Broken doorhandles and free hugs

The two weeks since my last post have passed in a snap of fingers and I am having hard time trying to decide how to summarize the essentials for you. During the past two weeks I have visited Krakow and Auschwitz, seen the real Finnish Santa Claus from Rovaniemi in Minsk Mazowiecki, celebrated the Finnish Independence Day with cooking makaronilaatikko for the others, taught 400 Polish kids how to count to three in Finnish as well as given free hugs in the underpass at the train station in addition to the regular volunteering work at schools. The only word to summarize all this is stupefacente!

The trip to Krakow was thrilling – not only because of discovering a new city and sensing the empty feeling in the concentration camps – but also because we had let the Spanish volunteer to book the accommodation for us. When arriving at the apartment, we were scared if the roof will fall down during the 40 minutes we needed to wait for somebody to come open the door. Once the prince arrived to save us, it took him 10 minutes to actually open the door as the locks were working weirdly. Two days after, the doorhandle fell off. When inside, we found out that the sheets and towels included in the price meant having hand towels instead of shower towels and a sheet to cover two thirds of the shared bed. In addition, we needed to borrow some toilet paper from a few restaurants to survive till the last morning. So, in case you want an extreme vacation in Krakow, I recommend booking Extraordinary Brzozowa Apartment which will cater your needs perfectly!

Luckily, in the train back to Minsk Mazowiecki, we sat in the same compartment with two Polish guys and the animal sounds we had practiced earlier came in handy when having a brilliant small talk! So much so that the people in the next compartment yelled Shut up! while one of the guys was imitating a donkey flawlessly! Well, it was the weirdest (and funniest) train trip of my life, but what else could you really expect after a trip like this?

After surviving Krakow we celebrated the International Volunteer Day taking place on December 5 in our own way. We split into groups and took over the streets of Minsk Mazowiecki giving free hugs and playing and dancing on the streets. I was lucky enough to be in the free hugs group spending an hour in the train station underpass hugging random people. We had a rough start and I have never felt quite that rejected in my life, but it still paid off as we managed to bring a smile to many people’s faces with our funny appearance and broken Polish no matter if they wanted to hug us or not. At least we had a great time and a lot of laughter together!

The Finnish Independence Day was also a big day for me as I not only got to share about my culture in the weekly intercultural evening but also the Santa Claus from Rovaniemi visited here on that day! There was an event for 400 kids where the Santa was the main star and I had the chance to co-star teaching the kids how to count to three in Finnish. In the evening, as said, we had an intercultural evening learning about Finnish and Greek cultures. I got to share a little bit about our Independence Day traditions as well as shocked most of the other volunteers with the Finnish Nightmares by Karoliina Korhonen. Of course, we ended the evening with tasting some makaronilaatikko, salmiakki and Fazer chocolate.

The last week of my experience in Poland is starting tomorrow and I am having mixed feelings. It is great to go home for Christmas but it also means that the time in Poland is almost over and our community will break everyone following their own paths. Read my following post to hear more about my final thoughts about this experience!

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