I mentioned last fall that was going to visit my family back in Poland in early October but never got to share how the trip went. It was one of the shortest trips I even made. There were times I used to go for 2.5 – 3 weeks. Times when I worked at my previous company, where 90% of the folks were Australians or Europeans, where we got 3 weeks off over the Holiday Seasons so basically everyone could go to their home country. It made sense. Those were also times before I was with T. so it was easy to just pack a bag and leave for 3 weeks at a time.
This year was different. Firstly, I only get 10 vacation days a year at my recent job (sobbing here) so I really need to plan all my travels wisely. That usually means traveling around long weekends or Thanksgiving week, to maximize the time that I can take all at once. Secondly, at the time of travel I was already around 6 months pregnant and I was getting anxious, just overthinking things. I didn’t want to be away from T. or my OBGYN for more than 10 days. All in all, my entire trip was nine days, including travel.
I am camping at our local airport ‘Jasionka’ as I am typing this. Bittersweet a bit, but I am going home. Funny how I say the same thing when I fly the opposite direction too. Home is in two places now.
Not much to report really, you know, everyday stuff, life happening at a slightly slower pace, more focus on things that I rarely think about. Like heating the house; let’s just press the button, shall we? Not here! There is so much work and energy put into just heating the house one could spend one fourth of a day on it. You gotta feed the fire every 3-4 hours, clean the tar and ashes every time, scrape if off the entire stove’s walls, keep adjusting the temperature, basically check on it constantly.
The above is another stove, a stove in the kitchen. It got built when the house got built which is in the early 70s. I grew up with this stove. You can basically use it to cook and bake anything you want, including 6 loaves of bread at the same time (see the bread oven door just above the plastic basket?). It also comes handy to burn all paper trash. Recyclable materials are collected only once a month, and you have a one bag collection limit! – this is how much T. and I produce in 4 days (shamefully, of course) Here people deal with the excess of trash however they can. Burning seems to be working out best.
This week is surely flying by. I got super lucky with the weather, the first snowfall melted a few hours before I landed and the temperature has been holding up at somewhere around 60-63 degrees (sometimes higher). This is enabling us to take nice and long walks as a family every single day. I love the walks not just to see how everything changed since last year but also because the girls have a chance to chase one another, play hide and seek as we walk (many trees to hide behind) and basically use all their energy outside. Otherwise, if they don’t, the house is literally shaking as they run around the rooms like little monkeys.
My dad and two nieces walking through our own property. The land on the right is ours (the land on the left is our neighbors). Both strips of land go for around a mile. It used to be all planted with rye, wheat, potatoes and cabbage. Now, with no young people willing to work as farmers, the fields get planted with trees.
Landed safe and sound at our local Jasionka airport on Friday afternoon. Home, sweet home, here I am again 🙂
Very happy to see that last week’s snow has already melted by now, although of course I brought my snow boots with me, as advised by my sister (as my only pair so I am stuck with wearing them wherever I go). Today we had 65 degrees and it is going to be up to 68 for the next week or so. It is very unusual this time of year of course and while most of us here are thrilled, my dad is very displeased. Mild winter now means frost in April and May which obviously sucks for fruit and nut bearing trees and agriculture overall. It’s official – global warming has made its way to Poland as well.
My three nieces have grown at least couple of inches each, all of them as cute as a button. This year they managed to wait patiently until I settled a bit before I pull out all the gifts from my suitcase. To my satisfaction, I received three ‘thank you’ pictures 10 minutes later.
I am literally on pins and needles this week. All I can think about is the fact that I am traveling to Naples (FL) for the Easter break. I am flying out on Friday morning and T. is meeting me there at the airport arriving from LAX (he is finally wrapping up his LA trip after being away for 3 weeks). Now, it is not my average kind of travel, namely, we are visiting my in-laws. Considering the fact that T. has not been on great terms with his parents for the last several years, this visit is a BIG deal.
I am very close with my dad and my sister (my mom passed away a few years ago) and I call them almost daily. Or sometimes twice a day. It is just so easy with my cell phone provider (T-Mobile) offering free calls to several countries (within their unlimited plan) to both landline and cell phone; luckily Poland is on that list as well. And so I call from the train each morning and then over a lunch break. Even if for a few minutes. Now that my dad is nearing 80 years old, not having much to keep him busy during the day, I know that he is really looking forward to these phone calls. I cannot imagine NOT to call.
It’s already been a week since I returned from my trip to Poland, the time literally flew and it seemed more like a few days rather than two weeks. It was wonderful to get quality time with my family and especially with my dad. He is nearing 80 and, while still in good health, I realize that he may not be around for much longer. Every time I visit and whenever we speak on the phone, I make an extra effort to not rush, to listen, to be present. And even though most of the time we talk about all the same things (health, weather, my nieces, and other everyday things), we always get to sneak in a joke and laugh a bit too.
That’s what I love about my dad. No matter what, he stays optimistic and he appreciates things. Things that I take for granted – running water, electricity, gas stove. The other day we were making coffee and he wondered about the coffee maker, wow, a device to make JUST coffee. What a luxury. There were times were price of coffee was as much as price of gold. Now, we just buy a bag, press a button and voilà!
Being away from NYC is naturally very refreshing and being back at home where I grew up takes simplicity to a whole new level.
It’s been raining practically since I arrived, not too cold but windy, not really encouraging to go anywhere, we are staying at home most of the time. Well, except a few grocery trips, some rushed errands and Church last Sunday. Otherwise the days are spent caring for the children (3 of them, all under the weather), cooking, doing the dishes (approximately one million times a day) and constantly keeping the fire on to heat the house.
Each time I am visiting my father’s house, it sort of feels as if I never left. For some reason time goes by so much slower here. The days in New York City most of the time seem to be a blur, work, home, work, home and then some more work. Here, at times it seems like it is 3pm already but then I look at a clock and it really is only 10:15am. There is time for everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, life in the Polish cities such as Warsaw, Krakow or Wroclaw does resemble busy life of Prague or London and such but life in a small Carpathian village is a different story. Not much changed since I left. Same, mostly unpaved roads, same small, family owned grocery stores, same pizza place and same local diner.
An immigrant’s heart is always torn. Just like mine is.
When I was coming to the US 13 years ago I had not even imagined the journey that was ahead of me. I was just an excited 22 year old ready to conquer the world. I started saving for the plane ticket (that part took me close to two years) and applied for one of the youth exchange programs. Living on a small farm, sheltered off from the rest of the world I had never traveled before and I was quite shy. I couldn’t even believe that my parents were so supportive of my plan then. I remember when the phone rang and I got the news that a family in Washington, DC wanted to host me for a year, I was literally jumping from joy. It was mid August and we just got back from the field after digging out young potatoes; all of us literally dropped everything waiting for the second call that came a few hours later confirming the arrangements. I don’t remember much surrounding those 2-3 weeks before I left in early September, it was a bit of a blur. A mix of disbelief, excitement, imagining what my life in the US would be like.
I am so excited about going to Poland in less than 2 weeks that I can barely think about anything else. I am literally counting days until I see my dad, sister and my three little nieces. They are 5, almost 4 and 2.5 years old and all three of them at their very cutest 🙂 Although I am leaving on the 13th of November (and it is still 11 days away), would you believe me if I told you I already started packing?
I love traveling. Not just getting to the final destination, I love the process of traveling just as much. I don’t mind arriving at an airport 3 hours ahead of time just to walk around after I am checked in and all set. I like watching people, I like getting coffee while waiting, I like reading ‘trashy’ magazines at the stands. I like the business; I just enjoy the ‘adventure’ vibe all around.
The upcoming trip is a ‘once a year’ trip home so I am always trying to make best out of it (and keep it as budget friendly as possible of course). This includes not just the time with my family but quality of travel as well. I would love to share with you today some tips and tricks that I have found really helpful.