Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Settling in to Poland

I get asked  a lot how we are settling in. How I am finding Poland (funny, no on ever asks Martin this), how I am acclimatizing myself, etc.

I usually answer with..."just fine." Which is exactly where I am at right now. Just fine. Not great, not good, just fine. And no, this is not the American way of saying "horrible." I can't really think of a better word.

Living here in this house has proved frustrating. You can't move from a house that you've lived in for 5 years and chose particularly for your family, and along the way tweaked exactly to your specifications, into a house that's smaller, and not to your specifications and just, well, not "you" and not feel some anxiety and frustration. I know that we will be here for at least 2 years so I will be managing as best I can the frustrating aspects and cherishing the ones I like. So be it. This was our plan all along, and here it is.

 I clean the kitchen all day long here it seems. Partly, almost mainly, because Martin is home all day, working in his "office." So, I cook three meals a day. And we try to stick to the Polish meal schedule which I am finding means that you are basically cooking breakfast, cleaning up from breakfast, planning and then preparing 2nd breakfast, cleaning up 2nd breakfast and then cooking the big mid-day meal and then cleaning up from that, having afternoon cake and tea and then cleaning up that in order to get the Kolacja/supper foods out. Insanity. I cannot do it and teach my children and if I had to sacrifice one for the other it would definitely be the food situation. So, I am slowly moving the family back to an American style eating schedule. I will still cook two meals, one at  the beginning and one at the end of the day but the middle of the day will be sandwiches and snacks, possible eaten at "lunch time" in the schoolroom. It's just faster and easier and way less clean up. Otherwise we have no time for school! (or the kitchen is just a wreck all the time, which is also a possibility.)

The laundry situation is actually under control. I have no worries there. The dryer is awesome and so nice to have. Plus, I have taught Hejjo how to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and clean out the lint trap and all that so at least he can do that leg, you know, just to keep things moving. I haven't washed any of my dedicates in the washing machine,  nothing requiring cold water in fact since the setting for the coolest temp. is 30 degrees Celsius which is around 86 degrees F (no way am I spelling that word). That's not cold in my book. SO I have a nice pile of clothes to hand wash piling up in my cabinet. That will be an exciting night of wine and Cat Stevens.

Martin working from home is great! Martin working from home in our bedroom, no so great. Tomorrow he is moving downstairs and I am so happy about this! We are also moving the schooling down there but that will be strictly for schooling and light snacks, no "living." So no more having to keep the kids quiet while he talks in meetings or not being able to go into 1/4 of the entire house from midday to evening. It's going to be so helpful for him to be down there.

We still haven't found our land yet. And with the dollar plummeting lower every day (all our savings just worth less and less. :( ) we feel the urgency to find something and make a deal. We want to start the house. Then we have to meet with an architect and decide if we want to do Canadian style (all American homes basically, wood frame, quick to put up) or traditional Polish style home (made out of brick, takes much longer). Discussions about this daily. Although our land search was really becoming discouraging. We know where we want to be but unfortunately everyone else wants to be there as well. We got a little burned out and haven't been out looking for several weeks. Maybe soon.

We eat so much more sugar here than in America. Poles eat so much sugar!  Ice cream, candies, cakes, juice at every meal! all throughout the day. I am so afraid the children's teeth are going to rot out of their heads. I've never had a cavity, Martin, at least 8...I blame Poland. That's right, the entire country. So, we have to curb this bad habit we've gotten into of eating sweets after every meal and cakes for snacks, jam on every slice of bread. So much sugar!

The phone rings all day. I don't really know what everyone is calling about.  I proposed to Martin that we just let them call the cell phone if they need us and otherwise not answer since we are all at work or school for most of the day and if we did these things outside the home then we wouldn't be able to answer anyway, so...

...plus, when I answer, and it's not family, the people usually just hang up.

Speaking of telephones. I don't have a cell phone here. We have a family one but I don't even know the number. We also don't have a T.V. and don't plan on getting one. We have no Netflix, or Amazon on demand. No live streaming. We have the internet on two laptops from which I bog but I am not on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest. We watch our D.V.D.'s and Youtube. We Skype family every once in a while and we have email. That's it. So far, we're doin' alright. It's new for us but it's working. I have knit a shawl, four baby sweaters, one baby hat, a sweater for Lina, a skirt for Lina, and a cowl for myself. I have yarn enough stock piled to make sweaters for everyone. I'm keeping busy.

There's a ride-on toy at Carrefour called "Rancho - El Paso Texas" and it's a covered wagon pulled by horses. The kids love it. We've never actually put money in it but they love it anyway. Ahh, Texas, you old frontier, you.

Kacio puts something new in the toilets, daily. Sometimes three or four times throughout the day. Yesterday was Lina's special doll (not the porcelain one, Niki!) and so I hand-washed that and hung her out to dry. I have lost two hair brushes that were dunked into urine water and then of course filled their innards with said water and no way was I using those on my hair again. We've lost a pair of tights and one sock, and several photos, and magnets, off the SZRON. All the wooden toys we just wash and dry and back into the toy bin. Gross, I know. Keep the doors closed! The door situation in our apartment deserves it's own post, but lets just say, they don't really do a good job at being doors.

Funny, so many of the things that are frustrating are really not related to the country of Poland at all. We have  only encountered the most gentle and kind people on all our errands (Carrefour cashier people not withstanding, although I can tell which ones are going to be ok and I just get in their line...trust me, it's worth it). Martin and I have decided that any one  under the age of 35 is probably your best bet if you want to just have a regular, amiable, customer service experience and that anyone over 35 is just hard wired to think that any work you may force them to do is more work than they could possibly be expected to do. These people will die someday and from their ashes a normal customer service experience will arise.

 The roads here are fabulous unless you come to visit us because we actually live off of the unofficially worst road in Krakow. It's quite fun to try and sing while you drive down it. Much like talking into an electric box fan. The public transportation is always on time and plentiful, and the kids are all free, except Hejjo who is half price until 7 years old. There is, unfortunately a lot of air pollution, which deserves its own post but we just stay in on the days they suggest and keep the windows closed. Yes, I am that anal about it. Darn it, I didn't move half way around the world for Hejjo's allergies to get worse!

These are just the day to day things. I know that most of them will get better, like having a printer, (even better would be a place where I can submit things to be printed and then go pick them up. I know it exists here, but where?), a bigger fridge, and an organized school room. All on our to-do lists. And Kacio will grow out of the toilet bowl phase and the dumping every liquid onto the floor phase. Lina will grow out of the screaming everything at me phase (going on 2 years strong) to the not talking to me phase (please! I welcome it with open arms...). Felix and Hejjo will grow out of the giggles (which I strongly prefer to fighting, so I don't even mind it, but it annoys other people, I know). I will  start seeing this house and all it's quirks as my home, and not someone else's that we're just borrowing. Martin will stop worrying about the car (which is exactly when something will happen to it...mark my words!).

I'm trying not to complain about things that I should be grateful for, and trying to change the things I can. And right now I am thankful for the walnuts that are everywhere in our backyard, and a recipe that my Mother-in-Law gave me for a simple cake with which I have made so many different creations. (Today I added cinnamon and brown sugar and walnuts to it, and I used regular unbleached flour instead of the torte flour...so I guess I have been adding to the sugar consumption as well...it's a catching disease).

And by this post you can tell that I have no one to talk to that I wont offend by mentioning the bad things (only Poles can complain about Poland!) or puzzle by mentioning the good things (the over 35 crowd really hates it/doesn't believe you when things go well  ;)  )

Good night to the Polish contingency! Good Afternoon to my American friends and family!

Here are some pics from the weekend. We had a little pre-birthday party for Felix and a send-off party for the family living in America.


just a cool picture

My left hand. These drinks were given to me. And if you have never hung out with an old woman (80 yrs. young!) who can down 6 shots of liquor, eat an entire hamburger, sausages, cake, salad, and then wash it down with wine and then be completely sober, enough to offer you babysitting any time you want it, then you, my friend, are hanging out with the wrong people.  ;)

Martin stood here the entire time. 

"I'll get you my pretty, and your bag of candy too!"

Dude, seriously, professional goalie. Cat-like reflexes and a focus that is unmatched by any adult. 

Picking up walnuts, unfortunately he was moving so fast from all the sugar that I couldn't get a clear shot. It was a darling moment, I promise.


  1. apologies for not keeping up. are you in an apartment or a house? or are you using the words interchangably like my Polish ex-girlfriends use to do?

    1. We are in a house that was used as a single family home when Martin's family lived here but it technically has two flats in it that can be used separately. So I guess the answer is... both. We live upstairs but plan on having school and work downstairs. Right now we don't use the downstairs at all. It sits empty.

  2. Have you considered houses build by developers ?
    I do not know about Kraków but in Gdańsk we have a couple of nice offers (not detached just twin/couple houses connected).. I guess they are smaller then in Texas but are still nice (and still unaffordable if you earn in PLN ;) ).

    1. There are so many options! We are looking at developer houses as well, they would certainly be quicker. Problem is, we really want an acre or two pf land to go with it and developers do not build on that much land. It doesn't make sense for them. Plus, then you can't make the house what you want, and it would be possible for us to have what we want and have it possibly be cheaper than developer houses because we can choose cheaper options... it will work itself out, just a low spot right now.

    2. Correct they do not build on big lands.
      Just wait till it will be one year here with final decision to have good feeling of all year round... and make sure your Husband job is secured.

  3. You're so busy that you may not have time for this, but there is an international women's group in Krakow in case you're looking for someone to talk to.

    1. Thank you for mentioning it. honestly, there are so many groups and so many forums and so many blogs, I don't even know where to start, and I try to stay off the computer during the day as much as possible. And really, the hardest part is that I do have to take the children with me when I go places so it's not so easy to just go have a chat with a friend. Maybe when our routine is more regular I can set aside some time to really pursue some friendships.

  4. We have no TV also. :) DVD's are enough for us.

    Air pollution is problem in Cracow, so we live near city, but not too near - close to you (the same side of city but not in city) - there are cheaper lands and houses but cleaner air, no traffic near house and nice, quiet place to live. There are houses for sale nearby but too small for you, I think.

    Soon it will be better than fine, I hope.

    1. It is a shame about the air pollution. We are trying to move further out because of it, although we read that it is slowly getting better. Thank you for the kind words, I know it will get better little by little, even though now is not so bad. I am not expecting it to be all perfect from the beginning. :)

  5. Yes, yes, yes! Go with the American routine with cooking, it allows to HAVE LIFE in between meals :) I hate wasting best hours during the day for cooking a meal, there are so many places to see with kids and so many things to do with kids, rather than standing in the kitchen. In 30 years, will they remember that Mom cooked for them 4 meals every day or will they remember the time spent WITH Mom doing things together?
    Powodzenia and hope to see you again soon :)

    1. You're right. Although I do like for them to see me cooking and taking the time to feed them healthy home cooked meals, they don't need to see it 4 times a day. It's just stressful and I don't like spending the whole day in the kitchen...boring! I noticed that you ate a more traditional American type dinner and was wondering if that was for our benefit? Now I'm guessing that it wasn't. :)

  6. I am not Polish, but I have some insight and advice. Your husband has 8 cavities mostly because he grew up with unfluoridated water with a contribution by the fact that dental hygiene knowledge is not as widespread in Poland as in the US. Boy, you cook a lot! The funny thing is, although you get fulfillment from cooking, what you're cooking is not very different (you are not adding flax seed, leaving out sugar, including more whole grains, and hiding spinach, etc.) than the standard Polish bakery fare and it probably doesn't even end up being cheaper for you. Buy some things. Cook good stuff, lentil soup in a crock pot, a quick protein and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice can be the basis of many dinners.

    Send the children to school! Not just elementary school; take advantage of the free Polish daycare/preschool for children as young as 2.5 years. You are sheltering them as well as yourself.

    Consider getting a TV, if only for the sake of your Polish. Just have the news on in the background or "Kawa czy Herbata?"

    Find your local sports/recreation center. Enroll the children in something there or elsewhere. Regularly take the kids to the pool.

    I look forward to seeing how your habits evolve in your home.

  7. LOL! Anonymous, you just listed a bunch of "solutions" that I have purposely been avoiding for lots of good reasons.

    The radio on the Polish station is actually a really good idea. I will have to set that up in the kitchen on the iPod. Maybe download some children's books in Polish and listen to them while I cook and the children do school work.

    The cooking will get better once i switch our schedule around. Although you are right about the cavity thing and the fluoride situation here, and the lack of decent toothpaste as well, that and Martin confesses that he never brushed his teeth as a child once he was expected to do it on his own. I still stand over my children and watch them. We can't afford 4 mouths full of fillings!

  8. Hi, it was funny to read about my country from your point of view. I don't know who told you we eat that much! No second breakfast nor afternoon cake :D. Of course, it depends what family, what tradiotion and habits but for example in my family we eat breakfast, mid-day meal and support. And, very often the mid-day meal is around 4-5 o'clock so we have something like lunch but only if that somebody's hungry. And I'll thinkt about that sugar because I never realised we it so much of it. What's wrong with jam on a breakfast bread or something sweet after meal? ;p I always was curious about big meals that American or English people eat at the end of the day. Isn't it bad for your body, gaining weight, etc? I think people should it rather light in the evening. I don't know.
    It's very interesting to read a foreginer's point of view, I will read more of your posts. I hope you'll be alright in Poland. Arranging your life in other country takes time and courage. I've been there. And sorry for any language mistakes :).

    1. Gia, I apologize for not responding sooner! I hope you check back sometime...

      Thank you for the encouragement, and your English is wonderful! Much better than my Polish. The eating situation is getting better. I'm just not worrying about it anymore. We will eat when we are hungry, and I will cook when I have the time. Otherwise everyone eats sandwiches!

      I quite like it here. A lot of things are different and have changed for us, but most of them are for the better, and none of them for the worse, just different.


  9. This picture of the drinks is classic Poland. Have I ever been drunk before 8:30 am? Why, yes I have. In Poland!