Alone in A Foreign Land
My departure to Poland
My tenure in America has come to its end. As you read this I'm already settled in Kraków. My flight connected through Frankfurt, where I survived a missed flight because the line at German Border Patrol took well over an hour and a half to get through. I got my flight changed to later in the day, and spent the next 6 hours at the Frankfurt airport trying to find something that resembled a meal. Not to mention how sore I was from sitting for hours on end. Mom was right, I should've started taking aspirin. After a short flight and a freakishly fast taxi ride from the airport I was finally at my apartment. I had originally reserved a hotel room for the night because the apartment wouldn't be ready until the morning. But my friend Jacek willed the agency to letting me in that night. The landlady, a retiree in her 70's, lives in Warsaw and owns my unit and the next-door unit, where my neighbor Li, a music student from China lives.
It still hasn't fully clicked with me that I've moved and am continuing onwards in a totally different part of the world. I don't know if that's concerning or relieving. The idea that I can pick up and move to somewhere relatively foreign and not be overly phased in the lightest. Perhaps it is the fact that I've been mentally preparing for months so I'm not having a life crisis over any of my decisions to do this. Regardless of life crisis or not it's still a major ordeal. I know about 2 people in this entire city, and I have a friend in Romania, and one in Denmark. I am very alone in this country. This is not a bad thing though. I like being alone even though I often strive for maximal social interaction. I often don't reach out to people or talk to people as much as I want too out of the fear of the recipient not condoning to the interaction. This might seem silly if not even asinine but it is a problem that has lingered in my mind for time in memorial.
Lucky enough for myself I have already put in a great effort in learning the Polish language. People here are eager to test their English on you and I am eager to test my Polish on them. I have been doing what I can to frequent non-touristy places or areas of the city so that I pull myself away from the majority of English speakers. I've had a variety of smooth interactions in Polish that I find myself quite proud of. Yet sometimes when I attempt to start in Polish and I am obviously not a native speaker the default goes right to English. For example, I went to H&M to buy a light jacket because there's literally a 35F degree difference between Kraków and Detroit right now. The lady behind the faux black marble counter asked if I wanted a paper or plastic bag. My brain cleanly registered every work she said with zero problem. I go to respond, "Nie dziękuję, mam mój plecak." and nothing comes out. It was like my brain had suddenly been speeding down I-75 en-route to Toledo and flew off the embankment at exit 26 in Rockwood. "Do you want paper or plastic?". And there goes the interaction, she has me trapped into using English, even after I was able to respond in Polish. This language barrier, albeit not as large as it seems, still isolates me quite a bit. My Polish is quite utilitarian, as in I have yet to develop much of a personality in it. At least there is some mercy for L2 speakers of Polish.
This isolation overseas has me relieved quite honestly. I feel like I can be more open here, there’s no pre-existing weight to my existence here. I’m new in town. And I’ll damn well use that to my advantage. But it is also quite difficult. There is nobody to get coffee with besides myself. I cook only for myself. When I get sick (thanks to that hard Polish tap water) its just me. But this is also a good time to explore and see other parts of the city or other nearby cities like Wrocław or Tarnów before I become encumbered in educational obligations.
So I've got exactly a month to get all my stuff together before I start classes. Classes start October 4th, the first Monday of the month. I still have to turn in paperwork to the university and get my student ID card. I also need to complete my address registry, get my PESEL number, and apply for the pobytu stały which lucky enough for me Jacek is helping me with. Aside from all of that, I guess I have too much time on my hands, alone in a foreign land.