Well, I made it. Unfortunately it was not without more tears. I said in my post from the airport yesterday that I hoped that I was done crying. I wasn’t. I got on the plane at Chicago and once I sat down, I started crying and couldn’t stop. Pretty sure the lovely Polish couple sitting next to me were worried about me. I don’t know why I was crying or why I couldn’t stop, but eventually I got it under control.
The flight was good. I was starving because it tools AGES to get through O’Hare and then through security at the international terminal. I was glad our plane was late arriving because I was cutting it close. So close that I couldn’t get food. So when I was served dinner on the plane, I ate it. Normally probably wouldn’t have… it was some kind of dark chicken with some sauce, rice, and carrots and some green vegetable. Also a roll and a salad. It wouldn’t have mattered what it was at that point.
So I mentioned the lovely couple sitting next to me. The wife offered her husband a Listerine mint breath strip, took one for herself, and put them away. Then I saw her take them out and offer me one. They were very sweet, even though they spoke almost no English. The husband, who was sitting on the aisle eventually got the flight attendants to turn off my light… there was no way for us to do that. Weird. And I didn’t even ask him, but they could tell I wanted it off and couldn’t figure it out. Neither could the wife.
Immigration was a breeze. The guy didn’t even ask me any questions. Got my bag and headed for the train. Found the right train and made my way into the city center. I thought my hotel was in pretty close walking distance to the central train station (that’s generally how I booked my hotels), but I had forgotten to get a map at the airport and my bag was heavy, so I treated myself to a cab. With a driver who spoke ZERO English. It was 12,80 and the smallest bill I had was a 50. He didn’t have change. I tried with the desk clerk at the sister hotel I was staying at (my hotel does not have a reception desk), but he didn’t have change either. So I had to walk to a gas station to buy something (which was fine, I was parched) and the smallest bill she could give me was a 20. The cabbie didn’t have change for that and was just going to keep the 20. I made a stink, so he gave me 10. Then I felt bad because he shouldn’t be shorted on his fare. So I remembered I had change. And forgot that in Europe (though this isn’t a Euro country) their smaller “dollar” amounts are coins. So I handed him change, which was about 7 zloty and he gave me 2 back. Fine.
Checked into my hotel (apartment) and the lady was so nice. She spoke English well, though was trying to tell me there was an iron in the apartment and said, “I-Ron, I-Ron, yes, I-Ron?” Yes! I cooled off a bit (that was the theme of the day… very sweaty) and ventured out. Usually I haven’t been able to check into my room so early, so I am used to leaving a bag and going walking to combat jet lag. I decided I should do that anyway. Wanted to head out to Old Town, but of course still did not have a map. So I just ventured in that direction and then decided to check out the Palace of Culture and Science, otherwise known as Stalin’s penis (apparently word press doesn’t like that word because it kept autocorrecting to “pens.”. Who knew? Word press is a prude!). This is the largest building in Poland that Stalin had built as a “gift” to the people in 1955, but it was really a message that big brother was always watching.
By this time was starving, sweaty, and very, very parched. So I found myself in a mall. So, naturally, I went to McDonald’s. I just couldn’t find a polish place on my walk, so I gave in. It was that or Hard Rock Café. So. By this time I had a map, but was tired. So I decided to head back and nap. It was close to 2 by the time I got back, so that was a good time to nap! But on my way I decided to buy a hop on-hop off bus ticket for tomorrow. There is a stop not too far from my hotel and that would be good for transportation. At first, I balked at the price: 60 zloty. Then I remembered that was less than $20. Poland is very cheap. Even though my hotel is $20 more than my “allotted” amount, I only spent just over $100 today. Which means I spent about $32 on train ticket, cab, waters, lunch, and dinner. Not too bad. I need to save money on these cheaper places to come in at budget for the more expensive places.
So after my nap I was feeling kind of discouraged, knowing there were no real restaurants by me, but after showering I decided to venture out in the dark anyway. I remembered there was a grocery store not too far, so worse comes to worse, I could go there. On the way I found a restaurant that had appeared closed earlier, so I approached. But looking at the clientele, it appeared I was underdressed, so I decided to skip it. It may have been fine, but having learned how little English is spoken here, I wasn’t up for trying it out. So to the grocery store. I got some bananas, some bread, two fruity pastries, and chips. I passed on the ketchup flavored Cheetos, though.
I have learned that the Polish people are VERY nice, kind, and helpful. A man in line at the store behind me tried to offer some of his change because it would have helped the clerk change my 100. But the clerk was able to converse with me enough to ask for coins, and I had the right one. I smiled at the man and said thank you, but not sure he understood me. I started walking home when I realized there was another grocery store. The first one did not have diet coke, er, Coca-Cola light, so I tried that one. Bingo! The clerk spoke to me in Polish and I said, “I’m sorry,” and she switched to limited English, asking me, “all?”. Ah yes, all! Then she told me the amount in English, which was clearly hard for her and unnecessary because I could read the screen. She then said, “I struggle with numbers in English.” I told her she got it exactly right!
So even though I’ve only been up for 3 hours, I am going to plan out what I want to see and when tomorrow and then hit the hay. But first, two things I am thankful for: my sense of direction (that I can navigate a new, foreign city with relative ease, which I guess also involves my memory) and “What’s App” (and Helkei for introducing it to me) so I can text with “people” who don’t have an iPhone so can’t imessage me.