Different doesn’t mean bad

Posted on 14. Apr, 2012 by in Countries, Culture, Grammar, Nature, Phrases

What do you think about people from other cultures?

Did you ever think someone was scary because they looked different, or ate strange foods? Well, they might think the same about you! One of the things we all need to do is celebrate diversity (doceniać różnorodność). We shouldn’t think badly of people from other cultures because they are different than our own culture.

Sometimes we judge people from other countries unfairly, because one person from that culture did something bad. Well, has your whole family ever been blamed for something your little sister did? It doesn’t seem fair does it? It’s just as unfair to blame a whole culture for what two or three people do.

So here’s some things that YOU can do to help yourself understand other cultures:

1. Find COMMON GROUND! (Znajdź wspólny grunt!) Just remember that even though some people look different on the outside, that doesn’t change how they are on the inside. They still have the exact same feelings! What other things do you share in common? Read about other cultures to find out more about them.

2. Don’t blame ALL BECAUSE OF ONE! (Nie obwiniaj wszystkich z powodu jednego!) So lets say someone from another culture is being mean, and you decide to avoid everyone from that culture. Well think about it. Why are you blaming them for something they didn’t have anything to do with? Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Putting yourself inside someone else’s head can be a very powerful way to understand WHY they are acting the way they are.

3. Try to MAKE FRIENDS with people from other cultures (Spróbuj zaprzyjaźnić się z ludźmi z innych kultur). You could ask them what they know about their culture, or what it was like in their country, if they can remember, or if they ever lived there at all. Try foods from that culture, or ask them if they know any words in that language. You might be surprised at how neat other cultures can be!

And remember, different doesn’t mean bad (inny nie znaczy zły)!

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Visiting the Baltic City – Gdańsk

Posted on 13. Apr, 2012 by in Countries, Culture, Geography, Places to visit, travel, Vacation

For anyone who has never been to Poland, or who does not know too much about the country, Gdańsk is one city that may ring a few bells. Even if the name itself does not, events which took place there certainly do. It is Gdańsk, after all, that can claim to be the home of Lech Wałęsa, Solidarność (Solidarity) and the former Lenin Shipyards – images of the man, the movement and the shipyards flashed across television screens all over the world during the 1980s. People who had never thought too much about Poland were suddenly witnessing life-changing events unfolding there – nightly – on news bulletins. There was surprise and admiration for the tenacity and grit of the Poles, and the world watched in amazement as Solidarity led to the fall of the Communist regime…something deemed surely impossible by so many.

For visitors not familiar with Polish history, Gdańsk offers other surprises, including its architecture, which is an accurate reflection of its cultural and historical complexities. After all, pre-war Gdańsk – which was known as Danzig at that time – was under Prussian and then Hanseatic rule for centuries, and its architecture beautifully shows this: a visit to this northern city is not unlike a visit to Amsterdam and its buildings are surprisingly elegant. Though badly damaged in WWII – entire sections of the city were completely destroyed – the city was rebuilt to faithfully show how it looked originally. To step into Gdańsk’s Main Town (Główne Miasto) is to truly step back in time about 400 years, straight into a Hansa merchants’ settlement.

The obvious starting point is the Główne Miasto (Main Town), the largest historic part of the city. A walk down the main thoroughfare, ul. Długa, to Długi Targ, the open square on the street’s most eastern corner, is quite natural – a stroll in this direction is very flowing, as it starts at a massive gate called the Brama Wyżanna (Upland Gate) and leads smoothly away. It’s worth noting that the gate was the starting point of the Royal Route, used by Polish monarchs on their visits. To retrace their route, go through the ornate Brama Złota (Golden Gate) which is next to the Dwór św. Jerzego (St. George’s Court), itself handsomely decorated with Gothic touches and a statue of St. George and the dragon. From this point, ul. Długa goes directly to the town hall, with shops, cafes and restaurants scattered on either side of the street, along with gorgeous touches on the buildings, such as original engravings, colourful doors and massive windows. Upon reaching the Town Hall, look up – the roof, the hall has a massive golden statue of King Sigismund August, and the height of the hall, combined with this statue, ensure that the building is a striking aspect of the city’s landscape.

From the Town Hall, continue down ul. Długa to the Brama Zielona (Green Gate), which marks the exit from the Main Town and leads out to Gdańsk’s stunning waterfront area. Boats still travel up and down, and a short walk away from the city will offer tantalising glimpses of the famous shipyards and open water. There are plenty of boat trips along the Motława Canal, particularly pleasant during the summer months.

When the mood to shop strikes, turn left out of the Green Gate, pass the former granary district of ul. Chlebnicka (Bread Street) and Brama Chlebnicka (Bread Gate), and then turn left onto ul. Mariacka. This picturesque little street has cool cafes, chic bars and luxury shops galore; the buildings are all dragon-faced gutter spouts and bohemian charm. But look closer: inside those terracced houses are high-end jewellery and clothing shops, all begging to break your resolve and your holiday shopping budget (You can actually haggle the price of the jewelry – we did it and it works!) And once you have shopped to your heart’s content, sit down at one of the amazingly atmospheric bistros to enjoy a glass of wine, before heading up to the Kościół Mariacki (St. Mary’s Church). This is the largest old brick church in the world, and if you climb its 405 steps to its tiny viewing platform, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking – or, depending on your fitness level, perhaps a breathless – view of this beautiful, waterfront city.

My husband and I stayed at Hotel Królewski. We had a great view of the Medieval waterfront. Hotel was really nice and reasonably priced for such a great location. In the mornings a breakfast buffet is available. Later the hotel’s restaurant serves international dishes. The staff is available 24/7 and can help guests organize sightseeing tours and taxi transportation.

Hotel is located on a little island. The island itself has several points of interest, such as the Maritime Museum, the Baltic Philharmonic and the Gdańsk Marina. All are within 500 ft.

Długi Targ is half a mile from Królewski, which is the heart of the historic quarter. Gdańsk Główny Train Station is 1.5 miles. Everything was within walking distance and we were really happy with our stay.

We took couple days to explore Sopot and Gdynia as well. You can get there pretty fast from the train station, with local trains leaving every few minutes.

Definitely visit Gdańsk  if you have a chance! If any of you have different suggestions in regards to stay in Gdańsk  and places to see there – please let us know in comments below.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

International schools in Polish cities

Posted on 12. Apr, 2012 by in Countries, Culture, Education, Kids, Languages, Polish Language

The number of international schools (międzynarodowe szkoły) in Poland has been growing since the early 1990s in the wake of the influx of foreigners (napływ cudzoziemców) enticed to the country by a burgeoning new economy. Today, Poland has a large number of prestigious international schools ranging from preschools (przedszkola) to primary (szkoły podstawowe) and secondary schools (szkoły średnie).

The most popular international schools use English in their classrooms. However, there are also a number of schools which use other languages including German (niemiecki), French (francuski), Italian (włoski) and Japanese (japoński). Most of the English language schools use the British syllabus that leads to the globally recognised International Baccalaureate (IB) certificate. Students attending these schools are mainly children of people working for international companies and of diplomats. Many of these children will only be in the country temporarily and because of a lack of knowledge of the Polish language would have difficulty in regular Polish schools. More and more Polish nationals are also deciding to enrol their children to help ensure that they get the best language training possible among the main reasons.

There are many benefits of sending a child to one of Poland’s international schools: internationally recognised accreditations, small classrooms with low teacher to student ratios, interesting and abundant extracurricular activities and a diverse and multinational student body. These benefits, however, do not come at a low price with tuition fees sometimes reaching over US $20, 000 per school year for secondary school students at some schools and over US $14, 000 US for some primary school programmes.

International schools can be found in most of the major cities in Poland; however, the majority are still located in the nation’s capital, Warsaw. Some of the more recognised international schools in Warsaw include The American School of Warsaw, The International American School of Warsaw, and The British School. The American School of Warsaw was founded in 1953 and is Poland’s oldest international school. It enrols today close to 900 students from 49 different nations in its primary, middle and secondary school programmes. The International American School of Warsaw, founded in 1989, is the first American School of the post-Communist period. The school has students from over 30 different nations and is the only international school that is also certified by the Polish Ministry of Education. The British School in Warsaw, which follows the English national curriculum, was established in 1992 to provide British-style education in the English language for children of expatriates (emigranci) in Poland. Today, the school, which offers programmes from nursery school age to year 12, also attracts native Poles and other students whose native language is not English. For these students the school makes available individualised English as a second language (ESL) programmes.

In all, Warsaw is home to over 19 international schools such as the Canadian Primary School of Warsaw, International European School-Warsaw, Meridian International Schools, and St. Paul’s British International School of Warsaw, to mention but a few.

Non-English language international schools in Warsaw include: École Antoine de Saint-Exuper (French), Lycée Français de Varsovie (French), Willy Brandt Deutsche Schule Warschau (German), Japanese School at the Japanese Embassy in Warsaw (Japanese) and the Warsaw Montessori School (Italian).

One of Poland’s most dynamically growing cities, Wrocław is also home to a number of well known international schools including the British International School of Wrocław, International School Ekola, The Polish-German Primary School and the Wrocław International School (WIS). The British International School of Wrocław which follows the British educational system and offers its programmes for 3 to 18 year-old students, is the sister school of The British International School of Cracow. The school opened its doors in 2006 following an invitation from the city of Wrocław. International School Ekola has been offering primary, middle and high school education in the city since 1990. A major achievement for the school has been its being awarded the Westallen Peace Prize for promoting peace, tolerance and intercultural understanding. The Polish-German Primary School opened in 1999 and offers primary school education which allows students to continue their education at either Polish or German schools. The Wrocław International School, which is governed by the not-for-profit public charity Foundation of International Education, was established in 2002. The school’s programme ranges from pre-school to year 10 and has over 120 students from more than 20 countries.

Kraków, which is Poland’s most popular tourist destination and second largest city, is home to two major international schools: British International School of Cracow and the International School of Kraków. The British International School of Cracow was established in 1995 and today offers programmes for students between the ages of 3 and 18 from twenty different countries. The school is based on the English National Curriculum and offers an ESL programme for students who are not fluent English speakers. The International School of Kraków also offers programmes for students between the ages of 3 and 18. The school was established by the American School of Warsaw in 1993 and has since grown into an independent institution and one of the fastest growing international schools in its region. Today, the International School of Kraków has 73 students from 16 different nations.

There are also plenty of international schools in some of Poland’s other major cities. Some of the more recognised schools include: British International School of Gdańsk, The American Elementary and Middle School and High School no. 3 in Gdynia, British International School of Łódź, International School of Poznań, Poznań British International School and the Szczecin International School.

The number of international schools is expected to continue to grow in the coming years as Poland continues to catch up to Western Europe in all regards and as more and more foreigners come to Poland to live and work.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)