•21 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw that I was diligently watching this year’s Eurovision song contest.  If you don’t know what that is, you’re missing out on some rather laughable moments and also some that might make you question Europe’s taste in music.  But regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on, Eurovision is enjoyable, amusing, sometimes scary, and overall, entertaining.

So what is Eurovision? It is a contest held each year in the previous year’s winner’s home country.  For example, this year it was held in Germany because the winner of Eurovision 2010 was the artist from Germany.  Throughout the year, each country hosts their own contests to select who will represent them for the upcoming year’s final contest between all the countries.  Not everyone who represents their country has very much talent, and sometimes you have to wonder if there weren’t people who could better represent a particular country.  But those are usually the more entertaining performances.  Contestants can sing in their native language or in English, which quite a few people choose to do.

Each year, the vote is decided by a professional panel of judges in each country, combined with SMS & phone call votes from the people around Europe (but you can’t vote for your own country).  This year Azerbaijan took home the title, so next year’s contest will be held there.

But enough talk about the contest.  I want to share a couple of my favorite contestants.  This is from last year’s Eurovision.  The performance is entertaining, but I think the words are the best. Therefore, I’ve included the lyrics below the video.  They certainly jabbed some fingers at some other European countries.  This is “Eastern European Funk” by Inculto from Lithuania.

You’ve seen it all before
we ain’t got no taste we’re all a bore
But you should give us chance
’cause we’re just victims of circumstance
We’ve had it pretty tough
but that’s OK we like it rough
We’ll settle the score
we survived the reds and two world wars

Get up and dance to our eastern European kinda…
Get up and dance to our eastern European kinda…
Get up and dance to our eastern European kinda funk!

Yes sir we are legal we are
though we are not as legal as you
No sir we’re not equal no
though we are both from the EU
We build your homes and wash your dishes
keep your hands all squeaky clean
But one of these days you’ll realize
Eastern Europe is in your genes

Get up and dance to our eastern European kinda…(repeat 4xs)
Get up and dance to our eastern European kinda…funk!

Next, is my favorite contestant from this year’s contest.  Europe is bringing back the boy bands.  This song is probably more about the performance than the actual song because let’s face it, it’s not exactly deep. :)  This is “Get You” by Alexey Vorobyov from Russia. (The song actually starts at minute 1.  The clips before it is part of the intro stuff during the live show.)

I choose my words like wise men do
And tonight I’ll get you right
I rule my world like great men do
And I fight, I fight for mine

And you look so good on the floor
Pull my mind in that dirty zone
If they watch, let them watch
Not losing you tonight

Oh oh… I’m coming to get you
Oh oh… I’m running, I’m coming for you
Oh oh… I’m gonna get you
I know you, you want me to

I lost my mind somewhere between
Your face and your perfect shape
I found a pleasure watching you having fun
Fooling around

And you look so good on the floor
Pull my mind in that dirty zone
If they talk, let them talk
You know I’m getting you tonight

Oh oh… I’m coming to get you
Oh oh… I’m running, I’m coming for you
Oh oh… I’m gonna get you
I know you, you want me to

Oh oh oh… oh oh yeah… oh oh oh…
I know you want me to

Girl, you blow me away, I want you here with me
Girl, you blow me away, yeah yeah…
Girl, you blow me away, I want you here with me
Girl, you blow me away, I want you to stay

If you really want to have fun tonight
Just scream

Oh oh oh… oh oh yeah… oh oh oh…
I know you want me to

Ridiculous, right? Reminiscent of n’sync? Yes. But I love it. Especially when he winks at the camera. :)  Now, don’t judge my taste in music based on this blog post. I am not ridiculous enough to only listen to stuff like this, but I think this is fun and entertaining for a time period.  If you want to know more about Eurovision, take a look at their website.


Wedding Weekend (part 4): the I dos

•21 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

We’re finally to the point of the weekend you’ve all been waiting for… the wedding. What a wonderful occasion a wedding is: the uniting of two people in love, the beginning of a new family, the flowers, the white dress, the music, the kiss, the smiles, the tears… I could go on, but I’ll spare you the exhaustive list of wedding day elements.  If you’ve been to a wedding, you know what I’m talking about.

The ceremony began at 5pm on Sunday afternoon, so after the church service that morning, the sanctuary underwent the lovely transformation from church service simplicity to wedding ceremony splendor.  The guys (brothers of the bride and the best man) began arranging the pews so as to give an adequate amount of space for the wedding party at the front, and the women began the art of assembling the decorations.  Because we didn’t know exactly what needed to be done to help the preparations along, Bailey and I returned to the hotel and took a nap because we had heard rumors that the length of Polish receptions is legendary.  I knew if I wanted to function well into the night, I would need a little rest before the festivities began.

At 5 o’clock sharp, the ceremony commenced.

For the most part, the wedding was similar to many of the Baptist weddings I’ve been to in the States (except it was in Polish, of course).  There was a sermon, the vows, the special music, the lighting of the unity candle, etc, but there were a couple of things that differed from other weddings I’ve been to.  As a side note: because this is the first truly Polish wedding I’ve been to, I wasn’t sure what was actually Polish culture and what was Baptist Polish culture or what was just “Czarek & Iza culture.” Therefore, some of this could be unique to Czarek & Iza, and some of it could have been due to traditional Polish culture.

First of all, when the clock struck 5, Bailey and I expected Czarek to appear at the front of the church, ready to see Iza enter, but rather than wait for her at the front of the church, he entered with her. For those people who love to see the groom’s face as he watches the bride enter the church, this would have been a bit disappointing because there was no “wow” moment, but there was a distinct sense of pride and excitement on his face as he entered the sanctuary with his bride on his arm.

In addition to that, when they entered the church, I expected there to be a lot of pomp and circumstance as is customary in American weddings, but to my surprise, people were still up milling about the sanctuary!  I think Bailey and I both were a little amazed at the casualness with which they entered the room.

I also thought it was interesting that the bride and groom had special chairs at the front of the aisle in which they sat for the sermon and introductions and whatnot.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that in any of the weddings I’ve been to in the States, but I do remember seeing it in the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (which was only a couple of days before this wedding & yes, I did watch the entire thing).  On the one hand, it makes sense.  This way the bride and groom don’t have to stand for the entire service, which I know has to be exhausting, but on the other hand, I like to observe the bride and groom throughout the service, which is difficult to do when they are sitting down, level with everyone else.

After the normal elements of the wedding ceremony – the sermon, the vows, and all the music, Czarek and Iza said, “I do,” and he kissed the bride. And they lived happily ever after. (Can you tell I’m a fan of a good fairy tale?)

Well, with the ceremony over and the “I dos” said, what’s left to do?  It was time to party.

They held the reception in a ballroom in a hotel located a couple of miles from the church.  Inside the room, they had rows of tables with more food than an army could consume (with more nearly every hour), tons of alcohol – Polish vodka, of course, dancing, friends, and of course, cake. :)

Like I mentioned before, I’ve heard of the legendary length of Polish receptions, so I wasn’t surprised when the party continued well after midnight (they used to last several days).  Sadly, I’ve determined that the day I graduated from college was the day it became impossible for me to stay up really late.  No matter what the occasion, I’m doing head bobs by midnight, and this exciting event was no exception.  Bailey and I finally left the party around 3am after enough food to see us through until next year, more dancing than our shoes could endure, and with the vast knowledge of  just about every Polish song ever written.  But, interestingly enough, at the time we left, the bride & groom were still going strong. I don’t know where they were getting their energy.  We learned the next morning that it was about 5am before the party finally died down.

As I said before, I love weddings, and in my opinion, it is one of the coolest celebrations a person will experience in his or her lifetime.  But ultimately, a wedding is not about all the decorations or the traditions or the dress.  It’s about the joining of two people for life. I’ve thought a lot about this concept in recent months with my own approaching nuptials, and it’s an exciting place in which to be.  To know someone so well that you agree to entrust your life and happiness to them is no small step.

As I’ve considered what this means for my life (and for others who decide to tie the knot), I keep coming back to what Scripture says about this relationship.  Marriage is meant to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and his church.  Christ laid down his life for the church.  He put aside his crown in heaven to enter this world as a baby in order to give his life on a cross for the redemption of mankind.  That is love.  Likewise, a husband is called to love his wife in this same way, with a selflessness that nourishes and a strong regard for her well being that manifests itself in the utmost care and attention to her needs.

But Scripture doesn’t stop there.  It also illustrates the role of a wife.  A wife is called to serve and honor her husband “as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).  This command does not have room to be self-centered or self-seeking.  It is definitely not a level of service or submission that some might equate with the way the church serves Christ today. For most people, serving Christ simply means attending church on a Sunday morning, demanding the right to sit back and get something out of the service, but submitting to Christ is much more than that.  It’s a dynamic obedience which glorifies Christ: honoring him with your every word and action, respecting the authority he has in your life, and having an attitude of service which does not expect to be served but to serve.  Similarly, a wife should honor and serve her husband with this kind of selfless attitude of love and respect, honoring her husband with the way she speaks and acts.

All in all, this beautiful, symbolic picture of marriage is something I am reminded of regularly when I attend a wedding, and it brings me such joy to see the union of two people who love the Lord and strive to bring glory to Him in their everyday lives.

I love a good wedding, but even more than that, I love that God has orchestrated marriage to be a reflection of his love for us.

Congratulations Czarek & Iza!
1 May 2011

Wedding Weekend (part 3): the rejections

•19 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

The Ukrainian border is about 25km (15miles) from Chełm.  So, naturally, I wanted to try to cross the border into Ukraine in order to add another country to the list of places I’ve been to.  (Currently, I’ve been to 10 countries: Mexico, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Turkey, and India) Therefore, going to Ukraine when I was so close to the border was a must.

Bailey and I had planned to hop on a train in Chełm, ride it to the first big town in Ukraine, get off and explore for a little while, and return to Poland.  Well, as we discussed the possibility of going on this adventure, Przemek volunteered to drive us to the border.  He wasn’t going to be able to actually drive across because a) he didn’t have his passport and b) he had to get a specific permit for his car.  But he very kindly offered to drive us to the border so we could walk over and explore the shops on the other side.

Around 12:30PM, we set out toward the border, and about 20 minutes later, we arrived at the border station.  We hopped out of the car, exchanged a little bit of money and began walking toward the border crossing.  A man in uniform stopped us as we approached the gate, and he told us that we couldn’t walk across the border.  What? That thought hadn’t crossed our minds.  He explained that we could take a car or ride a bike across, but we couldn’t walk.  Really? You can ride a bike, but you can’t walk

Plan A: fail.

A little bummed that plan A wasn’t going to work, we started asking some of the people around the border if we could rent or borrow bikes from someone. No one had bikes they were willing to let us use.

Plan B: fail.

Determined not to give up, Przemek began asking people if they wouldn’t mind taking us across in their car. He spoke with a Ukrainian man who agreed to take us across and drop us off on the other side of the border crossing because he was about to cross himself.  We got into his car – me in the front seat, Bailey in the back seat with a bag of potatoes and a tire, and we set off through the first round of security.

After clearing the first round of security (which consisted of the guard who told us we couldn’t walk across), we were in the restricted limbo land, not quite in Poland or Ukraine.  We got in line behind another Ukrainian car, and our driver turned off the engine.  A little concerned that this meant we’d be sitting here for a while, I asked the man if he spoke Polish.  He said he spoke a little, so I asked him how long he usually sits at the border crossing.  He told us that it usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half, so we resigned ourselves to sit there in silence amongst the crazy amounts of Russian Orthodox icons.

It was hot and stuffy in the car, and we humorously noticed that the seat belt said “Made in USSR” (see photo).

After about as much uncomfortable silence as I could take, I asked the man where he was from.  He didn’t understand my question at first, so I rephrased it, realizing that it must not be the same question in Russian (which we deduced that he using when speaking to us – I think we spoke more Polish than he did).  He told us the name of a city neither of us had heard of, but really, unless he had said Kiev, I wouldn’t have known where he was talking about anyway. I just wanted to make small talk.  I just smiled and nodded, as I’ve become so skilled at doing.

After a few more minutes, we realized that this was going to take MUCH longer than we had time for. So, we called Przemek to see what he thought we should do.  He told us that we should get out of this guy’s car and to see if we could flag down a Polish car because they were getting across much faster than the Ukrainian cars.

We tried to explain to a couple of people why we wanted to cross the border, but no one was willing to help us. (Rightfully so. I wouldn’t let two random girls who don’t speak very much Polish in my car to cross the border.  Who knows what we could have been trying to do.)

Plan C: fail.

Becoming discouraged, we decided to try and walk back to Przemek.  We came to the first security point, and approached the guard with confidence.  He asked us for our passports, and began to look through each page.  We’re not really sure what he was looking for or if he actually knew what he was doing either.  We’re pretty certain this sort of situation doesn’t come up all the time.

After looking through our passports, he handed them back, and told us to have a good day.

Plan D: this one had to work because otherwise we’d still be stuck in limbo land.

Overall operation: a big fail. We didn’t get to cross the border, but we did get to enter the restricted area of a border crossing by hitchhiking, ride in a car made in the USSR, speak Polish to a man who replied in Russian, and return through a security checkpoint without real permission to do so.

As I look back on this situation, it was probably a stupid thing to do: get into the car of a guy we didn’t know and who didn’t speak the same language as we do…by any stretch of the imagination.  But we will be better planners next time and not even have to try something like this.  But it does make for a humorous story now.

Wedding Weekend (part 2): the explorations

•17 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

After a good night’s sleep, we awoke to a beautiful, sunny day.  We packed our bags (in order to move everything to the hotel they had booked for the wedding guests) and began our day of sightseeing.

The city’s lengthy history (dating back to the 9th century) is one of tumult and ever-changing ownership – much like the rest of this area of Europe.  At one point, this part of Poland was considered Ukraine.  After the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s, it was given to Imperial Russia by the Congress of Vienna, and of course, today, it is a part of Poland.  The great thing about Europe (which allows for all this change) is that people have been living here for centuries.  I mean, there are traces of settlements in this city that predate the United States’ independence by about 1000 years!

We began the morning by stopping by the bride’s house to see what they were doing for breakfast, and after a few minutes of trying to figure out what was going on, Przemyk, Czarek (the groom), Bailey, and I went in search of breakfast.  We ate at a little pub, and it was an incredible breakfast.  It wasn’t anything new or special – I just had scrambled eggs – but it was very tasty.

After breakfast was paid for, we began the trek around the city.  First stop: the church on the hill or as it is more commonly referred to, the Basilica of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (right).  This church is beautiful – inside and out.  It sits on top of a hill overlooking the city, surrounded by a picturesque park area in front of and behind the church.  You could see for miles in all directions from the top of the hill, and there was a large bell tower near the church, which had me reminiscing about my days at good ‘ole Union University.

After exploring the church and surrounding parks and cemeteries, we ventured back to the bride’s house for a big Polish lunch prepared by the bride’s mother.  Now, I know what you are thinking, “Eating at the bride’s house the weekend of the wedding?  Didn’t her mom have more to do than feed a bunch of guests?”  That is a great question, something Bailey and I wondered ourselves.  This is where we got a bit of a Polish culture lesson.

In the States, the weeks and especially the days leading up to the wedding can be mass chaos around the bride’s household.  There are so many last minute details to attend to, and I’m sure that everyone’s nerves and stress levels have reached their limit.  Therefore, to have the added stress of cooking for family and friends who are dining with you would certainly be a headache.

With this in mind, Bailey and I very hesitantly agreed to partake in said meal plans, and as the meal times approached (we also ate lunch with them on Sunday, the actual day of the wedding), we often felt like we were inconveniencing everyone with our presence. We tried to make it clear to the bride and groom that if we were in the way, we would not be offended in the slightest if they told us to get lost because we do not expect, nor do we need, to be babysat.  This suggestion was always met with the assurance that we were not in the way and that our presence was more than desired.

We went into each lunch with open minds, and as it turned out, the feelings of uncomfortableness were unwarranted.  We were always met with the utmost display of peace and hospitality, and although we still felt a little uncertain about the situation, we were given a valuable lesson about Polish hospitality.

In the States, our idea of hospitality is for someone to “make themselves at home.”  We are comfortable with that.  When someone enters your house, you want to make them feel as though they can walk into the kitchen and get anything they want.  As we’ve come to learn, the idea of hospitality in Poland is slightly different.  Poles want you to feel at home, but they want to serve you.  It’s their way to show appreciation and love for their guests. There’s an old adage which says, “A guest in the home is like God in the home.” You would never want to leave God without the best your household has to offer, and you certainly wouldn’t expect him to get it himself.  Therefore, despite the conflicting emotions we had about the amount of attention we received, we learned to sit back and appreciate this difference in culture.

After a delicious lunch and an attempt to get into Ukraine (more on that later), we met up with the bride and some of her friends for the bachelorette party.  This was my first experience with a bachelorette party, Polish or American, so I’m not an expert on them.  But it struck me as being much like what I would imagine them to be in the States.  We went to a local pub and found a table off by itself, secluding ourselves so we could laugh and talk until our hearts’ desire.

The maid of honor had prepared some questions about the groom and their relationship and had the groom answer them before the party.  One at a time, the bride had to answer questions about the groom, getting some right and some not so right.  The questions and answers provided some laughs, as did the bride’s expression when she wasn’t sure of an answer.  After the game was over, we played a game of charades which ended up being an interesting experience for Bailey and me.

The first round of charades was wedding terminology and phrases (in Polish, mind you).  Sounds not so difficult, right? Wrong. When things don’t exactly translate the same way or when there is a phrase we use in English that means something completely different in Polish, there is a problem.  We encountered the same issue when we began playing movie title charades.  Movie titles are very often translated into Polish in crazy ways which have nothing to do with the English title. Most of the time I didn’t know what movie I was acting out or what movie was guessed because the title was nowhere close to what I knew.

All in all, this was a fun day full of new cultural lessons, practice with Polish, and making new friends. The weekend was already turning out to be a really fun and unique experience, and we hadn’t even been to the wedding yet!

Wedding Weekend (part 1): the journey

•13 May 2011 • Leave a Comment

A couple of weeks ago, Bailey and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the wedding of some dear friends of ours in a city in southeastern Poland, close to Ukraine (see arrow on the map).  Neither of us had been to this part of Poland, so we were excited about the opportunity to explore a new city and region.

Despite the fact that Poland isn’t a huge country, there are definitely differences in the culture and customs in different areas of the country, so we were anticipating some new experiences. The wedding took place in the city of Chełm, about 500km (310 miles) from Olsztyn, so we prepared ourselves for a long road trip with the best man, Przemyk.

On Friday afternoon, we hopped in Przemyk’s car and began the long, southbound journey.  We had our trusty dusty GPS, so Przemyk plugged in our final destination and we were on our way.  Funny thing is, the GPS didn’t always work the way it was supposed to.  There was a short in the wire and there were a few times we thought we might be stuck in the middle of no where because we couldn’t get the GPS to work correctly.  Przemyk spent many a frustrating moments trying to arrange the wire in the perfect position so that it would continue telling us where to go.

When we finally figured out how to make the GPS stay on, we drove…and drove….and drove…. stopping a few times to put gas in the car, eat, pick up the groom’s tux from his parents’ house, take pictures of a windmill (photo on the right), etc…anything to make the 8+ hour trip more entertaining.  Of course, we also had a few dance parties, jammin’ out to all kinds of music: heavy rock, n’sync, love songs, techno, country, you name it, we probably listened to it.  We also played the question game, during which we found out some interesting things about one another, including our biggest dreams, what building material we would use to build a house (I said marshmallows), our dream car, what job we would do if we could do anything in the world…or universe, in Przemyk’s case, and of course, what 3 things we would take with us to a desert island.  All of our games and discussions didn’t make the trip go by any faster in regards to time, but it sure made the lengthy trip more enjoyable.

What also amazed us and at times, elicited a fit of laughter was the condition of the roads we were using (see photo to the left).  This looks like a back road, right?  Something you might find in the middle of no where or in backwoods TN, yes? No. Not in Poland. Whereas this isn’t exactly a main road (although those aren’t much wider or in much better condition), you can find ALL kinds of vehicles using this road, from semis to tractors to normal cars.  Because it is the only kind of road in the more remote parts of Poland, it was the kind of road we used the entire trip to Chełm, which probably added to the hours we spent on the road.  There were times we couldn’t even speak for the amount of bouncing and jolting we encountered.

When we finally arrived in Chełm, it was after midnight, so we went straight to the hotel.  Przemyk had arranged for us to stay in a couple of different hotels just in case something didn’t settle well with us in a particular hotel (we were staying in some of the less expensive ones). Thankfully he had that much foresight because the first place we arrived at was creepy at best, and after a quick search of the building, we decided that we would look for the other place he had arranged.  (Normally, I’m not really picky, a clean bed and a place I can shower, and I’m a happy camper, but when there are no doors or curtains or anything on the shower stalls and only one shower in which to use – for both boys and girls – we decided it was a little more than we wanted to deal with.)  Therefore, we hopped back in the car and drove to the second place. It turned out to be great, so we checked in and went immediately to sleep.  I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  It had been an interesting day, and I was exhausted.

90th Birthday Celebrations

•20 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

Pastor Stefan is the senior pastor at the church in Olsztynek.  He and his wife have served at this church forever, and I am amazed at the level of his activity at 90 years of age.  He keeps bees, makes honey, and continues to drive his car, to name a few.  The current pastor of the church decided to throw a big party in honor of Pastor Stefan, so Baptist leaders, members of the community, friends, and family gathered to celebrate the life and ministry of this spunky little man.

The Post Office

•12 April 2011 • Leave a Comment

I walk inside the grocery story intent on paying my cell phone bill and mailing a couple of letters.  There is a little post office hidden amongst the shops selling shoes and athletic clothes which greet you as you enter any major grocery store in Olsztyn.  With phone bill and letters in hand, I approach the tiny establishment with the hopes of getting in and out of there without being noticed or pegged as a foreigner.   As I approach the door, I notice that the room is filled with people standing in a line which curves almost out of the doorway.  Everyone seems to be waiting patiently to be helped by the sole lady working behind a pane of glass which separates the waiting area from her work area.

A little disappointed that this may take longer than I anticipate, I get in line behind a guy about my age dressed in jeans and a sweater, accented with a colorful scarf.  A couple of seconds later, a man in a black leather jacket walks up to the guy in front of me, mumbles something, and gets in line in front of him.  Really, dude? Do you not see the line? I think you need to go back to kindergarten. Realizing that the guy in front of me doesn’t object to this, I choose to ignore it as well.

A lady finishes her transaction and leaves the post office.  We all take a step forward.

I begin to notice the advertisements and examples of forms filled out correctly hanging on the wall opposite me.  I silently read the signs to see if I can figure out what they are about.  Another couple of people finish their transactions and leave the post office.  We all take another step forward.

The man who cut in line begins his transaction, and I realize that in actuality he has about 8 transactions to take care of.  I notice that the room is kind of warm.  I wonder if it’s always this warm in here and if the lady working here has to plan what she’s going to wear based on the temperature of the room. Two transactions complete. The man at the window tries to seal the envelope of a card he is mailing.  It won’t stick.  He asks the woman working for some glue, and she hands it to him.  It doesn’t work.  She hands him a few “priorytet” stickers so he can seal it with those.  He very clumsily places the stickers on the envelop.  I notice the room smells faintly of alcohol.  The guy in front of me says something to the guy and rolls his eyes. He’s getting impatient. Finally, the guy gets the envelope sealed and hands it back to the woman behind the glass. He pays for his bills and letters.  He finishes his transaction and leaves the post office.  We all take a step forward.

I’m next in line.  Several people have filed in behind me.  She’s going to ask me if I want to mail these priority or normal. I begin to work out what I’m going to tell the lady so I am prepared when it is my turn at the window.  I don’t want to take any longer than I absolutely need to.  The guy in front of me asks for a large envelop and crams a large document inside.  I wonder if those are divorce papers…. What? Where did that come from?! He addresses the envelope and then pays to mail it. He completes his transaction and leaves the post office. We all take a step forward.


Dzień dobry,” I say in response to the lady behind the window.  I slide my phone bill and letters under the glass.  She picks up the bill and tells me to grab a pen.  I turn around and take the pen from the counter behind me.  She instructs me to do something that I don’t completely understand.

“Słucham?” I reply, asking her to repeat.  She repeats what she wants me to do.  What you are saying is not in my “post office” script, lady. I finally understand that she wants me to write out the amount I’m paying in words, not only in numbers.  I become panicked.  I glance to my right and see that there are probably 8 people in line behind me. The room begins to get hotter and hotter as I feel the eyes of everyone in line looking at me, feeling the level of annoyance in the room heighten at my prolonged time at the window.

Seconds pass like minutes.

“Uh…nie umiem,” I manage to fumble out, attempting to explain that I don’t know how to spell the words, finally eliciting an understanding smile from both the post office lady and the lady behind me.

“Maybe the lady next to you will help you,” the post office lady replied in Polish. Why can’t you help me?

“Of course I will help her.  Let me get my glasses,” the lady behind me responds.  Relief mixed with embarrassment floods over me. Oh brother, I am that person who holds up the line.  This never happens when I go to the post office by my house.

The woman helping me writes out the words 86.37 in Polish and hands the paper back to the post office lady.  She says to me, “You speak Polish really well.” Perhaps, but I can’t spell it.

I pay what I owe for the bill and stamps.

“Do widzenia,” I tell the post office lady, telling her goodbye.  I thank the lady who helped me with my most sincere “dziękuję bardzo.”

I complete my transaction and leave the post office. They all take a step forward.