I seem to have these little nostalgic withdrawals every now and then since coming back from Poland. I went to the motherland for six weeks on a study abroad trip summer of 2012 with four other students and my favorite college professor.
It’s one thing to be an hour and a half from family and home, it’s a completely different ball game to be on the other side of the world and about six hours ahead from everyone you know and love.
You really feel alone. But I loved it. (Until about week 4 or 5 when I just needed a hug really, really badly.)
It was a time to truly test whether I could be on my own and survive. I was on a different continent, in a country I had never been to, trying to speak a language I had only somewhat mastered (and have now mostly forgotten, unfortunately).
Luckily quite a few people in Poland spoke English fairly well, so it wasn’t a complete barrier. But nothing makes you feel farther from home than trying to find a restroom in a mall and not being able to read any signs for directions.
But when I get this pang in my gut of missing Poland, it’s not so much their food or their language, it’s their entire lifestyle. Polish people enjoy life. They go to the grocery store almost every day to get fresh bread or cheese or whatever, not stock up for the week or two on things that won’t go bad for months at a time. They have huge, beautiful parks that put anything I’ve seen, in Florida at least, to shame. There are people playing those weird Australian instruments (I think it’s called a didgeridoo) and fire dancers on the streets.
There’s literally loda or gofry on every corner. Which is basically ice cream and waffles but ten million times better. Although I never saw one person put the two together, and when I did, I got some funny looks.
Just about everyone I saw had such a cool style and seemed so comfortable in their own skin. They had an awesome transportation system. We managed to ride it illegally once or twice without getting caught, which is saying something.
I spent my 21st birthday there. Yes, it was kind of anticlimactic because I could already drink. But I made a friend (a friend of my professor) who took me to get a drink at midnight. She didn’t care if I could already drink there. It was my 21st and we were going to celebrate. I remember sitting on a park bench by the outside bar (there were an assortment of comfortable chairs strewn about on a lawn, circling bonfires, but unfortunately they were all taken) just talking and watching the stars, hardly believing that I had just turned 21 in a foreign country with no one I knew. It was amazing.
I believe I contracted wanderlust on that trip. It’s a great problem to have, because then I’m never content with just being okay. But it’s an extremely difficult problem to solve, because I can’t just drop my life and travel.
So for now I’ll just sit here and stare at my little Polish knick knacks and plan for the day I go back. There are so many things to revisit, and so many new things to see. I’m the first in my family to go back to Poland since we immigrated to the US. I want to show my mother our hometown, and walk along the streets of Krakow at night when the stare miasto is shining with lights. I want to visit on All Hallow’s Eve to witness the Polish rituals honoring the dead. I want, no I need, to go back and visit my professor’s mother and beg her for more plum or apple pie. Now I’m itching to go. Anyone want to join me?
This was my jam when I was feeling lonely in Poland: