8/23/12

The Little Things: WorldTeach Poland


Lexi Pollard is spending her summer volunteering with WorldTeach in Poland. Check out this great post by Lexi detailing the little things she has come to appreciate in such a great country. Thanks for sharing, Lexi!

In a place where everything is foreign to me, including my ability to adapt to living in Poland, I have found it is helpful to appreciate little occurances and surprises in order to thrive or just mentally survive. I have composed a list of a few things I have come to love about Poland and my experience, mental and physical:
1. Fresh, homegrown food. 
This is a rarity at home for me, so I have taken full advantage of any home grown vegetables and fruits. My favorite is the homemade fruit jam, namely apple and cherry. I try to sneak it into my daily diet, and have successfully managed to convince my host family I NEED their homemade jam in California! Family and friends beware, I may not share too much with you--this is my favorite souvenir and close to my heart given my adorable host grandmother made it. Her cooking amazes and delights me everyday; I always have a different, wonderful Polish dish to try after class. Not to mention the other day I had homemade jelly with raspberries and bluberries inside. I will never get used to her yummy cooking.
In addition, a lovely friend I have made here, a fellow teacher, treats me to her own cooking every week. Her food is delicious as well, and luckily we share a love for sweets and caramel and coconut desserts.I have been spoiled by her and my host families, not only with food and hospitality, but with frequent trips to Krakow and surrounding cities, and small Polish gifts. 
2. My walks to and from school. 
For the past two weeks, I have been walking to and from school from my host house. I look forward to the road shrouded with trees on either side. Yesterday, I walked to school in the best weather I have experienced yet; sunny and cool with a light breeze. Unfortunately, I come across a few dead animals each morning like frogs, lizards, and one time a cat. However, yesterday I saw a tiny baby frog hopping along the road. He or she was about the size of my thumbnail. After a day in the classroom, fresh, Polish air is much needed.

3.Polish hospitality.
Both of my host families have shown me immense hospitality, given they didn't know who I was or anything about me other than I am a volunteer English teacher in their village. I will never take for granted their whole hearted willingness to open their homes and their lives, to me. Even if I can't communicate how appreciative I am of everything they have provided for me, I hope to one day return to visit them, or host them in California. My host stays have already humbled me.

4. Awkward moments in class.

Translation mistakes. Miscommunication. Lack of previous teaching experience. Nervousness. Over-preparedness, even under-preparedness at times. These are just a few things I experience teaching on a daily basis along with exhaustion, migraines, or even too much energy on my part. I only have six days of teaching left, and it's a continual learning process where I can succeed or fail, and both happen. However, my goal from day one has been to have fun in the classroom while still enabling learning and conversation in English. Fortunately, many of my students have delighted me with their eagerness and English skills.

5. Feeling accomplished here.
I not only have begun to feel accomplished as a teacher, but as a person who has grown so much these past five and a half weeks. I miss home everyday, but little things help me to realize I am pretty lucky to be here. My battles are mostly mental, for my host families have kept me healthy and always full, and happy with their quirks and kindness. However, I know that I have the potential to teach, and that I will be coming home one humble and thankful American with a little Polish sprinkled on top.
6. Knowing that I will come home to people who have been strong and helped me through this experience.
Although my experience in Poland has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in my life, and I know always will be, the support I have received from home is humbling as well. My strong family, friends, and boyfriend have been there for me everyday, and their support makes me feel less alone here at times, and connected to home and the States. Fortunately, I also have people in Poland who support me,including my host families, fellow volunteers, and teacher friend here in the village.
Basically, I can't fully describe everything since so much happens in my life here everyday. I am not sure if I was meant to teach, but I hope my teaching here is meaningful.

If you're interested in spending next summer volunteering abroad, consider applying to our program in Poland! Visit www.worldteach.org for more information!

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