As of today, I’ve officially been traveling for a month. What?! Greenday might have slept away September but in my case, so much has happened in this month of on-the-whim traveling. I’ve taught English, attempted to learn Polish, and have met the most kindhearted and intriguing of the human bunch. I’ve tried food that looks scary on the plate and sanded down the wheels of my suitcase from dragging it across the cobble-stoned streets of numerous old towns. I’ve had the chance to explore two magnificent countries, one of which has quickly become near and dear to my heart.
I’ve really enjoyed my time in Poland, capping it off with a week in Lębork and a night in Gdańsk. During my time in Lębork, I taught a few English classes here and there at a private school run by a Polish/Swiss couple. When I wasn’t having conversations about communism and hamsters with my students, I was cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children at my host’s home. My hosts have four children with ages ranging from seven to thirteen so the house was always filled with laughter and the sounds of trumpets and the wheels of skateboards squeaking against the floor.
My hosts even invited me to their running club called, “We Run Because We Like It”. What a pleasant name, I thought, as I dreamed about leisurely strolls around the park. Well, after a fifteen-minute warm-up that included stretches even Gumby can’t do, I was no longer fooled by the name. Soon after the stretching, or attempt at stretching finished, I was put into team “jeden” and instructed to run around the track while holding weights. My teammates ran fast, really fast, and wasted no time. The weights were down and the knees were up during ladder drills seconds after the first station. It was a good workout but there were several times during that somewhat exhausting session that I wondered if “We Run Because We Like It” was just a mistranslation.
In spite of my sore muscles, it was a wonderful thing to be surrounded by such a big and happy family who provided me with delicious meals, a peaceful flat, and an important reminder-a reminder that floats my way again and again; language barriers and variants in culture do not bar us from connection.
Because of the people I have met here, I always have reason to believe that we’re all different versions of the same type of individual, eager to use curiosity as a compass, revitalized on both the giving and receiving ends of empathy and compassion. We’re all dressed in idioms and accessorized with accents but the bare bones of what we are binds us to the same core of humanhood.
Anywho, let me tell you about Gdańsk!
After I finished my week off in Lębork, I took a train to Gdańsk and spent a night in the splendid, maritime city. It was cold and rainy most of the time I was there but I didn’t mind it. In fact, I think rain is the most-underrated of all weather patterns. There’s something quite beautiful about a newly-washed earth and the way wet pavement reflects the quiet glow of the lampposts shining above. When everything is cloaked in the shadows of rain clouds, you find yourself exploring areas you would have neglected otherwise. I spent the evening walking alongside the river, past softly-lit restaurants and floating pirate bars and soon after, I was weaving in and out of quiet streets until I reached ul. Dluga (main street). The night sky was a brilliant blue, complementing the glowing church and sparkling street lights perfectly. Simply put, Gdansk gave off a Van Gogh-esque kind of vibe.
When I made it back to my hostel, I slumped into bed and fell fast asleep…at first. Sometime in the early hours of the morning. I felt a small corner of my quilt move away from me. I pulled left, the sheets pulled ever so slightly to the right. My logic was still buried beneath my pillow so I decided the whispering breeze creeping through the window was just playing tricks on me. However, after a few more tugs, I opened my eyes to a find a man standing at the head of my bed, gingerly pulling on my sheet. Lucky for him and my fellow dorm mates, drowsiness had stolen my ability to scream but trust me, I was terrified. This man, mostly obstructed by the darkness of the room, didn’t seemed phased by my alarm and simply said, “too loud, too loud.” I had no what he meant but in the interest of ending this bizarre interaction, I replied, “oookay.”
He went back to sleep on the floor (not sure why), while I lay in bed, eyes stretched wide in confusion and uneasiness. A few moments later, I realized that it was my snoring neighbor who was too loud. Just as I expected, when the snoring grew louder, the man began to approach my bunk once again because he thought I was the culprit but when he noticed I was awake and annoyed (sleep is one of the worst things you can steal from me) he said “oh” and went back to bed.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I ended up sleeping on the common room couch that night which wasn’t a bad thing. It was actually a great thing because that couch was ridiculously comfortable and thankfully immune to sheet-tuggers.
I tell you this story because it’s just one of those many pocket-sized moments that have earned a small place in my memory and after spending three weeks in Poland, my memory pockets are now bulging.
I will always remember Poland for the special place it is. This country thrives on resilience, despite feeling the full-brunt of Nazi Occupation and Communist Rule. Poland is Europe’s Phoenix, a testament to all the splendor that awaits those who rise from the ashes and crave beauty out of destruction.
So cheers to you, Polska, and all of the special people who make up the bare bones of who you are. I’m currently on a bus to Vilnius, Lithuania and from what I’ve gathered, we just crossed the border so here it is. Goodbye for now as I go on to a new adventure which is sure to be just as grand as the last!