Michael Criswell
2004-05 Outbound to Poland
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
School: Bartram Trail High School
Sponsor: Bartram Trail Rotary Club
Host: Łódź Rotary Club, District 2230, Poland

September 15 Journal

When I first got out of the airport and saw Warsaw and Poland I had to ask myself what the hell was I doing here! Poland is not the place you see in the pictures, at least the ones I was looking at! Here it's a beautiful mess, you have to either love it or hate it and so far I love it! You can still see the effects of WWII and things here are not kept up.

I feel like I am at home until I hear someone speak Polish or when we drive down the road at 140 km an hour on horribly paved roads and going the wrong way to pass a car, while another is coming your way and you barely miss it thanks to speed! No, it's not that bad, but it does give you an adrenaline rush! I will never complain about U.S. drivers again!

I really can't say that I fit in yet or am picking up things because I have been traveling Poland for the last 3 weeks. The 1st week I was in my parents' country house and the other two were in Lublin and in Toruq. I do however have some vocabulary in my head but it comes and goes as it pleases.

On another note I don't think it's ever possible to escape walking down an aisle dedicated to 20 different types of mayo and mowing the lawn!

Okay, back to the country house, it was wonderful! Everyday I could walk down the dirt road and go swimming in the lake, it was cold, but I could do it. Everything we ate was great and fresh, like: eggs, cream, cheese, and cottage cheese, wait one more...eel! Most of the stuff we could get down the road is from "our farmers", as my host mom calls them. My 3rd day in Poland my host mom let me wonder Plock for 2 hours BY MYSELF! At that time all I could say was tak and nie (yes and no).

My 1st day of school was yesterday September 13th. School went well, but when it was time to go I had to take the tramvi (tram) back home. I was dropped off by car that morning and the worst thing is I had to take two tramvis to get home. So I got on #12 and I went until I hit downtown. I hopped off because the traffic was really bad and I could walk the rest of the way to the next tramvi. So I hopped onto #11 and kept riding and riding and riding it..... where am I. I'm in the next town... I know at some point that it will turn around and go back, so I keep on going and going and going.... I'm in another town! I know it will turn around sometime and it finally does. I find myself back in Lodz, I'm SO lost! I saw two police officers going by on the tramvi so I get off and ask them if they could help me. They escort me to where some taxis are and I took one home. The journey home should have cost me $0.25, but the whole journey was around $5.00. My lil' adventure was about 4 HOURS LONG! No one was happy with me that night .......after they came back from looking for me.

Well on a good note I think my body finally adjusted to the Polish food, I just have to watch out for the cabbage! Lol

Other random things.... toilets are different here, you have to walk around the house in slippers, some people don't use deodorant, lunch (dinner) is around 2-2:30. My school is one of the best in Lodz and it does not have a lunchroom so you eat in the halls. There is one other exchange student in Lodz who lives across town. Lodz is the 2nd largest city in Poland, their are about 50-60 exchange students total in Poland. Another thing is strange, you can leave milk out on the counter for a long time. I think I lost some weight, the scales are European, so don't get too excited (I know this from experience). I also had to buy a new camera already because the one I brought with me broke. I have not been able to find Fuji film 400 anywhere, just Kodak 200. If you want nice pictures I need Fuji film 400 and higher.

Anyways.....I just wanted to shout to all of my friends I left behind in the states and to tell my folks that I love them.



November 1 Journal


Okay it's been awhile since I have entered a journal entry. So, after my 1st week in Plock at my parent's country house, I came back to Łódź for about 2 days, then I left for Lublin for a week and a half, for a language camp. Yeah, it was a blast, during the day we would tour Lublin or nearby towns. We even went to a spa. I also got to see a death camp, near Lublin, called Maidanek that was a really sad part of the trip. After that we would all head back to our dorms and eat lunch then we would walk to our lessons, they were about 3 hours everyday. It was hard to understand because she didn't speak English, this was just an eye opener for later. At night we could roam "Old Town" which is the older part of Lublin. We could go there and go to a pub, sit and talk, ya know the normal stuff. Throughout our stay we had a guide/mom to take care of us during the day, and sometimes at night. Justyna (guide) even went with us on the train to Toruq for our Rotary meeting, but she didn't stay and left on the next train back to Lublin.

The meeting was for another 3 days, and it was right after the language camp. At the Rotary meeting we all met the other exchange students within Poland. There are 60 of us in Poland (some were missing). We all went home on the train, some of us in different directions, but on the train you meet a lot of different people. You remember the ones that drool in their sleep and wake up to drool still dangling from their lip, after this moment laughing was the hardest thing to keep from doing. When I got home I tried to have a normal routine, but proved impossible.

My class went to London for a week, but I didn't go because they had already planned it and it was a little short notice for me and them. The class has one crazy teacher, too bad, he is a History teacher. I even fell asleep in his class and everyone knew, they tell me that he doesn't like me. But who cares, he's crazy! There has been a lot of boring days at school, but I still manage.

On one weekend I helped my host-mom take care of the graves of her grandfather, mother and father. The first one was stone so I had scrubbed it and I also went and fetched water. Now her father's grave was set up like a flower bed, but....there were no flowers in it!! There were weeds to my waist with concert soil, so I ended up pulling all of them while she went off to buy flowers. This was an experience no matter good or bad!

I was even invited to a Polish b-day party by someone I didn't even know, but he knew me. When you turn 18 in Poland it's like turning 21 in the US. Just use your imagination. The next day I came down with a stomach virus, I was out all day with it. Before this I had a cough and the whole family swore I had the flu so I had to stay home for two days. I wasn't sick, I just had a cough and the runny nose.

What is really good, every day after school I come home to eat dinner (lunch). You don't eat dinner at school it is more like a snack. Everything here is so healthy, I even lost weight when Rotary said I would gain some.

AHH now is the time I left for Berlin! Okay on the 13th I got on the train to Warsaw about 2 hours away to meet Abby and some others.....Warsaw has like 3 stops so on the ticket it tells me the very last one, I thought Warsaw was supposed to look nice. Wrong, I was to get off in Central station which I didn't see the sign. So, I got off on the rundown station on the other side of town. So luckily I got on the train to Berlin and meet up with Abby, Laura, Felipe and some of the kids from Mexico. This was a 7-hour train ride and while we were on the train they decided to tell me that we didn't have reservations for us (Abby and I), but no one had them for the first night either (good planning). We went to the Hostel and they didn't have any rooms left so they reserved a room for us on other side of Berlin. The kids from Mexico decided to leave us and get another hotel instead. The four of us that were left headed off on the S-Bahn (tram) to the other side of Berlin to get to our hostel. We all get off the tram and we all have our luggage. I see a bum's cart and threw all our luggage into it. I decided to take it for a spin. It was fun!!!! WOOT! We pulled up in our pimp cart with people outside staring at our ride. I paid for the hostel and we pulled up to our stairs and parked the cart. Oh, by the way a hostel is different than a hotel; a hostel is where you have bunk-beds and you can choose the option to be with strangers. This is when I found out what a hostel was! This was our private room with 4 bunks, we didn't have a bathroom, so we have to use a public one. It was really nice... we're in BERLIN!! Felipe brought all his food b/c it's really expensive in Berlin. He had a can of pork and we opened it and God was it nasty!!!! So I opened the window and threw the pork out the window and left the can on the ledge. We got up around 10:00am and got online to see what we wanted to do for the day. Ohh the bum took back his cart that night.

At the other hostel that we were to stay at, there was a sex museum right next to it. So we went to that for about 2 hours, then around 2:00pm we went on a free tour of Berlin for about 3 hours. We got to see a lot of things... and our guide was really good... we went back to the hostel right next to the sex shops in the middle of Berlin, it was a very nice area, but as soon as you step out off the stairs to the hostel you see "Bar 69"and a sign "WORLD OF SEX". That's the best place to put a hostel. Anyways, after all that we did, we waited for the other group that was to arrive on day (14th). On the 15th the four of us went on a bike tour that was cool, we did see the same things plus more b/c it was about 17euro plus a guide and we were on bikes. That night we all went on this Club tour, for 10 euro they take you to 4 clubs/pubs. Let's just say I had a really good time! On the day of the 16th I went out by myself to explore parts of Berlin that I didn't see before. I even found a book seller on the side of the road where I bought a gift for my god parents. This was the day I found out that I didn't have any money when I tried to withdraw some from my account. Thank god I bought food for the week. After about 4 hours around Berlin by foot I came back on the S-Bahn and found that Julie (a girl from Australia) was now in our room; for 2 nights it was just 3 of us in a 10 person bedroom. Julie is hard of hearing which is cool b/c because my 2nd language is ASL, but I knew that Aussie sign was different. So that night her and I talked about sign and she even taught me some Australian sign while I taught her more of ASL. Everyone decided to go to the club so I stayed behind, I didn't have any money.

I recommended the tours we went on, so the next day (17th), I went with her on the free tour to help translate. The guide was bouncing around to much she couldn't see his lips and I couldn't hear him very well too, so I translated for her what I learned two days before. She paid for a couple of things for me because of what I was doing for her and of course like me, I said "thank you" like a 100 times for something really inexpensive. I even showed her things that the tour didn't go on. Monday I was to go home, but I told my host parents I was to be home on Sunday, oops! Plus, my phone was dead and had some stupid code lock on it and I had no money! So Monday we were to start heading home on the train at 6:31am, but..... I was misdirected so many times that I missed the train!! I was so mad, I had to force a smile on my face to the lady that I bought my ticket from! I returned to the hostel and sat in the lobby. I had to wait until 12:00pm so I was going to wait for Julie to get up so I could eat with her. To my surprise I was not the only one that missed the train, Laura and Felipe missed it too! So I had company. I ate with Julie and we said our goodbyes and she left to tour more of Berlin. Laura, Felipe and I got on the train but we had to split up, but I got to see them two times afterwards. I got home around 9:00pm and was yelled at for an hour, then I took a shower and stayed up some and went to bed. The next day they let me sleep in and skip school.

Ahh, but the best thing is... I got a haircut!! It's been about two months and I needed one before I left, yeah it was a big mop on my head. Now I look like every other Polish boy, I have a military cut.

Well again I left town on the 26th of Oct. my host mom and I left for Krynica Zdrsi she was to stay in a private spa and I was to stay in a hotel by myself. But during the day she was to leave to go to the next town in Nowycz at the High Business School (college), one of, or the best in Poland. She gives lectures to her students. Well for me there isn't much in Krynica. I think I saw everything in 4 hours, that also included hiking and getting lost. But this town is famous for its spring water. They have a place where you can try about 4 different types of spring water. UWAGA!!! All water tastes really bad, some taste like sulphur and one like salt water. So I guess this was my time to relax and do nothing and that's what I did. But on the way back (29th)the trip should have taken 4 hours but we hit all kinds of traffic. but when there are 30 cars on the road its called a jam here, I can only laugh if they came to Jacksonville during traffic hour, lol.

Oct. 30th we went for our grocery shopping, but when it was time to leave I was carrying the bags with a smoked eel head sticking out of the bag looking back at me. This is when I knew I really wasn't home. But I have really come accustomed to being here, it feels really normal and I also feel like part of the family. But I have to leave in December. :-(

Today on Oct. 31, my family went to the cemetery to celebrate "Saints Day" a day early, we put flowers and candles on all the graves of their ancestors. Then afterwards more family came to the house to eat dinner but they all ended up staying till supper. To me it felt more like Thanksgiving on Halloween, because it took us 6 hours to eat. During this we talked about memories of the past, we also ate everything off silver plates, dishes and silverware. It was really fancy, this would be the first I had a great meal on Halloween.

Well I really want to say THANK YOU Rotary! So far I'm having a really good time, I'm really happy that Al came to our school and then me taking the inspired whim to give the contact info to go through with the program. THANKS again! You too Al! I even had someone tell me that I have grown up more already [you know how you are ;) ]. Ohh, Al, Anna (my host-mom) sends her best Greetings!



P.S. I think I have had more fish here than I have ever had in FL....? :ponders:

January 9 Journal


From the last entry I have witnessed my town erupt into a riot! I believe every policeman in the town was there with riot gear on. Do you want to know why this happened? There was a soccer match between two teams in Lodz. I was in the downtown area when this happened, I could hear the teams chanting their songs in Polish over the sirens and the traffic jam. After I witnessed several policemen running in a perfect march I made sure that my friend Marta got on her bus safely and I left myself.

As some history, there have been many deaths at these games between the two teams, thank God no one died during this game.

Well I wasn't to move to my next host family until December 1st, but I was to visit them for a couple of days in Nov. Wednesday of that week I went out that night with my host sister, we went to "Club Cube". The next day for the first time I got to ride a horse, I rode English style. It was fun! Ohh ... ouch! After the horseback riding it took me an hour to get out of bed. Let's see Saturday, I went to downtown area of Lodz, the day started out good but as time went by I wasn't feeling so hot, so I called up one of my host sisters and asked if she could take me home. I almost didn't make it home, like I said before Polish roads aren't very good. I slept for about 3 hours and the rest of the time I was puking my guts up until 3 in the morning. The next day I was still not feeling so keen, but I got up to move around a bit and the dog attacked me! Yeah you heard right, the housekeeper is my witness. The dog chopped right down on my hand, I pulled up quickly and she followed. So now I'm at the point with my hand raised with a dog attached to it. This is no small dog either! On its back legs it's taller than me, I'm 5'11 so just use your imagination. So the housekeeper had to beat the dog off me. Puma, the dog only ripped the top layer of skin but a few weeks later I still feel where she bit me. Thank God I was wearing my new coat when Puma bit me - she had to bite though my coat and to my hand, she tore a little hole in it, but better the coat than my hand. The next day the housekeeper had a chance to get a whack at me! I was lying on the conch and reading a book. By psychic ability I got up right before the vacuum, from the second story, landed right where I was lying. During this time I stayed longer than I was expected, and all I could think that this family was out to get me!

Mom sent me a package containing peanut butter, vest, coat, 2 boxes of corn bread mix, can of pumpkin pie, 1 can of evaporated milk (for pumpkin pie), 3 books, socks, a pair of jeans, two pairs of sun glasses (which I don't need now, I haven't seen the sun in a month) Later when everyone was home, (1st host family) a couple of days later past Thanksgiving I cooked Thanksgiving for 6 people. Well... It was a lot harder; maybe the thought of it was harder than it sounds. Well Poland has nothing really, like the states so I had to make everything from scratch except pumpkin pie and corn bread! Well I had one thing missing, we didn't have a turkey! So we had chicken instead, I know this killer recipe that will never dry out your turkey/ chicken. But in the end, it turned out great, everyone was stuffed and I was happy. A few days later I left to my second host family.

While I was still living with my 1st host parents they left me home alone for two weeks, well the housekeeper came every other day to check up on me and to see if I had food or not. During this time I saw a couple of movies at the "Silver screen".

I forgot to tell but this new family lives outside of Lodz in the village of Biala. Just about everything is grown in their garden out back. Umm... I have 3 host sisters, Zuzia 16, Ann 19, and Ewa 26. Ewa's flat is being redone. My host parents (Mamo and Tato), own one of the two Ford Dealerships in Lodz. Both Grandmas visit often. I feel sorry for my host dad - he's the only male in the house, even all the pets are female. Tato and I both have one thing in common so far, we both like to take pictures! He has a really nice digital (Sony) camera that could make you cry.

One day I skipped school, I know it was wrong but I left my tooth brush at my last host parents so I had to go get it, but on the way back to school I've been wanting to stop for months at the market and look around. The smell of fresh vegetables and smelly old people really made me happy, I don't know why. But what I do know is that I was in another country and it was sunny which is rare in Lodz and the total atmosphere was great. So I left, I was in a better mood when I arrived back to school.

Poland isn't as cold as everyone said it would be, but it stays around 0-5C or higher around the Lodz area. The only thing that kills me is the wind!

Like I said I went to the movies a couple of times, most of them are American. But while I was watching "Sky Captain" I heard some people talking in English, after the movie I introduced myself and I found out they were from Kentucky! So we hung out for an hour at the mall. They were there because of a church group but they travel around a lot.

A funny thing happened, maybe you had to be there, but my Mamo told Zuzia and I to bring in some pots from the car, Zuzia told me later "I almost dropped it, I saw a Spiderman" I nearly dropped dead from laughter. But then I knew how much western culture is influencing the East.

Okay back to more traveling Dec. 15-17 I went with my host parents to Zackopane. This is a mountainous area of Poland, not the rolling type mountains that most of Poland has but ones that look very sharp and jagged. Before we got there we stopped to have a late dinner early supper at a restaurant. Mamo didn't know what to get me so she got me four soups, a potato pancake type thing, plus some beef and then she stuffed me with pierogi. I didn't eat anything until 12:00pm the next day. Ohh Zackopane is the best place I have been in Poland, it was so pretty! I had a tour guide, guide me around Zackopane all day on the 16th. He took me up a trail in the Mt. And then we saw some ski jumps then up one of the oldest cable cars in Europe. I was about 2km above sea level. I took many pictures and they turned out great. We had dinner and then saw a couple of museums and more of Zackopane. I had my own hotel again; my host parents had a meeting with all the Ford dealerships in Poland. As a gift Mamo bought me a traditional pin of this region to put on my Rotary Blazer. It was very nice gift, I thanked her many times.

Saturday the 11th I went with my host parents to a concert, classical music that is... but it ended up really good. The songs with the choir were the best. But during this one of the singers fell down/ sat down. I kinda got worried but she seemed okay, but that Monday a girl from my class introduced herself to me. She said she saw me at the concert and if I wanted I could get cheaper tickets if I wanted. But to finish her mother was the one that sat down, her mom did a concert the day before and was tired from practicing too.

Well my host sister goes to school number 4 and I go to 26. So I decided to try out this school, OMG it is ten times better than the school I was at. So now I go to school number 4. But the bad thing is I'm going to miss the friends I made at 26, but I'll have contact with them, it's just two trams away from school to school.

Well Rotary had another meeting for all the exchange students. Most of us came. We stayed in Wroclaw, south Poland. We were all to arrive at the hotel on Friday. The next day they took us around Wroclaw. The group of us were taken to the Panorama Raclawicka, which is a round painting but it has a 3-D detail with it and it's kinda trippy to watch one spot and then walk away from it, don't do this too much it could make you sick! They took us to the Mathematical Tower; it has a really nice view of Wroclaw. We were to make things for kids in hospitals but we never got to give them there gifts, plus not everyone knew about bringing the gifts. We made ribbon things with international greetings on them to hang on x-mas trees in the Market Place, then after dinner we were to hang them, then sing x-mas carols. But we only hung the ribbons, but later that night we found them all over the Market Place, so it was a waste of time plus a big mess for someone else. Ohh and we didn't sing, thank God! But as exchange students we know how to turn anything fun. Really the only thing I have to complain about is the lack of food! I was starving the whole time. But it was ten times better than the Torun meeting. Another thing Rotary even gave us warm wine to drink during the meeting. A lot of people didn't drink it, but I thought it really good. Lets see the next day I left and Tato picked me up from the train station.

Well we had to go and pick up Ann from a "Main street" but we found her at the pub and she really liked this guy. Her father comes in says hi and sits down with them, let's just say that Tato got an ear full later in the car about how he embarrassed her. I had a part in the embarrassment too, but that's way too boring. But when we got home Zuzia told us she had something better than that. Her father came into the club and walked over to the DJ and got him to announce, "Zuzia Mieszek, please go to the exit, your daddy is waiting." Yeah I know I would be the same way. But later Zuzia shows us 3 video clips of her dancing, Ann and I almost or did die from laughter.

Christmas came around and that was completely different! On Christmas Eve you have a 12-course meal with many family members. Then you have 3 days of Christmas. During this time all you do is eat and eat and eat some more! Also I think I gained back all my weight that I lost during my stay in Poland, just in a few days. We also had many pictures taken during this time and some short videos. Tato didn't know that Ewa was recording, but he was just in his boxers and then he started to act like a monkey then to acting like he was showing off his muscles. Then Ewa says that she was recording, his face went white and closed the bathroom door.

New Years! On the 30th I went to Poznan to see a few exchange friends. They're all from different countries: India, Canada and the US. That Thursday it was raining so I didn't get to see Poznan, but we went to the center for New Years. They had a live concert playing but right at 10 min. the power went out. So we still had a count down anyways. We had a bottle of champagne with us so we shook it everywhere and on everyone. Then we each had a sip, that's how much was left. At the end bottles were everywhere smashed and people left by the dozens to the buses. So we went on an over crowded bus, we got off and had a party at a friend's house. The next day, well by the time everyone got ready we left around 2:00pm and it starts to get dark around 4:00pm now. So I saw Poznan's lake (it had no water) in the dark, plus everything was closed too. The next day it just didn't happen so I still didn't get to see Poznan and everything was still closed. But there is always next time!

While I was in Poznan I saw that the exchange students there can speak better Polish than I can, well they have great host families plus they have class each week which Rotary pays for. Well I don't have any lessons here. I can see why I'm having trouble here with the language. Even basic lessons could help me. So I talked with my host dad (Rotary President) to see what he could do, he said he's going to ask.

Lately I have also picked up yoga, actually I had my doubts about yoga, but it's really good for you and I'm still attending the classes. Ohh my host sister Ewa got me into it. She takes the lessons too.

Well this is the latest so far, but it seemed that there was confusion with my last entry plus some rumors here. If you didn't know most Europeans are very comfortable with sexual oriented things. But where our Hostel was, was in the nicest part of Berlin! We had to pay more for it...etc. But some people thought that my journal entry made a lot of people mad, plus there was confusion with the rumors. I can see maybe why I made some people mad, using names in the entry, not completely getting all the plans straight, but isn't that part of being an exchange student? People have to learn from their mistakes, most of us can't be told that something is bad, we have to do it ourselves so we never do it again, or plan better so things like this don't happen again. So from what I was told by my first host family is that, Rotary got word that Berlin police had trouble with Rotary students from Poland. But I can only speak for myself is that I never had contact with the police in Berlin.

Anyways if you read this whole thing all the way though you must be really bored by now. Just a tad bit more, I really enjoy this new family, well my host parents don't speak English and so I'm forced to really use Polish to communicate with them plus I have siblings to talk with. I have stuff to do now, plus I can bug my siblings if I'm bored...lol and I'm making friends faster at this new school than my last one. I guess it's confidence as well, plus this school is not so into their schoolwork, it makes it a little easier. Well thanks again Rotary I can't have all this if it weren't for ya'll! Man I miss my southern accent; I'm picking up a British accent.



April 28 Journal

A couple of months have passed by... but I'm still alive! I decided that I should update my journal entry since it's been about 4 months...I did the journal once but I had so much to say that it would bore you to death! So I now have the shorter version.

16th of JanuaryI went to Krakow!!! I arrived four hours earlier than everyone else! So I decide to go and get a heads up on parts of Krakow. So I went and saw the Square. It had to have been the size of two football fields or bigger! There was a church on the square and it has to be the prettiest church I have ever seen in Poland! But it started to get darker so I went back to the hostel and I ended up watching a movie with the lady that watches over the hostel. Later I went and picked up the others from the train station.

17th of January - We saw the Gestapo Prison in Krakow. Then we went back to the square to look around and in the shops...afterwards my memory got all mixed up in my journal since I wrote it a week later! The group of us also went to the Concentration Camp Of Auschwitz. Also to the Wawel Royal Castle and the Cathedral there. Also the Muzuem of Farmacji (Pharmacy). It was the history of medicine. We also got to see a few things not a lot of people get to see. Their were cabinets in one room and we asked to see inside, the guide was stunned b/c no one not even herself saw what was inside...nothing special, just some extra medicines that was shown off in other places in the Muzuem.

26th of JanuaryAfter six months of being here I finally start Polish lessons!

5th of February - That day was not so good for me! I got really depressed was not really in the mood for anything. This is my 1st time that I really got depressed with my exchange. That night I went to Lodz, I almost cried in the car, I had to get things off my mind so I went to a movie. After the movie I bought a "Times" magazine, the whole thing was about Happiness, I really needed it! When I was picked up I was in a better mood!

12th-19th of FebruarySo I went to Slovakia for a ski trip! Yeah 6 days of skiing, I about died when I got back home, but I couldn't! It was Ann's B-day! So a few family members came over as well, but the change in food was nice instead of snicker bars and cafeteria food!

26th of FebruaryAnn the other host sister, started to leave and move into her new flat.

5th of March - I can't remember when all the stuff was happening to the Pope, but I wrote something in my Journal about him and how all these weird things are happening in the world...

6th of MarchI went to Nieborow and the Museum of Ludowe. Nieborow is this really big house about a 1 1/2 hours drive from Biala. The Museum of Ludowe is a private museum that had a lot of Polish Folk art.

8th of March - I hung out with Ella (other exchange student) and her friend from the University... later that night we all went to an 18th b-day party of five people from my class. Woman's Day as well!

10th of March - My Friend from Poznan came into town... BAM!!! We hit someone on our way back home... it was cold and the Police are very slow! So after an hour we decided to take the car to the police station and settle it there. While Ewa was settling things I showed my friend around Central.

11th of March - During this time it wasn't nice to show someone around Lodz because it snowed all weekend! We went to Poznanski's palace in Lodz and that was my 1st time to step foot in it. I pass it about twice a day! We even got to play on the piano. The piano belonged to Artur Rubenstien, a famous pianist and citizen of Poland, the US, France, and Israel. The best thing was the guide let us bang on it a couple of times!

12th of March - Ewa took myself and my friend to two other Museums in Lodz, because it was snowing so bad!

13th of March - My friend's host sister studies in Lodz and was having her final exam, so I was invited to go and see the performance. I didn't understand a lot of the words; they spoke too fast:, but it was really funny! It was a comedy. Also I finished one Journal book and now I'm starting another.

20th of March - Palm Sunday! - I went to church with my host parents, but the church was so crowded that I had to stand, plus I was upstairs on a platform and I still couldn't see!

23rd of March - Zuzia's B-day! In the morning I was awoken to sing Zuzia a happy b-day in Polish! After that I got ready and Ewa told me to clean my room because of Spring cleaning so I went along with it. Later we went out to Logos, but found it boring because it is new and we went somewhere else. Ewa picked us up at 11:00pm and we went home.

26th of March - I went with my host parents to the church to bless the basket. It is a Polish tradition to take a basket of food, containing meat, salt and pepper to church. I decided to go to church in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I had the whole family laughing at me, they were saying "it's going to be cold" and things like "people are going to laugh at you". Well no one laughed and Tato had a theory... It was an artistic church so everyone thought I was eccentric! Later it was actually still warm enough to sit outside and catch some rays! I think I only got a little color!

27th of March - EASTER! Both Bobcias (grandmas) were over so we had a big breakfast! Around 2:00pm I started to call people back home. This would be the first time that I spoke with them since December. I spoke with my mom, my father and ex-step-grandparents. Well I found out that my ex-stepbrother is in Iraq, fighting the War.

28th of March - "WET MONDAY" This tradition is to make people wet while in their bed, but you can do it during the day! So the night before I was trying to be evil, but evilness went away when I found I had no tape! I rigged a book from the shelf so it would fall off and then I would know that someone was coming in. Mamo set the alarm off. I still got wet, but I was too tired to get up! An hour later Bobcia comes in dumps water on my head, she turns around and walks away rambling about something in Polish. At the same time I yelled back at her; I have a big room and she's hard of hearing: "Thanks Bobcia"

31st of March - (Thursday Night) I was told that I was moving to a new family. Guess when I was moving, Saturday 12:00pm! I was shocked and happy all at the same time! I was to move families awhile ago, but I gave up on that and thought I was staying with this family for the rest of the time.

1st of April - In the morning Ewa took me close to Nieborow a garden/ park next to it. It was really nice to see the castle also a very, very small church and three other buildings, all in ruins. Afterwards I went to the city to find everyone a gift, because I was leaving the next day and my going away dinner was that night!

2nd of April - I got up and got ready and only had 2 hours to pack! 12:00pm rolls around and no parents to pick me up, finally at 1:00pm Mamo comes to pick me up and take me to my new host parents house. Tato met us later. My host parents names are Bozena and Andrzej Siekierski. I have two host siblings, Gosia and Piotr. Later that day we went to a Polish Wedding, it was at the largest Cathedral in Lodz. The people were gathered around a statue of the Pope to pray for him. After the wedding the Bride and Groom gave respect so the memorial and went on their way. When we got home we had dinner and talked, later on TV we found out that the Pope passed away. This time is very hard on Polish people. I was talking with friends and family they said they don't know how to react because John Paul II has been Pope for as long as they can remember. Also Poland was looked on a little better because John Paul II was Pope. Later that night the President of Poland announced that from then on till Monday Poland will be in mourning. All around people are all gloomy and saddened by the Pope's passing.

3rd of April -Gosia (host sister), her boyfriend and I went on this free culture tour of Lodz. They took us to Poznanski's palace and then to the 2nd largest Jewish cemetery in the world, but there we also saw the largest Jewish tomb in the world. Later after the tour we headed for the Cathedral in Lodz. Many people were there and the candles grew! Also later that night we went to the church again to put our own candles, a good 20 feet was covered in glass covered candles, candles and flowers in every direction of the statue of the Pope.

4th of AprilI went to school, but found out that most of the school went to the church near our school, but they ended up coming back. My host mom picked me up from school to show me around their sweater factory. The main pieces are done on computer. Well by the time we got home they already started the showing of the Pope. The priests were walking down to the plaza. We watched and waited when the men carrying the Pope left, there was the moment of silence I don't think anything moved or breathed just the tick-tock, tick-tock of our lives passing by. Later that night we went again to this church, but this was a special service. Everyone holding candles and the mass of people everywhere, the concrete covered in wax and everyone coming together. Not a lot of people were looking up at the Cathedral but at the same time the Pope died (two days before) a bird was flying around the top of the Cathedral. It was a stunning site!

6th of AprilI went to Warsaw with my host mom and her friend. They are going to the US in September. After that we went around old town to sightsee like a normal tourist. One of the most interesting things happened there. I walked into a church and right before I was about to leave, a mob of young priests entered. I always thought priests were old and there were a few young ones, but this was over 50 or more. Then we ate at a really good restaurant and left.

11th -12th of AprilI went to my 1st school because they had British days at school, they had a lot of stuff about Britain!

13th of AprilRotary had a concert at the new concert hall, private only for Rotary. Some kids played some famous Polish classical music. It was great! I was dozing off in the 1st half, but the second was a little more upbeat! And I was not nodding off!

22nd of AprilEarly morning: I called my friend for his B-day! Later I went to Warsaw yet again to go see a new exhibition of Salvador Dali's works. There was also a performance before the show!

Other random things... I visited a botanical garden near my house...I watched my host brother race... I went to a car tuning show, racing, looking at cars and tire burning! One guy burnt his tire all the way! SPRING IS HERE!

THANKS for going all through that!

Mike (Zyrandol)

P.S. I'm leaving here July 15th.