Saturday, April 30, 2011

Frist Step of a New Adventure

On Friday I left my home in Minnesota and arrived in Warsaw, Poland, at 10 AM, Europe time, on Saturday. We left out of Chicago one hour late, but arrived in Warsaw only about 10 minutes late. I was a bit startled by the colors inside the plane. The seats were sage green with a red inset in the seat area. The flight attendants wore red and green, too. I thought, perhaps, LOT had changed its decor. Then while waiting to get out the plane I began to wonder why the announcements on the seats about the location of emergency equipment were done in Italian, English, and German. When I got out of the plane -- and out we did for we had to ride a bus to the terminal-- I saw that the plane said Air Italy and suddenly the color scheme made sense. I laughed when I saw a van with a sign that said Air Italy Polska. Obviously some sort of merger is under way???

The flight attendants consistently spoke Polish to me, even though they spoke English to other American passengers.

Upon arrival I walked across the street to the Courtyard by Marriott. This is the first time I've stayed here. I've been told it is very expensive, but I got a very good rate booking online under a one minute rate. I was delighted to be able to check into  my room, too, at 10:30 in the morning.

I had not slept well the last night in Minnesota and slept about three hours on the plane, so I was at a sleep deficit. I  set an alarm for mid-afternoon and crawled into bed. It felt so good. Later in the afternoon I walked back to a coffee shop in airport and had a cappuccino and sernik. I wanted to check out about my flight to Budapest on Sunday. I had received e-mail messages with a change in my departure time and even got a phone call from Poland about this while in the shuttle going to the airport in Minnesota. The plane, according to the departure schedule, was leaving yet at the later time I'd originally booked. I decided I would just go back to the airport at 15:00 on Sunday; that would be early enough if Sunday produces a new schedule. All in all, I'm impressed with LOT's effort to let me know the schedule is perhaps changing!

My room here overlooks Terminal A.

Yet there isn't any noise from the airport in the hotel. One really wouldn't know it was there.

In mid evening I went to the bar and had a club sandwich. I was quite struck about the electronics. There were two TV monitors showing video from two different programs. But the sound, thankfully, through the bar/restaurant was very nice jazz.

Jet lag well in place caused to me look out the window at intervals.
Here's the airport at night. It was very quiet when I walked over there about 10 PM to get a bottle of water. I was quite surprised to see it was hopping place at 3 AM. Lots of cars and taxis and people about. Sorry I had not taken the camera with me for the 10 PM stroll. I walked over a bridge and looked below to see the below there waiting for the 175 bus to central Warsaw. One man was wearing a huge sombrero. Sorry I missed that photo!

I notice now a lot of Polish flags had been placed out. I think this has something to do with the May 1 beautification of Pope John Paul.

Nice to be back to a place where one really can get the news. There is so much difference between CNN we see in the United States and what others see on CNN in other countries. I've already found two programs that relate to the Global Health Issues course that I'm developing for next Spring Semester.

Now if I can just conquer jet lag life is good!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Off to Central Europe

I will be leaving for the airport in about 3 hours. First a trip to the public library to return all the books!

The day is sunny, spring seems to be finally coming to Minnesota. I notice there is a landscape service outside today beginning to clean up some of the winter debris. Yesterday while walking I finally noticed good sized leaf buds on the trees.

I'm anxious to know how much my suitcase weighs. I keep saying I'm going to buy one of those scales for luggage and think I'll get it done when I come home.

Only thing left to do is empty the trash one more time!

If things go as planned, I should be back to my blog tomorrow morning Europe time about lunch time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

School's Out, School's Out! and Other Transitions

Sort of! I'm waiting for two students from one of my classes to submit their final paper. These are due to later than 4.5 hours from now. I've been to the final meetings at work and will be leaving for Central Europe tomorrow. I need to make a list yet this evening of things that need to be done when I get home -- nit picky things such as making sure that all agendas and minutes are on the S Drive for the committee for which I'm a chair, syllabi all in the right places on our electronic drives, and the ideas for revising the fall courses that need to take place. I found out today I'm picking up a new course next spring semester that I've not taught before so some preparation needs to be done for that. And good news, one course that will need revision because a new textbook is coming out will not be taught until Summer 2012. However, I will have to revise another course to a new textbook for Spring 2012 as well as develop a whole new course that I'll teach in Spring 2012. So the odd moments of summer and then officially in Fall Semester will keep me busy.

I got the final program for the International Week at the University of Pecs. I will look forward to going back "home" and seeing what has changed in the last 10 months in Pecs -- or finding the food treats I'm looking forward to that I can only get in Hungary or elsewhere in Central Europe. I need to double check the suitcase and make sure all the cords are there for electronics and add the cosmetics and first aid supplies. The shuttle comes to get me for the airport at 11:45 tomorrow.

I keep learning more too about what I'll be doing in Poland while I'm there in May teaching English. 

No pictures from outdoors in Minnesota lately because the weather has been ugly! Pouring cold rain, which doesn't ring my bells to go walking and do photographs. However, the weather began to clear this afternoon so I took a walk to see how things look now that the river is being to recede. Officially, the river level is now at what would be called the Action Stage if the flood was advancing. There is no word for this when the river is receding -- the Inaction Stage sounds funny!

The picnic shelter across on Harriett Island has been under water most of the month. The flood began March 24 and it's now April 28 so this has been a long flood season.

One can see from the dark marks at the bottom of the tree trunks that the river continues to fall. The dark area is wood that has emerged and has not yet had a chance to dry.  A lot of branches are marked with the yellow caution banners. I don't know why and it will be interesting to see if anything has changed when I get home.

Trails are still under water.  The above is a view of the trail above only from the opposite direction.

I noticed a duck that has decided that the river is calm enough to start a nest. I wasn't sure there truly was something on this pier so I whistled and it moved, so it is a live critter! In addition to mallard ducks, I saw also a pair of Canada Geese (I don't know what the Canadians call these birds, probably something different, just as one can't buy French fries in France!), barn swallows, and couple of very fat robins. We used to say that if the robins were fat that meant they had wintered elsewhere and now had migrated back. However, now the bird experts say so many people feed birds in the winter that many robins no longer leave and eat quite well all winter.

 Here is a close up of the grain elevator that has been shown in the web cam pictures. This building has been on the Historic Register since 1931 and the grain elevator was in operation until 1980. More about this sometime later this summer when I can get inside to take some photos.

And finally a glimpse of spring flowers. There are very few spring flowers around the area where I live. The majority of the landscape here is native plants, prairie flowers that normally flower in June, July, and August. Also this year spring is delayed by at least two weeks. I'm ready for some new views of the spring in Central Europe.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Flood Waters Falling

The views are beginning to return to normal around here.
This is a view of Harriet Island across the river from where I live. The building on the upper right has been under water much of the last month.

Below is the view on my side of the river.
A lot of the river bank is now showing. Last fall the river bank was shored up with limestone rock and it seems to have held up and stabilized the shore line quite well. If the day presents a bit of time, I'll take a walk later today and do some close  up pictures of the changes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

It seems like I spent two days cooking! Both my daughters and my three grandchildren were here for a late lunch. My two year old granddaughter showed up after church in a beautiful white dress. Her mom thought it best to take that off for eating!!! We got out one of my t-shirts. Then the kids decided they wanted to go to the nearby park. What could she wear now? No play clothes came along for the day. So I had to raid the gift cupboard where I had things put away for her May birthday. Yellow is now her favorite color and thankfully I had chosen a yellow dress without knowing it was her favorite color.

Here is my grandson trying to teach his little sister how to blow bubbles. Aunt Elena is supervising.

It was so nice to wake this morning and see some sunshine. That has been a rare scene this spring. And the road closures due to the flood go down tomorrow, but some remain that are connected with the construction of the light rail.

Four days until I leave for Central Europe! Hurrah!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Flood News 10 -- and other stuff!

At last the river level is beginning to go back to normal. This has been a very long flood stage. It will indeed be interesting to see what the area looks like that has been covered by water for nearly a month. Perhaps because it is still so early in the spring, plants and trees will bounce back. Yesterday someone asked me if the roads around here were back to normal and I said, "No, because the river isn't back to normal."

I'm leaving for Poland and Hungary next week. so I expect I will not see "normal" until I return. 

So many things happened this week that I anticipated. I had a day of workshops and meetings at the University of Minnesota and had envisioned how nice it would be to walk about the campus on a lovely spring day. Well, we all were bound up in our coats trying to keep warm under cloudy skies accompanied by a very stiff cold wind.

Yesterday we had the End of Program Presentations by our graduate students. This is always a happy, celebratory day, but again hampered by rainy, cloudy weather. I told people I am going to be glad to fly north next week and find sunshine and warm weather.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Morning Surprise

Look what I found out the window this morning! This is getting old! The weather report last evening explained we have had 4 months of colder than average weather. I guess this is particularly hard on most Minnesotans because last year someone threw the spring switch in early March. I missed that for I was in the March snows in Pecs! Thus I had the longer than usual winter in Pecs added to the longer than usual winter in Minnesota and I'm tired of it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April Snow

From Friday evening to Saturday morning we had a bit more snow.

It was just enough to create an effect on the train cars that I enjoy, particularly the tank cars. They look as if someone has touched them up with cake frosting.

This bit of snow pushed this winter into the top four snow falls. Record #1 and #2 were in 1981/82 and 1983/84. I well remember those winters. Record #3 occurred when I was in first grade and living in Iowa. I have vague memories of that winter -- something about my dad carrying me up the big hill by our farm. I don't know if he was carrying me to where my grandparents lived or we were going to the top of the hill to sled down.

Misadventure--Chapter 2

I decided today that when one falls off the horse, the best thing to do is to get back on, so I made another trip to Target. I went to Customer Service to inquire about my wallet. One of the young women said, "What's  your name?" When I told her, she said she had paged me twice yesterday, but didn't do a good job because she didn't know how to pronounce my last name. She called Security and I got back my wallet minus the cash that was in it.

She said someone had found it on a shelf yesterday and turned it in. That means it was in the store somewhere for 24 hours before it was "found." I got back things such as my insurance cards and I don't have to buy a new wallet. However, my work ID card is missing, so that's a challenge for Monday. So a misadventure ended without too much misadventure.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


The day started out so well. I had to go to a meeting in Minneapolis and this got me into areas I've not seen for awhile. Good news, spring flowers are beginning to emerge.

On the way back I decided to stop at Target and pick up some supplies I needed to get a presentation together for the American Corner Pecs English Conversational Circle I will do. I grabbed my wallet out of my briefcase, not wanting to carry everything. I had it on my mind to be very careful with the wallet while in the store -- and then after when I was ready to head for check out, I realized that somewhere in the last 5 minutes the wallet had disappeared. I asked for security and made a report. Then I headed to the credit union and got my credit and debit card shut off. [Here's a good place to report how glad I am to do financial business with a credit union rather than a bank.]

I came home and changed into clothing that was warmer and headed off walking to the closest place to do something about my driver's license. The distance isn't so far, but I live along the river and the whole downtown area is up on the bluff. Normally I would go down to the parking ramp at the Science Museum and take the elevator up. I couldn't tell for certain if this area was open or closed by the river flood. For sure, I could see there was a lot of construction equipment in the area. So I trudged up the hill. A 30 minute walk got me to the right place. I was out with my replacement license in about 10 minutes and $13.50 poorer. Thankfully, I had gotten some cash at the credit union.

Tried to find something to eat since it was now about 4:00 PM and I hadn't had lunch yet. The places to eat in this area serve the working population and are quite shut down by late afternoon, but Caribou Coffee could make a Northern Lite Cooler. Eventually I started the walk back to my apartment.

I cut through Rice Park. The flat light was good for  photography.

Poland has Chopin; St. Paul has Schroeder
Cut across the street to the Science Museum Plaza to see the river from that perspective.

This view also shows the difference in height between the downtown area and the riverfront. It's a good climb up.
Notice the fence in the water. The river is still at high flood stage.

Surely one can assume the light doesn't belong in the river.

It seemed really strange not to be able to walk on my favorite trail back to my building. It will be awhile yet.

Found a goose obeying the rule of not swimming beyond the ropes!

My daughter says the wallet episode is a minor distraction. Certainly it is not the worst thing that has ever happened. As I was walking I thought about my upcoming international travel. It is good to be reminded that misfortune happens at home, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Poland Adventure from My Living Room

I stumbled into a wonderful TV program called Baltic Coasts. It is absolutely wonderful and adds to Tuesday night in a great way. I've not been to this area of Poland so visiting it this way is a great adventure. My jaw dropped when I saw how crowded are the beaches in July and August. The announcer said everyone in Poland comes there and it surely looked like they were all there. At the same time, I've been to Poland in July and August and know a lot of them, for example, go to Zakopane!

Flood News 9

Today the river is beginning to fall after the second crest. Life may start back to normal, but surely it will take a week or so. 

I would like to get back a couple streets for driving to work. But hey! I'm down to two weeks. I leave for Hungary again on April 29!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Miss Adventure and misadventure

My daughter's family stopped by for a few minutes after church. It didn't take my toddler granddaughter long to find the bike I keep for her.
It's just amazing how much she has changed since Christmas. She just looked like a very competent "rider" hitting the buttons to make the music play.

Later in the day I went to park where they were all playing. Here is another of her adventures.
My daughter and Little Miss Adventure on the slide
Here are the older kids on the new style teeter-totter.

My grandson is really getting tall. It's not a strange camera angle that makes him look all legs.

And for misadventure -- I have been turning the apartment upside down trying to figure out where I put credit cards and other materials from my wallet that I didn't think had to go with my on vacation during spring break. I have been through every desk drawer, cleaned and resorted everything in the bedroom chest. I was mystified about where I put these things. I decided my next try would be the entertainment center shelves. Sat down to read e-mail, looked over on a shelf of the entertainment center, and there were all these things in plain sight! Well mystery solved.

And final misadventure -- when I came back from the park adventure above, I had a problem opening the door into my apartment. A very large picture I have hanging in the foyer had fallen down and was on the floor blocking the door a bit. Thankfully, the glass didn't break.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Funny Story

Not my adventure thankfully, but this is funny if one isn't there. On a freeway by the Mall of America yesterday the traffic all got snarled up. It is a difficult section to drive under usual circumstances, but this snarl was made by a wild turkey walking in and out of traffic. This area isn't too far from the Minnesota River, and I'm thinking this turkey got driven out of usual territory by the flood overflowing into the forested area. Getting stopped by geese is rather traditional here, but turkeys are making a come-back and now we have to stop for turkeys sometimes too!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Maybe Spring ? Version 2

All around I saw signs of people celebrating the advent of spring -- that's all that can celebrate right now. We don't yet even have a blade of new green grass. I've been wearing sandals for two days -- at the request of my colleagues who regard my penchant for wearing open toed shoes in from April to November as bold. Today at the nail shop I heard a customer say she wasn't going to have her toe nails polished because she wasn't going to wear sandals until May. I was feeling quite smug with my sandals and painted toe nails! Then I saw three high school girls in tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops.

I stopped for lunch and as I was walking into the cafe, a father and young son walked out with father saying, "Oh, isn't this great weather." Then I heard another customer in the cafe say she was going out for her first run of the season. Well, I've document two marthons, one on January and one in March on the blog, so others have been running.

However, it is nice to be out in sandals, and not wearing a winter coat!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Maybe Spring?

The temperature finally got up to 62 today, or 16 for those of you that use Celsius. How nice to go out the without a coat. There is still, however, some big snow banks that need to melt. These are humanly created snowbanks, made when parking lots were plowed and the snow all pushed to the middle or one side. There are also some places where the city trucked snow from the streets and put it in vacant lots. Those looked like mountains, and it will be awhile before they disappear!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adventures Out the Door

Here are the few things that have been happening around my door and city.

I came home the other day, drove into the garage, came up on the elevator with my mind on sending an e-mail to friend. I walked across my apartment to the computer, looked out the window and couldn't believe my eyes. In about three minutes, five fire trucks had arrived.

There were no sirens when the fire trucks came. They stayed parked outside for awhile, and then the ones in the intersection above left. A few minutes later the others left.  For awhile I thought perhaps someone had fallen into the river or someone had tried to take a boat on the river and had great difficulty. However, there was no movement to the river. So, it's a mystery to me what this was all about.

Another view came the railroad tracks.
The drag line moved along the tracks digging up something and putting it into the train cars. Since I wasn't here last year at this time, I don't know if this an annual need or if the hard winter caused more debris to drop down the bluffs and needed to be cleaned up.

But the most important adventure occurred on Saturday night. It was the time for the President's Lecture, and this year she invited Michelle Norris, who some of you may recognize as a reporter from NPR. During the 2008 election time, she and Steve Inskeep did a powerful series on the role of race in the election and in our larger society. After that, she started to do forums all over the country. During a visit home -- which happens for her to be Minneapolis -- she stumbled onto stories from her family that she had never heard before. She realized these stories tell us powerful things about our culture. (By the way this is my interpretation. Norris is an eloquent speaker and she says this much better.) For example, she knew her neighborhood in Minneapolis was always integrated, but she didn't understand until she was an adult that the neighborhood was integrated because her parents integrated it! There are other stories that tell us about the times in our country through the stories from her family and these stories are very powerful. Her book is Grace of Silence: A Memoir. I surely urge anyone who reads my blog to get this book and read it.

Today the noon phone calls began again alerting us to the flood news. The second crest is on its way. Today I also had another phone adventure. I had to call LOT and change my return flight from Poland from July to August. I suddenly realized I was about one sentence into the conversation when my brain alerted me to the fact the agent had said, "Dzien dobry" and I had even noticed, just went head with my conversation. When we were finally done, I closed with "Dziekuje bardzo." The agent paused for a moment and then said, "Dziekuje." At least from the Polish I've learned in eastern Poland, that is not quite the right response!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flood News 8

Just a quick note about the river.

As can be seen by the graph, the river is falling and then expected to rise again to a slightly higher level than the first crest. I looked at the river graphs for some of the feeder rivers and there definitely is some more water coming this direction. Tomorrow I'll write about something else! We all need a change.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Flood News 7

My older daughter and I took a walk late yesterday afternoon and we could see that the river is beginning to fall just a bit.
The river is expected to fall about four feet in the next few days and then rise with a second crest by the end of next week, just about as the same level as we experienced for the first crest.

Our walk took us in the down the river direction, my first exploration by foot in the area. Usually I've gone upstream to the High Bridge area to see the marking on the bridge pier.

We quickly found a trail on which we couldn't continue.
The fence to nowhere!
This didn't surprise me as much as the next view.

Sculpture Trail

This view is about 100 feet more down the river trail. This normally is a trail on which one walks past sculptures of birds. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I can show a before and after view of this trail.

The weather is staying quite cool, so the final snow melt will be slow. Hope to see real spring soon!