What to say about May?
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL READERS:
Come September, I will stop sending the blog manually. It’s time consuming and I have little info re who actually would like to receive/read it. So, IF you are interested in following my adventures, please add yourself as a “follower” on the blog site and it’ll automatically come to you when I post. Apologies for any inconvenience … and no hard feelings if you don’t sign on. Suzi
1 May 2015, Labor Day in much of the world but not in Minneapolis MN USA
The month is starting off well. Dance partner Larry continues to keep in touch, and we did “happy hour” at an outdoor table at Barbette on Lake Street tonight. Mussels were on the menu and were huge, the biggest I’ve ever seen. We ordered several servings (they’re among Larry’s favorite foods) along with some cheeses and fruit, beer for him, white wine for me. After a relaxing drive around Lake Calhoun, he took me home. I’d been up at 3 am for some reason, plus I can’t dance yet. But, all in all, a lovely way to start the weekend and month.
3 May 2015, Constitution Day in Poland but not MN
Heavy rain and lots of hail in Minneapolis at the moment. Thankfully it waited, as forecasted, until late afternoon to start … and that it did. A real gully washer complete with pea-sized hail in abundance. We’re on our third iteration at the moment. In between, the sun peaks out and tantalizes us with the possibility of a pretty sundown. Probably not going to happen. But we need the rain. Not as much as California but still …
Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater organizes a May Day parade here for the Sunday nearest that holiday, which is Labor Day in most of the rest of the world. And that was today. Larry and I found some shade along Bloomington Avenue not far from the parade start and watched as puppets, dancers, musicians, and more walked, danced marched past. I took lots of pix to post.
I was planning to help my sister prepare for Tomery’s move, but Barbara cleaned all day and was too tired. We’ll do that next weekend, and in the meantime I’ll help Tomery prepare for the move. She really needs to sort clothes and not take everything. She’s decided to buy a condo rather than rent, a good move considering her mortgage payment could be less than the monthly rent on a studio apartment (minimally it’s $1350!).
Jan called from Apple Valley where she’d attended a piano recital by two of her three granddaughters. En route home, she stopped by. We watched the rain and hail for a bit, then headed for the new Wedge Table, an informal eat-in deli that the coop opened over on Eat Street (Nicollet Avenue). Decent food and prices in a utilitarian atmosphere that screams “clean and sanitary.”
Ran into neighbor and fellow board member Jonathan in the garage, and we had a lovely chat. He may go to Mixed Blood Theater with me on Friday if Larry can’t.
Sunny skies are always an inspiration. Thus I started the day with a load of laundry, then off to Target for a few returns and purchases and Ace Hardware for a kitchen light bulb (no luck in getting one unfortunately, but the “helpful hardware man,” as the Ace commercial touts, suggested where I might find one. Then I called the dentist and made a long, long overdue appointment for a teeth cleaning, answered emails and went through my online photos of Minnesota. Friend and Polish teacher Dorota has asked me to talk to her son’s class about Minnesota when I’m in Warsaw and I’ve agreed. I also emailed Heidi, my nephew David's wife, and requested photos of the kids "doing stuff" for my presentation.
My foot’s swollen, probably because I didn’t ice it first thing as I’ve been doing. So … that’s next on the agenda.
After water ex and coffee with the “girls,” I drove north to Andover to see my nephew Craig and their new house. Only he, Alijah, who’ll soon be two, and the three cats were home. They have a lovely big house with lots of room inside and a pond in the back. Craig said they were assured that mosquito abatement was done well. Two nests of wood ducks have hatched in their backyard and already the ducklings are gone.
|Alijah is almost two!|
|April's cats enjoyed my visit too|
Tonight friend Linda and I went to Jungle Theater to see “And the World Goes On and On,” a musical tribute to Kander & Ebb, a Broadway composer and lyricist who did Cabaret, Chicago, The Woman of the Year, Zorba and a other musicals I didn’t recognize. Well done and fun. I told Linda that I might try to rejoin her for the Monday walk around Lake Harriet next week. Might not get all the way but want to get back into the routine.
Yesterday I babied my foot most of the day because it didn’t feel very well after water ex, skipping a presentation and tour of the Center for Victims of Torture and Abuse sponsored by MINN (Minnesota NGO Network, of which I’m a member). I think it’s more the driving (shifting gears with my left foot) than the class that causes it to be uncomfortable, so I try to minimize the driving … but I can’t do a lot of walking yet either. Catch 22. Just as I was trying to figure out what to do re dinner (order in, eat out, drive to Whole Foods), Larry called to see what I was up to. Long story short, he drove me to Whole Foods where I picked up a few things, then we went to Toast for wine and small plates. I offered to take him to the train station on Friday morning; he’s going to New Orleans for the weekend. An oil train derailment and subsequent fire have delayed trains so he needs to check first.
Today started with breakfast with Jan and another St. Paul Companies friend M, who was recently at Mayo for treatment. Wonderful to see how well she’s doing. Later Jan and i went to the yarn shop. I wanted some help with the sweater I’m making my sister. The staff weren’t terribly service minded, but I think I know what to do. Finished the day with work at the library bookstore, only to learn it’s closing at the end of May. The board of Friends of the Hennepin County Library has decided to concentrate on fund raising. Our smaller group of Friends of the Central Library has staffed the bookstore on Thursday nights, and I had been volunteering. No one knows what will go into the prime location where the bookstore resides, but our group has other activities it supports too.
8 May, Peter’s Yahrzeit
Sixteen years ago today my son Peter died. Usually I go to the synagogue with my friend Susan for Peter’s yahrzeit, a Jewish tradition of remembering those who have died; Susan’s mother’s yahrzeit is a day after Peter’s. It’s a short service that includes saying the mourners’ kaddish. We’ll go tomorrow since today’s Friday, and we don’t want to sit through the regular, longer Friday service.
|Peter at 13, me, Carrie the Cat & my new Prelude|
All dolled up for our 1986 holiday photo
Since the garage and carpets in my building were to be cleaned today, when I left to take Larry to the train at 6:15 am, I could not return until after 4 pm. So, after the trip to Union Depot in St. Paul and my usual water ex class, I went out to breakfast, hung out at my neighborhood local coffee shop, then went over to Janet & Ed’s for a while. Janet and I had a good gab while she cleaned her up kitchen, and when I left, I walked without limping for the first time since January. Then on to a massage, which was my first in months and definitely needed. The massage therapist is within walking distance of where I live, handy for when I can walk, and she did a good job; I’ll return.
Friend Fern went with me to see Pussy Valley at Mixed Blood Theater, a play about the lives of four pole dancers. An incredible production. The authenticity of the actresses who actually pole danced throughout the show was astounding, as was the story line. That theater continues to offer thought provoking productions that I’m pleased to support.
Jan, a friend from my Women for Women International tenure, sent photos today of her induction into the inaugural University of California-Berkeley Women's Soccer Hall of Fame. Wow! I didn't even know she played soccer until she told me about this honor. She's one of eight; the rest of Olympians, professionals and such. Plus Jan was given the first Lifetime Achievement Award which was then named for her. Double wow! Her niece who wants to follow in Jan's footsteps at Cal-Berkeley already wears Jan's #5. Jan was with us in Scotland last summer, biking everywhere, even in the rain, so I shared her message and photos with her Ayr housemates. Oh, after the CA trip, Jan was off to bike in Peru.
|Jan, her niece and jersey #5|
16 May, Art-a-Whirl Saturday
i’ve been busy (or lazy) and not written in a while. Art-a-Whirl is a weekend of open houses in artists’ studios, music and food in Northeast Minneapolis. Northeast Minneapolis Artist Association (NEMAA) is the sponsor, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger over the years. Larry and I went for a few hours today and although the sun didn’t actually shine, it didn’t rain. This is the first time I’ve been around for Art-a-Whirl in years.
Moving backwards, on Mother’s Day, friend Marilou and I went to St. Paul’s Park Square Theater for The Language Archive, another excellent production, this one on communication. Then we used one of my e-Rewards gift certificates for supper at the Loop Restaurant and Bar. First trip there, good food and fantastic onion rings.
On Tuesday, neighbor and friend Maryanne and I finally got together and walked over to our favorite happy hour only to find it’s now no open until 4 pm. Not a good sign. We retreated to The Nicollet Cafe and shared a quite good quesadilla instead.
Hair cut and color on Wednesday — I’m a new person. Then lunch in St. Paul with Peace Corps friends Tom and Sabrina to celebrate Tom’s birthday and a quick trip up to Andover to drop off some things for nephew Craig. Long and busy day.
Thursday friend Janet and I ventured up to Westminster Town Hall Forum to hear NYTimes columnist David Brooks. The church was packed, as we’d expected (similar to when Al Gore spoke a few years ago — two large meeting rooms in addition to the huge sanctuary and its balcony). Brooks was on a book tour so used examples from his book to define and discuss character. Nothing unexpected in what he had to say, he dodged any political questions.
Thursday evening I did my final volunteer stint in the library book store. It’s closing at the end of May. Unclear why but apparently the board of the overall Friends of Hennepin County Library made the decision.
Friday I had coffee with Karen, another development person with whom I’ve been playing tag for some time. Neither of us can recall who suggested we meet — it’s been so long since our initial contact — but I learned that she knows my friend Violane. They worked together in Lebanon.
Oh, Heidi sent me some fantastic photos for my slide show in Poland. I'm going to add some here so you can see how much Sam, John and Evie have grown.
|Sam at the lake|
|Evie may dress up like the Frozen princess |
but she is a real heart melter!
|Now is John were in Poland, I'd say|
say he was at an ognisko
19 May, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Nephew Christopher is 30 today!
Since picking up my college roommate and friend Marilyn at The Humph (Humphrey Terminal of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport), it’s been a whirlwind of eating. She, my sister and I had an excellent meal at Brasserie Zentral — Barbara and I had lamb chops to die for. Sunday May and I took her niece Amy and fiancé Tony to dinner at Borough, delicious and interesting menu, and last night the clan gathered for Chris’ 30th birthday celebration. Whew! I definitely need to be careful what I eat while I’m gone.
The crowd is gathering for the 3:10 flight to AMS, and it will be child-full A family with two pre-schoolers and twins in arms just sat next to me. Another family across the way is traveling with seven kids from child in arms to probably junior hi-er. And it’s a full flight. Wish me luck in getting some rest.
21 May, Hotel Basztowy, Sandomierz, Poland
Well, I got a little rest on the trans-Atlantic but not much — and it had nothing to do with kids, or even the 20-something Chatty Kathy who sat next to me. It was just that (*&%*((#@ departure time of 3:10. Arrival at AMS is around 6 am Dutch time or 11 pm in the US — my bedtime. Three-plus hour layover and not able to walk well. My left foot didn’t like being in a downward position all night. Finally nodded off on the AMS-WAW flight which took the edge off the three-plus hour wait for Steve’s arrival via London (his flight was late). The drive to Sandomierz included a stop at Impresja where we contributed our share to Poland’s economy and bought Bolesławiec and Krosno (well known pottery and glass makers). We arrived here around 7:30 pm due to much heavier traffic than we usually encounter. Dinner on the patio outside the dining room, dessert indoors as a thunderstorm arrived. Then to an early bedtime.
Awake today at 3:30 and finally got up and showered an hour later. I beat the cook to the dining room by at least an hour; it doesn’t open for breakfast until 7. So I’m sitting in the lobby bar area going through 84 emails, updating this blog and finally posting April.
Whew! It’s been busy since my arrival. When I did the last entry, I was waiting for the Hotel Basztowy restaurant to open so I could have some coffee and breakfast. Shortly after eating, I went to Hala’s office and met with our board chair Ryszard, Steve and Hala to review some items for the meeting, then off to “Nefretete,” the salon for a mani-pedi. I’ve been going to this salon since it opened six years ago and was not only pleased to see she’s expanded her operation and now has two employees but that she was among the clients we visited yesterday.
Steve and I went to Hala’s farm for lunch (read: dinner of Ukrainian soup, chicken livers and mashed potatoes, and cakes plus her husband Michał’s latest liqueur, a lemon-coffee blend that Steve said was quite nice.) Michał’s brother Marcin is visiting from Switzerland (his wife is in Częstochowa, her hometown, for another day). We tried to get Marcin to tell tales on his little brother but he kept saying Michał was a nice boy. Hard to believe! Steve told us that his wife Kim is retiring in July; she’s academic dean at a small private liberal arts college in upstate New York. That will be a big change for them. Steve’s been working from home for a long time and used to his own leisurely yet productive work style. Since he left TechnoServe, he’s done some freelance assignments but is basically retired too.
Evening meant another big meal with board members who’d arrived. That’s the official start of the board weekend, so I am back in my only eating half mode … I only eat half of everything I’m served because the hotel is notorious for over-feeding us.
Yesterday we had a full day of visiting clients in and around the town — several cafes, a tour operator who uses electric carts to show visitors around, a shop specializing in locally produced products, an educational center, the city’s oldest church which is revitalizing its wine producing tradition by training grape growers and vintners. We had lunch in a family-friendly restaurant that was built in an underground apple storage and is located in a recently developed city park near the hotel and Old Town.
Back at the hotel, we finished the afternoon with staff presentations on the year’s activities and an incomplete strategic plan. The new mayor joined us for the first part and later for dinner. I have to compliment Monika who’s taken over the restaurant. She has heard our plea for less food while continuing the tradition of delicious offerings. She did, however, serve kolacja (supper) about 30 minutes after obiad (dinner) was finished, a board meeting tradition that we all carp about but nibble at while we continue talking.
Today we have the formal board meeting with several resolutions that require passing, then lunch and most will leave. Steve, Hala and I will go to Zamość and Lublin on Sunday-Monday, then Steve and I take the train to Warsaw. He’ll fly out on Tuesday, and I’ll go to Dorota’s until I fly to Paris on Friday. Hala, Ewa (our translator and friend) and I will discuss my return to this area during my final week in Poland. I want to spend a couple of days in Puławy at Ewa’s.
This afternoon I’ll do a bit of shopping for things to take home and with me to Paris and Greece, and i need to work on my presentations about Minnesota. Dorota asked me to speak to her son Franek’s class — 14 eight-year-old kids in their second year of English. I have lots of photos, books and maps for them. And on learning that, Ewa has asked me to talk to her English class — 16 and 17 year olds. In the meantime, it’s 3 am … so I haven’t conquered the jet lag yet. Perhaps I’ll try to go back to sleep again. Dobranoc.
25 May, on the train from Lublin to Warsaw
Well, I never did fall back to sleep but made up for it Saturday night. After wandering the square and shopping with Steve after the board luncheon, I returned to my room for a nap … and awoke six hours later, around 10 pm. Got up and packed my suitcases so I’d be ready for Hala, then went back to sleep until 7 am. Finally in the right time zone!
Sunday Hala went to vote in the presidential election, then she, Steve and I drove to the Renaissance town of Zamość where we met Piotr, an English-speaking tour guide that she’d arranged. Despite the overcast and chilly day, we had a couple of hours of walking back in time. Zamość was Poland’s first planned city and one of the first in Europe. It was owned by Jan Zamojski, a well-educated, well-traveled lawyer who was a counselor to the king as well as “hetman,” head of the army. Zamojski had the town built on the by an Italian architect, an “ideal town” combining defense, residences and commerce in one well fortified, laid out place. It withstood both the Cossack siege and Swedish “hordes” of the 17th Century. It was to be the capital of Nazi Germany’s eastern territory/ While the town wasn’t destroyed in World War II, 8000 people were killed in the Rotunda, part of a Nazi plan to exterminate the Polish inteligensja and to make way for German colonists who never materialized in great numbers due to the rebellious locals.
From its start, Zamość’s population was incredibly diverse due to some migrations taking place in the 16th and 17th Centuries. It attracted Armenians, Ukrainians, Scots, Romanians, Italians, Turks and more. Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula made up half the population. A synagogue, Eastern Orthodox church, Catholic church and Armenian Orthodox church were all included in the planned town. Piotr said each of the larger groups had a section of the town and main street. The Armenians were among the wealthiest, and houses on Ormiańska Street remain excellent examples that period.
The town with its gridded streets is well preserved with examples from many important periods in its history and in 1992 was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
From Zamość, we drove a couple of hours to Lublin where Hala’s brother lives. His wife Małgosia met us at our hotel in the Old Town and guided us to an outdoor concert in the city’s main park, then to dinner at their flat. She was our guide today too.
This was my fourth visit to Lublin. The first was in ’94 to see Hala’s brother who was then still a practicing dentist. Don’t recall what he did to my teeth or tooth, just climbing a lot of staircases to get to his home office. Two subsequent visits were with friends and showed us the city making progress to repair and renovate the castle and buildings in the Old Town. Today I saw the huge progress that’s been made and work that continues. Like so many post-Communist places, ownership of property remains in question, making progress slow and difficult.
Małgosia took us to the now beautifully renovated castle, built originally in the 14th Century by King Kazimierz the Great who built strategically placed castles all over Poland, and around the Old Town which is reminiscent of so many old cities that I love — cobble-stone streets that bend and turn and promise some surprise around each corner.
Lublin was the site of the Union of Lublin which united Poland and Lithuania in the 15th Century. Adam Mickiewicz, an important Polish poet from the 19th Century, was actually from the Lithuanian portion of the country which ended up in Russia during the last partition of Poland. (Does that sentence make sense? In the 19th Century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was invaded by its neighbors and partitioned among them. Under the Third Partition in 1795 Prussia, Austro-Hungary and Russia each annexed a portion, effectively wiping Poland from the map for 123 years. It was “reunited” at the end of World War I.)
Like Zamość, Lublin had a diverse population religiously including both Protestants after the Reformation and a sizable Jewish population that was annihilated in World War II. It’s a center of education with three major universities and additional technical and other higher ed institutions. It was great to see Małgosia again and have the benefit of her knowledge of her city and see it “rising” again.
(N.B. I actually took photos but for some reason I cannot get them to download into my laptop. Another sign that I'l due for a new iPhone!)
Election results are in and President Komorowski was defeated by a youthful upstart Andrzej Duda. Initially Komorowski seemed likely to win, but his campaign was apparently so lackadaisical that he, Duda and a rock singer, a real surprise, were the top three candidates in the first round. No one I know is terribly happy with the outcome even though the presidency in Poland is largely ceremonial, much like in France. But the election results don’t bode well for Komorowski’s party which has led the ruling coalition for a number of years of prosperity and stability. The real issue will be how this election’s results affect fall’s elections to the Sejm (Congress/Parliament).
27 May, Warsaw
My foot is protesting more than I’d like so I returned early from the center today and found that Dorota and Franek were already home at 3:30. The weather’s been miserable — dark, damp and discouraging. I learned when I first moved to Poland in November 1991 that air pressure and such affect me (and others) physically, something my US friends usually pooh-pooh. But today, despite a good long sleep, I was pooped … and so was Dorota. So we headed to our rooms for a nap. I awoke two-plus hours later, having actually fallen asleep. Dorota said she’d just gotten up a few minutes before. While we napped, Franek entertained himself. Good kid!
As I’ve mentioned before, Dorota and her friend and business partner Małgosia were my Peace Corps language teachers and 20+ years ago, they started a private language school to teach Polish to foreigners. When I lived in Warsaw, I attended some classes … and I decided that during this trip, I’d do that again. I had a couple of lessons via Internet with my teacher Edyta when I was recovering from the “foot incident.” Now I get to talk as well as do exercises on paper. I go for an hour each day and hope to improve at least a little!
Last night I met friend Iza for dinner in a lovely small restaurant near her flat. It serves excellently prepared traditional food. We shared pasztet (patė) with cranberries, I had Russian pierogis (potato and cheese with fried onions) and Iza had potato pancakes. We tried a white wine suggested by the water. It was well chilled and grapefruity, which I like, so we indulged in two glasses each. In between sipping and munching, we talked and talked. Iza’s mother died in Kraków not long ago, and she’s still dealing with all of that in addition to her busy job that requires international travel. After dinner, I sloshed a couple of blocks to the bus stop and made my way back to Dorota and Jacek’s flat … where of course Dorota was ready to feed me.
The sun is shining! I awoke at about 5:30 am to the sun shining through the window. Hurray. At last what looks to be a nice day.
It’s been an utterly lovely day, weather- and otherwise. I started with coffee with my friend Maryla at the Marriott. I haven’t seen her in a year because our schedules have zigged and zagged, and they are this time too. Coffee was all we could manage as she leaves for a two week conference in Budapest just after I leave for Paris and she returns the day before I leave for home. Then I trammed over to an Indian restaurant and waited for Marta, Hala’s daughter, who leaves this weekend for a three-week car trip to Corsica with her beau Łukasz. It was fun to hear her talk about how it’s been planned; they’ll stop quite a few times along the way for more than just a night so they can see Vienna, Venice and other places along the way — including two amusement parks. After my Polish lesson, burdened with praca domowa (home work), I did a bit of last minute shopping and returned here. Time for email, reading, a short rest and enjoying the fresh air. Franek has two school friends over for a play date. Dorota and Jacek have taken them to the park to wear off a bit of their eight-year-old energy.
30 May, Paris, France
What a lovely way to start the weekend in Paris — sunshine and warm breezes along the Seine.
Arrived mid afternoon yesterday on Air France which has moved up to my #1 favorite airline. Only a French airline would have good coffee! More to the point, when I made the reservation via Delta, AF put me in business class on that flight and my Monday flight to Athens.
The Viator van was fairly prompt to pick me up. Unlike my other rides with them, I wasn’t alone … we stopped at several hotels so got a view of most of Paris in my two-plus hour ride. I was next to last out. Used texts to contact David and Nara, and we met at my hotel, then went for dinner not far away in a lovely upscale-pub type place where I had incredible carpaccio, Nara a delicious salmon and David a nicely cooked steak … plus a good French red of course.
Today I’m meeting David and Nara near their old flat and we’ll have lunch, then go to Musée Marmottan, my favorite museum in Paris. I had hoped to see the famous French catacombs but we can’t, partly because of timing (long lines won’t ensure we are at their new flat for the walk-through on time) and also my foot isn’t ready to walk down 130 steps and up 83 with a 45 or so minute tour betwixt. It is screaming after my morning walk along the Quai Austerlitz.
On my first trip here in winter ’90-’91, Polly, Rosie and I went to the Marmottan. It has the largest, and needless to say, most spectacular collection of Monets anywhere as well as an impressive collection in general, mostly of Impressionists. The museum started as a wealthy man’s hunting lodge in the 19th Century and was bought by Marmottan whose son eventually donated his art collection and the building to the nation. Most of the Monets were donated by Monet’s second son Paul; seems to me he got into tax problems and the donated settled the claims. Others have also donated collections. Anyway, it’s a wonderful place to visit and I’m happy to go again with David and Nara.
When I walked this morning, I was surprised to see two “tent cities” of homeless people under cover of the roadway above. In each location, a couple of dozen small dome-style tents topped pallets (or in one case, a mattress). I cannot imagine such a place in the US; they’d be rousted by the police and sleeping in doorways. But here at least they have a dry place to sleep. I’m not sure what the shelter situation is like in Paris.
Being in Paris is a great way to end a month, even if it’s a dreary, rainy day. I indulged again in the hotel’s extensive and expensive buffet breakfast. This time I had less food and made a hearty sandwich to take a long for dinner tonight. I had thought of going to the cafe next door, where I had dinner last night, but I knew I’d only get one coffee and I knew I needed at least two “cafe longhe.”
I took the Metro to David and Nara’s stop where I met them and we proceeded across the city to the foot of Montmarte. A short distance from the Metro was a cafe David had found that has great bunches. But to get there we had to climb about 20 stair cases. Definitely getting my exercise today. We all opted for something other than the set brunch — it looked like enough food for four. I had Quiche Lorraine which was light and tasty. Next, a walk in the rain to a different Metro stop in hopes of fewer steps down (going down is a lot harder on my foot than coming up). Well, it was a few fewer anyway. We said our goodbyes over a glass of wine at my neighborhood cafe.
Since I’d called Viator to confirm my pick up tomorrow morning, I knew I’d need rest. Once in my room, I immediately fell asleep for almost two hours. Then, wide awake, I ate my sandwich from this morning, took a walk across the bridge and partway down the quai on other side, then back again to print my boarding pass and pack. Soon to bed.
Ahhh, it’s been a good day and a good month.
|Maury & Andrew's son Roland agrees!|
Maury's surgery went well.