Sunday, March 1, 2009

Growing, Learning, Living

Breathing in deeply the clean mountain air, my head is slowly filling with a new perspective, one of fresh ideas. The mountain air is slowly filling in the tiny cracks where doubt and fear silently hid. Life is too diverse, unpredictable, and rich to restrict with rules and limits, the earth is round and refuses to be placed in a box, so why must we continue to put up walls?

I’ve successfully made it through two weeks of classes here at Opole University, and to my surprise, things are falling nicely into place (or out of place here in Poland) and all is coming together (or apart??). I’m not gonna lie, the first week here was a bit tough. There was a lot of different feelings, emotions, fears, and plenty of doubts. I began second guessing the decision to come, to postpone a graduation that I would have taken place in less than 2 months, to leave behind a place of comfort, security, and certainty. Was it the right decision? Or had I selfishly taken things into my own hands, but yet is my life not my own to plan? But the more time I spend here, the more certain I am of my decision, and I am indeed in a place where I’m supposed to be. I’ve gotten to know my roommate better, and she and I have already had great times together. She had told me that she was not expecting to have so much fun this semester, that she hadn’t planned on anything that we had done, and my response: “Well, then you sure hadn’t planned on having an American as your roommate sister, this semester will be unlike any other!” I crave adventure, and nothing makes me happier than having people to experience it with, even if I have to kick them out of their comfort zone and drag them down the rabbit hole of spontaneity. I came to Poland alone, you can at least join me in a night of karaoke.
My classes have gotten better, the class that was taught entirely in Polish had switched to mostly English thanks to the arrival of two other foreign exchange students from Turkey, although I’m pretty sure the students in that class hate me because I was the main reason for the language switch. (sorry, my polish language lessons haven’t begun yet). My other class, Religion in International Relations is great. Its silly because the professor uses me as somewhat of an assistant instructor, always checking her pronunciation with me or her method of explanation. The students in the class are also great, and find it fascinating to have class with a native speaker. My third class, Psychology of Social Communication is by far my favorite. It’s taught by a priest, Dr. Rev. Darius Krok. He, as well, is more than welcoming and excited about my presence. He has been very helpful and kind, and I find myself looking forward to this class because of the comfort that it offers, the warm familiarity of a deep faith can be seen in his eyes. Since I’ve been in Poland, its been very hard to find a comfortable place for spirituality. This is strange because Poland is 98% Catholic and religion can be seen in many aspects of daily life, yet, there remains a void between the religion and the relationship, the connection seems to be…missing. Maybe its been the transition from a culture where Christianity is abundant, pouring out of churches, t.v programs, movies, radio, and plastered as a logo on fashionable t-shirts. Here, its not so prevelant and the main literature on spirituality can be found in the writings by and about Pope John Paul the second, (what a great man), and books by Paulo Coelho (which is fine with me as he is a great writer). Yet, I have felt a ‘Greater” closeness in bits and pieces, in moments that seem to stand still and linger, in moments when certain things line up, creating a beautiful picture that you cant help but smile at and pray that the moment never fades. But, they always do, and your left with wondering when the next encounter will be and in what form it will take. The priest and I are going to arrange a time to meet every week, just to talk. I know I’ll be looking forward to those days.
I’m growing closer to the friends i have made. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for them, I’d be lost. They have helped me so much, and continue to serve as an opportunity for me to be myself, as ridiculous as that is at times. When I’m with them, I am happy. They’ve gotten so used to me being a part of their group that I find them translating less and less, forgetting that I’m unable to understand. Until they see my wide-eyed look and quickly apologize and proceed to translate. I don’t mind not understanding all the time, when they laugh, unintentionally I do as well, and in that sense, happiness can indeed be contagious. This past Friday, they took me skiing with them in the Czech Republic. It was such an amazing experience I wish I could’ve captured in all to share with others who are unable to be here. The mountains that border Poland and the Czech are breathtaking, and as we drove into them, it seemed as if we entered into another time. Like a scene out of Narnia, we spent the day surrounded by ice covered pines and blue crystal snow. It was a beautiful day and worth every ache and pain we felt the next morning, even my black and blue knee couldn’t scream loud enough for me to pay it any attention.
I’m enjoying spending time in the coffee shops. There is one that I find to be my favorite and frequent it quite often. It has to do with the first impression. The second night I was in Opole, I was exploring the old town as it was getting dark and stumbled upon a lit sign inviting me in for a cup of coffee. I was thrilled to have found a coffee shop and hoped it would be one to return to. Upon entering, I was covered with that warm comfortable smell of fresh ground coffee and kindly greeted by the soft sound of Iron and Wine. This was my shop, and so it’s been. It serves as a great escape, a place I can come and be alone with my thoughts. When I get frustrated with my inability to understand the conversations around me, I can always count on the understanding of my own thoughts, at least they speak English, and after a cup of coffee, nothing can hold back their insistent chatter.


  1. Iron and Wine... yeah, I think that would signal a place of comfort for an American girl in Poland. Good stuff. Glad you are getting acclimated and making friends, getting close with your teachers and such. :)

  2. How I enjoy reading your entries, Leah! You have a gift with words. And the picture is beautiful - did you take it? Glad that things are falling into place for you. Miss you!