When I first decided to study in Poland, my uncle told me about a YouTube channel called “Learn Polish in Three Minutes a Day.” It only provided the basics of conversation–“Good morning,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me”–but it was enough to get me started on pronunciation. It also included two lessons on numbers in Polish, which I struggled through a little reluctantly.
I arrived in Poznań on Thursday afternoon. The flight from New York to Frankfurt was just over six hours long–almost an hour ahead of schedule–thanks to an incredibly strong tailwind of more than 200 km/h, as the pilot told us. The flight from Frankfurt to Poznań was similarly smooth, and the Poznań Airport is delightfully easy to navigate. If you come visit (and please do), fly from JFK to Poznań via Frankfurt or Munich. You will be pleasantly surprised at how manageable the trip is.
Today has been overwhelming enough to feel like a semester-long course on Polish language and culture, but it has also been a wonderful introduction to my temporary new home. In the last 24 hours I have opened a Polish bank account, visited three shopping malls, toured the offices of the Faculty of Enlgish, obtained an ID card, explored two churches and a museum of musical instruments, made several new acquaintances, and enjoyed three excellent Polish meals. A faculty member and friend of my home department at Duquesne has been a tremendous help in these adventures, and has generously supplied my room with an abundance of food and kitchenware to get started in Poland.
My lodging is humble, yet full of characteristic quirks that I think will produce many fond memories. In the bathroom, connected to the wall by a long white cord, is what appears to be a repurposed telephone handset, until you turn the water on and realize that it is the showerhead! The grandeur of the view from my window, overlooking one of the busiest intersections in Poznań, more than compensates for the smallness of the interior. It is a perfect location for studying and exploring an incredible city.
(As an aside, there are a delightful diversity of car horns, tram bells, and police sirens in Poland–far more than in the States. They mimic a wide range of musical instruments and intervals, so that if you listen to the combined noise of the traffic you begin to imagine that you can pick out strains of familiar tunes–Eine kleine Nachtmusik, “Here Comes the Bride,” “My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean,” and so on . . .)
But, of course, you cannot get far in Poland without being able to speak a little Polish–and I soon became grateful for the tedious lessons on Polish numbers. At the bank, I needed to understand the loudspeaker as it announced, “Ticket number __, please come to window number __.” At Żabka, a convenience store much like 7-Eleven, I needed to understand the amount of money I owed. Even to get the room key at the front desk each time I enter my building, I have to state my room number. So, thanks to Polish in Three Minutes a Day, my first 24 hours in Poznań have been more or less a success. The numbers 0-10 are below, in case you want to try them yourself:
- 0 – zero
- 1 – jeden
- 2 – dwa
- 3 – trzy
- 4 – cztery
- 5 – pięć
- 6 – sześć
- 7 – siedem
- 8 – osiem
- 9 – dziewięć
- 10 – dziesięć
Ezra, the Old Testament priest, writes of his journey to Jerusalem with a group of returning Israelite exiles:
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.Ezra 8:21-23
Like Ezra, I thank God for the protection and provision he has shown at each stage of this journey, from the Polish check-in counter attendant who bid me well in New York to the kindness of the faculty and staff who welcomed me to Poznań. Like Abraham’s servant, I can say, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my journey” (Genesis 24:56). In the last 24 hours alone I have been provided with far more than I could have asked for or imagined. Gratefully, I go on.