Monday, September 28, 2009

A Very Blog Worthy Friday

Ok, I'll be honest. I thought I had seen it all, experienced it all, grew immune to it all or, heaven forbid, actually was fitting in. That was until last Friday.

It all started innocently enough with a trip to the vet for a well-dog check-up and pet passport validation so Oliver could enter the States. After a two mile walk to the clinic Oliver was anything but excited to be poked and prodded by a strange lady dressed in a lab coat with cold instruments. Even funnier than my dog shaking at a rate of 100 mph was the vet's attempt to take his temperature. After a botched attempt to lift his docked tail she looked at me and said, "where is his tail"? I replied, "he's American", and she gave me the "how could you hurt your dog like that" look. I really wanted to tell her his tail was in the same place is testicles are but wanted to avoid the wrath of all Polish vets so bit my tongue.

(This is Oliver shaking furiously after the mean vet took his temperature and insulted him for lack of tail - yes I photoshopped it).

15 minutes and 20 złoty later we were off to the bank to close out our bank accounts.

Armed with debit cards, passports and residency cards we thought we had it all covered. Simple process - sit down, check computer for balances, get cash and leave. An hour later we really weren't so sure...

Things were going swimmingly until Justyna discovered we still had money in our account. Guess you need to withdraw your money from a separate cashier before you can officially close out an account so Craig sauntered over to our new friend Małgorzata who was happy to assist us until she saw the five, heavy bags of coins we wanted to cash in. You see, Poland has a lot of coins. Demoninations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 grosz (pennies) and 1, 2 and 5 złoty (dollars). That makes for a lot of chingle, changling around in your pockets. Our solution? Don't bother carrying anything less than 50 grosz. Instead deposit the "baby" money into a jar for two years and cash it in when you leave town. Guess what, Poland doesn't have change counters. Oh wait, they is Małgorzata!!! Oops...So Craig stood silently while the non-English speaking cashier tended to our coins, I sat silently while our sort-of English-speaking account representative sorted through paperwork and Oliver sat quietly in his backpack recovering from his temperature check. After about 20 minutes I had all my paperwork signed so I thought I could speed things up by switching places with Craig so he could sign his paperwork and I could keep Małgorzata company as she plugged away counting our coins. Good plan until she was done counting. Heaven forbid they could just give us cash for our coins. have to deposit it into the account first. Our bff Małgorzata stormed over to get Craig who begrudingly joined me at the cashier line to sign the deposit slip. He returns to sign his paperwork and have his debit card destroyed - bad move! You need to swipe the card to withdraw cash. But wait...I have our passport and residency cards! Cindy to the rescue!!! Cash in hand, debit cards destroyed we are almost done!!! As we were getting ready to shake hands and head out the door Justyna noticed my no-longer shaking dog in his backpack and wanted to see him. As I bent over to unzip the backpack she bent over to get a closer look. Two moving objects heading in the same direction creates a crashing impact of heads as Oliver squirms for attention. What a fitting end to the banking fiasco. And if you really care we had nearly 150 złoty in coins!!!

Two plus hours after we left the apartment to run some simple errands we return only to find a notice from our local Police. A quick call to my bestest ever Polish friend and we are off to the Police to sort this all out. Guess someone got caught on the radar-cam - and it wasn't me!!!! 100 złoty later (we got the American discount) and we are on our way home to complete the last errand on my list - mailing a package at the Post Office.

I am far more used to standing in lines than my husband, so I left him off the hook so he could have a beer with a friend we ran into on the way to the Post Office. Let's just say I stood in the wrong line for the first 20 minutes, completed not one, but two incorrect forms while standing in the second line. Filled out two more correct forms only to find out I was 10 złoty short. One phone call later, cash in hand, package in the mail and only about 50 minutes in lines - I'd call that a success!!!

So how did our Polish day from you know where end???? We were escorted from a nightclub because we didn't take off our coats....don't ask....I'm still shaking my head over that one!

I love this town. I adore the people. I cherish the experience and am thankful everyday for the opportunity afforded me; however, there are some days I am most thankful for a sense of humor!

Sites and sounds from our home away from home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Order Amongst Chaos

I like order. I am anal. Some would call me a control freak.

I couldn't leave my office without stacking everything on my desk - my way of preparing for the next day.

Craig tells me everything will be there in the morning. I don't operate that way.

I read the endings of books so I can relax and enjoy the book.

I can't sit still. I start projects and sometimes actually finish them.

I rearrange furniture at least three times a month. Sometimes three times in one day - usually during the Vikings game.

When we moved to Poland we were given lists, had cultural immersion classes, told what to do and when to do it. And I followed them to the letter.

NOTE: I am forever grateful for having copies of passports, lists of credit cards, birth and wedding certificates in hand in the unlikely event of (gasp) theft!!!

I'm coming home now. There aren't any lists. Really don't need them. Pay the satellite bill and close out the bank accounts. One day max!!

I have no furniture to move. Ran out of books to read. Sorted out all the spare change. Cleaned the cupboards. Updated my resume. On hold now until the movers come on the 28th.

So what do I do all day?

I sit around and watch the world go by!!

Monday, September 14, 2009


Over the past year I have worked hard on improving my photography skills. My early shots often included errant thumbs, the back of stranger' heads and the occasional "plumber's crack" (ok this only happened once but how I missed that in my viewfinder is beyond me)! After a concerted effort I moved past the obvious problems but soon discovered my own shadow could ruin a picture just as much as the back of someone's head. Not to mention shooting into the sun, at the wrong speed with an entirely wrong shutter speed. After tens of thousands of pictures taken I am now beginning to see things beyond the obvious - prisms around the sun, a raindrop on a flower or, my new favorite, reflections in just about anything!

Much like my photography the past two years in Poland altered what I see in life's viewfinder. I have been to countries that never would have made it to my bucket list. I've met people from many different cultures and learned I can survive in a country where very little English is spoken and where my "normal" is anything but. I am now a three-cheek kisser, eat lard on bread, stand patiently in lines and still laugh when all else fails.

I am excited and nervous to move back home. Nervous to go back to something so different from my new "normal". Excited to be back with family and friends who have supported us in so many ways and most of all to see the world through my new and improved view finder!

Enjoy my reflections and start seeing beyond the obvious.

Look what I found in a hole in the wall!

Beauty in Berlin.

London at night.
Pausing on Millienum Bridge in London.
Seeing the light at St. Peter's in the Vatican.

The bright lights of Picadilly in London.

Auschwitz - Birkenau: the most tragically moving experience of my life.

and...last but not least. I took this picture in London. It is a reflection in a window. Look close to see if you recognize anyone!! No alterations were done in the editing of this picture (cool, huh)?

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's Up Next?

For the young man to the right what's up is a towel and a scolding from his mother!! But for us the "what's next" is a little more complicated and involves sorting and packing, meetings with tax authorities, getting the dog's pet passport updated so he can fly with us, clearing customs and then unpacking on the flipside! It will be an interesting few weeks that's for sure.

We do have a firm date for our return trip. We will be leaving Monday, October 5 with stops in Munich and Chicago before landing on home soil. We have to be out of our apartment September 30 so we will be living in a local hotel for a few days. Always interesting with a dog!

Leaving home was almost easier than leaving Poland. Of course we left behind family, but in our hearts we know our families will always be there for us. We've been blessed having met so many wonderful new friends from many countries and we hope the challenges of distance and time differences can be overcome and our friendships will flourish over the coming years. Thank goodness for Skype and Facebook!! We have tentative plans to return to Wrocław in 2012 for the Euro Cup which is being hosted here. Maybe Poland will have more than two highways built by then to handle the influx of people!! Until then we have wonderful memories to tide us over - along with 1000's of photographs that will someday be sorted, photoshopped and displayed somewhere!

I have decided to continue blogging when I return home. I've had a chance to reread some of my earlier entries and now realize how glad I am I took the time to document my adventures here. I follow several bloggers and what makes their blogs stand out to me is the use of photographs. I hope to continue seeing the world through the lens of a camera and sharing them in a blog format. Obviously, the blog can no longer be called "American in Poland" so I am considering "American no longer in Poland" or "Middle-aged American no longer in Poland seeks employment" or how about "American no longer in Poland misses vodka"! Your suggestions are welcome!

For the past 20 minutes I've been waiting for the blog site to upload pictures. After living in Poland - and standing in the requisite lines forever - you would think I could practice more patience. Not happening!!! Check back later and I will post some awesome pictures I've taken recently (at least I find them mildly cool)!

Be happy, smile often and laugh only when it is politically correct!