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Go Here… No, There

September 14, 2012

I got some great news yesterday: my work permit came through and should be arriving at the school on Monday. Whew. The helpless waiting was getting on my last nerve.

I taught my first English lesson yesterday, to Aneta, the school secretary.  (I did it pro bono, in order to remain legal.)  It went fine, I think.  (You’d have to ask Aneta.)  I’m reading an hour or two in my pedagogical materials every day, and it’s beginning to come back to me.  They told us to be sure to get some teaching in after the CELTA ended, but my life was just too scattershot to make those kind of arrangements; I moved back and forth between three different cities during the 6 months between the end of the course and moving abroad.

I bought a bicycle today, even though it’s a bit late in the season.  Thanks to the translating skills of a very nice Polish girl who was shopping there herself, I was able to haggle the price down from 270 złoty to 200 , (about $62).  Well, to be honest, calling it haggling is a bit much; I just said 200? and he said tak and extended his hand.

It’s not retro-cool, like the old-school yellow coaster-brake model I had been eyeing, but I rode that one and the brakes were in a terrible state.  This is a much more sensible bike.  I do need a softer seat, though.  I rode 5 kilometers on it and that was a bit like sitting on a wooden church pew for a day.  It will probably need tires before long, too, but I’ll still come out way ahead; new bikes like this cost around 1000 złoty.

Of course, as soon as I bought a bicycle, it began raining steadily.  Wet cobblestones are not the cyclist’s friend.  So I took a walk to my neighborhood Biedronka to get some groceries.  I pretty much know what stores have what I need now, and which ones are closest.


The rynek, vacant in the middle of a rainy Polish afternoon.

I bought the usual, ordinary stuff, but I also try to pick up one strange thing each time I shop.  Today it was Sos Afrykański, which I have brilliantly translated as African Sauce.  There was red African Sauce and green African Sauce.  I bought them both.

Now, although I’m about to make fun of Polish African sauce, let me hasten to add that there are many foods the Polish do wonderfully well, much better than America.  One of those things is pickles.  Every pickle I’ve had here has been fantastic.  And that’s a good thing because I love pickles.  (Pickles in America are frequently inedible.)  They also have excellent bread, of many different varieties.  Most Polish foods I will never know about, because they have meat or cheese, but I know they’re great.

It’s only when they attempt to take on exotic cuisines that the results can be a bit comic.  (I’ve already mentioned the “Mexican” salsa that tasted like curry.)  So how was the red Sos Afrykański? Well, the first word that comes to mind is SUGAR.  In fact, every sauce I’ve had from a jar here has been incredibly sweet.  Other than sugar, the only thing I could taste was peanuts.  Which is fair, I guess.  I used to work in a nightclub where touring African groups, mostly Nigerian, would cook in the kitchen, and they do like peanuts.   But they also like red pepper, onions and garlic, none of which I could detect in this strange concoction.  I will report back when I try the green sauce, but I have the feeling it’s going to taste exactly the same.

In other news, I decided to give the Polish embassy in Ostrava a call, to see if there was anything special I should do before my visa run next week, or anything I should bring with me.  You know, just out of an overabundance of caution.  The operator, who spoke English quite well, transferred me to the visa office, but they never answered, so I called back.  The operator said she would try again and this time, I spoke to a woman with just a trace of English—though still, of course, a thousand times better than my Polish—who managed to inform me that the Ostrava visa office has been shut down for some time. and I will need to go to Prague  I believe the Polish embassy in Prague is unaware of this development, since they told me two weeks ago to go to Ostrava for my visa.

Well, thinking I wouldn’t need to go back there, I didn’t save any of the information about the Polish Bureau of Consular Affairs in Prague.  I searched the web and, amusingly, one of the top results was my own blog entry on the difficulty of finding the Polish Bureau of Consular Affairs in Prague, probably because I’m using the wrong terminology and just looped back to my own use of the wrong terminology, but it’s not easy to figure out what the correct phrase is.  The way I finally found it was by using street view on google maps to recreate the path I walked.  Then I zoomed out, copied the address, and added that to my search.  With that additional information, I was able to find some phone numbers.  They’re closed today, of course.  But I feel pretty confident that it will be an easy transaction.  I do remember how I got there.

Go in around the back.

My goals today are to get a bicycle lock and seat, and to check out the one music store in town; it’s right around the corner.   Other than that, I don’t have much to do except study my teaching materials.

But the waiting is not so bad, now that the ice has broken.  I’ll be teaching next week!

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Ñøŗḃʒřŧ Ḃēåvěř permalink
    September 14, 2012 12:39 pm

    Great news about your visa, less great news about having to trek all the way back to Prague again. Unless you use to travel time to practice teaching by setting up an impromptu lesson on the train.

    Ah, pickled gherkins. I find that you can never stop at one, but two is too many. I would suggest they make larger gherkins. Or smaller ones, whatever.

    • September 14, 2012 1:29 pm

      I believe the UN should convene an international conference for establishing worldwide standards for the size of pickled gherkins. I would gladly accept my duty as a global citizen, fly to Zurich, stay in a 5-star hotel, and spend the day chairing committee meetings, and the nights ordering room service up to the Ambassador’s Suite.

      If that gig doesn’t come through, I guess I’ll continue as an ESL teacher.

  2. September 14, 2012 12:39 pm

    Looks like Christmas in Poland arriving early…all these goodies. What do you put your sauce on? Have you found dried beans? And Polish dills, always been my favorites. Love your bike, too. Sure hope you ave better luck keeping your bike than you had in Debuque.

    • September 14, 2012 1:16 pm

      I put the sauce on pasta; didn’t know what else to do with it. I have seen dried beans, but I haven’t bought any yet. I will when I get some spices in my care package for sure!

      • September 14, 2012 1:36 pm

        Chili powder, cayenne pepper, red chili flakes winging their way. Going searching for dehydrated jalapeño flakes next.

      • September 14, 2012 4:30 pm

        Yay! I know I will eventually find a source for hot stuff, but I haven’t yet and I’m really missing it.

      • September 14, 2012 5:03 pm

        Now you’ll have packages to show what you are looking for when you shop.

  3. September 14, 2012 1:03 pm

    What happened to your bike in Iowa? Does your new bike have a little generator on it? It looks like it does.

    • September 14, 2012 1:22 pm

      My beloved Giant cruiser—the one I bought off Dan Grissom in Nacogdoches—got stolen last year in Dubuque. I have a terrible record of two-wheelers getting stolen.

      The little generator is supposed to power the headlight. It doesn’t work, but I think it just needs a bulb. I need to buy some tools.

  4. September 14, 2012 4:06 pm

    This is all good news. Norbert is funny.

    • September 14, 2012 4:09 pm

      He is indeed. You should read his livejournal; it’s the funniest one out there, hands down. Did you know that he’s also the same guy who played some bass on the Bob & Dave record?

  5. vicki lynn permalink
    September 14, 2012 5:17 pm

    Great news! Is there anything we can send you from Texas? Other than salsa? Miss you!

    • September 14, 2012 5:55 pm

      I need a boat. Do you have a boat? I could use a boat. A fixer-upper would be okay. As long as it’s a boat.

  6. Julie Bratton permalink
    September 14, 2012 10:17 pm

    Excellent developments. Best case scenario about the visa run — it goes very smoothly and efficiently. Worst case? One helluva funny blog post. Keep the updates coming.

    • September 14, 2012 10:20 pm

      Thanks, Jules! You’ve encapsulated my strategy for coping with life. If it all goes to hell, at least it makes for a good story.

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