Abby and I made the long train ride (11 hours) to Poland to visit friends there. We had a terrific visit in Warsaw with Angelo, Beata, and their kids and then we went on to Bielsk Podlaski. The question I've gotten so far is: what's changed? So here's what's changed. The train system was still good and inexpensive, with far fewer smoking cars (there are now laws against smoking in public places in Poland!). People are still polite on the trains, saying "Smacznego" (Bon Appetit, basically) when anyone eats, saying goodbye to the compartment at large when they leave, and making room for everyone's bags. The train to Bielsk, however, has fallen victim to competition, with a private bus line operating frequent and inexpensive trips to and from Bialystok. The train is down to just one or two one-car trains a day, and this is the track (the picture taken through the front window as we went). Abby got a big kick out of riding on this little train, though.Life in Bielsk has gotten nicer in a couple of ways. One is this new municipal swimming pool! Wish they'd had that 17 years ago!Also, one can now shop Saturday afternoons and Sundays! I am guessing this is a German chain by the name, but they sell everything. It is funny to me that in Germany, which is not a terribly religious country, the stores are all closed on Sunday, but in Poland, which is very religious, one can shop. There's a new Russian Orthodox church in town, and it is beautiful. It joins the 3 Orthodox churches, 2 Catholic churches, and 1 evangelical church already there.And some things haven't changed a bit, like Polish hospitality. It was wonderful to see Jola (my counterpart teacher in Bielsk) and Tadeusz and also to see some of the people I knew at the school where I taught. They now have 4 English teachers at the school. I met with a class of students and they had lots of questions - mostly to keep them out of Russian class, which they were missing to talk to me, I'm sure.
So after 5 days in Poland I think I need to stop eating for another 5 days to make up for it! My language is hopelessly muddied today - I find myself substituting Polish words for German ones. I think a day or two of German will take care of that.