Last May, I spent an amazing weekend in Krakow with Magda and Kama. I also spend about a third of my monthly paycheck, mostly on great food and about 30 mixed cocktails. Particularly the Pink Mohito at Shanti, the best Thai restaurant in Poland. Sitting in the rynek listening to drunk Scottish women hit on every man going by was also another highlight. Ah, youth. And by youth, I mean they were in their 40s.
In mid-May, I returned home for about two weeks in order to witness my cousin Catherine walk down the aisle. It was lovely seeing all of my family together (and my friends-including Adam and Jennifer-whom I hadn't seen in ages!), and the party was pretty damn kickass. I also had the chance to enjoy some of my favorite foods that I couldn't get in Poland, such as bagels, Maid-Rites, and reuban sandwiches. Mmmmm...
The school year ended in June, which didn't come soon enough, frankly. I think everyone was sick of school at that point. Plus, the weather started getting insanely hot and humid. I taught an independant (read: under the table) class at a local business throughout the summer, and walking home every day pretty much rendered me a moving puddle. It was not pretty. However, on the recommendation of one of those students, I found a pierogi shop right near my apartment that made the lightest and most delicious pierogi that you took home to cook. I still think of them even now. I also think about the raspberries, cherries, and strawberries that I got all summer. It was a red-smeared berry fest at my place for at least two months. I even made my first-ever batch of sour cherry preserves. Mixed into silky, thick Greek yogurt for breakfast, they were an enchantment. Less enchanting was how hot it was in my apartment. I spent large parts of every day simply sitting on my couch/bed in front of my exhausted fan, reading the "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series feverishly and spooning marscapone (with a touch of brown sugar & vanilla) and berries into my face. It wasn't pretty, but it also wasn't work. I was happy.
During the summer, Georgina's cat had kittens, and I made the big decision to adopt one. She was ready to come home the week of my birthday, and she made a most excellent present to myself. Ava. Oh, she is lovely (and sleeping soundly on top of my wardrobe as I write this). Supremely cuddly and yet a little vicious with her claws...just like her mother.
Right before my birthday, in mid-August, my boss called me into her office to discuss something important. I was nervous, envisioning all manner of horrible transgressions I may have unwittingly committed. But, as it turned out, she merely wanted to offer me a promotion! To be the head teacher at the branch of our school in Wroclaw. Wow. I was shocked and flattered. Terrified to uproot myself from my comfort zone in Gliwice, but eager to see what might happen for me in the big city. Well, sort of big city. Average city, really. But, bigger than Des Moines and so beautiful, with many cultural offerings and decent shopping. I was in. They also asked Magda if she wanted to move there, too. The whole staff had basically quit. No comment on that, but it basically gave me the chance to start from scratch, and that was appealing. Another great thing is that they offered a position there to my friend Daniel, with whom I had worked in Korea. It all happened *very* quickly, but it was really exciting. One day Magda and I went to Wroclaw to have a look around and see if we could live here, and the next we were sitting on a train with suitcases and a wailing cat. Once we got here, we had to spend two weeks at the school's tiny studio apartment, waiting for the one we eventually found to be ready. (That's a whole other story I can't get into, but suffice to say, we found an amazing apartment by shear luck and I am grateful every day.) Living there was a real test, but it was over soon enough, and we finally moved into our 150 year old apartment building overlooking the moat. Right in the city center, near public transport, and lovely. The inside anyway. The entry way and stairwell look and smell like they belong in a well-graffitied bomb shelter. Speaking of stairs, we're on the top floor, so there are 72 of them to climb every day. But no matter.
The school year started, with new teachers to get to know. It was not as social of an atmosphere as we were used to from Gliwice. On the one hand, it's sad not to go out as much with your colleagues, but on the other hand, I'm saving a lot of money from decreased consumption of beer. The school itself is in the center of town, so it's also a vintage building. Creaky wooden floors, high ceilings, crown molding details. Lots of gorgeous light, but now that summer is coming around, I can see where all that light is going to turn the school into a vintage oven. The students are nice, but not quite as eager to get to know the teachers as the ones in Gliwice. This is possibly owing to the fact that there are more than 3 things to do of an evening in Wroclaw. At any rate, we all settled in and got to the business of another school year.
In October, we went back to Gliwice for Halloween. It was so much fun, and it truly felt like going home. Seeing everyone again made me want to cry with happiness! Introducing Daniel to all my friends there was fun, and he got along great with them. The pictures from that weekend were a riot and will definitely not be published here! *sigh* That was such a wonderful weekend...
In November, I hosted another massive Thanksgiving party. It was a lot of work, as usual, but since it's my favorite holiday, I wasn't complaining. We had about 25 people for dinner, and everyone brought something to share. So, as you can imagine, there was a metric shit-ton of food on offer. We put everything on the terrace for storage and two days later it snowed enough to bury it all. And then proceeded to stay so cold that it didn't melt for over a month. Needless to say, we had a turkey carcass living on our terrace for a good part of the winter.
In December, I went home for three weeks to spend the holidays with my family. It was great being back, as usual, even though I didn't have a car to drive the whole first week I was there. Three weeks was a good duration. I had enough time to see everyone, and I only started going a little crazy.
After Christmas, nothing particularly interesting happened other than that my job started getting very stressful due to the owner of my school being extraordinarily inconsiderate in not hiring a sorely-needed additional teacher. Consequently, we were all over-worked and pissy about it. It was not a fun time.
Oh, one great thing that happened during that time was that I bought a car. On Valentine's Day. A 20 year old Mercedes, but an automatic, which was the most important feature. It's in great shape, so I'm really hoping it'll last at least until I decide to move on to another continent.
For Easter, we stayed home this year (instead of going to the mountains like last year) and made a nice dinner for each other. I cooked a traditional Easter ham and a coconut cake. Magda made potatoes and carrots, and Daniel made curry and a roasted chicken. It was tasty and a lot less annoying than spending 7 hours on public transport to get to a mountain town where all the restaurants were closed for the weekend.
May 1st weekend, a year after that expensive trip to Krakow, my friend Katie came back for another visit! We decided to spend the first weekend of her trip in Prague. Prague is my favorite city in the world, so it was like a homecoming for me. For the others, it was an eye-opening experience that showcased how wonderful Europe can be. Personally, I consider Wroclaw to be like a smaller Prague, at least in terms of architecture. Kraków is really more like Prague in terms of atmosphere and diversity. So for me, walking around Wroclaw makes me happy and grateful to live in a place that's so beautiful and yet not crammed with tourists like Prague. In fact, the tourist aspect made me really annoyed, but it was still lovely to be there with my friends. Driving there was a little stressful for me, particularly the part where we got pulled over by the Czech police for not having put our road pass in the window. Thankfully, I had all the necessary documents hiding in my purse, and they let us go.
The next weekend (last weekend, in fact), Katie and I took a day trip to Germany. I drove again, and managed not to get too lost. Katie was an excellent map reader for both trips, it must be said. We went to the border town of Gorlitz, which was pretty and quiet and very orderly. I began to see the appeal of living in Germany versus Poland. Still, we had to spend Euros, so I was happy to cross the border back into Poland within short order! The next day, Katie had to leave. Since she apparently attracts travel drama (at least when attempting to leave Poland), there was naturally a bomb threat at the airport just as we arrived there. Consequently, we got stopped in a massive traffic jam that left us parked in the middle of the street for at least 30 minutes while the building was inspected. Thankfully, the airport here is even smaller than Des Moines', so it didn't take too long. Even better, she didn't miss her flight and was soon on her way back home.
Now, there we are. All caught up!
Summer is fast approaching and I'm weighing my options. Stay here for another year and the possibility of being shit on again by my boss, or try to move to Italy to finally finish my Italian citizenship application? I love this city, I love being here with my friends, I love this apartment, plus I totally heart inertia and not having to pack up all my shit and start over somewhere brand new. At least for right now. I do have notoriously itchy feet...but I might be able to powder them and stay here for now. Being settled is a delightful feeling, I must say.