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2003-07-26 📌 Polska: tydzie├▒ jed. Poland: week one. [/Wogan]

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Five minutes ago I was wondering how the hell I came to be standing in a coach station wearing a white & blue inkstain shirt over a T-shirt with DON'T PANIC on the front, waving an A4 sign above my head. And then I remember... we're going to Poland, I grabbed pretty much the first shirt I could find, and I almost forgot to sleep last night. Hence the mild disorientation.

Stations must be great places for serious writers. Hundreds of people, all with their multi-faceted existences-you can look at any one of them and imagine a past involving marriage, loss, and any number of overturned criminal convictions for lewd behaviour with animals.

An hour or two later I'm on a coach surrounded by people speaking several languages, none of which I recognize and with only my sister for translation. Although that's a little unfair—she speaks a fair amount of Russian, which I'm told shares a percentage of vocab with Polish, The sign was an attempt to round up other members of our allegedly twenty-strong party. So far Elaine has had two cancel, one join and several are to join us out in Poland on Tuesday. We're looking very thin on the ground right this second, anyway...

Of course, no-one is entirely sure what we'll be doing once we get there—organisation being very much a "turn up and assess the situation" kind of thing. Useful things learnt so far are that Polish people generally drink a lot of tea (for which I like them already) and that camp food isn't likely to be the most varied, but not incredibly different from English boarding school fare either (as it happens, I've just spent several months in such an establishment.)

Anyway, the plan is to sleep on the journey over (all thirty-six smegging hours of it. I mean, that's how long it is, not that I'm going to sleep for all of it. Eh, feel free to skip to part of this entry in which I'm not rambling exhaustedly... *thud*

* * *

It's now Wednesday, and if I don't make it through the night I blame the recycled spaghetti shit we were fed yesterday. Mild poisoning aside, the food has been pretty good—as much choice as a proverbial Welsh fish & chip shop, but plentiful and nice enough. I suppose it may help that I have a set of taste buds that only function some of the time, and really rather like black tea. The kids generally seem to dislike the food, the staff and the camp, all of which comes not as a staggering surprise-the age range is approximately 12-16. Our cellmates are teenagers, down to their loves of Linkin Park, Kurt Cobain, hip-hop and death metal. (Memo to self: check out some Polish hip-hop artists and local metallers Vader when you get chance.)

I suppose I should write more about our journey, arrival and assimilation into camp life, but I suspect it's all a little too fresh in the mind for me to do it justice. Random events are already becoming anecdotes amongst the initial fourteen of us, to the extent that I'm not sure how the four arrived today or the two expected on Sunday will fit into quickly cast arrangements. Three things I will mention, though, whilst they're still in my head: organisation and communication here are like a bullet-time car wreck(1). We teeter on the brink like a great big teetering thing(2), and moo-vyeh ma-wo po pol-skoo(3)...

(1) The Matrix

(2) Stephen Fry

(3) "I don't speak much Polish," phonetically.

The last phrase is rapidly acquiring Lord of the Flies connotations in my mind—a link which is possibly something to do with mantras, but certainly can't be good. Anyway, those are three collections of syllables which may convey the physical apprehension I currently feel. Or not. I guess my subconscious has finally twigged that I'm in a large and unfamiliar country and I don't speak the language.

* * *

Okay, so we're playing football tomorrow at five instead of today (Sunday)—it's just too damned hot. Marius (interpreter and new flatmate) has gone to pick up the final latecoming additions to our merry band of troubadours: a woman and her 13yr old son. I don't say that because I wasn't listening when the names were mentioned (as was the case with Genie, Rosemary, Verity and Claire—sorry people, I'd just taught some random internet lesson at the time)—none of us actually know. Not Elaine, nor of the directorial staff here… the guy who organises this whole shebang from Leeds hasn't exactly been forthcoming.

Whilst on the subject of people, I should point out that the rest of 'us' are: Zofia, Steve, Rob and Dan (all from Durham uni), Ben (who's living in Holland but found out about this gig, presumably, from York uni, where he's studying), Jane, Alexis and Chris (our Scottish—country dancing, no less—contingent), Jenny and Pete. I think that's everyone, save myself, my sister and Helen (daughter of Elaine)... I would offer potted little character sketches, but I doubt they'd be worth the RAM they were stored in.

I appear to have volunteered to remain as welcoming party, which is why I have thinking time for this—the other reason is that I'm idly leafing through Prozac Nation backwards and, as Zofia says, sunlight and frequent breaks are probably especially good things to accompany this. Did I mention the heat yet, BTW? Four legs good; moving from chair bad.

I'll probably come back to Prozac Nation when I have a proper keyboard with which to type up the quotes I feel worth saving. Long-term, I might even work out the specifics of copyright law which pertain to the acceptable length of quotes for purpose of academic research and fair use, and throw up some updates and extensions to my site...

Meanwhile, I'm content to bask in the afterglow of proper sleep, last night's pizza & ice-cream evening (conversations ranging from international economic paradigms to crayon colours) and listen to Polish hip-hop for lesson ideas. Before we leave I'm going to leave music CDRs with Marius and get him to burn a selection of metal MP3s... musically, this is shaping up to be a pretty good trip.

Hmmm... still no sign of new people...

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