We arrived in Czestochowa, Poland mid-February and have lived in our Polish home for almost 11 weeks. While we use this as a base from which to further explore Poland and Eastern Europe, we have also done our best to really “live” here – develop routines, make friends, and create a home. What follows is a glimpse into our daily home life as well as a few snippets from each of us.
Mike teaches two days a week at the local university, so we begin our weeks at home. A typical weekday (when not traveling) begins with homeschooling the kids. It’s not our favorite thing to do, but it’s necessary. Mike handles the math and I tackle the rest. We try to make the most of it with fun challenges, art, experiments and team teaching (and admittedly some bribery).
We then either have lunch, take a walk or have our “hour of alone” time. It may seem silly to send ourselves to separate rooms for an hour a day, but believe me, it’s saved our sanity on more than one occasion. The kids have to read for half of the time, and then the other half is free time. Mr. N typically draws pictures, reads or writes. Miss A can be heard entertaining her stuffed animals with tea parties or story time, or she “cleans” her room, which never seems to end up clean. Mike usually spends his time working, while I either work, go to the gym, journal or play in the kitchen. While I miss my kitchen at home, I LOVE the natural light that floods into this one!
Our afternoons vary. The first two months the weather was not cooperative (which was quite a downer after Spain). Most days were cloudy, rainy and cold, so we spent a lot of time indoors. The kids often play, Mike and I work, write or play games with the kids. Then we enjoy a family dinner, read books and settle down for the night. Other times, we feed the kids early and have an at home dinner date after they’re asleep. It’s fairly low key, but it’s a nice counter-balance to our very active travel days.
While the kids don’t have a ton of their toys to play with, they have definitely learned to make do (remarkable what we can live without!). As Miss A said: “On the trip I have been playing with Mr. N a lot and it has brought us closer.”
Mr. N explains what they’ve been playing:
“Back in Beaune, Miss A and I created the kingdom of Gravy as a way to fight the horrible plague known as boredom. Although we are rarely bored, there are days we have a lot of time on our hands. So, after being granted a small amount of land from the tyrant Parent Empire in Beaune (their own adjoining hotel room), Miss A and I declared our independence. We have since written a Constitution and formed our own country – Gravy.
After settling in Poland, we established our kingdom in the top level of the territory (the attic) where we developed a newspaper, The Family Gossiper; created our own monetary system (credit is also available); hold art auctions; festivals and created a very busy market. We also had a printing press, but it was soon abandoned after a long power outage (cubby under the stairs). Gravy is also a country of great culture – especially music. The most popular band ‘Deal With It,’ features the artists ‘Hearts’ (Miss A) and ‘Spades’ (Mr. N) and it performs regularly.”
Honestly, the kids’ ability to amuse themselves is really impressive. There are stretches where we do have a lot of time – especially when you consider there’s no school, after school activities, plays, gymnastics, etc. While we really have learned to appreciate the quantity of time together, and have all found things we love to do, if we’re being honest it’s not always easy. We’ve had meltdowns, annoyed each other and had days of some serious homesickness. It’s led to some interesting conversations, self-discovery and forced us to deal with things we might otherwise avoid. It’s also taught us new ways to cope, discover new creative outlets, forced us to get out and meet people, and more often than not, pushed us out of our comfort zone. So for those reasons, even the tough days are valuable.
Fortunately, there’s more good days than not. We cook, play cards, have dinner with the neighbors, make silly videos, and I’m even keeping indoor herbs alive! And the weather has begun to turn, which means we also get to play outside! We bought a soccer ball to kick around and we barely miss a day to get out and walk. Sometimes we have destinations, other times, we just randomly explore, but we’ll get more into our explorations in the next post. For now, here’s a few of our halfway point reflections on our daily home life…
Miss A: “I think we all have learned something. What I learned was to be an adventurist. I can say that the first month I was playing on my ipad whenever I could. Now I am looking up for whole car rides and only play sometimes. I watch the world more and play with Mr. N more. I am thankful for that. I also feel different. I see the world every day as a place that I never saw before. Even if we go to the same place two times, I see it different both times.”
Mr. N: “Sadly our rocket ship of sabbatical has just left the moon and is on its way back to earth – we’ve already passed the halfway point! Of course we still have plenty of time left, but it’s hard to believe that it’s already here. Sometimes it feels like we just left yesterday, but others it feels like 63 million years ago. I prefer the traveling days, but I like having time to rest and Czestochowa has made a good home. I like all the people we’ve met, especially our neighbors, and I really like having family time (even though they annoy me sometimes).”
Mike: “It’s been fun to build our little home here in Czestochowa. We’re travelling as often as we can–Eastern Europe is too cool and there are too many great cities nearby to stay here too much, but when we are here, it’s amazing how quickly we can fall into a routine that makes it feel like home. We cook and clean and do laundry and watch TV–normal stuff. We wave ‘dzien dobry’ to the neighbors, run out to the grocery store, and sometimes I even have to go to work. We also recharge our batteries while we’re here. I do miss baseball terribly (Go Cubs!!!), but we’re keeping track of things from afar.”
As for me, I think I’ll look back on our days spent at home as some of the most valuable. I really enjoy getting to spend so much time with the kids. I love watching their friendship grow and I love the extra time we have to snuggle under a blanket with a good book. I’ve learned more about the Polish culture, the world, and humanity than I could have hoped and I am also immensely thankful for the friendships we have made – certainly this will be among my favorite takeaways of this adventure.
But mostly, I value our daily sabbatical life for the chance to reflect. While I probably struggle the most with my emotions on our long stretches at home, it’s all part of self-discovery and I’ve learned more about myself during the still times than I could have imagined. It’s not easy to slow down when you’re used to being on the go, but it’s a great way to evaluate what’s really important in life and to think about how to incorporate those things – both on sabbatical and after we return.
Regardless of our individual lessons learned, favorite moments and self-discoveries, one thing is for sure, this adventure has made us closer, stronger and taught us all how to let go of fear and fly!