Day 3: Introductions

Old Market Square in the City Centre of Bydgoszcz.

It is nearly 9 PM and the disco music outside of our windows continues to blare. This is a week of festivals for the university students nationwide and includes parties each night, competitions, and concerts. I would not be so bothered by the noise if it had not been such a long and tiring day of tours and meetings involving lots of walking.

Each of our day’s began fairly early with the effects of the 4:45 AM sunrise amplifying our jet-lag. I personally awoke at 6:15 and managed to have a fairly productive morning before we needed to leave at 10 AM. Our first agenda item was a tour of the main campus in Fordon led by two ladies from the campus international office. We saw the inside of the main library and then toured two laboratories used for biotechnology and plant genetics which I found particularly interesting. The ladies then took us to the school cafeteria and translated the menu for us so we would have some idea of what we were eating. I had turkey in a mushroom sauce

My lunch included turkey in mushroom sauce over rice and some sort of fruit juice from the school cafeteria.

with rice on the side (pictured, left). They also gave us a juice of undisclosed origin which we think could have been pomegranate juice. Drinking juices which are not laced with every preservative and sweetener known to North America will take some getting used to but I found the juice refreshing and the meal tasty.

Anna met us after lunch to connect us with our taxi driver. Since this was the same driver as the previous day and none of us remembered or knew how to pronounce his name I started calling him Frederick. As far as we can tell, Frederick speaks no English whatsoever however part of me half expects him to turn and begin speaking fluent English out of nowhere at some point. Both times he has driven us have been their own adventures because Anna will give him directions and we will only vaguely know where we are going until we actually arrive. Frederick took us to exchange some of our money in the city centre and then we proceeded to the university building in which many of the professors and administrators have offices and where we will have classes beginning tomorrow. Simon greeted us there and introduced us to the dean of the college, Roman.

After Simon had to leave, Roman offered to take us to the tram stop to teach us how to get on and get back to our dorm. We had every intention of getting right on the tram and going back to meet Ragan and Dr. McGahan back at the dorm but Roman, who was incredibly friendly and talkative, had different plans. As we walked toward the tram, we became infatuated with the ancient feel of the city centre streets and the German architecture of many of its buildings surrounding the canal. These

Our first view of the city centre with the canal running through it.

were the types of buildings which I had pictured when I first began thinking of what I could expect to see in Poland and Roman was enthusiastically sharing his knowledge of the city’s history as we walked. Our brief walk to the tram somehow became a near six hour stint in this historic portion of Bydgoszcz. He showed us a model of the city during the medieval era, a Catholic church constructed during that same period, and countless museums and restaurants. Roman was gracious enough to buy us Pepsi’s while we sat and enjoyed the view of the Old Market Square (pictured above). Our tour of the city continued with Dr. McGahan taking us to his favorite ice cream shop and to another park.

We managed to find our way back to the dormitory on the tram even without English directions which was a small victory for us to celebrate. It is becoming increasingly apparent that people become frustrated with us when we cannot understand or read Polish because we managed to frustrate both grocery workers and restaurant workers by not understanding the systems in place at their establishments. I am sure we will continue to learn what we need to do and say in order to prevent future embarrassment.

Today’s Minor Victories:

  • Learning that the circle symbol on the bathroom door means “Women” and the triangle means “Men”
  • Navigating the tram system to find our way home
  • Buying groceries without fully understanding the ingredients
  • Meeting a Zimbabwean exchange student who speaks English and was glad to speak with us (we exchanged contact information so maybe she will be able to translate for us in the future)
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