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Catching Up In General

October 21, 2012

I’m afraid I have been lax about keeping up this blog the past few weeks. I tend to write a lot when I am traveling, but not much when I am in one place.  So I will try to catch up and cover all the bases.


I’m well-settled in my flat. I have everything I need and I know where in town to go to buy anything I might want, which is not much. I’m determined not to accumulate unnecessary things, even little ones. Partly I want to avoid clutter, since my place is so tiny, but I’m also just anti-stuff. (And I’d rather use my money for travel.) Even in the little things, I look for the cheapest solution. Instead of buying a pocket notebook, for instance, I bought some binder clips; I cut up old paper into quarters and clip the pieces together. I buy all my clothes at the Tania Odzież shop downstairs from my flat. I eat at home unless I want to see friends.

my guitar, leaning against a wall, with the shadow of a tree.

My flat gets some nice light in the afternoon.

I play my guitar, of course, and a lot of online chess.  I write a lot of emails. Despite the language barrier and the relative isolation, I don’t feel lonely in the least. The interwebs are a great help.


I’m doing pretty well with my diet, which generally means eschewing beer, a heroic feat, here in the region of Europe that is generally regarded as having the best beer in the world.  Every now and again, I cave in when someone asks me to the pub, but I never drink at home or with meals. (I’ve even drunk water at the pub, but I can’t honestly recommend that for a good time.) I’ve been cooking very healthy food and keeping my calories under 1800 most days.

I gained about 4.5kg (10 lbs.) my first month in Europe, but I’ve lost most of it again; I’m down to 83kg. One less kilo and I’ll be back to my lowest point. My goal is roughly 75kg (165 lbs.) When I started counting calories and exercising, almost a year ago, I was 240 lbs (108.5kg.) I feel a hundred times better. I enjoy buying clothes again and I have as much energy as I had in my 20s. I pretty much bound up the stairs like a young gazelle.  On days when I don’t have long shifts, I always walk or ride my bike.


Since my entire life here hinges on being secure in my job, I’m focused on becoming confident in it. It’s very different than the type of teaching I have done for the last 20 years. The work I did with blind kids was highly personalized and generally delivered one-to-one. It also  tended to be rather free-form and intuitive.  Now, in contrast, I am teaching a structured curriculum, and mostly to groups. Since the teachers rotate around the classes, it’s critical that we are consistent in how and what we teach. There’s room to elaborate a bit and be creative, but in general, we’re teaching right out of the book. Which is fine; it works. The students keep coming back and their English improves. And the thoroughness and consistency of the teaching materials reduces preparation time considerably.  But it’s an adjustment for me.  I brought home my books and notes for my classes tomorrow.  I’ve found that it helps to do a bit more prep for those days when I have five or six classes in a row.  I’ll have much more to say about teaching English in future posts.  I’m thoroughly enjoying it.


I’ve begun to take Polish lessons from Aneta, the school secretary.  I’ve only had one so far; I have my second tomorrow.  (I need to study up; I haven’t practiced much.)  I’m not a very good language learner.  I still make the simplest mistakes, like forgetting that a  J makes a Y sound and a C sounds like TS.   I have gained a bit more confidence with a couple of stock phrases, but it’s going to be a long, slow climb up to the speech level of, say, a Polish 2 year-old.


I’ve been on quite a few outings.  We had two meet-the-teachers affairs, one for our sister school in Rybnik and one for the school in Żory. Those were fun: I enjoyed seeing the students in a social setting.

The staff from CONNECT English all lean together by a table in a pub..

Scott, Helen, Paul, Jana & David, the CONNECT English teaching team in Zory.

I went to a Polish wedding a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I over-indulged and passed out well before the evening was done. I was the worst blind date ever.

Fried cheese patties on a plate with carrots on a creamy sauce.

Polish wedding vegetarian food… health-wise, you might be safer with the sausage.

I rode my bicycle to Rybnik last weekend to have lunch at a vegetarian restaurant with a woman who is a student at the school there.  I had a very nice time, but it turned out 26km was a bit far for me; my knee got stiff and I limped for a day or two.  At my age, one has to work up to things like that.  We’re meeting up again tonight to go see John Scofield, the American jazz guitarist, in Gliwice, 36km north of Żory.  This time we’re taking her car.

Satellite view of the route from Zory to Rybnik: 26km round trip.

My longest bike ride yet: 26km round trip.

Here in town, someone is usually going for a coffee in the afternoon or a beer in the evening. Giulia, from Italy, is down the hall from me; we made a big shop together at Auchan last Sunday.  Last night we met up at the pub with Irish Jim, who I always enjoy talking to. (Like me, he enjoys poetry, which is a rarity in this day and age.) I’ve been trying to coax Abdullah, who teaches at the other main English school, out for chess; I bought a little plastic chess set at the hypermart. (That was one thing I didn’t care to make myself.)  So I’m far from lonely.  I’m hardly a social butterfly in any case.  I don’t need a huge social scene.


Things are good.  It’s all working out fine.  The Expat Shuffle is less of a white-knuckle affair now that I have a job, a flat, and some friends.  But it’s still thoroughly engaging.  I will update more regularly henceforth.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. norbertbeaver permalink
    October 21, 2012 3:28 pm

    John Scofield? You found a person who puts up with your veganism and likes jazz? Did you find an enchanted amulet or something? If not you must tell me which wishing well you use.

    Irish Jim is a great nickname. I’m something of a poet myself you know, my work has adorned some of the finest public conveniences in this city. I can do illustrations too, but they usually add an extra fine for that.

    I’m really happy that things are going well, you’ve really found your place there.

    • October 21, 2012 8:17 pm

      I’m not sure she knew what she was getting herself into with the John Scofield show. The distinction between jazz and “smooth jazz” *shudder* appears to elude many people here. She and her friend were polite but I think it might have been a bit pointy-headed for the girls.

      • norbertbeaver permalink
        October 22, 2012 4:16 pm

        I felt a cold shiver running down my spine just reading the words. I remember being forced to listen to Jason Rebello on a reasonably long drive and having to restrain myself from pulling the buttons off the CD player and swallowing them. The fact that it would have been easier to just throw them out of the window should give you some idea as to how out of my mind it was driving me.

      • October 24, 2012 10:33 am

        It’s like huffing hairspray right off the nozzle.

    • October 25, 2012 12:29 pm

      MATT! We have a sudden shortfall of teachers. (A teacher who was due to arrive will be late.) You have an EU passport and are quite conversant with the English language. Would you be interested in, say, a month in Poland, making some extra cash? EMAIL ME. Trust me, you can do the job. And I will be glad to help you out with it. PAID HOLIDAY. LECH BEER. Think about it. -Dave

      • Sibyl White permalink
        October 27, 2012 11:59 pm

        Oh wow. The two of you together for a month! What a deal. Hope it works out.

      • October 28, 2012 9:28 am

        Turns out it’s not workable. But it would have been fun.

  2. permalink
    October 21, 2012 4:45 pm

    so logical, love all the minutae

    Thx, Shawn

    • October 21, 2012 8:23 pm

      Most welcome. If you like reading about every last detail of the daily life of an intractable bachelor, I’m your guy.

      • Sibyl White permalink
        October 23, 2012 3:24 pm

        Nice treat to read your wrap-up.

        Heading home tomorrow. Missing my stuff. Missing my Texas home. Your MO home will be pretty much as you left it except I am taking back the Goya.

      • October 24, 2012 10:32 am

        Have a good drive back. I love thinking about the house in Fulton, waiting there in case I need it. It feels like home to me.

  3. Louis Lopez permalink
    October 24, 2012 2:54 am

    What about learning Polish (at least partially) from CD’s?

    Yes, that Polish vegetarian food sure looks greasy.

    • October 24, 2012 10:31 am

      I use some audio materials on the web. I have a hard enough time just learning what’s on the two or three sheets I get in the lesson each week, though; I couldn’t really cram much more in the old brain.

      The good thing about Polish cuisine is that it strongly encourages me to cook at home to stay vegan. I’ve been doing very well in that regard lately.

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