My home for the summer was in a student dorm. We didn't have a cafeteria, but we did have a kitchen. I never knew how challenging cooking could be when you don't speak the language and can't read the directions on the box (buying the correct type of coffee proved nearly impossible as every picture on the packages looked exactly the same). I'm pretty sure I struggled for twenty minutes just to make rice.
And its cafe for law students was fantastic (and even featured an outdoor terrace...and beer!) This for $3 US? Um, yes, please.
In addition to taking classes, I also go to see the Supreme Court of Poland.
I also got to meet some incredible people both from Michigan State and from Poland. Everyone showed me such a good time, and it was a lot of fun relieving my undergrad days (which, according to my pictures, amounted to spending lots of time at bars).
While Poland was beautiful, it wasn't exactly vegan-friendly. There was one little restaurant in Bialystok that was quite cute. When I walked in, there was definitely a language barrier between the clerk at the counter and me. Somehow, I managed to communicate to give me whatever was best on the menu.
I don't know why, but Greek salads are wildly popular in Poland. It seemed every restaurant had one. And, the Greek salad happened to be the only thing on the menu I recognized. So, I was hoping she wouldn't give me that.
Low and behold, Greek salad was what I got. Oh well, it was still good.
Vegan pierogies would have to wait until my trip to Krakow.
There were definitely some language barriers when it came to other types of food as well. At one of the restaurants, on the English menu, instead of bacon bits, there was bacon powder. At another restaurant, "cucumbers and lard" was a dish, and at an ice cream shop, "cactus" was a flavor of ice cream. One of the other restaurants had a dessert called "vitamin craziness." After debating about what it could possibly be for the majority of the trip, one of my classmates finally tried it. All that mystery revealed it was just ice cream with citrus fruit on top. Not exactly craziness, but, I suppose craziness is relative.
Thankfully, pizza was also very popular. So, I would just order it without the cheese, and voila, it would come out the size of my head:
During my trip, I also visited Krakow. I was absolutely astonished by its beauty. Some pictures from around town:
|Little me. Big building.|
Krakow is a lot more vegan-friendly than Bialystok, so I finally got to eat at some awesome veggie restaurants. Here's just a sample of what I had, and where I had it:
|Just a bar I thought was cool.|
We also visited Auschwitz. As much as I was astonished by Krakow's beauty, I was also blown away that such atrocities could take place so close to the city. It certainly had a profound effect on me...one that's quite difficult to put into words. I also don't think it's appropriate to post pictures of a place where over a million people were murdered, so I won't do that in this post. I will say that everyone should visit in order for history not to repeat itself. It's hard to properly get a sense of the evil and the horror that happened there without actually seeing it for oneself. Books, and even films, simply do not do it justice.
The trip back to the U.S. was quite challenging. Since Bialystok does not have an airport, I had to take a bus to Warsaw to catch my flight. Despite being a four hour trip, the bus did not have a bathroom. And like clockwork, an hour into the trip, I had to use one. At one point, we made a stop at a gas station, and (since I don't speak Polish, other than pleasantries) I couldn't tell if the bus driver was announcing that we were getting gas or that we were making a stop where passengers could use the facilities.
I found the one guy on the bus who I thought I heard speaking English when I got on the bus and asked him how long we had. Turns out English nor Polish were his first language. "I think he said we have 20 minutes" was his reply.
Man, I hoped he was right. I could only imagine getting stuck in the middle of no where Poland with no way to get back (and with all of my luggage still on board the bus).
Thankfully, he was indeed correct.
I flew from Warsaw to New York City. I was first seated in the middle of a high school choir group. After experiencing them throwing candy at each other (over my head, no less), screaming wildly, and belting out show tunes, give me a plane full of crying babies any day!
Luckily, at one point during the flight, one of their chaperones asked if I wanted to move. So, I finally got to get away from them. I was then placed by an elderly couple, who apparently thought I was their personal servant. They kept asking me to get up and get them things. Apparently, they had never heard of the flight attendant call button. Oh well, at least they were nice, so I didn't mind too much. Sleep was definitely out of the question on that flight though.
After two more flights, I was home. I hadn't slept in a while, and my bed was definitely a sight for sore eyes.
My trip was also rather bittersweet. While I loved seeing a new country and making new friends, my boyfriend of five years and I decided to go our separate ways while we were there. Not like in a 'he continued onto Germany while I went to France' sort of way, but in a 'we broke up' sort of way. So, he probably won't be making many more appearances on this blog (although I suppose stranger things have happened). I don't want to get into details as that's not really my social media style, so I'll leave it at we eventually decided we wanted different things.
To be honest, while we both knew it was best, separating from him was incredibly difficult. But, I try to look at the positives in life. For instance, breaking up with someone in a foreign country, where you don't know the language, is kind of awesome because you can't understand when people are making fun of you for crying at the grocery store. And since I'm not so tech-savvy, I'm using this as an opportunity to familiarize myself with tinder and all of the apps that the young whipper-snappers are using these days (P.S. I've never felt so old in my life than when one of my co-workers had to tell me what "swiping right" meant). Better yet, maybe now I'll finally have a chance to date a boy band member.
Seriously though, I am grateful for the time I spent with him. Being with him and even our parting ways taught me quite a bit. As did this trip to Poland. I wouldn't trade my time in either situation for anything. While big changes and big trips (especially to places where you can't communicate with folks) can be scary, I can honestly say I feel satisfied and excited for what my future brings.
So, until my next adventure....come at me, life! I'm ready.