The Advent Season

The Advent Season

Tree with shadow, words on Polish flag: S-cray-oh-la in Poland

Welcome to my Poland section. I made this section to show my friends and my church the things I learned, observed, and thought during the preparation and process of my trip to Poland to teach English for a year.


Ice can be weird. In broad daylight on Thursday, a thin layer of ice formed peninsulae out into the lake, but last night, the ice was gone. I couldn't get online all day on Thursday. Every time I tried to connect, I got a weird dial tone and couldn't dial out. Pastor Kris called the phone company, and they sent two men out. I was getting email addresses out of my email program about the time they arrived, because I was planning to go to an internet cafe and send some emails telling people I hadn't forgotten about them; and my email program tries to connect when it loads, so I said, what's to lose? and I tried to connect. And it worked. So, they made a trip out for nothing. Apparently, the problem is at the central office, and they fixed it when he called, I guess.

Anyway, I haven't done any writing since the last time I mentioned it. I've been pretty busy, and I haven't had any ideas. I'm pretty well stuck right now. I'm thinking about trying to do some writing tonight.

The server isn't letting me connect tonight... One problem solved; another arises...

I'm so desperate for reading material that I read Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". I didn't realize how long it is, but the last 12 pages or so went by quickly. I must say, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one very queer cat.

I wonder where that boat is.

The time is 20:55, and the temperature outside my window is -6°C/21.2°F.

I bought a new tape player for the classroom. The old one was so decrepit I had to bang on it to get it to rewind a tape, so I decided it was time to make an investment. The new player is wonderful. It's an Aiwa, and I am sorely tempted to ask if I can take it with me when I leave. I doubt I will, but I mention this to give you an idea of how pleased I am with it. It was on sale, so we got it for only 280zl. I know what kind of player I will buy for myself the next time I need one; it'll be an Aiwa. By the way: Dell has lowered the price of a spare battery (see my needs list for more info).


Kris's congregation met tonight for an "adwent" celebration. I asked if I should come, and he said I should. We sang hymns, Kris read several meditations (which I couldn't follow), and we lit the five advent candles. A different person lit each candle, and they asked me to light the center candle. We ate cookies, cakes, pretzel sticks, and assorted candies (the leftovers of which I seem to have inherited [I'm going to get fat]). I only recognized one of the songs (O Come All Ye Faithful), but they sang another hymn to Brahms' Lullaby, which was, to me, surreal.

I intended to go to the theater last night and see Lilo & Stitch, but Adam had car trouble, and I had to take his Friday evening class, so I didn't get to go. Apparently, the theater only did one showing of it, so I won't get to see it any time soon. I spent an hour or so this afternoon playing in the snow... well, it's not really snow any more. It's now powdered ice, and it isn't cohesive, so I didn't build a snowman. Anyway, I cleared some of our little parking area. I'll get to the rest of it later. I got bored with it. I did manage not to break a sweat (except for my hands. My gloves seem for some reason to be more effective than anything else I have. My hands are almost always sweating).

The lake (most of it) is covered with ice. I don't know how thick the ice is, but apparently it is relatively thick, because I saw two boys trying to make a hole in it, and they were having a hard time of it. They were sitting on one of the little fishing platforms, and one boy was using a sled to try to break through it. Pastor Kris has asked me to teach my students some Christmas carols, so I have picked out five songs to teach them. I am also planning to download and print some sheet music for his older daughter. I think she will one day be a world-famous concert pianist.

I must be very strange. Everyone I know is dismayed by cold weather, ice, and snow. I like it. It cheers me (Unfortunately, it also makes my knees hurt, but I like the briskness). At the sound of the tone, the time will be 21:38; the temperature outside my window is currently -8.5°C/16.7°F. *beep*


Pastor Kris woke me this morning with a surprise: Bishop Puślecki had come to Iława to attend the service with us. The bishop was happy to see me, and I him. He asked me if I was having any problems, and I told him that all my problems were solved or being solved. He invited me to come to Warsaw some time and visit the pastor of the International Methodist church there.

Both of the people I tutor cancelled their lessons yesterday, which was actually nice for me, since I wanted a break.

I need to buy some Euros this week. I'm very nervous about my trip to Germany. I will have to navigate on my own for a short time, and I know maybe twelve words in German, and most of those are cardinal numbers. Once I get to the church, though, I'll be fine, because the pastor speaks English, and the pastor from Ostróda says the pastor there is very friendly.

It's snowing a little, but I don't see much new accumulation on the ground. My room has gotten very cold. The thermometer (which is farther from the window than my computer, says 14.5°C/58.1°F. I'm trying to think of something to write, or something to add to one of my stories... but I'm writing this instead. It's currently 14:29, and the temperature outside my window is -8°C/17.6°F.


I left Iława at 7:15 in the early morning. The train ride was uneventful from Iława to Poznań. There was silence in the cabin for most of the journey.

In Poznań, I quickly found a schedule (I don't know why I was rushing. I knew I had at least three hours to wait) and looked up my train. The end station on my ticket was not listed on the route! I thought about this for a while, and I decided that since I wanted to go to Berlin, and this train went to Berlin, I would try to take this train; I didn't care which station in Berlin it ended up going to. This wasn't a problem, because the train number was what was on my ticket. I noticed very quickly that the train station was full of pidgeons. They fly around picking at the crumbs people drop and coming within inches of people's faces when they fly from one place to another. After checking the schedule, I went to the bathroom, which was a pay toilet. It cost me 1zl to use the facilities.

Refreshed, I found a seat and ate my lunch: two sandwiches and a bottle of fruit drink. After a while, I got tired of sitting and walked around. I checked the schedule again, looked at a map on the wall, and watched the sign board showing the trains arriving and departing. After several minutes walking, I sat down. I started reading in my Bible, but after a minute or two, someone suspicious came to the trashcan next to me and poured something into the trashcan. I felt a little nervous about this, so I moved on and started walking again. The only open seats now were in an area that was filled with a cloying stench, so I didn't sit there. I spent a lot of time leaning against the wall or a column. Shortly before my train would have arrived, they announced that it was delayed by 30 minutes. I leaned against a wall and waited. While I was waiting, a young woman came up to me and said something in Polish, and she wasn't happy when she realized I was not, as she had apparently assumed, a Pole. She managed to convey that she wanted me to hold her coffe for a moment, so I did. She then rearranged her possessions, which included a white and black cat in a little backpack with its head sticking out. Settled, she retrieved her coffee and shared her hamburger with her cat. She would take a bite and it would take a bite. At 2:40, 36 minutes behind schedule, the train arrived, and I got on. After a few hours, the border guards came through my car asking for passports. After the next station, German customs officers came through and asked about customs declarations. Some time later, a conductor came through checking tickets, and I asked about the different stations.

My ticket said Berlin Ost., but all the schedules said Berlin Zoo. The conductor indicated I could get off at Zoo, so I decided that if that was the first station we reached, that was where I would get off the train. We arrived first at Berlin Ost., so I exited the train there. Berlin is a large city, and the S-bahns make it look somewhat like New York City.

My first task was to find a restroom. When I found it, I discovered that it was also a pay restroom, but it was coin operated. I didn't have any coins, so I went ahead and bought my S-bahn ticket from a machine that took Euro bills. I then proceeded directly to the WC Center, placed my EUR ,50 coin in the slot, and rested.

I then spent some time searching for the right platform. Unable to find it, I went to the S-bahn information counter, where I discovered that the information people didn't speak English. I finally asked a man who had tried to speak to me earlier, when I was looking around with a confused look, about the S-bahn. He didn't speak much English, but he told me to take the fifth stairway. I did, and I spent the next twenty minutes or so watching trains going East depart from the platform. I spent this time wondering, with another out-of-towner who spoke English, why none of the trains were going into Berlin's city center. Eventually, we grew restless and decided to check the sixth stairway, and a train going our way came into the station within three minutes. I got off at the next stop, went down several flights of stairs, and waited for a U-bahn.

When I got on, I was in for a treat. I told my host in Berlin that the ride on the U-bahn alone was worth a trip to Berlin. The subway train was not separated cars but one long snake of a train, which made looking forward or rearward an interesting sight. As the train hurtled through the earth at break-neck speeds, I was reminded of those movies where one looks at something, and then it twists and distorts as some disruption of the space-time continuum occurs. I thought for a moment that I would become dizzy watching it, but a moment later, I was used to the visual effect, and I enjoyed it. It was, other than that, like riding in New York. The same general distribution of peoples and types of people were in evidence on the train.

At Lindauer Allee, I got a disturbing message: End of the line... so I got off the train and waited for the next one, which took me to where I wanted to go, only one station farther. I ascended the stairs and walked to the church where I would spend the night. By the time I reached the church (5-10 minutes walk), I had shed my hat and my gloves, and I was wishing I hadn't worn my sweater, because I was still very warm. But a few minutes later, I was resting in my temporary apartment. Apparently, many churches in Europe have guest rooms, which they rent out to travellers. I was able to check my email, and the pastor's wife brought me some pizza. She questioned whether it was enough food, but it looked to me to be more than a whole pizza, and I said it was wonderful. In the end, I had trouble eating the last two pieces of pizza (but I did). I washed what eating things I had used and went to bed.


In the morning, I spoke with my host and learned a little bit about what was available to do in Berlin. I reimbursed him for my train ticket to Warsaw, paid for my room, and added a small offering for his church, and then I headed into town. I bought a Tageskarte (Day-pass) and took a U-bahn to Alexanderplatz, changed for an S-bahn to a station I can't remember the name of (something markt (market)), and walked across a bridge to the National Gallery. I walked around the first two floors of this, decided not to climb the stairs to the third, and went across to another art gallery (there are several in a small area). On my way, I heard some lovely music. It came from a horn player on the bridge. I believe he was playing a "straight sax", but I could be wrong. I ate lunch at the little cafe off the dome of the gallery. While I was there, I heard some more beautiful music, but this time, it sounded like an angel choir. When I finished my meal, I went into the lower part of the gallery (I viewed the upper floor before my meal), and while I was there, I heard the singing again. Apparently, some visitors from the orient had discovered the acoustics of the dome and were singing. It was very beautiful.

After that, I went sort of next door (straight out of the gallery to the center of a plaza, turning left, and straight in) to a very large church, which apparently has been the church of many nobility in Berlin (Their bodies are in the crypt). I bought a ticket and went inside. The inside was amazingly beautiful. I went downstairs and viewed the crypt, which contained many caskets, including one for (if I puzzled out the German cognates properly) an unnamed princess. It also has several statues, including one of an angel saying (in German) "He is not here; he is risen." I then visited the WC. I think the sign on the basket said ,30, but I didn't have exact change for that, so I put in half a euro. When I came out, the attendant was waiting for me with change. So, I took it upstairs and dropped it in one of the offering boxes. I didn't tour the dome of the cathedral, but headed off the another museum. Halfway there (in front of the National Gallery), I decided my alarm (to return to the church and prepare for my train) would go off about the time I reached the entrance to the next museum, so I went back, dropped half a euro in the musician's horn case, and caught my trains back to the church.

On the U-bahn, I saw an advertisement for a U-bahn museum, which looked like the sort of hands-on displays I enjoy most, so I will probably go to that when I return to Berlin in the spring. I reached the train station Berlin Zoo, almost didn't find the actual station, and started waiting. About fifteen minutes before my train was scheduled to leave, I bought some food. Eating it, I meandered up to the platform, and found that the Berlin-Warsaw Express was already waiting. I had looked at a sign on the plaform earlier, which seemed to indicate that the car number on my ticket wasn't in the train, so I decided they meant 267 instead of 667. I told a man he was in my seat, and he told me my car was one back from that, which it was. I felt pretty stupid. I got to Warszawa Centralna and hurried up to the taxi stands, because I had to reach the building by 23:00, or I might get locked out and have to phone someone to let me in. The cab driver charged me an outrageous price, but because of my hurry, I agreed. Then we got near the place, and the driver didn't know where the address was. I was angry about this, but I didn't say anything other than pointing out where it was. Inside, I had to hunt for the name of the man who was in charge of the guest room in Warsaw. I found it, remembered (Thank you, Lord, that my memory works sometimes) which floor he was on, and rang his bell. Room, sweet room. I found a classical music station on FM, relaxed, and went to bed.

image description follows:

The cathedral I visited in Berlin.


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