Poznan is a city with a rich history going back more than a thousand years. It is among the oldest cities in Poland and it was here that the first Polish rulers settled but it has now become a modern, vibrant city with a population of nearly 600,000, over 130,000 of whom are students. It is the capital of the Wielkopolska region in west-central Poland, approximately 170 miles from Poland's capital, Warsaw and the same distance from Berlin, Germany. Poznan has its own international airport making it easy to reach, even from Ireland, so hopefully we can expect lots of visitors who will be excited to see what Poznan has to offer them!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Week 9: Monday 5th – Sunday 11th April 2010

During this week the Polish people experienced a great loss on a national level. On Saturday morning a plane crashed killing the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, his wife and the 94 other people onboard, many of them significant leaders in Poland’s government. A week of national mourning was declared and I’ve seen first hand how the Poles are reacting to the tragedy. From almost every balcony in the city you can see the Polish flag flying with the poignant black strips hanging alongside it as a mark of mourning. This was a hugely significant event which has really shaken up the people. Shops and businesses closed on the day of the accident and the day which followed, and the rest of the week many forms of entertainment such as concerts and performances have been cancelled as a mark of respect. In terms of the university, classes have been cancelled on Wednesday as some special ceremonies and services will take place, however my schedule hasn’t been changed. I think that no matter how the population felt about the President during his time in office, they are all shocked and saddened by his death especially as it comes along with the death of so many others. While I’m in Poland I try to keep an eye on the news in Northern Ireland and for the first time this week I kind of felt like I was looking at Northern Ireland from a foreigner’s viewpoint and my objective outlook made me really see the difficulties that we still have in our own country. For some reason I didn’t think about it so much when I was in the country!

Anyway, back in Poland, the week began for me with a few days of holidays after the Easter weekend. On Monday I took the opportunity to visit the old zoo in Poznań (we have two zoos here, one called the ‘old zoo’ and one the ‘new zoo’!). Anna and I visited the aquariums and reptile enclosures which were very cheap to visit. Everywhere else in the zoo was free to visit! It was actually quite an amazing experience for me because I can’t remember the last time I was in a zoo! For me, seeing all the different varieties of fish especially just had me in awe at the creativity of their maker. However, seeing all the different snakes just made me want to leave the building! I spent the rest of the evening in a friend’s flat until we went out for dinner in the stary rynek.

The next day was not so eventful as practical things like the washing had to be taken care of! However in the evening I went out to the cinema with a friend to see ‘Remember Me’. It clearly wasn’t very popular though because there were only two other people in the entire room! The film was good but the journey home was more entertaining! When we got out of the cinema, which is in a shopping centre, we were directed out through various doors and down long corridors and eventually through an eerily quiet and dimly lit shopping mall. It soon became clear that we didn’t know how to get out of the building - we were trapped! In the end we walked through the car park and just kept walking until we reached the nearest tram stop. It was a humorous adventure for us both.

Polish classes continue to be the main academic focus of my week and my Polish seems to be progressing sufficiently well in comparison to the rest of the class at least. I love my class because they are such a varied bunch with interesting stories to tell. However, I’ve resolved that it is impossible to learn Polish grammar in Polish. Words and phrases I can grasp but to try to learn grammatical structures in anything other than English is too much for me. Having said that, I’m not sure that having it explained in English would be of much benefit because we just don’t have anything like it. I say it every week, but I still need to spend more time studying Polish outside class if I’m going to keep up and remember it when I get home.

On Thursday I attended my statistics class in which we are jut getting on to Normal Distribution. It shouldn’t excite me as much as it does but I can’t help it; I love it! Statistics always brings back very fond memories of maths classes in school days because I studied many of the same things back then. It is all proving very useful to me in this course and it helps me to stay ahead of the rest of the class, however, this means that I’m often having to wait for help to move on and it can get a little boring actually (but only when I’ve got nothing to do). That afternoon I broke my trend and went to Carrefour (a large French store available all over Europe) instead of Tesco! I love Carrefour! You can buy anything you want there, quite literally. Anyway…I got what I needed!

Finally I have something school related to discuss again because on Friday I visited a Polish ‘middle-school’ (gimnazjum) because I wanted to experience what it would be like to be a teacher of English as a foreign language. Children in Poland have to start school at age 6, they attend primary school for 6 years and then move to the ‘gimnazjum’ for 3 years before going on to high school for a final 3 years. Therefore the school I visited was for children aged 12-15 and it was located out in the suburbs of Poznań in a beautiful open area with picturesque views over the Polish countryside. It was idyllic. I could easily work there! One of the girls in my Polish class is a French language assistant in the school and so she put me in touch with one of the English teachers. I spent the day observing in the English classes and I really enjoyed it. It has made me consider teaching English in another country for a while before I teach primary school children. Also, I used to feel like I couldn’t teach children older than those in my primary classes but I now feel confident and old enough to do so, and think I would really enjoy it. Teaching a language seems like a lot of fun! The school has about 300 pupils altogether and was very modern looking as it was only built in 1999/2000 after the education system was reformed to include this new age range they call gimnazjum. After getting the bus home I headed out to lunch with a bunch of Spanish students, had some good conversations and then went to the gym which I only started going to because it is free and is in my building! That evening I went out with some friends from Germany and Finland who were in the mood to dress up judging by this photo!

On Saturday I had a lovely afteroon with Cristian and the Spaniards which began with a very kind host providing me with an amazing tuna and pasta dish and fresh salad followed by dessert. I reckon I could start to like tuna after that! [ :-) !!] . It was delicious and I was very appreciative! The rain came on but that didn’t dampen our spirits as we explored the museum in the town hall. Unfortunately, it was near closing time and we didn’t get to see everything. Luckily, I had already seen everything on a previous visit so I was happy enough! That evening I had to spend some time preparing for Sunday School which Cris and I were leading the following day. It was great to be able to help out in church by taking Sunday School and it was exciting to find out some things behind the scenes like where certain things are kept, etc, because it made me feel more involved and part of the Church. After a restful afternoon I joined some Erasmus friends in a quaint little café. It makes me so happy hanging out with these people. It has been good to meet so many great people from around Europe and to simply spend time with them. I hope I spend the rest of my time wisely and keep building on these relationships which are so important to me before I have to leave them all behind in Poland. :-(

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