Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Among the Sights of Krakow

I know I shouldn't laugh. But when I underscored to translator and organizer that it must be made clear in advance that I am giving my May Retreat lectures in English, I didn't expect to end up as a Polish English-language attraction.

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Listen, if you live in Europe, and you're a GIRL, and Single, and you like my stuff, you should probably sign up, go to Krakow for three days and hang out with me. It's a beautiful city, and quite a lot of people there speak English. The liturgies--and two of the lectures--will be in Polish, but so what? It's an Indo-European language--like Latin!

If you're Catholic and you haven't been in a solidly Catholic culture for awhile, you will be staggered by the Catholicity of Poland. I spent my last supper there murmuring "Never change" to my puzzled but gratified marketing director.

Ignore Polish friends who mutter that Poland isn't as pious as it used to be. Just hang around and watch how many people go to Daily Mass. In Krakow there are frequent John Paul II tours, too. The local food is extremely delicious, and Lent will be over, so hey.

One of the very funny things about preparing for this retreat is that my principal Polish language program is not interested in theology or single life or business but in asking people out on dates. I am on Pimsleur Chapter 12, and we have got to "Hello Ewa, this is Bartek speaking. Would you like to have supper with me tomorrow at six?" This is an advance on earlier chapters, where there is no planning but a frank, forward "Would you like to drink something? Coffee? Beer?"

Did I mention the fire-breathing dragon? There's a fire-breathing dragon. Apart from me, I mean.

I believe it costs 200 złoty for room, board and listening to little me for three days, which is laughably small when you consider that there is something like 4 zł to the £.*

*Sorry I got that reversed earlier. I am shockingly stupid about mathematical calculations of any kind.


Rachel said...

I am in France and would like to go. Do you have any advice about getting from here to there? (I will probably look into trains, as I am skeptical of Ryan Air, etc.)

Also, is there a deadline for registering?

Seraphic said...

Goodness! I know nothing at all about travel from France. I don't know much about the housekeeping aspects of the retreat either. But you could follow the links and contact the Redemptorsts.

Jam said...

I have the French Pimsleur tapes and haven't gotten very far; but I was amused to find that the first conversation places you, the learner, in the position of a man on a train trying to strike up conversation with some random girl.

Seraphic said...

Goodness, that sounds like Pimsleur's Polish, where right from the start an American man tries to strike up a conversation with a random Polish woman.

I wonder what the philosophy behind this is. Is the most basic, necessary and desirable communication urge of men the chatting up of women? And if so, ought there not to be separate Pimsleur courses for women based on what we find most basic, necessary and desirable?

For example, when I am in a foreign country, my first instinct is to find myself safely behind a friendly door with a roof over my head. Thus, in my perfect Pimsleur for Women programme, very early on one would learn to say (to a woman), "Excuse me. Do you speak English? No? Do you know where the taxi rank is?"

Come to think of it, I do know how to say that. "Gdjie jest" (where is) is crucial to my peace of mind, and I would not have been able to get on my flight without it.

Occasionally Polish friends grumble about Englishmen going to Krakow to get drunk and to their home villages to buy drinks for all the village maidens. Although I can see how Englishmen (and Americans) would come up with these ideas on their own, I wonder if language programs aren't somewhat to blame. I think my program has made me repeat "Would you like something to drink?" hundreds and hundreds of times. And the Polish lady in the program almost always says, "Yes, gladly." Mr American doesn't get turned down for a date until Chapter 12 when he tries to pick up a saleslady.

Come to think of it, I am slightly surprised that the Pimsleur people have introduced a Polish rival to the amorous hopes of the American man I am supposed to be. But maybe that is more psychology and the threat of losing Ewa to Bartek is supposed to goad the flagging learner to carry on to Chapter 13.

Urszula said...

As a Polish girl who lived in France for over 2 years, I can tell you it's quite simple to get from one country to the other, depending on which city you live in, of course!

If you book early enough you can get a normal (not 'low cost') ticket to Warsaw or Krakow for 150-300 euro (round trip). Wizzair flies from Paris Beauvais to Warsaw and is reliable, surprisingly. I would avoid trains - it will be an expensive, long, and fairly uncomfortable journey (over 24 hours nonstop travel when you can do it in 4, for less money? The choice seems simple!)

Good luck and enjoy Poland!

Rachel said...

Thank you, Urszula!

Jam said...

I strongly support the idea of Pimsleur for women -- I keep getting distracted thinking, "leave that poor girl alone!" And I was surprised by how... annoyed I was being constantly cast as a man. I imagine it's doubly annoying for a Canadian!

Jess said...

I'm so excited that you're going to Poland! I went in 2007 when I was studying abroad in Austria and I loved it. The food is fantastic and the people are wonderful :) Have a great time! Wish I could join you

berenike said...

A FUS student!