Last Tuesday, Athiei and I boarded a plane to Krakow in Poland in order to attend our orientation in the Learning Enterprises program! As both of us got accepted to volunteer as teachers in Poland, we were able to fly there together. We spent the first five days visiting the area as well as getting to know the Polish culture and language ( a little bit ) and also the other volunteers.
Here's a pretty complete photograph of the other volunteers who were there ( a few are missing though ). Aside from Athiei and I, the others were all from the United States of America so we definitely got a full dosage of the American accent (real live Disney Channel! Woo). It was definitely an interesting experience introducing myself as from Malaysia and Ireland. Indeed my hybrid identity is slowly expanding and becoming concrete as I would have never said I was from Ireland when..I was actually being asked the same question in Dublin.
So far I've been doing a great job of being introduced to the variety of food in Poland (as you know, food is my LIFE). The photograph above combines the two great models, Eric and Lindsay who are expressing their glee upon receiving a zapiekanki which is a long toasted baguette with mushrooms, cheese, meat, garlic sauce and ketchup.
Along with my food adventures have been bigos inside a bread bowl! bigos is a dish made of sour fermented cabbage mixed with some meat which is one very traditional Polish dish.
Of course, pierogi (dumplings) must not be forgotten as it is key to the Polish culture.With an assortment of fillings such as cottage cheese, meat, spinach and even fruit. It was the first thing I ate when I arrived in Krakow and it indeed was absolutely DIVINE.
I had a home cooked meal with my Polish host family (which I will later introduce) which consisted of a creamy cucumber salad with, mushroom sauce, beans with breadcrumbs and butter ( the one that looks like french fries / chips ).
Not to mention the divine drinks of a trio of chocolate types - white, milk and dark chocolate. It was so intense that I could feel it flowing through my veins after several minutes of consumption.
We also visited the underground city which is situated directly under the main square in Krakow (Rynek Glowny). Note to future travellers, the exhibition has free admission on Tuesdays!
Bonding with the other volunteers were mainly over drinks I must say. It was an absolutely mental week of going out, drinking, dancing, waking up early the next day. Everyone in the team had their own pleasant quirks and the personalities were largely diverse and similar at the same time. I had several "jinx" moments with some volunteers (Claudia and Camille in particular) which definitely accentuated the similarities between us.
We as a group made our way to the Auschwitz camp where we had an intensive tour of the grounds of the camp, its history and even the opportunity to see artifacts as well as the actual rooms where the tragedy occurred.
It was a heavy day where we learnt of the exact methods and substances that were used to kill many of the people at the concentration camp in Auschwitz (and many more). Definitely I must say that it was a tough pill to swallow and few eyes were left dry in the room.
The train tracks that were used to transport the victims 70 years ago (it's really not too far back in history).
It was really an ironic situation as the entire campsite was placed on a beautiful land, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and yet the history of the place was devastating.
Many items were left there and were collected to be on display such as - shoes, bags, combs, pots, pans, prosthetic legs, glasses and even hair. Women were shaved in order for their hair to be used in the linen industry. Orders for no photographs were set in order to respect the women who fell victim in the camp.
Being a part of the tour made me envision the voices and the possible situations that occurred there. It was, as I said, a teary-eyed experience but definitely one not to be missed for anyone.
The visit to the Wawel Dragon was also made where it would actually breathe "fire" on a scheduled basis. However, I failed to capture a photograph when it was breathing fire gloriously...only a little puff could be seen.
Another introduction to Krakow was complete with a live strike and an angry mob through the main square by hundreds of its people.
A trip to the 650-year-old Jagellonian University in Krakow was definitely special.
The feel from the university grounds were not like any other.
Yes I understand that this post for the past week is insufficient to fully capture what I've been experiencing.
But, it's exceedingly difficult to find time to blog due to the fact that English lesson planning consumes much time as well as spending time with the other volunteers and host families. (not to mention my personal journalling). So this is it for now and stay tuned for my next post about being a teacher in the village of