Wednesday 24 April 2019

Polish Encounters

The group of youngsters on the flight from Amsterdam to Gdansk were so loud that it was impossible to read and so I tried to meditate which, needless to say, was even less possible and so I decided to be angry at these Polish youth who I later discovered were Dutch.

Two Ukrainian women in their forties who spoke little English (my knowledge of Ukrainian is zero) were waiting at Gdansk airport for the bus to town. They had cleaning jobs in a nearby hotel; their Polish salaries were double of what they would have been paid in the Ukraine. On the ride to town one of the two rediscovered her English. Back home she had been a bank clerk, in Moscow a health administrator. It was a war-like situation in the Ukraine, she said, with lots of financial difficulties. There is no difference between politicians and crooks, as far as I'm concerned, I replied ... and she agreed.
"My" hotel is situated in a big yellow brick building that houses the music academy and happens to be just a short walk from the picturesque old town. Despite the rainy and very windy weather, the streets were full of tourists, mostly from Scandinavia and Germany, I was told.

What brought you here? a local woman in her sixties whom I had asked for directions wanted to know. I have no idea, I said. I only knew that it was by the sea and that the highly unreadable (at least for me) German writer Günther Grass hailed from Gdansk. Also, the flight/hotel-package was a bargain – well, in the end it wasn't for I had mistakenly booked April 1 (!) as my return flight instead of March 18 and so I had to buy yet another (regular) plane ticket.
Gdynia is a good half hour by train from Gdansk. When I asked a young woman for the way to the port she said that she wasn't too sure for she was from Gdansk and only knew where to find her doctor. She then continued to tell me about her life and I learned that she was pregnant, had already had two miscarriages, that her husband number two was Brazilian and that she soon would visit São Paulo for the first time. 

In a cafe, I ended up chatting with a Polish-English couple in their thirties (she was Polish, he was English and they had moved from London to a small town nearby) for about two hours ... it was an intensive and most fascinating tour d'horizon ranging from life in Poland to questions about values, philosophy and and and ... there was hardly anything we left out ...
Another pretty intense conversation I had with a female medical doctor on my flight back. The range of topics that we covered during the ninety-minute flight to Munich was amazing – from whether there is destiny (of course there is) to the size of planes (I've never been on such a small plane, she said, upon which I told her of a very small one {the toilet was used to store luggage} I once traveled on in Laos).

To me, going places essentially means to expose myself to a different environment. I know that what I expose myself to will somehow influence me. How exactly I do not know but when now looking back to my few days in Gdansk it is like watching a movie.

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