Wednesday, July 29, 2015

First Teaching Days at Language Camp 2015

I normally teach in multiple language camps during the summer, but this year "life" got in the way. I encountered a troublesome knee which made Zakopane a bad idea and then a troublesome tooth which prevented me in participating in the first language camp at Reymontowka.

My knee is gradually getting better and the tooth finally got fixed -- I learned what mistakes had been made in trying to fix it before I was referred to a specialist dentist. And now my dental insurance is refusing to pay any portion of this fix because I've had to have work on this tooth twice in less than two years! Probably not worth the fight to appeal this decision.

That all leads to being grateful I can participate in one language camp. My younger daughter kept insisting I was too ill to go back to Poland again, but all I could think about was how much fun I would be missing. I would have changed my plane tickets to stay for the third camp, but alas Reymontowka is already full with the next group of volunteers and the expected campers and there is no place for me to have a room.

A program always begins with an orientation day. We break about 11:00 so that interested volunteers may attend church in the nearby village of Żeliszew Duży. This wooden church has a cornerstone showing it was built in 1776.  But I surely was surprised when I got there. Since my last visit there has been renovation done on the outside of the church and now it is a different color. 

 Formerly is was a dark brown color. 

While others attended Mass, Dorota and I went into Kotun where I purchased a new hairbrush. Mine had disappeared somewhere along in the journey between Warsaw and Reymontowka. I also bought a bottle of wine at the request of 2 of my Global Volunteer teammates. 

In the afternoon we gathered in the tent with all the student campers. I had no need to introduce myself. Nearly half of the group knew me from previous camps. 

By the end of the afternoon I had met my class of students. I have three boys and four girls. Two of the girls are from Warsaw and the remainder live in Siedlce. This group is at the most beginning level in the camper group. Two of them are 8 years, 1 of them is 10 years old, and the rest are 9 years old. 

Monday we had the first classes and I found they are wonderful and serious students. It is always a guess as to what level of English the students really area. I found they went through my planned materials more quickly than I had anticipated so we went for walk. This group of students knows a great deal of vocabulary, but haven't had the chance to put it to good use. So during the walk I tried to get them to use a short, complete sentence such as "This is a flag" rather than just naming the object as a flag. 

Monday night was camp initiation. This is a feature of every camp but this one surprised me. Formerly each new camper had to do the same thing such as crawl under a set of chairs blindfolded and then put their hands into some kind of sticky goop. This year, instead, each had to do some sort of activity and each was different. Our 9 year old volunteer had to use a hoola hoop, another girl had to build a pyramid from paper cups, and another had to balance a tennis ball on top of the container normally holding tennis balls while running in a circle around the tent. 

By the second class on Tuesday I was becoming more familiar with my students. I copied an idea from a fellow volunteer. I asked each of them questions about things such as their favorite food, color, and sport. As they heard the answers each filled in the answer on a worksheet by that camper's name. 

In the afternoon we went into Siedlce to meet with the Deputy Governor of the County of Siedlce. We do this because our official host is the County of Siedlce. I had met the Deputy when I was here in May -- a group that also included 10 volunteers. I was most surprised to find that he remembered me. 

Home in the evening found us enjoyed a karaoke evening with the campers. Here are camp this is not usually an individual event but rather a group decide something they want to sing. I was happy -- a bad pun coming here actually -- when a group of campers came to me and asked if I would participate in the song Happy with them. This song was used for the dance performance last year. I did this routine at three camps and how to do actually returned to me. However, the gimpy leg this year will not let me "turn around" or rotate. But it was fun anyway. 

I am so very glad I made my way through three airports to get here! And any reader of this blog who speaks English could have such fun too. See for more information. 


Monday, July 27, 2015

From Amsterdam to Reymontowka

On Friday morning, July 24, I enjoyed breakfast at the Citizen M hotel. The staff there is wonderful. This is a buffet breakfast, but noting my pink cane, the staff was wonderfully helpful, getting me more orange juice and more cappuccino. Then upstairs for the final packing.

I got myself over to Schiphol Plaza and reorganized by carry on bag just a bit. I enter Schiphol Plaza from Departure Hall 4 and have to get to Departure Hall 1 -- a long walk. Then at the KLM kiosk I again encountered the problem of having to pay 30 Euros for checking a bag. So I had to wait in a line to get personal attention and have my Delta Skymiles account entered into the KLM records. Baggage then quickly checked with out paying the fee.

Again my pink cane had to go through security. Then it was a long walk to Gate D60. This involved finding a lift (what we call an elevator in the United States) and going up one level. Then when I got to the gate I found I had to do the opposite, get a lift to go down one level. This turned out to be a waiting area with only about 16 seats. The flight waiting to board featured one of the budget airlines and the gate area was packed with young adults flying to Palma. So back up the lift and out into a more waiting area. There I found a smoothie drink and sat down to read for awhile. When I thought is was time to my flight I went back. There was one chair in the middle of a row. When I asked if that chair was available,  a man on the end of row said, "No, no, take my seat" and I did!

The flight to Warsaw was packed, but an easy flight.  We entered the baggage hall at Carousel 9 and of course my baggage was to arrive on Carousel 1. Finally it got there and I was on my way to the Courtyard by Marriott. Arriving there I found I did not have a reservation -- my mistake. They graciously helped me, including taking my baggage right to my room.

Then I went down to the Lobby Bar for supper. Now I'm in Poland and I can have black currant juice.

Not only do I like it, but dark fruits such as this contain an enzyme which helps to reduce arthritis inflammation.

I ordered a hamburger remembering that it is very good here.

Tucked behind it is a small dish of coleslaw. There is an English idiom -- my eyes are bigger than my stomach. I couldn't eat all of this, but indeed it was good.

Had a good night's rest.

Then on Saturday morning, July 25, down to the lobby again for breakfast. I chose scrambled eggs with lots of Polish mushrooms.

Up to my room for the final packing and then waiting for an e-mail to arrive from Dorota telling me the van from Reymontowka was entering Warsaw. I got to the Departure gate area where previous volunteers were being left just in time to load my luggage into the van.

Then I went downstairs by the Arrival gate area to Flying Bistro to wait with two volunteers who had come in on a 7:30 AM flight. By 12:00 we had everyone gathered and we were on our way to Reymontowka.

Upon arrival we were met with the traditional Bread and Salt Ceremony.

This ceremony is traditional in many parts of Central Europe. It welcomes guests and assures them at the same time that the host had food and drink to meet their needs.

After finding our rooms -- and I volunteered for Room 9, the one without hot water! -- we gathered for obiad, the Polish word for the mid-day meal. Below is a photo of the view from my room.

With 54 campers, 10 volunteers, and the Polish staff the campus is full up. We eat our meals in the Red Room, a room that was a library when the house was built. This room presently displays an exhibit of floral paintings by Krystyny Bachanek.

Below is one wall of paintings and her self protrait.

The self portrait is much better than my photo displays. I couldn't overcome the light from the nearby window. 

We had wonderful obiad, the Polish word for the large mid-day meal, and then had time for a short rest. Then it was time for supper!

During our evening meal the promised thunderstorm arrived, changing the temperature from the low 90s to the mid 70s. The thunderstorm was a delightful experience for the volunteers from California, who seldom see such an occurrence.  Some of us sat on the steps leading to the tent watching the rain pour down on the side windows. 

Then time to rest before all the Sunday orientation and class planning activities.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

From Minnesota to Amsterdam

My granddaughter and her boyfriend drove me to the airport. Getting there is a trick these days because there is construction on a bridge across the Mississippi River about 1 mile east of the airport. The lines to get across the bridge particularly get longer when it is rush hour. I got there in plenty of time and breezed through security easily because I'm TSA pre-checked. This is the first time I'm traveled with a cane. When I got to the personal security area, I was handed another cane to use for walking to use while my personal cane went through the x-ray line.

My tradition before a flight is to have a Caribou Chocolate Cooler. I found a Caribou right out of security with seating by it. Sat there and used the charging station for my phone and Kindle while I enjoyed the cooler. While reading the MPR news on my phone I ironically read a story that theft of phones and tablets has increased 300% at the airport.

I decided to make the walk to the gate for my flight and didn't get many steps towards there before a cart driver stopped and asked if I would like a ride. Oh yes!

The flight was OK, except for a very cold cabin. I wrapped up in the blanket provided by Delta, but was uncomfortably cold most of the flight. And it was somewhat empty. I noticed on a monitor before boarding that 79 seats were available. I was on the aisle in the configuration of 4 seats and the two seats in the middle were empty. But before I could take advantage at all of that extra space the man on the opposite side in the aisle seat took advantage of his seat plus the two empty seats to have stretch out and have a very good sleep.

The Amsterdam airport is under renovation and this time the walk between Passport control and baggage was much shorter. That is a good change. But the place for Delta is still a long walk once one hits the baggage area. On the other hand, the exit from this area is right by my favorite cafe in Schiphol Plaza and very close to the place to leave for the hotel, Citizen M.

I started to stay at this hotel in 2012. At that time one had a wonky remote control to run things in the room. When I came in May I found this replaced by an Ipad. One uses this to run the TV, set up movies, manage the blinds on the windows, turn the lights on and off, and set the temperature of the room. Both the Ipad and the TV monitor welcome one.

I took a short nap and then decided it was time for supper. Because I have a lot of walking to do through airports for the next flight connections, I decided to check out what Citizen M might have for an evening meal. One of the staff quickly came to my rescue explaining the dishes and then carrying my choice to a table.

He told me Moroccan Chicken was one of his favorite dishes and that it was only slightly spicy. I added Fried Noodles to the plate as well.

Both were really good. I was in the mood too for something sweet and noticed there was a cake plate. That led to a serving of carrot cake.

This was good too. I'm writing this at blog post at 2:30 in the morning Central Europe time. Soon it will be time to go downstairs and have a raisin bun, another favorite I have at this place.

This trip is off to a good start, now that I can wrap up in a comfortable duvet and not be cold when trying to sleep.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Scenes along the Mississippi River

At the language camps in Poland each of us is asked to do a presentation, preferably a Power Point presentation with lots of pictures, for our audience is usually 50-60 campers. One can't hold up a postcard, for example, and expect the kids to see it.

I got tired of talking about Minnesota and in some of the previous years I've done a presentation about other things such as Disney World and my 2014 trip to Bolivia. This year I decided to go back to Minnesota and will hope there is not another volunteer on the same team from Minnesota. Often there is more than one person from Minnesota and that is another reason I've started to do other subjects.

I can't talk about Minnesota and St. Paul without making reference to the Mississippi River. The river forms both the west and south border of St. Paul. And if you are surprised about south, this is one of few or perhaps the only place where the Mississippi flows for a bit from west to east rather than north to south.

I lived along the Mississippi when I lived in Winona and have lived within 1-4 blocks of the river during most of the time I have lived in Saint Paul. I thought the pictures library on my computer would have lots of pictures or that I could copy some off my blog -- my blog has photos that are held on two different computers. Well, I didn't find much that I wanted so early in Friday evening -- yesterday -- I enjoyed an early supper with my older daughter and then we took off to take some pictures. I thought I would share the photos here too.

But first, I wondered how the river got its name. I did a Google search and learned it comes from the Europeans' efforts to pronounce the Chippewa Indian words --Misi Zibi, which means Great River. How did a name from this northern area prevail? Probably because the Mississippi River begins in what is now northern Minnesota. The head waters are in a protected area, the Itasca State Park.