Friday, July 16, 2010

Bizarro memory

Ananda girl threw out the question of what is my favorite bizarro memory. The one that comes to mind is not my favorite and not positive, but you might find it interesting.

I spent my junior year abroad in Germany. To prepare for the experience of actually studying in a foreign language I went to language school for a month or two. There I met a Polish man from Warsaw who invited me to come visit during my year in Poland. His son spoke English and I could stay with him.

So, of course I went - a chance to see my homeland!

And so the experience begins. I took the train from Berlin. At the time, Germany was still divided, so it was a nerve wracking experience to have the train stop in East Germany's Berlin and to have officials come through to check passports. I had visions of being pulled aside and interrogated for being a spy. Of course, though, that did not happen. [actually - rereading this - I need to check my diary from that time. I may have actually been detained.]

The train went on to Warsaw. At some point, maybe even from East Germany on, a young Polish man got on and sat across from me. I think he spoke enough English that we could sort of communicate. He bought me a cup of coffee, and given there was no way I could refuse the offer, I drank it. My one and only cup of coffee in my lifetime. In any event, we arranged to meet and for him to show me around in Warsaw. (When I met up with the young man, he got western cigarettes out of me, and eventually ended up asking me to sponsor him to get to the US. I said no in a polite way, even though he had given me a photo book of the history of Poland.)

So, I got to the son's apartment, bearing gifts of course - Belgian chocolate for his wife and I forget what else. His wife spoke a little French and looked at me warily as she ate the chocolates. And, it turns out, for good reason.

For a week I participated in their life - including Easter time and a wedding. The son brought me places, but over time he started making advances. Given my 'predicament' - being in a foreign country with no other connections really - and given my wonderful ability at the time to ignore any uncomfortable reality, I stayed on. I knew it was wrong and I was uncomfortable sitting on his lap on the bus, but did it anyway (though tried to get up as soon as possible).

Despite all that, I felt lucky to be able to be in Poland and participate in all these events. The bizarrest moment was at the wedding. I danced with the wife's brother, who only spoke Esperanto. We talked a little bit about the language (to the best of our ability) and then he very clearly in manner (but not so in language) told me to leave/get of of Poland. Again, I was shocked and ignored it.

When I left Poland I carried with me some crazy memories, and also a short-lived addiction to cigarettes - taken up when the young man offered me one and I needed something to get my mind off of the stress.


laura b. said...

I have never been anywhere and that experience, odd as it was, is priceless. Wow, really interesting and yes, bizarre!

crazy4coens said...

you were very brave to go to germany for your junior year - and very brave to go to poland, too. ah young youth. not knowing any better got you some interesting memories. get out of poland! sheesh!

Ananda girl said...

Yikes! That was some bizarre adventure. It must have been very uncomfortable. I probably would have stayed too. It has always been hard for me to "make a scene" in uncomfortable situations especially so far from home and help. I am glad you made it home safe!

Mel said...

Wow.....what an adventure!

Tara said...

Wow, that was a bizarre memory!

It would be so interesting to go to another country. I've been to Canada and Mexico, but I would like to explore other places, too.

Churlita said...

Reading this just made me so glad that I'm in my 40's. I would have reacted like you did when I was in my 20's. Now? Hell no.

NoRegrets said...

Laura, interesting is indeed a word to describe it.
Crazy - yeah, a certain kind of bravery is jumping in when you don't know what the hell you're getting into
Ananda - me too.
mel - yep
Tara - go!!
Churlita - yeah, seriously. The guy would be doubled over at the very least. One would hope.