I’m in Poland — Brzeg, to be precise.
If you haven’t heard, I now have a fulltime job as the native speaking teacher for an English school called Progress; I’ve actually completed six weeks of an eight-month contract and I’m loving it; time has flown by.
Yes, I know, it all happened in the blink of an eye. One minute I was on the beach in Marbella and the next, I’m in eastern Europe, freezing my bollocks off and doing something I thought I’d done with — work.
As I unloaded the car on my arrival, the look on the face of the hombre standing outside the off-licence said it all. You drive a Porsche, you have a deep suntan, what the hell are you doing here?
Good question, amigo.
So… how did this all happen?
Six weeks ago I’m sitting writing in my girlfriend’s Wroclaw apartment on a week’s visit when I clock the daily TEFL job email arrive. I nearly delete it, but for some reason I have a quick shufty and see there’s a job that sounds interesting in Brzeg.
I Google both the school and the town; the latter is an attractive looking small city with a population of around forty thousand located on the river Oder and founded way, way back in the Silesian period.
So I apply, not expecting much to happen, but to my surprise, I’m invited to interview and offered the job.
I take a weekend in Krakow to think it over and decide that it presents a unique opportunity to experience life in a very different cultural environment. And what about the work bit I hear you ask…?
We’ll just have to see.
And so, I fly home to Marbella, pack my bags and, a week later begin the three thousand-kilometre drive to my new home… well, until the end of June.
It’s Friday afternoon and we’ve just moved out of the apartment we’re survived in for over a month; it was roughly the size of a prison cell and now we’re moving into a decent gaff which has two bedrooms, a large lounge with a balcony and a proper bathroom with an actual shower that works.
After four weeks of attempting to preserve personal hygiene through a combination of a half-sized bath and a shower with no fixed attachment, I can’t begin to tell you how much of a luxury this is.
I work for the only English school in Brzeg. Progress is a dynamic well-established small business with an excellent ethos, friendly staff and an interesting and challenging mixture of clients.
My timetable is made up mainly of adult classes; usually small groups whose motivation
for learning English is for business, career or social reasons. My favourite group is actually my Polish army class, and I recently managed to incorporate YouTube clips of Rab C Nesbitt and Mrs Brown’s boys (yes… the condom one) into a lesson while keeping within the remit of related content. If you’re reading this, boys (and girl) of the Polish army, and you don’t do your homework, I may well give you another WB Yeats poem to analyse.
So what about Poland?
There’s way too much to cover in one blog but here are ten facts about Poland — a few tasters — for my next blog:
1) The beer is fantastic but the food is dreadful: what you order is totally unpredictable unless you know precisely what you are letting yourself in for.
Remember, amigo, I am as fussy as a cat when it comes to food. After six weeks, I have still only discovered two dishes I can eat: Hungarian Goulash (which technically isn’t Polish) and Wiener Schnitzel (which, I believe is actually German). I regard McDonald’s in a similar way as I view Free Presbyterianism: I know it exists, it has a devout and fervent following but I certainly wouldn’t want to comsume it. But if someone opened a macky dee in Brzeg, I would eat my every meal there.
2) Polish people are incredibly friendly. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Going to the gym is a flurry of handshakes in the changing room, cześćs (hellos) and nods by the bench press. However, it is frowned upon to stand totally naked in the changing room, so always take your clean underpants to the shower.
3) The road manners are exemplary, and a total contrast to Spain. Okay, maybe the Polish drive like old women but that’s better than having Jose in hot pursuit of your British-registered (compound noun here, amigos) car, just a cigarette paper’s width from your rear bumper.
4) The roads are not. They are so bad that I’m seriously considering swapping my car for a 4X4.
5) For reasons that I cannot explain, all doors in Poland open outwards. Once you understand this, life is simple.
6) When you finish your meal in a bar/restaurant, you must return your dirty dishes to a trolley next to the kitchen.
7) The country is fuelled on Vodka. This is not as bad as it sounds.
9) The Polish and the Irish have much in common. I’ll return to this in more depth in my next blog, but for now I’ll keep the commonality to a love of strong drink, ability to withstand wretched weather, and a positive outlook on life that belies their horrific histories.
10) It is difficult to find a hand car wash facility, as all the skilled car valeters have moved to Manchester.
Chicos! That’s all for today. It’s my birthday weekend and so I’m off to Wroclaw after I’ve shown Jabuk who’s king of the bench press. Much Vodka will be consumed but, after my last experience I’m steering clear of the Vodka Martinis.
Hasta pronto, amigos!