Sunday, August 5, 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

Thought of the day: "May you always recognize your “uniqueness” as a gift that makes the world a better place."

Wow – what a day! As usual it started off with a more than ample breakfast that we all have come to love and enjoy. The smile on the staff’s faces, the smell of kava, and a warmth that comes from being amongst friends. Truly our little spot of heaven.

It has been an incredible experience here at Reymontowka. Thinking back to that first day when we were nervous about meeting our kids, and comparing it to the thought that today our kids would be moving on and we will be going home to our families soon. Who would have guessed that in two weeks time that those kids could teach us so much about ourselves. Through them we were able to view life from a different angle.

Immediately after our first session started, one of my students came up to me to say good-bye. I was not ready for this, especially not before the agreed time this evening. As I said good-bye, I thought of seeing my own family and was able to send one of my students off with best wishes. Thankfully, it was only one for the time being.

We practiced our presentations for this evening. My group is ready and get better with each practice session. They seem eager to make their presentations and really have come up with some fun things. We also had a scavenger hunt. The kids showed the same excitement for everything that was presented to them.

As the evening progressed, the numbers at the manor increased as the parents began to arrive. The children were proud and it showed. I have to believe, from the smiles on their faces, that they truly enjoyed themselves.

The presentations went great and the social hour was lively with conversations with the parents. Slowly the parents and children left to go back to their normal lives. We were emotionally tied to these children as they were our family during these two weeks. So good-bye was harder for some than others.

The evening ended spending time with newly found friends. We shared the same sentiment – I’m not ready to go back to reality. But like most things, it must come to an end. Good night Reymontowka!

Forever in my heart – POL0707A3.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thursday, August 02, 2007

By Lynsi

Thought for the day (Lynsi): "Measure your impact by laughter and memories, not by numbers".

11:30 am.: Our day began on a slightly sour note as we learned of news that a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last night. Given that it is a bridge which is my primary route to and from work in addition to many other destinations, it was quite a shock to hear that it had simply collapsed. As we checked the news we were all amazingly surprised, but it is easy to forget about such things when you are surrounded by screaming kids and lesson plans waiting to be written, and the simple tranquility of the location in which we find ourselves. We quickly found ourselves joking about “conjugated Polish cheese,” a joke leftover from last night at our dinner when Judy’s exploratory foray into the Polish language has created somewhat of a vocabulary of her own. It is great to be able to share leftover laughter. It never seems to end and we continue to create new things to remind ourselves about how silly everyone can get.

It is our second to last day of teaching today and our last full lesson planning. Most of my day was spent working with Ania’s group preparing our skit for Friday’s parent presentation. Like another group, we are doing the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and it just so happens that the movie of the afternoon is just that. Fortuitous preparation, I guess. Our students made a wonderful poster and if the presentation doesn’t turn out exactly perfectly, they did all work together on it, which is more than you can often ask of a group of 13 teenage students. To anyone else reading this journal, for future reference, keep your group size down to 6-7 when preparing something like this! Otherwise you will find yourself in inevitable chaos! Others were also working on their preparations, but I am sure there were other activities involved. Ania and I discussed how we felt somewhat guilty given that we had not prepared actual lessons for some time, but as all have mentioned on several occasions, we have to step away from that American model of quantification of effort and goals met. That, in and of itself, is a learning experience for nearly all of us.

11:30 pm: What a day, though it has fully sunk in that we have to leave. Many of the students stayed to finish “Pirates”, a true feat of lasting attention, while we dined on pork, potatoes, bread, and all of our other usual assortments and took it down with some wonderful coffee. The staff is too accommodating and has realized that we very much like our coffee at all possible hours of the day and have begun bringing it to us without our request. Two students and the camp director came in and gave us their condolences for what happened in Minneapolis and I know that I very much appreciated it (too much in fact given that I found myself all teary-eyed…though many of us did and it reflects just as much our sadness over leaving as our astonishment over what happened while we were away).

After lunch, we were to take a nice walk but were sidetracked by usual Polish hospitality, but shortly thereafter found ourselves walking down the paved way and into the land that was recently purchased by one of the Polish English teachers who has come. The area is so beautiful and peaceful and the weather has warmed up a bit, so it was more than nice to get out and take in some of the scenery.

After our fried cabbage and mushroom dinner, we took our usual seats in the white tent and watched the several marriages take place. The little kids were especially cute and dolled up and they walked down the aisle, signed their papers, exchanged rings, and headed out a married couple. I felt a little left out. I kid, I kid. After that there was the usual discotheque and my student Monica made sure that we got out there for our last discotheque at Reymontowka. We managed to close out the dance floor and now we are all, slowly but surely, turning in for the night but working feverishly to finish some last minute items for our final presentation and/or some cards for our students. Do we have to leave?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

“It’s not the number of destinations that you visit but seeing those destinations with new eyes.”

Today was another amazing day in Poland. It started off with a team meeting before breakfast and an eloquent journal reading by Jennifer. Listening to her words reminded me how impressed I have been by the meaningful observations and strong writing skills of our team members. I also thought fondly of our teammates back home and hoped that they know we miss them and look forward to seeing them again – especially Didi.
As always, Dorota was well organized offering explanations of our responsibilities for the upcoming parents’ program and foreshadowing a two-session presentation on India by our fellow teachers. After practicing skits and songs in English with our students, we joined everyone in the main room of the manor house to learn more about this country of one billion-plus people. Each student received a stick of burning incense and the room actually hushed as our friend recited her favorite chant. A pleasant aroma filled the air as we learned about the culture and customs of one of the teacher’s native country. He and his daughter shared information about the nation’s geography, religions, dress and industries while his wife explained the symbolism and significance of her wedding clothes and jewelry. It was fascinating to watch students of one culture learn about another culture – both of which are not our own.
After dinner we traveled to nearby Siedlce to do some errands. Arek and I took the train from Kotun while Lynsi, Ann and Jennifer rode with Dorota in her car. The train ride was fun for me since I had not taken the train with this trio to Cracow last weekend. It’s a shame that we do not have more rail transportation in the Twin Cities. After taking an hour to purchase some necessities and small souvenirs, we started walking to our next destination. A loud siren sounded and a woman called out to us to “stop.” Quickly and emphatically she spoke to Dorota in Polish but I caught the word “Warsaw” and recalled yesterday’s visit to the “Warsaw Uprising” memorial in that city. Today is the 63rd anniversary of this historic 63-day event that began on August 1, 1944.
We stood with her in silence on the sidewalk for four minutes during this tribute to the tens of thousands of Polish people who had been shot and killed by the occupying Germans. With deep emotion in her eyes, she said it was a real joy to fight back despite the large loss of lives. There was so much bloodshed that sand was thrown on the dead bodies. Everyone in Warsaw tried to help so she rolled bandages at the hospital which was eventually bombed by the Germans. Her husband’s father was a general in the Polish underground Home Army and her grandson turns out to be a student at our English camp. She said she misses her grandson dearly but will see him at Reymontowka on Friday for the parents’ program. Incredibly, this statement brought our day full circle. We had met someone whose generation fought for Poland’s freedom and continue to teach those whose generation is charged to retain it. Sto lat (100 years to you) Poland. And many more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thought of the day: There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. Soren Kierkegaard

Today at breakfast Dorota informed the team that we would be meeting to review the team goals. I am insistent that no one mention anything having to do with our time here ending and tell her that I don’t want to meet even though I know I must. To think of our time here ending brings a deep and profound sadness that I am not yet prepared to face. No one could have ever told me, I would never have fully understood at the beginning of this journey how much I would learn and how my eyes would have been opened, surely I have been the student. And as we met to discuss our team’s goals one thing was evident, our goals have been met but just how they were exceeded and expanded everyone’s definition. For instance when we choose to teach conversational English as one of our goals I know my thought was that I would be able to quantify what my kids learned and I would have a measurable result to look back on. I never defined it as simply interacting with the kids and speaking to them in my native tongue but through this interaction I have taught them something, I have taught them conversational English. By strict definition that would mean I have begun my own personal conversation and continued a long-standing one and through these conversations we build bridges, understanding, love, peace and justice. I guess this is what waging peace and promoting justice is really about – interacting with people so they get to know you and you them. This interaction does bring an understanding of each other and if we understand each other we can love and tolerant each other and if we love and tolerant each other we can live in peace. I believe that is the essence of all life’s journey. The truth is just this, Reymontowka, the children, Poland, have been inked onto my life as indelible as any tattoo. It doesn’t matter if I am physically present or not, I will carry Reymontowka with me forever.