Thursday, December 06, 2018


Sometimes when I travel I am mesmerized by the landscape that passes by me, or if it's air travel -- passes below me. At other times, it is as if I am in a bubble, just vaguely aware of the physical world through which I am speeding. Not completely tuned out, but not tuned in either.

I'd say this trip is more of the latter mode. I'm navigating through familiar, comfortable airports. The weather is blessedly unexceptional. In flight, a glance tells me we're over a lake, another that we're over the ocean. I eat, I doze.

It's a form of self preservation. I am coming off of a busy set of weeks and I will be returning to one that can only be busier. And my week away is not exactly slow paced. I'm in Warsaw for only three nights -- here to see friends and my sister. That is the sole purpose of these short visits to "the old country." I soak in nothing, indulge myself not at all, do no exploration. I just want to spend time with the people who matter to me over here. So it's all rather hectic and because of this (and because I have hacked my way with that blasted cough for the better part of Fall), I try to space out during the actual time in transit.

Still, in closing myself off in my tiny bubble, I never once underestimate this huge momentum of change that happens as I move further and further from home. It is the lesson of travel -- it at once underscores how close you feel to those you must leave behind and, too, it humbles you. All those convictions, routines, habits, beliefs -- they may feel rock solid back home, but when you venture out, you understand how puny your little enclave is. The world is vast, complicated and beautiful. In travel, as you slog through all the inconvenience, hassle, perturbation, you are never more than a breath away from something beautiful.

So, humbled, tired, missing, eager to see everyone in Warsaw -- this is what I fly with. Landing in Detroit, then Paris (a minute's pause to drink a steamy milky coffee and munch on a croissant)...


And finally -- Warsaw.

I arrive in the early afternoon.

The suitcase does not arrive with me.

There's no reason for it to be delayed -- unless someone unpacked it and is having a feast! I'm told it's in Paris. I can only hope it'll make its way eventually to my Tamka home.

Ah, my Tamka home. Tamka is the name of the Warsaw street where the old prewar building still stands. (It's the one with the stack of oddly shaped balconies.)


My apartment is on the third floor (no elevator!).  Is it home? Of course it is. (As always, it benefits from the tender oversight by my sister. Christmas lights, poinsettia and all.)


My sister is with me now. We set out to the mega grocery store (Carrefour) across the river. I must shop for tomorrow's big Tamka dinner.

It's really quite odd to be shopping at this French chain here, right by the Dworzec Wilenski -- this is the station from which trains head to the north and east of Warsaw. It is where we would take the train to my grandparents' village home. Great big lumbering locomotive, pulling wagons filled with village people: women with foods, school kids, men -- sometimes sober, sometimes not so much, and us -- two city kids on our way to village life.

Today, my sister and I catch an efficient new metro toward the station. Carrefour is in the belly of a shopping mall and Christmas decorations abound. It's not as if we didn't have decorations sixty years ago, but they didn't abound.


Late, late in the evening, my suitcase arrives.

I unpack quickly. Did all my foods pass inspection? Yep, all there. Even the bunch of cilantro, because I wasn't sure I'd find cilantro in Poland. (Did you know that cilantro is the same as coriander? Did you know that certain Germanic and Ashkenazi Jewish people have a gene that causes them to be revulsed by its taste? Ed is one such person -- he tells me it's like eating soap.)

Familiar foods, purchased there, appearing here, on my Warsaw kitchen counter -- how wistfully warm it feels to see it all before me now!


Time to unwind. Rest up. Exhale.