Today? Today is a good day, because I don't have to endure the brainless torrent of music videos in McDonald's! How did I gain this favor? My friend Katharina is staying in the university's more ritzy hotel, where they have internet in the rooms, and as she is gone to Toruń for the weekend, she lent me her key and I can have all the internet I want with absolutely no Avril Lavigne. It's like crack without the addiction! although, that metaphor falls apart really quickly.
This week? This week has been a hard week. (In honesty, the first part of today was also harder--but everything in proper order.)
Last Saturday we took our side trip to Warsaw. We were an hour and a half late leaving because they found out at the last minute that the A/C in the waiting bus was defunct (It's at this point I really miss Daniel, because I swear there's a Yiddish word for that that I would rather use. No, it's not "kaput," I already checked the etymology on that one.), so we waited for a new bus. You see, the weather in the past week has warmed significantly, and anyone standing in direct sunlight will quickly sweat his pants.
But the trip to Warsaw was fun. I went with Professor Whipple to a folk art shop on the Old Town Square and got to meet the wonderful folk sculpture expert who helped him develop the beginnings of his collection. I also must say that she was an undeniable saleswoman, but that is all I will say.
We also had a tour guide, though I missed the first part of the tour for the folk art shop. He took us around the old town, then on the bus we drove through the most important streets and it was a great way to see the city, most of which I hadn't seen.
At the end of the day we had a little bit of free time, so I went with Nate and Jake to the Warsaw chapel for the bi-branch picnic. There I got to see a member that attended my branch when I was in Warsaw. Call me forward, but I gave her a hug. Pshaw.
And then I ran, yes I ran, away from the ubiquitous kiełbasa back to meet the group before they went to dinner--and it was beef and barley. Granted, the gravy was really good, so I cleaned my plate (first time! I think), but barley doesn't especially please the palate. I did, however, get to hang out with four fantastic females (Katharina, Ally (sp), Kathryn and Brooke), and it was a good time.
A lot of people don't like Warsaw, whether because it's too busy or heartless, I don't know. I, however, really appreciate it as a fantastic metropolis, and I enjoy my time there. So, if you're ever in the area, I recommend visiting. It has old and new to suit any European traveler, and hopefully someone from the chamber of commerce will see this and hire me to do marketing.
Sunday night I went out to dinner with Katharina, Ally, Dan and Karolina. Katharina is German-American, Ally is half Cuban-American, Dan is Jewish-Canadian, Karolina is Polish, and I am Anglo-Viking-mutt, so it was quite an international crowd, and I had a blast. I think I was born to be friends with hip (yes, hip people use the word "hip"), young, progressive graduate students. I'm still a tiny bit intimidated by their level of education, though none of them parade it at all, but they're just fantastic human beings, and it was kind of the apex of everything I hoped for this summer.
Then came Weird Monday. We got a huge new group of students in to start the second cycle of the summer school, and everything was thrown into chaos. We switched cafeterias, and now instead of round, familial tables we have long, penal tables. You don't really feel as if you're sitting next to anyone, and all our friendly crew was separated from each other. What's more, every time you took something from down the table you felt like a thief, and we were all dismayed by the sudden dearth of strawberry jam.
That night, Brooke and Kathryn and I prayed together, as Professor Whipple was already in Pelplin and Nate and Jake had gone to Gdańsk, and we commiserated a little bit. But just a little bit.
Tuesday I said goodbye to Dan, and it was deeply sad. He's been my sanity-support for the last three weeks, and I already miss him a lot.
That same day, Kathryn and Brooke and I trained our way to Gdańsk. It was a long bit of railroad, and it was stressful for me as the responsible, Polish-speaking party. I shoved my pride in the toilet and obsessively told everyone around me where we were trying to go and would they please let me know if there was an announcement I didn't understand (because I don't understand them). I'm happy to say we made our way entirely successfully.
In Gdańsk we walked town the main tourist street, ate at the hotel, slept in the hotel, and then walked down another major tourist street. We were there too late and too early to do anything else. We also went south to visit Malbork Castle, essentially the capital of the Order of the Teutonic Knights. It's one of the biggest brick castles in the world, and was really an impressive three-hour tour.
Then we made my very nervous way to Pelplin, a town of about 7000 people that, oddly enough, is home to the seat of a diocese. The cathedral is huge and fantastic--tastefully decorated in the baroque style, with the third tallest altar in Europe, one tremendous (according to Professor Whipple) baroque organ, and another huge romantic-era organ, both recently restored.
We stayed in the seminary while we were there, and that was an experience in and of itself. In our rooms were cards wishing us much inspiration signed by John Paul II. We even ate in the refectory, a word I learned just for the occasion. However, the water never got hot, and as religious a person as I am (right), I decided that I probably would have abandoned hopes of the priesthood rather than spend six years taking cold showers. (The Poles, at this point, would call me a scandal.)
Professor Whipple's recital went very well. Everyone thought he was miraculous, and, as that was the whole reason I went on the excursion, I was entirely pleased.
Our journey back had its snags, including conductors that refuse to recognize the student status of anyone who's not Polish, (no matter where we come from, I promise we're not rolling in cash, especially as we're in Poland, versus, say, bleed-your-wallet-dry Norway) but in the end I got the student rate and we made it back to Lublin in time to enjoy a superb dinner at a superb restaurant.
And then I woke up and had to go to school. Oh, I didn't want to go at all, and as breakfast in these parts is no miracle, I had nothing to pull me in the direction of the university this morning. Class was really hard to focus on, and then, to make matters worse, we moved into a really echoey room to watch a movie and I couldn't understand a thing. I tried to comfort myself by thinking that I probably wouldn't understand in English either, but that doesn't help the boiling frustration.
So, I was overjoyed to get here to Katharina's room, where it's quiet and cool and I can do all the necessary computer updates using reliable internet connection--in English. Hallelujah, indeed.