Sunday, January 19, 2014

More bumps in the road...

After the struggles to get to Europe, I chose to take a taxi rather than trying to navigate the public transportation when I landed in Krakow, Poland. Even though it was dark, as I peered out the window, it flashed me back to the taxi rides of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. In the dark, the world looks the same mostly everywhere. It felt like the entire semester at UNI never happened, there I was again in an unknown land filled with possibilities and unknowns. While my brain knows that many events happened between my plane taking off in Uganda in August and my plane landing in Poland in January, it is still confused! 

My time in Poland was very short, but sweet. I visited my Polish friend, Karolina, who studied at UNI my freshman year. She showed me around the Old Town of Krakow and took me to the top of the castle. We also visited Auschwitz, which as anyone can imagine was incredibly eerie and sad. To see and walk on the ground where thousands died, in a place where you have studied many times, was an unreal, shiver-down-your-spine feeling. I applaud the museum's effort to retell the story for without education, history will surely repeat itself. I also enjoyed my time with a new friend, Kamila, who was able to show me many interesting aspects of historic and modern Jewish culture in Krakow. Besides one bus that never came, sadly receiving the news of family deaths (maybe I should stop traveling...), and suffering from jet lag, it was a smooth visit...until I tried to leave, of course!

After all of the stress of my passport and visa, I thought the worst was over, but Saturday brought more bumps in the road! Once again, I paid the expensive rate for the return taxi to the airport. Upon arriving, I had to rearrange my bags, because it was a full flight, and they were unable to safely allow the normal carry-on bag size for everyone. I have been through security many, many times, but this time was definitely the worst. Long line, pushing and shoving, rescanning, etc. I am sure you can imagine! Everything was flying out on time, and then I started hearing the dreaded flight delay and cancellations (in 3 languages!) over the intercom! There was dense fog in Krakow, and the planes that were already there from the night before were able to take off, but none of the incoming planes could land. An airport packed to the brim with unhappy people (who did not speak English, of course!) and screaming babies was not exactly how I planned to spend my day! Five hours later, the plane from Paris-Krakow was able to land, and an hour later, we were on our way to Charles de Gaulle! I was in the middle seat, in the last row, next to the bathroom with turbulence and the other passengers screaming at the flight attendants about their bags not being able to fit...probably my worst flight ever! With this delay, I missed my train to Besançon (which was to leave four hours after my flight was supposed to land) and I was unable to exchange it for a different one (even with insurance!), because more than an hour had passed since my train had departed. So after all if the Krakow airport drama, I had to forfeit my old ticket, and pay for a new one that of course costed twice as much as the first one! I am hoping my overall travel insurance will kick in to cover it, but only time will tell. Relieved to finally be on the train and happy to not be spending a night in Paris, but I could not sleep after the super exhausting day in fear that I would miss my stop! Finally in Besançon, I was so relieved that my host parents were still able to pick me up that late at night! They were right there with hugs and kisses to take me on my way, and everything was better then! :) 

My quote of the day yesterday was, "Sometimes getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air" - Sarah Kay. It could not have been more fitting, so cheers to being able to taste air again! :)

In the last 24 hours, I have been figuring out how the Vinsu family operates - a good challenge! I am unpacked and starting to practice my French! The Vinsu family is very big - 8 children! I am learning the family tree and each of their professions! Their home is similar to many that you would see in the United States, so I am grateful for some continuity! I also attended mass with them tonight. Each country's religious ceremonies amaze me as to how people all over do the same traditions - it's beautiful! I am looking forward to more discoveries in France throughout the next four months! 

The Vinsu family tree!

A UNI mug in their kitchen! We do not know where it came from, but it is a little piece of Cedar Falls all the way in Besançon! :)

Even though the events of the last two weeks have not been fun, I am grateful for the many newly strengthened relationships that it has given me. It means the world to me to have my extended support network there throughout all of these challenges! I hope that I can be there in the same way for each of you, in life's greatest triumphs and trials, as you have for me! 

My placement tests are in the morning, so that is all for now!

Bonne nuit!

Kara

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