Here and there

I started writing this “episode” a few weeks ago while I was still in Poland and I’m just now getting back to it. What a shame :)
I had a truly amazing time in Poland - like being a tourist in my own country, hanging out with family and friends, eating popular and favorite dishes, discovering unknown facets of Warsaw.

I left for Poland on Sunday, very excited and very sick. A few days before my departure I caught a terrible cold that made my packing hell. Now that I think about it, I was very lucky. Nobody seems really to care about the swine flu and the vague possibility of catching it anymore but it made the news a few days after my trip to Poland.

I’m not sure if I would have been allowed to enter the plane in the US or leave the airport in Poland, had the news of swine flu occurred a few days earlier. I appeared as if - coughing, sneezing, dopey eyes from the medicines, and a fever I had the (swine) flu.

Nevertheless, it was one of the best flights ever :)
About two months ago I started working with a magazine in Poland writing about dogs, the article and the pictures were due on Monday, the day of my arrival. I managed to send the pictures before the departure but the rest of my energy was spent on fighting the cold and packing.
No time left, just 10hours on the plane until the deadline, still not feeling very well but very motivated to get my task done, and I did it!
One of the few long flights when I almost wanted it to last longer :)

I had two major concerns– getting a complaining taxi driver on the way from the airport and not being able to stand the cigarette smoke.
Luckily Edith, my BFF picked me up, we still took the cab but we were talking instead of the driver :)
The funny thing – after not seeing each other for 9 months, we had only the previous week to discuss since we had been speaking regularly the previous months via the almighty Skype.

During my stay I stayed at her place while in Warsaw and at my parents’ while in the south of Poland.

After few hours I felt as if I never left Poland, pretty amazing, and this feeling accompanied me during the whole stay. I didn’t expect it at all.
Eating Polish food became a big thing, while in SF I didn’t miss it at all, but back in Poland all I wanted to eat was Polish food :) Sushi? I was nearly offended when a friend of mine asked me out for sushi, Italian restaurant – no way, I wanted pierogi (dumplings), bigos (sauerkraut stew with meat and mushrooms), flaczki (tripe), regional soups, schabowy (pork chop), kaszanka (black pudding) etc. Sounds scary, tastes heavenly.
By the way, Polish kielbasa or Polish sausage don’t exist in Poland, Polish cuisine is much more sophisticated :)

There are many differences between the two countries but I don’t really see a point in comparing them. I feel great here and there, and both words are true for both countries.
Warsaw is a bit like New York, everyone is rushing, it’s loud and the streets are busy, lots of slim people (not that in SF people are obese but NY = diet &fit to many), the girls are beautiful and very elegant; high heels, stockings or tights, scarves that compliment shoes, bracelets, and the eye shadow. Elegant, tidy and neat. Sometimes boring. Not so many tattoos or piercings, but if any it’s very subtle.
Smoking – well, it wasn’t as bad as I expected but I kind of avoided heavy smokers and smoke-filled places.
Smoking in Poland will be far more restricted soon, really looking forward to it, I never liked coming from a club or a restaurant hardly being able to speak with ashtray-perfumed hair and skin.

My dog Ricky received a Kong (bouncy, rubber, chewer-friendly toy that can be filled with treats and food), a Kong Wubba (fun, interactive toss and tug squeaker toy), a sensation harness and a premier flat collar. I Americanized her but apparently she loved it :)
Ricky is a 9 year old Tibetan terrier mix who is passionate about training.
She probably thinks that clicker is the best invention ever, in her private ranking it is definitely no 1, maybe no 2 when it comes to off leash walks.
During my short stay I taught her several tricks and impulse control exercises, including my favorite ‘leave it’; of course she mastered those very quickly :)

I spent my days socializing, meeting friends, cruising between banks, doctors, catching up with the changes in my family’s and friends’ lives. Roller-skating along the riverside, biking in the countryside, testing out my friend’s new convertible, getting the tick vaccine, visiting my friend’s new sandwich place (Ike’s place in a more elegant version).
Celebrating meals, not really drinking so much, going out a lot, partying less. Dream vacation :) And where elsewhere your friend gives you her bedroom, duvet and bed and sleeps on the sofa in the living room in a sleeping bag? Edith, thank you! You are the best :)

The weather was truly awesome, a beautiful warm Polish spring, very sunny. Dream weather :)

The whole stay was very smooth, great energy, there was some mutual complaining and criticizing I took part in but it was so little that it was almost amusing :) Not that Americans don’t complain but Europeans, and Poles in particular have mastered this skill :) Different culture, complaining is like talking about the weather in England, or asking “how are you” in the States without really listening to the answer :) Just to be clear – when you ask “how are you” in Poland, be prepared to listen to a longer story and to tell something about yourself in return :)

I wrote a few weeks ago (in Polish) about the things that I miss the most. It turned out that I miss the daily routines, the main of which was sitting on my friends’ couches or at the kitchen table at my parents’ :) Of course the main part of these rituals are talking, eating and drinking and I did it all :) On the other hand, I totally forgot to watch my favorite comedy TV show (SNL-style show) which kind of made me realize that some of the rituals are lost.

I deliberately chose not to stay too long in Poland as I didn’t want to go through the post-vacation blues combined with the home-sickness.
Well, it still kicked in, with my internship being almost over, some uncertainty regarding the next steps, turmoil in the private life……it all had quite an impact on my life.
It took a few weeks to straighten things up, part of the ‘therapy’ was the gym, and the diet – an introduction to healthier eating :)
And now….it’s really good to be back in San Francisco :)

To see the pictures from Poland please go to Moje linki/Zdjecia (on the right). The album is called Poland April/May 2009.