Second Day of the Easter Triduum: Good Friday

Good Friday is the second day of the Easter Triduum, followed right after Holy Thursday. For Catholics around the world, it means fasting, even if the requirements are different for different countries. For example, in America Catholics ages 14 and up must abstain from meat and ages 18-59 must fast by eating only one full meal and two half meals that can not be greater than the full meal when put together. In addition only water and milk, and no other drinks may be consumed. On the other hand, here in Poland, there still is fasting and abstaining, but unlike in America everyone who is able to must fast if they are over the age of 18. Of course there are some exceptions to the fasting rules in all countries. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, those who are sick, and those who are on a special diet are exempt in both countries, but additionally, in America, if one is traveling then that person is basically exempt. Also the rules are stricter in America than they are here in Poland as to what and how much can and can’t be eaten.

On Good Friday, in the Catholic Church there are usually prayer/Eucharistic services with adoration of the cross and sometimes Stations of the Cross happening to commemorate that Jesus died on the cross on Friday and spent three hours on it, but was later taken down and given a proper burial in a tomb. There are no full on masses from the Holy Thursday Mass to the Easter Vigil Mass to commemorate the suffering and death of Christ and to remember that on the third day He rose again from the dead. Usually Good Friday is a solemn day to remember these things. Tomorrow is Holy Saturday, which means that we will be decorating intricately the Easter eggs and going to bless the Easter baskets that symbolize what we will be eating on Easter Day. Apparently, even non-believers are mesmerized by the tradition of blessing the Easter baskets/food and do it themselves as well.

Here in Poland, all of the food that is eaten on Easter has to be prepared ahead of time, so the friend’s daughter came over with her son again, as well as her mother. We made homemade pierogies, even though the flour that we used made them practically impossible to roll out the dough and to pinch the edges together, and the meat that we used for the filling was also impossible to grind because the machine we had to use is extremely old and the meat was not cooked long enough, which made it even harder to grind. We will find out tomorrow how they turned out when we eat them with the beet soup for dinner.

In addition, the family friend made another walnut cake type dessert. The one she made yesterday overcooked, so it was a little bit browner than it should have been, and she even cried. I, personally think it turned out really well, but she said that when it is baked to the right color it tastes even better, so I’ll see tomorrow how it compares with the first one.

Other than playing with the baby and making the pierogies, today was another laid back and chill day, which I am grateful for. That is all for today, and I will update again tomorrow with how well the decorating of the eggs goes for us, and I may be able to even include a few photos to go along with the post, so stay tuned.

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Crazy Start to my Easter Break!

It’s already after 12:30, but I am writing about what happened yesterday, which I do not count as yesterday until I wake up in the morning, so basically for me it is still today.

Plans can change on a whim, so one has to always be ready to make adjustments to best fit the situation. Thus is the case with where and with whom I will be spending my Easter holiday/break with. My original plans included me going to stay with my mom’s cousin’s family in her hometown for the break, but the cousin’s mother-in-law passed away recently and they are still getting over having the funeral yesterday. The mother had been living in a vegetative state for over 17 years, and over the last few years she had lost her senses of sight and hearing, so basically the only thing keeping her alive was the fact that she could breathe alone.

After I had found out that I would not be able to spend the holidays with them, which I was sort of looking forward to and I’m sure my second cousin’s seven-year old daughter was looking forward to it even more, but I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities for me to visit. As soon as I found out, I immediately called the family friends who live in town and who have become like my second family while I am here to ask if I would still be able to spend the holidays with them. They even invited me to come stay the night starting with tonight, so I quickly packed the things I would need for the next five days and headed over. Another reason as to why I called them immediately after is because before they even knew my plans for where I would be spending my Easter, they invited me to spend it with them if I had no one else to spend it with.

On a more positive note, my teacher today decided to give us a lesson in the traditions of the Polish Easter, and surprised us by bringing in a traditional cake type dessert, but less sweet. It was a welcome treat at the last few minutes before we were let out for break because she decided to serve us about ten minutes before the end of class. Next, my history class went like usual, but in my theater class there are usually around 30 people who come, but today we were only a group of 13. This small class size allowed us to finish discussing the play we will be performing and what things we would be using from what movies.

The weather over the last few days has been colder than the rest of my stay in Poland. It was even so cold today that it was basically snowing during a few parts of the day, with one point of the day the snow falling horizontally instead of vertically. Also, last night there was a really bad thunderstorm, which I did not even know was happening.

Other than the change of plans, it should be a well-rested and well-enjoyed holiday break. My family has always celebrated a Polish Easter, so I have no idea what the American Easter traditions are, but as Sunday approaches, I will explain the traditions/customs of the holiday more and you guys can inform me about some of the Easter customs from your home country, whether it be America or Australia. That’s all for today/yesterday, so I’ll update again tomorrow.

Another Decade Older? Unbelievable!

I still can’t believe that I turned 20 years old today. It’s crazy how fast time flies. My classes today were rather easier than usual, even though I may not know exactly why, but I do know why for my first class.

Instead of our regular class during the first time slot, the director of the center had everyone take this European Culture test, which the two highest scoring people get a free three-week summer school course and a free trip to Germany to compete further, among a few other prizes. For my classmates and myself, it seemed as if the test didn’t really matter because we don’t really care about winning a summer school course. It also may have been that we did not know very many things on the test, which included things ranging from a sample of different languages to having to name foods and famous people/presidents of different countries. Other than the Polish traditions and a few others including when the Eiffel Tower was built, the typical British breakfast and some Greek history, I did not know about 90% or so material that was on the test, but like I already said, I don’t really care about it. In addition, if I really wanted to study the language and culture at the center again, which will more than likely have to happen I would probably get a partial or full scholarship for the program from the Kosciusko Foundation. It is an organization that gives scholarships to students of Polish heritage to study the language of their parents/ancestors.

My grammar and spelling classes were normal as usual, but afterwards I decided to treat myself to dinner from the Hard Rock. I had to go alone because the girl I had planned to go somewhere for dinner with today totally forgot until I remided her this morning and she said she had other plans, but everything’s fine because we are planning to meet up for dinner/drinks after we get back from break.I had the local burger with fries, a side caesar salad, some mixed drink, the fresh apple cobbler, and coffee. Everything tasted really good, except the burger had some strange sweet sauce that I was not extremely fond of, but here wasn’t very much of it on the burger so it didn’t affect it that much. The mixed drink I had was like a mix between a pina colada and something else that I cannot name,with some mint flavor mixed in. It was really good. The salad had kind of strong flavor from the dressing, but they gave you something like craisins to put on it if you wanted, and that made it all the better. For dessert I had th fresh apple cobbler that was extremely good and the Bailey’s Coffee which was also pretty good.

While I was eating I was texting my mom because last time my dad brought my sister to Poland, the family friends of ours who live here took them to the Hard Rock, so now my mom is the only person in our family who has not eaten at that particular restaurant or even at any Hard Rock in particular. Somehow I convinced her to agree to have us eat there when she comes in July. Which brings me to say that I found out on Sunday as I was talking to my family that my mother is coming back to Poland on June 29th and leaving on July 8th with me, but on a different plane, which my parents at first wanted me to come back on my own to give me some freedom and because it would be too expensive, so I have no idea what changed their minds. I believe she hasn’t told anyone because she told me not to tell the family friends and that she would tell them herself.

Another thing is that the birthday wishes that my parents sent me today were one of the most heartfelt ones they have ever given to me. In addition, they both mentioned something about loving God and always keeping Him at the center of my life, which before today God and faith was never mentioned in out house. We go/went to church every week and I attended youth group pretty much every week and starting this past fall, my sister as a high school sophomore began attending weekly when she didn’t have play going on, which makes me extremely happy. Also, over the past few times that we have texted each other she has been saying some things that are starting to make me believe that our relationship may be getting better and starting to come off the rocks, as it had been to this point. I hope that she continues this and continues to accept the hands and part of my heart that I have been trying to reach out to her for the past few years. This is because she is my one and only sister and I want to have a good relationship with her because after our parents are gone, she will be the only immediate family I will have left. I still hope that our relationship continues to get better because I had a camp counselor once who gave me hope by telling me that while she was still in high school she and her younger brother were the worst of enemies, but by the time she finished her first year of college, they had become the best of friends. This gave me the hope that one day I could have the relationship that they had or even the relationship that my dad and his sister have. Her progress with her last few texts has given me a speck of hope that we will someday in the near future have this kind of relationship.

Sorry for another long post, but I felt like I had a lot to say today. Tomorrow or Thursday may be the last time I will be able to post before Easter/ Tuesday or Wednesday, because I am going to visit family for the holiday in a small town and I don’t know if I’ll be able to have internet there, but I guess we’ll see. I still can’t believe that I am already 20, but that’s all for today.

Today was Good Day!

So today turned out to be a very good day. First off, my class was required to bring in a dish from our home countries, so for both of my classes we were eating and learning about the cuisine’s/kitchen’s of different countries. Then I did some laundry, which was not really that exciting, and then the best part, I went out to a birthday dinner with five out of eight of my classmates.

The first people to present in my class today were a guy and girl from Hungary. They explained what he brought in, because she wouldn’t have her food until after Easter break. He decided to bring in homemade Hungarian alcohol, which we drank around 8:45, when the class started at 8 am. It is called Palinka (I hope I spelled that correctly, even without the accent mark). It is made with different fruits and consists of 50% alcohol because of the sugars in the fruits have to ferment for a minimum of six months. The kind he brought in were made with plums (he actually brought in three different kinds with three different maturities). It was extremely strong, but other than that it tasted pretty good. He said that he made it with his grandpa and his grandpa drinks it for good health. The food that they described is somewhat similar to Polish food, but with more spices and names that are nearly impossible to pronounce. The girl will bring in some kind of Hungarian dessert.

Next went the guy from Canada/America. He is apparently Jewish, so he brought in some sort of sweet macaroni dish, that tasted pretty good, but rather plain. He said that it can also be made with potatoes for more of a main dish. Before we ate, though, he gave us a little bit of a history lesson on Jewish culture and the rules that they have for what they can and can’t eat and when. It was actually pretty interesting. I learned that Orthodox Jews can’t mix milk products with meat products, even in the fridge, which my teacher later explained to us that we would not learn from any textbook, but only from a practicing Jew. That was the end of the first lesson.

At the beginning of the second class, the girl from Russia presented. She brought in a salad made of cut up vegetables and some sort of mayonnaise dressing called Oliva (again, I hope I spelled that correctly) It was extremely similar to the Polish veggie salad that I am extremely used to eating, except that it had potatoes in it and the Polish version doesn’t. In addition, she didn’t add any apples because she doesn’t like them, and the dressing she used/made had a different, sort of more bland taste than the Polish counterpart. Before we ate though, she explained to us that where she is from, which is really close to Asia, the inhabitants eat a lot of seafood and other plants/animals found in the ocean.

Next I went. I brought in the deviled eggs that I described in yesterday’s post. I explained different starters/ appetizers/hors d’oeuvres found in America. I also briefly explained main dishes and the typical food found in my parent’s house/what we usually eat.

After my turn, came the girl from Japan. She decided to make a rice and fish dish that is similar to sushi, but much easier to make and apparently more popular than sushi. It was called Onigiri. It had a lot of rice, and very little fish. She also brought in Japanese sweets, which are not sweets at all, but salty chip type things. Those were also pretty good. She was so prepared that she brought in the spices and the seaweed she used to show us how they looked. She explained to us what one can typically find in a “lunch” box in Japan, which is a little bit of meat and vegetables, among other things, and mainly rice. She also told us that there are about ten different types of white rice depending on what region a person lives in.

Lastly went the other guy from America. He decided to make homemade banana pudding, which turned out extremely good. He described how he made it and what was required of him to make it and that usually it is served in bowls, but he didn’t have bowls, so he brought it in a jar, which still looked pretty appetizing.  He explained to us the different foods found in different regions of the US. For example, the New England region eats a lot of fruits of the sea, among other regions. In addition, we had two girls in their first year of university listening in on our class to learn how to teach the Polish language to foreigners.

After my classes were done, I headed back to my room to relax a bit before I had to start doing laundry at 1 pm. I did laundry until four, and in between the times when I had to put in/take out a load of laundry I worked on my computer and relaxed a bit.

After I was finished with my laundry, I had a little bit more free time until I had to leave to meet up with my group because I invited them to dinner as a gift from my parents for my birthday. They definitely surprised me by two guys showing up with the two girls that I knew were coming and bringing me a large, beautiful bouquet of flowers and a box of really good chocolates. We decided to go to an Italian restaurant in the Jewish district of the town after taking about a half hour to decide where to go and having to ask about three people where they would recommend that we eat. We ate pizza and had a few drinks and talked for a good two hours. Of course I paid, as a generous gift from my parents. As we were leaving it was raining a little bit, but I didn’t really mind because the day had turned out better than I thought it would. Even though I won’t be able to spend my birthday at home with my parents this year, I know that I have people who care about me and make me happy and I will have at least two, maybe three birthday dinners, which I will explain more as they pass.

These are the flowers and the box of chocolates that my class got for me as a birthday present! Aren’t they just so nice? I’m one lucky girl to have the people that I do in my life.

Today turned out to be better than I ever expected it to be and I believe that my birthday this year may turn out to be one of the best ones I’ve had so far, if not the best one. This is because when I celebrate my birthday at home, it’s always with my family and we always go to some restaurant together, and sometimes they get me some small gift, but other than that it remains pretty much the same thing every year, which has become a little bit boring. It’s not that I don’t love or appreciate what my parents try to do, but that it’s the same thing every year, and it is nice to have a change of pace or even people with whom I get to spend my birthday with. That’s all for today, sorry it’s long, but talk to you guys again tomorrow!

Typical American Cuisine

So today has been kind of a busy day, and this is the first chance that I have had to just sit down and relax. I had my classes like usual from 11:30 to 6:15, but then I had to go grocery shopping, both for myself and for my homework that I had to do for my language class for tomorrow.

This week, our main topic has been about food, cooking and the kitchen in general, so on Tuesday, my teacher assigned us the task of bringing in a dish from our home countries. There are eight of us from six different countries. There’s one guy and one girl from Hungary, who did not even know the other existed before they came to the course and even though they attend the same university back home, there’s a girl from Russia, but all the way on the other side closer to China, there’s a girl from Japan (which I will discuss in a later post the demographics of the course), there’s a girl from France, there’s a guy who lived part of his life in Canada and the rest in the States, and then there’s another guy and myself which are from the States.

The teacher asked us what we were going to bring in because she was curious, but only a few people knew, so I know the guy from Hungary is bringing in some alcohol, the guy from the States is bringing in some sort of dessert, the girl from Japan is making some sort of sushi thing, and I decided to make deviled eggs.

I decided to make deviled eggs because as I was researching typical dishes found in America, I found that it was the easiest thing to make and required the fewest number of ingredients that I was required to buy. I found the recipe on AllRecipes.com, but I had to substitute some sauce for sandwiches for the creamy dressing, because I couldn’t find any salad dressing here. I ate a few of them that were falling apart and they actually turned out pretty good, even though I may have added a little bit too much mustard to them.

That’s all for today. Tomorrow I’ll tell you how my class liked the deviled eggs I made and how the other things my class brought in tasted and explain what they were. I’ll also tell you how my birthday celebration dinner went because today after class I invited everyone to dinner tomorrow, but already three people can’t make it, which makes me a bit sad, but I’ll live. Bye now!

Here’s the link to the recipe I used. I had to use a lot more of the mustard and the dressing than it said, even though I only used six eggs. Enjoy!
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/deviled-eggs/detail.aspx