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Week 4: First week of Non-language Classes at UJ (Jagiellonian University)

Updated: Oct 13, 2019

October 1st-6th, 2018


No class! I basically relaxed and then worked on blogging. I’m trying to go easy on myself this week leading up to the Silesian marathon on Sunday.

Okay. I tried to relax, but I ended up going to a market in Biały Prądnik. The prices were better than Nowy Kleparsz for some things. Next time, I will take a picture. I realized that I forgot to take a picture when I got home. Despite a large breakfast, I was so hungry and I rushed to get to the tram and back to ul. długa.


I ran to the mall and back—it was the long way up aleja Juliusza Słowackiego, a left onto Kamienna, and a right onto a path under a bridge that eventually led to Pawia. It was freezing and I looked like I had sunburn after 30 minutes.

Upon return, I blogged and read about Wieliczka history until 12:40. I left for my first class of Analyzing Polish History. Class started at 13:15. This time came and went. Our professor still did not show his face. Around 1:25pm he arrived garbed in grayish long johns or jogger pants and a red, long sleeve shirt of similar material as the bottoms. His hair was cut short, he had glasses, and a healthy bulge at the stomach. I immediately thought, “He reminds me of a video gamer”. He wasn’t rushing at all, but he wasted no time to start. First, he explained how to close the door. “You pull up! Not down.”

Next, we covered the syllabus. For wearing gray joggers and a red long john shirt (not the typical professional wear), he was very on top of it. His improvisation in difficult or awkward situations was wonderful. There were still late students and he took the opportunity to point out that he had purposely been late so that students might all be here before he arrived and therefore feel less pressure. After the syllabus, which was very encouraging, we watched Twarz (Face). Our professor had picked it up this morning on his way to class. “Things really are last minute here” I thought. After a brief run through of Małgorzata Szumowska’s Twarz, we began to watch with English subtitles. Twarz is a very recent release (2018) and a new style of Polish film about a construction worker coping with plastic surgery, transplants, publicity, and the loss of face (literally and socially) after a deadly occupational incident. We left class 10 minutes early with an assignment to watch Cler (The Clergy) in Cinema Under the Rams and compare it to Twarz. Overall, I am pleased with this class. I got a mountain of useful knowledge about Polish filmmaking and the filmmaker from the professor. Within one class, he clearly explained and showed his teaching style, and it was entertaining as student.

Later, I started planning my trip to Białowieża Forest. I still need to buy the park tickets and train fare, but I did find an Air BnB in Białystok that’s about an hour away.


I woke up at 5:00 to blog for two hours. At 7:00, I started my one and a half hours of running (the last long run until the marathon). Then I returned home to search for housing in Katowice and bus schedules to get there. I found some great deals. Yes, the marathon is 3 days away and I have not prioritized getting a place to stay or finding transportation. There is a reason for this: I am a natural procrastinator out of fear so I have pushed it off. Edit (10/12/19): Now that I have been home for a year, I feel the need to write another reason for my hesitation and it is called “Europe has an exceptionally flexible housing network and transportation system so you can plan things last minute and get away with it 100% of the time”--I never had an incident so it will remain 100% until I do. Anyway, I have almost everything settled so after purchasing housing and a bus ticket, I just need one or two round trip tickets to the stadium and back, which I think I will have to get in the Katowice at a ticket machine while waiting for the tram. I spent a couple more hours blogging. Honestly, it seems like I spend a lot of time writing, but I do not. I’m usually waiting for media to load.

Polish Literature in the 20th Century was at 11:15. It was not as I expected, but it was the first class meeting I'll go easy. The professor had darker, wavy hair grown to the ears (a little gray), thin glasses, a nice gray suit, and a personality that I could describe both as meek and prestigious especially when he talked philosophically about the poems we were reading. A bit of a romantic in tone. We covered the syllabus, and he asked if we wanted to decide the literature we would read. We agreed that adding some modern literature to the 20th century literature would be beneficial. From my perspective, my professor is quiet and timid. I asked other students in the API group what they thought, and they had enjoyed the course. This makes me think that my science background, which is not liberal arts style, has influenced my mindset. The professor wants to know what we want to learn and then he will teach it. Being from an American education system where professors teach you what they want you to know--or sometimes they don't teach this and just expect students to know it or figure it out--I was displeased. I thought: "Why are you asking me? Just teach it and I'll learn it." I consider this to be a Gen. Ed. course and while I normally thrive in those courses, I struggled to get a word in because I was unfamiliar with the artists we were discussing. I had done pre-course research based on the syllables, but we were not discussing those authors at all.

I think this course has potential to knock me off my feet, but at the moment I feel I may not enjoy this course.


Poland in the 20th Century was my first class of two. It started at 9:00 and lasted until 12:15! This is the first three-hour lecture I have ever had in my life. Luckily, it was one of the most interesting. The professor is humble yet confident in his knowledge. He does not use notes, but has it all figured out upstairs. We learned about the transition from 18th to 19th century Poland. Poland did not exist as a kingdom to the people, and it was mostly Polish “citizens” although there were Hungarians, Germans, Slovaks, and Czechs among them. In general, a problem arose where Slovaks and Czechs did not have the same rights as everyone else because they were a minority in the governmental structure. We will learn more next week on the outcome. We also learned about the changes in human movement, for example, I was not aware that Poland’s borders were re-established at least three times. We also learned about the physical boundaries that protected Poland: Northward the Baltic Seas, Eastward was open space, Southward it was the Carpathian and Sideltem Mountains, and Westward was open space.

Our professor lectured on the struggles of the Polish people to withstand losing Polish culture/National identity (and Catholicism) due to russifying and germanizing the education. As I understand it, in 1762 Catherine the Great and the King feared the fabrication of Poland’s Constitution and Russia invaded Poland. Maybe it was not fear (this could be from my professor’s perspective), but rather the desire to quench a power thirst in Catherine since she forced Peter to abdicate so she could rule. With the Russian invasion into Poland, Orthodox teachings became the norm in schools. In 1905, there was a children’s strike when they were told they would have to pray in Russian. People started to revolt against the invasion of Russian culture, but they did so by building up Polish banks, libraries, schools, universities, markets. It was a peaceful way to change the course of the Russian agenda rather than starting a war.

Further on, Poland acquired land in Germany after the struggle with Russia. This land was lost to Russia, but once regained it was called recovered because they had originally belonged to Polish people in the 10th century. That is about all that I remember from class today. I’m absolutely amazed with my history professor’s memory. He could easily teach for a month straight and cover all the events from the 18th century up to the present including the perspectives of the countries involved and hundreds of short, detailed stories from people at the time of the event. This is due to much reading and discussion for his publications.

After history, I left for the Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie to get my library card. I went with Anna and Hope my flat mates. Anna teased us that we were her “American ducklings”. She is fluent in both English and Polish (and some French) so I had asked for her help in this task. It was quite intimidating. You had to find the correct room, which was a left hand turn down the hallway that ran the length of the building, and then there was a card (all in Polish) that needed to be filled out. After you gave the receptionist this card and provided your school ID, a white card was printed for your use. Many students were eager to get their card so there was a line (only 4-5 people at a time though since this was a brisk process). I headed to the apartment for lunch.

At 15:00 I left for History of Polish Culture. The professor wore a gray button down shirt, dark blue jeans, navy blue suede shoes and had frosted hair that was spiked in the front. He spoke softly and was very content with asking students to express their knowledge before he shared his and extended on the topic. He was very kind and, very importantly, the first professor I had had abroad that did not mention a word about how crowded it was in the classroom and that it may be a problem—in short, my film professor did make the semi-comedic quote, “It would be okay if some of you did not show up.” My Culture professor was also humble, apologizing for any mistakes that he may make in English, but suggesting that “perhaps for the non-english speakers it would be a benefit”. He was very positive minded.

Around 17:00, I returned to the library after my Polish Culture class to read and study. After 45 minutes of study, I tried to read some books. It was hard since they were all college level, Polish textbooks. I also found a printer on the top floor. I tried to check out the Media library (Arteteka Wojewódzkiej Biblioteki Publicznej w Krakowie) which was across the street, but I could not remember how to get to the first floor that I had viewed during a tour. This were no stairs and only one elevator, which never took me to the correct floor. This is a good time to mention that in Poland (and all Europe) the ground floor is floor 0, not 1. So there I was unable to find the first floor and severely confused because the elevator led to floor -1 and 0, and I was on 0. What else was there?! There had to be more because this building appeared to be two stories tall. Oh well, I guess I will tinker around with finding that floor another time.

I spent the evening looking for sights to see in Katowice. Anna made apple fritters which I had too many of and Hope made 2 pounds of rose water pudding because she had bought about 3 liters of milk (albeit at a good price) and they expired in two days. She wanted them because they were a killer price and she claimed that she drink milk like people should drink water. Evidently, this could have been an exaggeration because long story made short: we froze 1.5 liters of the milk. My day finished with half an hour of blogging and then trying to figure out my route to class for tomorrow. It would be my longest tram ride, ~50 minutes one way.


I left at 7:51 from the apartment and went to the tram stop across from Stare Kleparz. It was a half hour ride to the University. I arrived at 8:30 and wandered around the campus building for about fifteen minutes before finding my classroom. I spent about 20 minutes exploring the rest of the building (except the library) and then blogged for 50 minutes. My class was at 10:00 and I had thought it was at 9:00 so I was prematurely punctual. It was very relaxing to explore and write while I waited though.

My professor was a bright-faced lady with reddish hair, blue eyes, a little stammer in her English, but an absolute love for teaching. This was Ecophysiology of Insects. It was my dream course. I took down all the notes. Everything she could had said was in my notebook even if I already knew it. One and a half pages of notes later class was over. Our professor explained that we would have four lectures and the rest of our time would be labs or presentations. Most of the course will be self-taught. It sounded like graduate school. She was very kind about letting me finish the class early in December. I think she is glad to have students (even if it is only twelve of us) with a similar passion. One thing she stated in lecture that I just could not fathom was her inability to handle cockroaches. What?! I love Blattodea. I will state that I wanted to learn more in that first class and that I thought the information covered was basic, but it was the “first day” so I convinced myself that harder material was coming.

I stayed until 12:30 so I could take more pictures of the other school buildings and also explore the Biology library. I love the library. It's so spacious and bright with nice views across fields. I didn't find a printer, but there is one in the public library near the square. You have to pay though. In the Biology library, I found a book purely on insect physiology. So I lent it for a month. On the second level, there are many journals, pamphlets, and academic resources. I may spend a week of afternoons there reading. I have a goal to get through the insect book and also find a smaller science textbook in Polish to read through. I want to build up my vocabulary. Structuring my Polish around science sounds good to me, especially since I am considering graduate school abroad.

Next, I returned to the apartment and had some pudding. Not vegan. I wanted to try two spoonfuls that my roommate had made from her surplus of milk. Then I left to go get some złoty from an ATM, later getting lost on my way to Pod Baranami. It is an old movie theater in the square. I watched Cler (The Clergy) for 20 zł (not the regular price of 152 zł) because my Polish Cinema professor is awesome. He went and asked if his students could have a discount. Of course we can!

The movie theater was hidden away. I actually walked past it about four times. There is an archway that leads to a small courtyard. On the left there are big wooden doors and behind them a curtain that reveals many stairs. On the first floor (remember, 2nd level in Poland) there is a ticket booth. The service woman was very polite when I asked her if she spoke English. The movie would be in the blue room. The I went back to the stairs, up to the next level, and became severely confused and concerned when none of the leather covered doors were open. The lady at the concession stand told me it was the door behind me, but he previous movie was not finished. I sat on a small wooden chair and waited, admiring the blue velvet couches on either side of the hall. About five minutes before showing, we were welcomed into the showing room.

Twenty commercials later, the movie began. It is a fictional depiction of the fraudulent behavior and lack of discipline that many clergymen had in Poland or even across Europe. It specifically encountered the problem of sexual sins: molestation, pornography, saving Church face before honesty, and the use of offering money to protect priests from negative publicity. The film focuses on three priests: one who is framed to seem guilty of molestation and is actually a victim; another who seems to be a philanthropist and is really a corrupt pedophile; and the last, a drunkard who cannot maintain his celibacy, and yet has a leaning to do what is right in the end. Overall, I loved it. I do not tend to enjoy these high tension topics, but the structure of the film was phenomenal. My cinema professor told us that of all movies shown in Poland, this one has the most viewings and it just came out.


I got up at 4 and packed all my stuff. Took a shower and finished laundry. Cleaned out the refrigerator and blogged a little. I got to the bus early with some help. The security lady in the ticket hall did not speak English, but she was so kind when I asked: “Gdzie jest?” and pointed to the bus platform on my ticket. The ride was relaxing. There was so much foot room compared to the one that I took from Zakopane. I just stared out the windows and then dozed off for about 20 minutes (with an alarm set of course). My adrenaline was rushing as I left to go to the Silesian Marathon.

When I got to Katowice, the drop off point was a dirt parking lot. I took some time to find out where I should go. I had some places in mind, but decided to trek to Giszowiec and then Nikiszowiec. If I had time before I checked in at the Air BnB, I would go to either the Katowice museum or the culture zone. I first walked through the city square without knowing it, snapping pictures the whole time. And then I was walking along highways, on bridges across highways, through the woods, into parks, around construction sites, and finally, an hour and a half later, onto the sidewalks of Giszowiec. I have provided an overview to give you some perspective of the terrain I was crossing; I took the "1 h 30 min" route.

I know what you may be thinking. "You have a marathon the next day and you're going for a +7 mile hike like that!" Well, the gardens and the small-town life was much worth seeing. Around 9:00 or 10:00, I stumbled across a small park with surrounding apartment complexes and had some bread. I saw some exercise equipment and a children’s playground. I couldn't help myself but watch people enjoy life. I got some weird looks, but that's okay. They knew I was foreign. Next, I wanted to go to a nearby park, but when I got there there were maintenance workers everywhere and the entrance was kind of blocked. I think it was a basketball court or skate park. Instead, I found some markets and a beautiful church, Kościół Rzymskokatolicki pw. św. Barbary. I did not enter though since I was still too nervous about being in Catholic churches alone. This town was a taste of normal small town life, and I was glad that for two hours I could take in the typical structure of neighborhoods outside of a city. The air was better than Kraków (Kraków, I do not hold this against you) and I could navigate my way around that city after about two hours. I wish I could have stayed longer, but Nikiszowiec was calling me.

Next, I hiked about 20 minutes, or 25 minutes, to Nikiszowiec. I came to the town by Szopienicka (a street name). What a historic place! The small area is all industry, brick (normal and with red paint), and is just an "out of this world" experience.

I also went to the historical museum which had lovely paintings from the miners and engineers after they had finished the day’s work. This museum also included the house layout of a normal family and the work of the women at that time in the small brick city. At the museum, the cashiers were very kind when I asked if they spoke English. I got a ticket for $2.80 with a student discount and a special deal of 5 zł off on that day. Considering that I had less than two hours until closing, it was perfect for me. Edit (10/12/19): However, I will say that in Europe, you should try to go to museums on Saturdays and Sundays because they are free.

After the museum, I wandered around the self-contained establishment. I found what looked like blockades, but I really had no idea what these were when I saw them in Giszowiec. They are garages.

I stayed in the town for almost two hours and then looked up my Airbnb reservation. It was an hour and 9 minutes away. There was no bus coming despite the posted schedule so I was walking back. Before leaving, I checked out Skwer Rybka in a nearby park. It was a mysterious fish fountain of various colored lights with no physical commemorations to denote its meaning. If you look it up online, it will appear to have a plaque—it is empty, trust me. It was strangely interesting to me and everyone else who walked up to the fountain, looked for a sign, and was left baffled because it is simply just a fish fountain. Edit (10/12/19): To be sincerely honest, the majority of Poland’s memorial plethora possessed an identity, which is why this fountain was so peculiar. But I love that this fountain is the type of adventure I might only find in Poland.

Back to the task ahead—walking back to Katowice—unbeknown to me the GPS had chosen a biking path, called Gospodarcza, to get back to Katowice. And I was so lost on what it was doing. Following ul. Szopienicka was no problem until I reached a parking lot. First I would go North northeast, then back up because I was off track, then I would turn North northwest and follow it to the forest…and then I would stop because the pavement turned into gravel. I would turn back around or try to find another path (such as the path I had taken to get to Nikiszowiec), but eventually I realized that it was the bike path or nothing.

If you follow Gospodarcza, it splits at 200ft and then after 1000ft it splits and at 1300 ft it splits. I followed the GPS to that third branch after which there is a brief clearing and then I was lost. The GPS kept adding time as I made progress to Katowice and I was not sure which direction to go. As I stood there puzzled, a family came by on bikes. The mother saw me looking at my phone and going all different directions. She asked me in Polish if I was lost. I did not respond, but looked her way. She asked again, to which I answered, “Przepraszam, mowię po polsku trochę” (I’m sorry, I speak a little Polish). She responded in English and asked me where I needed to go. I showed her my GPS route and she said to follow it, always going straight on the bike path. While we figured out my path, one of her daughters offered me an acorn and its matching cap which had fallen off. I accepted them. They would be the souvenir for that voyage. I thank her so many times, especially after she troubled others walking on the path about whether the city park was about 25 minutes away. She said that was far, and asked if I was going to be okay. “You are very brave walking alone in the woods.” After more “thank yous” and affirmation that I would be okay, I took off to get some rest at the flat. By this point, I was exhausted, but I was reassured that everything would be as she told me.

The only thing was that the bike path was not straight. It curved a lot. I had to do some backtracking sometimes. At first, I took her words seriously and started trekking through makeshift pathways because they were straight. Some of them lead to a dead end (i.e. there is no more path in the middle of the forest). I would turn around and get back to the bike path. I would turn right and then left which seemed to keep me going towards the city center. After conquering the pike path, I came across a lake that had fishermen on the banks and many other people handing out strange looks to me. Next, I had to cross under the highway and then through another park. I came to the main roads and headed towards ul. Trzech Stawów along which there is a Burger King that I walked past on my way to Giszowiec.

I made it to the Airbnb and then headed to my final stop for the day to get my race packet, Śląsia Stadiu. On the way there, I was stopped by two young men, my age or slightly older. The one asked in Polish where I was from. I told him, “Przepraszam. Nie mowię po Angielsku.” I corrected myself, “Przepraszam. Nie mowię po Angielsku”; I guess the nerves were acting up since I had not spoken to anyone that day. He asked if I was from the US. I said yes and he pointed to his friend explaining that he also was American. I explained that I was tired and had to catch a train or bus or something like that. I felt extremely rude for just stopping the conversation because it could have been exciting, but I only had so much time to get the race packet before it would be impossible. The office closed at 20:00 and it was almost 18:00. I reached the office at 18:30 and left by 19:15. It seems like I had a lot of time, but it took me 30 minutes just to find the entrance. I had to follow the people walking towards me with packages in their hands. They were coming from the far side of the stadium. The person who checked me in spoke English, thank goodness. They also had a contest going on: “For the participants of the 10th edition of PKO Silesia Marathon, our partner, Lellek Gliwice, prepared two exceptional prizes. Everyone can win, regardless of the result obtained on the day of the competition.

Of all the participants who complete the application form and answer the competition question, the jury will select the winners - one from among marathon runners and runners who measure the distance of the half marathon.

The competition question is easy and pleasant:Why is it worth running? I should have taken a picture of my response, but here is the idea:

‘Running is peaceful and meditative. It soothes the soul, puts the mind to focus, and pushes the body to its limits. I could run anywhere because of the value a little running brings to life. In any situation, it is a remedy: in the cold, dark, early morning, rain, snow, sun, or heat; when I’m happy, broken, busy, ill, or stressed; during holidays, university finals week, or summer break. I would even run in a foreign country. This is my first marathon and I am overjoyed to complete it in Katowice. Things in life that bring this much joy and peace can and should be done in every circumstance and place.’

After all of this, I was still not satisfied with everything that I had accomplished in one day. I wanted to try some food (which was a good idea since I think I skipped lunch), but it had to be pasta or something energy-giving for the next day. I asked my renter where she recommended. When I did not get a response, I looked up some places and went with Golden Donkey because of its vegan and vegetarian dishes. It was about 6 minutes away too, which was a bonus for my feet. But I got an extra bonus of viewing Henslok. Zakład introligatorski. Heller E., which was an pass under the railroad tracks for pedestrians. If the walk over was not enough, it was beautiful in this restaurant: vibrant paintings of mandalas and folkloric scenes covered the walls. I had looked at their menu before going and the pasta casserole with pomegranate, tofu, peas, cashew cheese, and… looked so good. I also got a sweet grain dish because they did not have the spicy. Maybe that was better. The cashier was so kind. I greeted her and asked if she spoke English. “Yes”, with a smile. I had to show her the items I wanted on my phone because I did not know the original names—I had translated them. She knew the dishes based off of the ingredients. I picked a table near the front of the restaurant— it was probably a selfish decision taking a table with six chairs for one person, but I wanted to admire as much of the restaurant and view the night life through the window outside the restaurant. My food came and it was very delicious.

Next, I walked around the small square right outside the restaurant. The small size made the night life seem very active. Not to say that it wasn’t, but compared to the main square it wasn’t. The main square was much busier, but its size gave people space.

Note: I will be limiting the number of pictures on the blog because it takes too long to upload. If you want to see my adventures, Facebook is a great option.

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