Dzień dobry z UJ i Krakowie.
Yesterday I took two parts of a final exam at the end of an intensive Polish course. We crammed about 15 weeks into 17 days and I will be honest, my head is swimming. This morning, after a significant nap yesterday and a pretty substantive night of sleep I can see patterns for adjectives and nouns that yesterday were no where to be found in my head. I have realized a couple of things about my learning pattern as a 60+ person that I am not sure I realized or struggled with as a 29 year old the last time I did an intensive language program. I also better know what I believe is necessary to learn such a different language now. While I understand the grammar quite well, at least in terms of requirements and patterns, understanding the philology of Polish or Slavic languages is another issue. Yet I would not trade this past month for all the złoty I could fit in my pocket. This last month was the first focused part of a plan to come and teach in Poland in two years. There will be more pieces to that learning puzzle and it will take more concentrated work during the in-between period of time. The next two summers will require my residence here in Kraków for 6 weeks, but it is my hope to be through level B2 by the time I would be here. I will here this phrase “krok po kroku” in the voice of Dominika for the rest of my living days. That voice with her infatigable excitement and genuine passion for teaching Polish is something that will draw you in and make you want to learn. When you are tired or your brain wants to stop, she will pick you back up. Beata goes about it differently. She is steady, calm, and pushes you when you might not realize she is pushing. I told them yesterday that together they were the ideal pair for beginning learners. Their strengths compliment each other well and a month later I am genuinely grateful to both of them for all I leaned. I know that it has not even begin to really sink in how much I learned. Their integration of listening in class, speaking to us 95% of the time in Polish, our field trips through the park where we had to ask questions, our scavenger hunt of sorts from the university to Kazimierz, their beginning questions and the intermediate two exams created an impressive learning environment, but more importantly, an effective one. As an older learner, there were advantages and disadvantages. I realized I needed the listening and pronunciation sessions more than I anticipated. That is where not living in the dorm took it’s toll. I did add a pronunciation tutoring session, but I should have done it from the beginning. There were three students in particular who were phenomenally impressive. The one, a linguistics student from Wisconsin, blew everyone away with a 99% average for the summer, and he walked in with no Polish. His roommate, who I was fortunate enough to do my oral section of my final with, and I believe has a Polish parent, was also outstanding. The third student, a graduate student at Harvard, and who has an extensive Yiddish background, really mastered things. Her note taking and study habits were impeccable. What is most impressive is we did not lose a single student in either beginner section. That is a testament to how well the course is managed in spite of the intensity. I also learned that some of the sounds in Cantonese are closer to Polish than in our English language, so often the students from Hong Kong had less problems with pronunciation than the American students.
As I am finishing my month in Kraków, the memories from this summer will last a life time. While I have found Kraków beautiful around the holidays with the Christmas market and the snow-covered trees and roofs, it does not hold a Christmas candle to the beauty of the river, the flowers, and the atmosphere of the summer. It does get warm, at times quite humid, and an umbrella is a must, but nonetheless walking among the tourists and the multitude of languages is a cultural experience in and of itself. While I certainly have gotten some walking in when I was here with students, the number of Kilometers or miles walked in the last month is probably more than I walk the rest of the year. Something I plan to change when I return to Bloomsburg tomorrow. There is also something about having to walk to the grocery store every couple days and all the meat must be used in 24-36 hours (except for kielbasa or bacon). The fruit and vegetable markets are wonderful. As I walked an average of 6-7 miles a day I took the time to notice things I would have never noticed on the tram. In thirty days, I took my first Uber out to a nearby town to have lunch with Kasia and the other evening I did take the tram back to the city center because it was raining and I had my final documents from the class. Fortunately, when I got to Teatr Bagatela the rain had stopped and I was able to walk home.
. . . It is now Thursday and I am down to less than 24 hours before I am on the on the plane in Kraków z Warszawa z JFK. I packed some things this morning trying to figure out if I am overweight, and it is possible. I might decide to leave somethings with Kate and then I will have to pack less, or I might go to the post office and purchase a small box and send some things. I have a few hours to decide. I have learned that like in the United States most servers are college students trying to make money during the summer. Today I met a new student who has a great command of English with almost no accent. She wants to become a translator. Her name is Kamila. I am always intrigued by people’s stories. I guess the concept of storytelling has been something that I have found helpful, regardless of which side I am on, listening or telling. Stories identify and help us create identity. The longer we live the more complex, and hopefully, interesting the story becomes. It really is a fundamental part of who we are. I have realized through the years that whether it was a sermon when I was a pastor or when I am trying to make a concept clear in classes today, I resort to telling a story I hope will explain what I am trying to teach more effectively. Not long ago (within the last 6 weeks), I participated in a former colleague’s podcast, telling my story of living with Crohn’s Disease. As I return to America, I have new stories and the experiences of the last month has certainly done something significant in my understanding yet again who I am (smiling as I write this because I am in the airport in Kraków and listening to the Eagles and “Hotel California.” Seems ironic on more than one level. As I listen to the announcements here, I can now understand them in two languages. That was not the case four weeks ago.
Reading the news today, I realize that President Trump was in my neighborhood last night. I am afraid that I am content I was not around to witness the hub-bub that accompanies such visits. Nor did I have to listen to him support a U.S. Representative who has failed to meet even once in a town hall style meeting during the entire time he has “served” as our Representative. It had been an interesting morning in that I have noted things in Polish, texted a former Dana classmate who is currently living in Norway, and spoken to my winemaker friend from California, who is with his family in Italy for the coming year. Astounding what we can do.
Seems I might have to leave my phone on as I am unable to save the work I have done on this blog because it noted an error while saving. Now it is in a loop. I have decided to plug in a bit until our flight departs, which is a bit longer than anticipated because of a short delay. Fortunately I do not have a quick turn around time in Warsaw. It is a beautiful day. I am still stunned by how early it is light here in the morning. It is before 5:00 a.m. and, in fact, when I first arrived it seemed closer to 4:00. Now it is certainly closer to 5:00, but that is so early compared to Pennsylvania. I was up before 5:00 this morning and had everything managed well before my 7:30 Uber time. Well it seems as I ready myself to board the plane, indeed, there might be a chapter closing, but I prefer to see it as the prelude to a much longer chapter just beginning. Thank you to Katarzyna (both of them) for meeting with me, as it was wonderful to see you again. To the second or newer one for being an impeccable host. I will see both of you in December. To Tomasz for being a wonderful flat-mate for a few days or David for 10 days. To Anna for taking time to have dinner with me and help me with my Polish and to spend an evening chatting. To the newest people I have been blessed to meet: Beata i Dominika, for your great instruction. To Andrzej, Nataly, Kamila, and Lublana (sp) all at Urban Garden. To Mariusz at Costa and Dr. Martyniuk and Dr. Prizel-Kania. I am grateful to you all for making the month something beyond my most hopeful imagination. What a wonderful reality it has been. It is time to fly. The picture is of two of the Urban Garden servers.
Thank you for reading.