These are the things I say or do. While in France or some other country in the neighborhood. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The lack of recent updating has been due to the fact that I'm in Poland. And I was too lazy to go to the internet cafe in Le Havre to type things on the azerty keyboard there. Poland is awesome. No, it is more than awesome. The countryside reminds me of the Midwest quite a bit. Much like South Dakota, with less corn palaces. The language is incomprehensible, and I rely on my friend James to help me get around. There has been much running after trains and drinking of vodka in Krakow pub basements.

The first day I flew into Katowice from the Beauvais airport in France. I tried to flirt with this really cute Polish girl sitting in the same row of seats next to me by making a little paper , drawing racing strips and some adorable little stars on it and throwing it at her. She wasn't havin it. My introduction to Poland was the passport control guy, who instead of being an asshole like the French ones was welcoming and warm. "Good evening!" he said when seeing my American passport. I was so shocked by his cordiality that I could only stutter a "Good evening" back. He checked my passport and stamped it, asking how long and why I'd be in Poland, and if it was my first time here. After doing so, he said, "Welcome to Poland" with an enthusiasm that couldn't be faked.

James and a couple of students of his picked me up in their car and we headed to Krakow to check into our hostel. My name in Polish is Mikolaj, the l in the name being the Polish l with a little line drawn through it to make it look not unlike a t, but pronounced as if it were a w before an o in a word, like word. So it sounds like mikowai. James' name is Kuba. I had not been aware that you recieved a Polish name upon arriving here, but I plan on changing all of my official documents to match.

We arrived in Krakow at about 8pm, checked into our hostel and went out to scope the town. Mostly, we drank a bunch of vodka and beer in a few of the many basement pubs they have there. It was fantastic. Here's a picture of me kinda drunk that James took.

Somehow, we woke up really early the next day and went to this fortress/palace/cathedral complex that Krakow's famous for called Wawel. The w's are pronounced like vs, like vavel. It was neat to see a lot of the palace rooms and part of the cathedral, but mostly James told me a ton of interesting things that I never knew about Polish history. Here's a picture that can't do justice to the largeness of the place.

After Wawel we walked around a bit and took in the architecture of Krakow, found some lunch, and went to this English book store called Massolit. It was bigger and had a better selection than some that I have found even in Paris. While there I saw this gorgeous woman walking around with an Italo Calvino book in her hand. While we were buying our stuff she was sitting at the little cafe they have there and reading LeMonde Diplomatique and browsing through some magazines. I waffled back and forth about talking to her, as she kept passing eyes at me. Finally, I got up enough courage to overcome the paralyzing nervousness and say, "That book by Calvino is excellent. Have you read anything else by him?" "Yeah, I've read The Path to the Spider's Nest," which to my fortune was one of the books I was buying. We started talking about literature and This American Life and then James and I had her show us places to go in Krakow. When we left the store, I immediately regretted not inviting her out with us. We got halfway down the street before deciding that we had to go back. Yes, we did the walk back in, using the excuse that James wanted to find a tobacco shop in Krakow to buy snuff at. She agreed to come out with us and I spent the next five hours becoming smitten with this artist from Chicago that spoke fluent Polish and good French and was so many things that are cool in a woman. That's all I really want to say here. We didn't see her again the next day, but I have a phone number and an email address.

The next day we went to the salt mine in Wieliczka. It is one of the most amazing things I have seen. It used to be a mine until the mid 90's, when they stopped producing salt but continued it as a tourist site. It's full of artificial lakes and sculptures by the miners done in salt, as well as two chapels carved completely out of salt that they still have services in. Here's the only picture James was able to sneak from the place (you had to pay ten zloty to do so without getting yelled at).

In the interest of seeing the rest of Poland, I'm going to end this post with a picture of James Wicka, teen hearthrob, my tour guide of a beautiful country. This is for all of the 14-year old girls out there.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

One More Valentine's Post

Again, we did Valentine's Day cards in the other half of my favorite class. When I asked what the French do for Valentine's day, my favorite student in that class said, "We cry alone."
Another made a card, with a heart on the outside and Happy Valentine's Day, but on the inside it said, "Shut up and smile, Darling."
One boy wrote for his poem, "My eyes are more precious than yours, because without them I couldn't see yours."
And finally, I made a Valentine's Day card in French because I was bored while all of my students were working in one class. Here's the poem I wrote, along with a translation:

Tu me manque, et quand
il pleut, mon coeur pleure.
Tes yeux sont le ciel
Et tes cheveux l'arc-en-ciel.
Lorsque tu es absent
Ma vie est absent.

I miss you, and when
it rains, my heart cries.
Your eyes are the sky
and your hair the rainbow.
When you are absent
my life is absent.

I read this to some of the classes and they thought it was absolutely hilarious, as do I. Some, however, thought it romantic.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Pictures again.

This is some awesome graffiti near the beach.

This graffiti is right next to the other. I watched the artists paint it when I first arrived.

The boulangerie where I go every day to get a baguette. Well, not every day. Ok, every day.

I go every week to a market near my house. This is my "market lady", who always is very kind and from whom I buy enough vegetables to last a week for usually less than 10 euros. She was happy to pose for this picture when I told her that she'd be famous in America.

The first set of stairs I have to walk up to get home. One of my students (one of my favorites) was walking down these stairs when I was taking the picture. She was relieved that it was just me, being a weird American and taking pictures of stairs.

This is the second set of huge stairs I have to walk up to get home.

"This boat is obviously sinking."

A picture of my school from the front. Cool, eh?

Ah, my bike. I got it fixed yesterday. Beautiful.

I Smell

Yes, I smell. I smell so bad that children cry, paint peels off of passing cars when they go by, and I roll around in garbage because my smell is so bad that I consider it perfume in comparison. If you are wondering why I'm saying this, you obviously don't know me as a person, or at least have never been within 50 feet of me. Ok, I'll be honest. 100 feet.

That said, I can drink again! I went out last night with Jon and three beautiful French women and we had some beers at a bar called Le Jazz, where the do not, in fact, play jazz music but rather thumping rave music. It's always a treat. I don't think I'll be hitting it hard every night (I really didn't drink that much last night), but it's good to be able to suck back a beer or a whole bottle of wine that only costs 1 dollar again.

There is no transition here between drinking and talking about my students. This morning I had my favorite class do Valentine's Day cards, and they were absolutely hilarious! I wrote "Roses are red..." on the board, and told them that if they wanted to they could write their own version. One wrote, "Giraffes are blue, Platypus are Orange, Stegosaurus are Green, and so are you!" Then, on the back where the Hallmark seal would usually go, she wrote "God shaves the Queen!" Another: "Cakes are burnt. You are glue. I am gardening. And so are you." In response to my sentence on the board, "You have stolen my heart," the first girl wrote, "I had some chocolates to give you but you have stolen them." This is the girl that said Valentine's Day was too commercial. I have to admit that I love these slightly jaded, but witty, 15-year olds, and as it was my last class with them, perhaps will even shed a tear or two. I guess this is the reason people teach.

Some of the other classes did really cute stuff, like write poems with lines such as, "You are the sun of my life, you are my oxygen, without you I cannot breathe. You are the star of my heart," etc, which was outrageously funny. But this class of nerds trumped them all by being sarcastic and funny in a language that is not their first. Speaking of, one wrote "I love you" in seven or eight different languages, and in parentheses said, "Now if I could only know who you are..." Hilarious.

Oh, and I did taste wet dog food, in response to TJ's comment. It was when I was about eight. For all of those who wonder if wet dog food tastes good, well, it doesn't. I remember eating a piece that was mostly light, brown coagulated fat. I don't remember if I swallowed, but I do know that it tasted like really, really bad meat. And dirt. How do dogs eat that? Oh, and why do they always advertise when they change the flavor of a dog food? Who the hell cares, and who will really know besides old, poor women that can't afford regular food? And me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Long Time, No Post

So, I haven't posted in awhile. I guess it's because life here has kind of settled down into a routine, really. I read, write, teach, ride my bike (though right now it's broken...Grrr). I don't spend too much time on the internet at school, mostly because I feel lame hanging out here when I have no classes to prepare for.
What's new? Not much, really. Except that I've finished the first issue of my 'zine, "This Plane is Definitely Crashing". If you would like to obtain a copy, send 2 of your hard-earned dollars for postage to Mike Faris at:
P.O. Box 263
Corvalis, OR 97339

Or, if you live in Ames, I will be getting a copy to the wonderful Mr. Eric Henderson to distro. He can be contacted at, and the price is still 2 bucks (to cover me shipping stuff to the U.S. and the cost of copies since that shit ain't free).

Other than that, I'm just sitting here being excited to go to Poland in the last part of February to see my friend James. Hopefully we won't get too drunk and find ourselves lost in Katowice in Poland in the middle of winter. Or, then again, that would make a great story if we didn't die or lose a major appendage to the cold. We'll see what happens. I only have a week left of teaching after this one before vacation, and then I get to hang out in France for a week before going to Poland. I have no idea where I'll go. Maybe Caen or Dieppe or something?

And really, that's it. I've another idea for a different 'zine, but once it gets off the ground I'll let you know more about it.