Chapter 2: A Polish Year (continued from Separation)
A trip to Greece confirmed one decision: this would be our last year in Poland. It was time for a change. Over the course of the fall, we seriously considered a number of options, including relocating to another part of Europe to continue our teaching. Belgium was high on the list though our mediocre, at best, French skills made that unlikely; but a trip through Greece quickly turned me into a hellenophile and a stay in Xania had us inspired to teach in this beautiful old Venetian city in Crete. We even made a very serious non-touristy trek out to the university there to learn what we could.
One thing was certain, our months in Poland were numbered. This realization gave us reason to redouble our efforts to see all that we could see in the time we had left. Thus, it was that not long after returning from Greece that we headed to Berlin for Easter which, coincidentally, in 1997, was as early as it was this year (Good Friday fell on March 28). Apparently Ben hadn’t entirely burnt bridges (nor eaten them all) with Jacek who agreed to take the monster back for another six days … this time without incident. We definitely got good mileage out of that bottle of scotch.
It was only a few weeks after we returned that Ben, nearing his full height, transitioned from “puppy” to dog. Andrea and I agreed that this was as good as any to mark his birthday … which is only eight days away as I write.
During this time, we also made contact with the coolest thing: a vet who made house calls. Unfortunately, the coolness of it was brought on by the necessity of managing the health of our very sick dog whose eye condition returned. Marek, the vet, treated him with antibiotics and suggested that part of the problem was the fur around Ben’s eyes which wasn’t providing the right protection. Marek instructed me how to trim the fur and on the wonder of chamomile tea as a cleansing eye wash: after brewing the tea, let it cool, and use it as an antiseptic on a towelette to clean away the yellowy puss that was forming and also to re-moisturize the eye. Marek warned, however, that if this condition was to reemerge, it would be very likely Ben would need surgery to correct the tear duct that was behaving so problematically. At 25 złotys a visit, it was a bargain, especially for a vet who also spoke English. Marek also updated a few of Ben’s shots and confirmed for us that Ben was some kind of terrier-cross but qualified it by adding: “He’s what I call a Polish Sheepdog.”
“What the heck is that?” I asked. “I’ve never heard of that breed of sheepdog.”
According Marek, this was vernacular for a Heinz 57: a mutt. I wasn’t necessarily heartbroken at the news, but I will say that I resisted the epitaph nonetheless.
Over the ensuing months I also kicked into high-gear the purchase of more Bolesławiec to complete our settings and round out the collection. At this point, I was visiting Anna every other day as I continued to buy the pieces individually. Ben also continued to learn his tricks, including the very impressive “roll over.”
“You’re gonna be a star,” I told him, “Look how fast you’re growing and learning….”
And Poland itself continued to grow and evolve as well with new businesses and products showing up daily. Most exciting was when Géant opened the first “hypermarket” in all of Poland … and, with it, Purina dog food arrived which I meant I could begin to wind down cooking for Ben. However, regardless of whatever kibble entered Ben from then on, he would always have a taste for real and very human food, and it is something I never even tried to change.
All the while, we began preparations for more travel and a departure from Poland in the fall.
Continued next … Chapter 2: A Polish Year – Camping