Cześć, Kraków!

After arriving in Kraków, Poland, I have found myself feeling bittersweet and numb. Well, the numbness could be possibly attributed to the eighteen hours of travel, four plane rides, running from gate to gate, or just my all-around tiredness—the bittersweet moments were when I realized that I was leaving my friends 4,500 miles behind.

When I took off from Pittsburgh, I said goodbye to my mother and father. Just the day before, my mother stated to me she was going through a store and began to cry when she saw the Polish pottery. Therefore, I believe that, to preserve the awkwardness of crying at the airport drop-off, she held it back until I was out of site (but I could be wrong). With my boarding pass on my phone, I entered the cue and with my tenacious spirit, I began my journey to Poland.

First, I flew from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Boston, Massachusetts, then effortlessly transferred flights to go to New York City. When I landed in New York, I was overcome with happiness as I walked out from the terminal to baggage claim to see a beautiful woman peering off at the screens, most likely viewing when my flight was to land. As I walked up to her, she gave me a big hug as I called out her name, “Farrah!,” and then quickly ran to the restroom.

Farrah, a wonderful German woman who I praised throughout my first year at Westminster, had her hair up in typical two-bun German fashion and noted that she was more American than I was when I commented on her style. Now living in West Harlem, she is working on her Master’s in Education and is getting used to the NYC lifestyle, a place that gives me too much anxiety just travelling in on the train system from New Jersey (specifically when I had to get to the consulate by a particular hour last July). As we sat at the Subway in the airport, we caught up on the natural adventures in our lives: myself, my Icelandic adventure, family, what our plans are and how they have changed; herself, her travels to China, Spain, and Costa Rica, family, and new adventures in which she wants to partake. Altogether, this casual meet-up at the JFK airport was one of the climax of my transport to Poland, seeing that we may only see each other once a year (last Thanksgiving in Chicago).

After checking my bag, I gave a big hug to Farrah and proceeded through security, kind of quickly, as I was to receive a call within the next hour. So quick, in fact, that I forgot my luggage at the checkpoint. After sitting down at my gate and relaxing, I went to grab for my bag and immediately muttered, “SHIT!” Running back to the security checkpoint, my bag was lying there waiting for me. A woman working the line just smiled at me as I thanked her and ran back to my gate awaiting the phone call.

Back home, I was missing the Lawrence County Historical Society’s annual membership dinner—a dinner that I have attended each and every year since I was only thirteen. This year, an amazing woman was honored for her work with the Historical Society—Betty DiRisio, for digitizing about 16,000 photographs, organizing and setting a standard for the massive collection of artifacts, documents, and other Lawrence County-related memorabilia. I was immensely excited as Betty was one of the first women of whom I gave a tour of the historical society’s mansion. Then the call came, interrupting the banquet back home during the presentation, where Stephanie Fulena (the presenter) and I planned my surprise thank you to Betty for her work with the society, how excited I was for her well-deserved honor, and apologized for my absence at the banquet. Ending the conversation, I was smiling ear to ear as I heard an applause in the background—thus showing that even though I may be on my way to a foreign country, honor was still rightfully given to a deserving woman who has dedicated her life to preservation.

Boarding the plane to Warsaw, I was underway for a seven-eight-hour flight. Luckily, I sleep well on planes, so that was not a problem for myself. After my plane landed, I rushed to customs as my flight was leaving immediately for Kraków. Running through customs and security, I became ‘that guy’ who was booking it his next flight. Luckily, I made the flight and eventually made my way to the back of the plane to be seated.

My plane landed in Kraków with an extreme exhale from myself. The four-plane, 4,500-mile, 18-hour travel was over. Now I just had to make sure that my luggage made it as well. Standing at baggage claim, I stood there praying my Hail Marys. Time began to pass and people were all grabbing their bags. Eventually, I found mine and made my way to find Piotrek, my program coordinator, there to welcome me to Kraków and help me find a cab to my apartment. So, again, exhalation was necessary as everything happened without much hassle.

So far, with my time in Kraków, I have found myself struggling with the Americanisms: ordering two plates of food when everyone is having a sandwich or a bowl of soup; stating that I will just look it up on my phone, when, in fact, I had no internet; or even the constant snapshots or asking for translations from the two girls who speak fluent Polish. Altogether, I have settled in perfectly and am kind of hungry for some ice cream (lody) or thirsty for some lemonade (lemoniada).