Thursday, June 30, 2011

Continued Zakopane Experiences

Each day on a Global Volunteers service trip the day begins with the thought for the day and then a reading of the journal recounting the activities from the day before. Twice now the journal has begun with: It was a dark and dreary day -
I looked at the BBC weather site this morning and we are stuck in a very large system that went from Berlin and Vienna as far as Volvograd.

We continue to teach four lessons of English every morning. Yesterday we did two extra lessons in the afternoon, for the rain was so heavy that there wasn't any way to do outdoor activities. The two extra lessons was the idea of the students; we teachers didn't force more lessons onto the students. And we switched groups so that we each got to know a few more students.

In the evening we adults have been "supporting the local economy" by going to the restaurant next door and enjoy a glass of beer or wine. The hotel we are staying at has closed its bar because of the presence of teen-agers in the building -- and the fact that we are using the bar as a work room, meeting room, and place for two classes!

My granddaughter is doing quite well, giving English lessons for hours after the official class -- that is, she talks with the Polish students during their free time, they go down to Krupowki and go shopping or get a French Fries at McDonald's. Since she doesn't speak Polish, all of the free time conversation has to be in English!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Second Day in Zakopane

We did the first four hours of lesson yesterday. I have 4 very nice high school aged young women in my class. They show up for class while Najale is finding it hard to get up and out of bed and get there. I know what's it is like to be jet-lagged, but not what it might feel to be a teen-aged person with jet lag, since that age group needs much more sleep than I do.

We spent the first hour of class getting to know each other better. The second hour we reviewed some vocabulary related to shopping and then we went shopping. Naj and I came with only a small supply of necessities such as shampoo, so that I could carry more teaching supplies. So we hit Rossman, the place to buy things like that, and also wandered through an H&M store since that is of interest to at least an American teen-ager.

In the afternoon, Naj went hiking again.  And again the views they saw look lovely.
I worked on preparing lessons for the next day. I also went to the post office and got a card that can be used for making telephone calls back to the United States. For a bit more an $8.00 I got a card that gives 2 hours of talking time.

In the evening we had a meeting about our first day experiences. Then I went next door to another restaurant/bar to enjoy a beer with the other adult volunteers. Naj reports she sat out of the balcony for while enjoying the view and then took a nap! By the law of averages we should see some sunshine in Zakopane soon, thus far we've seen too many clouds and rain drops.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Day of Language Camp

On Saturday we were up early and on the bus with the students from Prus High School in Siedlce, beginning our travel to the Krakow airport. As usual we stopped for a rest break at the McDonald's in Radom. It took me a minute to remember I must ask for kawa now. Thus far it had been hard to speak Polish in Poland and everyone else in restaurants and shops were speaking English. We arrived at the Krakow airport about 2:30 and gathered all the other volunteers there. We then moved along to Zakopane, arriving about 5:30. We quickly took our luggage to our assigned rooms and then went to the dining room for an evening meal. I hadn't slept well the night before so was ready to crash rather early.

Today we had orientation all morning. Then Najale went on a hike with the Polish students and teachers as well as two of the other volunteers who were 80 and 83 years old!

And the scenery looks lovely too.

Meanwhile I was walking with other volunteers through Zakopane. We went as far as the bus station so they could buy tickets to return on Sunday from Krakow. I call this "flat hiking," for it was at least a 25 minute each way.

This evening we met with the Pani Dyrektor and the other Polish teachers who are acting as camp counselors. Then we met our students for the first time. We must be off and running with classes tomorrow morning at 9 AM!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fencing Tournament

I had mentioned before that the hotel at which we stayed this first night is the scene of a fencing tournament.
Above is a photo of the poster announcing this event.

We went to breakfast around 9:30 and we could hear the fencing tournament taking place on the mezzanine above us. We watched for a bit. The picture below shows the set up for adaptive fencing. The athletes use a special chair for this that is bolted into place. Then the referee determines the athletes are the right distance from each other for the fencing match.

The video below is the best I could do for one of the matches.

I really enjoy stumbling into "life" when I travel. After all in life we don't spend all our time in museums and visiting historic sites. We do other things.

We will be be traveling by train and bus for the next couple of days and will be in Internet "off" places.

Flying Adventure

We re-booked our flight to Europe using Icelandic Air. One of the benefits of where I live is a free shuttle to the airport. Since we left this time from Terminal 2, that saved me at least a $40.00 cab ride. Takes the sting out of the rent raise for next year just a bit!

Here is my granddaughter waiting to board the plane, with the computer plugged into Facebook, texting on the phone to her boyfriend and her ear buds in place for her Nano.

The Icelandic flight was very nice -- my only surprise being one had to pay for food. If I had known that we would have eaten something at the airport. We did get a very good sandwich, but the price was $6.00 each, so the sticker shock for European food prices started there.

The plane was very nice -- and very full. We were lucky to have snagged last minute seats.  It was primarily full of a tour group of people even older than me! -- all wearing name tags. I surely don't want to travel that way. 

Here is Naj sleeping on the plane. We were in a row of three seats, but only two of us, so I moved over the aisle and she enjoyed stretching out to sleep. Don't think I slept very much. Notice the window is light. We were flying through the land of the midnight sun. We left Minnesota one hour late at 8:30 PM, and landed at 6:40 AM in Iceland. It really didn't get dark at all during the flight during the mid-summer time.

Our next flight out was 7:45, so probably why I didn't sleep much was a nagging concern if we were going to make since we started out an hour late. At the Iceland airport we followed the signs for transferring to other European flights. We had to go through security again. The sign said this was because the EU was more stringent than other places. Well I don't know about that, but I don't know all the other places from which the flights arrive, and outer border areas such as Iceland have a special duty to protect the EU border areas. Once through security -- and I got a special pat down, I think because the sparkly things on my shirt set off the alarm -- we hit passport control.  We went immediately to the gate for our flight and got into the line for boarding. Again the plane was really full and we were lucky to have gotten the seats.

The little I saw of Iceland makes me want to come back to see and learn more. The terrain is wild! covered the rocks and boulders with  a beautiful stalky purple flower growing everywhere. In the distance I think I could see a geyser. I've had this naggy desire to do a stop over in Iceland and now after experiencing the nice flights with Icelandic Air and seeing a bit of Iceland that desire is popping up more.

In Copenhagen we got a bit of lunch and again European, Scandinavian airport food prices caused me a bit of sticker shock. The gate for our Warsaw flight was not posted so we wandered about a bit looking at the shops and then sat down in a Starbucks seating area. Naj wanted to use the power from my computer to charge her Nano. When the posting of the gate for Warsaw finally showed up, we were in exactly the right place. The gate was about 20 feet away. We could simply stay at the Starbucks until the agent appeared and starting the boarding process. This was Najale's first experience with taking a bus to the plane. This flight was about half full, and I'm curious to know who are fellow passengers were for I thought no one looked "Polish." Again we took the bus to the terminal and waited maybe only five minutes for our luggage.

We walked across the street to the Marriott Hotel at the airport. So nice to be able to crash so quickly. We actually stuck it out until into the early evening, first going downstairs to eat a bit. The hotel is the home place for an international  fencing tournament for persons with a physical disability, so the people watching around here is amazing. Just in a short walk across the lobby I saw people from Russia, Thailand, and Belarus. When we were going to dinner we came across a man using a wheelchair trying to push a cart with his luggage. Najale wanted to know what she should do. I told her one always asks if the person wants help. First he asked me if she could better balance his fencing equipment on the cart, she offered to push the cart to his room, and came back to report he was from California.

The luggage all of these athletes have for their fencing equipment is about bit more than one meter long and shaped somewhat like a bag one used to travel when carrying golf clubs. However, we got in the elevator last evening with an athlete who uses a wheelchair and she had two swords tucked on either side of the seat. Quite an amazing thing to stumble into.

Naj's other grandmother told her she would starve in Poland because she is such a picky eater. I told her she would be just fine, since she liked bread, meat and potatoes! Last night she looked at the menu and asked if she could have the pasta with shrimp.
This nice meal for us cost me only slightly more than a piece of pizza and soda in the Copenhagen airport. She rather inhaled this pasta ans said it was very good.

I crashed in bed and then woke up later to chase a teenager off Facebook to bed around 11:00 PM. She said she was Facebook chatting her mom.

We had planned to take the 175 bus to downtown Warsaw this morning, but the weather is cloudy, foggy, and it looks like everyone is wearing jacket so it must be cool. We are simply going to have a slow day, taking the train to Siedlce later this afternoon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Safe Adventures

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum -- that is something not so funny happened on the way to Warsaw. We couldn't fly into Chicago today and so lost our flight to Warsaw. Probably however the flight to Warsaw didn't go either, but our plans all fell apart. The video below shows what Chicago looked like this afternoon. After seeing this I agree I wouldn't have wanted to be in plane. The Chicago Tribune newspaper page says that 270,000 people in the Chicago area are without electricity. So I titled this safe, because we are back home in my apartment, and luckier than many of those in transit who found there wasn't a hotel room within 30 miles. At least we can sleep in a bed and then start over again tomorrow evening.(Sorry, the video has been disabled apparently by the Chicago Tribune site.) It did look terrible.

We have re-booked on Icelandic Air and will be going to Iceland, the Copenhagen and finally Warsaw. Hope we make it this time!

Off agan to Central Europe

My older granddaughter and I will be leaving for Warsaw later this afternoon. It appears we are exchanging rainy weather in North America for rainy weather in Central Europe. It will be fun to see Central Europe through new eyes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

River Trail Surprise

I went out about sunset to see what was happening on the river, and to celebrate these nice long summer evenings. Sometime last week while I was in Washington, D.C. something new was added.

The overlook just out the door now has seats! Hurrah! It was fun, too, to see a little one playing on the flower bed. What an life compared perhaps to what his refugee parents had at the same age.

It's barge heaven out there these days. Here are two views.

I marveled at the people I saw, refugee mom above, two people rollerblading, a man dribbling a basketball, and couple wearing typical northern India dress. Just a normal Minnesota night!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Washington DC Adventures

I left Monday for the Global Health Conference in Washington, D.C. I will be creating a Global Health course for my university in spring semester and am anxious to expand my knowledge on this topic as much as possible. It was held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, a very beautiful hotel and huge hotel. I spent the next few days constantly referring to the map in the conference brochure to find the rooms for the session that I attended. At the same time, the excellent service of the hotel made a personal stay there very nice and certainly helped this huge conference to run better. I got to the hotel in mid-afternoon and picked up a pre-conference session on hand washing.

Hand-washing you may say. What's up with that? Well it is one of the ways the infection control constantly breaks down in the United States and this happens also in many other countries. After the session I went across the street to a nice restaurant called Open City and enjoyed a sandwich in the side walk seating area. It made me feel as if I was back in Pecs again; I've missed the sidewalk cafes very much.

On Tuesday I attended sessions from 7 AM to about 4:30 PM and by that time was frozen from the cool air-conditioning. This was rather a total conference complaint. I decided to get out and walk some and get warmed up. I took the Metro to Smithsonian and got out there to walk on the Mall.

Here is the dome of the Natural History museum shown against a stormy sky.

And the Smithsonian Castle.
I enjoyed seeing the carousel. (Sorry that there doesn't seem to be audio. I had a camera problem; that's a whole 'nother story.)
I continued on to the sculpture garden of the Hirschhorn Museum.

Here is one of the sculptures in the garden.

It is Miro's Lunar Bird.

From this point on the Mall I got a nice view of the Capitol.
I started to head toward Union Station and found the National Japanese-American Memorial. This memorial recounts the incarceration of the Japanese people during WWII, and the apology given to the group by President Reagan.

I continued on to Union Station, made it just ahead of the rain showers. I had a dinner in the Center Cafe and then took the Metro back to my hotel area. Thankfully, the rain showers had blown away, so I didn't have to worry about how to get from the Metro to the hotel.

On Wednesday I was again in sessions from very early in the morning until about 6:45 in the evening. Then I took the Metro to Dupont Circle. Life was in full progress here!

I've never before seen an outdoor yoga class -- and it was great fun just exploring everything else going on in the neighborhood.

I found another side table and had a wonderful dinner.

And for dessert I had the Whoopie Pie sampler. Whoopie Pies are not found in the midwest; this was the first time I have tasted these.

Heading back to the Metro, I noticed a flag and went exploring. Indeed it is the Colombian Embassy. Both of my daughters were born in Colombia so we always look for Colombia.

Got back to the hotel about 10 PM and found I had received "turn down" service. The curtains were pulled, the ice bucket was full. I could get used to this!

Thursday was another day of sessions, the best almost being at the end when we learned about data systems that now can be run on mobile phones. And it is interesting to consider that the average Smart Phone now has more computer power than the computers that were used for the moon landing!

After the sessions I decided to take a short walk in the neighborhood of the hotel.
The cupola on the top of this building made me think I had surely arrived at some other part of the country. It just looked so east coast and colonial. Turns out the building in the Oyster Bilingual School. Google explains this school is a K-8 school school that conducts education in both English and Spanish.  It is a neighborhood school; any child who lives in the boundaries of the school may attend this school.

I thought the view of the pine tree against the stormy sky interesting.
And the sky let loose with rain. I was glad to make it to the Open City cafe again where I had a tilapia BLT. By the time I was done with dinner the rain had let up and I was able to get back across the street to the hotel without getting too wet.

On Friday morning I packed up and checked out and then attended another great session, a conversation with Bill Foege, the CDC  physician who led the fight to eradicate small pox.

My church has been examining the concept of wisdom during this past month, and indeed we were able to interact with wisdom. Some things I will remember forever: "If you tangle with culture, it will win every time."

I went to the American History museum after this to see an exhibit about Civil War Nurses. On my way I went past this structure.
I had seen this earlier in the week and thought it was part of the preparations for the July 4 celebration on the Mall. Turns out it is being built for the Colombian part of a forthcoming Folk Festival. The sign explained this structure is made of bamboo, which is called "vegetable steel." I remember seeing scaffolding made from bamboo when I was in Colombia and marveled at how bamboo could be strong enough.

In another area structures are being built for display of activities and crafts. They are called Leaves, only in Spanish.
The steps of the American History Museum provided a good view of the Washington Monument.
The museum provided me with some good information to put into one of my fall courses. I also spent some time at the American Indian Museum. This is truly excellent.

What followed was a flight adventure that I complained about in the posting below. It was a good week in DC, I truly learned a great deal.

Traveling Misadventures

When people ask if I like to travel I say, "I like to be other places. There is nothing about traveling that I like." The flight to and from Washington D.C. certainly illustrates this point. As we all know, the charge for bags has turned the passenger area into a cargo area. I was seated, reading my book, waiting for the plane to take off, when a flight attendant and passenger tried to put a bag into the cargo hold above my head. They dropped it and a corner of the bag along with its wheel slammed into my face and knocked off my glasses. I hardly received a sorry from either of them. This was a Delta flight, about the only choice we now have from the Twin Cities and this surely isn't a good example of customer service!!!

One time when flying to Hawaii, the flight attendant from Northwest asked me if I would mind changing my coach seat for one in first class and even gave me a voucher for my inconvenience!! After having a bag slammed into one's face, somehow I think at least a free drink might be offered!

The flight back was another adventure. I had a flight that was to leave a bit before 7 PM, but went to the airport early, so that I could make the walk to the Metro without any threat of rain. When I checked in I got the news that the flight was delayed an  hour, so I took my sweet time, and enjoyed a nice dinner, too. When I got back to the gate area, the flight was now marked for 9:30. It was obvious something was up because there was a huge line of people waiting to re-book their Delta flights. One monitor said the flight was to leave from Gate 21 and the other one said it was to leave from Oops! Really, that is what is said. I began to believe the monitor over the head of the re-booking desk so went to Gate 17 when it said it would leave from there. Some time later the gate was changed to 21, and then back to 17. We finally left at 10:30 from Gate 20. We were the last large group out of this part of the airport. We were given no explanation at all for the chaos going on. I think if passengers had some idea of what was happening, they could go with the flow a bit more.

We got into MSP at 11:40 PM at Gate G -22. That puts me about half way home, except I can't obviously get out of the terminal there. The moving sidewalks weren't working, so it was a long hike to the main part of the terminal. Then we found the nearest access to the baggage level was closed and we had to walk to the opposite side of the terminal to go down and then all the way back again to the carousel where our luggage was to arrive. This is the first time ever that my bag has gotten to the luggage area before I did!

It was also soaking wet -- this time from rain not from vodka. I took a taxi home and had the driver take me into the garage, so that I could stay out of the rain.  I dumped this beside the laundry area, went downstairs and gathered up all my mail, and crashed into bed.

There really is nothing about travel that is fun!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Adventuresome Week

Tomorrow I'm flying to Washington, D.C. for the week-long Global Health Conference. I will be in events from about 7 AM to past dinner for most days, so decided to leave the computer at rest in Minnesota. Watch this space at the end of the week for some news and hopefully some interesting photos.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Park Point Scenes

Enough of the mundane. Here are some views from the Park Point area of Duluth that I took the other day. One gets to Park Point by crossing the Lift Bridge and then driving 4 miles or so.

The sailing school took my eye.

Looking in the other direction across the Duluth harbor I saw an ocean-going vessel loading cargo. The ocean-going and lake vessels have a different profile so it easy to tell from a distance which is which.
Below is a photo of what was at my feet.
One doesn't throw down a towel and sunbathe on this beach!

And then I noticed a man who had a very good place for lunch.
So glad that I went to Duluth. It was a nice change of pace.

Attending to the Mundane

I woke up at 5 AM and sat down at the computer and made the final adjustments on one of my fall courses. Now I'm done with that work.

Went back to bed for awhile and woke up again just about 9 AM. I got back on the computer and went to the credit union site again for my test run of the credit card came up with problems. This time it was easily fixed. The new card has a different expiration date than what is in the system. Who knew that if the expiration date is off by two months that the card won't work, even though this expiration date is out there is months for the year 2014.  (Later I went for lunch and used the card to pay and it worked !!!)

Next I booked the shuttle ride to the airport for Monday morning. Next call is to make an adjustment in my car insurance since it will sit there in the garage for 7 weeks. And next call was to make an appointment to get new renter's insurance -- new meaning with a different company. This turned out to be $20 cheaper for a year than my previous company was charging me. And nice to get the $20 because I'm also working on my apartment lease for next year and find I'm getting a $20/month rent raise.

But I've got a job and nice place to live and looking forward to some great adventures.

I started on the "print party" of printing out the e-tickets for flights and hotel reservations, etc. for the time my granddaughter and I will be Europe. No where could I find my e-ticket for the flight to Europe. I called LOT in New York and by simply giving them my phone number they found my ticket, gave me a confirmation code so I could get it myself on the Internet, and also sent me an e-mail with the e-ticket again. LOT doesn't have the fanciest planes, but the company surely does have good customer service.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Credit Card Adventures

In April I wrote about my wallet being stolen. I got my cards shut down before anything bad happened and in a few days a new credit card arrived with a new number. I activated it as usual.

I used it for hotel charges while I was in Europe in May. On Monday in Duluth the hotel refused it saying the account was marked, "Hold and call." I got in touch with the credit union today and discovered somehow I got an account number for another member. That person had disputed the charges. Now the hotels in Europe will be paid and later this afternoon I go to the credit union for yet another new credit card. I love credit unions.With one of the big banks this might not have been straightened out for years!

P.S -- Later in the day I went to the credit union to pick up the card. The teller was gone for a long time and I was concerned there was a problem. Then she came back with the card and also three gift cards to use at Target to compensate for my problems. Oh, that's why I was asked if I shop at Target. I thought it was because she asked me to do one transaction before I left town to make certain the card is working OK. I felt worse for the person whose credit card number I was using by error since it was printed on my card! I hope that person got gift cards, too. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Duluth Adventure

I have driven a lot of I-35 during the last couple of days. On Sunday I drove down to north central Iowa for a family reunion. I came back on Sunday night and then packed up for a trip to Duluth on Monday morning. I "enjoyed" one of Minnesota's seasons during this drive, the one called "road construction." I came to Duluth for a bit of fun and small amount of work.

The drive to Duluth is through a forested area for much of the last hour. Then one comes up over the hill and the Duluth harbor spreads out below.

This photo is taken from the Thompson Hill Travel Information Center. I took time to read some information there and learned, for the first time, that Lake Superior is the result of volcano explosion, but not the way one might think. Instead this area formed after a collection of lava that is estimated to have have been 20 kilometers high (and yes, that is the number I found in the information, it's not a typo!). This weight collapsed the earth's crust creating the depression that was filled when the glacial waters melted. Lake Superior is the largest fresh water lake in the world, and hold about 10% of all the fresh water in the world. It is a mighty lake!

What is basalt? It is everywhere around the Duluth area. Here's one photo from a landscaped area.

I drove to the condo where my Fulbrigher friends live and we had a lovely lunch looking out on the lake. They live on Beacon Point and their condo is right on the lake shore. I think perhaps we have the two best places in Minnesota--there's by the lake shore and mine right by the Mississippi River.

After lunch we drove up to Enger Tower. The late spring flowers were in full bloom. It was very beautiful sitting up there high in the hills overlooking the harbor. Sorry no photos to back up this claim. I had foolishly left my camera in my car!

Later in the afternoon I checked into my hotel and then started on the walk in the area. Canal Park is now a tourist destination. One hundred years ago this area was cheap housing for seaman, largely immigrants from Finland, and definitely not an area where an unaccompanied woman would have been walking in the evening. Now it is beautiful and fun.
I enjoyed some of the art installations in this area. Here's the Fountain of the Winds.

In another area I found a huge copper boulder that had been pulled out of the lake in the 1950s. Cooper mining took place along the south shore of the lake, largely in the area bounded by Michigan during the late 19th and early 20th century.
And another view along the lake showing what a lovely summer evening it was!

 By this time I had walked far enough to get a view of the Lift Bridge, the icon image of Duluth.

The road bed of this bridge lifts to allow boats to proceed from the lake into the Harbor. The boats approach this through a canal that is about 500 meters long -- hence the name Canal Park.

By the Lift Bridge there is a Maritime Museum. I noted on the computer screen that a barge was due to arrive in the evening.  I had never seen a lake barge before, and this is so unusual that the people working in the museum were anticipating it too, for they had never been a barge either.

About 7:30 in the evening the Spartan arrived.
This barge was pushed by a tow boat. (Isn't English fun?? Pushed by a tow boat).

After the boat had cleared the canal and bridge I walked to the nearby Grandma's Saloon for a sandwich Grandma's is rather the icon restaurant for Duluth, making its fame by being the sponsor for Grandma's Marathon which goes from Two Harbors to Canal Park. This marathon will be run for the 35th time on the weekend of June 18.-19.

Walking back to my hotel on the lake shore board walk I came across guests at a nearby hotel outside making S'Mores.

If anyone is curious about S'Mores, please add a comment and I'll explain.

Coming to Duluth for these two days turned out to be a good decision for another reason. I was wondering along the lake wearing a light jacket -- weather I much prefer to sweltering in the unusual hot weather of the Twin Cities where it as over 90 degrees (32C for my European friends).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Art Out The Door

Last evening there was a Northern Sparks Art Festival. I went to what was just out the door, and I'm so lucky to have such great things just out the door.

I set off just at dusk as the Festival was to begin at 8:59 PM and continue to 5:30 AM.

Above is a view of the Cathedral at this time and the lower view is the opposite direction over the river to Harriett Island.

There are always a few people on the trails and that is what I saw until I got more to the broader park area and there were hundreds of people there. I was really surprised. The other thing that surprised me was the Art Cars.

What amazed me was that this car. shown also above, is also totally decorated on the inside. Notice the car seat! This is a working family car apparently!

The big art installation here is the Light Spectacle. This is composed of LED lights inserted into regular light bulbs which are then hung on frame. There are designed to act as pixels. As one watches it, there appear to be figures walking through. These are people who once walked through Grand Central Station in New York City as this was shown the first time in that city.
The video below is nothing to look at, the idea is to listen. Somehow this is sounds from the sewer pipes that carry rain water into the river. The man who conceived this was dressed in a white jump suit, rather Elvis style. He topped this off with a blond mohawk. It certainly does take all kinds to make the world go round.

While my eyes were on the ground listening to this, I suddenly realized that a friend and her husband were standing beside me.  You can hear me say, "Hello, Patricia" near the end of this video. This wasn't someone who lived right here, she came from across town, so it was quite amazing that we ran into each other in the dark in the park.

We took a walk up to the High Bridge and then I turned off at my building to go home. A wonderful evening along the river.