Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How We Came to Be in Poland and Q&A

We boarded a plane headed to Warsaw, flew for many hours, and arrived. That's the version for those who lack either the time or the desire to hear the details. For the others there's this:

Greg was baptized into the church in Poland at age 19 (YES this is where the story begins. Leave me alone!) and anxiously waited out the year before he would be able to serve his full time mission. In his interview with his branch president, he promised that after his mission he would return to help the Church in Poland. While he was serving in Chicago, Elder Oaks visited for some sort of conference and chose, on Sunday, to attend the tiny Polish branch in which Greg was serving. In a discussion between the mission president and Elder Oaks, it was decided that if he wanted to, Greg should attend university in America before returning to Poland. With this endorsement and his continued promise of returning to Poland, Greg managed to get into BYU. It CERTAINLY didn't have anything to do with his previous academic record. (Oops! That "certainly" wasn't meant to come out so very capitalized! Sorry, dear! And it's only because he had been a rebel without a cause. Once he had a cause, he turned all academic)

So while he was attending BYU we met and were married. In Provo, we had some friends who were in a similar situation as us: he was Polish and she was American and he had just graduated from BYU. Our friend found a job right away and moved to Poland to work for a company that was based in Provo who had a factory in Poland which made frames and bodies of a '60's sports car replica. Greg spent a frustrating summer trying to find a good job in Utah while also trying to keep us afloat with various in between jobs. One day, after our friends had been in Poland for about 3 months, the guy called from Poland saying that his boss was considering hiring another Polish guy to come out from America, and would we be interested, if they decided to hire? We said yes!! with much surprise that this could happen so suddenly,but still thinking it was not all that likely. Um, within 9 days we were on a plane headed to Poland for an undetermined length of time*.

Well, I can't really say undetermined, because our plan was to live in Poland for one or two years and see how I got on. The implication was that after a year or two we would have done our time in Poland and would return to live in the States. We spent our first 4 years of living in Poland telling anyone who asked that we were going to be here for a year or two (or another year or two). At that point I finally had an experience that woke me up to the fact that we were meant to be here for at least a while longer, and to stop living/talking as if we might return to the States any year now. Since then I have thought very little about moving back.

Still, as the kids get older, I long for them to have some of the same experiences as I did growing up. We wish we could live closer to aging American grandparents (KIDDING, mom and dad!! about the aging, not the wishing) and beloved cousins and aunts and uncles. We've lived in Poland for eight years now. We all love it and will surely miss it if we do move back, but as the teenage years approach, I've been thinking a little more about the possibility. Then I had another little wake up experience (briefly mentioned in the comments of this post) and I'm once again on board for living in Poland as long as we're supposed to.

* The biggest tragedy was that my mother had moved from California to Utah literally DAYS before we found out about this job, and I was her only child living there, so we just up and left her!)

In case you wonder about some other things here's a bit of Q&A:

Do you speak Polish?
Not if I don't have to, which is why my Polish is so terrible. Before we moved here I had envisioned myself living in Poland and diving right into all the intricacies of the language. Apparently The Secret doesn't always work. I can understand probably 90% but my grammar is not good and my decent accent rarely comes into play, as I avoid speaking like the plague. Of course I can speak and do fairly frequently (or am forced to), but I do not express myself well, simply because I have not taken the time to do a little bit of studying. (Polish is a very difficult language for English speakers to learn. Particularly lazy English speakers.)

Does your husband's family live nearby?
They are about a 4-5 hour drive away. This is unusual in Poland, as nearly all Poles live in the city in which they were born and rely pretty heavily on their parents for support and help in raising their own children. We try to visit them every month or so. (And I love them! They're amazing.)

Were your children born in Poland?
Ewelina was born in Provo, Utah, and we moved here when she was 10 months old. Both David and Aaron were born in small town Poland, with the help of some great doctors and nurses in some (2 different) not so up-to-date hospitals. These experiences helped me realize a possible reason why most Polish families have only one or two children: NO ANESTHESIA!

Do your children speak both languages?
Very fluently. I'm only adding this question because people always DO ask it, although it seems fairly obvious to me. I speak English with them in the home in their formative years (Greg does too) and Greg speaks some Polish with them, and they hear it outside the home. I would say when they are under 4 years of age, their English is better, but the Polish catches up shortly thereafter.

What kind of school do your children attend?
They attend a normal Polish school, which is why David's English teacher pronounces "footprints" "feetpreents." They have an English class twice a week with their regular studies. We make sure they don't correct their English teacher, although it's a little upsetting when they come home and tell us that their teacher was teaching the kids how to make the "th" sound using a Polish "f" which is pronounced exactly the way an English "f" is pronounced. She had the kids repeating that "f" (th) sound over and over.

What do you love about Poland?
Oh, LOTS of things. Food, landscape, slow pace of life. Many things! I plan to write a post about this in the future. (update: I did write a post about some of the things I love about Poland. To read it, go here.)

Do you visit America very often?
We have been very blessed to return for a visit about once a year (Greg's bosses pay our airfare, as a sort of yearly bonus, and we love them for this). Generally I just travel with the children and Greg stays behind, but he has been with us twice, after we'd lived here for 6 months and then again about 2 years ago. We try to see as many family members as possible when we visit (they're in Maryland, Utah and California). We often just go to Maryland as it's much closer to Poland, and other family members visit us there, but every other year or so we travel across the country as well. It gets pretty crazy, but we love it.

There you have it! All you could ever want to know about our coming to Poland. (or if it isn't, I'll answer questions in the comments)


Nance said...

Thanks for filling in those of us who don't actually know you so don't actually know the story of getting on a plane to Warsaw. I love that you've had to make your kids not correct their English teacher. So funny!

Alison Wonderland said...

What an adventure! Every once in a while Sean and I pretend that we're going to move to Ireland someday. I doubt that it will every really happen but I love the mental picture of the two of us just taking our family and striking out on our own. But missing family would suck.
Anyway, fun stuff and I did wonder a bit about the background.

Nathan said...

Lisa's Polish skills are better than she lets on.

I hope we'll cross paths this December, when I come back to Central Europe!

Erin said...

Polish is such a tough language. I took two years worth before we went there and I still could barely say anything because the grammar is so intimidating. I did learn how to order bread and pastries though at our little shop. :) It is wonderful that your kids are bilingual. If they had grown up in the US, I think it would have been lots harder for Greg to teach them Polish. Are you still in touch with the Twardecki's? I haven't heard from them in a while.

It is amazing to me that you manage to visit coast to coast in America. That is such a long way.

charrette said...

I have to confess I'm envious of your overseas experience, for you and your children. I did a lot of traveling when I was younger, and have always been pretty adventurous that way. I think it's WONDERFUL you're making a go of it there -- and loving it! (And I LOVE that your kids mock their English teacher. I would be so tempted to join in the fun...!)

McEwens said...

have been wondering how you ended up there! What I would love to see are pictures of Poland!

Love to hear about the church in Poland!

What food is like there.

How hard is it to shop? (I remember the post on clothes, but what about food, do they have grocery stores like in the states?)

What do the cars look like there?

Do most people drive or use public transportation?

What holidays do they have?

How is Christmas celebrated?

YOU are a brave soul, with no pain killers for birth!!!

KC said...

Thanks for the story Lisa. You're amazing!

Melissa said...

I, too, was wondering how you came to be in Poland. I guess it's not only the Japanese who have trouble with the "th" sound. The year I taught English there, I tried and tried and tried to get those students (and their English teachers) to say "That's right" instead of "Zat'su righto." To no avail, I'm sorry to say.

jonesfamily said...

I WILL visit before you move back!

Kimberly said...

So glad you wrote this post because I've really been wondering!

Kazzy said...

Thanks for the post. I think it is an amazing thing, and a real blessing for the church to have you committed to staying and helping to build things there. Terrific! And I must add that I really appreciate your positive attitude about living abroad. I recently stopped reading a blog because the people were so condescending and intolerant of their new surroundings in China that the whole thing was filled with mental eye-rolls.

Melanie J said...

I'd love to think I could do something like this, but I'm not so sure. Missing family would get to me, I think. But my husband and I want to serve a mission later and I'm totally hoping for somewhere foreign. I think that would be awesome.

Katherine Bouldin said...

Lisa, If/when you talk some more about Poland, don't forget to mention where it is people park their cars in the city. I thought that was hilarious! Would certainly warrant your arrest in any part of California [wink, wink]... Katherine

Moody said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been wondering all about how one ends up in Poland without chocolate chips and malt powder!

Jen said...

What a woman!! I don't know if two-turned-into-8+ years in Poland would be as easy for me to accept. You must know you're doing the right thing.

And it does seem kind of like a grand adventure - for someone not too chicken to take it:)

Jamie said...

You know, I checked out your blog, and wanted to know all these things immediately, so thanks! And I really feel for you not having peanut butter. I would love to send you a jar of JIF or something. :)

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Hey, fun to get the facts again. I knew some of them-ish, but now I love getting the random facts!

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Oh! And if you ever do get back here, you MUST move back to either Utah or California, wherever we are at the time! Every time I read your posts I wish we lived closer!

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Here I am again, but if it makes you feel better, it's the next day now. :)

I am just going to copy here what I posted to my comments about your comment on my post: LOL. Thanks Lisa. I have tried to instigate "private time," but have to admit that I haven't been very consistent with it. Smart on the no talking too. Thanks for the tips--and for not being mad at me about the award! :) Really. I DID feel warm and fuzzy about it.

Jenni said...

I have always held Greg (and You!) in the highest regard for going back to Poland after his stint in the states. Not many have returned or stayed and the church really needs the support there. Thank you for doing it, I hope you'll be blessed so that you don't have room enough to receive it!

Marivic_Little GrumpyAngel said...

This is a great post! Since I've been visiting your blog I've wondered why you are in Poland but too timid to ask. It's great that you answered many questions. I hope you talk more about Poland and your adventures. It truly is very interesting.

Thora said...

I'm glad that you posted this; I didn't realize that your husband was Polish, or that you were in Poland semi-indefinitely (you may have mentioned this before, but I finally added you to my reader today, so now I'll actually read you regularly, since with the move and everything, anyone that wasn't in my Reader went by the wayside, including my own family members).

When I lived in England this last year, even though I consider them a first world country plus (since being American my money doesn't go far there) they didn't have any drinking fountains. There was one drinking fountain in the Temple, though. It's funny the little things that are different from country to country. I found myself missing those things more than the big things, since I was so prepared for those, having heard about them a lot (like different holidays, or driving on the other side of the street).

I think it's great that you are in Poland. The Church needs so much help being built up European countries. Of course, I'm preaching to the choir here, since you obviously know that. There was a half American half British family in our ward, and some of their kids were permanently moving to America, and I wanted to tell them to stay in England, because it needs them so much more to build up the church. One of their sons was going to BYU, and I hope if he marries a girl there she'll go back with him to England.

Now what I want to know is how you and you husband got together at BYU? What is it like having a cross/cultural marriage? I have a sister who married a Peruvian, but they live in Utah, so he's in her home culture, not the other way around.

Sorry I'm writing so much; I'll regularly read and comment now, so I won't have to write it all out at once. Thanks for all of your comments on my blog; I love to read them.

Sheri said...

Your kids may miss out on the things you enjoyed as a kid, but they get to experience the things Greg enjoyed :) If you ever do make it back over here, at least they will have some great stories to share with their kids, about growing up in Poland! I can't believe its been 8 years!

Heather said...

So sorry that I didn't read this before and just bombarded you with a million questions. Thanks for the info.

Mrs4444 said...

Found the answer to my question! :)

Catherine said...

Wow. I'm Polish (raised here in Chicago!) and I am quite jealous (In a good way!) of your life. It sounds so cool, even with all the hardships.

I always wanted to learn Polish (my grandparents were the last in our family to speak it) and my grandmother never got further than teaching me to say "dzien dobry" (sp?). It is a VERY hard language to learn because you have to pronounce letters differently than they actually look on the page, IMHO. I also laughed at the non-correction of the English teacher because it always drives me crazy when I hear people pronounce 'pierogi.' As you are well aware, you kind of roll the r in it and (at least the way my g-m always said it, kind of like pya-doggie, as my 3yo ears heard it!), and since I grew up hearing it rather than speaking it, I always thought it was spelled with a d!



Chief said...

I love this story! why has it taken me so long to find it on your site and read it?

Richard Nabozny said...

I find that I am asked the exact same questions.