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until we meet again ...

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Friday, 16 August 2013

until we meet again ...

So this is almost it.  My time in Krakow is almost up. I won't bore you with details as to how I got to be in Krakow and why I now have to leave: all I'll say is that I was blessed with this opportunity and I want to thank those who gave it to me and supported me in this decision - you have my eternal gratitude.

The last 8 months were spent jetting between home in Malta and home in Krakow but packing and printing the boarding pass this time feels incredibly hard.  I have to pack practically everything and I know that I'll only be back in about 2 months' time and not in 7 days' time as usual.  There have been tears, let me tell you that - and I know that until I get on the plane on Sunday, more will be shed. 

But let me try to dwell on the positives, rather than the negatives: 

island vs mainland life

Let me start with a premise: I won't return to Malta with a typical ex-pat attitude that life abroad is a million times better than back on the rock.  There definitely are a lot of pros, but also cons.  And I love Malta for its heritage and quaintness but certainly not for its parochial mentality.  Living on mainland Europe certainly gives you a sense of space and imbues you with a sense of humility towards the greatness of the world in its entirety.  Others who have spent time living abroad will probably understand me. Despite being an island, I find Malta to be confined and confining.  The furthest you can go on a whim is to the sister island Gozo.  (Ok, you could go to the airport and buy the first ticket out to anywhere - unless you have to have pre-printed boarding passes bla bla bla ...) Simply catching the train to Wadowice, Katowice and Zakopane in the last eight months - places not much more than 1 hour away from Krakow (with the exception of Zakopane) was an enlightening experience.  Train rides actually give you the possibility of seeing the expanse of land you're crossing, unlike travelling by plane.  And you feel humbled.  Very, very humbled.

language barriers

Of course, one of the first things I took care of, even before I knew for sure that I would be coming to Krakow, was to start learning Polish.  I can't say I can understand all that I hear or that I can say much, other than basic introductions, descriptions and key phrases for shopping etc ... but at the grand old age of 33, learning a new language - completely alien in terms of phonetics and grammar to the languages I've learnt before - was a challenge.  As I said, my Polish language skills are still very weak, but at least I can say "I did it!"

the weather

Yes, even the weather deserves a mention in this list of things I will deeply cherish about my stay in Poland.  I had never experienced snow other than for one day when I was on holiday in the Italian Dolomites.  So experiencing what apparently was a long winter of snow for the first time in my life - including snow on Good Friday and Easter, was both novel and testing.  But at this point in time, I can almost quite safely say that I'm happy to trade in Malta's wintery flash-floods and its suffocating heat-waves for a cold, long winter and a summer where you can still wear a blazer with no one batting an eyelid or you breaking into hyperhidrosis!

work ethics

Being in Krakow for these 8 months was not a holiday.  While my boyfriend pursued his studies, I held the fort by tele-commuting for my job.  In other words, I worked from home.  I must confess that this had a lot of advantages: I was so much more concentrated on the tasks I was working on, could focus more and at times didn't even know when to call it a day! I made it a point to keep the routine of waking up early and getting ready as though I'm actually going out to work so as not to encourage myself to be lazy and stay all day in my PJs. Most days I even put make up on, even though I wouldn't have any outings planned in the evening! By all means, certain tasks would need more hands-on approach and actual meetings and running around offices so I did feel somewhat limited from that perspective.

food glorious food

As a vegetarian with lactose intolerance, Poland is possibly the least likely of places where I could have found edible stuff to satisfy my needs.  The weighing scales, however, state otherwise.  With a cuisine based on meat and dairies, as well as stodgy carbs, I succumbed to the latter two (with the help of lactase enzymes which I've been over consuming!) Pierogi are by far my most favourite of traditional dishes with bite-sized smoked oscypek and obwarzanki battling for the top spot in the snack category. There's a good selection of soy-based mock meats here which I don't find in Malta (so i could have a 'normal' looking sandwich with soy mortadella at times) but they're a bit difficult to come by.  I've also found what I have decided to name as the largest, most delicious vegetarian burger I've ever eaten at this place called Moa Burger - the fava bean is a must for those like me or if you're not in the mood for meat! In terms of size, let's say that I could cover my face with the bun ...

my days with warhol, banksy, biffy and franz

Suffice to say that if I weren't to remember any of these things about Krakow, the one thing that would be permanently imprinted in my mind is that this is the place where I saw my first Warhol and Banksy up close.  Those of you who've been following this blog know I'm pretty obsessed with these two artists, and finding a Warhol retrospective when I moved here and a Banksy piece in another exhibition on during the last weeks was possibly one of the highlights of the year.  As I mentioned in another post, the 'grand finale' so to say of my stay here was the Coke Life Music Festival where I got to see some of my favourite bands.  The only chance of seeing these foreign acts while living in Malta would have only been possible by getting on a flight and heading to one of their concerts or a festival in another land. For some reason, Malta seems to only appease or attract those of a more 'pop' or dancey musical inclination and anything remotely verging on the alternative is regrettably given the cold shoulder.

the simple things

As I stated in my first point, I don't want to return to Malta to snob it.  But there are things which the island can certainly learn from here (and I'm just focusing on Krakow, not all of Poland!) Efficient public transport with precise timetables posted on every stop (and schedules adhered to), public transport tickets valid for all forms of public transport, shops - including grocers - open till late to cater for people who work long hours, 24 hour convenience stores and supermarkets, all forms of art given equal prominence and promotion, cleanliness ... Just a word on this latter aspect: with horse-drawn carriages as a main tourist attraction in the Old Town, you'd be hard pressed to find any sign of horse poop along the streets, simply because the cabby drivers pick it up straight away and dispose of it in a sealed bag.  I think it's high time this practice is adopted back home as well. 

and of course, him

He was of course, the best part of these 8 months and I fail to find the words to describe how much I'm going to miss being with my boyfriend, until I get to come back to Krakow.  Words have no place here, only feelings.

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