Poland - One Year On
It’s been exactly one year since I arrived in Poland. On the whole it has been a positive experience. In many ways it has been like being on holiday. When on holiday I don’t drive, so therefore don’t ever have to worry about staying sober. And, again, just like being on holiday I can’t drink my beloved cider and have to content myself with beer. Cider is pretty thin on the ground in Poland and when you can find it (which is pretty rare) it comes in small bottles and costs a fortune. Luckily I have come to enjoy beer (although given the choice I would always choose cider). Unpasteurized beer has found particular favour with me even though drinking it entails a certain degree of risk of stomach cramps during the night (although this could be triggered when I consume large quantities of beer at the same time as or shortly after drinking the beer).
Then, there’s the eating out. For me eating out in Poland is relatively cheap. Food prices aren’t exactly cheap in the supermarket, but it’s pretty easy to get a relatively good meal for anywhere between the equivalent of two to four pounds.
In the months after arriving here I used to work in a shared office on Sienkiewicza Street. Pretty much every day I would go out with a friend from the office for lunch. We tried to vary the restaurants which we visited for lunch (in accordance with my as-yet-unfulfilled plan of eating at every restaurant in the city), but, more often than not, we would go to Sprint. To call this place a milk bar does it a bit of an injustice and during the summer it’s very pleasant to sit out on the terrace basking in the sun.
I came here with only two suitcases, which meant that I had to leave behind two of my most treasured possessions, not counting the car of course for which I couldn’t find a suitcase big enough, namely my bicycle and guitar. Luckily I was able to borrow my flatmate’s bicycle and I was able to enjoy the twin delights of illicit drinking in the forest whilst at the same time being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Then after a while I got a guitar too, but that hasn’t seen much action until recently.
Finding entertainment (outside of the flat) wasn’t easy at first. But, before long, I soon had a better knowledge of what was going on than my Polish flatmate. Of course, there isn’t as much going on as there is in Brighton and most events are poorly publicised. But living in Brighton is expensive and, as always, you get what you pay for. I would rather have a slightly quieter life rather than having to work my butt off just to pay the bills.
The language has been a struggle and perhaps as a consequence of this all my friends are English-speaking. Luck would have it that most people speak English and I rarely find myself in a situation where I have to speak Polish. By my own admission progress has been fairly slow, apart from my poor memory I put this down to lack of input. For months I had neither television nor radio. Conversation with my flatmate was entirely in English. I have had my little breakthrough moments. Three or four months ago I managed to have a twenty minute conversation entirely in Polish and since then I’ve progressed in leaps and bounds. When I’m out walking I seem to be a target for people asking me questions and now I am actually able to understand them and provide them with a semi-coherent response.
I’ve been on the receiving end of some good old Polish hospitality. The first example of this was when I went to a pub with some friends. I had gone there before getting a chance to eating anything and not wanting to drink on an empty stomach asked the barman if any food was available. The options were limited so I declined and got back to my drinking. Later on the barman arrived at our table and plonked bread with smalec, gherkins and paluski on the table. Completely unprompted and for free. I was impressed. Since then I have enjoyed family Wigila (Christmas Eve) and Christmas dinners. All this has had a negative impact on my waistline of course, so dieting will have to resume soon.
So, I managed to survive the harsh Polish winter (which wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting). Now I’m looking forward to at least another year in Poland. My Polish is constantly improving and I’m always on the lookout for entertainment. Hopefully this will be the year when I see more of Poland and find love in a cold climate.