Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Whew! Post Office Adventures

Yesterday, after shopping at two bookstores, I took some laminated handouts about using Excel and Powerpoint and the Internet to the post office and sent them by international priority mail to Poland. The country manager there for Global Volunteers will be traveling in late January (we will miss each other in the Amsterdam airport by 48 hours)to Tanzania where she will help the Tanzania country manager to use his computer. This is his first computer.

Today the Economist magazine published that there is now 1 computer for every American. That surely doesn't mean everyone has one, because many have more than 1 computer. The number of computers in Europe is 70/100 persons. The number in Asia is 20/100 persons. No number is given for Africa.

Today, with supplies I brought home from the post office, I packed up two boxes of educational materials that are to make their way to Hungary. The primary contents are copies of a textbook for a course I was asked to teach. These go to the U.S. State Department with a special address that means they are to go the Hungarian Embassy in Budapest, and then make their way a couple kilometers more the Hungarian Fulbright Commission Office.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Digging Out and Wringing Out Adventures

This is the headline from an article in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press today. The major snowstorm hitting our area turned to sleet and rain on Christmas Day. The area is now covered with 2 inch puddles of slush everywhere. Yesterday I went out looking for some computer handouts to help one of the African country managers for Global Volunteers (who went back to his home country with the first computer he has ever owned -- and with Internet available only 25 kilometers away!). I first went to drop a letter in a postal box and had to wade across the intersection. I decided this was ridiculous and continued on to the shoe store and purchased a new pair of boots. I thought perhaps I'd just pass this year, knowing I'm leaving January 25. It felt so good today to have boots with high thick heels as I wandered around the world today -- much better than wearing summer shoes! Give me snow anytime. These puddles of water everywhere are a pain.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Adventures with Snow Emergency

The network news is all abuzz with news of snow emergency here, like that is a big deal. A snow emergency happens anytime there is 3 or more inches of snow and it's a way to get the cars off the streets so they can be plowed. It is a drill, not an emergency!!! I've enjoyed watching all the go on from my third floor apartment, and loving again an underground garage.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Adventures Out the Window

Winter Bluff
Fall Bluff Day

Here are views from my apartment window. The wintery one was taken earlier this afternoon as I was intrigued with the snow sticking to the bluff rocks. The lower picture was taken only about three weeks ago when the beautiful fall clouds intrigued me. What a difference three weeks makes in the northern latitudes!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nebraska Adventures

I have returned from spending several days in Lincoln, Nebraska, visiting friends. Before leaving, I shopped at Trader Joes for some wonderful holiday cookies to take along. While waiting in line to check out I overheard that the clerk was originally from Nebraska. He said he was here "because nothing happens there."

Well, things do happen. On Friday we drove to Omaha. My friend is having a ring made from the diamonds from the wedding ring of her recently deceased mother-in-law. This is being done at a very interesting shop called Goldsmith in the Old Market Area. I did not escape the store without buying something. My treasure is a new pair of earrings with three pieces of colored glass coming from sea glass. The artist who made them is Charles Albert. After the jewelry store we walked to a nearby Italian restaurant we remembered and had a wonderful late lunch.

On Saturday my friend and I went to the Homestead Museum in nearby Beatrice, Nebraska. This is a national park providing information about the homestead process that allowed many to get their financial start in the United States - at obviously the expense of the Indians who had lived on those lands for many, many years. We saw an a truly amazing exhibit of photographs takes at pow-wows. I belive the photographer is Tidwell. Our primary reason for going was a display about different cultural customs associated with Christmas. After this visit we stopped for at a Runza fast food place, something one can only do in Nebraska.

Sunday found us having brunch at the Wilderness Ridge Restaurant. Everything served was wonderful. We enjoyed the architecture of this building as well as a very talented jazz musician.

Monday found us delivering cookies for a cookied exchange at my friend's place of employment. Then we went to a new restaurant, Cup and Bread, for lunch. I had corn chowder that was very good. If in Lincoln, look for this place. It serves a limited and changing menu of very good food along with beer or wine if desired. On Monday evening my friend's son came by and we went out to a new place, a combination Chinese buffet and Mongolian grille. Sounds odd perhaps, but the food is very good. After supper, he showed me a computer program he had written that enhances student registration for classes as well as giving faculty better information about who is registering for classes. I showed him how the software works that we use for online classes. Forty years difference in our ages, but we are both into the same thing.

Tuesday found me flying home without any much difficult. I felt like a fairy princess. One perk of this apartment is that one gets airport transportation. I got delivered home right into the underground next to the elevator that is the closest one to my apartment unit.

So one can do something in Nebraska.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

End of Adventures

This morning I took my friend, Dorota, to the airport for a 7 AM flight. We have done so many things since I last posted anything. We went Christmas shopping of course. I took her to brunch and discovered, despite the fact she has been in the states ten times, that this was her first experience with a buffet and going back to get more! I joined all the many here for Global Volunteers training for a Welcome Supper. Then a teammate I had worked with last summer came up from Florida for training as a volunteeer team leader. We all enjoyed supper together at Cafe Latte. Minnesota "instructed" her about winter snow and cold.

Many of us who have volunteered in Poland joined the Polish guests here for the Global Volunteers celebration at a lovely dinner at LaGrolla Restaurant. I planned to pick up the check for the Polish guests plus myself. Imagine my surprise when I looked in my purse and found I had forgotten my credit card. Some whispering to a friend solved that problem, plus a check quickly sent to her to cover my mistake.

On Friday, December 11, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Global Volunteers and had a great, great time. On Saturday we went to a breakfast where some planning was done for a 20th anniversary celebration of Global Volunteers in Poland. This will be in October, 2010, and alas I can't attend. Then we picked up a volunteer visiting here from Colorado and headed to the Minneapolis Art Institute to see the Louvre Exhibit.

On Sunday we truly enjoyed a "down day." It was great to eat breakfast and then not do much of anything else for awhile. Later in the afternoon we went to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre to see a production of Oklahoma.

I've got great memories of these past two weeks, and hope that in the interest of frugality, Global Volunteers again decides to ask families to host their international staff when they come here to work.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Party Adventure-- Cultural Adventure

I hosted my university department in the cybercafe room in my apartment building for a holiday party. It's a great space. First is the space really is space, quite spacious. Secondly there is a microwave and refrigerator and even a dish washer. There is a fireplace. If the weather would have been just a bit warmer, we could have walked outdoors only 30 seconds to find a view over the Mississippi River. I do think everyone had a good time.

This was a cultural event for my Polish friend who is staying with me. We do a white elephant gift exchange. White Elephant is not a Polish thing, but now Dorota says someday it will be. She will work into something in when she does an event with some friends. I got the most ghastly chicken that walks around and makes a lot of noise. Dorota got a three piece set that put together makes a snow man. I think maybe it's for serving snacks, but indeed it's a white elephant. The person who put this into the gift exchange said, "once it was cute, but not anymore."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday

For the second year my church holds a worship on Black Friday to think about what the season truly is. This year we thought and spoke about being able to say, "Thank you, I have enough." This Minneapolis newspaper did a story about this and other churches doing the same. In the story came the idea: Don't just trade presents, give to someone who can't give back." (For example, my work office is getting presents for a family we do not know.) One person commented on the story said this idea is socialism. Socialism?!? Some people must think that helping anyone for any reason is socialism. If this socialism, bring it on. One of the best feelings if helping someone who didn't expect it. Each time I've helped a family at Christmas, I find that the parents are very surprised to find something for them under the Christmas tree, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Last Day of Summer?

Fall grasses
November River View

I purchased a new camera on Sunday, one that I think will work better for my six months in Europe, and particularly in all the "baths" of Hungary. I tackled charging the battery last night. I didn't think it was working because the charger light kept going out. I decided to just leave it plugged in all night and voila! the battery was charged this morning.

We are on the cusp of a change of weather, from the very warm November we've had to something like regular winter. This morning began cloudy and rainy. I was startled to see about 2 PM that the sun was out. It seeemed smart to grab the camera and take a walk, for we may not see this kind of weather again for a long time. The colors of November are wonderful,another kind of beauty.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Misadventures by the Health Care System

I am a nurse, but there isn't much I like about our present health care system. I recently had an encounter with it because I had to get a physical for the Fulbright Award. Tonight I got e-mail messages about some bills I owe. One is for 49 cents and the other is for 81 cents. Just how much do you think it has already cost to prepare the "this is not a bill but an explanation of benefits" memos. Even though they were sent electronically, this had to cost more than will be recovered. My students find it hard to believe that we spend 20 cents out of every dollar on paperwork. This is certainly a perfect example of one of the problems!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I went for a walk at sunset and took some photos with the intent to post them. I came back and downloaded them using Picasa basically for the first time. (My new computer won't accept my old version of Photoshop and knowledgeable folks have told me to avoid the new version of Photoshop until some bugs are fixed in early 2010.) I didn't do something right to make them vanish from the camera so I deleted them by hand. Then I went back to edit the photos a bit and found they had disappeared, too, from the computer because I had not saved them correctly. Well, there's always tomorrow.

And then when I went to write this blog I found a comment from a reader that had been there for quite awhile without my acknowledgment. Comments used to go directly to my e-mail. So sorry to that reader.

Almost did something else wrong. I was convinced there was something wrong with the USB drives on the new computer, as if a protector had been left in place. Discovered that they simply look a bit different and that if I fiddle a bit everything plugs in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Surprising Adventures

I had to go for a blood draw this morning at 9 AM and then was planning to go to a lecture at the University of Minnesota at 11:30. Since the two locations were quite close, I packed my bag with work that needed doing. I planned to stop for breakfast in between the two events. However, when I got to the restaurant, I found out it was in the process of being turned into a tea house. So I headed for a coffee shop that I certain to still be there.

It was, I got my coffee and walked to a back room hoping it would be more quiet. I found a table and started to read. I looked up and there was a photo of a blue and yellow 2nd class Polish train car. There was a picture from L'Viv. There was a picture from Zakopane. Through no planning on my part at all I had landed right where a travel photographer had located Polish and Ukrainian photos! How nice to see these familiar images.

I also enjoyed watching a native-born Minnesota young man tutoring an African-born student. He would explain, demonstrate with his hands, do everything he could to get the idea across. Meanwhile, the African-born man had a look of intense concentration on his face. They were both engaged 110% in the activity. It was truly quite beautiful.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Adventure

I am writing this on my new computer. I gave this to myself for my birthday. Little by little I'm getting things organized on a new computer. It's a Dell and it is shiny blue. It has a bigger screen. I really like it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Adventures in the Hallway

Today students from the Hmong Academy were visiting our University. They appeared to be 8th or 9th graders. I got a sandwich and coffee in our coffee shop and was heading back to my office when a large group of students came out of a classroom. I stopped in the hallway for there was no where to go with so many in the hallway. Then I heard one boy announce: "Watch out. Don't run into that teacher person." I've been called a lot of things, but today teacher person was a first.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cooking Adventure

Today I found my work computer didn't work. I went over to the library to try to use one there. Then I decided to use the online catalog to find some books related to Hungary. One was a cookbook, but I ended up pulling the wrong one off the shelf. It looked interesting, so I brought it home anyway. While looking through it I found a recipe for raisin bread that seemed very interesting. I decided to get some yeast when I went out to mail an important letter. It took two stores to accomplish this! Came home and got it all together easily. I found my countertop works just fine for kneading bread. Now I wonder about how it work for rolling out dough for Christmas cookies!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Academic Adventure

Yesterday was the culmination of an academic adventure. Last spring at the faculty council there was a call for someone to serve as a faculty representative on the committee plan the inauguaration events for our new university president.I volunteered for it sounded interesting and would be a good thing to put on my list of "university service." We started in late April developing the themes and for the first time, figuring out how to incorporate the use of web sites with the events (First time because the Internet wasn't mature when last president was inauguarated).

To make a long story short everthing went off very well. The ceremony opened with Native American drumming. This culminated with the introduction of a dancing stick which the new president had commissioned. It was made by a Native American artist from Wisconsin and will serve in the role of "mace" in the future. Up to this point, the University had objected to the president having a mace, saying such an object was militaristic and weapon, not a symbol of education. Incorporated also was gospel singing. Nothing staid at our University!

The day continued with a reception and then later a dinner.

All went very much as was plannned except none of us had planned for a day of rain. A great day!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Walking at Sunset

High Bridge at Sunset

Concert Stage

We have had two days now with below normal temperatures after a month of above normal temperatures. The cold north wind finally went away this afternoon. (This had been much more than a nuisance -- the gusts were 50-60 MPH and some areas had damage.) I got home about 4:30 and sat down with a drink -- don't get too excited -- Diet Coke, while I waited for my dinner to warm in the microwave. By 6 PM I was enjoying the sunny weather out the window so decided to take off for a bit with the camera to see what was happening outside. Here are two pictures, one of the High Bridge at sunset and the other is a photo of a concert stage across the river on Harriett Island. One of the things I love about living in my new place is how I can find such beauty in about 30 seconds out the door.

Friday, September 18, 2009

September Walk Adventures

River Barges
Grain Terminal Historic Landmark

Today was the 10th day in September when the afternoon temperature rose above 80 degrees. Minnesotans are loving this. While I was in Poland, Minnesota and many other states was experiencing one of the coolest summers on record. Obviously it was too good a day to stay inside. So I abandoned the computer and went walking for a bit. It is such a joy to walk out the door and find all this beauty.

In this area there is a grain terminal now operated as a small museum. The grain terminal is now a historic landmark, so will stay part of the neighborhood forever. While I was in Poland it go a paint job and looks much better. It marks the time in which farmers organized into cooperatives to ship their grain via the river rather than the railroads which were charging exorbinant fees.

Moored next to the grain terminal are about 8 barges. I think there are staying there for a bit and will soon be filled with harvested grain, corn, and soybeans and then start the trip elsewhere.

The last photo is from the front of the building, the bluff side. There is small rain storage pond there. The fountain is pretty, but more importantly is designed as a way to continue to aerate the water so mosquito larva will not grow.

Love it here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Working on Problems

Today I called about the fact that delivery on Saturday was done wrong. I asked to have the delivery fee back and it worked. Now I'm the first on the list for Wednesday morning. I'm sure that means someone will be here at 8 AM, so I will get up early!!!

Today I was expecting paperwork from Hungary. I found a note that this was delievered to the office. When I went to the office, no luck! They said they would ask the UPS delivery tomorrow. About two hours later the office called back and said they had found the delivery!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Today I was expecting my new dining table and chairs to be delivered between 2:30 - 4:30. When I got a call today for a delivery of a bedroom set at 1:30 I said, "No, I was going to call to schedule that on Monday." We waited until 4:00 and when no table had appeared I started to call. Finally at 4:45 I found there would be no delivery because I had refused it. Now I have to wait until Wednesday. My daughter thinks I should ask to have the delivery fee refunded. I'm going to definitely ask for that!

Friday, September 11, 2009

More driving around

Out my windows I see a green space, then Shephard Road and then two railroad tracks. Actually the tracks are quite hidden right now by trees. Behind the tracks is a large wall, maybe 75 feet high. It is actually a reinforced bluff for the Mississippi River valley. The valley here is quite large, perhaps 3/4 mile wide, left over from the glacial days. I have been wondering what were the buildings on the top of the bluff. Then this morning I saw a Catholic sister walking about on the top of the bluff. After work I decided to go for a bit of drive to see what is on top of the bluff. I found it is the hospice operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor. A bit to the left is an old Victorian red brick house that is currently being renovated. So that's what is across the valley, and these seem to very nice neighbors.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Driving Around Adventures

Today I picked up my older daughter and we went on a driving adventure. During October I'll be spending most Mondays and Tuesdays supervising community health nursing students doing hearing and vision screening at various schools in the Hopkins School District. I went to find all the involved schools, as well as taking a long, boring drive to one school in the St. Francis School District. Now I have to photoshop the pictures and then post all this information on the course web site.

Along the way I tried to find a new backpack for my oldest granddaughter. Her father was supposed to buy this, but didn't. The day before school starts is not the time to look for a backpack, that's for sure. I did find some replacement for some of my Fiesta dishes that never got packed and moved. While doing that I found some bedding that I feel in love with, and now my bedroom is moving into a whole new direction. Hope to get things organized enough to get the new bed delivered some time next week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Views of my New Adventure

River Lights

New Kitchen

I've been in my new place for 3 weeks. Tonight I decided to walk out to see how things looked in the dark. Here is a view of the lights on the river. Most of the white reflections come from the lights on the High Bridge. My older daughter rode the school bus over this bridge every day when she went to high school.

I've been unpacking, sorting, and taking things to either Good Will or Artscraps. The kitchen is at least completely settled.

Today I bought a new dining set. It will be delivered on Saturday. Then perhaps will come pictures of the dining/living room area.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How we say Zywiec in Minnesota

My Polish readers will know exactly what Zywiec means in Poland, at least if one can write with a Polish keyboard and make the letters fit the Polish language. Here's what Zywiec means in Minnesota. I went to a meeting this morning and then to the grocery store. Right at the entrance was a display of sweet corn from the Zywiec Vegetable Farm in Cottage Grove. I brought some home even though on Polish Forums one writer said "only the very poor people in America eat corn." (Not all misperceptions live on the West side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Adventures in Perception

I know I had no idea of what Poland was like before I went the first time. However, what I've heard lately amazes me. I was with four teams of Americans while in Poland. One family said they wanted to visit a Communist country and were surprised to find Polish "people are just like us." I bit my tongue and didn't ask why persons in that family had not noticed 1989, the changes in Poland, and all the other changes in the former Soviet dominated countries.

Last night a potential volunteer called me. One of her questions was whether the hotels used in Poland would be clean. Clean! I've never seen anyone who cleans like the Polish! Why on earth would someone ask that question. Clearly there are some very great misperceptions in this country about Central Europe.

But one volunteer said she was going to go home and tell everyone to visit Poland. All she had heard about was Prague and she thought Poland and its beautiful cities are hidden gems.

Monday, August 31, 2009

View of the Outdoors

River View
Skyline view
Rain Garden

Park at the end of the complex

Here are some photos of the outdooor area of this complex. It is truly a treat to walk outdoors to all this beauty. Last evening I realized I was about out of coffee and that wouldn't make Monday morning go well. Then I remembered Caribou is at the end of the complex. I walked down there and got some Daybreak blend. It is simply a joy to walk around here. The photos show the view of the Mississippi, the skyline view, a formal garden, and a rain garden. There are two rain gardens for each building. These can hold excess rainfall and let the water run off slowly and not go head long into the river, perhaps carrying contaminants such a oil on the streets directly into the river. Finally a photo of the small park. This will be a great place for my new granddaugher, and the older ones have a place to run off some energy too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cooking Adventures

I've tried out my new kitchen making a sweet and sour pork dish. I've also started Caramel French Toast for breakfast. I've managed to make banana bread. The kitchen is working good. The appliances and the general area are laid out quite nicely. Won't have to cook much now for several days.

Still making haste slowly with the sorting out of the final boxes.

It's nice to have some of my favorite things out of boxes finally. My wood carvings from Poland are now all on a cupboard top over the refrigerator.

Today I took my new granddaughter for a "walk" in her stroller while her mom ran the trails along the river. I found a lovely garden down the path that I didn't even know was there. Pictures soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slowly Making Progress

I'm slowly making progress now on the hard stuff-- all the paperwork that needs to be filed in new places, the craft supplies to put away somehow, and the knitting supplies -- oh perhaps they can live inside a suitcase -- it shouldn't be put in the closet empty anyway. I've got the TV working. I bought a new HDTV monitor and have Direct TV, but still the problem -- 50 million channels and not much to watch. I'm working on getting a wireless connection set up for my computer. Right now I can't find any place to plug in the modem other than right by the dining table- which doesn't seem to be a good spot for that. Maybe when the bedroom gets empty I'll find another phone jack.

Getting my hair cut this afternoon. That's actually exciting. I've never before gone 2.5 months without a hair cut. Life was simply too busy in Poland to manage this task.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More Moving Adventures

I have about 10 boxes left to open and then the task will be to find a place for what comes out of those boxes.

I've been doing laundry almost continuously washing all the clothing that was packed and placed in storage as well as what I brought home from Poland. My older granddaughter begged me to do her laundry. Her mom has to take everything to the laundromat and my granddaughter got in trouble because she wore multiple shirts to Valley Fair. Well some from the little granddaughter was in the basket, too. I've just about emptied a box that started with 40 dryer sheets!

Yesterday I got a new flat screen TV monitor and today I got it hooked up. I know I'm visual from all the years I was in charge of videoconferencing for the health department. I went with a rather high end Sony monitor for it looked much better to me. A new monitor and high def-- it's a feast for the eyes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Yesterday I moved into my new apartment. We completed the move in at about 12:30 pm and since then I've been unpacking and trying to find a new home for everything. It's nice just to be able to take trash down the hall and down it goes into the trash chute. I can take the empty cardboard boxes down to the garage in the recyling area, so I don't have to wait for the recyling day to get rid of things. However, since this area now has access to many people I'm thinking I'll have to get a shredder to shred up anything with personal data.

I also have to buy one new TV monitor before having my TV service reinstalled. When things are more organized, I'll post some pictures.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back in Minnesota

I'm back in Minnesota after a fairly uneventful flight back. My seat lacked the entertainment center so that made the 8+ hour flight from Amsterdam every so much longer.

Breezed through passport control and customs. This year the question was not about just being in Poland like last year. When asked the purpose of my trip I said I was teaching English and got questioned about whether I was paid for this. Well, not in money!

I'm moving into my new apartment tomorrow and excited about this change in my life.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Last Day and Heading Home :(

I've finished my last class and now the next step is to clean up all my teaching supplies and get everything stored in a good place. We will have the final program with the parents attending at 6 PM this evening. After that I'll have to face putting the final things into the suitcase.

We will have breakfast at 7 AM tomorrow and then leave for Warsaw at 7:30. We will leave 2 team members in central Warsaw and then head to the airport. My plane leaves at 12:00 noon, I go to Amsterdam and then take a run across the airport to catch the 3:30 PM plane to Minnesota. That should arrive around 5 PM Minnesota time.

The next two days will probably find me quite jet lagged. I will also be moving my things out of storage to my new apartment on Monday. If I just live through next week, I'll have it made!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Talent Night

Unicyler in my class
Dancing Student in my class

Tonight was the talent show. I was surprised to find two of my students in the talent show. Also the student shown dancing also played in the piano concert portion of the show.

After the talent show, prizes were awarded for the cleanest student rooms during the camping session. The dancing student and her roommates won one of the prizes, as did one my students from last year. One of the boys in my class was part of the group that received the prize for the boys. I shouldn't be surprised. He has been quite responsible in picking up and cleaning up after class.

Tomorrow is the last day of camp and on Saturday I must go home. I wish I could stay for the next session.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camp Weddings

Wedding Palace Sign
Claire's wedding

We may think the children come to learn English, but their goal certainly is to have great fun. One of the highlights of camp sessions is camp wedding night, a custom that never would happen in the US if the camp director wishes to retain a job! However this appears to be a great Polish camp tradition.

Girls were observed gathering flowers during the afternoon, running through the halls planning their make-up and generally having a good time. Boys were involved in somehow fashioning wedding rings.

At 8 PM we gathered in the tent and 8 couples got married. The mariage vows include the bride's promise to wash socks and the groom's promise to make enough money to buy blueberry tarts. These promises last until the camp ends in two days! Some brides answered Nie to the sock question! Two of the volunteers got "married." One made sure that the marriage ended tonight!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Key Word -- Flexibility

It doesn't take long for new volunteers, without regard to where they are serving, to learn that the key word is flexibility. Things change at a moment's notice, usually without any upset in the host community, but upsetting to Americans because they believe things should be planned and carefully implemented.

This team goes with the flow. At the evening meal we believed that the evening's activity was the camp wedding night. About 30 minutes later we learned it would be tomorrow night instead.

I went out into the tent to observe one of the team members helping students learn Tae Kwan Do (sorry if I have misspelled). One of my students approached me and asked, "Where is Miss Dorota?" I explained that she goes home for the evening, and then asked if I could help. She said, "I must tell her that Mr. Steve will be getting a new wife." So stay tuned for the next report which may feature some wedding pictures.

Since there wasn't anything planned for the evening that needed English teachers, we decided to watch a movie instead. We chose Hangover, a movie set in Las Vegas.

It's hard to believe sometime that I'm not at home. It feels so comfortable and like home here.

Newspaper Article

For those readers who can read Polish, here's a link to the online edition of the Siedlce paper: http://www.tygodnik.siedlecki.pl/t6397-amerykanie.w.reymontowce.htm
Happy reading

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Manor House
Wooden Church

Yesterday I rode on the bus to Warsaw with the students. They went to a movie and then the Warsaw Zoo. I went with a volunteer, visiting Poland for the first time, to the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Following about a two hour visit I helped him find the Marriott Hotel where he met a bus for a city tour. I went nearby to a shopping center and broused the book store and then had a beautiful ice cream sundae in a shop. It arrived in a serving glass that had a stem at least 8 inches high. The only way to eat it was to hold it in one's lap!

At 5 PM, the volunteer returned and we went back to the shopping center for a beer before taking the train back to Kotun. Poland is beginning definitely to feel like home, as I find my way around with some ease.

Today was a quiet Sunday. Parents come to visit. I've spent the day doing this and that, but nothing exciting.

Thus, I have a chance to write about our visit to Sinoleka on Thursday. First, I don't have a Polish keyboard so I can't write the name of this place correctly. It is pronounced Shin-o-wen-ka.

We went first to Liw, which I wrote about earlier. Then our host decided to see if we might see Sinoleka. This property has recently been restored by the owner. It consists of a palace, a manor house, and a wooden church. The owner graciously showed us around the gardens, treated us to cake fresh from the oven, and showed us all the beautiful rooms on the ground floor of the palace. New volunteers are always overwhelmed when they experience such Polish hospitality.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Dating Game

Tonight the kids played, "Blind Date," a game that resembles the old TV program Dating Game. Three candidates are asked questions and then their answers are placed into a skit. For example, one boy said he wanted a girl with walnut hair after being asked for the name of a nut.

This is always funny to watch. However, we adults did have a ROL moment when one girl who wasn't chosen looked at the potential date and then jumped for joy that she wasn't chosen. She was still rejoicing and jumping for joy when she walked up the steps to the porch.

More tomorrow after I have a chance to download some photos and then write more. I enjoyed an afternoon of relaxation on what was simply a perfect summer day. We couldn't access the Internet because of a poles being taken down, I suspect by accident, and then shutting off the electricity to the server that provides our wireless service here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The day of wine

Today we taught two sessions of English and then used two session times for showing the film, Happy Feet, in English. Then we adjourned to the dining room to have lunch with the Siedlce County Governnor. Our meal began with a shrimp salad in half an avocado. We then had the usual course of soup, this time Polish white bean soup. We then had cutlet and french fries accompanied by cucumber is white cream. This was accompanied by a lovely red wine. We all enjoyed our conversation with the Governor very much. Marek, the Reymontowka Director, explained the camp will be my last "grupa" this summer.

Later in the afternoon we were treated with a concert by a talented young man. I've known him now for three years, and was surprised to see how much he has grown this past year. His music continues to be terrific.

We had spaghetti for kolacja, this meal also accompanied by wine to celebrate the promotion of one of our Polish English teachers. The evening activity was lip sync. I spent the evening doing class preparation. I learned I missed something. Our young man volunteer dressed like a Spice Girl.

I said this fun is the reason that volunteers keep coming back to Poland over and over.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Charade Night

At our evening meal we found flies in the pitcher of the juice. I took it out of the room and found a staff person and told her the problem in Polish. Then I saw what we were getting for supper -- one of my favorites. I said, "Great!" in Polish. One of the students down the hall saw these interchanges and said, "Pani speaks Polish."

Tonight we played charades with the kids. I got as easy word--toothpaste. We also sang the song, Kocham Cie Poland (I love Poland). I've been to many of the places in the song and the chorus is easy to sing. One of the students came to me and said,"Super."

Monday, August 3, 2009

New Camp

Our new camp is off to a start. I have 8 kids who speak a great deal of English. Now I'm trying to figure out how to challenge them and expand their English. Tonight was camp initiation. They tried to "initiate" me but I protested, saying it was my 10th summer camp, not my first. I'm feeling more and more satisfied that I have sought to know Poland deeper and deeper.

While waiting for the team to assemble on Saturday I was visited by my very first student that I taught in 2002, along with his wife. They are expecting a child in January. I gave them baby bibs with English sayings, explaining I was giving this child his first English lesson.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Visting Zamek

Castle at Liw
Blackened walls from burning during war with Sweden
Helmets on

We shared our home in Kiesielany with a couple from France who are adopting three Polish children. They told us that the castle is Liw was a very interesting place to visit. This appeared to be of great interest to our 17 year old volunteer very interested in middle ages warfare. So we went on Thursday afternoon. The tower seen in the picture is original, built in the middle 1400s to fortify the border between the Duchy of Poland and Lithuania. It is on one side of a small river which formed the border.

The blackened wall comes from the war with Sweden in the 1600s.

There is also a museum on side which has a large display of armaments from the middle ages through World War II. I was pleased to see a portrait of Dambrowki, the Dambrowki sung about in the Polish national anthem.

Talent Show Night

Ula and Waldeck Cash
Counselors having fun
Martin and his "supervisors"
Two campers singing friendship song

Talent Show night is a camping tradition. First we see the camp director and the sports director being Johnny Cash. Next the couselors having fun. The student campers very much enjoy both of these acts, seeing the adults in charge being silly. The students sing, play piano, display drawings, dance, and do martial arts. It is a very enjoyable evening. We get to see our students do something for which they shine.

Catching Up!

My student Ola and her family at Polish Night
Party from week one; at the left our Zymuntowka hosts and at the right Marek and Ella, our Reymontowka hosts

Zymuntowka-- Our home away from home is Kiesielany

We left Zymuntowka, where we stayed in Kiesielany at 7:30 AM this morning. We drove to Reymontowka to pick the volunteer who stayed here and left me here. The others are on their way to the Warsaw Airport and Dorota will bring back a new team this afternoon.

The second week of camp flew by quickly. I'll stop now and spend some time editing photos for a future post.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Week's End

The first week of teaching at this summer camp has come to an end. Last evening the students presented a Polish Night to acquaint volunteers with Polish history and culture. Then the Polish staff for this camp hosted us to a wine party after the campers' presentation. We returned to the tent to dance with the students until their "disco" ended. Soon I'll be able to dance YMCA in my sleep.

Hard to keep up on the blog when we are staying the most evenings and nights at a location about 25 minutes away that doesn't include WI-FI or other ways to access the Internet.

Hope to take some photos there later on today and will try for a more interesting posting on Monday.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to Warsaw, will stay there overnight and return from there on the same train as those volunteers coming back from a weekend in Krakow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Birthday Celebration

Volunteer Celebrating His Birthday

We are in our third day of teaching. I have 9 students. They are very nice children. They know lots of English words, but appear not to have concepts attached to them. For example, they can recite the months of the year, but couldn't tell me what month included Christmas or what month was the Polish Mother's Day month. We will have to work on attaching concepts to the words they know.

One of my team mates was suprised with a birthday celebration on Monday. More news to come when I can attach photos to the news.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ending and Beginning

Mountain View
Whole camp group

We ended the second language camp on July 17. Early on the morning of July 18 we left Zakopane, arriving at Reymontowka about 4 PM. It was a hot, hot day. I found melted chocolate in my pack. After meeting the team members I went over with them to place we are staying in Kiesalany. We are in very lovely bed and breakfast. The outdoor grounds are beautiful.

Sometimes things are met to be. We are sharing this location with a French couple who are here to adopt three Polish children. One of our team members is from Montreal and so speaks fluent French. Two other team members speak some French, and I'm an international adoptive parent.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Adventures

View in the Murzasichle Hills
Morskie Oko Rafter Guide
River Scene at Niedzica
Castle at Niedzica

On Saturday, July 11, about 8 AM, I moved over to the village of Murzasichle (Mursh-a-C-kla. It is located in the hill area of the mountains, about a 20 minute trip from Zakopane. This where I taught in the afternoons during the second week of the Zakopane camp. I had just put my things in my room when Dorota asked if I would like to go to Morskie Oko. Having never been there I quickly said yes. I rode in the bus with the campers and then met Dorota with her husband, mom, aunt, and two other family members. With Dorota's mom I elected to ride in a horse carriage part of the way up the mountain. This took about 25 minutes and took us up about 5 miles. Then we walked one more mile to the lake.

Morskie Oko means Hole in the Sea and is a lake in a high mountain area. We walked about the lake and then stopped for lunch. As we began walking down Dorota asked if I had my passport. I did, so when we got down and returned to the parking lot, we drove to Slovakia to buy chocolate! They dropped me later at the hotel in Murzasichle and then returned to Morskie Oko to pick up the other family members who had elected to walk/hike both ways.

On Sunday we left early for a rafting trip to Niedzica. I have wanted to see this location ever since reading Michiner's Poland. We stopped first at the castle, where we could see the ruins of another castle across the river, Dunajec. It is truly a beautiful area and I can see why this location has always been prized by the Polish people. Then we walked onto a nearby hydroelectric dam, which gave us views from the midst of the river. Then we were off to rafting. The trip took about 2 hours, we had absolutely beautiful, perfect weather, and it was great. Most of the time Poland was on our left hand side and Slovakia on the right hand side. One could easily see differences in spelling of words and building styles when we passed villages.

Monday I taught one hour and then was taken to Krakow to the American consulate. The traffic up and back was dreadful as usual between Krakow and Zakopane. I got to the consulate at about 1:15. This is American territory so there is paranoid security in place. I gave my camera to those that had accompanied me, but still I got in trouble with something in my purse. Turned out to the digital keychain. The security is managed by Polish employees of the consulate and they had never seen one of these before. This made my arrival to the desk for service during the usual Polish obiad time. I had to wait for staff to return. Once they did I easily was able to get the papers for my house sale notarized.

On Tuesday most everyone went to Slovakia to a water park. Kasia, one of the Polish English teachers, rode the bus with me to Zakopane. She helped me get the papers send via fast courier back to the United States. Then she departed to join friends. I went shoe shopping, come back with two new pairs.

That afternoon we got my computer set up to work on WI-FI in this hotel and I began to get caught up with e-mail.

Yesterday was a regular teaching day. I spent the afternoon getting a power point ready for the traditional presentation we do about our states. That happened this morning. Sunil and Beata, two of the Polish English teachers then did a presentation about India. After we all watched the movie, Bride and Prejudice, in English with Polish subtitles. Tonight is American night. We will be making S'Mores at the bonfire.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So Long, Farewell

Yesterday was farewell here. It always amazes me how we are strangers at the start, and there are tears of parting at the end. My class and I were both about "out of gas" yesterday morning. We reviewed what we learned through this camp experience and then practiced for the presentation we would give. The students kept making suggestions throughout the planning, and then came to me to ask if they could create a big surprise. Then we walked for ice cream, but when we got to the main street, they asked, "Do you want ice cream or do you really want a big Polish doughnut?" I knew the answer was to choose the big Polish doughnut -- pascki. Then the question was my choice for the filling in the pacski. They went into their wallets, over my protest, to collect out the groschen to pay for this.

But before, while we were gathering to make the trek for ice cream, the students surprised me with a gift. It is a Zakopane T-shirt with Polish words relating to things one finds around Zakopane. They kept talking about the sacrifice it is to come here. I protested to tell them it's the best time of the year for me. The shirt fits perfectly. How they did this, I don't know, for I wouldn't know what size shirt to pick out for myself.

In the afternoon two of the volunteers and I went to the John Paul Church. I advocated that they do this explaining this is one of the treasures of Zakopane. I was glad I did for I saw more there than I ever had before. (Maybe pictures later-- in the rush of packing to move to a new location, pictures aren't downloaded.) We then wandered up Zakopane's main street, and to keep out of the rain for awhile, we ducked back into the same place as I was in the morning and had more pascki.

In the evening we volunteers wandered next door to have a drink together before the final program. The program started with one group totally surprising their teacher with an entirely different presentation than the one they had been practicing. They ended up turning over their notes to display a sign "We love you Ginny."

My students' big surprise was acting out and singing music from Shreck. At the conclusion of the individual class programs the students sang a song they had composed to thank each of us for coming. Then we settled in for some dancing time.

The students want to know if I will come back next year. I am explaining that I think that with my stay in Hungary in early 2010, I will have used up all my available time in the EU for a 12 month period. One goal is to find someone to better explain to me the Schengen regulations.

One volunteer had to leave early this morning, so I am up very early, have sent her on the way to the Krakow airport with the camp director. She wasn't expecting breakfast this early, but there it was for her. We sat and talked and decided the difference between Poland and some other countries in Europe is the warmth of the Polish people. In another country, one might have received breakfast, but here it is as if a friend does this for you; it doesn't feel like a business relationship.

I'm expecting a ride over to my location for the next week at 8 AM. Need to get back upstairs to do the final packing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Random Adventures

I've been more than a little busy these past few days. I got up on Saturday morning to find our team leader, Dorota, stunned. She had just learned that 5 volunteers, all from one family, were not coming as volunteer teachers for the language camp beginning that day. She asked if I would consider teaching there too. Thus I cancelled all the personal travel I had planned for the week of July 11, and have been doing double duty since Monday, July 7th. Also on that day my group increased from 6 to 11 students because 3 people on this team stayed for only one week. I teach in the morning, and then am transported about 25 minutes to the location of the 2nd camp and teach there in the afternoon.

I'll be moving there on Saturday when this camp ends and staying for one week. This location seems remote even though it is very busy with many, many tourists. After three days I've yet to find the post office and the bank-o-mat. The new hotel is pictured here with this entry.

On Sunday I went with this group of students to Krakow, but spent the day bumming around alone, doing things I've missed on other trips. One thing that intrigues is religious art. I read a thesis last year that the religious imagery changed in the early 15th century as a way to convince the common people that they were obligated to fight for the kings and other rulers. Poland has old, old, religious imagery. The photo is one that shows paradise, rather than Christ suffering-- the view that became more prominent.

Finally, a group of our present students goofing around. I told them I had been to Poland one, two, three, four, five, and now six times and they had created a new experience. They all cheered. These kids are absolutely the greatest. I'll surely be sad to part with them on Saturday!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Continuing Adventures

Here is a picture of our team for the first langauge camp in Zakopane. Three of them left this morning so beginning on Monday we four remaining will have larger classes. We received bad news, too. A second camp is beginning today in a village near Zakopane and a family of 5 from the US cancelled out because one became so ill that she is hospitalized in London. I'll start working, too, with the second language camp and will cancel all my personal travels between July 11-17.

The prize medal comes from the trivia contest the students did for the volunteers. I answered the tie-breaker question -- who is the premier of Poland? I knew it was Donald Tusk. The medal is an example of the art work Polish kids do all the time. It's too bad we somehow give American kids messages that they cannot draw!

Adventures elsewhere-- All my property in St. Paul sold within four days. With the recent housing market - who could believe this would happen? Papers are coming that need to be notarized. This is a foreign process, something not ever needed in Poland. I had it worked out, possibly, to do this with the consulate office in Poznan. So I said the "cost" of doing the extra language camp is that someone will have to help me get this done somehow elsewhere!

If the Zakopane weather cooperates, I'm going up the mountain today-- on the lift! I'm the only volunteer in Zakopane today, others leaving for the US or visiting in Krakow. It's nice that Dorota is so confident about my ability to manage alone in Poland that I can run around alone without anyone worrying about me!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Visiting the Museum

Today my students and I visited a nearby museum that has an exhibition of art created by children. Here are examples of what we saw in a style that very much intrigued me. How is this English class? I asked each to select something to describe to me. For example, in this picture, the student knew parachute, but didn't know we call this sport parasailing in English in the U.S. We returned to read a story about learning from an elephant about finding one's center and then discussed how we each do this for ourselves. This should give readers an idea of the level of English that the students speak and comprehend. We finished with singing Polish songs and now I must go an do my homework in reviewing the lyrics to one so that I can sing it in Polish later this evening.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

News from Zakopane

It's Day 3 already. We've finally been able to solve the WI-FI problem in the hotel. On Sunday when I walked to the main street in Zakopane I found these elephants on display. They had something to do with Poznan where I'll be going later in July. I couldn't quite make out what this was all about and planned to take my students along to translate for me. However, yesterday they were gone so it remains a mystery. Instead the area has turned into an outdoor movie theatre, and perhaps on Friday night I'll walk down to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding!

I have a wonderful group of 6 students (12 next week). We been reading from the book, The Latehomecomer, reviewing phrasal verbs, and writing descriptive essays. They all have a very excellent English vocabulary and write very well in English, too. Conversations flow from global warming to the problems in the Ukraine now that the Tartar people who were banished to Mongolia are beginnning to move back. Today we walked along the main street in Zakopane, and I asked questions. I now know that wstep wolny means something is free. That's a good phrase to know.

Monday afternoon was very rainy and not a good day for hiking, so in the afternoo we all went for a very long bus ride up in the mountains. Some of the mountains are still have some snow in the valleys, something I don't remember from last year. Yesterday afternoon, I got my train tickets for next week's adventure. Dorota and I also searched many grocery stores trying to find marshmallows, something very hard to find in Poland. We had success finally. Last evening many of us walked over to a nearby church and enjoyed a concert by a high school choir from England. The singers seemed to be delighted with their reception. I think they were unsure about what to expect.

The food is wonderful. For me, it's enjoying old favorites like pickle soup, while all those new to Poland look at this with wondering. Hope the Internet speeds up so I can write something more interesting another time.