Friday, December 30, 2011

Finding Poland in Minnesota

A couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail which among other things announced there is now a Polish grocery store in NE Minneapolis. I headed off there today to find it. I quickly learned there is a huge difference in location between Washington Avenue N and Washington Avenue NE. Finally found the right address and knew I was at the right place even though it looked very nondescript.
From the Facebook page for the store, I knew that the sign from the store had been stolen on Christmas Eve.

Inside it's really a piece of Poland.
 I was walking from aisle to the next when I noticed a woman carrying a shopping basket. The first thought in my head was that I goofed up in forgetting to do this. Then I remembered I was in Minnesota and I could act like an American while shopping!

You know it's a genuine place when you find kisiel.

I didn't buy that -- in fact I won't even consume it in Poland even when trying to be very polite and culturally appropriate. This is simply not a "food" that an American can appreciate!

Here's what I did bring home. Anyone who knows me well knows I'm very happy to find the juice!

Inside the store I really felt like I was in Poland. No one was speaking English. When I checked out I said, "Dziekuje" and the young man replied, "Witamy." Now that has me stumped! 

This store is located in a very good neighborhood for its intended clientele. It is one block from Holy Cross Church, the principle church for the Twin Cities Polish community. Also in the same neighborhood about one block away are also the Ukrainian Catholic Church and a Maronite Catholic Church.

I came home to find a holiday card from one of my Polish students. And earlier this week I found a question on Facebook from another Polish student to whom I have taught English asking me to explain the idiom, easy-going.

It's 132 days until I leave for Romania and now 172 days until I'm on my way to Poland. Love traveling! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

We're Havin' a Heat Wave

 --- a tropical heat wave? Today I decided to brave the crowds and go to IKEA to see if  I could find a floor lamp. The one in my bedroom went kaput last week, and since there isn't a ceiling light in my bedroom I do need a light of some sort. I've had my car monitoring information set to metric so I can learn the "cold" temperatures in the Celsius system. However, when I got into the car the air temperature was 10 Celsius, hardly cold. I thought it was because my car is parked in an underground garage, but the temperature stayed there -- it really was 10 Celsius or 50 degrees Fahrenheit here today. This evening I learned I learned this temperature broke a record set in 1936 so it is the the warmest December 26 I've ever seen -- and the odds are the warmest I will ever see. Life certainly is easier when one is not battling snow and ice.

Happy Kids

We had our family gift exchange on Saturday, Christmas Eve Day, since Christmas fell on Sunday when my daughter and the grandchildren spend an extensive time at their church. The kids had a great day.

Here's my little granddaughter all dressed up like a chef.

And now playing nurse:

My grandson wanted a portable DVD player very much. He go lucky. A couple of Sundays ago I took some of the Global Volunteer country managers shopping. They are savvy to the U.S. ways, asked me to stop first for a newspaper so they could get the shopping coupons. Later in the day I was looking through the various ads before putting them in the recycling bag and discovered a very good player was on sale that day at Target so back shopping I went. I got the very last one available in that particular Target store. He might never have received this gift had it not been for the GV country mangers!
My older granddaughter spent time with me in Poland this past summer. She discovered some lotion there that she really liked. She asked, "Will you get me 100 bottles so I will have enough until you go back to Poland next year?" I set my goal for 10 and it took shopping in Warsaw, Siedlce, and Kielce to acquire that many. Often this lotion would have an empty shelf. We were not the only ones who liked this particular blend.

My older daughter and I spent a quiet Christmas Day. It was lovely!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Brown? Christmas

Here's another view of the river bench. It looks a bit different than the photo in my blog from December 6.

There is a bit of ice in the river in areas where the current is slow.
 Strange weather!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sister's Catechism -- What Happened to the Magi's Gold?

Today I did my walk down the street, up the elevator in the Science Museum Parking Ramp and then on to the Ordway Theater. I attended Sister's Catechism -- What Happened to the Magi's Gold? I didn't know exactly what to expect and when I looked at the program I was further confused. There was no listing of characters or scenes in the program. It turns out that is basically a one-woman show and the audience is part of the cast.

Sister made a couple of ladies in the audience take tissues and cover up their cleavage! She chided those looking at their programs and not paying attention to the "lesson." People were given "prizes" for good behavior!

She inquired about the first names of the Virgin Mary's parents. One man popped off the names and then later easily provided the given names for the three Wise Men.  When asked if he had attended Catholic school he answered, "Yes, nine years of H*ll."

As the program developed Sister explained she was a great fan of Forensic Files and so wanted to solve the mystery of what happened to the Magi's gold by recreating the scene and the considering motive and opportunity. To re-create the Nativity scene, audience members were recruited and then dressed in the best clothing that one could purchase from the Good Will -- not just clothing -- robes for Wise Men were made from drapes and table clothes!

 The mystery was solved, but I'll not tell. You will have to figure it out for yourself.

Here's a bit of the finale:

At the end of the performance "Sister" came back on stage to discuss the need of retired nuns who have no means of support because the Catholic Church decided, for many years, not to participate in the Social Security program. She said she would be out front with a bucket to collect for two groups of sisters. And she was -- the bucket looked as if it was decorated by school children.

I had checked my coat, and so paused to look for the claim check. I had tucked the plastic token into a pocket of my wallet and it wasn't there. I thought perhaps it had dropped out into my purse. I looked and looked and couldn't find it. Decided just to go to coat check to see what they could do. They laughed, and said, "Do you mean this coat?" Turns out somehow the plastic token had been found on the floor and turned in by one of the ushers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Polish Solidarity in Minnesota

About two weeks ago a notice came from the Minnesota Polish-American Association announcing there would be an exhibit about Solidarity at the State Capitol. Today is my first day of holiday break so I took off for the Capitol, not realizing it was raining -- an unusual occurrence for Minnesota in December.  I was lucky to get a parking space right in front of the Capitol.

 The rotunda is decorated quite beautifully for the holidays. I wondered how to find the exhibit and it was right in front of me.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance. It covers the two years of 1980 and 1981.

Here are photos of photos that took my special interest.

This photo, by Boguslaw Nieznalski, shows people looking into the Gdansk shipyards while a mass is being said for the striking workers. The faces are so haunting. On this day of despair could they ever have believe the Poland we know is 2011?

This photo shows Anna Walenlynowicz, the worker who was dismissed at the Gdansk Shipyard, and whose dismissal was the apparently the straw the broke the camel's back. I have heard about her, but never before have I seen a photograph of her. (Sorry, I didn't get the name of the photographer.)

The final photo comes the Ursus factory in Warsaw.
This shows Lech Walesa addressing the workers. This caught my interest because as a child in Iowa I was familiar with the Ursus tractors. I didn't know where they came from until I went to visit one of my former students who now lives in the Ursus area of Warsaw. When I went there the first time he explained to me that the Ursus tractor factory used to be there and I was amazed for we had always thought the Ursus tractors came from Russia. (This photo was taken by Tomasz Listopadzki.)

It is quite unusual for such an exhibit to make its way to Minnesota -- everyone is hoping more Polish exhibits will come here.

The Capitol is a very beautiful building; that will be a topic for another time.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Unusual Perspectives

This is a collection of unusual perspectives which came into my life in the  past several days. Above is a picture of the central plaza of my university's area. The snow now makes it look different. Also I was on the upper story of New Main so I saw the area from a different perspective than ground level.

I walked down the street again to the Science Museum area and took the elevator up to the business district level. I walked out on the plaza by the museum and got this lovely picture of the river just at sunset. Here I'm seven building stories above my usual perspective of the Mississippi River.

The reason for the walk was to go to a couple of ticket offices. Here is a perspective of Rice Park as framed by the overhanging arch in front of the Ordway Theatre.

But here's the one that really surprised me.
Look carefully to the left of the red brick house in this photo and you will see the moon. I don't often see this out of my northwest window at breakfast time!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When Will It Snow?

Some time in late autumn this becomes a common question: When do you think we will get snow? I always say I know exactly when. I know the date that Global Volunteers is bringing in the country managers from around the world for the annual training event. That's when it will snow!

 I have made 5 trips to the airport picking up country managers from Poland, Romania, China, India, Greece and Peru. The first three evenings only two of them were here, so I went to their hotel each evening and took them somewhere for an evening meal. One of the early arrivals was the country manager from Tanzania. When he arrived he was so disappointed because there was no snow. The second night we got a dusting of snow to delight our Tanzanian guest, and then on Saturday afternoon, just as if someone turned on a switch, the snow began to fall. It always surprises me that some of these visitors look forward to seeing Minnesota winter.

I took a walk early on Sunday morning and found some delightful scenes. We received 3-4 inches of snow where I live and the snow arrived without any wind. Thus, surprises were everywhere.
Won't sit here for awhile!
Reflection of High Bridge in the Mississippi River


The posts are wearing their snow caps

If the construction wasn't done, it is now!

Even a fence glows in the winter

Thursday, December 1, 2011

From Yesterday to Today

Yesterday morning I took a walk, enjoying the warm weather -- at least warm weather for Minnesota -- and admired the colors of the autumn grass.
Today the same type of grasses look like this:
A resident a bit down the street has replaced a Thanksgiving themed flag with an image of the North Wind.
 This was a bit hard to photograph because the north wind was indeed blowing!

I've been intrigued about a small construction project down the way.

Yesterday I watched the dig:
The idea of to dig a trench deep enough that one is level with the place on which I was standing when I took this photo. There is another implement digging a trench from the wall over and under the sidewalk. I'm still puzzled about the purpose of laying pipe through this trench. I can't decide if it is to carry water or small pipes to carry electric cables.
 Today the upper level is being repaired to return it to normal.

I'll go "snoop" tomorrow and see if I can figure out what the purpose of this project is. Hope you enjoy this view of life along the river.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

International Welcome

People who read my blog regularly know that I volunteer most of the summer in Poland at language camps. I do this through Global Volunteers. Yesterday I picked up the country manager from Poland at the airport and took her to the hotel where they will all be staying during the next couple of weeks for their annual training event. When the hotel manager saw the arriving person from Poland she came out from her office and walked around the reception desk to give the country manager a big hug. I was so delighted. It made me think of when the cleaning ladies who work at Reymontowka came to my class the first day to give me the three kiss Polish greeting. I was so very happy to see that a warm and welcoming greeting happens on this side of the ocean too!

Recently I was at a conference related to study abroad and the speaker related related how as a young woman she traveled on her scooter from Japan to Amsterdam and found "the world is full of dangers and delights." The world is unfortunately full of people who wish to cause trouble and anguish but also full of people who extend friendship, hope, and peace.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Lighting

This afternoon we walked down the street and across the road to the entrance of the Science Museum parking ramp and then took the elevator up the 8 stories to the city level. We headed to Rice Park for the Christmas tree lighting. Rice Street has been called one of the most beautiful parks in the United States. I have always thought so, and it's nice to have one's judgment affirmed by an outside source.

It is one city block square and surrounded on all four sides by very beautiful buildings. To the north is Landmark Center. This building started in 1901 as the Federal Building, held everything from courts to a place to become a citizen to a place yet to file a land grant. There is sort of a joke that Saint Paul still has such a beautiful building because it was too slow to do urban renewal in the 1960s. Now the building holds museums and non-profits.
Landmark Center

To the west is the Ordway Theater.

To the south is Central Library.

On the east is the Saint Paul Hotel, but I really never got a good photo of that today. In the summer there is a beautiful English garden in the front of the hotel. Now the garden is full of Christmas trees. Here is my older daughter by one of the trees. One can tell that the wind was blowing just a bit!!

We also saw Santa
and horse carriages

and smelled the Kettle Corn

Elena really enjoys watching ice skating but the TV today was all football all the time. So she was happy when we found the ice rink and found a skating exhibition as part of the opening of the rink for the season.

We went into Landmark Center mostly to warm up a bit. Oh, the noise! Lowe's was sponsoring an opportunity for kids to make a Christmas ornament. The sound of about 50 children hammering was quite something.

Back out into the park we saw singers and dancers and then finally the tree lighting. If you  listen carefully, you can hear the countdown. The tree was donated by a St. Paul couple. This must be a tree that no longer fits the yard or field in which it is growing. You can glimpse it -- look for the blue tree - but enjoy the fireworks, too.

Above a picture of the tree taken from in front of the library. Altogether there are 20,000 LED lights in the park. It's quite a display.

Walking back home we found a hard north wind blowing in our face. We decided to walk on the river side of the buildings to see if they could block the wind a bit. It was dark now, for it was a bit after 6 PM. We met a woman walking two dogs and suddenly she said, "I know you." Turns out to be one of my former colleagues from the my time at the Minnesota Department of Health.

An interesting afternoon!

Friday, November 25, 2011

November Night LIght

We started out for a 4:45 movie and then remembered we planned to watch the Holidazzle Parade on TV this evening, so we headed back home. Instead we drove to Mears Park, also called Lowertown Park now to see the lights. I thought after business hours on Thanksgiving Friday it would be easy to find a parking space.

Here's a video too.
Hope you enjoy a bit of the holiday lights. Here they last until the end of the Winter Carnival in early February. Helps to make the winter nights of long darkness a bit more fun!

November Light

November is often a dull month in Minnesota. The colors are just brown, black and gray, and everything looks dull and it's the cloudiest month in Minnesota.

This year we hare having unusually warm weather. Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was the warmest Thanksgiving Day since 1990 with temperatures here in the high 50s (13 as measured in Europe and elsewhere). The first snow fall has all disappeared.

This morning was cloudy, but by late morning the sun appeared and my daughter and I took a quick walk along the river. The November light brings wonderful water reflections.

Walking downstream we admired the reflection of the Minnesota Showboat in the river.

Walking upstream produced this beautiful reflection of an arch of the High Bridge. People who visit me often look at this bridge and say, "How do the cars get up there?" It's quite deceptive but obviously both ends of the bridge are on ground level. The bluff on the south side of the river is much higher than the bluff on the north side of the river -- the real river buffs refer to these as the east and west side. Going downstream the right hand bank is always called the west, no matter what direction it really is!  Thus, the suburb immediately to the south of St. Paul is called West St. Paul, and that area still within the city limits of St. Paul  is called the West Side.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Window View of the World

I spend hours in front of the computer both evaluating students' work as well this semester designing and revising courses for the spring semester. Out my window I see a small pond and I drive by it every time I leave. I noticed it was very low, since we have had a very, very dry fall season. The warm weather today got me to walking in that direction -- and on November 23 -- I went out in my shirt sleeves, no coat!
Notice on the left hand side where you can see the dark bank, how low the pond has gotten. This pond is designed to catch rain water and to keep it and pollutants it may carry from going directly into the Mississippi River. During the summer there is a fountain in the middle. This keeps the water moving and prevents this from becoming a breeding area for mosquitoes. In the distance is the business district for Saint Paul.

On my way I admired the flower pots now decorated for the holiday season.

I also noticed how Mother Nature has decorated for the season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Signs of Change

Winter is trying its best to creep in. On Sunday my older daughter and I walked to the Science Museum to see the IMAX film about the Amazon. When the film was done we were exited in the cafe area. The following view caught my eye.
No one will be sitting here for awhile. But I will be doing that next year when the weather is warm. i didn't know this area was here.

Early this morning just after dawn -- which really isn't that early this time of year -- I took a walk to see how the world has changed since we had a bit of a snow fall.

The stick fairy has been out. For those of you who live in warm areas -- these sticks mark the edges of sidewalks and help the snow shoveler know where to shovel when all is covered with several inches of snow.

I also enjoyed seeing how the snow fall outlines the steps in front of the pavilion on Harriett Island.

 Spotted a flock of ducks here this morning, just seemed to be hanging out. Maybe trying to decide if it's time to fly south.