Saturday, December 13, 2014

One month

It has been one month now since I left Oklahoma.  We flew out of Oklahoma City on Wednesday, November 12, 2014.  This is actually the longest I have been away from Oklahoma since I was young and in the Navy.  That was back during the Vietnam era - a long, long time ago.  For me, it is a bit hard to believe that I am actually living here.

I cannot say that the adjustment has been difficult because I do not think I am really into an “adjustment” period.  Thus far, I still feel like a tourist.  This despite the fact that we have registered our marriage and my residence here and have gone to Gdansk to file the necessary documents to obtain my residence card.  Poland has a national identity card which every permanent resident has.  We are in the process of obtaining mine.  That should take about three or four months.

Of course, there are some things I must adjust to or learn to deal with.  First among those is the language barrier.  Polish is a difficult language.  Period.  I am gradually learning words, but that does not mean I can communicate.  Not yet.  And - trust me on this - google translate is beyond worthless.  Almost half of the time it is wrong.  But, I am learning little by little.  And, one of my goals is to reach the point that I can actually communicate with people.

Food is another difference.  In Poland, and in much of Europe, breakfast is a light meal.  Often, it is comprised of some bread, cheese or cheeses and some cold meat.  Like lunch meat.  What the Poles have for breakfast is what we in the US would consider a light lunch.  Earlier this week, I had a craving for home style food. So, I prepared a real American breakfast.   Sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy.  I had to make the sausage myself.  American type sausage is not available here.  I used ground pork and added the spices - sage, etc.  Actually, it turned out pretty tasty.  Then, I had to make biscuits from scratch.  Even though I had not done that in a long time, they turned out pretty well.  And, I made the gravy from scratch.  Again, not too bad.  I was happy as was Marek, my stepson.  I did not take pictures.  Next time I will.

One big cultural difference is in how people interact.  I grew up in Oklahoma and people there always greet each other even though they are not acquainted.  Here, people do not.  In Oklahoma, if you pass on the street, get on an elevator, meet at the door to a store, etc., you say hello, good morning, or, at least nod.  Here that does not happen.  People avoid eye contact and keep to themselves.  It is not that they are not friendly; it is just the way things are here.  People keep to themselves.  They are not unfriendly, they are just not as open and gregarious as we are in the southern US.  Also, the concept of “personal space” is different.  In the US, if you have to walk in front of someone standing in the aisle at the store, you always say “excuse me.”  Here, no one does that.  They just walk in front of you.  To them, it is not bad manners, it is just how things are.

Another difference is in getting around.  Here people walk.  A lot.  Even though it is much colder than back in Oklahoma, people are out and about walking all the time.  Older people, young couples with a baby stroller, etc.  There is a grocery store about a half mile from our house.  Biedronka is the name.  It translates to “ladybug” in English.  It is a chain and there are numerous ones in this part of Poland.

  Anyway, this one is, as I say, about a half mile from the house.  That distance is close enough that it is not worth the effort to get the car out the garage to go.  So, we walk.  Many people in this neighborhood walk there.  Walking, or riding a bicycle, is very common here.  That is not a bad thing, particularly since I need to exercise my carotid arteries. :)

I can say there is much I do enjoy and appreciate about being here.  I like the architecture of the buildings and the houses in the neighborhoods.  I like the fact that city hall is in a building that is several hundred years old.  I really like the fact that the downtown area is alive and vibrant with people everywhere moving and doing.  I like that there are little coffee shop/bakeries (Kawiarnia) where you can sit for a cup of coffee or tea and have a piece of cake or sweet roll.  I appreciate the fact that, within a mile of where I sit is a castle built by the Teutonic Knights in the 1200s.  The history of this place is, to me, amazing.  I am really looking forward to seeing more of Poland and Europe generally.

An old, old tower near city hall.

On the other hand, I have never lived in a place in such a northern latitude.  Wintertime here is depressing.  The days are short.  This time of year, it is dark - completely nighttime dark - by 4:00 p.m.  The temperature is cold and it is almost always cloudy.  Being so close, geographically, to where many Nazi concentration camps were located, it makes me consider the hardships endured by those imprisoned in this area during World War II.

Now, we have plans for the Christmas holiday which I need to blog about.  And, I think I will make a blog post about the things that I miss.

Until next widzenia.

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