! Now time is available for other things.

I stumbled into a story about Georgia (the country)on the New York Times web page and that reminded me one can read Europe news there. So I looked to see what was on the page for Poland. Much to my surprise I find the missle system heading for Poland was designed by a Polish man. Read more here:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Signs of Gustav

About 7 PM I headed out for a few groceries. About 45 minutes later when I was in the car coming home, I saw a beautiful, beautiful sky. There was clouds in pink-orange cloud like cotton candy against the almost aqua sky we get in the fall. Sorry no camera with me.

Later I hear these clouds are the end of Gustav. Amazing!

Convention Observations

Today I had to go to work. That takes me through the convention area, so I chose to ride the bus rather than attempt to drive. The first thing I noticed is that the most reliable bus in my home area wasn't totally reliable on the schedule. One should come at least every 15 minutes, but we waited longer than that. When the bus finally arrived, one came right behind another. The bus ride was usual until we got about 3 blocks from the Xcel Center where the convention is held. Then we were on a long detour around it. That made the usual 25 minute bus ride take almost an hour.

Coming home, the bus came on schedule. I was glad I was on the bus because it was definitely bumper to bumper traffic. Going so slow allowed me to see a few things. First I was a bit puzzled about a van that said Capitol City Police Service and had a logo obviously from Washington D.C.

Near the Minnesota Capitol area I could see a lot of tents and what looked like a minor protest being organized. A bit later we went by a bus display -- the best word I can find for it for an organization called Haven't looked that up. (Oh later, I did look it up and it reminded me that this is called the Voters Self Defense Bus. The web site says it was at the Democratic convention, too. You can see a picture of the bus on the web site.)

Then we went by a huge video screen being operated by something called Vote Blue Minnesota. It is displaying pictures of politicians involved in the Abrahamoff scandal as we went by. Later this evening I learned this is sponsored by two very average Minnesota Democrats who decided they wanted to create an alternate message nearly two years ago when it was announced that the RNC would here. They spent a good part of the retirement funds to do this for four years.

A slight way later I could see down a hill to the Xcel Center and noticed a lot of tents obviously not usually there. The biggest tent had the FoxNews logo on it.

Oh, I forgot the biggest hit in town. We went by the History Theater which is being used by the Daily Show. The lines to get in there rival the convention.

One more day of this and then they leave town. I suspect it will be the last time St. Paul bids on a convention for awhile. It's a lot more trouble than its worth. Readers from elsewhere may find the best source of local news to be the Minnesota Public Radio web site:

I've changed the photo to the right to the Xcel Center for a few days, so that folks elsewhere can better envision this place.

I'll add that during this ride through middle class neighborhoods and then down Summitt Avenue where the houses are over the million dollar mark I didn't see a single lawn sign for the Republican candidates. I thought certainly if anyone was supporting the McCain candidate that during the RNC they would have signs up. If you don't understand about the signs, lawn signs are a big thing in Minnesota, something I really don't like about Minnesota. I don't like anyone put a lawn sign on my property.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Adventures in Life

I have to scream at the world! I just watched Cindy McCain being saluted for adopting two girls from an international orphanage Been there and done that myself. Now I see Palin being saluted for raising a child who is developmentally delayed. Been there and done that too. And they are saluting her for supporting a teen age daughter who became pregnant. Been there and done that. And not only have I done all those things, I did it alone as one of maligned "single parents."

I'm not at all impressed with the honoring of these women. There have been many of us who have done just exactly the same thing, and we don't have any political convention saluting us!!

Adventures with the weather & the RNC

The past few days have been very warm -- nearly 90 degrees and very muggy, and the air conditioner isn't working. Well, at this stage of summer one doesn't fix it, and hopefully by next summer I won't be living here anywhere. So I'm very glad we've had a 25 degree drop in the temperature in the last 22 hours. Life is much more comfortable.

The local news is that the out of hand protesters were not part of the original protest.

And now this afternoon, an intersection is closed due to a package under questions.

Monday, September 1, 2008

First Day of Convention

It is being reported that about 250 people were arrested today, more than the total in Denver. The difference -- there wasn't a huge antiwar protest in Denver. There are an estimated 10,000 participants in today's demonstraton protest, and I think they will continue during the next few days.

Things did get out of hand. Had it been a work day, and had I gone to work, I would have driven home right into the a protest in an unexpected place. But I've always thought what we needed to plan for was the unexpected would happen during these days.

I stayed home all day sorting and moving things around with the goal of moving sometime in the next few months. Meanwhile here's what happening in Saint Paul:

It is locally reported that nearly all the national media has left Saint Paul deciding instead to cover the hurricane instead. If you have a convention and no one listens, is it a convention?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Political Convention Adventure

For the next few days we will be dealing with the Republican Convention in Saint Paul. Interested folks in other parts of the country or the world may wish to follow the news by going to a very good blog called News Cut maintained by Minnesota Public Radio. You may find it here:

As of Sunday evening, August 31, it looks like a convention that isn't going to happen. Absolutely no one around the Xcel Center.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Politics and Manicure Adventure

I go to nail shop almost weekly that is operated by 3 women who immigrated here from the Ukraine. I felt so lucky when I stumbled into this place about three years ago. It's my little bit of Europe every week. And we've had wonderful conversations about food, language, all kinds of things relating to Central Europe. They have patiently listened to my stories about Poland, and enthusiatically gave me great advice in advance of my 2007 trip to the Ukraine. They also attract a clientele that speaks Russian, and have roots in Central and Eastern Europe.

However, today was amazing. One customer started out saying, "What do you think about what is happening in Georgia?" (Now please, she meant the country, not the state.) And the conversation was off to the races. I'm betting it was the only place in St.Paul that had a stimulating debate about Russia's actions and motives in this situation, how the United States is viewed in that part of the world and questions and ideas in between. I'm certain no one expects this kind of dialogue to be in a nail shop, and I'm struck somewhat speechless by the fact that it was undoubtedly a more comprehensive discussion of the situation than will be occuring about 3 miles down the street at the RNC convention!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Polish Train Adventure

On several travel web sites I've found questions about riding the trains in Poland. People seem to view this with trepidation. Thus, I'm offering some photos. Yesterday I explained that I stayed at the Hotel Hetman. That placed me a 5 minute walk from the Siedlce West station. The train from there to Warsaw is a local train, it stops everywhere and is only 2nd class. However, it is very comfortable. I've added a picture that shows that stations are clearly marked. Also I've added a sign that shows that the EU is funding improvements in the Polish train system. I did see some new, sleek trains while waiting at the Warsawa Polwisle station. It was explained to me that ironically these new trains are being manufactured in Siedlce, but one hasn't yet been assigned to the Warsaw to Siedlce route. Again, I'll say though that the train was comfortable. I also took the train from Siedlce West to Torun. I did that all 2nd class as well. It was perfectly comfortable and led me to have some wonderful interactions with Polish people. I hope by naming this post as Polish Train it will make it come up in searches when people are concerned about riding trains in Poland.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Bus Driver Adventure

After my most recent posting one person commented that he was surprised that the windows were so clean that I could take photos. Thus, I can't resist adding just a couple more to show the great variety that is Poland.

But I must speak about the bus driver. He started with 32 teens and about 5 adults at 8 AM on June 28 in Siedlce and drove us to the Krakow airport where we picked up 13 more volunteers. Then we continued to Zakopane. He spent the next two weeks with us there, driving for short trips in the area. On July 12 he repeated the trip from Zakopane to Siedlce.

We arrived near Siedlce about 6 PM in a driving thunderstorm. It was so bad that we were delayed on the highway for awhile for trees to be cleared from the highway. I was to depart at the Hotel Hetman. It was still raining when we arrived there. The Hotel Hetman sits along the major highway. However, to get there one must turn on a small side street and then turn into the hotel parking lot. So the bus driver turned off the highway onto the side street. I was expecting to get off there. No! He backed the bus into the hotel parking lot so that I could leave the bus from the passenger side and immediately get under a roof on the hotel entrance. I was overcome. When I made it to the front of the bus I said thank you very much and good bye in Polish --which I can't write with an American keyboard. I felt so grateful for this thoughtfulness. However, he took my hand and kissed it, in the very gallant way of Polish men. This will be a memory forever.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Photography Adventure

In other postings I've mentioned that I got a new camera before my summer Poland trip. It worked amazingly well for me. These are some of the pictures that I took traveling in the bus between Krakow and Siedlce. They show how Poland is old and new at the same time. I'm pleased that the vibration reduction on the camera worked so well. And what is even more amazing is that the bus driver had the windows so very clean that I could take these pictures out the window.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shopping Adventure

One day last week I turned on the TV when I awoke and saw a segment about the Salvation Army needing volunteers to help children shop for school clothing. Hey! who doesn't have 90 minutes to volunteer!?! When I looked at my preferred site, it turned out they needed 249 volunteers besides me.

So this morning the alarm went off at 6:30 and I was out the door at 7:00, stopping for coffee at Caribou on my way. I got to the Wal-Mart a few minutes later. No coffee there! One volunteer came up to me and asked where the nearby Caribou was. I explained near my house, not the Wal-Mart! Nothing for food/beverage was open at 7:00in the store and we were cautioned not to let our group of volunteers stray into the closed Subway shop area!!

We all signed in and got a T-Shirt(it seems like every event needs a T-Shirt!), and got orientation. We were instructed to be done at 9 AM (even through check out) and to spend to as close as $100 as possible (funds coming from the anonymous donor that seems to give all the money!). If we went over by a dollar or two there would be way to fix that.

At 8 AM two school buses rolled in and I was matched with an 8 year old girl. She also wore size 8 in everything but shoes. I asked her if she had been watching the Olympics and picked up that 8 is a lucky number in China!

I asked her if there was anything her mom had asked her to get for sure. She replied, "No, but she said 'No glitter."Next I asked her what she wanted first. She wisely replied, "Let's look at shoes. That takes a long time." Wise she was. It took us forever to find girls' shoes. This store had six aisles for shoes and only half of one was for little girls' shoes. We found a pair that suited her. Next we hit jeans. We had to avoid any pair of jeans that sparkles to keep the no glitter deal. We found three pairs. Then we did T-Shirt shopping and found 5 that she likes. We finished out with socks and underwear. Check out price -- $99.09.

What fun this was. Hope I find it next year.

And I learned something. When having to watch for prices so very carefully, I became quite sensitized to the fact that many things are not labeled with a price and that prices are often hard to find on the racks. We left our cart out of the fray and often I found when we got back, the item we had picked up had no label with the price. Is this a marketing ploy?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hot Car

Today on the Poland Our Future blog, David posted a picture of a special Ford that he found in Poznan. That caused me to dig through my pictures to bring up this picture of a hot car we found in Zakopane. We all had just come down the ski lift and found this at the bottom as we were walking to the bus. There certainly wasn't a high school boy that could walk by this car without giving it an admiring look.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Using Coins in Poland

One thing I've learned to deal with in Poland is the demand to use coins. For example, if I apply my American way of doing things, if I have a total bill of 16.85 PLN and hand a 20 PLN bill for that, I am happy to get back change. However, often I will get asked for the .85. One time I got coffee and a snack and the bill came to 10.// something. I gave the clerk 11 PLN and she asked for more coins so she could return me a 2 zloty coin.

This shows I can follow the rule. I was quite proud of 15 coins for a Coca-Cola Light!

I don't get it, but have learned to enjoy what I find "funny." Was there a coin shortage once?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Loved this sign

I found this sign in Zakopane. It shows that it takes 10.8 hours to fly to Chicago, 4.5 hours to walk to Mt. Giewont, and no time at all for the travel to the sponsoring bar in Zakopane, as it is only 11 meters. Thought it very clever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photography Adventures

After having some photos not turn out as good as I hoped from my 2007 trip, I got a new camera before this trip. It's a real new camera -- a Nikon Coolpix D-80, only released for sale in late May.

I love it! It did everything and more that I wanted during this trip. Here is a view of the architecture of the Sukiennice in Krakow. I particularly like the up close view of the head.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rainbow Adventures

I have been wanting to buy a new sofa, but kept thinking I'd do that after moving. However, during the past few days, I have begun to think I can't stand to wait that long. This afternoon I decided to go shopping. I drove through sunshine and heavy rain all within 5 miles. Thus, it wasn't a total surprise that the combination led to a gorgeous rainbow. It was so wide one could see all the colors, and arches across the sky; I was able to see both ends of the arch.

I walked into the furniture store and found exactly what I wanted. I have to wait a bit for delivery, but at least there is some gold at the end of the rainbow. I'm definitely going to be happier with the new look.

The last time I saw such a beautiful rainbow was during a trip to Hawaii. I parked and lept out of the car to take a photo. Then I discovered that this car had automatic locks and keys were in the ignition. I had to wait a good hour for the car rental facility to come rescue me. Only that day I'd read the material about that and wondered how someone could manage to lock him/herself out! This time only good things happened.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Visiting a Museum Outdoors

Maybe this happens elsewhere in the United States, but certainly not in Minnesota. In several places in Poland this summer, I've visited museum displays outdoors. This particular display comes from Warsaw. It is a collection of historical pictures of 1930s life in villages of ethnic minorities in areas now that are part of the present southeast part of Poland or western Ukraine. Certainly moving displays outdoors allows many more to see them. It's a good idea.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Remembering Adventures -- Saxon Gardens

Last evening I got the courage to download photos from my summer trip -- all 1400+ of them. As one may guess, it took a bit of time for that to happen. Now my plan is to edit photos while watching the Olympics.

Here are two photos from a walk through the Saxon Gardens in Warsaw on a lovely afternoon. I was pleased to finally be able to do this. On previous visits a combination of rainy weather or lack of time has prevented my visiting here. After an incredibly busy time at work, it was a pleasure to spend an afternoon quietly strolling here and eating a delicious ice cream cone. Those who have not yet tasted Polish ice cream have a treat to anticipate.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Eating Adventures

I think one of the misconceptions Americans have about Poland is that it is still a developing (sometimes called yet by people I know as a third world) country. Yes, Poland has been running fast to change conditions from pre-1989. What most don't appreciate is how good the food is.

The bottom picture is from an afternoon snack in Zakopane that I "forced" myself to eat while relaxing for an hour until I could get a manicure. This is a nalenski (sorry if I have mispelled this word -- I know it well enough to get them when I want them!). The top picture is from my choice while stopping at a sidewalk cafe in the Warsaw Old Town area.

What I'm not showing are treats such as tomatoes that really taste like tomatoes -- I have to keep reminding myself to eat them, as I usually avoid them at home since they are now mostly tasteless. Also bread that is heavenly, soups are unbelievable, and I can't overlook my favorite candy -- krowki!

Cultural Adventures

Our team leader in Poland always speaks about cultural practices -- asking us to find what is the same and what may be different. This year I found something different. On our way back from Zakopane to Siedlce we stopped at a gas station about an hour north of Krakow. I was puzzled when the boys and girls all lined up at the same restroom door. When it finally became my turn I found it was an unisex bathroom. There were two doors providing privacy for two cubicles inside and people simply took their turns. I learned, by law, that gas stations must provide restrooms for travelers.

When we went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum we again found a unisex restroom -- the same set up, only this time spaces for about 12 people at one time. Each of these were very, very clean.

So what was different -- that public restrooms in gas stations are very, very clean and free for use. What is the same -- men in Poland don't put the toilet seat down either!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Did you know?

I have had a chance to meet an Olympic judge. The current governor of Siedlce County in Poland is one of the weight-lifting judges. Weight-lifting is a big sport in this area of Poland. His journey to Beijing is itself olympic. He explained to us that first, from Poland, they must fly all the way west to London to get the Beijing flight. Then they fly back over all of Europe on their way to China. I think I may have forgotten a couple of other steps in this journey.

The governor is always so gracious to the Global Volunteers. He invited us to his office and spent nearly an hour with us.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

End of the Poland adventures

On Friday morning the camp director came in asking if we would mind teaching one less English class so that the theatre and dance teachers could have the students practice for the final program. Their time usually was during the same hours that the program would be today. My answer, Bless you.

So I had my students primarily practice for their final program from their English class. Then for two hours we had a scavenger hunt prepared. The questions or commands varied from "Collect 15 white stones" to "What shape in the kuchina sign on the outside door?"

During the break I managed to get some laundry started so I could bring home more clean clothes than smelly clothes.

The scavenger hunt was great fun to watch. During the afternoon I got packed up and then went to take a shower at 4 PM to get ready for a 5 PM dinner, and hopefully to have my hair dry before going to bed. Even with a hair dryer, it takes awhile to get my hair dried.

The final program was wonderful as usual. The students presented us each with a T-shirt showing Reymontowka as the Heart of Europe and then cities elsewhere in Europe that are their partner cities. I was pleased to get this for while I remembered that my 2007 German students came to Poland was Oberhavel, I could not remember the city for the French students. Now it's on my shirt-- Nevers.

My students sang "Do you know the Muffin Man" with the third verse being: We are the muffin kids who dwell in Siedlce town." I had brief comments translated to explain that we had made muffins during camp. Else I figured out that the parents would not know why we had the sung this song. The second song was "If you're Happy---" only we added a verse, "If you're happy and you know, shout "Sto Lot."

The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30, breakfast at 6:00 and we were off to the airport by 6:30 AM. We got there about 8:00, just at the right time to check in three volunteers to a Lufthansa flight that left at 10:05. They were relieved for Lufthansa was on strike part of last week.

Then I wandered over to Terminal 1 and got myself checked in for the flight first to Amsterdam. I had enough time to wander back to Terminal 2 and meet one of the incoming volunteers for the next camp. She came from Wisconsin, so the midwesterners are representing themselves quite well this summer.

My KLM flight left a bit late from Warsaw due to "traffic congestion." I had to hustle at Amsterdam to make my flight to Minnesota, but did it with 10-15 minutes spare. I had a wonderful seat mate who also had been in Poland. She, too, was glad to have someone to talk with about Poland. She immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 2 years old and has gone back 2-3 times yearly since then. She said, too, her friends don't understand why she likes Poland.

We got to Minnesota about 30 minutes early. I got through immigration and customs without any problems and my daughter picked me up and got me home. I didn't last too much longer after that, for I had not slept on the flight at all. My body thought it was 1 AM. The flight schedule I did this time is so much better for getting onto the right schedule. This is how I'll do it in the future. Changing in Amsterdam is SO MUCH better than Chicago.

Not necessarily happy to be back home!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manor House Adventures

Today after the classes we went to visit the manor house in Sucha. It is being restored by the present director of Lacenski Park -- apologies to Polish readers -- an English language keyboard doesn't spell the name of the park correctly. The house has had huge restoration after the detoriation during the Communist days. It had painted designs on the ceilings of some rooms. This is a beautiful feature I've not seen in other old houses. The property now includes several other old houses moved from elsewhere in nearby Poland. All and all, it is was very interesting.

Then we stopped at a privately owned manor house. The caretaker called the owner in Warsaw and he said we could tour the house if we signed the guestbook. This is also a beautiful house. The present owner has been working on restoration for about four years. It is now nearly restored on the first floor with construction continuing on the upper floor and in other buildings on the property. It was interesting to see the blend of old and new. This house has beautiful tile stoves, and right next are Fisher-Price children's toys. Nice to see a beautiful manor house that is a home, too.

Tomorrow is our last teaching day, and alas I'll be flying home on Saturday. I'd love to stay longer!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Muffin Making

Yesterday we sang the muffin song again. This morning we were playing hangman and towards the close of the first class, I took the white board and gave them the word, muffin. When one of the children finally solved the puzzle, I asked them what a muffin was. As I guessed, no one had a clue. Then I explained we would make muffins during the second class. We drew for partners in making chocolate chip, banana nut, lemon-poppy seed, and blueberry muffins.

The kids did a good job. I'm pleased to say that no one looking at the patio now would guess it was a muffin kitchen this morning. The kitchen staff graciously helped with the baking and they were very patient with the kids running in asking if the muffins were done.

I made them wait to eat them until after the mid-morning long break, partly because the muffins needed to cool. This was the first time I had children back 10 minutes early for English class. 25 muffins quickly disappeared when divided between 7 children, 2 counselors, and the camp director.

Yesterday I got a treat as good as muffins. We spent the afternoon in one my favorite Polish towns, Kazimiercz Dolny. This week we are having perfect summer weather. Alas, I must go home on Saturday, but it is only 10 months until I come back again.

Muffin Making

Yesterday we sang the muffin song again. Today we were playing hangman and about at the close of the first class I took over the whiteboard and put in the word muffin. When one of the kids guessed muffin, I asked what it was. The kids had no clue. Then I told them we would be baking muffins for the second class. We drew slips to determine who would make the chocolate chip, banana nut, blueberry, and lemon poppy seed muffins. They had great fun mixing them up. The kitchen staff were very helpful with the baking.

While they were baking one of the children took the package for a muffin mix and pointed out it said, 3 minutes. I explained it was three minutes for the stirring up, and showed her the back where it said the baking was 16-21 minutes. I made them wait through the 30 minute long break we take each morning before eating. This was indeed the first time I had all the kids back to class 10 minutes before the end of break, but I made them wait anyway!

At lunch my fellow volunteers asked me about the muffins, and I told them the "muffines are now past tense." 25 muffins quickly disappeared when divided between 7 children, 2 counselors and the camp director.

Yesterday I got a treat, too. We went for the afternoon to Kazimiercz Dolny, one of my favorite Polish towns.

Sorry to say I must leave on Saturday, but last evening I counted on my fingers and it is only 10 months until I come back!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday and Muffin Adventures

Boy! It was Monday. The children were moving slowly. I'm starting on a muffin adventure. I found a CD called Jazz Songs for Children. It included the song: Do you know the muffin man? I thought this would be easy to learn, but then -- there aren't muffins in Poland, so would the children know what the song is about? So today I started teaching the song using the CD. The song is sung by Ella Fitzgerald and the kids really liked it. Keep tuned for what will be happening with muffins this week.

In the afternoon I spent some time fine-tuning the class for tomorrow. We made a short trip to Kotun for necessary items such as krowki, the Polish candy that I love.

This evening was the lip-synch contest. Oh, what fun. The evening ended with a short concert by a boy who was a camper at one of the sessions I taught last year. He truly is a talented musician, singer, and dancer. I hear that he is going to be a TV production. It was such a treat to see him again. The evening is cool enough that we are wrapped up in our sweaters or jackets, although the day was quite warm. Travel planned tomorrow to one of my favorite Polish destinations.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Into the Weekend Adventures

Friday at last brought sunshine! I had my class outdoors for one class. We played the flyswatter game. This involves placing cards with words on the ground about a large space. The children then have to find the called word and hit it with flyswatter to claim it and then bring it to the teacher to check that it is the correct word. I've been working on colors and shapes so they had to find phrases such as black circle or red square or green rectangle. I also tried to teach Ships Across the Ocean, but the children couldn't get the idea of running and tagging a player.

On Friday afternoon we relaxed. It was wonderful to sit on the patio and simply read. I also enjoyed watching the dance class.

The evening activity was Blind Date or as we would call it in the US -- The Dating Game. I noticed the sunset was unusually beautiful and went in quest of some photos. When I returned, much to my surprise, the tent was empty. I learned the kids had become so mischievous, that the head counselor ended the evening activity very early and sent them off to their rooms.

On Saturday at 9 AM we all set off for Warsaw. The children went to a movie and then the zoo. We volunteers went to the Warsaw Uprising Museum and then spent some time in Old Town and walking along some of the more important Warsaw streets to see buildings such as the President's Home, here also called the White House.

Saturday evening was simply a perfect summer evening. Tennis seemed to occupy a large group of the children. I learned, however, after I went to my room, the children did talk the counselors into some disco time.

Today Sunday is quiet and slow. Many parents will come to visit. I'm occupied this morning with putting together materials for at least Monday and Tuesday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kids' Adventures

It dawned upon me later today to write something about what the kids do at camp. Their day begins at 7:30 AM with a morning run. Since I think there are many late conversations and other things such as TV watching going on late in the evening and into the early hours of the morning, this does serve to get the kids going. We teach English from 9:30 AM - 1:20 PM. Then we all have the mid day meal. When we are recovered we go back to the work room to prepare the next days' classes.

During the afternoon the kids have art, dancing, sport, and theatre classes. Evening events are varied. This evening we had the traditional talent show given by the children. The acts ranged from dancing, to piano playing, to card tricks.

Today public health officials were here today to make certain the food preparation is safe. However, in Poland, the public health officials also check on the children's schedules. For example, we teach until 1:20 PM so the kids have 10 minutes before obiad to wash their hands.

Thus far the weather has been too cool for anyone to enjoy the swimming pool. However, the tennis court continues to get a good workout.

Teaching Adventures Continue

My class is now learning to say the alphabet letters in English and spell their names with the English alphabet. When I first met them they could sing the alphabet song, but then I realized they knew that by memory, but couldn't say the names of the letters in English when asked to do so. We've also been working on before and after, for in worksheets I discovered they knew the days of the week and months of the years, but couldn't do a question such as: What day is before Tuesday -- because they didn't know the concept of before and after. Today we worked a bit on opposites and I also gave them a lesson about Hawaii for that was a state that interested them.

Last evening was camp initiation. In anticipation all the new campers and volunteers were anxious about camp initiation. I encountered a group of worried girls, and said, "I did it and lived." They replied: "You are an adult." Well for this initiation, they first got their faces painted by the counselors, then had to crawl through a tunnel made of chairs, then had to eat a slice of lemon, then had to drink a cocktail made of juice, catsup, mustard, salt and pepper, then put on huge boots and carry a ping-pong ball on a spoon, then take off their shoes and socks and walk over pine cones, and then finally kiss the nose of a statue. They received a diploma showing them they had done it!

Today because the kids were so twitchy I took them for an "I see it" walk. We got to the pond and were enjoying seeing the fountain work. Little did I know, my boy students were involved in turning the water on for the fountain.

Well, the good news is that tomorrow is only two classes! The other two classes will be presentations about the states where we are from.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Two Days' Teaching Adventures

I have a class of 3 boys and 5 girls. They are all from Siedlce, but go to different elementary schools, so they don't really know each other, but are beginning to be good friends. They know a lot of words, but don't know what to do with them. They also know some things by rote, but don't know what to do with that knowledge in an original fashion. We are working on becoming solid on the names of the days of the week and the months of the year, but in doing worksheets about that I discovered they didn't know the concepts of before and after. So that will be something to work on. Today I started to do the hangman game, and while they can sing the alphabet song, when they name letters they are still using the Polish alphabet, so we are now working on English pronounciation for the letters. They are a handful, but delightful kids.

Last evening was charades night, and of course volunteers were asked to participate. The charades thankfully were one word and I got lucky, drawing swimming, so I didn't have to make a fool of myself for too long.

This afternoon we went into Siedlce and met with the county governor for awhile. He is the "official" host. He is always most gracious to us. We did a bit of shopping afterwards. I renewed my supply of my favorite Polish candy, and also got some laundry detergent, so I can finally do laundry in the washing machine. After three weeks of travel, I'm looking forward to the washing machine!

This evening I took a walk up the road to see a horse stable operation that simply wasn't there when I spent a month on this road last year.

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Days' Adventures

We arrived at Reymontowka about 1:30 on Saturday afternoon. We were greeted with the traditional ritual of bread and salt which serves to tell guests that they will be fed well while visiting. This time we also were served homemade vodka, part of the upcoming wedding reception that would start about 5:30. The vodka was unusually good, but I still can't get it down with coughing! We went to obiad, what the mid-day meal is called in Poland. Then I showed everyone around the Reymontowka grounds. The rest of the afternoon was spent with unpacking and napping, as everyone else on this team had flown all the night.

Sylvia, a volunteer from Pennsylvania, and I went out by the pond about 5:45 to see what we could observed about the wesele-- the wedding reception. Guests were arriving, all dressed very elegantly. Then the bride and groom arrived in a restored 1930s covertible. Their arrival celebration included a toast with vodka and the singing of Sto Lat. Then the bride and groom shared wine together and the bride tossed the glass over her shoulder to the ground, where it broke obviously. The bridegroom carried his bride over the threshold and the party began.

Soon after we went for our evening meal. In Poland this is usually a small meal. We had all the salads, again thing elegantly prepared, that the wesele party was enjoying. We also got the same luscious dessert. Live music lasted until about 11:00 when I fell asleep. During the night I could hear CD music and people walking up and down the stairs, my room by the stair landing. I didn't sleep well, but the others slept through the whole thing!

When I got up on the morning about 6:45, the staff was busy turning the large tent over from a place for a wedding reception to a place for 60 kids to have a language camp. They had already done a remarkable piece of work, for a dance camp had only ended on Saturday morning, too.

On Sunday we did the usual Global Volunteers stuff- setting goals, describing an effective team, etc. After 8 trips this is old, but at the same time, it does serve to get everything and everyone off on the right foot. At 3:30 we all gathered in the tent for a meeting of all the students, teachers, and counselors. Dorota interviewed each student briefly to assess their English levels, and then assigned them into classes.

At 4:45 I met my class of 8 students, all from Siedlce, so I don't have to learn to pronounce the names of new towns! They appear to have good vocabulary, but now need help in learning what to do with it. So I'm guessing we will work on creating sentences. It's always a guess. By tomorrow I'll know much better what their skill level is and what they really need.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Moving onto Reymontowka

On Thursday afternoon in Torun, I went to the planetarium for the Macrocosmos show. It was wonderful. I got earphones so I could hear the naration in English. I didn't realize that astronony has grown and changed so much.

On Thursday evening I went to the Petite Fleur restaurant for the evening meal. I wasn't very hungry so I had the lobster chowder and sabayon for dessert. Both were wonderful. What made the evening memorable was that the electricity went out for about 20 minutes, and in a basement restaurant we really did dine by candlelight. Good thing they had been lit before all this happened. When I walked out of the restaurant I found the sun shining at last, so I went back and took a number of pictures, this time in sunshine.

On Friday morning I went to a salon for a manicure. Hey! that is a cultural experience too. Afterwards I got some ice cream and then a sandwich to keep my tummy full for awhile. I went back to the hotel, picked up my luggage and then took a taxi to the train station. My ticket for traveling 237 kilometers cost only 1 zloty more than the manicure. At the Warsaw train station, the escalator up from the platform area was not working. I hate walking up escalors because the rise of the steps is always too high for this short-legged person. I has wandered up three steps when a railroad maintenance worker came along and grabbed my suitcase and carried it up for me.

At Warsaw I got a taxi to the Airport Okecie Hotel, successfully avoiding the rogue taxi drivers. The hotel is such a blend of American and Polish ways of doing things that I kept forgetting where I was.

I left for the Warsaw airport about 8 AM and got organized to meet the incoming volunteers while Dorota was flying up from Krakow. Our team of 5 women plus Dorota left the airport about 12:30 and we arrived at Reymontowka about 2 PM. We were met with the usual ritual of bread and salt, but this time also with homemade vodka.

We had obiad and then did a tour of the grounds. This evening will be lively, for there is a big wedding reception here. Maybe more about that later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Relaxing Adventures

After working 60 hour weeks especially during the second semester, I wanted to relax a bit. Torun is perfect for that.

I'm staying at the Petite Fleur Hotel. Actually my room is in an apartment building about one block up the street, and of course on the top floor. It overlooks an interior courtyard full of pigeons. I didn't know that pigeons made so much noise. That must be why my grandparents had the pigeon coop a bit away from the house!!!

The food for breakfast is gourmet. That outweights the inconvenience of the pigeon serandade!

My first evening I basically only went to a sidewalk cafe for an evening meal. I was puzzled by the English translation: sun kotlet -- in other words, sun pork cutlet. I ordered it just to see what it was. It took nearly 40 minutes for the meal to reach my table. I don't think it took that long to cook, just an indication of the pace of life here. It turned out to be a pork cutlet encased in a nalepeski. I realized the next morning when I looked at the breakfast menu that the Polish word for sweet had been translated into the English word, sun, on the menu. Anyway it was very good.

Yesterday I mostly wandered about looking at buildings and visiting churches. The churches I first visited surprised me. They didn't look like Polish churches-- much too plain. Late in the afternoon I visited St. John's Cathedral and at last believed again I was in Poland. This church is amazing. It is parts from the 13th century and is an incredible mix of styles from across the ages. As one faces the amin altar, the stain glass windows on the right side are very subdued in color. I don't think this is because they are dirty, rather a difference in either the style of the time or the available materials. On the left hand side, the windows glow with bright colores. To give another example of the mixture, there is a side altar done with African figures, almost sterotyped African figures. It is obviously more than than 100 years old. Behind it, and almost covered up, is a bright new stain glass window honoring Pope John Paul II.

Yesterday I achieved one other goal. I went shoe shopping. I discoverd in Zakopane that I have Polish feet! At home if I go into a store such as Famous Footwear, I'm lucky to find one pair of shoes that fit. When I go into a comparable store here, everything fits! My greatgrandmother may have considered herself ethinically German, but she certainly gave me genes for Polish feet!

This morning I wandered to the New Town, named New Town in something like the 13th century. The buildings there make me think of L'Viv, complete with a Pod Lwem Apetka. Found a church there that looks like a Polish church, ironically one that spent about 200 years being a Protestant Church.

I went back to the area of my hotel, love how easy it is to get there, stopped at a piekarnia and bought an orange and did some gingerbread shopping. Then I went to the Copernicus museum for the light and sound show. My final goals for the day are to go to a planetarium show and then eat an evening meal in the restaurant of my hotel. The food is supposed to me a fusion of Polish and French food. Since breakfast is so good, I'm truly anticipating an evening meal.

Tomorrow I'll have a slow morning and then take an afternoon train back to Warsaw. On Saturday morning I'll be the Warsaw airport meeting the new volunteers coming in -- helping out Dorota while she traveling from Zakopane to Warsaw. Then we will head out to Reymontowka, near Siedlce, for two weeks. One thing I'm looking forward to is the washng machine. I'm getting tired of hand laundry!