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Thread: Letters from Wrocław

  1. #1
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    Default Letters from Wrocław

    Letter #1: What, Where, Why, When, and How Long?

    Many of you know that I've moved to Wrocław (basic lesson #1: it's pronounced "ROTE-swoff" with a rolled "R") to take a teaching position at an international school. Students will be partly local/Polish, and also a fair number of expat students, including a sizable contingent of Korean students.

    Wrocław is the provincial capital of Lower Silesia, and is about the same size as Milwaukee (just over 1,000,000 people living in the metro area). It's located in the southwest corner of Poland, not too far from the borders of Germany and Czechia, about 200 miles southeast of Berlin:

    Europe overview.jpg

    In fact, Wrocław used to be Breslau (Germany) before it was given to Poland after WWII. Much of the architecture (wonderfully preserved in the city center/old town) is German.

    Since I know photos are always appreciated, here's a few. This is Swidnicka ("Shvid-NEETS-ka"), a popular pedestrian/bike-centric street in the city center:

    3.04.JPG

    Swidnicka is the street I take on my way to school from my apartment (about a 45-minute walk).

    And this is a view of Ostrów Tumski, the oldest part of the city, along the Oder River:

    3.08.JPG

    That's the Church of the Holy Cross (bright single spire) in the foreground, with the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (double spire) in the background. The cathedral is about a 10-minute walk from my apartment.

    As for "why" we're moving here--that's simple. Teaching internationally is in many ways more pleasant, and more rewarding, than teaching in the U.S., even apart from all the travel opportunities that tend to come along with an international teaching gig.

    And the "how": I've kept a resume floating around the Internet on sites serving international schools since I first taught overseas in 2013, and every year I end up taking a few interviews at schools that catch my interest. This school impressed me.

    So, the "what":

    I will be the English department at the upper secondary level, teaching British curriculum literature and language classes. The school started as a pre-school years ago, and has gradually been adding grade levels as their students have gotten older. This will be the first year the school has added an upper secondary program, at a brand-new upper secondary campus. So, I'm in on the ground floor of something new, which I think I will enjoy.

    This year I'll be teaching the equivalent of 8th grade (last year of lower secondary, teaching the Polish national curriculum in English) and 9th grade (beginning of O-levels in the British curriculum, which are comprehensive national exams in literature and language, similar to AP exams but mandatory for all students). Next year I may also be teaching A-levels (upper high school).

    Now, "how long":

    My initial contract is for 2 years (that's pretty standard in international teaching). I had some other job offers as well (schools in Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia, maybe a few others) but this one stood out, not just for the school itself, but because my wife and I are really excited about the chance to live in the EU. We are open to the possibility of remaining in Europe through the rest of our careers (though in that case, I'll need to bring my boat over, as I doubt I'd live long enough to build another one). I guess we'll see how it goes!

    So, we've sold our house in Wisconsin (we hope--closing is August 12, and the whole place is emptied out and ready), and my wife is wrapping up a 26-year career as the education director for a non-profit family farm advocacy organization, with quite a lot of her work connected to cooperative movements around the U.S. and internationally. Her plan is:

    1. Enjoy some downtime and travel while I am teaching (after 26 continuous years of full-time work, including running a 24/7 summer camp program since 1996, she's earned it).

    2. Continue working remotely as a consultant/independent contractor, getting some income from the projects and initiatives she most wants to stay connected to (e.g. she plans and runs a conference on cooperative business for college students around the U.S.).

    And that's enough for now--thanks for all the interest in maintaining ties with a (now) expat Bilge rat. Cheers,

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-06-2022 at 03:32 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    expat to countries.. the bilge, of course, is international.

    "as I doubt I'd live long enough to build another one" ??

    how long does it take? (how soon you figure to leave this vale of te.. er, joys?)

    Enjoy The Dance!

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    It looks as though you have both fallen on your feet.
    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Letter #1: What, Where, Why, When, and How Long?

    Now, "how long":

    My initial contract is for 2 years (that's pretty standard in international teaching). I had some other job offers as well (schools in Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, Bolivia, maybe a few others) but this one stood out, not just for the school itself, but because my wife and I are really excited about the chance to live in the EU. We are open to the possibility of remaining in Europe through the rest of our careers (though in that case, I'll need to bring my boat over, as I doubt I'd live long enough to build another one). I guess we'll see how it goes!

    So, we've sold our house in Wisconsin (we hope--closing is August 12, and the whole place is emptied out and ready), and my wife is wrapping up a 26-year career as the education director for a non-profit family farm advocacy organization, with quite a lot of her work connected to cooperative movements around the U.S. and internationally. Her plan is:

    1. Enjoy some downtime and travel while I am teaching (after 26 continuous years of full-time work, including running a 24/7 summer camp program since 1996, she's earned it).

    2. Continue working remotely as a consultant/independent contractor, getting some income from the projects and initiatives she most wants to stay connected to (e.g. she plans and runs a conference on cooperative business for college students around the U.S.).

    And that's enough for now--thanks for all the interest in maintaining ties with a (now) expat Bilge rat. Cheers,

    Tom
    Read up on the Recreational Craft Directive, as implemented by Poland. There may be hoops to jump through when importing your boat.

    The World Wide Web is the friend of Her Indoors when she wants to restart her career. You can now live anywhere and work remotely, although the occasional trip to a meeting with any co-workers or clients might be required.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Most excellent and buona fortuna.

    We missed our ex-patriate tide due to Covid. O well.
    Gerard>
    Albuquerque, NM

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    I hereby recommend that " Wi-Tom" be hereafter known (unofficially, of course ) as " Tom, in Poland" ! ! ! (Good to see you 'settling in', Tom ! ! !
    Charter Member - - Professional Procrastinators Association of America - - putting things off since 1965 " I'll get around to it tomorrow, .... maybe "

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Most Excellent, Tom! Thank you so much for sharing your adventures and I'm looking forward to more!

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    I accidentally found a webcam in a Wind app I use, it's showing Swidnicka, it's market day today.
    So we can check if you walk to work on time , carry on!

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeye54 View Post
    I hereby recommend that " Wi-Tom" be hereafter known (unofficially, of course ) as " Tom, in Poland"....
    Or maybe Po'Tom, now even richer for his experiences!

    Glad to see you're out & about after the jet lag. Be interesting to learn how winter there differs - if any - from winter back here. @ 51°N you're a bit farther up than Bayfield here... temperature's pretty much the same right now.

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop Tom.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    This is so cool, thanks Tom. Keep it up keep checking in.
    This post is temporary and my disappear at the discretion of the managment

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Welcome to Europe!
    I think we are still geographically part of it...

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Sounds like a real adventure, Tom! I’m looking forward to hearing about how things progress as time goes by.

    Jeff C
    Don’t expect much, and you won’t be disappointed…

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    Way cool!

    Keep up with photos and stories.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    And. . . When is the EBS with WszystekPoTrochu?

    He's in Poznań, looks like you're about 160km/100mi from each other.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    Quote Originally Posted by hawkeye54 View Post
    I hereby recommend that " Wi-Tom" be hereafter known (unofficially, of course ) as " Tom, in Poland" ! ! ! (Good to see you 'settling in', Tom ! ! !

    Good thing that Wi-Tom didn't take a gig in Finland. Do not google (NSFW) Tom of Finland or his art.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post

    This year I'll be teaching the equivalent of 8th grade (last year of lower secondary, teaching the Polish national curriculum in English) and 9th grade (beginning of O-levels in the British curriculum, which are comprehensive national exams in literature and language, similar to AP exams but mandatory for all students). Next year I may also be teaching A-levels (upper high school).

    Tom
    Does this mean that you will have to learn how to spell English correctly?
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Hallo and welcome in Europe, especially as our "new neighbours", Berlin is waiting for you. I hope you will enjoy your new working place respectively the downtime.
    Gruß, Günter

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by dutchpp View Post
    I accidentally found a webcam in a Wind app I use, it's showing Swidnicka, it's market day today.
    So we can check if you walk to work on time , carry on!
    Work doesn't officially start until 16 August--but I was out on Swidnicka this evening, meeting some other teachers at a pub, and then having ice cream after. I'm the guy in the black T-shirt.

    Tom
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    Quote Originally Posted by birlinn View Post
    Welcome to Europe!
    I think we are still geographically part of it...
    Aren't all you Scots going to vote for independence soon anyway? Then you can un-Brexit yourselves. Seems like a good idea to me. The airport in Munich had a fast, no-lines passage through Customs for EU passport holders. And lots of signs telling the Brits they now had to stand in the long lines like everyone else.

    Tom
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Does this mean that you will have to learn how to spell English correctly?
    I can spell "English"--I just can't spell color or honor or all them "or" words...

    But that's going to be simple compared to learning to spell (and pronounce) Polsku.

    Tom
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    Quote Originally Posted by heimfried View Post
    Hallo and welcome in Europe, especially as our "new neighbours", Berlin is waiting for you. I hope you will enjoy your new working place respectively the downtime.
    Thanks--Google tells me Berlin is 187 miles away (er, sorry--that's 300 kilometers now!).

    A European EBS sounds like a great idea to me at some point!

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-06-2022 at 04:29 PM.
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by Durnik View Post
    "as I doubt I'd live long enough to build another one" ??

    how long does it take? (how soon you figure to leave this vale of te.. er, joys?)

    Enjoy The Dance!
    This one?

    DSCN3310 cropped.jpg

    7 years, more or less, from plans to launch. So...

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-06-2022 at 04:35 PM.
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Letter #2: Our Tiny Kitchen

    Urban life means a lot of things. One of the things it means--if you choose to live near the city center--is a tiny apartment. We really couldn't have chosen a better location (a funky/cool neighborhood called Nadodrze, right near city center, almost on the river), but we're moving from a 900 square foot house to a 480 sq ft (45 sq m) apartment, so...

    I'll start with a quick tour of the kitchen. The exposed brick, I suppose, is a big part of the appeal that led to this apartment being advertised online as “stunning”:

    2.1.JPG

    It's really not all that much smaller than the galley kitchen in our Wisconsin house for the past 21 years. I dig the mural of the Wrocław city street on the end wall.

    Moving clockwise around the kitchen, starting from the left, we have:

    1. A small hanging closet with shelves (tall tall shelves) overhead:

    2.4.JPG

    2. A little counter space niche with a shelf above and a small cupboard below:

    2.5.JPG

    3. Except, oops! It's not a cupboard--it's our refrigerator, only slightly smaller the dorm-style mini-fridges some of you might remember from college:

    2.7.JPG

    We'll have to get in the habit of shopping a bit day by day. That might be hard for my wife, but I think I'm going to like it. And fortunately, there's a supermarket at the end of our block, just 1 minute away.

    More to come...
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-06-2022 at 04:34 PM.
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Hmm... The Forum won't let me add pictures now for some reason. I'll try again later.

    Tom
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    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Thanks--Google tells me Berlin is 187 miles away (er, sorry--that's 140 kilometers now!).

    A European EBS sounds like a great idea to me at some point!

    Tom

    100 km = c. 62 miles. 187 miles is more like 300 km.

    There's a setting in Google maps (Apple Maps, too.) to switch over to kilometers, or to let it choose based on the location in question.
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicholas Carey View Post
    100 km = c. 62 miles. 187 miles is more like 300 km.

    There's a setting in Google maps (Apple Maps, too.) to switch over to kilometers, or to let it choose based on the location in question.
    Yep--don't know how I got that simple math wrong. 300 km it is. Fixed now.

    Tom
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    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Yep--don't know how I got that simple math wrong. 300 km it is. Fixed now.

    Tom

    I can only remember it because 60 mph = 100 mph is easy to remember.

    And the ratio between miles and kilometers is serendipitously close to phi, the golden mean, where the reciprocal of phi is exactly phi - 1 (only number with that property)

    Phi = 1.618... , 1/Phi = 0.618...

    1 mile = 1.61 km
    1 km = 0.62 miles
    You would not enjoy Nietzsche, sir. He is fundamentally unsound. — P.G. Wodehouse (Carry On, Jeeves)

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Peerie Ma and I should write a dictionary for you. Travelling took me a while, as did jewellry. I don't think that I've spelled "cheques" the American way even after living here for 40 years.

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Moving to another country and start living abroad in a small apartment like this is the perfect way to reduce the amount of accumulated unnecessary stuff.
    Just keep the boat, you'll need it in the future!

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Thanks--Google tells me Berlin is 187 miles away (er, sorry--that's 300 kilometers now!).

    A European EBS sounds like a great idea to me at some point!

    Tom
    I don't know/understand "EBS".
    Could you please explain?
    Gruß, Günter

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by heimfried View Post
    I don't know/understand "EBS".
    Could you please explain?
    Shorthand for "elbow bending session" (i.e. getting together in person for ein paar Bier).

    Tom
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  32. #32
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    I think it's somewhere in this list
    https://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/EBS

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    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Shorthand for "elbow bending session" (i.e. getting together in person for ein paar Bier).

    Tom
    Thanks, a good idea.

    Depending on the number of participants we could possibly meet at my future boat (self building project). I'm hoping to launch her (uncompleted) this year before the end of boating season. She will go very slow, (solar) electric driven, but not too bad for a beer or a coffee.
    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...atamaran-ECO62

    Edit: "at my future boat" should read "on board of my future Boat"
    Last edited by heimfried; 08-07-2022 at 02:09 PM.
    Gruß, Günter

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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Letter #2: Krasnale!

    "Krasnale" (krahss-NAH-lay) translates as "dwarfs" or "gnomes"--and they are a big thing in Wrocław, with over 600 of them scattered around the city at last count. I've only found a few so far, but I expect to keep running into them.

    Not only are they neat little sculptures, they're also a potent anti-Communist symbol (and won't some in the Bilge appreciate that!).

    Why? Because they are apparently associated with the Orange Alternative, an anti-Communist protest movement from the 1980s that aimed to piss off the authorities by making them look ridiculous for arresting protesters who were doing things like wearing orange gnome caps and handing out candy and flowers. (Oh, and painting gnomes on walls all over the city where the authorities had painted over protest graffiti).

    So, here's the few I've found so far. First, there is Drukarz Kacper (DROO-carss KOTS-per)—or, as we might say in English, Kaspar the printer (you can see his printing press just to his left):

    4.1.JPG

    He's stationed near the Church of the Holy Cross, not far from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

    Next were these two "construction gnomes" near the city center:

    2.JPG

    And most recently, this lion-riding dwarf not far from an English-language bookstore (well, a bookstore with a shelf of English-language books) in the market square: Tayne Komplety (TIE-ne kom-PLET-ee), which means something like “secret sets":

    3.jpg

    So, gnomes as a surrealist middle finger to Communist autocracy--I like it.

    Another thing that would likely have gotten you in trouble during the Communist days: jazz. Happily, that’s not the case anymore in Wrocław, as a young tenor saxophonist playing chorus after chorus of “Misty” and “Yardbird Suite” on Most Tumski (Tumski Bridge) proved on a recent morning walk:

    4.2.jpg

    He was an incredibly good player, easily the equal of the best college players I’ve heard in the U.S.—soloing over the changes with no rhythm section to back you up is no easy thing, and I could’ve listened to him all day. I had to go to a nearby coffee stand and buy a latte to get change for 50 złoty (essentially a $13 bill) so I could drop 10 złoty in his saxophone case as a “Dziękuję Ci” (i.e. “thank you,” pronounced something like “zheh-KOO-yuh Chee”).

    After all, what’s more anti-Communist than jazz? I couldn’t help but think that Drukarz Kacper would have been pleased.

    Na razie (nah RAZH-yeh)--Goodbye for now,

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-07-2022 at 01:11 PM.
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    Default Re: Letters from Wrocław

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Letter #2: Krasnale!

    "Krasnale" (krahss-NAH-lay) translates as "dwarfs" or "gnomes"--and they are a big thing in Wrocław, with over 600 of them scattered around the city at last count. I've only found a few so far, but I expect to keep running into them.

    Not only are they neat little sculptures, they're also a potent anti-Communist symbol (and won't some in the Bilge appreciate that!).

    Why? Because they are apparently associated with the Orange Alternative, an anti-Communist protest movement from the 1980s that aimed to piss off the authorities by making them look ridiculous for arresting protesters who were doing things like wearing orange gnome caps and handing out candy and flowers. (Oh, and painting gnomes on walls all over the city where the authorities had painted over protest graffiti).

    So, here's the few I've found so far.

    And most recently, this lion-riding dwarf not far from an English-language bookstore (well, a bookstore with a shelf of English-language books) in the market square: Tayne Komplety (TIE-ne kom-PLET-ee), which means something like “secret sets":

    3.jpg

    So, gnomes as a surrealist middle finger to Communist autocracy--I like it.


    Na razie (nah RAZH-yeh)--Goodbye for now,

    Tom
    He must be popular, judging by the way his patina has been rubbed off by passers-by. Lots of high . . erm low fives there.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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