Bluebirds Singin' A Song

This'll be another short one, folks. It is way too pretty to be inside this computer lab when the sun is shining and the grass is green. I love this weather. It's still a bit chilly but just that perfect temperature where you feel invigorated rather than sweaty. My laptop is officially in the country so soon I will be writing these from my very own comp! I have decided to name my laptop Stanisław. Stan for short. I figure I will receive him in Poland so he should have a Polish name. That way the other laptops won't make fun of him.
I cannot express how happy this weather makes me. It has been rainy and dreary for the past few days and now we finally get to see the sun. I think I may just walk around the planty and enjoy the sun with no purpose other than just to be. In fact, that sounds like the perfect afternoon for me.


Ciao, Bellas!

I am going to Italy!!! I bought my plane ticket and the ticket for the train to Rome. It turns out Squints, from the rugby team my freshman year is studying there right now and so she will show us around and give us the lay of the land. I cannot believe that I am actually getting to do this! I also might be able to stay at her flat since she has a huge living room with a ton of couches. That would save me a whole lot of worry and hassle since the hardest thing about planning has been the accomodations. We are taking the night train but we are just sitting in seats because that save 30 Euro each way. It won't be the most comfortable journey of my life but sitting in cramped seats next to stinky strangers is all part of the experience, right? Just wanted to put in that little update but I am not going to write more because this Polish keyboard is driving me nuts!


Do You Have A Tray?

Chelsea's 21st Birthday was on Tuesday. In Poland, 21 is just another birthday but any reason to celebrate is a good one, right? She planned to do a pub crawl around Kazimierz which sounded like a good idea at the time. Well, Chelsea hates to cook so I offered to make dinner for her so she wouldn't have to make her own food on her birthday. Well, that suddenly turned into 10 people coming over to the flat for dinner. I had an hour and a half to put something together. Well, I'm pretty much a BAMF and pulled it off gorgeously. I did have the advantage of not needing to do dessert since Chelsea's flatmates, Helvia and Sara, had that covered. I'm not sure if I have talked about this much but Chelsea and I are pretty much the same person. Turns out, she also has a deep appreciation of Eddie Izzard, especially the Lego version on YouTube. We quote that all the time so I thought the perfect dinner for her would be penne a la arrabiata. It was super delish! I also steamed some broccoli and turned an entire loaf of Chleb Krakowia into some kickass garlic bread. On Wednesday, nothing terribly exciting happened other than the fact that I saw a hedgehog. I'd never seen one out in the wild before. That is if you can call our urban campus "the wild." It's a good thing they are spiky because they are not fast. I was walking back from class when I saw the shadow of what looked to be a ridiculously huge and tailless rat crossing the street as a car was coming. Being my nerdy self, I wanted to see what it was and I realized it was not a rat but an adorable hedgehog. It tried to escape down a hill and into a drainpipe. It was so adorable to see the little spiky butt struggling. I actually touched its spikes. I thought I had probably scared it enough so I left it alone. Not before getting a few snapshots (without any zoom). Thursday was just a good day all around. Before Polish class, I went for a walk in the Planty and got lunch at this cheap and delicious place called Green Way. A lot of vegetarian fare and more veggies (other than cabbage) than you see on most menus here. I also popped into the Galeria and bought a pair of heels. These ones are black and have a thicker heel to them so I don't feel like I'm going to break my ankle when I step out onto the craggy streets of Krakow. I bought my tickets for Milan and I found out that I am getting a new laptop!!! This means blog entries every day or two. Last night, there was a Salsa Party hosted by ESN. I had the brilliant idea to wear my new shoes. Not a wise choice. Before we even got to the club, my feet were killing me. Cobble stones and heels are not a good combo. Obviously, I was not really keen on dancing. I sat and talked with people for a while to try and recover a bit. The music sucked so I wasn't terribly motivated to get up and dance. Eventually, I cowboyed up and took to the dance floor. It was fun but I'm sure I would have enjoyed myself much more if I had worn my brown flats. Live and learn. I ended up walking home barefoot. On the way back, Artem and I walked past so road repair in Karmelicka. The guys doing the work started yelling at us in Polish when we tried to cross the street and so we figured out he wanted us to go around. Well, I guess I didn't go quite far enough around because I ended up stepping (barefoot) into warm asphalt. I have officially left my mark on Krakow.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Moleski

'Nuff said.

Also, I'm looking into possibly going to Italy for our spring break. I found round trip tickets to Milan for less than 200 zlotych. I'll provide details as things get decided.


Hopefully, within the next few weeks, we will be getting a new fridge. This sounds nice under any circumstances but especially if you know the background on the one at our flat. I call it Sputnik. Sputnik is a fridge in the academic sense. It is a white box that opens (no light on the inside though), the freezer area has ice in it (not the kind that you would want to put in a beverage but it is solid water) and we generally put our food in there. It is only a few degrees colder than the temperature of our kitchen so it really doesn't have any practical purpose. Think Mitch Hedberg's negative name for the smoke detector (the 9-volt battery slowly-drainer) only instead of a small battery at a leisurely pace, this bad boy sucks up energy like no one's business without yielding any useful result. Did I mention that it happens to be in Russian? Not only that, but it is Stalin era circa 1957 technology. Yeah, this reminds me every day that I am in a former Communist country. We actually had Artem, one of our friends from Russia, look at it to decipher the knob and turn it to make it colder so it's maybe light jacket weather on the inside. Note the amount of ice that has built up on the outside of the "freezer." This is maybe two weeks after Melanie went all candles and hair dryers on it to completely defrost it. Ice started forming the very same day. Oddly enough, I think I'll miss it a bit. It was one of the little idiosyncrasies that made our flat special and different. Don't worry, even without Sputnik, our flat will not be cookie cutter. I don't think that will ever be a risk of that.


A Thousand Words

So, I realized that I've been cheating you guys out of the beautiful things that I get to see while I'm here. Most of these were taken on Saturday, when Chelsea, Ashley, Tina and I just walked around the city because the weather was so gorgeous. The one's that aren't quite as pretty are sights that I see every day on my way to or from school. Still, not too shabby if you have to look at something.


I'm Just A Bill. Yes, I'm Only A Bill

Rent: 800 PLN
Water Bill: 45 PLN
Electric Bill: 248 PLN
Visit to the Hospital, Including Chest X-Rays, Blood Work and EKG: 128 PLN
Antibiotics, Expectorant, and OTC Pain Killer: 74.86 PLN
Cab Fares: 46 PLN
Being tossed from clinic to clinic to clinic to hospital to hospital, then being forced to wait for an hour before a kindly doctor finally decides to buck the system and treat me regardless of my insurance working here or not, and then being topless in front of no less than 9 strangers after being asked if you are currently having trouble to expectorate sputum: Fucking priceless

Alright, well, all the hoops I had to jump through for my insurance counting over here was completely pointless. They didn't even look at my insurance card. They just asked if I had Polish insurance. Magda, bless her heart, was getting so pissed off at everyone. When I got rejected from the student clinic, it was because the next appointment wasn't until Friday. Okay, that one is acceptable. Everyone is sick and they must be swamped. Magda was angry because people can't plan when they are going to be sick so they should always have walk-in times but I didn't have the energy to get pissed off about it. They sent me to a clinic that was supposed to be about a block away. Note the use of the phrase "supposed to be." Part of it was because Magda wasn't terribly familiar with the area. We found a clinic but it turned out to be only OB-GYN so that was a no-go. We found the clinic that the lady directed us to in the first place. We talked to the administration lady who told us that there were no available appointments but we could go upstairs anyway and for all intents and purposes, beg the doctor to see me. When Magda finally got her foot in the door, she talked to the doctor and he said that he couldn't see me because I needed to go to the hospital. Cab Ride #1 to a hospital. This hospital looked very Soviet era but I figured, when in Rome... We got sent to the fourth lady behind a window of the day. She was a paperwork zombie that said we needed to go to the other side of the building. We went to the other side of the hospital where I got my first glimpse of a doctor of the day! He was nonchalantly cruising websites and not doing anything medical but he couldn't see me because I lived on the wrong side of Krakow to be treated there. Apparently, this is the one case where my residence here mattered but not in a positive way. Cab Ride #2 to another hospital. We had to cross town to the University Hospital which looked a lot nicer and cleaner. We had to wait and talk to more window monkeys. After waiting for about a half an hour, Magda got fed up and stormed into the actual treatment area. We got lucky because her rant did not fall on deaf ears. The doctor even spoke English, although with an interesting accent and vocabulary. He took us into the accounting office where Madga talked to them. They said they would see what they could do but they didn't even look at my insurance card or Polish student ID or anything. More waiting... The doctor finally popped out of the treatment/ER area and said "I don't care about the insurance. If they need us, they can look for us." So, as mentioned above, chest X-rays (topless), blood work (shirt on, thankfully) and then the EKG. Oh, the EKG. That was an experience. Instead of the American EKG with the leads being little contact stickers, here I had a rubber band strapped around my (naked) chest which these metal bars were tucked into. These little shims were then sprayed down with water and leads are attached to the wrists and ankles. My thoughts at the time: a combination of that scene in "The Green Mile" with Dell's execution and Percy screaming that he didn't know the sponge was supposed to be wet and the electroshock scene from "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." At that moment, I was sick, in pain, half naked and most definitely not in my happy place. Anyway, after getting to put my shirt back on and a bit more waiting, the doctor gave me the diagnosis. It reads like a good news, bad news joke. Good news: I don't have pneumonia. Bad news: I have bronchitis. Good news: my rib isn't broken. Bad news: The bastard didn't give me prescription painkillers for my torn intercostal which hurt so badly the night before that I couldn't move. I got a "prescription" for Apap which I think is a lot like Tylenol. Cab ride numero tres brought me home. Nap time and then surprise party! Only not the fun kind of surprise party. Party where the hosts (my flatmates) end up saying "Holy Shit! This is way more people than we expected." Obviously, I was not in a party mood but I still made an appearance. People were smoking and that did not fly with me. After I went back to my room, apparently the police were called and we got threatened with a 15oo zloty fine. On top of that little joy, three people puked. I walked out of my room at 1 AM to ash-filled plastic cups and my flatmates mopping things up. Not a happy camper. We will not be having any parties at our flat again any time soon. It all ended up alright and we will get remembered for having the first really wild party of the semester.


The Black Death is White, Who Knew?

So, I'm still sick but I've been getting a little stir crazy. I decided to go out to the Franc-xico mixer. Even with the coughing and everything, it's been driving me nuts to stay in while all of my flatmates go out. I wish we had a TV for stuff like this. Then we could have movie nights and lower key get togethers that don't involve going out to a club. Anyway, I figured since it was a house party, it would be quieter and there wouldn't be nearly as much smoke. I'm glad I went to it. They played Latin music pretty much the whole time so we all got mini salsa lessons from the Mexican guys. Since I've been MIA from all of the parties this week, it felt really nice to have people asking where I've been and how I'm doing. It's nice to know that people notice my absence. Unfortunately, even with the mitigating circumstances at this party, I still have no voice today. I'm being lazy all day and definitely not going out tonight. Everyone is sick! I wouldn't let anybody kiss me on the cheek last night because I was afraid of spreading my plague even further. I think tomorrow Chelsea and I will go walk around Kazimierz. That district is full of really cool cafes and restaurants. It's the old Jewish district of Krakow so there is a lot of history. On Wednesday, Melanie and I went there to visit the Jewish Cemetery. She made me get out of the house since fresh air is supposed to be good for your health. It's not quite so good when that fresh air has smog and dust in it but it's the thought that counts, right? The cemetery was so peaceful. It was a very nice place to take a walk. It looks like nature has just taken its course and the graves are just stacked up one on top of the other. It looks like the ruins of an ancient civilization. After we walked around there for a while, we went to this really awesome cafe bar called Alchemia. I got a kickass latte and this really yummy cake. All of that cost 12.50 zloty so less than $5. That'll do, pig. That'll do. The atmosphere is really boho and cool. They don't have electric lights; it's just candles everywhere. Also, as a doorway from one room to the next, they have a wardrobe which is really fun. I definitely want to go back there but with more than 400 cafes, pubs and restaurants in Krakow so there are just way too many others to check out.


A Few of My Favorite Things

So, I'm in a relatively down mood because I'm sick. I'm also missing some things and I figure the only way to deal with that is to confront it. So here's a list of things I miss from home.
  • My Friends- Julia and Mikay especially. There are seriously so many things that I wish I could show you guys. That and I want to girl talk hardcore. I've made so many new friends but they can't compete with you guys.
  • The Fam- I know I get to see you in April but I miss having our Sunday breakfasts and just sitting around talking until our coffee gets cold.
  • My Ruggers- I miss you guys like oxygen! There are a lot of rugby players here but they can't hold a candle to the baddest bitches I know. I also want to sing at parties but I can't because no one else knows the songs.
  • The Puppies- There are a lot of dogs here and I have pictures of the babies but right now I'm sick and I wish I could curl up on the couch and just cuddle with them. That would make we feel all better. That and Coco being an idiot about something would make me laugh.
  • Grand Valley- I miss the campus and the people and being able to eavesdrop on conversations. Krakow is so amazing but I know GV is where my heart is and what I will always think about when I talk about my college experience.
  • Breathing Smoke Free- I didn't realize how few Americans smoke until I got here. Even if I don't go out at night, any time I'm on the street there are people with cigarettes and it pisses me off. I'm going to have lung cancer if I stay here for more than I semester. I know it's all part of the European thing but I'm American and I'm willing to hold my ground on a few things.
  • Free Water- Now we are getting into the more trivial things but I knew I would miss all of the stuff listed above. The water thing is a two pronged frustration. I hate having to pay for water instead of being able to just drink out of the tap. Complaint dos, I hate how wasteful it is. I buy the 5L jug but that's still a lot of plastic being wasted. Stupid Poland and their non-drinkable tap water. I'm dehydrated because I want to save money (and the planet) but I've been drinking tea like it's my job.
  • Ketchup- This one is kind of surprising since I'm not a huge ketchup fan. They still have it here but it isn't the same. It tastes exactly like the pizza sauce you get in the pizza Lunchables.
  • Facebook 24/7- Obviously, I still check my facebook here but I can't do it on my every whim. I need to plan. In a way, it is liberating because I'm not spending all of that time on Facebook instead of enjoying the city but right now I just want to take a nap, wake up, watch Grey's online and then waste time putzing around on FB.
  • Not Looking Like A Complete Idiot All of The Time-Doors are labeled push and pull here. Too bad the labels are in Polish. In America, you don't need to read because the handle on the door is constructed in such a way as to make it obvious which way the door will travel. Just the bar thingy for Push and a grippy handle thing for pull. Here, they have the handle thing both sides. I'm starting to blend in a little bit but that all goes to hell when I can't read a simple sign on a door.
There are other things that I miss about home but none are really coming to mind. I'm not even going to try and list all of the things that I will miss when I leave here because the list would be endless.


Weekend Update

So, its been a while since my last entry. My first week of classes was ... interesting. It's kind of frustrating because the professors have to slow down for the non-native speakers. It's looking like this will be hella easy but I need to figure out my textbook situation. They have copies available for checkout at the International Programmes Office but you only get them for 3 days. The intent there is to take them to a copy shop and make your own for around 30 zloty. By the way, Mom, it wasn't in a class where I told everyone to shut up. It was at Zakopane when we were doing our international night presentations. I'm taking International Economics, Polish for Beginners, International Political Relations, World Economic History, and Polish Economic Convergence. It's 25 ECTS credits and I think it would be very managable. We had a dinner party at Chelsea T's on Thursday. That was so much fun! I actually ended up making the dinner (big surprise). Chelsea was responsible for the mashed potatoes and the rice pudding for dessert. She used an immersion blender on the taters so they turned out gluey. I made pesto pasta and green beans with bacon. Nicole had two of her friends from France over for the past week and Thurday was their last night in Krakow so we wanted to make sure it was special. After the dinner, we went to RDZA, a fairly expensive club. It was alright but not great. I didn't really like the music but it was fun to dance with everyone. There is a really cute Greek boy that I end up dancing with a lot but he has a girlfriend in Greece so I don't think that will be going anywhere.
Such is life. This isn't the best picture but I want everyone to see him (and me, being cute as always). Not a whole lot to report. More meeting new people and all that jazz. Chelsea and I went on a friend date last night. That was a lot of fun. We were planning to go see "He's Just Not That Into You" but they were sold out so we ended up going to another theatre and seeing Slumdog Millionaire. It was so good! I felt bad because I kept coughing during the movie but not so bad that you couldn't hear anything. I want to see it in the States because there are parts where they are not speaking English but the subtitles were still in Polish. I'm sure in the American release there are subtitles and you can really guess what they are saying by combining the visual clues with my limited knowledge of Polish. After the movie, Chelsea and I went to Carlito's and got a spinach pizza which was a flavor extravaganza! It was so delicious. One thing I really miss about the States is free water. We paid 19 zlotych for the pizza and 13 for a pitcher of water. That being said, I savored that water more than any glass I ever had back home. Every time I get a drink, you bet your ass I eat all of the ice left in the glass. With the amount that I pay for a mojito, I am getting every damn drop from the glass. Last night, we went to Kitsch. That's the club that everyone ends up at because it stays open until 8 or 9 in the morning on the weekends. Chelsea, Helvia, and I left around 4:30. Not too shabby but I can't compete with the Spanish with how late they come to the party and also how late they leave.