Welcome to Poland- dawn of On-Arrival 5

The next morning Pia and I met in front of Galeria Krakowska. Met in that case means, that I was waiting for her. I don’t know if it is a cultural thing or just me, but if there is an important appointment or meeting, I’m always at least 10 minutes before the agreed meeting time there. It is just to be safe, to get to know the surrounding maybe or to prepare for the next steps. In that way it is already guaranteed that you’re not late and that you won’t have to stress out because the bus is stuck in traffic because you took the Bus 40 min before anyway, in case you will be stuck. Organized through and through, prepared for every situation.

As Pia arrived I saw her the first time wearing glasses and they look amazing but you can tell her that a hundred times (in fact I did), you will always get the answer: “Oh no, I don’t like them”. The next steps were quite easy, I mean everybody should be able to handle the check in for Flixbus. During the trip the sky went from an inviting and calming blue, sometimes interrupted by a flock of cloud which run like sheep over the sky, into a threatening grey. The once so purely white sheep turned now into a grey tsunami which rolled over us, bringing wind and rain within.

Nevertheless, we thought, that the rain won’t get us down and that we just have to keep up a positive attitude. If there is no sun which shines, be the sun and shine. Even though destiny, fate r karma, call it whatever you want, decided to prove if we were worthy of being two suns shining in the midst of rain. To get to Agrikola, the place in which we were about to stay for the next week, we had to go by bus. It is not far away maybe three or four stops, but due to our moral standards and the fear of being caught we decided to get the tickets first before entering the bus. So, we stood in the rain, in front of the automat and waited until the person in front of us finished buying its ticket.

You know those people, who think of the ice cream flavor they want the moment they stand in front of the cashier. In that moment something must go wrong in some people’s heads, maybe an enzyme is released which prevents them from making a quick decision. This leads to a ten minutes showdown of how they don’t know what to take, maybe the same as always or a new flavor, cup or cone, one or two scoops. Yeah, we had a person like that in front of us, but just for the ticket automat. When he finally managed to get his stuff done, we approached the machine, just to be penalized by karma for making jokes about this man and comparing him to that kind of ice-cream-persons. It felt like 15 minutes in which we tried to manage to get our tickets but nope not for us. Standing in the rain, trying to work with this advice gave us the cramps. I mean we laughed a lot, but you are not drying through laughing. In the end we bought the tickets in a small kiosk which sold besides tobacco and small snacks also passes for the buses and trams. Now we started our training. Wet, tired and cold but happy and at least together.

Agrikola is a big sports complex with a soccer field, enclosed by a track cycle for athletes. The building next to it offers besides locker rooms also a whole hostel like part in which we were accommodated. Due to the experiences of the other volunteers which went there before us Pia and I expected to be in shared rooms, with their own shower and toilet.  As we got the keys to our rooms, because we don’t do unisex, we got some instructions how to go there. Being me I only listened to Pia’s description to her room, in case she would forget, leading to the situation that I went to her room and as soon as she entered I tried to figure out where I’d be supposed to go, walking like a lost child in the aisle of Target looking for a grown up to help me. In the end I went downstairs again and asked the receptionist, though I thought I would get a snack like you do when you’re lost at mentioned Target to stop you’re crying, but no apparently with 19 years one is too old for that.

Speaking of snacks. In the On-Arrival training one of the main things you are going to do is to eat. 08:00 am breakfast, 12:00 am lunch, the there are 2 breaks during the afternoon in which you are provided with coffee, fruits and usually some biscuits or cakes and at 06:00 pm there is supper. You might dare to thing that there could be another snack around 08:00pm but well NO. For me as a German it is fine to eat supper at 06:00, though it should be mentioned that we eat supper usually between 07:00 pm and 08:00pm, sometimes 06:30pm. The Spanish and French had more problems with that. Resulting out of their culture they are used to eat supper around way later times, which makes it possible to start sometimes around 10:00pm and finish at 00:00 (an extreme example as I think but yeah go and ask Fabian, he’ll confirm that).

After a quick lunch, in which we already got to know some new people and volunteers from Kielce, Rzeszow and Wroclaw the introduction began. We met in the project room and final got to know our two coordinators which would lead the workshops and accompany the whole training for this Week. Kasia and Wojtek. Wojtek is a tall man with long blond hair, he likes to listen to metal music and sandals are for sure something he enjoys. Saying that without any judgement but just to give you a picture. When he wanted the attention of everybody he always screamed: “Uwaga Uwaga” meaning, attention attention (duh). Kasia was a little bit quiet but definitely not shy. With brown hair which reached until the top of her shoulders.

Welcome in Warsaw.

 

Pia and me in the Flixbus

Welcome to Poland- Dawn of On-Arrival 4

The next day, while Ania was already in the bus, we met at Anthis and Rocios Flat, I mean they have a living room, so its optimal to meet. We decided to try something like food evening again, because our newly established tradition became, due to the absence of several people and the lack of motivation, more a wish than something which actually happens. Anyway, on that day, Theo and I decided to cook something typical German, especially for the east.

If you like history here we got something for you. As everybody knows Germany is responsible for the world wars. After losing both of them, the  allied forces parted the country in several zones, resulting later on in the Partition of Germany into the capitalistic west and the communistic east, separated by a wall ( though only Berlin had literally a real wall standing in the middle of the city, the rest of the border was more like a huge fence with heavy armed guards and mines hidden in the ground). In those years East Germany was influenced by the east European culture, may it be the way of thinking or the food, leading to a mish mash of the Slavic and German cuisine. One of those dishes I’d say is eggs in mustard sauce. I know it might sound weird but done right this deliciousness can be a real pleasure for your tongue. Of course, we wanted to show the other ones what we eat and let them experience that.  Therefore that it has been our first time to cook that I have to say, that it did not taste that bad, though the consistency of the sauce was more like pudding, as we weren’t patient enough to wait until the sauce thickened thus we put in way to much flour. The result looked like a weird abomination and every grandma probably would’ve killed us for dishonoring the imagine of the dish BUT as we went on and tried it, even though the other ones were quite suspicious and hesitated, it tasted quite well. So, what do we learn? It is the inside which matters, not the surface.

Filled with eggs, potatoes and mustard sauce we decided to go out have a little party and two of us had to prepare for their On-Arrival Training. This time it was Pia and me. Before we started this adventure, we picked up Emelyn and Maria from the bus stop. The day before I bought a certain brand of yoghurt which gives you one of those cheap tattoos for free, which at least I always connect with chewing gum and a long session in the bathtub, trying to get rid of it, before Sunday morning, so that your grandma is not freaking out about the thing you have on your arm while being in church. But now that I’m older and not at home, I thought it would be the right moment to start a rebellion, putting on a cheap, angry birds themed tattoo, showing one of those green pigs, joyfully cheering. Directly onto my shoulder, so I can lift up my sleeves and present it to everybody. New country, new me, I guess.

As I showed it to Maria, confidently inventing a story of me being drunk and getting that tattoo because I randomly walked into a studio and decided to get that one, her eyes went big and her mouth opened wide, releasing a phrase we’ll hear a lot for the next 9 months: “SHOCK MAXIMO”. I couldn’t believe that she was actually taking everything I said for real, neither did Pia, passionately explaining to Maria that it is a freaking joke and that the green pig comes from a package of yoghurt.

It is one of the first things I learned here in Poland, when joking with the other volunteers, especially Spanish ones. The German humor seems to be way more sarcastic and ironic, thus every time I’m doing a joke, Theo is smiling and at least one of the Spanish people is like: “Really?!”. Though by the time the people got better, detecting if I’m being ironic or serious.

When the sun rose on the next morning, I grabbed my suitcase, said goodbye to Emelyn and left the flat. On-Arrival training was going to happen, and its dawn was breaking over me and Pia. Off to Warsaw

 

 

 

Welcome to Poland- The dawn of On-Arrival 3

I don’t know why the thought of somebody peeing next to a car disgusts me that much for it is nothing more different than peeing next to a tree. But anyway, we won’t lose time by talking about who pees how and in which way.

For their return of our three beloved group members we had the idea of baking some muffins and then afterwards going to their flat and hang out together, which worked out perfectly and seeing them again made clear that the whole group was completed again, resulting in joy and the long wanted moments to spite out mentioned tasteless gum.

But this deceiving happiness kept only on for 1 day, due to the fact that Emelyn and Maria were the ones which would go next to their On-Arrival training, leaving me this time alone in my flat, without anyone else. Most of the former volunteers might say, that this is one of the best things to happen but let me tell you that I am totally disapproving in that one under the condition that you like your flatmate. I enjoy every minute of being with Emelyn in our flat and knowing that she is not going to be with me for the whole next week made me nauseous. It was week celebrating kind of the return of your old gum, this time it sticks on your shoe and every step you take feels weird so you somehow have to change your pair of shoes or get rid of the old gum for good.

While Emelyn and Guapa, her new name in my contacts, were in Warsaw we had one last shooting with Ania, making us forget about the disgusting gum on our shoes and making clear, that the first volunteer was about to leave. The whole shooting was a blast and I guess Fabian went again out of his comfort zone. It was during this session that we realized that in one of Krakow’s parks, next to the Wawel-castle in fact, stands a statue of a dog, honoring its loyalty to his owner in Hachiko styled manner. It was the fairly sad story, nevertheless beautiful, of a dog waiting for its never returning owner, ending in the death of the dog (Yeah, I know we all wish our pets would live forever but we gotta face the truth here).

Surprisingly Ania is not only an expert if it comes to photography but also if it comes to making people laugh, meaning she is a laugh yoga trainer. Before everybody freaks out and asks now what laugh yoga is supposed to be, let me teach you something: Use google we are not here to explain you everything like come on.

But we are nice people, so I’ll explain it briefly. It is yoga for laughing, meaning you do exercise which are supposed to make you laugh #fun. In that hour of yoga, we celebrated the farewell of Ania.

Now it might sound way more like we were laughing and happy that she had to leave but no, totally wrong way of looking at it. We celebrated the time we had together which was filled of laughter and joy instead of this one moment of goodbye and sadness which was about to happen. Therefore, laugh yoga was the first part, going for a beer the second one.

Before I came to Poland I liked UNO, not the organization (it’s nice too though)  but the simple card game with the colors and numbers, malicious “take-so-and-so-much-cards” and direction changers, turning the whole game inside out showing who was attentive during the game and who not. But let me tell you that you can differentiate countries only buy the way they play UNO, their way of frying eggs or their diner time, making  it nearly impossible to find a all-satisfying way to play the game together, acquiring amazingly well developed skills in diplomacy and patience just to be crushed by the beer Ania spilled accidently over all of the cards when we were 2 rounds into it. I mean that was not bad and we did not care much but it was the first moment when I realized that this game is too exhausting and that people can be really weird if it comes to playing after new rules.

The rest of the night was really fun, topped but the waffles we got from the restaurant as a gift of the house. It is not difficult to make one happy by giving him just food, especially if he’s an always-hungry volunteer, living from its poor cooking skills, consisting out of noodles, eggs, bread and bought tomato sauce. Only one person would argue with that and that is Guapa, the pickiest eater in whole freaking Spain, Poland and maybe even Europe. But you know what? She was in Warsaw, so it is not important.  At that day we also met a new volunteer from another organization here in Krakow. Martha. Martha from Germany, first appearance made in Theos, Fabians and Dylans On-Arrival.

the dog and us
it is supposed to be the eagle of polands code of arms flag ^^

Welcome to Poland- The dawn of On-Arrival 2

While Fabian, Theo and Dylan took off for their on Arrival training we tried to fill the grid they left, making it one of the longest weeks of our project, t least for me and Pia. I finally understand now how a dog must feel seeing the person he appreciates the most leaving for something to buy. You know it might’ve been only 10 minutes but for it, it feels like one week. So, this week without our three boys felt like at least a month.

During this time two new volunteers arrived. Rocio from Spain, best compared to snow-white with her deep black hair and snowish bright skin and Anthi from Greece, easily to be detected by her hair which always is put up into a bun and with her perfect nails, which she knows how to do by herself by the way. The special thing is, that Anthi already knew how to speak polish, due to studies she completed here.

If you have been attentive you may have realized that we got three new volunteers in one week, two of them from Spain, one from Greece, making Spanish now the most spoken language in the group, though they always try to speak English if we are around. If you are together with so many different people from different countries each speaking another language you have to set up some rules for the social interaction. First of all, you have to find a lingua franca, helping you to make information and personal exchange possible, in that case English. Furthermore one should try to speak as less his own language as possible when others are around, nobody has problem, when you speak in your language if it is a conversation between you and the significant other, but if somebody would like to join, don’t exclude him from doing so.

The week drifted by, tough as an old piece of gum in your mouth. You chew and chew, but it is kind of tasteless and you want to spit it out, because something is missing. Though there is a little something which makes everything a little bit happier and we discovered that on Friday night for us. She calls herself “Partying” and always comes with her best friend “booze” aka “Alcohol”. On that evening we went out for the first time, entering a certain establishment which favors especially the equality of gay and lesbian people. Guess what we had a lot of fun in there. Gay clubs are something totally different, somehow everyone is totally accepted in there and none cares about you or who you’re kissing. All of the just want to have a good time and maybe meet somebody and that is what really fascinates me about those places. The LGBTQ+ community had to fight for a long time against homophobia and discrimination, even worse it still has to fight against it, making these places a safe piece of heaven for each person. In comparison to normal clubs which treated the community quite bad back in the days, Pride takes everyone as he is, celebrating life and diversity together and focusing on a with-each-other policy, instead of an exclusion of straight people for the things they’ve done or still are doing. At least that should be the intention.

The girls and me had an amazing time there until the moment a certain smell started to develop. Out of respect for maybe minor readers let me say that it smelled like a mixture of sweat and the male private parts, perfectly synonymized by Pia as the smell of Ketchup.

Leaving the club one of the most normal urges emerged in the girls, the need to pee, letting them wonder where to go in the center of Krakow, leading to the idea to just pee next to a car, resulting in a small cultural shock for me, the German.

 

Anthi and Emelyn while going out
Rocio in zakopane
Maria, Rocio, Pia and Emelyn ready to go to the club

Pamelas experience

Starting over. Closing a chapter of your life and beginning a new one.

When I applied for the ESC in Poland, I didn’t think I would get accepted. I applied mindlessly. Just because. I applied because the idea of the future was weighing on me and I wanted to show to myself that I was doing something about it. Also, because volunteering has been on my bucket list for a while. So, when I got the mail that I was accepted as a volunteer, I couldn’t believe it! I was beyond excited.

I have been living in Krakow for two months now and I already feel that this experience is going to be completely different from everything I’ve experienced before. At the end of the day, this is exactly what I was looking for: an adventure.

I landed in Krakow on the 1st of October. Sunny, warm weather and no clouds in the sky (only for the first hour, then it changed, as it is normal here). I was picked up from the airport by Anja, one of the coordinators. In the bus, from the airport to the main station, I could see multiple billboards, written in Polish (of course) and I quickly realized that I didn’t know the language, so it was like reading gibberish. It is pretty weird to move to a city where, when you go to a bar you don’t know what to order, because you simply have no idea what it’s written on the menu – though be sure that this is not going to be a problem anymore once you start learning Polish. Anja brought me to the apartment I am staying at and I met my flatmates. I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the information I had acquired until that moment. My roommate told me she had cooked something for me and that made me feel welcomed. What a nice gesture for someone she doesn’t even know, I thought. She then told me the other volunteers were waiting for us in a bar and were curious to meet me. Though I was pretty tired, I decided to go because I was curious to meet them too. The meeting was pleasant, and I felt welcomed in the group. That evening, before going back home, I went grocery shopping and two volunteers were kind enough to come with me. In the grocery store not only, everything was written in polish but the prices were different because in Poland you pay with zlotys instead of euros. That was so confusing (and after two months it still kinda is) but I managed to buy the stuff I needed and took the bus home. When at the end of my first day in Krakow, I finally laid my head on the pillow, I was exhausted.

Starting over is hard. That’s why a lot of people like to stay in their bubble of comfort and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Though if you choose to get out of your comfort zone, you should be proud of yourself. In my opinion only like this, you are able to grow and get to know yourself better (besides other wonderful things such as: meeting people from all over the world, learn a new language, experience a new culture, become more independent etc.).

 

My first two months in Krakow were amazing, scary, exciting and confusing all at the same time and I couldn’t be happier with the way this experience is going. Surely, I am thrilled for the next months to come.

 

Welcome to Poland- The dawn of On-Arrival 1

Speaking of our time here in Krakow requires the mentioning of Ania, a polish girl from Warsaw which accompanied us in the first 3 weeks, by taking pictures of Krakow and us volunteers. We had a lot of fun posing and once in our life felt like super models. Of course I don’t want to implify that we won’t feel like that in the future, because maybe one of us will be walking for Victoria’s secret, you never know, but let’s put it that way, that in this year the chances are quite low to be discovered by a scout, while you are laying on the main market square, taking the perfect volunteer pictures. It really was a fight to get everybody down to the floor, especially Fabian, who was freaking out about some bird leftovers, that had dryed ages ago and probably already became part of the stone they were laying on.
You know the whole shooting was fairly funny and joyful, taking those cliché pictures of people jumping, holding hands and so on. If you ever tried to jump with all the people in the same time, while holding hands, you will maybe realize, that it is not the best idea to put somebody of Pias size next to me or Theo, because if you do it might happen that, due to the height difference, you rip the arm of the smaller person off. It’s just a tip, take it or leave it I won’t tell anyone how to take their pictures but in favor of the smaller person you maybe should consider that.
One of my favorite sentences out of that time is “I want to get out of my comfort zone” said by senior Bajen, which’s name was changed in my phone to Principito, next to the Catalan Sunshine. When one is saying things like that one has to live with the consequences, meaning that you have to get out of it and if you refuse to you will be reminded, that you came here for that. Of course, it is always a joke and never to be taken to seriously, though we took care, that he left it. Making a pyramid out of people on the most touristic place in whole Krakow is just the beginning and quite boring in comparison to our future adventures, but it is the first step of getting there.
Welcome to the lesson, Professor Karl is speaking:
“If you are somewhere else where no one knows you, your comfort zone expands already drastically but if you are with the right people everything seems to be in that zone making you do stuff you usually would never do and furthermore you start to enjoy what you’re doing, even though you never would’ve done that before, thus you’ll do it more often, resulting in a permanent expansion of mentioned zone, leading to its widening in general, even when the causing factors are gone. This is described as the effect of being abroad and kind of as the effect of majoring, meaning to care less about what people who don’t know you think of you”
Hope that helped you understanding more your friends when they go abroad and suddenly return totally different than before.
As the week flew by, we prepared to get to know a new volunteer. From Spain, Zaragoza. In fact, the same city Fabian is from. We all met in the flat of Fabian and Theo to have our traditional food evening, this time for real, making crepes and caramel sauce a la Emelyn. I love our food evenings because you always talk about anything and everything, falling back into the philosopher state we like so much. This time the question if boys and girls can really be friends or not and I will say in the beginning that we won’t get into this discussion here.
Maria arrived together with Dylan and soon we realized that she is definitely not from Zaragoza, loves wine more than anything else, that she is a teacher and loves LA ROSALIA. Maria is a girl with a strong character, knowing who she is and what she wants, ready to fight everyone if she has to. She does not take your shit and if you mess with her, she can get really serious, but luckily there haven’t been serious fights yet. Already on the first evening we laughed a lot together, while she sat wrapped up in her thick jacket with brown hair flowing down her shoulders and a tired but relieved facial expression you always have after a long trip, showing the weight which was taken away from you as soon as you reached your destination.
As the evening went on, we spoke about the next big adventure breaking like dawn over us. The On-Arrival training. Fabian, Dylan and Theo were the first ones who should experience this phenomenon and they couldn’t wait to start, while we others stayed in Krakow, waiting for news and missing our 3 boys immeasurably.

on the main market square

 

a pyramid out of people
our beautiful guapa from Spain
Maria

Beginning of a new adventure- welcome to Poland Part 4

Of course, one can’t only live of only physical nourishment, one must quench the thirst of his intellect too, only to be achieved by visiting a museum. Well I’m not going to lie, we just went in there because it was free and we didn’t know what to do on that Sunday, so we decided, as the intellectuals we are, to visit the Matejko house in Krakow. I have to admit, that I don’t know anything about him and still don’t know much (but we are here in Poland so we will learn more about him). It was quite amusing being in this old house, looking at the rebuild rooms and learning more about how he lived. Though the most fascinating thing in this house, at least it appeared to me like that, were the plants, which immediately had to be checked out by Pia and me to convince us if they are real or not. I don’t know if those plants were the most exclusive thing in this museum, but the security woman seemed to think so, whistling through the whole room, warning us, that we are not allowed to touch them. It was really weird, because I still would like to know if those plants are real or not, but she was so quick in getting us off the plants, I can’t remember any more if they were fake or real. We left the house quite fast though. I don’t understand why, usually I find it somewhat interesting to be in someone else’s house. You can learn a lot about people the way they place their furniture, what kind of blankets they use or how the flat is decorated. One gains a quick glance into the mind of the person one is visiting, which makes it so special and thrilling to visit those other’s houses, thus it helps you to maybe get a detailed picture of somebody who died long ago, like Matejko.
We decided to leave Matejko alone and to see more of the city center and went up to the Wawel castle, enjoying the warm sun brushing over our skin, well knowing that it is already September and that we soon have to introduce ourselves to the scarfs and sweaters, which were just waiting for us. On our way around this humongous complex we saw him. A human sized, dark green colored dragon, walking through the crowds of visitors, until he stopped in front of us, just to be examined, touched and in the end photographed. Sometimes you have to enjoy the moment to capture it’s real beauty in the head and heart instead of your apple iCloud, but this time we had to show the world afterwards, that we befriended with a real dragon and also the codex of the tourists had to be followed. First article, paragraph two is saying: “Take a picture of absolutely everything, embarrass yourself in front of everybody and buy a souvenir”, though we are not such strict followers of this codex, sometimes it feels good to do the right thing as tourist. May it be to jump through the soap bubbles, which suddenly started to float around us, only to dissolve within heartbeats, as soon as we touched them or by filling your belly with tons of pierogi. It is not bad to do touristic things when you are a tourist, that is why you are one in fact, to do them, but soon we realized, we are not tourists, we are volunteers who will stay here for the next ten months, sharing flats, food and experiences, watching sunsets and telling stories. Laughing and crying together, discuss and exchange opinions. So much is happening and that only within a few days.
You start to ask yourself how this could happen, and you realize that it is easier to be the one who you truly are with people who don’t know you. They don’t know the you before, they don’t know the old you and they can’t be disappointed about your “changes”, they won’t say, that they can’t recognize you or that they don’t like your new friends, because they don’t know you at all and somehow this feeling gives you the bravery to break free of those restrictions which keep you locked in your old self helping to create something longer lasting than those soap bubbles floating in the air. Welcome abroad, welcome somewhere else, welcome into a whole new world, with the real you, not the new you, but the real one. Welcome to Poland.

here he is the dragooooon

us in the matejko house

Beginning of a new adventure- welcome to Poland Part 3

One is maybe asking himself now: “Well whatever, she’s 17 if her parents agreed then where is the problem with that?”, well let me tell you something. Before ESC became ESC, it was called EVS, which stands for European Voluntary Service. In that service it was fine if you were 17 as long as you turn 18 during the year but that is not how ESC works anymore, thus opening a discussion between the national agency and our office so that Pia could stay here, because the ESC concept is brand new and somebody did not notice that Pia was actually too young. It is maybe comparable with the fight of your parents against the parents of your best friend who got you into trouble, but you both are just watching the scene, because neither of you understands what happened or why it is bad. You just want to hang out more with your friend because it was actually fun and you want to repeat it sometime, while your caretakers are busy with talking. That is how we just kept on doing our ESC during this time, hoping that our organization would win and that we could keep Pia in our circle because she already became precious to us in that short time.
One day later we met in the bank for opening our polish bank accounts and that was the day when we got to know Fabian. Emelyn and me entered the building and as soon as we stood in the entrance, we saw Pia sitting there together with another boy, short black hair, brown eyes and slightly beard shadow running over his jaw like a colony of ants. We instantly introduced each other, and he turned out to be Fabian, Fabian Bajen from Spain. In fact, he is from a city in which a friend of mine did her EVS, what I instantly told him and to which he reacted in a warm way, saying that it is great and asking where she lived, what I could only answer with shrugging shoulders. But then he began to get his engine started, meaning asking questions over questions, doesn’t matter how silly they were just questions. Don’ get me wrong I had a lot of fun with our conversation and it is something different, I got to admit, to talk about the underwear you wear because you too stole it from your brother because it looked cool or just because your parents won’t buy every time new clothes for you so you have to take the leftovers from your siblings which they have grown out of( this is just a slight example of one of the things we spoke about, so you can imagine) By now we were, what I like to call “the core”, the first people who arrived during the 01 until the 05 of September. It is amazing, that we instantly had a certain connection between each other, we started to hang out together, like, every day, met, talked and ate. One experience, I guess it was the most intense for Pia and me, was our introduction to the pierogi. Pierogi are little dough pockets of pure enjoyment, boiled in hot water, filled with any kind of delicious treats, from potatoes to spinach, strawberries to apples and cinnamon, decorated in either bacon and onions or some creamy, white condense milk. Simply pieces of heaven.
If you are coming to Poland and you are going without eating pierogi, sorry but you did not pass the class, go back and get your freaking pierogi, then you can leave. To all the people who are saying, that they are not having enough time for eating pierogi, or its always to late or too soon, which in fact it never is, thus it is already a weak excuse, let me now completely destroy your invalid statement by saying that in Krakow exists a store which offers them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so don’t give us that sentence. If you have tried them and did not like them, I am sorry for you but also want to say, that Poland’s cuisine has way more offer than just these dumplings. If you remember the day, we went to the all you can eat breakfast with Fernando, you might remember the name “Plac Nowy”. Plac Nowy, which is literally translated into “New Place” is a small kind of market square with a round building in the center which looks kind of like the houses people build for the water birds on public lakes. A roundel with several small fast food shops, which all seem to have just one thing, the glorious Zapikanka. This endless loop of the Zapikanka circle is only interrupted by a Belgium fries’ shop and Good Lood, which serves a decent ice cream and by the way is iconic for Krakow. Fabian nearly immediately discovered this crispy kind of pizza, served on a baguette with sheer endless toppings and flavors, for himself.
As the week went on, we thought about what to do at the weekend, giving birth to the idea of food evening. Food evening is a thing which we planned to do on usually Saturdays, were we meet in one flat and cook together something specific out one’s country. Though I got to admit, that the first food evening was neither specific for Spain, nor Germany, nor France, nor Catalonia because we did Pizza.

The Core- posing with Obwarzanki and being tourisitic
us on the market square, the story behind that picture will be explained later on
from the left, bottom corner- Pia, Fabian, Dylan, Sebastian, Emelyn, Theo
Pia and Fabian putting the pizza into the oven
Taking pictures in front of our favorite church at Korona, left to right
Emelyn, Fabian,Pia, Dylan, Theo

Beginning a new adventure- welcome to Poland Part 2

In the next morning we met up in the city center with one of our coordinators, Asia, which is Joanna. Emelyn and me went into the tram, hoping to reach the planned destination. Going by tram is actually nothing special, but it suddenly becomes more exciting when you are in a new city, not knowing any of the stops and the very least if you are not able to read them without breaking your tongue. I mean Czerwone Maki (which is “Red Poppy) is an easy one but try to read out Rzmeslnicza it was impossible.

Reaching the station, we could already see a tall guy, breaking through the crowds of pedestrians like a lighthouse, accompanied by a woman which introduced herself as Asia later on. Our lighthouse turned out to be Theo, 1,90m and from Germany, more in particular out of a city which is maybe 2 hours away from my city. To understand the German culture a little bit more let me explain you something. Usually, when abroad, people tend to stick together when they meet somebody out of their country, but this does not count for Germans. We try to avoid each other as much as possible, because if there is another German than this place must be quite touristic. Though that natural habit, which seems to be in the in the genes of the Germans, we got along well. Theo is not a man of many words thus, he was hardly speaking which made it quite difficult to establish a conversation at first, but we got slowly into it, cracking open that shell.

Last but not least Dylan arrived. He had some trouble finding the stop, so we had to look for him, but we made it.  By now we were two French and two Germans on the way to discover the city and getting our monthly ticket. Ironically only me and Theo got the monthly ticket because we had all the documents which were required for it (perfectly German I know).

If one does an ESC (European Solidarity Corps), one always gets a mentor, which is usually a person, who already did an ESC and now wants to accompany new volunteers leading them to treasures the former volunteers achieved, thus making the stay here more pleasant. Also, they help you to get to know the culture better and how everything works. My mentor is Tiago from Portugal, living and working here in Krakow since several years, but this is a topic for a different time. We want to focus now more on Emelyns mentor, Fernando, also from Portugal, who invited us the next day to an all you can eat breakfast. We gladly took that opportunity and met the next day at Plac Nowy to enter that restaurant.

Fernando is a livable, joyful partygoer who loves showing the new volunteers around, presenting places in which one can enjoy a cold one together with one’s friends for a good price as well as which clubs are worth it to be checked out. As we entered that place Dylan arrived with somebody nobody knew. Her coppern hair made me ask myself at first if this is a natural color or not. While I was thinking about that her hazelnut colored eyes were running over every face on the table and she introduced herself as Pia. Pia from Spai… I’m sorry it is not Spain it is Catalonia!

Sitting together while having breakfast, getting to know more about each other. Or let’s put it that way getting to know about me and Fernando because we were the only ones who talked. Pia joined us sometimes but due to the fact that she just arrived late in the evening the day before, she was not really in the state of talking much. Theo did not say a word, always listening but not commenting on anything.

Finishing the breakfast and starting to walk around in Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Krakow we discovered several restaurants and bars which waited to be checked out, places we wanted to go and clubs we planned to discover but anything at its time. Fernando brought us to one of the many Kopiec of Krakow, hills which function as viewing points, but you got to walk a little bit to get up there and let me tell you that the shoes Emelyn wore elevated her nearly to the Hight of Theos forehead, making them rather suboptimal  for walking up this kind of mountain. In the end we made it and had a nice view over the city, though I have to admit, that Krakow is a city which one has to walk through to discover its beauty, from above its rather boring. While being up there we talked and randomly spoke about our age. That was the moment Pia said that she is 17 years old….

 

 

Theo
Pia
Dylan
Me, Sebastian and I know those pidgeons are disgusting…
Emelyn

On-Arrival Training in Warsaw of Dylan, Fabian and Theo, 2019

 

The on-arrival training started for us (Dylan, Fabian and Theo) on a Monday morning. We stayed the whole week in Agrykola hostel in Warsaw, which is the on-arrival hostel for all the volunteers from Poland. In this week 22 volunteers from all over Poland came together for 6 days to take part in the on-arrival Training. It is to say that their countries of origin are distributed all over Europe, from Spain, France, Germany over Ukraine, Georgia and more.

The usual day started around 8:30 with the breakfast, after that the workshops were held. These workshops were led by two trainers, which created these workshops according to our interests and needs, thus every training has its own focus depending on the volunteers. In our case we had to write down all our questions concerning the next month and out of these questions the trainers modelled the topics and tasks of this week. Most of the time we dealt with the topics in small groups and in a non-formal way. For example, to find out more about the polish culture we had to do interviews with locals and afterwards present them to the group. The way of presentation was supposed to be a creative one, so we had some films, quizzes and even card tricks as a way of presenting a topic. Every group told their own stories due to the questions which were made clear in the beginning by the participants of the groups, according to their field of interest and were supposed to make the polish culture understandable for everybody. It is quite challenging to work well in a group with people you know for 1 week, thus the coordinators had to strengthen the team building process by playing some ice breakers with us volunteers. For example, passing the hostel corridor by only touching a piece of paper, under the condition that there are only 29 pieces for the hole group… These games helped us first of all to get to know each other and of course improved the way we worked together. Which was also important for choosing the perfect bar/club for everyone in the evening. Due to the fact, that the sessions were ending at 18:00 the whole evening is up to the volunteers and we had the pleasure to discover all the different places and amazing bars and clubs of Warsaw. Especially the region around Nowy Swiat is very recommendable.

But there were also two activities after the dinner organised by the trainers, at Tuesday it was a guided tour through the city centre and the other one is a surprise which is connected with old polish culture. We don’t want to spoil here any information though, so just wait for it and try it by your own.

But back to the normal training-day at Agrykola, which was departed in the main sessions from 9:30-13:00 and 15:00-18:00, including 2 breaks and a lot of nice food. Our topics were very different, from polish culture over polish language, feelings connected with a cultural shock, to problems which you must face during the ESC, our rights and obligations and much more.

Every topic was brought to us in a different way, for example we learned more about our rights and obligations through a quiz and the answers from the trainers. Some groups showed us the different problems and their solutions while being abroad as a theatre. Furthermore, we learned more about polish language through a self-made memory game. By the story of a superhero who had to fight against the evil powers of the Cultural Shock we gathered ideas how to deal with this phenomenon. And especially these non-formal ways of education helped us a lot to remember the tips and tricks for good. So, this was the first source where we got a lot of interesting information for our future.

Another source were the other volunteers, which had experienced other situations, been longer in Poland or are simply older than us and could give us a bunch of information for our stay here. In addition, it was a great meeting because all the volunteers were out of whole Poland and if you found some friends there you are welcome in many very interesting cities all over Poland and the world.

 

 

In the end we can say,  that the on-arrival training was a very important and interesting experience and even better than we expected it to be. Particularly to meet all the new people, getting a big bunch of information about a lot of topics from the trainers and the volunteers, improving our polish skills a little bit, getting to know Warszawa(how its originally called in Poland) and learning more about ourselves, ending in heading back to Krakow with a totally new mindset.

 

So, for everyone who is going to face the on-arrival training in the future, just enjoy the week and try to get as much as possible out of it.

 

Beginning a new adventure- welcome to Poland Part 1

Polish adventure

The day before the 01.09.2019 was filled with saying goodbye to friends, family and my beloved cat. It’s an almost frightening feeling before one takes a trip far away and this time not for one or two weeks, but for ten whole months. Not knowing who you are going to meet, if you will like what you are going to do or if you will get along with your flatmates. The only certain feeling is the feeling of farewell and a tension in the air which seems to swallow every thought you think, while it is laying its heavy hands around your throat making it hard to speak. When I saw the flashing green color of the bus coming into the station I knew, now something whole new is going to start. Something I never experienced, something I never felt. Though frightened I was ready for it.

Every step I had to take to get into the bus, not looking back because that would just make the goodbye harder, brought me nearer to my destination. September the first, 2019 was the day when I arrived. As I got out of the bus the warm morning air filled my lungs. I felt like a truck hit me due to sleep deprivation and the lack of possibilities to take a shower or brush your teeth. Not my proudest moment, I got to admit, but I was relieved to have managed to get to Krakow in time and at the right place. After a short time of waiting Ania arrived to pick me up. Ania is actually Anna but not Asia and the other Ania is someone whole different. Good that at least Dagmara stayed Dagmara, but we will get later into that.

The flat has two rooms, somewhat like a corridor and a separated toilette, which is absolutely handy when you live together with some more people. Ania directly directed me into the single bedroom because we have the smallest flat which means, that instead of the usual four people only three going to live in here. By offering, that I don’t need a single room and gladly take the shared bedroom, she replied that my chivalry is appreciated but there are coming two girls into my flat, which are going to share rooms together, thus it is not possible for me to go into that shared bedroom. What I must admit is, that I do not have a problem with that either, because I never had a king-sized bed and I conquered it immediately.

My French flatmate, Emelyn, arrived maybe ten minutes after I entered the flat and after getting to know each other we decided to take a trip into the city center. I did not know much about Poland and its cities, besides that Krakow is supposed to be one of the most beautiful ones and holy cow they were right. The marketplace is out of that world with its museum which lays underneath the place and its humongous church in one side and uncountable restaurants. Everywhere are horse carts and people who wear traditional clothing, while dozens of pidgeon’s take flight, when being chased by a dog. Going on you cannot miss the Wawel-castle which is in that city. It is a stunning complex of a church, several towers and meadows. At its feet stands the statue of the wawel dragon which spites real fire every five minutes. It might seem really special right now, but the fact that you are waiting for five minutes to see a flame which lasts not even one minute dulls the whole attraction to the amount that you would rather watch a documentation about the fantastic world of nightcrawlers and their way of mating than waiting for that flame. Though it is iconic, thus a must see.

After so much sightseeing, the call of our beds overwhelmed us, falling into this soft piece of heaven with the intention to never leave it again.

After this nap the last but most important challenge of the day was supposed to be faced. Grocery and cooking. Sure, grocery sounds easy but heck you ever had to do some shopping in a language you don’t understand with a currency you usually not use? To figure out that makaron have nothing to do with the delightful French biscuits but are the polish word for noodles took us a while. The search for tomato sauce therefore was faster. In the end the first meal in our flat was noodles with tomato sauce, a classic. Luckily the volunteers before us left some seasonings so we had a filling meal, though we have to work on the taste.

 

Ankara became my next home, place to live – Julia’s EVS

Merhaba, my name is Julia, I’m from Poland and I was a volunteer for EVS in S&G in Ankara. It was my first time in Turkey. I stayed there two months and I can say, that it is definitely too short!

Turkey surprised me in may ways. I’ve never been to the country that is so welcoming and with hospitality like in here. Plus, it is incredible beautiful.

I wasn’t scared at all before coming here, even if there are some prejudices of being abroad, far away from home in a country which is so different than yours and you don’t speak even a word in its language.

Istanbul was crazy, full of tourists mixed with locals, noisy, colorful and it amazed me with variety of places Iwanted to see and visit. Coming from there to Ankara was like entering another new world, these cities are really different, with different vibes and atmosphere.

I enjoyed living there, Turkey is really big and there are still so many many many places to discover.
I studied photography in Poland, and considering that, this country is the perfect place for me! It is full of amazing beautiful places and happenings awaiting for you at each step.

I can say that time we had spent together, me and my flatmates found a few of our favorite places where we got to know the owners and even made some friends with them. During the days of the week we were doing our chores, and on weekends we traveled to another cities and on the evenings we enjoyed our time together and with other friends we met there.

By we, I mean our group from project, Noemi, Calin, Gina and Domenico. We make really good pack of friends after this one month, so we travel and spend most of the time together.
My impressions about EVS here, in S&G were quite good, we had a lot of free time, so we could discover the city and even the whole Turkey. Of course, we had everyday chores and schedule, but beside the fact that this is hard work, it has been also an adventure and pleasure to make other people happy and to do something meaningful and good. Maybe, for me sometimes there was too few of these things connected to volunteering, but travelling and getting experience are the best things to do in live and I think this is the main idea of EVS and Erasmus+.

After two months, Ankara became my next home, place to live. With knowing my favorite and least favorite places, areas, activities and food (!), I can say I could spend there more time to discover more and more. Turkey got me. This country is the second after Poland, where I live that long. And it got me, I will definitely leave some piece of me here.

Ankara is the city that right now I will always connect with cig kofte, sarma, kofte from night bazar, ayran, kokorec, cay and night bazar in Kizilay, where you can experience and see a rich variety of street artists, stuff to buy and eat, full of people and it is pulsing with life and lights. It is unique and at the same time it is nothing special, but the way you make it special for you and how significant it becomes during staying here is hard to describe. I came here without knowing Turkish language, a little bit lost, little bit dizzy, because everything was so new and strange. And left it with knowledge how people live here and how to find myself actually living here.

I traveled a lot, I’ve been to the east: Mardin, Gaziantep and Hatay, to Konya, to Beypazari, to Istanbul, and to Cappadocia, with people that I met here and after these two months I can call them my friends.

These are the main advantages of going to EVS. People, travels and unforgettable experiences. We worked here with people with disabilities and with refugees and these moments when you do something good to the others with no expectations are lesson for life and that makes you cry and gives you huge goosebumps.

 

I came back to Poland more open and with this amazing energy that I can share with my friends and family.

I left Turkey with feeling of mixed sorrow and happiness, I know I will never forget this time. And I know that moments from there will be one of the very best memories for life.