School

This one is for my college friends.

How are things? School is almost out for you guys, must be nice. I just finished my second week of the semester. It’s crazy here. The physics is neat. It’s all in English (the Master’s program) but I’m the only native speaker and true exchange student. All the others are from Asia and one from Africa: Ukraine, Russia, 2 from Lybia, Palestine, 3 from Iraq, 2 from India, Ethiopia, and 2 from China. It is quite a mix. Being a native speaker gives me a little advantage the classes since everything is in English – especially Lab where we have to write 20 page reports and the like. Good luck on exams to you guys.

I’m taking Chinese

Actually, it’s more like a 3 hour German class because of the basic level.  What I decided to do was speak more German, and the best way is to attend classes that are in German.  Most don’t interest me or are way above my level (more of the latter).  So instead of learning nothing I chose to learn Chinese at the same time.

Earlier I had bought many children’s books in German to teach me vocabulary.  What I found was that they are so boring I rarely pick them up.  So, something on my level of comprehension but still higher interest was what I needed.  I could take more Spanish courses, but they are all in Spanish and almost no German is spoken.  So what else?  Physics of course; only I didn’t want to disturbe my schedule so much that I’d lose out on long weekends. The best part is that the Chinese is at a very low level, so the teacher talks to us in the German I understand.  It’s great; something interesting and in German!

Ouch

Man, I climbed a tree the other day and as normal scratched myself a few times.  No big deal.  Well, Tania wanted me to put some Oxiginated Water (Hydrogen Peroxide) on the scratches.  No big deal right?

Well, it really wasn’t, but it sure suprised me.  In the US you can find 2 or 3% H2O2 pretty easily.  Doctors can get 30% and dilute it themselves.  I’m not sure what percentage she had, but it was hot.  Darn stuff not only killed the bacteria,  but it also killed all the skin around the scratches.  I went from a few little abrasions to full scabs on my hand.  I didn’t let her know that it hurt – much more than the tree did, and much more than I expected.
Weird huh?

I did find single packets of Oreos; now if I only had rootbeer life would be good.

Good days!!!!

Today was my first day of class.  Normally Mondays I have to do, but the first week class wasn’t held.

I’ve ridden the bike every day since Friday so far and am about to take it out again.  That is really great.

And to top it off, I solved a Rubik’s Cube for the first time.  Thomas bought one a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been figuring it out ever since.

Things are going great. 😀

Christmas Eve in Poland

I left off last with us about to celebrate Christmas. We had just put up two Christmas trees, both of which turned out beautiful. One was all white as Kuba’s youngest sister has requested, and the other was decorated more typically with angels and ornaments of neat design. Kuba’s mom had at one time designed Christmas tree ornaments for a store in Warsaw. Some of them were very neat to see.

Being Christmas Eve the whole family dressed up in nice clothes, including me, and we headed to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner. Some cousins were there, and the meal was fantastic. Babcia as she is called had prepared a meal that was out of this world. I could tell that she had spent a couple days preparing the meal. I won’t do it justice, but some of the thing we ate were hand picked marinated mushrooms, her famous fish in jelly, several salads of different types, another typed of baked stuffed mushroom, choices of soups, and so much more. No one left the table less than full, and then there was desert! Quite a spread I’ll say. It was all vegetarian because of the Religious holiday and because half the people there were.

After Christmas Eve dinner it is traditional to give presents. It was very wonderful to spend the holiday with their family. They really made me feel at home. It was moving to see how generous everyone was. It would be Ania’s first year to ski, so she was happy to get some equipment, and we made her try it on. Her job as youngest was to play Christmas Angel and deliver the presents to everyone. Also here is a picture of most of us at the dinner.


I should say one thing: This was the family’s first Christmas without the father. He had suffered a fatal accident in October while completing Captain school in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He completed the school and was awarded the highest rank obtainable for a civilian in the British Navy. 1 Day later he fell from a height while working and never woke up. Kuba invited me even after the accident. At first I was hesitant, but he insisted, and I am glad I did. It was very special for me. During this evening videos were showed of the 3 funerals given for his father: one in Florida, another aboard a boat in Poland, and one in the cemetery in Warsaw. Also a photo album was presented to Grandfather of pictures of his son. He was very moved.

Christmas Eve was special, and afterward everyone went home and tried to recover from eating so much. 😀

Here is a link to the all the photos.

Arriving in Poland

It’s been a while. I’ve traveled quite a bit since Christmas, but a lot happened then that I want to write down before it gets too late. After that I’ll try to catch up on more recent events.

First I want to say that Polish people are wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed ever minute I in was in Poland, and would like to thank my hosts for being so great to me. I think you will see that we had a great time and were in really great company.

It starts out that my friend Kuba from Warsaw invited me to Poland for Christmas and New Years. You might find that an odd time to go being as that part of Europe is especially cold during that time of year, but it really was a pleasure. First the old world was experiencing an exceptionally warm winter, nearly 3 degrees C above normal, and until then nearly no snow had fallen anywhere in the European Union. Still I packed for a cold 2+ weeks planning at least once to go skiing – which would be my first time.

We of course went out the night before to say goodbye to all our friends. It would be weeks before we got to see each other again. I was headed to Poland with the Polish guys; Thomas to Vienna, many to Spain, more to Paris. We all told our plans and wished each other happy holidays.

That Thursday we got started a little late. 5 of us were going in all: Kuba, Gosia, Tomek, Kasiu, and myself. We were riding in Gosia’s car, and it was going to be a long drive. The original plans were for 15 hours, but it took much longer than that; compounded with the late start, and we were pretty tired upon arriving.

Somehow we managed to fit bags for all 5 of us for several weeks in the car. It was a tight fit. Along the way we played music and videos. Gosia did most of the driving, but Kasiu and Kuba took over as the night wore on. We left after 2PM. Our only hang up was the border crossing. Poland is one of the more recent countries admitted into the European Union and still has border crossings; most of the others I’ve been to did not. The line there was nearly 2 hours; so Gosia and I took a walk in the direction of Poland! And upon crossing the river we waited for the other guys. I think they had fun while waiting and made some funny videos. Here are some pictures up to that point.—

Once in Poland it was time to buy gas, which was about 25% cheaper than in Germany. We also had a short stop in Poznán to drop off Kasiu. From then Kuba drove, and we made pretty good time. There are only a couple real highways in Poland, and the one from Berlin-Poznán-Warsaw is a toll on the Poland side. So we took the back roads.

It was a long drive to Warsaw, and the sun had nearly risen by the time we got there, but that wasn’t the end of our travels. Tomek lived about 20km north of town, and we had to take him there first. Funny story associated with that trip. I had been awake just about the entire time up till this point, but I was riding in the front seat and hung my hand from the handle above. Somehow upon falling asleep I kept my hand there but my head hung down over my chest making a funny picture for my friends, as you can imagine. While Tomek was in the back giving directions I rested in this awkward position. We arrived and he went home to sleep, but we still had to make it back to town. It was getting light by then. Something happened. Kuba asks how to get back. He was tired and only listening to directions; Gosia wasn’t paying attention. Upon hearing this I woke up pointed left, said “take this till the roundabout – go right until the next then left”. They looked at me like I was crazy, after all I had been sleeping. Well they did follow my directions, and we made it back to Warsaw without further complication. All of us still wonder to this day how I knew the way back in a country in which I’d never been only hearing something while at the same time sleeping. It gets good laughs from the 3 of us any time it is brought up.

The sun was up now, and traffic picking up for the last workday of the week. It was nearly 7AM when we arrived to meet Kuba’s mom and take her to an appointment. We went back and immediately went to sleep. Gosia’s sister was in Warsaw and she went there to sleep a little while before taking her home. After nearly 18 hours we had made it, and I was tired.

We woke up sometime in the afternoon, and after eating Kuba wanted to show me his University and had some errands to run. So we did those things. Later that day were several Christmas Eve parties. Actually it was the Eve of Christmas Eve when the parties were, but traditionally in Poland everyone spends time with their family the days before Christmas, and friends the days before that. His first group was people from the sailing club he and his dad had belonged to. We showed up a little underdressed, but all was good. Later that night was a party at his friends which ended up much more interesting. It seems everyone brought at least one bottle of vodka, some of them delicious, and all were willing to share. Kuba didn’t drink because he was driving, but I partook. Fun guys those Polish; I think they only stopped drinking long enough to get the next bottle out of the fridge. At one point I opened a beer and was asked, “what, do you have to drive or something?” Of course not I answered. “Then why are you drinking beer?” Maybe they have a different outlook on things. Of course it was holidays for everyone. Of course everyone had missed Kuba’s birthday a couple weeks before, and they celebrated at that time.

The next day was Christmas Eve, and we had lots of stuff to do. There was a ski market near their house, and the youngest sister, Ania, was going to learn to ski this year. Plus Kuba wanted to get himself some things, and me too since I would also be skiing for the first time. We loaded up. I was also able to get my first Polish Kielbasa there. Kuba’s family is vegetarian, and while the food they eat is excellent I was looking to try some famous Polish meaty food. Here is Kuba with his new skis. He was very happy

It is Polish tradition to make up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve so Kuba, Vojcek, a roommate, and I went to find a couple good ones. They turned out beautiful. I’m afraid that that’s all for now. If I were to tell about the wonderful food we ate that evening at Babcia’s house (Babcia is Polish for grandmother), then I would probably explode even today. It was amazing, but I’ll have to save it for next time.

If you like, there are a lot of photos to flip through.  You can find them here.