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Christmas Skelter Is Coming Down Fast

December 18, 2012

Again, I must apologize for not writing.  For one thing, I’ve been writing some fiction and there are only so many hours in the day.  Also, I’ve been in one place, working, for the most part, rather than roaming about collecting impressions.  What pictures I have to post are mostly just people drinking beer in pubs.

Or standing next to my boss Paul, who is drinking cherry vodka from a plastic cup in a hallway at the school Christmas party.  I think we’re beginning to look alike.

But I will soon be taking a holiday trip, so there will be pictures and reflections.  I’m traveling with Rachel, with whom I went  to get our visas in Prague in September.  Our itinerary is:

  • Vienna – Dec. 22-24
  • Budapest – Dec. 25-27
  • Overnight train – Dec. 28
  • L’viv, Ukraine – Dec. 29-30
  • Back home – Dec. 31

I haven’t planned much.  Money is going to be so tight that I’ll mostly just wander around and look at stuff, but fortunately, that’s what I like to do anyhow.   We will get a ride from Scott (one of my bosses) to Vienna, so we don’t have to catch an overnight bus from Katowice, which will save time, money and sleep: an auspicious start.

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↑ Looking out the window from the school onto the square.

I need to buy a couple of winter wear items.  It’s gotten down into single digits here on a couple of nights and I’m telling you, you don’t forget your hat in that kind of weather.  I expect L’viv will be especially frigid.

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↑ Walking past the cemetery at about 3:00 in the afternoon.  Yes, the sun is setting.
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↑ Here I am having a little confab with my banker at Agnieszka’s birthday party.

Teaching is going very well.  Scott observed a lesson the other day and said it was a huge improvement over the one he watched a few weeks ago.  I’ve taken to the system satisfactorily and he seems happy with my work.  I don’t pick things up especially quickly, but I do improve slowly and consistently over time, like the tortoise in the fable of old.

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↑ My color coding system for organizing lesson plans.  Especially important when, as in this picture, I have 4 groups working out of the same book on the same day.
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↑ My buddy Abdullah (Abs) in a little Polish watering hole we recently discovered.
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↑ Walking home with Abs and Giulia, my Italian shopping buddy.

Although I have no fear of partying, I am keen to balance it out with a more self-disciplined routine, generally during the week.  Along with working on my fiction every morning—I try to get in about 500 words in longhand—I’ve been doing Zen meditation for 15-20 minutes,  then studying the Pimsleur Polish mp3s that Stuart the Maniac gave me.  It’s paying off; I’m becoming ever-so-slightly less helpless in shops and restaurants and I can occasionally think of the right Polish word when I am introducing new vocabulary in an English lesson. I’ve stopped saying nie (no) when I should say bez (without) at long last. (Well, most of the time.)  I can count to nineteen.  I generally have to listen to a 30-minute lesson about three tines before I am ready to move on to the next one.  It’s better than what I was doing, which was almost nothing.  I’d say I’m picking up 3-5 language skills a day.

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↑ Walking home from work at night.

So I am well.  There will be more posts soon.  I am sure I will take hundreds of pictures on my holiday trip.  I will not be taking my laptop, so I’ll have to rely on the availability of hostel computers for on-the-road updates. We’ll see.  Thanks everyone for the comments and emails.
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13 Comments leave one →
  1. shawnabbtt@aol.com permalink
    December 18, 2012 10:39 pm

    sounds exciting! love hearing what ur up to… i spend lots of time being mom to 14 yr. old freshman son, and swimmer, Taylor. It’s my job for a while longer 🙂

    Taylor, on right, leading the butterfly.

    Couple of swim meets ago, number one in the mile, for any age!

    Thx, Shawn

    • December 18, 2012 11:32 pm

      Parenting the next generation is at least as important as idly wandering the globe and taking photos. Keep up the good work!

  2. December 19, 2012 12:26 am

    I still get nie- and bez- mixed up on some words as prefixes.

  3. December 19, 2012 12:29 am

    Those overnight trains are awesome. Great tip…when you can’t find a place to crash, just get on an overnight train and wake up somewhere else. I once did that in Amsterdam and woke up in Paris.

    • December 19, 2012 12:42 am

      I’m looking forward to the overnight train, but I have been warned by several Polish people that they are notorious for thieves. I’m not taking anything more valuable than a cheap camera with me.

      • December 19, 2012 2:08 am

        If you are with friends it lessens the danger; thieves don’t usually want to mess with a pack. Sometimes the seats will fold down into a big bed and the compartment will close, which gives you an added warning because somebody has to open a door. Sometimes there are “couchettes” (kuszetki) that fold down from the wall. It all depends on the type of train car.

      • December 19, 2012 12:15 pm

        Common sense goes a long way. I also generally don’t have much worth stealing and I allow my appearance to reflect that.

  4. December 19, 2012 11:23 am

    The view from the window looks like the town square from Gremlins. If anybody offers you a weird furry creature in a box, make sure you don’t drop it in a bucket of wet food.

    Train journeys through Europe sound so romantic. I always picture those old style cabins with sliding doors and mysterious nuns.

    • December 19, 2012 12:16 pm

      Have you taken any train journeys in Europe? I mean, you do live in Europe. Or is that just like going to Des Moines for you?

      • December 19, 2012 1:39 pm

        I’ve been on buses in Spain, but never a train anywhere other than in the UK. All of my European adventures have been by van, or to be more precise in the back of a van. I hear that Europe is beautiful when you have windows.

        The phrase ‘travelling around Europe’ sounds equally as exotic and exciting to me as ‘three-breasted blue nymphets of Mars’. The UK doesn’t feel very European, I guess being an island we’re pretty disconnected from the Continental state of mind.

  5. December 20, 2012 2:44 am

    Good to see you smiling, old man.

  6. December 21, 2012 10:43 pm

    Living vicariously, remembering Vienna with fondness. Budapest looks like a total dream town. L’Viv—I’d go there just for its name! You are on your way. First day of the rest of your life instead of last. Woot.

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