Welcome to Poland- Welcome to On-Arrival 2

Being sick is always a pain in the ass, even more when you are participating in a project which is supposed to be quite entertaining and active, so there is only one solution for this problem. Mama did not raise a weakling, we got to go through it and give everything we got.

The first real group activity was a tour through Warsaw by a former ESC volunteer and his dog. Saying dog might let some hearts beat faster, but this precious little fur ball was not in the mood of being touched and frankly I totally understand it. Imagine you do this tour every freaking week with your owner and then all anew a group of wild volunteers appears, and 20 pairs of hands try to pet you. The tour was fairly interesting, and we learned a lot about the city and how destroyed it was, while constantly getting told that Warsaw is nicer than Krakow. It Is definitely not and every person living in Warsaw knows that.

While the week kept on, we did some workshops about the Polish language, being a volunteer and what to do when you start feeling homesick. On day though was more special. Botan, a Kurdish volunteer, had the anniversary of birth, so called birthday. For that Pia, Yolanda and I went to a bakery in the morning, buying a muffin while desperately looking for candles to stick on top. After a while we found them, entering the room cheering and screaming, wishing all the best to our fellow, resulting in a joyful cheer when the smoke of the blown out candle filled the air of them room, recalling memoires of own birthdays and cozy Christmas afternoons.

One memory which I will probably never get out of my head for it is way to amusing is when Guilia, Pia, Iliana, Yolanda, Maria and I stood at the subway stop in Warsaw, putting the phone into video mode and tried to sing the Chorus of the song “Miłość Miłość w Zakopanem” which goes: “Miłość Miłość w Zakopanem”- duh- followed by: “Do dodo Doo”.

Six people means each of us one word. After trying several times to get this right we finally managed, ignoring the weird looks some of the other people gave us.

Concerning Warsaw’s Subway system let me just say that it is amazingly cute, like coming back from a trip to a certain big US-American city this summer I was used to endless stops and even though you start in the city center it takes you at least 45 minutes to  the end of the train stops. Warsaw is a little bit different and way smaller, so the most lines had somewhat 10 stops and it took us 15 minutes to go from one stop to the nearly end.

In our last night we actually prepared ourselves to go out and have some fun drinking and partying but nope we did not. While seeing the pictures of the other ones in Krakow having fun with the new volunteers who arrived in our absence, we were in Warsaw, sick and tired sitting in the cold in front of a certain establishment our beloved boy visited as their whole On-Arrival group.

This does not mean that we didn’t have fun in this night, actually we had a lot, playing the game 21 and failing so hard every time that each one of us has been constantly drinking. We finished our On-Arrival with the feeling of having spent a nice week somewhere else but the knowledge in our heads that it might have been more exciting to stay with our amazing group of friends in Warsaw. At least we made some new friends in Wroclaw and Lodz which came in handy later on.

On our way back from Warsaw I realized that I run out of tissues, making it really hard to breathe if you are having a cold, resulting in the usage of my big towel to clean my nose. Disgusting I know but if you are going to be in the freaking bus for 5 hours you ain’t going to soak in the already way to dry and warm air of the bus trough your mouth.

I don’t know why Pia had this negative conviction, that none of our friends would be waiting for us at the bus stop, making me say all the time that they are going to be there to pick us up for sure. When we entered Krakow, I was already desperately looking for the other ones. First with a smile and the convinced knowledge that they will be there. After searching for a while this smile turned upside down and the ones so powerful and strongly build thoughts began to break down as nobody was there waiting for us. But we didn’t have time to be mad, not yet. Due to the closure of the toilet in the bus Pia and I had to follow natures strong call first before anything else could be discussed or one.

While I was standing in line a message popped up in my phone. Theo was asking where we are because they were here, making my heart jump out of joy and happiness. They were there, just late. As we left the toilet area and met Theo and the others at the entrance of Galeria Krakowska, hugging each of them for a long time because hugs are healthy and one of the most beautiful ways of expressing love towards other people, we met a girl we did not know before. Gvantsa from Georgia and Kübra from Turkey, Emelyn’s and my new flat mate.

Kübra ( we will later reveal when this picture has been taken)
Gvantsa and Emelyn in Baccarat

Welcome to Poland- Welcome to On-Arrival

The first introduction of the volunteers took place in a big circle in which each person said its name and where he or she was from. Names like Pia, Sebastian or Francesco are quite easy to understand, and I guess also to memorize but if it comes to names like “Garcien” it gets way harder! First of all, French people tend to speak less clear I’d say than in other languages, mumbling away endings and conjugations in their language. When Garcien said his name the general reaction was a raising of the eyebrows and an impulsive movement of the upper body into his direction, reaching with your hand to your ear to make you understand better the said name and accompanied by the question if he could please repeat.

But actually, not even that was really helping and after the third try we just stopped asking and kept on with the next names. The ones who instantly stuck into my head, due to the character I connect with them were Martha, a livable and expressive Spanish girl. Guilia from Italy as well as her friends Iliana and Maria from Cyprus and Greece and last but not least Moritz.

Moritz is actually a really nice person if he speaks in German but as soon as he is speaking English it seems like somebody pressed a button into “mean mode”, making him complain all the time, coming with a certain flair of arrogance because one is not doing what the others are doing because that is embarrassing or to childish or whatever. All by itself this kind of behavior is not always bad, but it is not that we were behaving like 12 years old, more like we just wanted to have some fun and a good time. You will reach this goal by changing your mindset into not taking yourself too important and letting yourself go, we had that once in the beginning but anyway.

As we went to dinner, my attention fell onto somebody else. Her name turned out to be Yolanda, and don’t judge me. Just because everybody said their names 30 minutes ago, does not mean that I instantly remember all of them, especially when you have to focus on names from tons of different nations! Anyway, as we stood in line to get our well-deserved food, she was asking me where I was from, followed by my answer that I’m from Germany. The next answer to that was, quite frank as Germans are, that she is also a fellow citizen of my state and yeah, she could hear that I’m from Germany. It is not, that an accent would be something bad, it is in fact enriching and if you start talking with somebody you instantly have a topic to talk about. BUT I would not say, that telling somebody that he has an accent in the first two seconds of conversation is a really helpful and sympathizing thing. Though what did I care she was really nice, and I did not think too much about it. What is amazing is her talent for drawing, like guys that girl is amazing at what she is doing.

The best thing about this training is the evening when you are allowed to do whatever you want, as long as you are more or less fit enough on the next day to participate in the program. Next to Agrikola is a small bar where you can buy cheap beer and food like burgers and other fast food. This place eventually became our second home during this week, playing games, drinking together and having interesting talks about all kind of stuff which might be to intense to discuss right now. One of the most eager participants in those conversations has been Amanda. Beautiful hair and an ever-happy expression on her face made her a much-liked part of the group. I have to admit that we had actually some really neat moments in that place, protected from the rain and the cold fall weather which made it fairly unpleasant to be outside for to long.

Ans guess what happens, when you are a group of more than 20 people, already 2 arrive being sick and the weather around you is more or less supporting your body to stay healthy? Yes you get sick. Usually I’m that kind of person who never gets sick. I am running around in sweater 90 percent of the year, am pretty much resistant to cold and I think it comes from that toughness against cold weather and the fact that my parents probably fed us with dirt when me and my five brothers were children, that I can say that my immune system is pretty well developed and strong. But during and after this training? I think everybody had a cold or even more with on exclusion. My precious Pia. Intolerant against Fructose, Lactose and I guess food in general but a cold?! Not for her….


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