Thank God for Babcis

Happy to report that I’m in Poland and on the farm, which sounds a lot more straightforward than what has actually transpired the past 48 hours.  (Lots of details follow; feel free to skim.)

My flight transpired without incident.  I flew LOT, the Polish national airline, which meant I was able to get a direct flight from JFK to Warszawa, and taht I got an early taste of what I was going to be in for.  After finding a seat at the gate, it became apparent that I couldn’t understand a word being spoken around me.  Even though I understand English is part of the national curriculum, it’s not widely spoken or understood.  I tried to make small talk with my seat mate who simply looked at me with terror in his eyes and said “No” apologetically but dismissively.  Since I didn’t have to talk to him, that gave me plenty of opportunity to watch the in-flight film: a vintage Donald Duck dubbed in Polish.

Frederic Chopin airport in Warsaw is one of the most modern, clean, and beautiful I have seen anywhere.  Unfortunately, this efficient design does not follow through to their transportation system.  It took half an hour, visits to both the information desk and tourist center as well as  half a dozen butchered conversations to discern that “Sanniki Warszawa Zachodnia platform 2  via the PKS bus,” my instructions for how to get to the farm, meant go to the Warszaswa Zachodnia bus station and get a bus to Sanniki; no one knew what “platform 2” referred to.

Nevertheless, I made it to Warszawa Zachodnia, I bought a ticket for the bus to Sanniki, and even figured out how to buy a phone card to call Peter to let him know that I’d be on the 16.00 bus.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get either of the two phone numbers I had to go through, so I gestured a passerby for help.  He was unsuccessful as well, so he pulled someone else over.  At one point, I think their were four people animatedly talking in Polish trying to help me make a simple phone call.  I’m still not sure how we got it to work, but we (they) did, and Peter assured me he’d be waiting at Sanniki.  Of course, that assurance only came after I had to chat in Polish for several confusing moments with a woman who I later met as babci (generic label for old lady/grandma).

I think regional buses are the same everywhere in the world – sketchy and cheap but efficient; regional bus stations, not so much.  In my mind, a ticket to a destination implies a station and a stop goes without saying.  Not so with the PKS.  After a couple hours of driving – longer than I thought it took to go 100km even with some traffic – we stopped in Gostynin where everyone appeared to be getting off.  I timidly approached the driver to ask the driver “Przsepraszm. Sanniki?” which elicited an eruption of Polish from the driver and a flurry from a pair of babcis behind me. I later learned that we were 40km past the Sanniki stop and that it wasn’t a stop at all.  There wasn’t even a station, just a bench on the side of the road with an inconspicuous sign.  Thankfully the babcis took pity on me and eventually got me in a taxi going to Sanniki, but not without a lot of confusing gesticulations (sensing a pattern?).

Got to Sanniki, had to wait for Peter, so what else to do with the taxi driver but compare drivers licenses and teach each other numbers in in Polish and Angielsku.

Finally made it to the farm in time for dinner (freshly baked rye bread using rye grown on site, homemade goat cheese, garden grown basil, tomatoes, cukes) and met my fellow Wwoofer, a professor of English from the University of Cork who did her Ph.D. at Cambridge, the first person I’ve met since checking in at the LOT desk who speaks my language.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about work: sweeping the mill, picking plums with babci, weeding the garden.  Maybe some pictures, too.

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1 Comment

  1. Jonathan, this is so funny. Funny because I understand to a T how this is. You’re incredibly sleep deprived, yet somehow must arrive at your destination. 101 things go wrong along the way, but you don’t speak enough of the local language to figure it out on your own, nor do you really understand the local transportation system. I think you did the best (and only) thing possible. Smile, look confused, try your best, and trust that the Good Lord will be humored by your plight and put helpful people in your path. 🙂

    Well done!

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