Friday 26 August 2022

Polish lessons

I'm back in Scotland, and I have time left this morning for one thing I want to do and not for everything I want to do. I have chosen to blog. 

Apart from improvements in my spoken Polish, which were obvious after 3 weeks of classes, but are not as obvious now, 2 weeks after they ended, I have learned some important Life Lessons. I began to learn the most important one, I think, as soon as I arrived at the student dorm in southeastern Poland and discovered that my name was not on the list of residents. 

I had travelled all day, navigating a bus from Modlin to Warsaw, a train from Warsaw to the city, and a taxi from the railway station. It was evening, and my entrance exam was the next day. My communications with the school had been rather fraught, as the organiser would answer my enquiries only after a Polish friend telephoned him from Krakow. Therefore, it was disappointing, but not a shock, to discover that nobody at the dorm expected me.

I asked the concierge to call the organiser, and I went over to a chair to the side and waited. The concierge made a number of phone calls, told me I had a room, went up to see if the accommodation was clean, sent me up to the room, and then returned with me to investigate when I thought the key didn't work. 

The lesson learned here--and it was reinforced by much repetition--is that when things don't work, reach out to the person most likely to fix them, sit down, be patient, and it will all work out.

Obviously there are exceptions. If your loved one is in hospital in Britain, you must visit him or her everyday, watch over them, and demand help when nobody wants to help. Patience is not a virtue when your loved one is in danger of death. However, it is essential when dealing with the chaos caused by people who don't do their jobs properly, not being fluent in the language of the country you are in, and other difficulties in daily life. 

Another lesson I learned is that the rock-solid torture racks considered good enough for Polish students and monastery lay guests to sleep on are just not adequate for people over 45 or people who have bad backs, or both. Yet another is that workmen in that particular Polish city pick up the recycling outside the student dorm at 5:30 AM.  Therefore---this is not as applicable to life universal but definitely to my future Polish studies---it is a better idea to stay in Airbnb than in a Polish university student dormitory, no matter how much cheaper the student dormitory might be. Sleep is really very important, especially when you spend your days doing or learning something difficult. 

My next lessons were that there was no welcome pack at the dorm, and so no maps, and that the morning concierge didn't know where the classroom building was and therefore couldn't help me get to the entrance exam.... Well, in the end it all worked out. I never found out how I did on the entrance exam--which was entirely grammar-based--but I really liked the grammar teacher it landed me with, so it was all to the good.

It's hard to believe that was a month ago now. More recently I was in a tiny village in southwestern Poland, and there I learned the difference between instant coffee and Turkish coffee, and the importance of not stirring up the sludge at the bottom of a cup of the latter.  

In between I learned that making mistakes in Polish is not only inevitable in a foreigner, it is okay, and as long as the linguistic task--like getting the AirBnB landlady in southwestern Poland to find out why there is no water--is successful, nobody really cares.  In fact, this time not even I cared 99% of the time, which is a fantastic improvement.