Poland Stories and Tips

Week 22, 23 & 24 - More Hostile Than a Graeme Souness Welcome in Galatasaray (POLAND & GERMANY)

Sopot Beach Photo, Sopot, Poland

Well after spending the last 10 days in my girlfriends company I thought it was time to give you another update into the wonderful world of Polish life, which has had both its up and downs over the past few weeks.

On the teaching side, it's becoming harder and harder to keep writing interesting lessons for my students as I have covered most topics with them now, but I have had a few moments of inspiration, most notably doing a lesson on marriage and making my students read an article about a Sudanese man who was caught having sex with a goat, and then was forced to marry it!! Unfortunately most of the humor of the article was lost when the first question that was "what’s a goat?" Another lesson I was happy with was on disasters. Instead of making the students read boring articles about volcanoes and earthquakes, I decided on choosing the interesting topics of "a dwarf being eaten by a hippo," and "a drunk polish man who cut his own head off with a chainsaw." Although they are not the typical stories you would associate with the word "disaster," they still went down a treat!!!

I also carried out a lesson on humor, which was basically just a way of having a reason to tell jokes for a whole lesson, and I think this has been my most successful lesson to date, as some of the students were in tears by the end. Personally I think this might have been a little bit of an overreaction, but I was more than happy with their responses. The joke that received the most laughter and crying (and also the most evil glares) was,

"A young blind boy is being put to bed by his mother. The mother says, 'Now Billy, pray really hard tonight and tomorrow your wish will come true!’ Billy says 'Okay mother!' and goes to sleep. The next morning Billy wakes up and screams 'Mother, I'm still blind, my wish didn't come true!' The mother answered, 'I know - April Fools'."

Again my student’s pronunciation and use of the English language has led to a couple of amusing moments. It has come to my attention again that the pronunciation of the word "faces" still needs more attention after the incident the previous week. When asking my students to describe people's faces, one student, instead of saying "the people have happy faces," he pronounced and said the sentence "they are happy fuckers!" This time though unlike the previous week I had to correct his mistake!!! Another incident was when I was playing a card game with one class, and one of my students shouted out "oh shit" after being given a bad hand. Obviously amused at this, I decided not to say anything about his excellent use of English, but soon after some of the other children started to pick up this word—including one 11-year-old girl whose house I had been invited to for her 20-year-old sister’s birthday. Unfortunately this was the only phrase she remembered from the lesson, which she decided to shout at the top of her voice half way through the party after spilling her drink. It didn't receive the best of receptions, and I was among the first to condemn her filthy mouth and question her about where she had learnt it from... obviously I wasn't prepared to take any of the responsibility!!!

As usua,l I have been going out for drinks every Friday and Saturday evenings, and have been met with a wide variety of receptions. A couple of Fridays ago I managed to get everyone in the pub speaking English, which was highly amusing, but then the following week I was met with a baptism of fire and hatred—similar to that I would expect Graeme Souness would get if he ever went for a holiday to Galatasaray. I have never known anything like it. Everyone in the pub for some reason turned on me and started slagging England off in both Polish and English. It was quite unnerving and it was obvious they were looking for a response from me, so they could kick-off, and seeing that Lebork has one of the hardest hooligan cores in the whole of Poland, I decided to keep quiet.

In the end though it proved quite an amusing evening as they started chanting English football songs. As they were singing the wrong lyrics they sounded like right fools, and what started out as intended insults to me actually turned into a comedy affair at their own expense. To bring the receptions back full circle, I decided to brave going out for a drink the following night where I was befriended by drunk 60-year-old guy who decided to donate his favorite painting to me—which he had to go all the way back to his house to get. I must say I was deeply touched by this act, as I don't think you would normally witness such acts of hospitality and kindness to a complete stranger back in England. Saying that, though, he was hammered, which might have had something to do with it. For all I know he could be hunting me down this very second to get his precious painting back!!!

Other than that I think the highlight, apart from getting to see the 6th oldest oak tree in the whole of Poland (632 years old!), was that Candace came over to visit for her Spring break. I was one excited male, even if it meant traveling all the way to Berlin to meet her. This was a nice 9-hour train journey and at first I didn't think they were going to let me into Germany as it took 4 immigration police immigration a full 10 minutes to confirm that the picture in the passport was actually of me. Basically I think they would just mocking me because I used to have a centre parting, especially when they made me stand up so they could look at me from every angle!!! The night before I met Candace, I got befriended by 3 American girls staying at my hostel, so I was able to impress them with all my Berlin knowledge that I had acquired the previous time I visited, while getting drunk and watching the football.

After seeing the Polish president in Berlin the next day (who drove past me in his car surrounded by about 20 Police motorcycles), I went to meet Candace at the airport and we traveled back to Lebork, where I showed her the delights of the local area as well a letting her into a few of my lessons. I think the highlights were a trip to the seaside to a place called Sopot where we had a Chinese meal with not a Chinese person in sight (very strange indeed!), and the nearby city of Gdansk. Not to mention being invited out every night by my students who wanted to cook for Candace and I! I haven't eaten so much food in a long time but as usual I wasn't complaining!! We traveled back to Berlin the following weekend and spent 2 days in the city seeing all the touristy places and going to a couple of museums, before Candace departed back to foreign shores. It was another emotional farewell, but seeing that I will be seeing her in only 4 weeks it wasn't as bad as the time before!!

Berlin is a city that interests me a great deal and is definitely somewhere I would consider living in the future, even putting in on par with London. The history of the city is amazing and its one of the few places I have visited where they have managed to mix the new and old buildings together very effectively. I have never been one for history, but the history of Germany interests me immensely and it’s hard to imagine the scale of what has happened in this city in the past century.

Now I only have less than 2 weeks left in Poland, and although I don't really want to leave I am getting quite excited about coming back home and then going off to America to start my next leg of my travels. I have a farewell party next weekend which should be fun, although as Poland is a very religious Catholic country, the majority of people have given up alcohol and dancing for lent, so I'm not quite sure what kind of party it is going to be, but I'm sure I will enjoy myself nonetheless!!

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