Don't Give Up
People ask me what I do for a living. I tell them that I am a freelance web developer and it soon dawns on them (or I tell them) that I could work anywhere in the world, all I need is my laptop and an internet connection. They inevitably ask “Why Kielce? Does your girlfriend live in Kielce?” It’s a question so frequently asked that I can even answer in Polish.
I say “Hold on a minute, can I start by answering ‘Why Poland?’ first?”
Then follows the temptation to tell a slightly different story each time. I used to do just that at parties when people asked me what I do? “Stuntman” I said with a straight face. The great thing about pretending to be a stuntman is that when you drunkenly fall down the stairs at the end of the evening you can spring to your feet and claim that you were simply re-enacting a scene from the latest film you worked on.
So the story begins... I had a Polish girlfriend. During my many visits to Poland I developed a love of all things Polish (the love for the Polish girlfriend fell by the wayside, but that’s another story).
Also, I’m not here to steal Polish jobs, why would I when I can earn so much more back in blighty? Certain things are cheap for me in Poland. Earning British pounds sterling and spending my hard-earned cash in Poland on cheap beer has a certain appeal, especially when the exchange rates are so favourable.
Financial considerations aside, I am here in Poland because I fancied a change. Me wanting a change coincided with an internet acquaintance of mine looking for a flat just at the right time. My Polish wasn’t (and probably still isn’t) good enough to find a place by myself, so we decided to share. They just happened to be studying in Kielce. And that’s why I’m here. Right here.
So, once in Poland I had to try and find some friends. My flatmate wasn’t going to be of much help to me, as all her friends are half my age. So, basically I had to make little bit of effort to widen my social circle.
Working from home certainly has its advantages. You can be up and working within minutes of getting out of bed. No bothersome getting washed or dressed or even having to bother with the commute to work. There are some positive sides of being an office drone. Aside from the regular pay packet, there is a vague chance of meeting some new people there. At home, if you’re really lucky the postman or some Jehovah’s Witnesses may come knocking at your door, but that’s about it. Hardly the basis for a lasting friendship.
Before even arriving in Kielce I sought out some office space. A co-working office, where you rent a desk in a shared office and, in theory, you get to meet interesting people to expand your social and business network. Well, that was the theory. The reality of Studio Sienkiewka was slightly different.
It was indeed a comfortable place to work. It had fast wireless internet (unlike at home). It was on the high street, so I got to have a very pleasant half hour walk to and from work each day. Not to mention nipping out to a different restaurant every day for lunch. The expected stream of freelancers, however, didn’t emerge and the office was gradually turned into a home for a telesales operation. I won’t mention the owner’s tiny dog who loudly greeted callers with its yapping, despite the owner’s insistence that barking was “Nie wolno!” (not permitted). Finally, when the internet got crappy I resumed working from home. But, at least, during my time there I had met one good friend and, through him, others.
Not being able to speak Polish has inherent social disadvantages. Making friends with non-English speakers is nigh on impossible. I’ve managed to have a few conversations entirely in Polish, but these are few and far between. Fortunately outside the realm of supermarkets and small shops the vast majority of people speak English. And these people who speak English are usually keen to improve (or at least practice) their English, so opportunities for intercultural exchanges abound.
Most people I meet seem to assume I’m a teacher. A fairly natural assumption I suppose. It seems that most foreigners in Kielce are teachers (those who aren’t students at least). I do give a few lessons, but only on a one to one basis. Maybe I’m not enough of an extrovert to go in front of a classroom. Or maybe I don’t love the sound of my own voice enough. If I was ever to go and teach properly I’d want to do some sort of course, that’s for sure. For the moment I’m just happy to amble through life; a little bit of programming, a little bit of teaching while waiting for my next big break to come along.