Foreign Country Reflux

Cześć! If this is a book, then this is definitely a new chapter or something. I even started a new Word doc in order to bask in the inconsequential fact that this part of my life is somehow different from the rest. The last Word doc, started on May 31st, 2010, is 188 pages and 115,347 words. The average novel is around 64,000 words. Did I really ramble for almost 2 books about my adventures in Peace Corps Armenia?

As hard as it is sometimes to accept that the grand Armenian journey is now over, I must do so. It’s time to move on. And that’s exactly what I’m doing by becoming gainfully employed and truly contributing to society once again, rather than living off of the government’s teat as a white-knight grass roots development worker in the developing world watching Game of Thrones on my laptop instead of integrating in the community.

Oh, wait. No. Nope. I am unemployed and hanging out in Europe. Specifically, I am writing you from Poznań, Poland. Not sure where it is? Don’t worry. Not sure how to pronounce the name of the city with that funny n thing? Don’t worry, me neither.

As we all know, Poznań is just southwest of Bydgoszcz

This is the part where we talk about how it’s going. The first week went really quickly because I was searching for an apartment. The second week went pretty quickly too. It is pretty cool to get to feel the European side of things again. After all, Armenia was a big mashup of Europe, Middle East, and Asia, so it’s fun to experience something that reminds me of that special place. As I predicted, it was a breath of fresh air to be here after struggling with a few things about the culture of my own country. And since I’d been here before, it wasn’t such a huge shock to come back.

But. There’s always a but. I never stayed here for more than 10 days. I was never anything more than a tourist. And the tourist experiences the country in a certain way while a resident (or perhaps I’m a long-term tourist) sees it differently. That sets the stage for the main idea of this post, which is that foreign countries will give you heartburn.

I don’t actually have heartburn guys. But recently I do feel all agitated as if I have some serious esophageal burnination going on. It’s not one big pain in the ass but rather death by a thousand paper cuts.

It’s not just that I’m back to hand washing laundry again in some cruel twist of fate. It’s that the sun hasn’t come out for days. It’s that I have to sort my garbage. It’s that my windows are drafty. It’s that the water tastes a little different. It’s that I don’t understand anything, again. It’s that I’m not quite sure how to do anything. It’s that the electric water heater always manages to run out of hot water before I’m done with my speed shower. It’s that the toilet seat doesn’t stay up. It’s that the whole bathroom is the size of the bathtub in an American bathroom. It’s that the cashiers and clerks are more miserable than Sally Struthers on Slimfast. It’s that they have way too many coins and everybody wants exact change. It’s that life is lived according to the train schedule instead of according to what you feel like doing. It’s that I make countless comparisons to life in Armenia when in fact THIS IS NOT ARMENIA. It’s that I’m not really sure what I’m doing with myself or what will be. And it’s also that I somehow need to figure it out while getting over this stuff.

Poland is cool. I like a lot of things about this place. But it is still a foreign country for me, and one that I’m not at all used to yet. It’s only been 2 weeks. That’s nothing. I need way more time to get used to the way things are here and to accept what I cannot change. Over time it will get a lot less frustrating and instead become endearing to me. The language scales will ever-so-slowly tip in my favor if I put in enough work. If anything this is a slap in the face and a reminder of just how hard and insane Armenia was in the first months.

So, we’re back to celebrating small victories in life. Today I bought bread. That was my victory. It was the first time that I went to a bakery that has everything behind the counter (which requires ::GASP:: speaking!). I was nervous about it. I thought about it a lot. It seemed like something that could wait until I was curled up in the fetal position with my muscles atrophying from starvation. But on my gooey inside I just knew that going into that bakery was my battle for today. I walked in and looked around carefully. My eyes zeroed in on my loaf of choice. The lady in front of me paid and the clerk’s head popped around the side.

“Proszę.”

Swallow. Execute speech command, Slavic style! I did my best to regurgitate my practiced line of, “that bread please.”

It worked. Fiat currency was exchanged for some chleb (bread). And now my victory is digesting in my stomach. That’s good enough for today.

I can build on this. And I can eat it!

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4 Responses to “Foreign Country Reflux”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Good on you, Kevin!

  2. Peter Says:

    *Since Kevin wrote this Germany, Russia, and the former Soviet Union invaded Poland.

    Sorry, too soon, too soon!

    I loved the Sally Struthers comment.

  3. Wayne Burt Says:

    Thanks. Now I know my first three Polish words. By the time you are done, I should be just as fluent in Polish as I was in Armenian.

  4. icenugget Says:

    I’m just happy that you guys stuck around to read what happened next!

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