I'm on a flight from London to Seattle right now, after connecting from my much shorter flight from Warsaw. It's midday right now, so I have a sneaking suspicion I won't be sleeping at all on this nine hour flight. I'm only about 30 minutes in right now, so I'll be sure to give an update later on what I end up watching/doing to pass the time as time goes by. So far all I've done is talk to the lady next me, whose name is Linda from Sammamish, aged somewhere around 60 and has a heat rash. So... a few steps down from my last travel buddy.
Yesterday was such a great last day in Poland. We woke up around 10 or so and met in the lobby to learn about the "Urban Challenge" they were sending us out on for a large chunk of the day. I was on a team with Will and Cat. Basically, they gave each of us a map, a list of places in Warsaw and 100 each of whatever the local currency is called (I can never remember). We were then sent out by ourselves in our teams to try and get to all the locations before the other teams could. Right away, the three of us were super into winning. We breezed through the Palace of Culture, the Dairy Bar and Cafe Wedel. But there was this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that we were missing the point of the "challenge" by hurrying like that. Instead of choking down a hot chocolate in the cafe, we should have been taking our time to enjoy a tasty snack in a foreign country. Instead of zipping up and down the elevators at the Palace, we should have been stopping to take in the incredible view of the city we'd been lucky enough to get to visit.
So after our first few stops, we quit racing. Someone else could go home with the prize. Our prize was getting to experience Warsaw at our own pace.
Our next stop after deciding to slow down was the "Prezekaski Zakaski", or "Bistro a la Fourchette". This is apparently the most "happening" bar in Warsaw, since it's open 24 hours. We sat down and had a beer with Lukas, and also ran into Greg and Dan while we were there.
After the bar, we headed to the Old Town and had to find the Zygmunt Column -- where we then were instructed to ask someone what time it was in Polish. It's "Przepraszam, ktora godzina?" if you were curious. I was a boss at saying it, but I managed to pick the one person in the square who DIDN'T speak Polish, so I looked silly anyway. Haha. Then we had to find the statue of the mermaid in the Old Town market square, which turned out to also be a fountain. I couldn't help but put my feet in, along with all the other children under the age of seven. You're never too old, guys. Never.
We only had one stop left after the fountain, but it was across the river, so we stayed in Old Town for awhile instead of completing the challenge at all. We ran into some of our Polish friends we'd met the day before in town, so they tagged along with us -- which not only made the experience more fun, but was also useful when we wanted to order an ice cream and hot dog from a stand and the people working there spoke very little English.
One of my favorite parts about this trip, and one of the things I feel most lucky about, is that fact that I was able to meet so many local Polish people. Especially ones who share my interest in new media, video-making and YouTube. While walking around Warsaw, I was actually running into people I KNEW. In a country that just two days earlier I knew literally nothing about aside from what I learned in high school about the Holocaust. I have to say, Poland is such a lovely country, it definitely deserves to be famous for more than the Holocaust.
An update -- since I wrote the above section of this blog post, I have also met the man on the other side of me (I'm in a middle seat) and the best way to describe him would be as a nice Vernon Dursley. Then I watched "Water For Elephants", which was a really good film (though a bit sad for a plane movie). I definitely had the tears coming on a few times, as well as embarrassingly gasping out loud and having to look away more than once during the animal cruelty bits. I would absolutely recommend seeing this movie; I especially loved it because of my fascination with the circus, but I think it really shows that industry for what it was, which is important for people to understand.
Anyway, back to Poland. We had a bit of a break after the Urban Challenge, where I swore I only rested my eyes in my room for a second but it turned out nearly a full hour went by. Luckily I woke up just in time to head downstairs for dinner. It was our last night out as a group, so the night had a bittersweet feel to it. The food was all amazing, as usual. This time I ordered a venison dish that also came with those potato noodles I have come to love, as well as a delicious cranberry sauce.
After dinner we ordered a bunch of desserts to split, and among them was something that was actually called "Soup of Nothing - with clouds". We had all seen it on the menu before, but since this was our last night, we obviously had to try it. I can't tell you what was in it, but literally every person at that table with us who took a bite exclaimed something along the lines of "oh my goodness! What the heck this, it's so amazing! What IS this?!" It was some sort of incredible strawberry and vanilla mousse type thing with something else white in it that actually melted in your mouth. I think that bit was the "clouds". It's a mystery to me, but it was another crazy Poland adventure I was glad to have taken part in.
After dinner we saw some guys spinning fire in the square (seriously) on our way back to the limo-of-epic-proportions, which was a fittingly surreal end to one of the most surreal weekends of my life.
I tried to fit in as much sleep as possible last night, but the hotel had this amazing breakfast for us every morning, so I diligently set my alarm for 7:45 am. I like food more than I like being well rested. I stuffed my face with potato pancakes and Brie cheese and jam on rolls and fresh fruit. Totally worth sacrificing the extra half hour of snoozing.
Jimmy and I had flights at similar times, so after a brief chat with the man who'd put this all together (thanking him profusely for the experience and promising I'd be back next year if he makes it an annual event) we hopped in a cab and began our adventure home. That pretty much brings us to now, where I am sitting in my middle seat and trying to process the week I've just had.
You know, it's funny. I'm exhausted. I feel like I haven't had any quality time at home in ages. I am tired of airports and living out of suitcases and waking up early, but I am never happier than when I am coming home from one of these incredible experiences. Sometimes I don't even know what I really did to deserve this, but I feel so lucky and thankful every day. And I really love that so many people do read my blog, because it makes it that much more rewarding to know that in a way, I'm kind of taking all of you along with me.
It will be nice to sleep in my own bed, don't get me wrong. But I really wonder... if it's always going to feel like this, so wonderful and eye-opening and horizon-broadening... whats the point in ever slowing down?
Flights taken: 20