Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Poland Adventures Continued

On the second day of my Poznan visit, David and Joan picked me up about 10 AM and we drove to the Kornick Castle. This is an amazing place. It is indeed a castle but very different than any other that I've seen in Poland. For photos I invite you to again to David's blog:http://www.david-polanddavid.blogspot.com/
Once there look for the entry for Saturday, March 27. Also look on the right hand side of the page for a photo slide show from Kornick. Unfortunately, this was a rainy day so we could not enjoy the gardens at this site. I did, however, notice some bluebells blooming not far from the drawbridge that leads to the castle.

We next drove to Smielow. This palace has been turned into a museum honoring Adam Mickiewicz who was apparently more admired in this area of Poland than anywhere else in Poland where he is also highly regarded. The above is a photo of a painting showing what this palace looked like in the 19th century.

Here is one room of the  decorated for living rather than as a museum. Again you can see many other photos from this visit by looking at David's blog as noted above.

We ended our time together with a very nice dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Poznan.

On Sunday morning I was up early for breakfast. In fact, I was there before breakfast was open and had to "please wait 5 minutes" while the hostess went to the kitchen to get the scrambled eggs. I had a taxi coming at 8:30 so wandered to the lobby and found the taxi driver just pulling up. He was dressed in a suit and tie -- maybe planning to attend to church some time during the morning. I got to the train station in plenty of time to catch the Berlin-Warsaw Express again right on time at 9:28..

I found both the Poznan train station and the trade fair building to be built in the somewhat ugly 1950s style found many places also in the United States. This is the first train station I've seen in Poland that wasn't built in a somewhat classic style.

These buildings certainly don't fit with the rest of Poznan which is very attractive.

Near Konin the view out the window began to turn into the Poland I've found in my other visits. The area around Poznan is different because the farm lands are very large and quite large equipment is used as well. There are also few buildings in the country side.

I transferred in Warsaw to another train and arrived in Siedlce at 14:30 as planned. Dorota and her husband were waiting for me. We went to her mother's home for a wonderful Poland obiad. Later in the evening we went to the film, Desert Flower. This is a very powerful movie about Waris Dirie. Looking around on the Internet I find this book was called a best seller in Europe. I'm not certain it received the same standing in the United States. However, the issue comes to us in Minnesota because we have many residents and citizens who have experienced female multilation right in our community. I sat in the movie thinking of all the students I've had who had C-sections as the result of this happening to them as a child or young woman. I remembered sitting in a presentation by Women from Africa where one woman described how she asked her mother how this could have happened to her.

On Monday morning Dorota and I went for a drive. She took some invoices for school furniture to Cisie School, a place that I have taught twice. It was so very good to see teachers with whom I have worked. And I was privilieged to see the Global Volunteers child sponsorship money in action. Then we drove to Reymonotowka so that Dorota could also work on some Global Volunteers issues. We found a construction project in place. The driveways are being redone so that the spring "mud" can be eliminated. Also, some of the bedrooms were being readied for a painting. It was good to be at Reymontowka again, but it seemed strange to see it empty-- rather than with 60 kids buzzing around. All this work is being done now because the time of Lent and Easter is when Reymontowka is truly empty as events such as weddings do not take place. I got to see many staff members at Reymontowka.

Later in the afternoon the three of us went east of Siedlce to visit the palace at Kroczwe. This palace was originally built in 1734, rebuilt 100 years later and again remodelled in the 1930s. The same family lived on the property for 300 years and then lost it during the Communist years. The government allowed the property to fall into ruin. In 1992 the family recovered the housing area, but not the surrounding land. They have since started dairy and fish operations as a way to make an income to help restore the palace as well as to create jobs in the local area.

The palace definitely has "good bones" as the real estate agents would say.

Here is the central hall.

Here is a bit of the gold rococo in the ball room which still needs much loving care.

Here are a couple of photos of wooden floors in the palace. I enjoyed seeing this palace very much.

And from the first time Dorota and I entered Cisie until we returned home from this drive, we kept seeing storks. The final count was 10 -- spring is definitely getting started. I've never before seen so many storks in one day. All but one were in  nests. The exception was walking on the ground probably looking for some food.

Today Dorota and I went to Prus high school where I met with some of the students that were in my English classes last year in Zakopane. What a treat to see these young women. Hope some of them will in fact be in Zakopane again this June.

We went next to lunch at a new restaurant in Siedlce. It's English name would be Crepes/Pancakes around the World. In Polish it is nalesnikis. Studying the menu revealed one choice was Amerikanski, which were plain nalesnikis with maple syrup -- a good choice for an American who has been out of the States for 2 months.

I took the train into Warsaw late in the afternoon and arrived at my favorite place, the Boutique Bed and Breakfast. I got to the B&B just when the English speaking staff was leaving, but they were all ready for me with a handout to help me if I found only a Polish speaking staff person. Much to my surprise they gave me the Queen Apartment. This is actually bigger than my flat in Pecs and nearly the same size as my apartment in Minnesota.

Take a look!

I had a great time in Siedlce and am looking forward to meeting other friends tomorrow in Warsaw.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Visiting Poznan

I had a very nice breakfast at the hotel and then walked around outside a bit trying to find a bankomat. No luck! I came back and read my e-mail in the lobby of the hotel.

At 10:00 David and Joan picked up and we visited many things in the city. Here is a picture of the rynek here. For other pictures, go to http://www.david-polanddavid.blogspot.com/ and find files that say Lori's visit. There are many pictures there.

One photo that is not there is above. These are Chopin pastries! Amazing!

The spring weather was great and we had a very nice visit everywhere. It was great to be outside and enjoying the sun!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Arriving in Poland

My fellow Fulbrighter and I took the Eurocity train from Berlin to Poznan without any difficulties. We had a compartment to ourselves and the ride was both smooth and interesting. Certainly we traveled through historic territory that now seemed very quiet and peaceful. Lots of pine and birch trees. Poland certainly has many different geographic features. This area certainly looks much different from Zakopane and Krakow and then again much different from Siedlce and obviously much different from Torun.

David and Joan treated me to a nice coffee after arriving and then later we went to dinner at a lovely place in Poznan. I enjoyed the afternoon and evening very much in Poznan and looking forward to the sightseeing we are doing here for the next two days. Nice break after stimulating and busy work for the past two months and the over the top conference that I experience in Berlin.

One thing almost every Fulbrighter believes is that the experience allows one to get out of the narrow box that most of us are in during our regular teaching experiences. It is wonderful to learn and experience other disciplines.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fulbright Seminar Day 2 and 3

These have been two intense and powerful days of learning. We walked to the nearby Academy of Music to hear presentations about various Fulbrighters projects.

The presentations were grouped into three areas: Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Area Studies. The topics ranged from Kate Dervishi, a painter, learning how to make 3-D models based on the German film expressionists so she could bring scenes into her studio to paint, to Evan Torner who is studying how Indians and cowboys are presented in German films between 1962-1985, to Brady Shinn who is using participating in a soccer league with Turkish youth as a way to study their religious practices to Moran Levy who is comparing water management between the California Delta area with the Dutch Delta area.

These presentations were followed by a Barbara Kisseler, Head of the Senate Chancellery. She gave a short address and then took questions from the Fulbrighters. These questions ranged to what kind of religious instruction is and should take place in public schools to can Berlin afford three opera house, to what are the long standing feelings among the German people about reunification. We were all very impressed with her translator who appeared to translate Kisseler's answers into English and record that in a kind of shorthand. Kissler would talk for nearly 5 minutes and when finished her translator would then do the answer in English.

The morning events were followed by a reception with all kinds of drinks and light food. I had what appeared to be a chicken finger placed into a shot glass that contained some vinegary ketchup.

We had the afternoon free and I took off for a walk along the Unter den Linden. Below are some things that caught my eye.

A cute sculpture

Why I couldn't get lost. The building is the hotel, 40 stories high, one of the highest buildings in Berlin, next to the TV tower. One can appreciate how high the tower is after knowing the hotel is 40 stories!

The contrasts all over Berlin -- a very new building, set against an old structure and next to a construction crane for yet another building.

Another view of construction

Just a bit of the Russian Embassy. This building is 1.75 blocks long and I have no idea how deep. The remained for the second block holds the Aeroflot offices. It must have been an overwhelming presence in a divided Berlin and Germany.

A book sale by Humboldt University. The books were on the street and one went into the building to pay. Can you imagine this happening in the United States?

In the evening we went by bus to the University of Arts Concert Hall. The evening's activity was a concert presented by Fulbrighters studying music.

The concert was magnificent! That is the only word for it. It ranged from Vivaldi's Concerto in C-major featuring Bianca Garcia,the best piccolo flute player in the United States, to Michael Compitello presenting Drukman's Relections on the Nature of Water, played on the marimba to Darius Brubeck presenting selections of African jazz that he composed during his first Fulbright. Brubeck is now doing his second Fulbright in Romania.

Here are some of the musicians at the conclusion of the concert. The two women with flowers on their heads presented Poulenc's Sonata for Clarinet and Bassoon in a comic manner.

Day 3 began with a panel called European Dimensions. We heard from Fulbrighers working in Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain and Norway.

My Fulbright colleague, Mark, presented about teaching English in a high school in Pecs. Tom Berry, a fellow Minnesotan, who is in Sweden, observed that the Fulbright experience allows one of get out of the usual box of learning and working. That idea is right on and what this conference has been about -- so many new ideas that have very little to do with health care.

I next went to a panel discussion about what student life is like during a Fulbright experience. I came away with the idea that there isn't a single method of European university education. What the students were complaining about in their universities is a 180 difference from what is troubling me about how I have to teach the doctoral nursing courses in April.

Our last session concerned Transatlantic Politics. During this conference I have learned of the huge support the German people have for Obama. And the health reform legislation has received a lot of discussion and postive acclaim in Germany. Karsten Voight, the former Coordinator of German-American Relations, brought this into focus by observing that how we [Americans] handle domestic issues does more to shape the European perception of America than does our foreign policies. He also said that most Europeans think social equality is a necessary condition for democracy. Thus they applaud the US health reform bill bringing almost universal access into place. Voight said more low income people in Germany participate in elections than do so in the United States because they feel like they are indeed part of the country.

I did a bit of wandering about this afternoon and can add a couple of scenes. I call the above, "really fast food." The vendor carries the cooker on his waist!

I was also amused by the candy selection in the nearby Galeria department store.

Tomorrow I head for Poland.

A request to readers -- what do you think of the idea that social equality is a necessary condition for democracy? Have you thought about health reform in this way? I'd be interested in your comments as would perhaps others who read this blog.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fulbright Seminar Day 1

I woke up early and wandered down to breakfast. Because it was early, it was quiet with few there. Then a Fulbrighter asked if he join me. He is one of the first people in our country who has received a PhD in dance history. He now teaches at Rutgers. It turned out he was originally from Grand Forks and he was concerned about his father and the Red River Flood. After breakfast I found out how to connect to the Internet and certainly hope the hotel honors the discount price we are supposed to have for our Internet connection. When I went down to the lobby there was the same guy again and I told him what I read about the Red River flood on the Internet and that relieved his mind.

We were all taken to Humbold-Universitat for a presentation about the economy. This University looks much like one would expect in Europe --Classic buildings and stone walks.

I particularly enjoyed the stain glass windows in the building where we went for the presentation. When the presentation ended I just followed the group out to a bus. However, soon I realized this bus was not returning to the hotel. I asked the students if they spoke English -- of course, and learned they were all going to a special session. As we arrived at the site, I knew I was somewhere by the Berlin Hbf, so started to walk over there to get myself back to the hotel.

The day was sunny with a nice temperature, so this mistake could have been much worse. The walk allowed me to get a photo of the Reichstag.

Then the route took me over the River Spree.

I got back in time to attend a session on the how the Bologna process, a reform movement for the European higher education system is changing education and how it affects the ability of European students to study both in the US as well as in other European countries.

After I went to the nearby Galeria to do a bit of food shopping. The store is offering for a limited time Tom Drag sculptures. They are on sale and also on display all over the store. The photo below may give you an idea.
I chose something to buy because I thought I'd never find anything more unique to bring home. Then after paying for my choice, it took about 15 minutes to find the box for it and then about five minutes to figure out how to get the sculpture into the box.

A a result I almost missed the bus to the evening activity. Ironically, the destination, the Center for World Cultures, was back to the place where I was at 12:30 by mistake. For me a highlight of the evening was flute and piano music prepared by two former Fulbrighters. Their selections were Central European composers and it was great. The speeches were good too. We were welcomed the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The major presentation was given by Dr. Weisazaker who spoke about what went wrong at the Copenhagen meeting and then concluded with the positive ideas about how we can deal with climate change.

We then, now a group of 650 persons walked down two levels to a reception. Believe me, it took awhile to get this many people through a buffet line even though there were 3 buffet lines. We were to find our own way back. We ended up with the 100 bus which went from this site back to Alexanderplatz where our hotel is located.

Tomorrow we head to the Academy of Music as our venue.

Hello from Berlin

On Saturday I traveled to Berlin. The Pecs shuttle picked me at about 13:10 and then we went to Kaposvar. I enjoyed the ride, seeing new country. The trip through the Mescek Hills was great. We  picked up Richard and Wendy there and then proceeded to the Budapest airport. Our flight was uneventful and even early .We found it easy to find the express bus that took us to Alexanderplatz without too many intermediate stops. After checking in we went over the S-Bahn station to look for a bite to eat, and ended up at a Fish and Chips place. Then I came backed and crashed into a very comfortable bed. I had been up until 1:30 AM dealing with a piece of malware that had gotten onto my computer, so arrived in Berlin a bit tired.

On Sunday morning I dragged myself out of bed and went to Berlin hbf. The reason was to buy train tickets for the upcoming trip to Poznan and also to meet a fellow Fulbrighter coming up from Hungary on the sleeper train. I also really wanted to see the station after seeing some video of it on You Tube. As you can see it all glass. One gets an amazing feeling inside. It is so light and airy.

Above is one view from inside. I got the tickets, again encountering an angel. The process is automated, but requires one first to make the reservation and get a print-out and then stick this into a second machine to pay. I couldn't make the machine read the bar-code, so finally had to ask for "real person" help. The woman told me if I bought the ticket from her it would cost an extra 50 euros, so she got up from behind her desk and walked with me to automated machines until we could make it work. Since 50 euros is about $75 she is indeed another one of the angels for the this trip.

In the afternoon I went on a tour related to the American influences in post-war Berlin. The guide was great and I surely learned a lot of history.

Here is a picture of the Brandenburg Gate. The line of bricks moving in a horizontal directionon the bottom of the picture mark the place of the Western wall of the Berlin Wall. I didn't realize until this tour that this Wall was in fact two walls with a "dead man's zone" of about 1 kilometer between the two barriers. The American Embassy is the right building on the right side of the gate. One thing I learned is that the wall was built because Berlin was open and something like 5000 people were walking from East Germany to the western side of Berlin everyday and never returning. One day 22, 000 people walked away and that was the final straw for the Communist government and led to the Wall.

Turning just the left from where I was standing when I took the photo of the gate, one can see one of the towers on the Reichstag.

Loved the tour, learned a lot.

In the evening we had a bit of welcome speeches and then a very fine dinner. Richard and Wendy and I started out together, but then we found a lone German Fulbrighter from Colorado, so he joined us. We had a lovely dinner conversation.

Now I'm off to a day of presentations and then the formal Welcome event this evening. And the sun is shining. Hurrah.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring has sprung!

Today I worked on a course for the doctoral nursing classes that  will I teach in April. The sun made the room warm, so warm that I opened the terrace door for the first time! I have been hearing birds too.

I went out this morning to change dollars for Euros to use when I'm in Germany. I was surprised at the changes since yesterday.

This sidewalk cafe has popped up!

This afternoon I just had to get out to the sun!

Every since I have been here, this building had a fence around it and the news that things were falling off the building. Something is happening now!

I went to get wine to take to dinner tomorrow night and then checked out the Ter. Progress there too. Today I watched the street being built. This is an art. Finding the right size and shaped stone and then putting it in place and then finding the next one. And if it is not the right stone, hit it and change the size and shape.

Notice the string to keep thing straight.

I fiound a poster about the election coming up in April. Sorry the picture is bad, but this is only sign like this I have seen.

I found the door open to the marzipan shop and got this picture. The shop is so small one can't take the picture inside.

 It looks like a cake but it is really marzipan candy.

What a difference a week makes. Last Thursday this square was covered with snow when the Metropolitan State students were here. Look at it today.

Hey Minnesotans! Can you believe this is the same street you started down to the train station?

I finished off the right.

This is lemon seft -- lemon ice cream with Hungarian champagne!