Thursday, September 2, 2010

Newton to Boston to Frankfurt to Warsaw


First of all, I want to say thank you to everybody who has helped me put this trip together, including my parents and brothers, my friends, some of my teachers, family friends, and the random travelers I have met over the past few months.

A rough itinerary update: it looks like I am headed to Poland, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Egypt, and Israel this year, though everything after Uzbekistan is subject to change. I'm hoping to put a map up on this blog, but in the meantime...

I am in Warsaw, Poland, staying at the Oki Doki hostel. It's a colorful place full of young European tourists, but it has a tiny common room with a lot of people drinking beer right now so it's a little hard to type this out. The summary is this.

I lost my phone in the Logan airport--seriously. I am always really careful to not lose track of my important stuff- passport, computer, phone, ipod- but I managed to leave behind my phone at the check-in desk. I only figured this out when I had about ten minutes before my flight was supposed to depart. I ran back to the security checkpoint, where the femal security guards were all rude about it and the guys were really sweet, and when they rescanned my bag and couldn't find anything I asked if one of them could run through and get my phone since I knew it was there and otherwise I would miss my flight. They refused, and told me to choose between my phone and my flight. In my frenzied state I actually calculated the cost of missing my flight versus the cost of replacing my phone. Obviously, I chose the flight. And then as I was running through the gate, I spotted my phone at the desk of the gate. They had brought it through security for me! I was so relieved that it was the first thing I told my seatmate, Deven, a student at Endicott College on her way to study abroad in Florence. Normally I can sleep on red-eye flights, on overnight buses, on airport floors, whatever, but Deven's excitement was infectious and I spent a good share of the night talking with her and Sandra, a German au pair on her way home.

When I arrived in Warsaw it was raining. I needed to find the 175 bus to Centrum and then some form of public transport to Swietokryzska (you try pronouncing that on no sleep). I got directions from four people and eventually found my hostel, where I was not allowed to check in because my bed was not ready. I arrived in Warsaw in a skirt because that gets the least stretched out and unwearable after a flight, but it was freezing! I changed and then went out to find food. The rain was pretty heavy and my pants were soaked by the end of my walk, despite my umbrella--a last minute addition to my suitcase--and my new, very effective rain jacket. Lunch was cabbage, cabbage, and more cabbage. Not joking. I got two things and both of their main ingredients turned out to be cabbage. My other two meals here have been dumplings- which came with an unadvertised side of cabbage- and an Asian stir fry- which came with cabbage in the stir fry and an unadvertised side of cabbage. I think that if you were on an IV, they would give you a side of cabbage, or maybe blend it up and put it in the IV. I was very excited when I found pierogi, Polish dumplings, that were vegetarian, as I have been on a dumpling hunt that began with Willie in Hungary a few months ago. I headed back to the hostel around 3:30pm, wishing it were later so I could go to sleep, and then I got very lost. I usually have a very good sense of direction, but the lack of sunlight and the fact that the rain prevented me from opening a map created a confluence of events that ended up with me, totally soaked from the waist down, with blisters from wandering around in wet, new shoes. I lasted about an hour from when I arrived back at the hostel to when I fell asleep. My roommates here are solidly male, from Switzerland and somewhere in Asia, from what I can tell, and not the most outgoing, which always sucks when you're staying at a hostel. After greeting a couple of them and getting out most of my stuff, I slept--for sixteen hours straight. I did not know it was possible to sleep that long.

Today I showered, washed my clothes from the plane, and realized that when vitamins say take with food, they really do mean take with food, or else you end up with a stomach ache and you have to eat immediately. It was not raining much in the morning, and the afternoon was rain-free except for a light drizzle once, so I enjoyed the weather and wandered around until my dumpling lunchtime and then a quick visit to the Royal Castle. Nearly everything in the castle was reconstructed, which was somewhere between disappointing, saddenning, and entertaining. Included in the display of national talent and grandeur were two busts- one of George Washington, and one of Thomas Jefferson, gifts from the U.S. Embassy. I tried reading on a bench on the street outside the Polish president's house and then, when too many people tried to sit down right next to me, I went over to a big, beautiful park and sat there, where mainly families and businesspeople were walking, so I was not disturbed. I then had dinner at a very cheap, very good Asian diner that lonely planet recommended and went back to the hostel. Tomorrow I go to Bialystok to visit the daughter of Wiecek, who does work on my family's house, and I'm staying with her for a couple of days. I am very excited to hang out with a real Polish person- I have yet to learn any of the language.

Some of my favorite things about Poland so far have been:
-the pierogi! They totally fulfilled my dumpling quest.
-the way everything smells like rain (though not the rain itself)
-the warm blanket in my hostel bed
-the fact that it is 8:30 local time and I am still awake!
-the way the young people dress- like they all are buying Eastern European knock-offs of New York City high fashion
-my first waiter, an abrupt, serious old guy who only smiled when I tipped him.
-the fact that all my stuff has so far dried really quickly

Follow me on my new twitter account, @katiewsimon.

Many more posts to come...



  1. Things I highly approve of:
    -vegetarian pierogi
    -an umbrella

  2. OMG, I can't believe you lost your phone temporarily and to think this all happened as Dad and I drove home from the airport... ah, cabbage, cabbage and more cabbage and remember I fed you a cabbage salad as your last home cooked meal! It's cosmic! Have fun! Love your stories!