Princess Ride

Our original plan was to view a couple of cathedrals, perhaps the royal castle, maybe a walk through a dragon cave, and then spend the afternoon shopping.

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Long climb

Long climb

Make a wish...

Make a wish…

 

Roman ruins, castle side buildings

Roman ruins, castle side buildings

Well, the Wawel Cathedral made this list, and the rest (sans shopping) was shelved for a princess ride in a hosedrawn carriage for the four young women who have served so well these last few days.  We’ll meet up again for dinner, ready for that 4:15 a.m. departure for the airport, and a long day of travel on tomorrow’s itinerary.

Princess ride

Princess ride

Parting is… such a sad affair

Last night, we bid goodbye to Gosia, Julia, Martyna, and Jeremiaz.  Today, we said the rest of our goodbyes when Daniel and Tymo dropped us off at our Hotel in Krakow.  It is amazing how some people can enter our life deeply in such a short space of time, but the Masarczyk family certainly did just that, and it made parting quite sad, for us and for our wonderful hosts.  Rather than dwelling on that, though, here is a bit about our day.

DSC_0524Our final service project was more English language classes at another school where the four women from Malone did presentations for middle school students about education in the US and their hometowns and students practiced English with them through interactive exercises and games.  Dr. E. spent time with younger students, doing games that helped them practice basic vocabulary and  tenses.  Of course, being anywhere in Poland also means that you have to have a nice meal before you can leave, so the school provided us with a very nice meal of a grilled meat and potatoes and what we think was a red cabbage salad.
DSC_0528From there, we briefly visited a Jewish cemetary that sadly bears testament to the near-total extinction of Jewish people in what was once a very Jewish town. In 1939, at the beginning of the Nazi invasion of Poland, the SS set a synagoge of fire in the city, burning about 100 people alive. Durring WW-II, over 20,000 Jews from Będzin, along with 10,000 Jews from nearby areas, were forced into the Będzin Ghetto by the Nazi military forces. Nearly all of them died in Auschwitz. There is a nearby Roman Catholic church where Father Mieczysław Zawadzki hid about a hundred Jews, protecting them from deportation and death.
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A few hundred meters away from the cemetary, we caught a glimpse of the city’s early days as a military outpost, Będzin Castle.

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In Krakow, we said our goodbyes, settled into our hotel, and enjoyed dinner and then desert at an amazing restaurant, part of a small chain that has been making and serving chocolate for a century and a half!  Tomorrow, we will see the beauty and history of Old Town Krakow and enjoy some free time, one last day in a place that has quickly become an important part of our lives.

Szczepanski Square

Szczepanski Square

Wawel Cathedral and Castle Wall

Wawel Cathedral and Castle Wall

 

Good night from Poland, Dr. E.

Grateful Hearts

We started off our day with our usual breakfast of cold cuts, but as a special treat Dr. E got us donuts upon our request. After having breakfast we went to a mall where Dr. E had coffee with Daniel and two other Polish pastors while the four of us girls went shopping. We looked around for a little bit and then went to Auchan, a grocery store similar to Wal-Mart but in the middle of the mall. We got LOTS of chocolate to take home!

Most of our day was spent at Wyższa Szkoła Biznesu w Dąbrowie Górniczej, where we were invited to be part of their International Day.  We represented the US, while other students from Turkey, Ukraine, Armenia, Nigeria, and Poland represented their countries.  The day began with the Turkish national anthem on lead guitar, followed by the Ukrainian national anthem on bass, and the Star Spangled Banner on alto sax. We watched a presentation from two Turkish students and then gave our own presentation focused on the education system in the U.S. as well as where we are from. We talked a little bit about Malone and showed a quick video and then each talked about our hometowns. A Ukrainian student then gave a talk about his school in Ukraine.  Then a band dubbed the Fantastic Five performed a few songs and a few of the other international students performed a song or dance from their country. After the mini concert, we played some games, had a snack consisting of foods from the countries in attendance, and took lots of pictures. Karleigh got to do the chicken dance as part of a competition!

After the International Day, we attended a lecture at another campus of the university in Katowice about international business relations, and then we went back to Daniel’s for dinner. As always, the food was delicious! We spent a lot of time just hanging out with the family since this was our last day to see most of them. There was a lot of joy and laughter!

Then we had to say goodbye. Nobody likes goodbye, but this one was particularly hard. Dr. E will talk all day about how much he loves Daniel and his family, and the four of us have also come to love them in just the few short days we spent with them. But as Winnie the Pooh put it, “”How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Although it is so hard to say goodbye knowing that we won’t be coming back for a wonderful meal and play time with the kids, we are so grateful to have had the chance to know such loving, hospitable, fun people. And of course, we are grateful for social media so that we can stay in touch!

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Tomorrow we are going to one more school to help the students practice their English, and then we are headed to Krakow for one last adventure before we hop on a plane to start our journey home!

Chaos, laughter, and children

Today we spent most of the day in Tarnowskie Góry helping teach some of the children English.  After the usual cold cuts for breakfast at Daniel’s church, we sped to Asia’s house (we were running a tad late) and then followed her to the school.  Daniel dropped us off there and Asia gave us another rundown of what was going to happen.  Nothing really prepared us for what happened (which is basically always true when making plans that involve children).  When we walked into the main school building and there was a banner that read “American Day.”  Talk about feeling like movie stars!  A lovely lady named Dominica was introduced to us and right away she gave us the itinerary, explained the activity, and then the kids arrived.  Karleigh, Sarah, and Jordyn were each assigned a group of kids and they were in charge of helping the students understand the words and teach them how to pronounce them correctly.  It was Carrie’s job to listen to all of the children pronounce certain words and to approve tasks if they had done them well.  There were three rounds of this activity with three different groups of children.

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After a morning of chaos and laughter, we went to a traditional Polish restaurant and (as Dr. E would say) it was “so good!”  We sat around the table with Asia and Kasia eating and talking about life, food, and cultural differences for about two hours. We then went back to the school, but this time we went into the building that held language lessons.  The name of the program is called Be Clever.  Dominica also ran this flawlessly.  Karleigh and Sarah helped tutor students who’s ages ranged from 3-16, and Jordyn and Carrie helped with 7-8 year-olds.  It was awesome to get to see just how much these children have learned in such a short time!  The last thing that we did at the school was talk with six high schoolers about American life and the English language.  They taught us some interesting Polish facts and even a couple Polish words, and we told them some fun facts about America and Malone.  We all watched some videos on accents and slang words, talked about our favorite music, and just got to know a little bit about each other.

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After a long day helping teach lessons to the students, we went back to Daniel’s church for supper.  The girl’s had “Daniel withdrawal” because they had not seen him or heard his laugh since breakfast that morning.  Aye chi caramba it was a long time!  Overall, it was a great day and the girls enjoyed getting to help teach Polish students English and talk to them about America.

 

 

Fellowship, Food, and Laughter… LOTS of Food… and LOTS of Laughter

The students are busy preparing their presentations that will be used for the next three days as we work with primary, middle school, and university students, so they asked me to write today’s blog.  Today was filled with fellowship, food, and laughter.  We left the hotel at 9:15 and headed to church, where we made our traditional Polish breakfast of cold cuts, cheese, bread, jam, coffee, tea, juice… and Karleigh’s staple of banana with crunchy peanut butter.  After cleaning up our dishes, we enjoyed the service at the church that Daniel leads.  About 80 people pack into a small room.  Everyone shakes hands with everyone else when they enter the small room used for worship.  Daniel and three other people led the music, some of it familiar in melody, but none of it familiar in words!  Carrie and Jordyn said that they could sing the English tunes to a few songs, and all four of them kind of stared at the to-us-largely-indecipherable Polish words.

There are several parts of the service where people in the congregation spontaneously pray in between songs.  And then Daniel gave a sermon about needing to lead a life pleasing to God rather than just seeing salvation as if it is a ticket to live however we want.  (That is a short summary of a long sermon that had a ton of bible verses.  However, the Malone students didn’t understand a word of it, and I got it by running translation since I was sitting next to Mateusz whom I met on a previous trip here.)

After church, we went to Daniel’s house where we ate a three course meal prepared by Goshia that stretched over two-and-a-half hours, comprised of a noodle and carrot soup in chicken broth, fried chicken cutlets, baked seasoned chicken, cucumber salad, juice, and the most amazing meringue custard cake that Jordyn swears will be in heaven.  This is an old-world culture, so the children eat in the kitchen while the adults gather around the table.  Goshia split her time between cooking, caring for the kids, and being with us.  It’s interesting to think about how much culture is wrapped up in the eating of food.

Sunday walk

After our long, filling, wonderful lunch, we went for a walk with Daniel, Goshia, Jeremiaz, and Martyna, while Julia and Tymo were off with friends.  We wandered along paths that run through a nice wooded area behind their home, and exchanged some gifts that we had brought with us for Daniel’s family.  And then we went to Asia’s house for a cookout!  So, less than two hours after finishing a huge lunch, we were eating barbequed pork steaks, two kinds of sausages, chicken skewers, two kinds of salads, huge pickles (Daniel at an entire BOWL of pickles, and Karleigh wasn’t far behind!), and ANOTHER dessert (an apple cake).  Dinner was filled with much laughter and story telling, both by Poles and Malone students, sometimes with translation and sometimes independent of each other.

Daniel has picked a few unique ways to remember the students’ names (alternating between singing Styx remixed as “Carrie Ann my wayward son” or “John Kerry”, and “Michael Jordyn” – apparently “Sarah” is a Polish-enough name and “Karleigh” doesn’t lend itself to a song or famous person association).  I don’t think I have ever heard so much laughter!  Sarah (yes, deceptively quiet Sarah) has this contagious laugh that comes out of nowhere, and ripples through the group, bringing Jordyn to tears at least once because she was laughing so hard.  And then, there are endless inside jokes, and a simple glance can lead to a chorus of laughter.

After dinner, Asia laid out our plans for the next three days, so after returning to our hotel, we spent a few minutes debriefing from the day, and Carrie, Jordyn, Karleigh, and Sarah are now working on their presentations.

I had hoped to post a hilarious video of everyone laughing in the car, and Daniel giving his humorous take on how much he likes being with our group, and a somewhat bashful Tymo enjoying spending time with his new friends, but the file format wouldn’t upload.  Suffice it to say, though, that I think this group set the record for being the one that has laughed the most of any group I have brought here in the last twelve years.  In a short time, it has been obvious how much these young women have bonded together, embraced new people and a new culture, and are allowing themselves to be shaped by this experience.

Wishing you all a wonderful Sunday of worship, Dr. E.

Don’t Think of the Misery

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” – Elie Weisel, Night

Today we visited Auschwitz. It is hard to put into words what we felt and experienced. The Holocaust is something we have all learned about in school for a long time, and a couple of us have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and read memoirs written by survivors.  This experience, however, was much different because instead of learning about something that happened in another country before we were born, it was something that happened on the ground we were standing on.

Going into the day, we expected the visit to be emotionally difficult but were surprised at how distant we felt. Even though it was right in front of us, what happened in the past felt detached from the present. It was hard to put ourselves in the shoes of those who passed through the camps, as prisoners or as part of the SS. When we first got to Auschwitz, we stood in the parking lot waiting for our tour and there were lots of people talking and laughing. It was strange to go from that to a somber, serious moment.  When talking about this later, we decided that there should be a better transition between our present lives and the tour of the camps.

As we approached the entrance of Auschwitz I, we had to go though a metal detector, similar to ones at airports. People were clustering around their tour guides or waiting in line to collect their headsets offered in a variety of languages. We first crossed the railroad towards the prison blocks, where we passed under a metal arch that read, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”, which translated into English is, “Work sets you free”.

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We entered the prison camp where we passed a series of brick buildings that were arranged in rows around a central pathway. The perimeter of the camp was surrounded by wooden watchtowers that look down on all of the buildings. The entire exterior of the camp was surrounded with multiple rows of electric barbwire fences.

From the beginning of Auschwitz, the conditions were very harsh. Cruel punishments were developed for prisoners who got out of line. Most of these punishments took place in Block 11. Standing cells were designed to restrict movement, while those in starvation cells were left in small, dark basement cells without food or drink until they died. Quiet cells were created to deprive prisoners of air, thus leaving the prisoners to suffocate to death. The most famous story that took place in this building is about a Catholic priest, Father Maximilian Kolbe, who volunteered to take a man’s place in the starvation pit. In July 1941, a Nazi officer selected a group of prisoners to die a painful death by starvation. Some prisoners attempted to escape however, the Nazi officials retaliated by killing anyone who tried to escape.  For every successful escapee (of which there were very few) ten prisoners were executed. One of the men selected to die in the starvation pit pleaded not to be the one who was killed because he had a family. Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Roman Catholic priest, asked to take the man’s place. Uncharacteristically, the Nazis allowed this exchange. Most prisoners could not withstand the starvation pit for more than a few days, however, the priest never despaired or fell into bitterness. He encouraged other prisoners until he alone was the only one in the group left alive. Finally, tired of waiting for him to die after two weeks without food or water, the Nazis killed him with a lethal injection. In Auschwitz I – designed to hold 20,000 prisoners – we saw the general layout of the camp as well as some of the belongings of the victims. We also saw the first gas chamber.

After finishing the tour of Auschwitz I, we took a shuttle bus to Auschwitz II – Birkenau.  This camp was much larger, able to hold 200,000 prisoners in 300 barracks by the time the camp was liberated.  We could not even see the end of it.  We saw the ruins of the gas chambers that were bombed just four days before the Russians entered the camp because the Nazis were trying to cover up what they had done. Beside these ruins, there stood a memorial that was commemorating all of those that had died in the camp.

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We also got to see inside a barrack that the prisoners slept in. Because the buildings are heavily deteriorated, only two of the barracks were open to visitors. The camp was built very quickly and most of the buildings have no foundation and the walls are very unstable. The barracks were built with bricks taken from the houses that were torn down in the village, and some prisoners were forced to build the barracks, while others were forced to work in munitions factories or do other work that enabled the camp to continue. In barracks like this one, 700 people would be crammed into bunks, with five or six people on each of the three levels, the bottom level being on the stone floor.  Imagine sleeping on the stone in winter in below freezing temperatures in a thin prison uniform that resembled pajamas, with nothing to keep you warm…

The most impacting part of Birkenau was the railroad. There was only one way in and out of the camp, and it was by train. The trains pulled in and stopped on the platform, where their “cargo” of prisoners would be unloaded. Under the view of numerous watch towers, prisoners would be separated by gender and health. The elderly, ill, and infirm were sent straight to the gas chambers It was hard to imagine being on the platform where prisoners saw their family members for what was probably the last time.

After we were done with the tour of Auschwitz, we went to Daniel’s church for dinner and youth group.  Our original plan for dinner was to order pizza and eat it before youth group started. However, as the teens showed up one by one, our plans changed. We all ate dinner together around a table, enjoying pizza, sandwiches made out of cold cuts, and a variety of juices. After eating, we all piled into another room where Dr. E talked about discerning God’s will for our lives. Daniel’s son, Tymo, translated his lesson to the rest of the teens.  Dr. E had the youth discuss topics, volunteer to answer questions, and do things in an “American style” (much like at the university).  Polish children are not used to critical thinking strategies because their schools require that one memorizes information without learning how to apply it.  After talking with some of the kids and cleaning up, Daniel took us to get ice cream from the Polish version of Aldi’s (“Lidl”).

Overall, today was a roller coaster of emotions and we all have a lot to think about. Processing our visit to Auschwitz is difficult, but Anne Frank once said, “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that remains.” We cannot forget the horrors of the Holocaust; we cannot forget the lives it took or the evil that played out. However, we can move forward in remembrance and do our best to fight and prevent this type of evil as we use the lessons learned from this event in history to shape our decisions in the future.

Jointly writen by Carrie, Karleigh, Jordyn, and Sarah

Goodbye Warsaw, Hello Sosnowiec!

Happy Friday the 13th from Sosnowiec! We started off our day by eating breakfast at Kwadrat Bistro Art, a cute quaint cafe that was a close walk from our hostel. After breakfast, we left our hostel a bit later than planned, and sprinted to the train station with all of luggage. While crossing under the street, it is sometimes hard to tell which side of which street the stairs lead to, and we took the wrong one, making us run back down the stairs (with all of our luggage and no escallator) and up another set of stairs (again with no escallator).  After over 20 minutes of dashing along, we went down one more flight of stairs into the Warsawa Centralia train station, where we found an escallator to take us to our platform.  Despite all the chaos of getting to the station, we made it just in the nick of time, and quickly found our seats when the train pulled in.  About four minutes after boarding the train, we were pulling out of the station in a very comfortable, smooth, fast, modern train.

As the train raced down the track, I (Karleigh) stared out the window thinkingt hat Sosnowiec was going to be very different from Warsaw. Even though we had not yet reached our destination, I could begin to see differences. Warsaw is a big city filled with skyscrapers, fancy cars, and it has a modern, fast-paced lifestyle. However, after leaving the city, we were surrounded with thick greenery on both sides of the train. We passed areas that were run down, with signs of heavy industry, fewer and older cars, and most of the buildings we passed were coated with graffiti.  It reminded me that there is also a lot of disparity between parts of our country too.

After about two hours and forty-five minutes, we hopped off and were perplexed that our contact person was not there.  At first we thought that we might have gotten off at the wrong station. After a few frantic minutes, this changed when we heard a man calling out, “Doctor, Doctor”. This was when we met Daniel. He approached our group with open arms, and not just literally, giving Dr. E. a great big bear hug.  Our train had been delayed to allow an express train from Warsaw to pass us, and it got to the station when ours was due to arrive.  Daniel thought that the first train was ours, and when we didn’t get off, he left and began driving to the next train station!  But then, he saw another train coming into the station, so he came back, hoping that we were on it.  So, after both he and we were left anxious and perplexed, we were happily united on the platform. Daniel and his friend helped us carry our bags to the cars, and they drove us to our hostel, which is very nice and only a few years old.

After we freshened up a bit, we went to Daniel’s home, where we met his wife, Gosia, and his children, Tymo, Julia, Martyna, and Jeremiaz. Leo Christopher once said, “There’s only one thing that’s more precious than our time. and that’s who we spent it with”. I think this quote accurately describes our trip thus far, and especially today. Daniel and Gosia opened their home to us today and served us a delicious lunch that included juice, a pork and gravy stew that was served over potatoes and home made potato dumplings, red cabbage, two cakes, and bannana bread. Some people say that the fondest memories are made when gathered around the table, and that could not have been more true today. We laughed, shared stories, reminisced about the past, and enjoyed a pasttime of teasing Dr. Entwistle, which Daniel has clearly done (lovingly) many times before.  It wasn’t hard to tell why Dr. E. keeps coming back to this place and this family.

After sitting around the table for a good two and a half hours, we ventured out to the largest grocery store I have ever seen. Auchan is not just a grocery store, it is also a mall. This store is like Sam’s Club or Costco on steroids. We saw American brands such as Lays, Jack Daniels, and Snickers, but these brands sold flavors of products I have never heard of before. When I walk down the aisle at my local grocery store for example, I will find a few different brands of chocolate to choose from. Here we were surrounded with upwards of 30 or more brands of chocolates filling two long aisles, each with a dazling array of varieties to choose from: chocolate with red chili, milk chocolate with Oreos, dark chocolate with hazzlenuts, white chocolate with blueberries, truffles, and on, and on. With so many brands and flavors to choose from, we had a hard time deciding on what to try.

When we arrived back at Daniel’s house, we watched Thomas the Tank Engine in Polish, exchanged information about our studies and our languages (and you think our tongue twisters are hard!) and ate ANOTHER delicious meal (cold cuts, cheese, bread, sausages, lettuce, cuccumbers, and tomatoes), and planned what we would do tomorrow. Today was a great day that was filled to the brim with learning, laughter, and love.

We do have a change of plans tomorrow.  Because we will be very busy doing English language service with students starting on Monday, Daniel recommended that we go to Auschwitz tomorrow.  He was unable to book an English guide for us, but he and Dr. E. have been there many times, so they will be our tour guides.  Oswiecim (the Polish town which was called Auschwitz in German) is about an hour away, and it should take three or four hours for us to go through the Auschwitz I and II concentration camps.  We know this will be an intense and emotional experience, so please keep us in your prayers as we try to understand what happened there and to face the many questions that it raises.

Karleigh, for Jordyn, Carrie, Sarah, and Dr. E.

Thursday – Museums, Food, and Friendship

Today was filled with museums, lots of walking, good food, and great company.  The group decided to go to a local cafe for breakfast.  Afterwards, we made our way to the Copernicus Science Center, which was not, as we thought, by the Copernicus Institute of Science.  But that let us walk by the Chopin Museum and one of Warsaw’s many parks.  The Science Center was a lot of fun to tour and to be able to engage in the different interactive exhibits.

From there, we walked through beautiful and scenic Old Town again.  LockWe stopped for lunch and all ordered delicious types of Pierogis.  The four students decided to buy a lock to put on the railing overlooking the Vistula River, a common way of memorializing or “locking in” relationships and memories.

The group then walked quite a distance to the Uprising Museum.  Touring this Museum was such a sobering experience.  We realized that we were not simply touring a museum, but we are witnessing something that took place in the city where the uprising happened, in the streets where we have been walking for the past few days.  Since most of you don’t know about this, most of Warsaw was destroyed by bombs and shelling during World War II.  Most of Warsaw was left as rubble by the end of the war, with over 90 percent of the buildings destroyed in a town that had held 1.3 million people.

Warsaw WWIIAt the close of the War, the remaining Warsawians decided to stage an uprising against Hitler’s occupying forces, who were systematically and brutally killing their people and destroying their homes and churches.  The rebellion – carried out by ordinary citizens and even children who often travelied through the sewers beneath the city – was crushed by a far better armed and trained military.  Meanwhile, the Russian army sat on the other side of the river and watched.  When Hitler’s army withdrew, the Russians came in and proclaimed that they had liberated Poland, when, in fact, they became it’s new occupying force.  The Russians even took many of the leaders of the Uprising to Russia, tried them for “collaborating with the enemy”, and sent them to work camps!   The brutality and evil of it all was chilling to us all.

While walking back to our hostel, we found a place to eat dinner where we had the opportunity to try all sorts of Polish delicacy, including sausage, gnocchi, duck, venison, bacon covered plums, chicken, and fried cheese, and several interesting sauces.  ItDinner was a great opportunity and was so delicious.  We ended our day by being surprised by fireworks over the city and we just happened to be in a great place to see them.  After grabbing some Polish pastries and chocolates for desert at our hostel (and lots of water, because you can only drink bottled water here, and it seems like you run out of it as soon as you get it!)  Tomorrow, we head on to Sosnowiec by train, and we will spend much of the next week working with a local church.

Sarah, for Sarah, Karleigh, Carrie, Jordyn, & Dr. E.

Warsaw day 2, UKSW visit

We started our day eating a continental version of a traditional Polish breakfast of cold cut sandwiches, hot dogs, and yogurt.  We then were picked up by Dr. Entwistle’s friendProfessor, Gasiul.  13220801_898618876903959_623087486634142540_o.jpg

Dr. Entwistle gave a 2 1/2 hour lecture on Disaster Psychology.  The students were very interested and enjoyed the “American style” of teaching.  After the lecture, we ate lunch with Professor Gasiul, a priest, and two of the students, Kamil and Karolina.

FB_IMG_1463031097642After returning to Hostel Oki Doki to freshen up, we went to a really nice Pottery store where everything is painted by hand.  Ceramic dinnerware in colorful blue patterns is one of the things for which Poland is well known.  The pieces were very beautiful and intricate.

For the afternoon, Carrie, Jordyn, Sarah, and Karleigh got to go to Łazienki Park with five students from the university to enjoy the nature, learn more about Poland, eat ice cream, and get to know the students (and yes, the students did get a group selfie).  Overall, today was very interactive and we all learned a lot about the Polish education system.

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