Sunday, August 21, 2016

Scotland, Poland, Minnesota — 
A Study in Contrasts

1 July 2016, Białogóra, Poland, on the Baltic Sea
Gorgeous weather, beautiful seaside and white sand beach, fantastic fish dinners.  I’m so glad that I decided to come here with Dorota and Franio.  I’ve even been riding a bicycle for the first time in about 30 years!
Franio in hat and friend
making sandcastle

The night we arrived Dorota insisted I try the fish and chips and compare them with what I’ve had in Scotland.  No comparison.  Sorry, Scottish relatives, but I liked the Białogóra fish better; it was lighter and wasn’t deep-fried so not greasy.  And the chips (French fries for my American friends) were above average although the ketchup came in small packets and I had to get six.  Tonight I tried the baked fish with a leek sauce … delicious.  I had the baked fish because Dorota said THE best ice cream place was opening tonight.  If long lines are any indicator, it definitely must be the best.  And I have to say, from a taste, composition and quantify point of view, it is.  

3 July, EIC Train between Gdynia and Warsaw
Dorota and I were up really early to drive back to Gdynia so I could catch the train back to Warsaw, where I’ll spend the night.  Tomorrow I’ll take a bus to Sandomierz.

Before we left for the seaside, I asked Dorota’s husband Jacek to help me make a train reservation because of the music festival in Gdynia the last couple of days.  It was called “Open-er,” a play on words:  Opener (the first-of-the-season) and Open Air (Polish pronunciation of “er”). I was sure the train would be mobbed on Sunday morning; Jacek thought everyone would sleep in and leave later.  He managed to get me a middle seat in the first class car on the 9:30 am train, which was fine with me.  

Well, when Dorota and I arrived at the train station, it was wall-to-wall slumbering festival goers.  And the corridor of this car is lined with standing-room passengers and a few floor sleepers.

4 July, PolskiBus to Sandomierz, US Independence Day and my brother Dan’s 69th  Birthday
Jacek is a Godsend.  Early this morning he helped me get an 8:30 am reservation on this bus to Sandomierz.  Sent Hala a text message re arrival time.  This is my first trip on this private bus line that leaves from a transportation hub not far from Jacek and Dorota’s apartment.  He and I drove over there last evening to scope it out but didn’t reserve my seat as I wasn’t sure if I could be up and out for the earliest departure.  But as usual, I was awake at 6 am, so plenty of time since I had packed already.  Free wifi, toilet on board that works, comfy seats.  I could get used to this!

Later, Hala’s farm in Czermin
Hala met me at the bus, and we came back to the farm.  I’m staying in the new guest house which is almost complete.  My room has a double bed and a gorgeous yellow bathroom with a window.  Only overhead lights right now, but wi fi that’s as good as at the main house.

8 July, Sandomierz
Relaxing week.  Had a mani-pedi at my favorite spot on Wednesday.  Worked with Hala on the study tour to Ohio that’s planned for September.  Worked on June blog.  Got in a couple of days of lap swimming.  A bit of shopping and lots of walking.  

Today I spent the day rambling around Sandomierz with Amanda, who was in Poland from Queensland, Australia.  Amanda moved to Sandomierz to teach English at the glass factory just after I arrived to work with the Center in ‘94.  We met in an aerobics class and became friends.  She returned to Australia a few years after I returned to the US.  

Old Town Square in Sandomierz, in
contrast to construction site (below)
next to Hotel Basztowy a few blocks away

Hala’s daughter Marta and granddaughter Tosia arrived for some respite away from construction.  An air conditioning unit is being installed in their Warsaw flat.  Unfortunately Tosia isn’t feeling well and is running a temp.  Hala and Marta think it’s a cold.  I suspect teething.   

10 July, Back on the PolskiBus, heading for Warsaw
Hala got up early to drive me to the 6:15 am bus back to Warsaw.  Tonight at the Marriott Courtyard across from the airport and fly out on Monday at the crack of dawn.

Pałac Kultury i Nauki
Always says "Warsaw" to me
Later, Warsaw
Stopped at Dorota’s apartment to pick up clothes, etc. that I’d left.  Got everything repacked, then called Jacek’s mother who came over to get the key.  After settling at the hotel, I bused into town and had an early dinner with Gina.  I’m on the 6 am to AMS … again.

11 July, Minneapolis MN USA
Home sweet home.  Back in my own bed at last.  Whoopee!

12 July
Back to water ex and re-connecting with folks I haven’t seen in six weeks.  My calendar is filling.  One sad item — Roz’s funeral on Thursday.  Roz was a water ex friend who was Polish.  She was in her late 80s and had been in/out of the nursing home for several months.  But she was a feisty lady.  I’ll miss her.

13 July
Got my hair done today.  Connie cut it shorter than it’s been in years.  Will be good for summer, wash-and-wear hair.  Hurray!

Lots of theater scheduled for this month:  Calendar Girls at Park Square Theater with Jan and Marilyn, The Mikado at Lake Harriet Bandshell with water ex friends Cassandra and Marjie, Le Switch at Jungle Theater with lake-walk friend Linda, production of Summer Institute at Penumbra Theater with Mary, friend from TSPC days.

The Mikado at Lake Harriet Bandshell

Tomorrow I have election judge training after Roz’s funeral.  Cassandra sent an email while I was in Poland saying the city needed election judges, so I signed up:  It’s a way to contribute something and a chance to meet more people in my neighborhood.

16 July
St. Paul Saints’ baseball games are always fun.  It’s why I immediately said “yes” to friend/neighbor Maryanne’s suggestion that we go to a game again this summer.  Tonight was the night.  We took the Light Rail, had a great time at the game despite a bit of rain at the end.  We were going to Uber back until I couldn’t access the app … just as it started to rain hard.  We schlepped up to The St. Paul Hotel and got a taxi back to our building.

19 July
Argh!  Why didn’t my laptop Contacts update onto my phone?  I was supposed to call Mary  when I arrived at Moose & Sadie’s for coffee this morning.  (This friend Mary is Ted’s wife, not TSPC days’ Mary.)  Parking’s awful in that area.  I took the first spot I found within walking distance so I wouldn’t be late.  Went to call Mary and no phone number, just email.  Tried Ted and no answer.  Double argh.  Squelched my Contacts panic when I remembered that Mary’s office is in the same building as the coffee shop.  Phew.  We had a nice visit over coffee.  

Tonight I took part in the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library annual meeting and monthly board meeting, went home for a quick supper, then drove to the airport to pick up niece Michelle who’s in town for the rest of the summer, off and on. Always fun to have her around.  

Walking back from the library meetings I had a almost surrealistic experience.  And while this isn’t an issues discussion blog, I can’t let this go.  It was well after 8 pm, dusk was arriving and I was walking on Nicollet Mall through the ever-present construction. As I wended my way through the hugely messy area in front of the Hyatt Hotel, I noticed a young woman ahead of me, head down and eyes probably on her cell phone, not my favorite public stance anywhere but least of all while walking around in this mess.  Because I walk fast, I had almost caught up with her when I noticed a man coming toward us.  To be honest, what caught my eye was his sweat-slick, shirtless gut actually jiggling over his belt.  He didn’t seem threatening, just funny.  Then, as he passed the young woman, he said loudly, “Black bitch,” and kept walking past her, past me.  I was stunned. I stopped, turned around and said to his back, “What did you say?”   You know my vocal volume so he had to have heard me, but he kept on going.  I wanted to catch up with hie and slug him but thought better of it.  I took a few quick steps to walk beside the young woman and apologized that she had to endure such talk.  She shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s America today.”   I replied, “Unfortunately that’s true, but it doesn’t make it ok to do what he did. I am so sorry that this happened to you.  I hope the rest of your evening is better”  and moved on.  Perhaps that man would’ve said what he did at any time in his life, maybe he even has.  But when presidential candidates disrespect women, people with disabilities, anyone who’s different from them, many people, especially men, feel they’ve been  given permission to voice and act on their basest instincts.  America is already a great country, but as that kind of incivility spreads, it is becoming a country I don’t recognize anymore.

22 July, “Up north” at Jean’s cabin on Sturgeon Lake
When Janet and I travel, together, we always have an adventure, and this trip was no different.  Her grandson had left his iPad in her car in Minneapolis, so we traveled to Jean’s via Brainerd to return the iPad rather than Janet having to mail it.  The detour wasn’t going to take that much longer than our usual travel time … NOT.

After a brief visit with Janet’s son and grandson, we headed over to Highway 169 which would take us toward Jean’s cabin.  We stopped at a lovely cafe for lunch, I got an iPad question answered at an Apple shop that was adjacent in the same building, we used the facilities and off we went with Janet at the wheel.  An hour-plus later of bumping along Hwy. 169’s patched surface, we’d gone through Grand Rapids and just passed Coleraine when I decided to get my mobile from my purse in the back seat so that I could call Jean and update her on our ETA.  I was un-seat-belted and rummaging in the back seat when Janet said she was pulling over.  Flashing red and blue lights in the rear view mirror.  I figured it was me not being in my seatbelt until the police officer told Janet she had been speeding.  She hadn’t slowed down quickly enough when the speed limit changed (and neither had the five cars in front of us).   After checking her record (spotless, needless to say), he let her go with a warning.  Before we pulled out, I checked again for my mobile.  No luck.  Using Janet’s, I googled the cafe, then called.  Yes!  My phone was there, in a drawer for safe keeping.  I said we’d be back ASAP, then called Jean to tell her we had to make another detour.

Back we went to Aitkin, got my phone and some iced coffees, gave huge thanks to the cafe staff and off we went again.  This time we took a different route that didn’t involve Grand Rapids and Coleraine.  And we managed to find the correct turn off 169 toward the lake (unlike last summer).  However, our four-hour drive took closer to eight.

One of many young deer we saw
while at Jean's cabin

27 July, Minneapolis MN
Delightful and relaxing long weekend at the lake with Jean and Janet.  Decent temperatures, only a bit of rain at night.  We enjoyed Jean’s first venture with a crockpot — short ribs. I made BBQ’d beef for Sunday lunch with the leftovers.  Took a long walk with Jean to get the Sunday paper.  We drove to Cook near the south edge of the Boundary Waters (not much happening there) and to Bear Creek (absolutely nothing there).  I got some post cards for my Kids’ List.  And we did our annual walleye dinner at Gramma’s in Hibbing.  An all ’round lovely weekend.

Today, on the other hand … annual “clean the storage” day with Maryanne and it’s one of the hottest days since I returned.  Christopher and I had breakfast, my treat in exchange for his help moving heavy things out/in, so I got an early start.  We sweated like the proverbial stuffed pigs as he schlepped heavy boxes and the pallets out, helped me Shop Vac the floor, walls, shelves, ceiling and then put the heavy stuff back.  I did some tossing and sorting as Maryanne completed her storage cleaning.  Then we took a break and walked through the Skyway to the Hilton Hotel lounge for relaxation and libations.  Thank God for Skyways!  Lifesavers on hot days like this one, as well as cold winters.

29 July
David, a friend from my Women for Women days, and his wife Nara were in town to visit family and friends, including me. I saw them last a year ago in Paris, where they now live and work.  We walked down to Minneapolis Institute of Art for “Seeing Nature:  Landscape Masterworks from the Collection of the Paul Allen Family,” both extensive and awesome.  Several Monets that, needless to say, I hadn’t see before, including what looked like a dusk-time painting of the water lilies.  And paintings of Venice by many artists.  Lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant and a nice walk back to my place for coffee before we parted.  Next year in Paris?

30 July
Not sure what I can say about tonight’s performance at Penumbra.  It was definitely powerful, sometimes overwhelming, meaningful to contemporary issues, limited in some ways and longer than expected.

Penumbra is an Afro-centric theater where I’ve seen many wonderful August Wilson plays among others focused on Africa-American experiences.  The two-part program tonight was prepared and performed by the graduates of the theater’s Summer Institute, a four- or five-week educational program for young people interested in activist art and theater.  The make up of the students was very diverse.  With all of the police shootings of African-American men in the news, that was a key part of both productions.  The second-year students’ presentation incorporated other experiences, especially women’s issues, which muddied things for me.  I’m not a “dance person” and for me, some of their dance sequences just seemed to lengthen the program taking place in a packed and very warm theater.  On the other hand, the vehicle used by first-year students sharpened the focus, and I connected with it immediately.  They opened with a piece around whom we love and in whose shoes we’d like to follow.  The audience had been given cards to answer those questions on.  The cast members individually identified theirs, then asked the audience to collectively identify their own responses  In the second part of their presentation, they were instructed by their “teacher” to be any item or person involved in the recent police shooting of a black man in St. Paul and write about what that object or person saw and felt.  The bullet, his heart and other objects verbalized their piece of the experience.  Some pretty incredible writing by some of the students.  I would’ve liked to see a little more processing of the issues by both groups. For me, that would have added more breadth and context to the discussion, but it was a valuable experience.

31 July
Preparation for the BIG DAY

Tomorrow’s the big day.  Sliding glass doors and window replacement begins … and ends.  We were told they’d get it done in one day.  Hurray!  As you’ll see from the photos, I’m living in chaos and it’ll be this way at least until the painter is done next week.  Not sure when new carpeting will be installed; meeting with Costco rep on Friday morning.  


We'll see what August will bring, right Franio?

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