Friday, October 7, 2011

Message of the day (by Edmund): A wise man once said every society is judged by how it treats its least fortunate amongst them.

On our final day of teaching, we started off the day with a magnificent breakfast of eggs w/ tomatoes, red peppers and onions in addition to the other stuff that is available to us daily. Jim had his usual portion of bran with yogurt saying that he's going to eat light for breakfast today to make room for all of the goodies that we'll be getting during our coffee/tea breaks in the schools.

Cisie school was something else today. All of us were well prepared with our usual lesson plans but there was just something different in the school. My 4th graders were acting rather strangely during the first hour. They were whispering more than usual, writing things on paper with different colored crayons, sneaking items to each other thinking I can't see them, you know, the usual stuff that goes on in the Polish classroom.

Well, after our coffee/tea break, I returned to my classroom to a wonderful surprise. When I entered the room, all of the children rose from their chairs and said, "Thank you, Pan Ed!" On the blackboard were beautiful messages like, "Thanks, Pan Ed!"..."We love you, Pan Ed!" Then, while still standing they sang "Sto lat!" It was so beautiful...and, let me tell you, it was tough keeping back the tears.

The children then presented me with assorted hand-written notes of thanks, a plastic electric clock, candy, and other cute little things. I couldn't dare ruin the rest of the morning for these kids and start teaching again! We just chit-chatted after that, and that was okay. I got hugs...and yeah, I hugged back.

I know that I wasn't alone in being on the receiving end of cute little gifts, personal notes of thanks from the students, hugs from the little ones, and so on. All of the volunteers were surprised by the genuine love and gratitude of these poor children. As one of the volunteers said last week, "You know, we're learning a lot more than the kids," and, as a result, we've become better people from our interactions with the Polish people and children.

Then Andrzej whisked-us-away in his taxi enroute to Spoleczna. We saw the same green houses, a stork's nest on the telephone pole, farming fields on the left and on the right, that we saw during our daily trips to the semi-private school. The farms and fields are absolutely beautiful! We are so lucky to be here. After a brief get-together in the faculty room, we entered our classrooms.

The first hour was pretty much routine...reading, writing, pronunciation ("th"), math, days of the week, etc. Then we took our coffee/tea break, had our caffeine fix, ate a couple of cookies, and returned to class. When I walked into the classroom, both of my 4th grade classes greeted me with a "Thank you, Pan Ed!" They then presented me with a book about the area around which my grandmother was born in Poland (Downary), a Chopin CD, chocolate cookies, pictures of students from both classes (dressed in costume), and more thank you notes than I care to mention in this Journal entry. As at my other morning school, it was hard to hold back the tears. Every student wanted me to see his/her picture in the class photo...every student thanked me for helping them with conversational English...every 10 year old student made me feel like I was making a positive change in their lives. It felt good. It felt real good.

Then it was back to Reymontowka. I don't think I said too much on our taxi-ride back. I was that emotionally drained.

I forgot what we had for lunch...oopps, it was a breaded sole w/ tartar sauce that was outstanding! Now, for those of you who know me, I like to eat. I looked around the table for some leftovers that I usually get from a couple of the volunteers who don't eat that much, but there was nothing left on their plates! I have to talk to Dorota about serving an extra setting next time of the fish dinner.

We went to our rooms and four (4) of us started packing for our return trip home to the States and making last minute changes to our itineraries. I can't wait to get an email from Rita and Jim as they venture through the highways and byways of Poland during the next week. I wish them much luck on their adventures.

We just finished a wonderful dinner in the fireplace room...what a fitting location for our final dinner at Reymontowka! A couple of teachers from Cisie and Spoleczna as well as the Pani Dyrektor from Spoleczna joined us for dinner. We talked and laughed...that's the way it should be.

Thanks for all of your help and support fellow volunteers. I had a wonderful time with all of you. I hope you share my feelings.

By Edmund.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Message of the day (Jim):

No one has the right to take for granted his own disadvantages over others in health, in talents, in ability, in success, in a happy childhood or congenial home conditions. One must pay a price for all these boons. What one owes in return is a special responsibility for other lives. (Albert Schweitzer, author of Teaching Reverence for Life.)

Today we experienced the “going to work” and “construction” traffic jam on the way to the Spoleczna Middle School in Siedlce. I liked the way Andrzej weaved his way around traffic and roundabouts, driving down side roads to get us to school on time.

At Cisie Elementary we had a wonderful celebration in honor of past, present, and hopefully future volunteers. Poland was the first country to request that volunteers teach English and now it’s an option in the Global Volunteer Program for all countries. The celebration began with the 4th grade children, in costume, dancing the Mazur beautifully. Then Iza and Jola led their Scouts in the Belgium dance, followed by songs or performances by several groups of children. The local dignitaries extended words of welcome and thanksgiving to the volunteers and hosts, commending them for their cooperation and efforts to improve the opportunities of the children through sharing language and culture. Afterward the hosts, dignitaries and volunteers gathered for coffee, cake and more conversation.

But that’s not the end of our unusual day. The staff at Cisie Elementary invited us for an evening picnic. It was quite a sight when everyone was roasting kielbasa over a roaring bonfire. We chatted, sang and danced. A special performance was given by Jim and Ed to the song “Pretty Woman” which delighted everyone. I think we have all learned to appreciate and enjoy the people of Poland and their customs!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Message of the Day (shared by Rita):

I will never understand all the good that a simple smile can accomplish. (Mother Teresa)

Plates of aromatic crepes greeted us for breakfast. Is there a better way to start the day?
Schedules were announced, amended by the Wednesday Cisie program from 10 to 12 noon. Our taxi driver, Andrzej, would pick us up Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and take us to Spoleczna Middle School and return us to Cisie by 10:00 a.m.

Pat tells us that rehearsals have been underway for a while and she suspects that her third graders trot out the same song each year. But then, why not?

A beautiful sunny afternoon walk brought us close to several handsome horses changing pastures. Further down the dirt road were two virtually hidden bunkers, left over from the Russian occupation following WWII.

Again the kitchen outdid themselves. At supper Polish Pizza appeared on two large plates. Amazingly the 12 inch long open faced sandwiches discreetly disappeared. The combination of mushrooms, pickles, meat and melted cheese was a unanimous winner. Off to prepare for tomorrow; days are now speeding by as we accept and return party invitations with our host teachers. May the beautiful weather linger a bit longer.

By Carol.