Thursday, December 15, 2011

leaving Warsaw

At some point I have to shut down this feeling of having returned,  of being back in Poland and push it off to the side. And, I have to admit it, I relax then. I sleep better. Warsaw is behind me. I can return to a gentler beat.

The last morning in Warsaw. Bags packed, downstairs, waiting for the preset hour of departure. I have a few minutes for a stroll, just around the residential blocks by the hotel. There’s a café, I go inside. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. An espresso would be good. I look around...

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DSC01370 reminds me a little of something I’d find in an artsy district of an American city. With a Polish twist, sure. The napkins are tucked into holders on each table, the cookies are different, all that. Still, I order my coffee thinking that it’s right for this place -- more fitting than having tea with lemon.

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One foot into the door of an impending return.

We’re in a cab, on our way to the airport. I’ve stopped speaking Polish for good. What for. I’m chatting with my friends about being on the early side. Our driver chimes in, in English and tells how bad the traffic was just a half hour ago. Be glad you’re early. You never know.

He talks about his own recent travels – delays due to the volcanic issues in Iceland last spring. His English is rocky and for a minute I’m sorry I’m making it harder for him but I don’t want to end the camouflage so late into the ride. But he is bold and happy to keep going.
We were traveling back from a trip my wife and I took and just before our flight took off for Warsaw, they shut down the airport and all of Europe! We had to stay an extra week, my mother had to take time off from work to come over and walk our dog, it was a mess!

I smile at his stories. Then I ask -- So, where did you learn English? It's always interesting to find out where someone's language skills come from.   It tells you a lot about a person’s life. Indeed:
Ha! In London!
You lived there?
Well yes, for eight years! I go there to visit a friend for four days. Four days! Then, my friend breaks his foot and asks me to stay and help him for a few months with his job, you know, until his foot heals. I said ok. I call my family and tell them – four more months. And that turned into eight years!

But he returned. My own adult trip to the US began with a summer in Connecticut and eventually turned into a lifetime away. I became an immigrant without at least initially intending to be that, even as I could not imagine returning to Poland again once I’d settled into a life on the American side of the ocean.

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I leave Poland. Good bye Poland. I’ll think about you again when I write my book this summer. Probably not a whole lot before. Not intensely anyway. I’m leaving that intensity behind, sort of like leaving a spare set of clothing behind so that you don’t have to pack new stuff for your future returns.


  1. Thank you for taking us along on your latest trip. Your writing and photos bring such a personal view to us and are the next best thing to walking along with you. (Some readers may prefer reading about your travels to walking with you, considering your incredible energy.) Reading about your outing to Rynias to visit your friend Pani Anna unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes. I knew someone like Pani Anna who lived in an out of the way place surrounded by mountains. The photo of you and your father is quite touching. Both my parents are gone, so I was happy to see you visiting your father. I have to comment on your photos—you have a photojournalistic eye for capturing scenes of beauty and grace filled with meaning. A few days ago you wrote of "...The older (my age) women of Warsaw..." and "(So why does it not feel to me like they are my age?)" Our perception of age is a funny thing, isn't it?. I heard a joke the other day about two guys drinking in a bar, one says, "See those two old men over there...that's what we'll look like in ten years", the other guy says, "You idiot! That's us in the mirror". My Polish mother-in-law, who turns 101 years old next Monday, continues to talk about "all those old people" at church. Those "old people" are only in their 80s! Thank you for taking us to the "home" of your past, even as you return to your new "home". It was a beautiful trip, perfectly shared.

  2. dande, thank you. So very much.


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