Farewell, My Krakow, Farewell

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I hit a new low this week. I’ve been on four extended shopping trips within five days at Galeria Krakowska. I had lofty goals of procuring a work-appropriate watch, a purse that doesn’t look like a vat of acid was thrown on it, black work pants, and anything else with the potential to be worn in an embassy. American flag blouses, anyone?

Anyway, back to my new low (you didn’t think 4 shopping trips within 5 days was really my new low, did you?) This particular incident occurred on shopping trip #3. Because I tire easily on shopping trips, I frequently buy myself delectable edibles. After trying on 20 pairs of ill-fitting pants, I bought myself two scoops of mint chocolate chip and stracciatella ice cream at my go-to shop, 4D Lody. This chain serves the most perfectly fluffy ice cream in big scoops onto crispy waffle cones and it is simply magical.

I sat down on a bench and approximately 4 licks in, tragedy struck. My cone couldn’t take the pressure of the extra large scoops, so it cracked and both scoops fell to the floor. I let out a dramatic gasp and swung down to pick up the ice cream with my bare hand, which was now hosting this blob of melting, sticky cream with several little hairs and dust particles throughout.

As I neared the garbage, I started second-guessing every lesson I learned as a child: I just didn’t have the heart to throw it out. So what did I do? I plopped the visibly contaminated ice cream back into its cone and resumed eating. That’s right, I picked ice cream off the floor of Galeria Krakowska and ate it. And you know what else? I enjoyed it. Near the end I found a dead fruit fly in its icy grave, so I abstained from eating that part out of respect, but I devoured everything else despite judgmental looks from the little children passing by.

I realize now that I should probably not do this again. I am starting work as a public affairs intern with the U.S. government, and it is probably best if I am not seen eating ice cream off mall floors in public and so on and so forth.

On that topic, I’m finally approved to start work at the United States Embassy in Warsaw! After a long and drawn out security process, my clearance was granted on Tuesday night, so now I’m set to arrive in Warsaw tomorrow and begin work on Monday. Updates to come.

Even though I’m running around in a frenzied daze doing last-minute errands, I’m trying to take some time to process this major move. I’m sad, but ‘sad’ doesn’t quite fully explain how I feel about moving on. I’m ready to move on from Krakow. My friends are leaving, my purpose as a student here is finished, and I have a new life waiting for me in Warsaw. This past week has been a bit like being stuck in limbo; saying goodbye to all my friends that have gone home, all the while having no idea of where I’d be living in a week’s time. I’ve been anxious and worried for so long about sorting out the details to get to Warsaw, so now that it’s finally happened, I’m beyond relieved.

Nevertheless, there’s a part of me that’s reluctant to leave. Krakow has become my home and there are so many people that have occupied such a huge part of my life here. (You know who you are!) The circumstances surrounding this year will never be recreated, so moving on is forcing me to close a chapter in my life that I can reread but never rewrite. But I’m okay with this because I think I wrote a pretty incredible year. So as a goodbye to Krakow, I would like to write a list of lessons learned accompanying things I have grown quite fond of this year:

1) Nawojka. You read me correctly. The one and only former Nazi youth girls center / Communist dorm that has caused so much strife to so many students will forever conjure feelings of nostalgia for my yesteryear in Krakow. For although I spent two full months tracking down the wifi guru during those unannounced office hours, I learned to live without checking Facebook and email every morning and night. Without the ruthless Nawojka pigeon-hawks stealing my wheels of cheese, I never would have understood that sometimes it’s necessary and justified to fight for your food. Cutting my foot open on the rusted metal bed frame reinforced my commitment to stay up-to-date on my tetanus shots and nearly passing out in my toxic shower taught me to always open windows during science experiments. I never thought I’d be hearing myself saying this, but thank you Nawojka.

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Nawojka as a Hitler Youth Center

2) Centre for European Studies. Good ‘ole CES. I remember walking into CES on my first day, alarmed by how small it was: the entire complex was a lounge, computer lab, one-room library, and a classroom. As you can imagine, I got to know the students and staff pretty well. CES taught me the importance of investing in a stapler. Despite the 5 staplers spread across the building, there is a 90% chance that there will never be a single staple in any of them. Also CES couches make great beds when you get locked out of your room at 4am. (And while no one cares to admit it, the real reason for the lost and found clothing box is to provide warmth for said nights.) A shout-out goes to Ola and the rest of the CES crew for their endless assistance!

3) Food. Hot donuts at Gorące Paczki, hot chocolate at Nowa Prowincja, breakfast at Pod Wawelem, potato and bacon pierogi at Pierożki u Vincenta, oscypek and cranberry zapiekanki in Kazimierz, corner kebab, and 20 zl lunch specials at Goscinna Chata. Can’t forget those many, many lonely lunches at my milk bar with familiar strangers either. These very lunches reassured me that it’s normal and strangely comforting to sit alone and eat your soup in silence. No phone, no book, just quality time spent sitting next to a stranger. Also, you should choose something off the menu that you don’t understand once in a while. Sure, sometimes you get a plate of liver and onions, but more often than not, you’ll end up with something that’s not half-bad.

4) Wawel Castle and the Wisła. I’ve walked by Wawel every week now for the past 10 months, and it never fails to amaze me. The towering brick spires seen from every corner of the city are straight out of a fairy tale (the fairy tale of Smaug of course). Lesson learned: stop gaping up at the towers climbing into the sky once in a while. Sometimes if you look down, you may just stumble upon Benedict Cumberbatch’s handprint plaque.

5) People. As I said before, you know who you are. Maybe I’ll see you again, and maybe I won’t. What I can say to all of you is thank you for gracing me with your presence. Of course the list is non-exhaustive, but I want to shout-out especially to Olivia, Michelle, Pierre, Mari, Dominik, and Kat. You guys are some pretty awesome characters and trustworthy companions – I’m lucky to have you!

So do widzenia my beautiful Krakow, perhaps we shall meet again someday!

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