After our lumber adventure, we get cleaned up and start the multi-stage process of getting back to Krakow. I had planned on staying another night, until we discovered that the following day was a holiday and the buses wouldn’t be running. Heidi got a room in a hostel for her, Laura and I and we had a nice, relaxing afternoon drinking smoothies and talking (a good chunk of which involved me telling my birth story with Joan). Then Andrzej joined us and we did a little shopping at the new mall – I can’t go anywhere without looking for something for Joan – and then to a lingering, extravagant dinner at a very nice restaurant. We had kompot, which is water steeped in fruit and sugar, often plums and cherries. I had Lithuanian beet soup – it was exactly the way my grandmother used to make it. Then I got a salad with duck, orange and these lovely, dark pistachios. Laura found a friendly green caterpillar in her salad so it was on the house. Then Laura and I ordered dessert, which we all shared, and Andrzej and Heidi got some prosecco to celebrate his birthday. We lingered over Laura’s chocolate ice cream with liquer and cherries, and my mascarpone mousse and strawberries.
Laura and I headed back to the hostel soon after, for Heidi and Andrzej are made of tougher stuff. The hostel was a decent one, and even though I was horribly sticky from the hot, humid, motionless air, I slept well.
* * *
The next day all the shops were closed for a holiday, but we had a nice time wandering around, checking into my hotel, sitting in tea shops and reading. We met Ilona at Chlopskie Jadlo and I had wonderful golombki, or stuffed cabbage – they were able to make me a gluten free mushroom sauce that was amazing, and I don’t even like mushrooms. Ilona’s little son Karol was adorable and smiley and silly, a four and a half month old bundle of love. He made my heart ache for my Joan.
After that, Laura and Heidi had to go back to the field site, and Ilona had to take Karol home. I went back to my room and worked all night and into the morning.
* * *
The next day I worked all morning, showered, went out to lunch, shopped for my family, worked some more, then had one last tea with Ilona at Bunkier. Bunkier is a great café that is outdoors but protected by an awning – we were grateful for this as there were terrible thunderstorms – and faces the planty, the green space that surrounds the stare miasto, or old town. Bunkier is also quite kid friendly, with sandboxes and toys along the edge of the café.
Ilona and I had a wonderful time talking about work, children, our future plans. Ilona is so smart and funny, and though we hadn’t seen each other in five years we picked up where we left off, an easy, comfortable friendship.
I had wanted to do just a little more shopping, but everything was closed by the time we finished. My laptop was calling, and the rain was cold, so I gladly went back to my room to work.
The next morning I caught the five am train to the airport (which was not without incident, as I dropped my wallet on the walk over and didn’t realize until I got on the train. I had to retrace my steps at a full run with all my luggage, and made it back to the train just in time). I otherwise had a very boring trip home, thinking of the family waiting for me almost every waking hour.
Even though it was a short trip, my time in the field was invaluable. I learned a lot about how things have changed, how they haven’t; I renewed friendships; I explored the practicalities of my future project plans. I did all the things I couldn’t have done by phone or email, and this year’s grants and next year’s projects will be the better for it.
But it’s good, really good, to be home.