Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dzień dobry!

Dzień dobry!

Greetings from Poland! Czy mówisz po polsku? Do you speak Polish?

This summer Katie Lee and Mary Rogers (that’s us!) from LEE are doing field work in Southern Poland. We will have a few blog posts over the summer about our experiences.

Jedziemy do Polski!  

Poland was chosen as our field site for a variety of reasons. Our badania (research) asks questions about life experiences and reproductive health. The area of Poland in which we are recruiting study participants is a more rural environment. The majority of the population breastfeeds longer than the average American, many people don’t use hormonal contraception, physical activity levels are higher, and eating habits are different. This population provides an interesting comparison to urban populations where most people have an energy surplus as sedentary activity is more common and food resources are easily available.

To get to Poland we flew through multiple airports. We left our home airport at noon on Friday and arrived in Krakow on Saturday mid-morning. Apart from a bit of jet lag, we had a fun time walking around in Krakow on Saturday – we visited Wawel Castle and walked around the centrum. We also tried to purchase any last-minute supplies for our fieldwork before we left on Sunday morning.  It was surprisingly difficult to shop for supplies when you can’t connect the name of a store with the type of product it might sell!  To add to the difficulty, many types of packaging are different here. For example, juice and milk are NOT found in the refrigerated section because they are in shelf-stable cartons.

On Sunday we left Krakow with our collaborators from Jagellonian University to head to our Mogielica field site in a van FULL of supplies and equipment. The curvy road and fast cars were at times a bit nauseating, but we made it to our awesome home-away-from-home in one piece. 

Van full of lots of equipment, supplies, luggage, and us.

Kate and Katie outside our new home-away-from-home. 
We have the top two floors for all of the research team and supplies.

Nie rozumiem, and other useful phrases

Living in a new city without knowing the language well has been quite difficult. It’s hard to do the easy things that we, as English-speakers, take for granted in English-speaking countries. For example, every trip to the store has been an adventure! We’ve been fairly successful figuring out what words mean by the pictures. “Ser” means cheese, and, wow, there are a lot of delicious types of cheeses here! Spreadable garlicky cheese, local farmer’s cheese (like goat cheese)… it is so delicious!

One of our adventures in language-learning included a day dedicated to finding a bus to Limanowa. We found a bus stop, but we also knew that there was another bus stop up the hill. We decided to go into a sklep (a shop) and ask for help. With our basic Polish words, we were able to ask where the bus for Limanowa could be found, and, as it turns out, we had gone to the right one! There was no timetable, so we just waited until a bus showed up.  The bus was much smaller than most buses in the US, and you have to open the door yourself with a handle, similar to a car door.  We had the next language difficulty of asking how much the bus would cost. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we got a phrase correct and learned that the bus costs 3 złoty. We successfully made the trip to Limanowa!

We were successful getting on the autobus!

However, once we got to Limanowa we were in for a bit of a surprise. Most of the shops and attractions had closed at 2 or 3 PM! We just walked around a little bit, and then decided to take a bus back home. We found a timetable this time, only to discover that there was just one more bus! Our purpose of the trip was to buy more research supplies, which we hadn’t been able to complete. We decided to go to one more shop and risk missing the last bus. We got our supplies, but, unfortunately, we missed the bus. It was a bit of a hike back, but our walk allowed us the opportunity to see more of Poland. Now we also know that if we want to do something fun on Saturday in Limanowa, we should go early!

Settling in

We are settling in to the field site and getting used to the rhythms of fieldwork and meal times.  Our collaborators have been very understanding about our limited Polish language skills and incredibly patient when they try to teach us new words.  The people who own the house we rent let us eat some food from their garden and have introduced us to some of their local family members.  Despite their rusty English and our stilted Polish, we can have a surprisingly good conversation.  As an additional highlight, we have friendly dogs at our house who greet us when we walk out the door and when we return from a long day walking the Polish countryside. 

Our dog loves Katie!

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