Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Ican has Pwland?"

As if I weren't busy enough...

No, dear readers, one country is not enough. It's simply not enough to pack up all my things and move to the Middle East to see what's there. Poland is next, and I'm in the middle of applying for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship for the 2008-2009 Academic Year.

A Fulbright Grant is a grant issued for Graduate Level Research in another country. Or, you can be an English Teaching Assistant in certain countries. It is issued by the U.S. State Dept, and let me just say, damn.

Because by the time you get through even FINDING three references (completed hard copy and online); the two essays justifying your cavorting around Europe (hard copy and online); a background check that goes so far up your colon you can see the lights on your molars (hard copy and online); and two face to face interviews to justify your cavorting around Europe (with a straight face, one in New York)- by the time you do all this, you have an undergraduate degree in MS Word and can format a crocheting project on two different operating platforms- as well as smell out the last Reference, who is en flight to Canada ("I SEE YOU!")

Because, it is one thing to lay awake and night and realize that you were not selected because the next person was more qualified. It is a completely different issue to lie awake at night, and realize you were not selected because your written Polish made more sense than your "Formatted" essay.

Did I mention that each School has a specialized Advisor, who you are required to consult with while preparing this grant?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Never think you have nothing to write about

Last year at this time I was in Poland- in fact, I was nearing the end of my trip. I'd been floating back and forth between Krakow and Warsaw for about 30 days on the train, getting off and taking pictures where I felt like it. This one here is the last stop before Katowice; Misłowice. I also happened to stumble onto the Black Madonna at Noon Mass in Czestochowa (how does one "stumble" on 1000 people praying and singing in a room the size of a bread shop?) and visited Auschwitz Camp.

On my last day I was being driven to the airport (in tears, of course) and someone asked me what I liked best about Poland. I said something about how green it was or some such nonsense. In reality, I'm still not prepared to answer the question a year later.

I've been to Spain, Japan and Poland- soon to the Middle East and Kuwait. Spain made me feel like a giant, I was always knocking my head against the door lintels! Japan was a true electric fairyland; bizzare, overwhelming and achingly beautiful in the dusty corners.

John Steinbeck said it best, but he was talking about my upper vena cava as opposed to right atrium. Poland is indeed "a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream."

Poland is, to say the least, a dream.

You need a taste for it. For the cleaning women on the landing, arguing for the sake of argument about who cleaned the toilet last week and their justified present refusal. For the 200 Poles who bum-rushed the pimply 17 year old clerk at the entrance gate squeaking "One at a time! ONE AT A TIME!" at Heathrow, then cheered as one when the plane touched the runway in Warsaw. For the man crossing the street in Krakow who decided to stop traffic on Ul. Starowsłna by fighting a car; for the hordes of people who stopped to help an older woman ("Babcia" or "Ciocia") when she slipped with her groceries and bloodied her nose outside the Urseline Convent. For the wreaths and plastic flowers dotted around Warsaw, marking countless memorials from 60 years of repression.

You have to have a taste for it. You've got to appreciate a fight. You have to relish contrasts and the picturesque (in the people and landscape) and really high humidity with smog/coal dust smearing your skin while you eat Kebab.

Hold the image of a beautiful summer day in the countryside, traveling slowly on a train through apple trees so dense the overloaded branches brush the windows. Briefly, the apple trees will release a scene of intimate family life in a backyard or two barefoot girls at a dirt road crossing, waving and giggling.

This was the train to Auschwitz.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"And She's Okay!"

Not in Kuwait quite yet.

I'm in Sacramento, staying with family #2, so you could say it's the Middle Part. The last three days have been rough- the internet network has been under reconstruction since I got here. The three of us have traded off looking at each other over coffee cups, rising to go to the computer, and steering off on a tangent when it hits us we don't have access.

That last click in the lock wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be, namely because I had a Farewell Party at 4 across town, and I was scrubbing down the shower with one hand while washing my hair with the other at 3:15. What was strangely vindicating and satisfying was my last load of gear to the car. I'd already put on heels, a skirt, and a sweater and I was navigating the steps (care..full..y!). The little 6 year old girl across the street stopped on her scooter and just looked and looked from her driveway. I waved at her, and she said, "You look pretty."

In an eyeblink we traded places, and I knew she was seeing adulthood (and womanhood) in all the glory and beauty we slap on the canvas at six. The frame of experience and pain, which gives any woman her context, is still outside her perspective. Thankfully.

I made it to the Farewell Party, notable for the fact that we stopped midway through and realized that not one of us had every been able to sit and eat a meal together. No one was sharing their food off their plate, we could all talk at a reasonable level. We just sat and looked at each other for a minute when I brought it up.

Then there was the key drop off, and the long ride to Sacramento, and bed. There's supposed to be another Farewell Party tonight, but probably not as rowdy as the one we had last night. We ended up at the Cornerstone Cafe this morning, looking like poster children for the Detox Tank at Santa Rita.

I'd write more, but Blogger is going offline in a few minutes. I'll catch up this evening.