" I implore you, my child; observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that mankind comes into being in the same way..." 2 Maccabees 7:28

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poland #1

First of all, there are 2 new people to pray for;
Jackie- 29 years old with a brain tumor. This Monday at 7:30 am she goes in for surgery on her right frontal lobe, it will be removed.

Also Debbie, wife of blogger Anamchara (see new link on the right) whose wife also has a brain tumor.

A few years back I had a really difficult year, probably the hardest of my life, including this one. Anyway, in June I had this certainty that I needed to go to Poland. Rather a homebody by nature, I didn't want to go alone and searched for a friend to travel with. When none turned up, I assumed it wouldn't work out and the desire to go began to fade. Then one day I just overheard someone say the word "Poland" in another context, and out of nowhere the desire to go returned one hundred fold. So I made plans to go by myself- I would participate in a walking pilgrimage starting in Warsaw and finishing in Czestochowa on the Feast of the Assumption. We walked 150 miles in the rain and sun, slept in barns, etc. But before that I travelled by myself around Poland, visiting many shrines and sites related to John Paul II. But I was so profoundly lonely! Before the start of the pilgrimage, God and John Paul II were my only companions. Anyway, now that we are nearing that time of year again, I am revisiting the emails I sent during that time. It's a long post, sorry. You can stop reading now and there will be no hard feelings.

Made it here with no problems or glitches and have had an easy time getting around as well. I am in Warsaw now, but will leave for Krakow tomorrow morning. Everyone I have spoken to has said it is best to go to Warsaw first, because if you see Krakow first, then Warsaw is sort of disappointing. I foolowed Kasia's advice about people who are younger being more helpful and friendly than the older ones who worked under the communist regime. So far I have had only good experiences with all the various workers, although the guidebook referred to the train station agents as "monolingual grouches". Of course, I use my Polish dictionary and write down everything in Polish, so that helps as long as they don't ask me any questions.
The part of the city where my hotel is is big and ugly and very busy. My room overlooks a 5 way intersection and you cross the street by way of a circular underground tunnel with stairs back up to the street level every so often. I get really disoriented underground and can't tell where I am so I poke my head up every opening, get my bearings, then head back underground. I must look like one of those moles in that video game we used to play at the pizza parlor ("Whack- A- Mole, I think it's called) where the moles stick their heads up and you try to bang them with a mallet before they disappear.
Just 2 blocks away is the nice part of the city- Nowy Swiat I think it's called. Lots of upscale (for Poland) shops and colorful buildings leading to the city center which really starts to look European. It's all fairly close so I can get everywhere on foot.
The food is good and pretty inexpensive. They have these things called "milk bars", a relic from communism where the workers were supposed to be able to take their family out for a break. The food is simple and VERY inexpensive (bowl of soup for about .40 USD) but they have plain brown walls and no adornments at all. It is a bit dreary inside, really. Human beings need beauty. Some of the typical Polish food is a bit heavy- lots of sausage and pierogi. It sometimes feels a bit heavy for my liking, but that might be because of the heat as well. When it is really hot, you don't want heavy food. Lots of berries, though.
Mom, I have been drinking lots of Polish Gatorade. It keeps me from getting "mud-WOOSH-che, (Hope can translate). They even have a flavor here that Trish and I loved but disappeared from the shelves, remember that, Trish? It tasted a bit like Grapefruit. Here it is called Poweraid (I think they have that brand in the US as well). The weather has been in the high 80's and pretty humid. Only the most high end establishments have air conditioning, and as I frequent the lower end establishments I have gotten used to being hot and sticky. You don't even notice it after a while. Or not so much, at least...
The drivers here are similar to Roman drivers, yet they really do defer to the pedestrians (unlike in Italy) They will always slow down for a walker, and even seem to do it gladly, yet they are going at such high speeds they couldn't possibly spot them all in time. It doesn't surprise me that John Paul II was hit by car in his youth- I would think it was so common as to become a rite of passage for young Poles.
No aggressive men yet, Charity, so I'm glad I did not take your proferred bull horn or mace. There are some weird panhandlers who dress up like executioners and put on a sort of funny show where they drag a tourist over to a "guillotine" and say they will liberate his head from his body unless they give them some pocket change. I guess it is a creative idea for making money if you have few marketable skills and little drive or ambition. I hear that they actually speak English but I didn't talk to them. I mean. what would I say, really?
Then there are the people who walk around in the city center with a picture of a baby. I'm not sure what the storyline is but as they speak no English I can get away pretty easily. Cute baby, though.
Found a local church that has mass almost every hour all the way up to 8 pm. Haven't really met any other travellers though as I am currently staying at a hotel. When I get to Krakow I will be at a youth hostel and I am sure to meet lots of people. Travelling solo is a mixed blessing- it is nice to be able to set one's own pace and schedule, yet it would also be nice to have someone to share the funny things with. Such as the ice cream cone with a scoop of ice cream so small it was barely visible over the top of the cone (I can't really complain as it only cost about .30). .Or the tallest building in Warsaw, given to them as a "gift" ,not that they had any say in the matter one way or the other. In honor of the donor it is affectionately referred to as "Stalin's Penis". Anything reminding the Polish people of their repressed past, especially communism, is the butt of many such jokes. There are other buildings in Poland with nicknames relative to the genitalia of various communist leaders.
Well, that's all for the present. I'm thinking of you all and praying for you. Hope you are doing well.
Love, Faith


Br. Robert, OP said...

I remember that time well. It was a hard year for me, too, and I think that's when I started praying more intensely for you.

But you were not alone then, and you are not alone now. God, JP2, sure. But also the whole communion of saints, including us schmucks here on earth who love you. Just as I know that, even when I feel alone, you and my family and friends and all the saints are with me, because I'm in your prayers. ;-)

sheshe said...

I've never travelled alone. I love the idea, but I'm scared I would get lonely.

But I find it terribly bold and romantic of you to travel alone during a difficult time in your life.

It would make sense to travel when we've hit rock bottom. You feel lost anyway, so why not get lost in a strange place.

I'm proud of you for doing it. And, secretly, I wish I knew you back then and somehow we'd make the trip together.

I miss you. I do.