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:
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.