Friday, August 31, 2007

What did you say?



I think this will amaze you. Today, even though it's not cold, I thought I would turn on one of the heaters in our rooms to see how it worked. The turn button goes from 0-5 for the amount of heat you want. I turned it on to 3 and waited for it to heat up. And I waited..................and I waited but nothing happened. I looked for a switch to may turn it on and found none. So, I called the landlady and waited for her to call back. I told her I was just testing the system to make sure it worked before winter set in and she told me something very hard for American's (Joan and I, anyway) to understand. It is a policy in Poland that for apartment buildings, the heat is not turned on in any building until October 15th, unless there is a 3 day period where the temperature is 10 degrees celsius below normal. That's outrageous. Why the government should regulate the heat in a building where the tenent pays for the heat is beyond me. Maybe it's a left over rule from the old Communist system. I don't know but I don't understand why it continues.
Today was a non active day for us. It rained a little so we decided stay home. The bank issue still hasn't been cleared up, the money was wired out of our American but hasn't shown up yet in Poland. Hope it did't get lost :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to the bank!!

A fine Dinner!! Notice the fine placemats, papernapkins for now.
A well-fed man :-)

Yesterday was frustrating. Today I tried again to make the transfer and got further along in the process, up to the point where it said I had to call the U.S. for approval. As you all know, there are landlines(regular phones)and cell phones. We have cell phones here for most now. When you call a toll-free number in America from here on a cell phone you still pay the phone use of about 40 cents a minute. If you're put on hold, it doesn't take a long time for your cell to run out of time. So I had to go back to the bank and use their phone, which I did. I'm getting good at buying bus and tram tickets at the local store so I didn't mind going and the weather is great.

I found out by talking with the clerk that bus and tram tickets are the same. You buy a ticket by time, for the amount it will normally take to get from point a to point b. You can use that ticket on either vehicle. Tickets are sold in 10, 30 and 60 minute increments and when you get on the vehicle you stick your ticket in a machine that punches the time you started.

I got to the bank 30 minutes early for my appointment at 3PM so I sat down on a bench in Plac Wolności to watch the people go by. On a bench next to mine sat an old women with so many wrinkles on her face I wondered what kind of stories she could tell me of Poland when my grandparents lived there. I didn't ask her because my language skills aren't good enough yet, next year they will be much better.

At 3PM I went to see Piotr, our banker, and he helped me confirm the transfer. I won't really feel safe about it until I check our account online tomorrow and see it in writing. Just too many problems with this transfer so far so I'm a little gun shy.

I took a different tram home, a different route, to learn a little more about the city. It stopped where I wanted it to so that was nice :-)

I got home just as Joan was preparing kolacja (dinner) for later. Hmmm, boy, schabowy, kapusta, sałatka and ziemnaki. GREAT!!!!!! (pork roast, cabbage, salad and potatoes)



So another adventurous day. Have no specific plans for tomorrow, if I don't have to go back to the bank again :-) Maybe we'll take a tram and go to see a museum or art gallery or just go for a long walk among the many old, old buildings.

It's nice to be retired!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TV Waste Land



We have entered the realm of TV WasteLand with the delivery of our Samsung TV. I managed to get it hooked up and now we have 60 channels to choose from. It comparable to the U.S., 60 channels with maybe 5 or 6 of any interest. We do have CNN World news, BBC World news and a weather channel, 3 different music video channels, 6 German channels. They even report on Bush!!!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Frustrating Tuesday afternoon!

I'm frusrated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I tried all afternoon to move money from our American account to our Polish account and couldn't get it to work. I kept getting error messages and then a notice to call America to speak with a representative. I emailed to our American banker and he gave me a "toll" free number to call and I did, thinking the time left on my cell phone card was safe, about $18. The wait to talk to someone was long and just as I heard " My name is........How can I help you" another message came on the phone that said " I'm sorry, you have less than 1 zloty remaining on your card and cannot complete the call." #@#@!. I was angry to say the least..Plus I had to walk back to King Cross to buy another recharge on our cell phone so we can use it. Another email to our American banker who said go to our branch in Poznań and use their phone with the toll free number so the cost is free to me. So now it's a bus and tram ride to the bank to straighten this mess out. It's frustrating. Joan says " Calm down. You'll fix this today" and I will but it's still agravating. :-(
One bright spot in the afternoon we walked to King Cross and bought a Samsung TV that will be delivered today. All we have to get now are two more shelving units, PC desk w/chair and I think we're done. A car still hasn't been decided upon but it's getting chilly in the daytime, 65 degrees today, so that may help us deciding about using public transportation in the winter :-)
P.S. Thanks to everyone who either enters comments or writes to our email address. It's nice to hear from so many new emailer's who are following our adventure. Keep it up :-)

Comments!!

I've had a few private emails about how to make comments for our posts. It should be possible for anyone to do that just by clicking on the word "Comment" at the bottom of each page. You don't have to have a Google account, just select the "other" button when your done commenting and then Publish Post. I have the Blog set to allow anyone to comment so test it out if you would.

I was also asked about the windows in Poland having no screens. A few houses probably do, my cousin Kazia's house in Golina does, but the majority do not. As far as mosquitoes and fly's, yes they do have those here but it seems not nearly as bad as in the U.S. Flys come in and out of the house because of the open windows but don't stay because they can find an exit I suppose. However, the bites of the mosquitoes seem to be more potent, at least for Joan, who has had a couple and they itched like crazy. So much she had to buy a salve to put on them for relief.

As for some other observed differences....
We get a lot of looks when we walk somewhere because we always hold each others hand. Very few couples hold hands here and if they do they are either young or very old.
The sidewalks are made of small bricks that have a Escher like pattern instead of long concrete poured slabs like in the U.S. I think it makes for an easier repair when necessary.
People don't smile much when you pass them on the street and no one says hello or "How are you" to a stranger like in the U.S. Of course, it's only a form of acknowledgement in the U.S. and you're really not interested in how a stranger is but it's a form of greeting.
Since our last visit in 2004 there is a lot of new building going on and painting of the former Communist-style bloc flat buildings. The colors are a kind of muted pastels that really look nice. I've shown some of the colors in earlier posts.
Government is government like in any country, they all have their problems and special interest groups. They have about 8 different parties but only 2 or 3 that have enough members to have any say so in what's going on.
The contrast of 1000 year old buildings across the street from the latest new building is intersting to observe so the history isn't wiped out to make room for the latest architecture like in the U.S. When you walk inside a church that's 900 years old you can't but help feel the history around you. I like that.
Prices of food are almost reaching U.S. prices since the joining of the European Union but some items are still half of what they are in the U.S.
Electronic equiptment(TV's, DVD players, Washers, dryers) are about 30% higher here. The cost of phone service is outrageous, maybe 3 times that in America. A good thing about that is you don't have to listen to a lot of Cell phone conversations when you ride a bus or tram. I hated that in the U.S.
Health Insurance cost is about 1/3 of U.S. prices if you have to buy it like we do. The average citizen has national heath care although the system is in bad shape and a lot of doctors and nurses have left to make more money in foreign countries like Great Britain and Ireland.
Small little stores are everywhere that carry only vegetables and fruits or meat or little bakeries. Joan likes that. Two blocks from our house is an open air market where farmers bring fresh products daily to sell and others bring clothing, kids toys and assorted items. The food tastes better here, the ham and kielbasa, of which they are many, many kinds to choose from, it incredibly better.
You pay $3 to $3.50 per gallon for gas in the U.S., here it is easily twice that price. The cars are smaller here than in the U.S. You don't see any SUV's here or Jeep Wagoners. The main cars are Fiat, Mercedes, Citroen, VW, Skoda, Renault and a few smaller Fords.
Those are a few things we have noticed so far.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wash Day!

Joan, preparing for the wash day.
Joan and the drying rack on the balcony.

Joan was up early and before sniadanie(breakfast) prepared for the FIRST wash. This washer is setup by computer programs for the different types of fabrics but the instructions don't tell you how long each program(wash) takes so we selected one of them and it turned out to be the wrong one because it took 2 hours for one load. That's way too long for an energy efficent washer. In the wash cycle it is not a continuos turning of the wash drum, it rotate one way for a short time, stops and rotates the other way...for 2 hours. Now that we know better, I checked the times for each program and found a faster way to do the clothes.
So after the clothes were washed and put on the drying rack we went to Stary Browar, an old section of Poznań where they have built a new mall. It's at the beginning of a street that is closed off to automobiles and only pedestrian traffic is allowed. It stretches for about 4 blocks. We went there looking for a TV, CD with cassette and radio player and just to see this new place recommended to us. The mall is all enclosed with many shops similar to the U.S. like Versace, expensive clothing, supermarket, etc. We managed to find Mega Avans, a large electronic store with TV's, DVD players and computers. We ended up buying a Sony unit with cassette, CD and radio and I had to carry it home on the tram and the bus. The tram wasn't easy because it was rush hour and packed so staying in place with a large box was not easy. But I managed to get home with only a few looks from people thinking what is this crazy man doing on the tram in rush hour with such a large box. "He must be an American"!! Of course, wearing my Michigan wolverines shirt and and Joan wearing a Chicago Bears sweater didn't help. We returned home to find the clothes dryed. Joan took a nap, I set up our new entertainment system, then Joan made dinner of kielbasa, kapusta and ziemniaki(potatoes). Tomorrow is another wash day (we're behind) and I'm not sure what else we will do.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Visitors

Rózia
A few more interesting houses from our daily walks.

Rózia and her father, Marek Paluch
Luka, Rózia and Joan



Today, earlier, I was able to make Joan's life a little easier by finding an English version of the instruction manuel for our new washer machine. No more 6 dictionairies and trying to figure out what sentences mean. Tomorow we do the wash!!!!

After lunch of some great kielbasa, we took another walk to see more of the neighborhood. Each day we expand our walks to see more.

At 4PM cousin Luka came to visit with her husband Marek and their daughter, Rózia. Rózia is 5 years old and teaching me to speak Polish.

In the evening after kolacja (dinner) we went for another walk, stopped at the local store and bought water and then came home. We are going to observe Sundays, no work, only relax and enjoy the day.
I discovered a few usefull bits of information for us today, the first is about cost of bus tickets. In Poznań they have these central meeting places where busses and trams all meet, they're called Rondo's like Rondo Kampońiera. So if you want to go to Ikea, which is southeast of where we live, you can take what they call a direct bus there and it makes only a few stops along the way, cost (5.20zl (about $1.80USD) including the Rondo stop. If you want to go to Stary Rynek(Old Market Square) you can take what is called a normal bus with more stops to the Rondo and then take a tram, cost 1.90zl)(about 80 cents) then a tram northwest,cost 1.90zl. So we can cut our travel expense in half is my point. Poznań has the highest rated public transportation system in all of Poland.
The second is that I found a place where we can buy our drinking water at 1/2 of the price we have been paying at our local "7-11" type store. That's also good news for us. Little by little each day we get to know places where local people buy there goods cheaper because they know where to go

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Yes Houston, we have a washer!!







Oh joyous day. At 11:45AM our washer was delivered. For the next 4 hours Joan tried to read the directions in Polish about how to use it. She's still reading, with our 6 dictionaries in front of her. Fortunately for me, I had pictures to use to install it but really won't know if I did it right until we use it, which won't be today. Picture yourself reading a foreign language with dictionaries to help, looking up almost every other word to try to make sense of one sentence. And there is sentence after sentence for each different cycle. Maybe by Monday we will be ready to try it or maybe tomorrow. Cousin Luke may come to visit and if she does she will have the "honor" of helping us do our first laundry. Now that's family!!
Of course, to do laundry one must have a way to dry it so we walked back to King Cross mall and bought a drying rack that will sit on the balcony during washing days, laundry detergent, tomato juice and a large bottle of Absolvent (polish vodka). After all this we deserve to have a drink or two tonight. You'd be surprised at how many different types of Vodka there are here. They take one long section of the alcohol department in the local supermarket. We had planned on going to Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) today, having lunch and watching the tourists go by but when the washer arrived Joan started reading the directions and we lost track of time.
Earlier in the morning I had to go to the poczta (post office) to overnight our application to Warsaw for our medical coverage. I couldn't find anyone who spoke a little English so I had to try to convey to them that I wanted it sent overnight and after some time I did. I hope it goes to the right place. For Polish citizens, the cost of private health insurance is very expensive, about $220 USD a month for both of us. Compared to the US, it very cheap.
Today is the wedding of cousin Ańia Wiśniewska. I should have pictures in a few days to show. For me, Ańia is the most beautiful name for a woman.
One thing we have to buy is a curtain for the balcony. In the afternoon it's hard to sit here and write the blog because there is so much sun coming in so I want a curtain to block it while I write. In the winter, it's heat will be welcome I am sure. We read on the weather report that the storks have already starting migrating to Africa and that usually means a harsh winter.

Friday, August 24, 2007

We have a washer :-)





Today we made the walk to King Cross mall and went to Media Markt. It's a large store of electronis, TV's, washer, dryers, etc. We looked at a lot of washers but had to be concerned with the size in order to fit it into the space we have in our bathroom. We bought one and hope it will fit. They will deliver it tomorrow.


The afternoon was a little frustrating trying to online access our Polish bank account. The numbers I was using to get online didn't work and after you enter your number wrong two times your account is automatically blocked and you have to call Customer Service. Then you have to answer about 7 personal questions before they will unblock the account. All together it took about 3 hours to get it straight and we were ready to climb a wall.


Joan made chicken with pyzy and salad for dinner. I think I mentioned about pyzy before. It was a good dinner. We went for a walk and were introduced to the effects of soccer in Poland. The stadium is about a mile away but there was a game tonight and you could easily hear the loud sounds of the fans cheering and chanting. Must be like that when you live close to Soldiers Field in Chicago on a day when the Bears are playing. Pictures are of the crossing places on streets with the large white markings and a house being remodeled. The picture of the fenced gate is our back entrance to the apartment complex. The sign says the entrance is for Brząsk street.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Busted!!

Today we got up enthused to go to Ikea and buy the remaining shelf units, computer desk and chair, lamps and sheets for the bed. We went to our favorite little store to buy our bus tickets. The lady there never smiles and I was determined to make her smile so after buying the tickets I tried to explain in Polish who we were and that we just moved to Poland and by the time I was done she smiled. It made the day.

We went to Ikea selected the shelves we wanted only to find out they were out of stock and wouldn't be in stock for three weeks. We went and selected a computer desk and found out it wasn't in stock and the wait was two weeks. We selected a chair for the desk and it won't be in stock until tomorrow. We found a cover sheet for the mattress but the sheet for the top was out of stock. So we bought the one sheet and caught the bus back home.

Then Medicover, our private health insurance company sent forms we have to fill out but I don't have printer yet so I walked the 10 blocks or so to the mall to buy a printer. I bought it and then had to carry it home. It was heavy and I had to stop along the way but I found a shortcut between Bulgarska and Grochowska street which makes the trip shorter. Along the way I passed two beautiful fields of Golden Rod in yellows and greens that stood almost six foot high. A wonderful site.

Joan was adventurous and went to Chata Polska, food store, about 5 blocks from our apt. and didn't get lost coming home. That was a great accomplishment for her and I was happy about that. She has a problem with direction and so I was worried that I would never see her again once she left the apt. without me but she found her way home. BRAVO Joan!!!!

Tomorrow we're going back to Kings Cross to buy our washing machine, TV and CD player.

Weeks are going by very fast it seems, they are all so filled with things to do. I'm looking forward to having our apt. finally together so we can explore Poznań more. There is so much history here and so many great encounters waiting for us out there. At this point we are totally happy with out decision to move here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How it all started!

Someone asked me how this all started so here's the story......

We lived for the last 11 years in Itasca, Illinois. Both my wife and I worked for the same market research company in Chicago called Synovate. I worked as a progammer and she as a mail clerk. The plan started in 2005 when retirement was 2 years away and we were looking at options of where we could afford to live on only our SS checks. We thought about buying a small house in some little town in southern Illinoisbut decided it would be boring with little to do. My wife suggested Poland because at that time our money would be worth much more and houses cheaper to buy. That was before Poland joining the EU was really taking effect. Of course it's different now. Prices here are almost like the U.S. except housing prices here continue to go up while in the U.S. the are dropping. We had been to Poland in 2003 and 2004 for a month each time to meet relatives I never knew I had. Both of my grandparents were from Poland but my mother, aunts and uncles never said a word about Polish relatives. When my mother died in In 1999 I decided I would start putting all of my pictures and CD's with names and places for my son to have after I'm gone. I didn't know some of the people in pictures and my curiosity drove me to find out who they were. I had one aunt who was a nun, Sister Redempta, passed away in 1977. I wrote to the mother house of her order and asked them to send me any papers she had left behing. In the packet I recieved was a letter from an address in Poland from the 1950's. I knew that the writer must be dead by now but I wrote a letter and sent copies of old pictures to the address hoping some family member might still be at that house. I waited and waited and one day when I came home from work there was a blue envelope in the mailbox from Poland. What a thrill!! At that time I couldn't read Polish so on Saturday I went to the Polish Museum in Chicago to find someone who could read it to me. As it turned out, it was from a daughter of my grandfathers sister left behind in Poland with my great grandmother. My great grandfather came to America with his sons and oldest daughter to avoid conscription of his sons into the Russian army, occupiers of their part of Poland at that time. My great grandmother and youngest daughter were to join them but by greatgrandfather died before he could save enough money to come over so they remained in Poland and that's how the family started in Poland. I wrote back immediately and thus began our mail correspondence. This cousin, Kazia, told other member about the letter and one day about 5 months later I recieved an letter, from a cousin Małgorzata, in English. She gave me her email address and we began corresponding frequently and she told me a lot about my family there. Then we switched to Instant Messenger and everyday we would talk for and hour or two through that media. After a year I decided I had to go to Poland to meet everyone. In 2003 we made the first trip and it was incredible. When the month was over and we were sitting in plane at Poznań airport I actually tears in my eyes because I had to leave. It was a strange feeling. i love America but I felt i was returning to a strange land now and didn't want to leave. When my wife saw my eyes she said not to worry, wewould return the next year and we did. For me, the decision to move to Poland was not difficult. I have many relatives in the States but we now live all over and so far apart. I miss the young days when all of my uncles, aunts and cousins were in the same town and we always saw each other. In Poland it may not be the same town but the distances are much much shorter. family still has more meaning here. As for speaking Polish, I hadn't spoken Polish since I was 8 years old but we bought some books and started to learn. For the last year and a half we studied with a private teacher in Chicago from Lublin. I can communicate somewhat better now but still have a long way to go. It's a little more difficult for my wife who has a Austrian/German background. We have enrolled at Mickiewicz University here in Poznań to take their Polish for Foreigners course, 3 -2 hour lessons per week for the school year beginning in October. There will be ten people in a class and it's not far from where we live. Plus, everyday we have to speak Polish now so I think we will learn much faster. OK, that's my story up to this point. I hope this is what you wanted to know. David

First Pyzy!













Joan made her first pyzy today with salmon and salad for dinner. Pyzy and kind of like large white dumplings that you steam.






We went to Plac Wolnosći back to our bank, took the right bus and tram and got off in the right places. It was great. It's so easy to get around Poznań Later we went tO King Cross mall and bought enough food to last the week. We also talked with Medicover about private health care insurance and will sign with them this week. Coverage for both of us will cost about $250 dollars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bank Trip!






It was off the the Citi Handlowy bank on Plac Wolnosći to set up our Polish bank account. I thought had the right bus picked out but surprise surprise i didn't and when i realized we were way past where we should be we had to get off and take a taxi to the right place. Fortunately we left early enough to make it on time for our appt. But I didn't know I would have to produce our letter of money award from U.S.
So I asked our financial planner, Piotr, how we could get back dto the right bus stop to go home and he said it was best to take the tram, which we did, but took it in the wrong direction and had to wait for the return tram to Rondo Kompinera, where we were SUPPOSE to get off. By the time I realized it we were past our stop, got off and were starving so we stopped at McDonalds for fish sandwiches. Prices are almost the same as in the U.S. After that we walked in the direction of Bukowska street where our bus could be caught to go home. On the way we stopped in a small map store and bought a page street atlas of Poznań. The weather again was beautiful so walking wasn't hard to do. The tram ticket is sold by minutes you travel to place, it's a little different than in the States, but what isn't?
The church bells ring everyday here at noon and 6PM.
Side note: If you click on any picture you can get a larger view!!

Monday, August 20, 2007











We continued unpacking our latest shipment of belongings and I managed to put the szafka together and put clothes in it. In the afternoon, Joan and I went to the poczta (post office) to mail out a birthday card for our grandson. It takes about 5 days to reach the U.S. so it should be on time. The post office is like any post office, this one has 5 windows for service where you can buy stamps and pay bills. Joan had no problem getting stamps and paying. It cost about $1.50 to mail the card, almost twice what we spent to mail cards to Poland when we lived in America. We added doors to the entertainment center and put more things in place along with family pictures.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Boxes


Shocking!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Today, Sunday our boxes arrived at our apartment. It's shocking because very few people work on Sundays but they called last night and said they would deliver them today and they did, about noon. So now we have everything we shipped and we only had 4 glass items broken. I think that's good considering we did the packing and they did travel 5000 miles to get her. So while I worked building the szafka, Joan started unpacking boxes. It was kinda like Christmas because we didn't remember what was in each box so it was surpise, surprise.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Busy Day!



Up early and walked to the mall where we bought a lot of small things we need but too much to carry so we took a cab home. The cab driver was from Bealorus and had an interesting story from what I could understand in Polish. We had so much to carry that he helped us up to our apt. Very nice!!
The afternoon I spent putting together the entertainment center while Joan washed all the new dishes, pots and pans, put the new linen on the bed and later made dinner. We're exhausted.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Ikea delivered and I set up the bed today. You can't imagine how great it is to finally have a bed after sleeping on a couch for two weeks. I didn't have a screwdriver so we had to walk to the mall, Kings Cross, about 10 blocks a way. We also discovered we can buy many of the household that we need so tomorrow we are going to walk there, buy everything we need and then take a cab home. It will be cheap since it is so close and a lot easier than trying to carry eveerything home.


The pictures are our boxed furniture delivery, Joan trying out the bed and our first dinner cooked in the oven of our stove. The stove is computerized and we couldn't figure it out so the landlady came over last night to assist us.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ikea



Today was an adventure to Ikea by bus. We had to buy tickets at a kiosk and then take the bus to Ikea where we bought a bed, entertainment center and a standing closet for the bedroom where we can hang our clothes and put our close on shelves. In Poland, almost no apartment has closets. It's quite an experience taking the bus for the first time. Fortunately our bus's last stop was at the supermall M1 so we had no worry about getting off at the wrong place. Coming back was a little different and we got off a little to soon and had to walk several blocks in a light rain. It took us about two hours at Ikea and were fortunate to find two salespeople who spoke a l.ittle English. Our furniture will be delivered tomorrow so Friday night we will have a good nights sleep in our new bed. The pictures are of our delivery person in Ikea aranging delivery and the bus tickets. The tickets must be punched in a machine on the bus you ride on. If you don't have the right tickets then you can get a fine. There are random checks by a control officer. Tonight our landlord will come and give us a mailbox key and explain to Joan how to use the oven in the kitchen.

Apartment

Our "savior" who took us to Warsaw to solve our box problem.
Cousin Krzysztof Kupinski and I
Bedroom
Living room

Our Apartment

Cousin Kazia and I
In our Kitchen.
Cousin Andrej meeting us at the bus station in Golina.
Our living room in the new apartment.
Our second floor balcony.