Dzien Dobry! Saying hello in Poland, and you MUST! 

say-clipart-11971028791107470649FunDraw_dot_com_Cartoon_Kid.svg.hiIn Poland you say hello. To everyone! I mean really, you do! I used to think my husband was super embarrassing when he walked in to shops in Dubai and said a bright and chirpy ‘Hello’ to the sales assistant or any worker who happened to be nearby. Now, after a little over a year in Poland I get it, and I also do the same!

Everywhere you go, bank, post office, small shop, you walk in, you say Dzien dobry. When you have paid, you say Do Widzenia. Yes, even in the bank!

The post office one is crazy, you actually walk in and say hello to the other people in the queue, not to the person working there. If you are not the talkative type you may get away with a nod. Its weird how courteous people in poland are, yet if you smile at someone they will think you are totally bonkers.

Im a smiley kinda girl, I guess its what I do, I smile at everyone (ok, maybe not everyone, but lots of people), and this seems to almost frighten polish people. I guess its a bit like the ‘no eye contact rule’ in London on the tube! But say hello you must!

So here I am, like a total lunatic. I happily say hello to the other customers when I walk in to the post office or a bank, I say hello to the security guard at the door of any building, and bye when I leave. I say hello to the joggers outside of school every morning, and the old lady who walks her dog. I say hello to the ladies at the till and the other patients in a doctors waiting room. I say hello to pretty much everyone. Not in Tesco though, its to big, to many people to say hello too! Only the security guard and the till person gets a hello in there. I also say hello to anyone before addressing them. So if I need help in a shop I would say, ‘Dzien Dobry, do you speak english’, rather then ‘Excuse me, do you speak english’? Unless its someone very young, then chances are they know english well and wont be offended at the lack of a hello!

And with that I bid you Do Widzenia! Im off to IKEA where I will say hello and goodbye to a ton of strangers 🙂

-Linda

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Blood tests, ambulance rides and extra oxygen.

Well, I guess I knew it already as I was writing my last blog post…. we got to the clinic and they wanted to call an ambulance to send us to hospital straight away (in my opinion a slight over reaction on their part). I refused the ambulance (why scare the children more then needed?) and drove home to grab bags and iPads and food. Dropped son at neighbours and went to hospital where we were admitted.

This latest hospital stay was actually the smoothest one yet, maybe because I am getting so used to them? Or because I know exactly what we need? I actually have a bag thats always partly packed in a wardrobe, likewise we have a small bag partly packed for son. After this latest stay the bags will be improved further, but they sure do help a lot, especially if someone else has to go to my house to get stuff.

The hospital stay in itself was eventful…. Every test they could think of and then some has been done. It seems Celiac kids haemoglobin is high, her body responding to oxygen levels that are too low and trying to adjust them….. clever on her body’s part, but not good for her. The pneumonia was also a bit of a mystery, a strange kind, very severe, not the kind of pneumonia ‘normal’ people get. Well, my daughter is anything BUT normal, haha (that haha is mildly hysterical by the way). Its almost as if she enjoys playing games with science, because her test results are always a bit strange and baffling.

We were sent to a different hospital to be tested for Cystic Fibrosis. Its a sweat test. Above 60 is positive and below is negative, but a negative should really be below 30 or it needs to be investigated further. Celiac kids result was 49.

I am calm. Hubby is stressed. And I remain calm. Sortof. Celiac kid is super exited because the trip to the other hospital was by ambulance, and the super cute ambulance guy gave her both lights and sirens the whole way after she asked to hear them! Haven’t seen a smile like that in ages!

Normal people don’t GET this many pneumonias. Is it still her RSV as a baby giving us crap or is it the celiac and the crappy immune system being silly? At this point I think we need more answers, because if my counting isnt completely off we are now at something like 11 pneumonias, a handful of bhronciolitis and countless upper respiratory illnesses.

I actually think we struck gold at this latest hospital visit, because they are as concerned as I am, and I didn’t have to be assertive (read bitchy) in the slightest to get some action.

We were admitted on monday evening and they finally let us go Saturday evening after some straight talking to from hubby. They just cant feed a celiac kid in a hospital here, and if you really want someone to get better they need proper food! Thankfully her oxygen levels weren’t super low so she was only on 1-2 litres until Friday then she managed ok without.

We have been back to the hospital daily since. She is having her last antibiotics today. Next week we go to a mountain town that has a specialist hospital to be admitted for a few days, there they will check her lungs properly and hopefully before they let us go we will know more definitive answers as to why she keeps getting this sick.

We did the Cystic Fibrosis genetic test too, Im guessing they will repeat the sweat test next week also. The genetic test only checks for the more common genetic mutations but around 90% of Cystic Fibrosis should show up in this. To be honest I don’t really trust the sweat test anyway because I’m so used to my daughter having results that aren’t ‘normal’.

I wasn’t really going to write about this at all, but then I figured that its probably good to write about it, because no matter what the results are eventually, our story can probably help others. Much of the information about cystic fibrosis is pretty scary, but to be honest, if she does have it, then we already lived with it for 5 years anyway, so putting a name to it (whatever it may be) can only be a good thing so that we can help her. We are obviously hoping its something else, but lets see.

Trying to explain now why we are going to hospital without being particularly sick has been harder. Then the question ‘will they poke me?’, which breaks my heart, because obviously they will but I so don’t want to tell her this and make her cry! By poke, she means needles. She is still bruised black and blue on her arms from the IV going in last week, her veins kept bursting and it was only attempt 5 that was ok!

Anyway, thats whats going on with us. Hopefully you are all having a better month then us.

I have decided to stay as positive as I can, feed the kids the best and most nourishing food I can think of and just breathe deeply as much as I can. Me losing the plot is hardly going to help.

– Linda

We have the muppets.

Sometimes I think to myself, if I wrote about ALL the stuff that happens in our life, people would think I made it up. So I wasnt going to write about the last few days, but I will anyway. Because Im laughing now, and its funny in a comedy movie sort of way. Short version.

Thursday afternoon going home from school A (Celiac kid) says her cheek hurts ALOT. I think maybe she has a small sore in her mouth, maybe she got contaminated. With clean hands I check the inside of her cheek. Nothing there.

Fast forward to two hours later, I’m lying on the sofa playing some game on my iPad, kids are watching TV. I turn around to look at A who is whinging about her cheek and I literally FLY up and in to action. Her cheek, on the side, slightly below the ear, has swelled up to golf ball size! All Im thinking is airway! What if the swelling is inside too! Call our doctor who says she cant see us straight away but to take her to the emergency room. We already had shoes on! GO! Mad drive through the city. Get to emergency room. 2 doctors and 4 nurses then spend ten minutes arguing about how to do our paperwork, kids are Polish, but have no pesel numbers (long story). Im thrusting my credit card at them saying it doesnt matter we arent asking for free care, we will PAY, just please LOOK at her. Finally another doctor looks at A while the others argue with her that its against the RULES (people in Poland are very concerned about rules and the right way to do things – at times, its infuriating – because while they all argued, A had swelled up further). She reassures me there is no threat to the airway, but because we are paying we must go to another part of the hospital. Off we go, its far enough that we need to drive around.

We get to the gate I think we are meant to go in, and the man speaks no English, I refuse, REFUSE to give up, so I shout at him in English, Im tired of being ignored (in general, not by this man), its a hospital, my kid needs to be seen and I cant understand you and LET ME IN GODDAMMIT! Barrier opens. Jenki bardzo! (later I realise we actually parked in the doctors only parking, poor guy, but at least shouting in english sometimes works. I need to send the poor guy flowers or something, I thought he was just being difficult because I was speaking english – oops!)

In this part (of the hospital) we are helped instantly. The hospital is huge, clean and very empty. A doctor and a med student see us. After a while the Dr calls for all the english speaking med students to join. Story of our lives, A is an interesting case, but hey, the more the merrier 🙂

The doctor is very concerned that it looks like mumps, and although A has been vaccinated we are at that point again where we wonder, does A’s immune system know she has been vaccinated? I call my husband, tell him it may be mumps, he’s like a gigantic question mark, SWINKA I say. Because Im getting really good at Polish disease names and hospital lingo.

Because its suspected mumps we need to go to another hospital. Some infectious disease place. The couple behind us warns me in english the place looks awful and not to be frightened, its not as bad as it looks. I think in my head it must be like the Poznan place and smile and say thank you.

GPS and me and kids drive to the other hospital. Well. GPS takes me to allotments in the middle of nowhere, I reverse, go around. Search. Eventually hubby has to help by phone, him and his Polish friends all get involved. We need to go to opposite the graveyard! but opposite the graveyard there is something that looks like an old deserted asylum, the kind of place horror movies are made in, you go in…. but NEVER come out….. I drive around, many times. I find a door, hubby says, ‘Go in and ask’. I sit, in my car, thinking NO WAY. Im laughing pretty much the whole time, I actually started laughing already in the first hospital, because these things, they only happen to us.

I take photos, because Im thinking no one will believe me. They are all iPhone photos, not great quality, but I have to share them…..

 

So, hubby calls them, and they explain exactly in which part of this huge complex they are. By this time its getting dark, and the feeling that Im in a scary movie is hard to shake off.

I park, away from walls and shadows, haha! And walk towards the building. A nurse nods and smiles and points to some chairs under a tree. Wait there she says. Im not kidding. Under a tree.

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Part of me now thinks Im in some joke show, you know where they pull a prank on you and someone will jump out in a minute and explain its just a joke.  That doesn’t happen. Instead a dr. opens the door and lets us in. She doesn’t look like someone from a joke show OR a scary movie, she speaks english and she’s lovely. She examines A and says no tests needed. She believes its an infection of the salivary gland and not mumps. She goes to type some forms for us and I cant help it, I have to snap some more photos, because  feel like Im in a time warp of some kind and Im in the wrong decade… possibly even century!

I get my paperwork and get in the car. My phone beeps and I look, its from hubby. ‘So, is it muppets?’.

-Linda

A note, I have now been to 5 different hospitals in Poland and although two of them were extremely old buildings the staff have all been great. Most medical facilities in Poland look nothing like the one above so don’t let this post put you off. 

Moving time! (again)

What a week!

Friday morning last week we were in Poznan, Friday evening we were in Wroclaw. By Sunday I had somehow magically managed to unpack everything! Then a frantic whizzing from place to place to sort out the school, kennels for dogs for our trip, food shopping, food shopping research (gluten free peeps know exactly what I mean!) etc etc.

We somehow managed to pick a great area for ourselves without ever having visited (thats how we roll, haha). Its great with tons of greenery, kids and barking dogs.

Im not sure what it is with barking dogs here…. if my dogs bark they get told off, but it seems here many people have dogs to deter from break-ins, and a quiet dog sleeping indoors obviously doesn’t deter much, so dogs are left stood in gardens barking. Drives me slightly bonkers, but it is what it is. At least I feel totally warranted to smile smugly at all these dog owners that MY dogs are so well trained and don’t bark.

We found a great little shop that sells organic produce and some freshly baked gluten free goods. I was to scared to get any of the baked stuff because even though the lady assured me it was baked in a gluten free kitchen you just never know. I need my hubby to go and ask her all the tough questions in Polish. But the produce! Gigantic organic apples that tasted like the apples from my childhood, I cant wait for summer when all the locally grown berries will come!

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The shop is called Awokado – delikatesy ekologiczne, they have a facebook page (opens in new window).

Slightly further up the same road there is yet another eko (organic) shop, a family farm and the produce is sold in someones garden! Eko eggs and veggies. Im in HEAVEN 😀

I have yet to find where the shops selling all the breads are hiding, so far its all schar. Im guessing I need to find another delikatessen. In Poznan we found most of the breads in normal supermarkets. Im sure I will find all what we need eventually.

Few more days now then its Dubai time! Cant wait. Also cant wait to come back and for kids to start their new international school where people speak only english. Happy happy happy! 😀

-Linda

 

Life in Poland – pretty awesome at times :)

People are often asking me about life in Poland, and by the way they ask I kindof know they expect it to be terrible. Then I reply to them and say, fine, great actually, and I can hear the surprise in my own voice! Not because I expected to not like it maybe, but I didn’t really expect to like it either. So fine, we have had some teething issues, Ive had stroppy people refuse to serve me in shops as I don’t speak Polish, and the security guards stalking my every move in shops drives me bonkers (do I LOOK like a thief??), but I’ve also met a whole ton of AWESOME people. In 6 months Ive already made friends for life! Lois from Polish Housewife, an American expat here in Poznan (go check out her blog!). I met Lois while searching for Poznan International Ladies Club. Great to meet a fellow blogger and have someone to speak native english speaking english with! Then the PILC ladies who have all been awesome as well. I never thought I was a ladies Club kindof girl, but I guess I was wrong! What a great and fast way to make friends. Then there was a note sent home in my sons school bag, ‘Hi we are Mrs I and Mr P, our sons like each other and want to play, CALL US, we speak english!’, possibly the awesomest note I ever received!

Then the random strangers in the post office line who overhear the cashier saying ‘Nie’ to my question of whether they speak english and offer to help translate. The lovely people in shops who speak not a word of english but who go out of their way to help you in any way they can! The awesome insurance guy who filled out all my claim forms for me as it had to be done in polish, and even got me coffee while I waited! All these people, they make Poland great. On top of that, the air, the trees, the green, heck, even the RAIN makes Poland pretty darned awesome at times.

Yes there are minor culture shocks, the old historic buildings which wow me, and makes my son – who has yet to learn to appreciate the beauty of old things – wonder why they aren’t torn down, ‘they are so old and dirty’ he says! The graffiti – everywhere- the blatant poverty in some areas. The drunks on the street (Don’t get that in the Middle East!), but I am discovering, liking, enjoying.

Im looking forward to summer, to exploring the different areas and going for a stay in the gluten free hotel in the mountains. An article in a Swedish newspaper the other day stated Poland has some of the best beaches in Europe, I cant wait to see those too!

Yes, I know I used the word awesome an insane amount of times in this post, but I just wanted to share some good stuff along with the bad 🙂 now, back to house hunting for me!

-Linda

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Finding gluten free food in Poland.

Gluten free food in Poland is generally found in specialist stores, health food shops or delicatessens. In larger towns you will find some basics in the supermarkets, and mostly it will be in its own (very small) section. Piotr i Pawel has more then most, Alma usually has a few things, my local Intermarche has TONS, but you can usually find bits and bobs even in Carefour and Real and Auchan. As mentioned previously on this blog, tesco has nothing.

I live in a small town outside of Poznan, and even in this town there is a small delicatessen selling gluten free goods, and unlike other countries, it is NOT super expensive.

– Linda

Wroclaw, I think I love you!

Have you ever visited somewhere and felt instantly at home? You know, that almost ‘in love’ feeling where you walk around with a silly smile on your face and just want to inhale the air even further in to your lungs, almost inhaling the actual place? If you’ve never felt that way, then feel free to think I’m a lunatic, and I wish you luck in finding your ‘at home’ place.

We went to visit Wroclaw because the school situation here in Poznan was getting to a point where we have to leave. So quick, we must find another town, another school! I didn’t expect to find another ‘at home’ place in the process, a city that Im sure will always live in my heart.

Where Poznan at times feels half asleep, Wroclaw feels alive, pulsating, moving! Where at times I feel like Poznan is in black and white, Wroclaw is totally 100% in colour! And they have gnomes! (I will have to do a full post about the gnomes one day, they are awesome!)

Poznan is nice, I like our house here and its been fine, but is fine enough? I guess that if the school had lived up to our expectations, and our children had been educated well, cared for well and been happy, then fine would have evolved to good. But unfortunately the school situation has been a total disaster. We visited two schools in Wroclaw and my kids would be lucky to go to either one of them.

So, we are moving to Wroclaw!   – insert jumping up and down exited smiley here –

-Linda

Winter is doing my head in.

Enough now I think. Its grey, it drizzles, its wet, cold, dirty, yukky and dark. Snow, I love, but so far we have had 4 snow days only! The rest has been as described. Im remembering why I left Europe for sunny Dubai, I miss my blue skies every morning, it just makes it so much easier to get out of bed. And you know, when you are stressed about something or something not so great happens, SUN just makes it so much easier to deal with. Instead, I find myself compensating with chocolate. And I don’t even like chocolate. And Im sitting here sulking because I wanted to have a spicy risotto tonight, but Im out of parmesan, and Im already in pyjama pants, and there is no honky shop! Agggggh.

Whine of the day over. I will write you all a proper post soon. Promise 😉

Btw, if you ever find yourself in Poland, then this super yummy chocolate is both cheap and glutenfree 🙂

Chocolate

-Linda

Ice Ice Baby! (had to be said!)

The frost has arrived in Poland.

Every morning we go out and scrape the car, I bought 3 scrapers. Every morning the kids go ‘ICE! MUMMA ICE! Look, its snow’. Every morning I have to tell them its not snow, only frost. They nod and say, ‘almost like snow mumma’. Im not sure who is more exited at this point, me or them! They are exited for the snow, I am exited to see their faces when it comes.

V was very offended the other day when I told his teacher he has never seen snow. ‘YES I HAVE! I saw it in Mall of Emirates! Ski Dubai!’, What he failed to mention is that ski Dubai is an indoor ski slope, in a mall, and that we were watching from the outside, through a thick window, while dressed in summer clothes.

My kids are in for a big surprise! So exiting!!

-Linda

Having 3 way conversations.

My life lately goes something like this.

Me ‘Hi (BIG smile), do you speak English?

Person ‘little (while blushing and looking around a little bit panicked)’.

Im not sure why people get embarrassed, clearly the problem here is mine, Im the one in a foreign country that doesn’t speak the language (although Im picking it up, rather fast!). I must say, I have been fortunate to have some awesome people helping me. The lady in the line in the post office who helped me translate when the cashier spoke no English, the customer in the Orange shop who helped me translate. The manager in Piotr i Pawel who took his time to help me translate food labels today. Then we have the even more patient people who my hubby helps to translate to, the awesome lady in the Pesel number place who patiently helped me with forms and everything while hubby was being passed between us (on the phone, obviously). The doctor who got given A’s entire medical history first by me in english and then by hubby in Polish over the phone, who waited patiently while hubby translated all the dosages of new meds to me and made sure I understood. The NC+ installation guy who had the hubby on skype translating for us.

I zone in on the younger people now if I need to ask something, they are more likely to speak English well it seems, like the girl in H&M who has lived in London and who nearly made me cry with her perfect East End accent, the girl in the Mac shop who has studied in Cambridge and speaks the queens English almost as well as the Queen. These are the people I almost want to hug! Being understood is such a huge part of life, I never realised what a difference it can really make in how we feel.

So I struggle on, but more then anything, I am managing, thanks to awesome people in shops and a very patient husband.

And then there is my new book…..

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-Linda

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