Saturday, July 30, 2011

Second Week Adventures for Language Camp #2

It's Saturday already and I've not said much about the second week of the language camp and do need to write it about it now for the third language camp of my summer begins officially tomorrow.I have been busy this week with activities  from about 8 AM to 9 PM each day and then going off to the work room to plan the next day's classes. That didn't leave much time for writing a blog.

Last week we usually taught two classes and then joined altogether for another two classes doing things such as presentations about states or countries in which we have lived, leading songs, or doing dances such as the Chicken Dance or YMCA.

Earlier this week some of us went to Treblinka. This is always a moving experience. We shared time at the memorial there with high school age young people who may have been doing a Jewish Poland tour or perhaps were doing a Jewish camp experience. 
This concentration camp was totally destroyed by the Nazi forces. What is there now is a representation done entirely in stone.

A visit begins with an audio presentation. The video below shows the simplicity of this and includes only the introductory music.

 The photo below shows what the gravel pit looks like today. This is a place where people were forced to work 12 hours a day with little food and frequent beatings.

 I was thinking that nature is reclaiming this place of  horror and trying to again to make it a place of beauty. Then I turned around and saw the butterfly.

We returned to camp for a different kind of evening. The campers presented Talent Show #2.
The video below shows the final act: the camp director and the sports director doing their Johnny Cash routine.
Another afternoon we went into Siedlce to the museum that holds religious art. This museum holds an El Greco painting which was found about 40 years ago in a nearby church attic The director of the museum does a tour ahead of viewing this painting to explain how to "read" the old paintings for their symbolism. Placing the painting into content truly does make the seeing the El Greco more meaningful.
Thursday afternoon I was invited to the home of a camper/student I've known both from the Reymontowka and Zakopane camp. He and his family provided us with a lovely afternoon of great Polish food and a tour of their lovely farmstead. On the way back to Reymontowka we stopped at the farm of one of his grandmothers. She asked if we would like to taste the milk from her cows. So we had a cup of wonderful icy cold milk. At my student's home his father had given us cranberry vodka. I doubt I'll even again have an afternoon when I have both cranberry vodka and fresh cow's milk!
My student is on the left, next his mother, then two volunteers from Kansas City, and finally I'm on the right.

And how could I forget -- we also had camp weddings this week. Someone told me this is a Reymontowka tradition, but some of the university students here working as counselors told me they had seen camp weddings in other places, too.
The first time I saw this, my jaw did drop. Now I enjoy all the fun. The video above shows one of my students getting "married." The funniest thing this year was the boy that turned to his "bride" and asked, Prosze(can't do the Polish alphabet right in blogger) -- meaning he needed to know what her name was!

And then came last night, the Final Program. This began with all the campers singing.
This was followed by a theatre performance with a theme of tolerance.
Next all our groups did an English presentation. Here is a video of one:
This group sang Farmer in the Dell. However, regretfully, my camera seemed to pick more of the ambient noise than the music.

Presentations were quite variable. One did the Sponge Bob song.
My group sang the Bingo song along with one verse of This Land is Your Land using places in Poland.
After the program we all went to the bonfire area for kielbasa.
 This morning we had breakfast at 6:30 and then took volunteers to the airport. In Warsaw we went to two hotels to pick up new volunteers who had arrived earlier this week. Language Camp #3 begins officially tomorrow.

So that's what I've been doing. Hope you enjoyed hearing about this.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weekend Adventures

It's Tuesday already and I'm just catching up with the weekend adventures. On Saturday we left at 9 AM for Kazimierz Dolny. This is one of my favorite places. I was looking forward to walking around the rynek and having a drink of something in a sidewalk cafe. Instead when we got there the bus kept going and took us for a walk in a ravine.

This may be interesting but definitely isn't as high on my list as enjoying a time in a sidewalk cafe. When we returned to the rynek we had only 20 minutes there. Then we went for boat ride on the Wisla. I did enjoy that. It was very relaxing and I've never before had a chance to take a ride on the Wisla.

On Sunday three of us took a day trip to Warsaw. We had to take the train to Warsaw Centralna because of track repair being done on the tracks in the smaller stations. People often complain that this train station is not very attractive. Right now it is under significant renovation. One of the signs that really amused me is this:
Once inside one stall I found the wall painted with a huge graphic of a mouth.

 I could not get far enough away in such a small area to take a  photo of the whole thing. And I think it's the first time I've ever taken a photo inside a toilet stall. On the other hand, this may be the first time I've ever found anything worth a picture inside a toilet stall!

Our goal was to start with the film about the Warsaw Uprising shown every day at the history museum in the Rynek. However, when we got there we found the building was closed for renovation. Many areas are being renovated in anticipation of Euro 2012.

Instead we walked to the monument honoring the children who fought in the Uprising. Then we headed back to the Royal Castle. On the way I found an interesting clock:

I really enjoyed seeing the Royal Castle. It is has been 7 years since I have visited it. I don't know if I'm remember wrong or if more has been added. I remember the rooms as being somewhat empty, and that is not the case now.
Above is a photo of the Great Hall. And below is one of the King's bedchamber.

After our visit to the Castle we stopped for lunch in a sidewalk cafe in the Rynek. Then we headed for the Tomb on the Unknown Soldier. From there it was time to return to Warsaw Centralna and our train ride back to the Kotun. We got sprinkled on a bit as we left lunch, but the rain quickly stopped. However, it began again while we were in transit. We got soaked to the skin in the short walk between the train and the van that came to get us. I'm not certain I get that wet in the shower!  Very nice weekend!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bollywood in Poland

On Friday night we went into Siedlce to the Bollywood/Hollywood Restaurant. This is operated by two of the Polish English teachers with whom I've worked during language camps. The restaurant is beautiful, Indian design inside, every detail perfect.
My photos taken during the night light within the restaurant fail to do it justice for the beauty that is found inside, but hopefully will give you an idea.

Everyone in our large party ordered something different and everyone raved about the quality of the food on the way back to Reymontowka. One volunteer wishes to say on Monday morning when we all meet before classes that the samosas he had at the restaurant are the best he's ever had. I enjoyed my entree, but particularly liked the mango lassi. I've had lassi other times and have not been impressed. This one was exquisite.

In the early evening-- before 10 PM, there was music by a DJ and also at intervals a live group called Two Plus One.
What great fun we had. Some in our group stayed for the later evening and came "home" to Reymontowka about 1:30 AM after enjoying the dancing into the wee hours.

For anyone in Poland, this is definitely what we in the states call a destination restaurant -- a place one drives only for the restaurant. It is well worth any trip or effort to get there.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Polish Night

At every language camp in which I've participated the campers present a Polish Night experience for the volunteers. This camp is not an exception. The children practiced very much to present a wonderful Polish Night experience. And this whole program is done for just we volunteers. The program began with the Polonaise.

Another part of the presentation featured one of the talented singers.

I always enjoy very much hearing Kocham Sie Polsko.  I've been around Poland enough both in travel and in experience to enjoy the lyrics to this song and I also like the spirit of the song.Regretfully, I didn't get very good audio of the song. But you can see the enthusiasm of the children in the video below.
 The video below is a complete change. It's the kids dancing YMCA after they were done with their Polish night presentation.

After the program we were invited to a party with all the Polish staff. This featured very special Polish dishes and of course, vodka. One of the counselors taught me the good trick of drinking vodka with apple juice. That makes all the difference!

Here is a photo of the wonderful food for the reception. 
Here is a photo taken by one of the Polish members of our group here. I found this photo on my Facebook page this morning.

It's me on the left,  next is Anna -- one of the counselors for the campers, and then on the right is Ula -- Camp Director. I've worked with both of these before and it's always great fun to see them again.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Talent Show and Field Trip

We teach four classes each morning and then have to do prep for the next day. However we find time at language camp for some special activities, too.

One traditional activity is a talent show presented by the campers. This talent show featured singing, dancing, comedy, and art displays in the big tent and then we moved inside for the piano performances. Here is a photo of two boys who presented piano solos.

And here is a video so you all can hear how well children of this age can play piano.
 When the piano performance was completed we sang together various versions of Brother John, known by other names in other languages. One group sang it in English and another sang it in Polish and then we sang it all together as a round.
When the concert was completed , it took these two boys only about 30 seconds to turn it from a concert area to a place for a chess game.

Today we went on a field trip. First we went to a nearby open air museum. This old manor house was quite "devastated after the Second War" and has been restored by a professor from Warsaw. The house itself is used often for movie productions when an old house is needed, for this house is 268 years old!

The professor has also brought other buildings on site as a way to preserve them and show what life was like at another time in Poland.

The guide explained that the house shown above is an example of a house for a wealthy family.  We know this because it is large enough as to require three doors.

From here we went to Liw to see the old castle which now is a museum displaying weapons. This structure was build in the 1400s to protect what was then the most eastern border of Poland. I was here two years ago and was surprised to see a whole new exhibit area attempting to describe the archeology research in the area.
This particular case captured my attention because the caption said one seldom finds gold objects when doing digs, but here are some.

If  I understood correctly, the pottery below dates from the second century.

Next entry will be about Polish Night. Watch for that tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Language Camp 2

I have begin the second language camp for this summer and it's my 12th language camp in Poland. (I've done three school programs here, so I'm on my 15th Poland program.).

I have a class of students who are primarily 10 years old, 5 boys and 5 girls. I'm just beginning to know their personalities and abilities. However, teaching in challenging, because I'm beginning to see the effect of Poland having English language classes earlier in elementary school and the students are coming to us at a higher level, and it takes much longer to prepare lessons.

Last evening was to be karaoke night, but the microphones were not working right, so the camp director took this chance to start the preparation for Polish night later this week by teaching the kids the national Polish dance. It was fun watching the expressions on the faces of the boys when they realized they had to hold a girl's hand.  Least a reader misunderstand -- they were not happy. Girls are still ugh to most boys of this age group.

Today after teaching the 4 classes, we went into Siedlce to meet with the deputy governor for the county. The County of Siedlce is the official host for our Global Volunteer program. Here is a photos from that event.

I am second from the left and the Deputy Governor is 4th from the right, wearing a green suit.

After the visit here we did a bit of walking tour of Siedlce. Here is picture from the oldest church in the city.

This evening the camp activity was initiation of the new campers. They had to take off their shoes and then put on a blind fold. Their first task was to stick their hand into a pan of water and then remove a pine cone. Secondly, they had to walk along a path of pine cones, finally reach a king and queen. They had to kiss the queen's ring and then take a spoonful of medicine, which I found was raspberry juice. Here's a video that shows some of this fun:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lazy Saturday

By the time I went to bed on Friday night I knew that one of our volunteers coming to Poland was having flight problems. She couldn't get out of MSP due to severe thunderstorms and so was on the 9:50 PM flight from Chicago rather than the 5:00 PM flight. That meant she would be arriving in Warsaw in the mid-afternoon rather than the early morning and so I didn't have to be up early to meet the plane.

However, I woke up with the sunrise about 4:30, went to the computer and found my granddaughter had arrived back in Minnesota safely. Waking up like this is one of usual patterns, so often I go back to sleep for the "second shift." I woke up again around 9 and got organized enough to go have the wonderful breakfast that is served at Hotel Jan Sobieski.

Went upstairs to my room and began to think about how I'd get here next year when my arrival would coincide with Euro 2012, not a good time to find a hotel room in Warsaw for adjusting to Europe time before starting the language camps. Did some dreaming and exploring on the Internet about coming through Iceland again, and this time spending a few days there.

Checked out of the hotel and wandered down the street to a Rossman to look again for the lotion that my granddaughter discovered here in Europe and said, "Could you bring me 100 bottles so I have enough to last me until the next time  you go to Poland?" We had purchased three bottles of this lotion at this store on Thursday night and the shelf was still empty for this one on Saturday morning. I'll have to keep looking for a few more bottles to bring back.

I then stopped at a Coffee Heaven and got a cappuccino and enjoyed reading a book and drinking coffee for about an  hour. Then I went back to the hotel to be more on hand for being picked up for the ride to Reymontowka.

I went into the Hotel garden. What a little jewel in the city.

Found a shady bench and continued with my nose in a book. I think this is about the first lazy Saturday I've had since some time on April. When the message came that Mary's plane had landed (and I love having a Polish phone so I can text) I went back into the hotel and got my baggage out of storage and waited for the van to arrive.

We had a slow trip from Warsaw due to heavy traffic and road construction.

Upon our arrival we were greeted with the salt and bread ceremony.
We sat down to an evening meal almost immediately, but then quickly got up when we heard the Polannaise being played as part of a wedding going on here.

We enjoyed watching the reception line through our dining room window.

I toured the new volunteers around Reymontowka and then Mary and I went for a walk along the country roads. A perfect lazy Saturday.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blue Day

Yesterday my granddaughter and I flew from Budapest to Warsaw. We had a 2 hour layover in the Prague airport.

Here is my granddaughter just relaxing after we had a sandwich. in the Prague airport. And she thought for once there should be a picture of grandma-- often I have nothing to prove I'm really in Europe and perhaps the picture at the left doesn't prove that either. 
 Here is Naj while we are the gate waiting to board. Notice how she has found out how to keep her Ipod Nano charged while in transit. 
We got to Warsaw, checked into our hotel and my granddaughter begged again to go home. Not that she wasn't enjoying herself, but July 15 had been her first planned day of return and she was anxious to get home to see her friends -- there is nothing more important when one is this age. 
She sent her mom a message on Facebook about this idea. Meanwhile we walked to a nearby shopping center for of course more shopping and also had an early evening meal. 

By the time we reached Warsaw sunset we had her a reservation home for July 15. 

So this morning I took her to airport and she took LOT 1 to Chicago. As I write she is just about to land, and now the fun begins-- can United manage to fly the connecting flight for the last hour to Minnesota? (Addendum: Hurrah! A few hours later after writing this original entry I got the message that she arrived in Minnesota without any difficulty.)

It really seems strange to be alone again. I almost cried when I hugged her good-bye. She begged me not to cry or she would too. 

The weather outside seems to match my mood. 

Now for the other Blue Story. This afternoon, I took a taxi to the Blue City Shopping Center. What fun! 
This is a beautiful place, very modern.
TK Maxx takes up one concourse area. In the states this is called TJ Maxx. I have no idea why a change in one letter for the Poland store. In fact, it took me an hour to notice there was a K rather than a J in the name. This is most definitely a TJ Maxx store -- layout and products same as in the states. However, the products have some different origin. For example, I picked up a bath towel with an interesting print and found on the label that is had been made in The Netherlands. I tried Google for an answer and found TK is the version also in the UK. Maybe that's where the European version started. TK in the UK is a bit catchy! Much better than TJ in the UK.

I went here not to shop, although I did find some lovely jewelry. I went here to meet my first Polish student, Bartek and his wife and little son. We met at the children's play area because that was an easily identified place from reading the web site. Then we had a lovely evening meal. Afterwards we went to a nearby park to let the little one play. 

This little one is surely going to keep his parents busy. He is 18 months old and already quite an athlete. He does, however, seem to have a bit of sense of when he is getting himself into trouble and pulls back a bit from danger. He also could find every mud puddle around the park left by the recent rains!

I enjoyed seeing the park and visiting with my friends. What a lovely evening.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More than Solidarity -- A Thousand Years of Hungarian-Polish History

The National Museum in Budapest now has this exhibition. This seems right for me! As the program says: "How can two different people become such friends...St. Laszlo was born in Polish territory...Louis I of Hungary is recorded a joint ruler of the two nations...Hungarian Transylvania prince Istvan Bothori became one of Poland's most popular monarchs."

This exhibit starts with manuscripts, gold and silver coins, artworks, music, and verse from the late 800's and continues to the time now.

The poster above is outside of the museum.

I enjoyed the exhibition very much and learned a great deal.

Here's a photo of an old flag from a celebration of some sort.

In more recent history, there is an exhibit about the uprising in both Poland and Hungary in 1956. Below is a photo of photo of blood being sent from Poznan to Hungary after the Hungarian uprising. I also remember this uprising because it was on my birthday.

Last year is Poland I met a wise Polish man who told me that Poland and Hungary are brothers! That is right for 1000 years!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the shopping center

This is not a funny thing really! My granddaughter had a 12:00 appointment at a nail shop at the West End Center. When we got there the shopping center was locked up and the guard at the door told it the shopping center had received a bomb threat. My granddaughter was disappointed but understood. We went to the nearby McDonald's which many people call the most beautiful McDonald's in the world. It is really beautiful. We ordered food and when we got to the table I realized by sandwich was not on the tray. I went to the line and waited until until I got to the front. The attendant was waiting for me and handed me the sandwich. I went back and said we were having the day when nothing goes OK.

After eating we walked back towards the shopping center and found it still locked. So I suggested we take the 4/6 tram to the Mammut again.

This time I got a photo of the interior.
 The information desk told us there was a nail shop and after walking around and asking questions for about 15 minutes we finally found it. They gave us an appointment for 15:00. That gave us two hours to do something else. After buying some more clothing I said I needed two things: a cold drink and then a book store.

Here's my granddaughter in the bookstore:

She took a lot of time picking out a book.

Back to the nail ship and it took nearly two hours -- so I was glad I stopped at the bookstore first. This was a rather posh salon so I could also entertain myself looking at what else was going on. There was also a computer to use, but it had a Hungarian keyboard. It took us a awhile to figure out to the @ sign off the V key so one could sign in at some the sites.

After the nail appointment we went to a Subway at my granddaughter's request. She said she liked Hungarian food better than Polish food and I pointed out she really hadn't eaten much Hungarian food, as she seems to be subsisting on french fries and white chocolate bars!

The weather has been better now than on Sunday when a temperature record was set. If I could be running around in the evening, it would be great. I may come back again next year alone and enjoy the city again.

Morning Walk in Budapest

I have never been to Szabadsag Ter in Budapest. My understanding is that Szabadsag translates to freedom or independence and nearly every Hungarian city has a street or square that contains this word.

My interest in getting there now is that the U.S. Embassy in Hungary recently posted some pictures of a new monument in this Ter on Facebook. So I took off a bit after 7:30 and arrived there around 8:00. I immediately felt like I had found a typical Hungarian place for everywhere I looked there was beauty.  In front of me was a beautiful building.
And behind me was a typical beautiful Hungarian door.

My major reason for going here was to see a new monument to Ronald Reagan. I was surprised to find it as a full figure for the Facebook picture had led me to think it was a bust.
Nearby is a kiosk from which one can get information.
It is clear that Central Europeans give Reagan a great deal of credit for their ability to break away from the Soviet bloc. When I mentioned this monument while yet in Poland, I received this comment: "Oh yes, he was very helpful to Poland, too." It is hard now to look back at the time of 1989 and remember just what all happened that ended up changing the world.

In the Ter I also found a monument to Harry Hill.
I had to come back and look him up. Hill was the Commander of U.S. forces in Hungary after the close of  WWI. He is credited from preventing the Romanians from arresting the Hungarian prime minister and also credited with saving the holdings of the Hungarian National Museum from being removed to Romania.

A very nice morning walk.