Posts Tagged With: poland

A Town Called Radom

 

I thought I would talk about this town I have been living in for the past nine months: Radom. Since last September, I have been teaching English to children and adults in this small city of about 200,000 inhabitants. Radom is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Warsaw. To be honest, it is nothing to look at in terms of touristic appeal. It is considered a working class town where a lot of locals actually commute to Warsaw for work. In fact, my Polish friends in Warsaw – and other Poles I’ve met in my travels – ask me, “Why are you in Radom?” “Well, I know it’s not the prettiest place,” says I, “but what’s the big deal?”

“The city is cursed,” they tell me. Cursed? At first, I had no idea what they were talking about, but later I learned that Radom staged a revolution against the communist government in 1976. As a result, the government stopped supporting the city, leaving most Poles believing the city is cursed.

But in all honesty, Radom isn’t all that bad. The cost of living is much cheaper than that of the bigger Polish cities, it has a lovely high street full of cafes, restaurants and bars. There is also a huge shopping center where most of the locals congregate on weekends. It has a bus and train station where I can be in Warsaw or Krakow in under three hours.

So how did you end up in Radom?

It all started over a year ago when I was living in Ottawa. I was unhappy with my current situation and looking for a new job. I had a mutual friend who was teaching English in Radom, and suggested that I apply to the school, which he was teaching at. I did a little research on the city, mainly relying on Wikipedia. My friend was blunt. He told me the city wasn’t much to look at, and that life there can get boring really quickly. Nonetheless, I applied for a job, had an interview with the director a week later. Another week later, I was offered the job, and promptly accepted it.

What do you do there in your spare time?

Wind down from a long week, walk around town, work on my novel in a café, and go to the gym. Most weekends, I travel around Poland and during the holidays I travel around Europe.

Anything you particularly don’t like?

At the time of writing, the city doesn’t have an airport (well it does but there are no flights in operation). So if I need to fly somewhere, I have to use Warsaw Chopin Airport, which means carefully timing logistics so I can make my flight. The city is beautiful in the summer months, but during the winter it’s a ghost town where many bars and restaurants close early. What really irks me is that during the winter months it gets dark at 3pm! It’s also not great looking at the many apartment blocks in the city.

How do the locals perceive foreigners?

Some are genuinely curious about them, others wonder why I am even there. I have even be told once, “We don’t want you in our town!” I simply took that with a grain of salt. I have come to accept these negative opinions, but I also remember that I am here providing an invaluable service.

What do you like best about it?

I can walk everywhere. In fact, it only takes me five minutes to walk from my apartment to work. I wouldn’t have this if I lived in Warsaw or Krakow.

Would you recommend other foreigners to follow your path?

Radom, for me, will challenge even the most seasoned of travelers. One must be fully independent and able to entertain themselves. They will also have to be able to sacrifice certain creature comforts like Starbucks. At the time of writing, there isn’t one in the city. However, there is McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

One thing that foreigners would find interesting is that Pope John Paull II once visited Radom and prayed at the intersection of the place where the revolution took place. Kind of nice if you are a history buff. And Pope John Paul II is revered here (he was Polish himself).

Just to be clear, I am not criticizing Radom. I am simply sharing my reflections on my time here. I am glad I came because it has made me stronger professionally and personally. I now feel a greater sense of gratitude for my own country and community. This is something that so many of my countrymen take for granted. Perhaps Radom will grow and maybe become a booming metropolis like Krakow or Warsaw.

 

Categories: Life | Tags: , ,

Polish 101

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Hi! Thanks for visiting! As I am living in Poland, I’ve been teaching myself some Polish phrases. I use Duolingo to learn Polish everyday. It isn’t much, but it’s five minutes of learning and recycling new words. With my teaching schedule, I don’t have enough time to take language classes. But with constant exposure to the language, greeting my coworkers in Polish, as well as watching Polish TV, I’m learning and retaining new words all the time!

What does Polish look like? I would say it is similar to Russian since it is a Slavic language. It does require a learning curve and many Poles are aware of this. Here’s a crash course in Polish:

Dzień dobry (jEN dobree) – Good morning, good afternoon

Dziękuję (jEn-koo-yeh) – thank you

Dobry wieczór – good evening

Dobranoc – good night

Tak – yes

Nie – no

mleko – milk

chleb – bread

jablko – apple

kawa – coffee

piwo – beer

jeden (yeden) – one

dwa (dva) – two

trzy (tshi) – three

cztery (chteri) – four

pięć (p-yENch) – five

Pronunciation is harder than you think. Thankfully, Duolingo shows you how words are pronounced by native speakers. I’m inclined when it comes to learning languages; I speak Spanish and some German and French.

When Polish becomes tricky, I simple say “Nie mowię po polsku” (I don’t speak Polish). Poles really appreciate it when you try to speak their language, knowing very well it’s not the easiest language to learn. Luckily, when I go to Warsaw or Krakow, English is widely understood and spoken.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Like what you see? Know someone who is going to Poland soon? Share this post with your poison of choice!

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , , ,

My First Month in Poland

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So as many of you know, I recently moved to Poland to teach English. It was a job I accepted many months ago, but if someone had told me a year ago today that I’d be teaching in Poland, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had always envisioned myself teaching in southern Europe, China or Mexico. However, now that I’ve been teaching nearly a month, I find the Polish context to be rewarding and challenging. I teach children, teenagers and adults, and because I haven’t taught kids before, this adds to the challenge.

I live in a small city near Warsaw off the tourist path, which many consider to be traditionally Polish. The language barrier can be an issue, but I feel as if I’m getting to know the real Poland. Because it is small, I don’t have to deal with long commutes to work everyday. Interesting fact about the city: it has a few McDonalds but there’s not a single Starbucks!

During my first month here, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve noticed about the culture:

  • shopping at the local supermarkets can be challenging, especially at the big chains. Aisles are often crowded, and if you want something from the deli counter, be prepared for long lines. In Poland, supermarkets are closed on two Sundays of each month, so grocery shopping on Saturdays can be particularly challenging. I’ve found it’s best to get groceries before or after work.
  • highways in Poland aren’t what they are in North America; they are more like country roads, so a 60-mile journey often can take two hours!
  • public schools are referred to as numbers, rather than names. In other words, a student will often say they go to School Number 39.
  • Men will often come out on their balconies shamelessly in their underwear. Not a pretty sight for me as my apartment faces an eleven-storey block apartment, where this often is the case. Luckily the colder weather is settling in.
  • older women will often try and bud you in the line at the grocery store. They seem to resent the shift from tradition as well as the presence of foreigners in their country.
  • bookstores and small shops are open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon on Saturdays in the city I live in. If you like hanging around a bookstore late in the evening, this can be frustrating.

As challenging as these things can be, I am enjoying the experience so far. I’ve always wanted to live and teach abroad, and now I’m doing it. When you live abroad, there are always challenges. I’m glad I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and embarked on this life-changing journey.

Thanks for reading this post!

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , ,

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