All The Little Things

Warsaw is lovely at this time of year. I’ve been making the most of it: getting outside every day, walking for miles, hanging out at cafés, and having dinner on our tiny balcony under the bemused gaze of the neighbors. Everyone seems to be happy during the short Polish summer, congregating at the park, at outdoor bars, and on the riverside “beaches.”

If this city were just a few degrees south what a difference it would make. But alas, it is not. While I would be happy to stay a few more weeks, I know that our decision to draw the line at two Warsaw winters was the right one for me.

I’ll definitely miss some things about this post. I mentioned a few of them in the Five Pros and Cons that I wrote a few weeks ago. I’ll add to that list, the beautiful parks, cheap, delicious restaurants (especially sushi!), fresh cherries and strawberries for sale on the street corners, ice cream stands on every block and effortlessly “surfing” all over town on public transportation.

Above all, I am thankful for the friendly and interesting mix of expatriates that made all the difference for me. Warsaw is one of those posts where you NEED a community. Seriously, people—and especially ladies of the IWG!—I would not have made it through winter #2 without you!

People keep telling me that I look happy and excited to be going home. Despite all of the above, this is true. I am looking forward to this new stage in our lives. It’s going to be a crazy summer—just looking at the calendar and to-do list makes my head spin!—but in this last few weeks, little things keep coming to mind and making me smile.

• Enjoying Netflix, Amazon and Hulu without having to futz with a VPN. (I’ll still use the VPN to watch BBC and ITV!) Also, being able to use a Roku with a remote instead of streaming through a decrepit laptop.

Doesn’t even have a working battery anymore and has a power cord attached with electrical tape, but streams like a boss.

• Plugging in appliances without needing a step-down transformer or adapters. Yeah, that’s pretty minor. But after the first few tours, the novelty of having ugly black boxes on the kitchen counter or dragging a heavy transformer around to run the vacuum cleaner fades a bit.

This really messes with my feng shui.

• Having good hair. This hard water in Europe, yikes. Not to mention rust and who knows what else—our water is occasionally brown coming out of the tap! It will be nice not to look like I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards at least some of the time.

January water. It tested as safe, but I’ve been drinking bottled water ever since this particular episode. It will be interesting to see what color my hair actually is when I wash it in DC!

• On that subject, not having hat-head for eight months out of the year. I am more than happy to trade long, freezing winters for hot, humid summers. I recently donated most of my heavy winter gear with joy in my heart. Bye-bye long johns, woolly socks, and snow pants. Bring on the flip-flops, shorts, and tank tops. My native costume!

• Clean air. The smog here in the winter is epic, but even in the summer, Warsaw’s air quality is not great. The AQI for small particulates is always anywhere from 2 to 4 times that of the DC suburbs (and that’s not counting the pollen). We don’t have filtered air in the house as we would with an American HVAC, either. I never had asthma before this post, but here I still have a constant low-level rattle in my chest even in June. I am good and ready to breathe deeply again, year-round.

Winter smog as seen outside my lungs.

• Looking out my window and seeing green grass, trees, and pretty little birds that aren’t pigeons and crows. Also, not seeing a parking lot with overflowing dumpsters around the sides of it. Yes, that will be good.

To be fair, there is one tree.

• Being able to send my crazy part-Siamese cat outside when he annoys me. Which is a lot. To be fair, I completely understand his cabin fever. I am not an apartment person, either. I hope he is happier and healthier on the other side.

• Having a yard. Sitting on a deck. Walking barefoot in the grass. Grilling out on the weekends. Growing things. Lots of things.

• American grocery shopping. The Mexican food aisle and huge produce section at Giant Food. The olive bar and bulk bins at Whole Foods. The yummy snacks at Trader Joe’s. The farmer’s market. Green leafy vegetables all year ’round. Peaches in the summer.

• Not fooling with VAT and “fakturas” and all that stuff. Which I can’t honestly be bothered with most of the time, anyway, but it will just be good to cross that off the to-do list. Happy to pay state and local taxes, since I’m only paying them once!

A fat folder of grocery receipts to be recorded on a spreadsheet.

• Not dealing with the State Department. This could be a whole separate blog post, of course, but there’s no real need to spell it out. Let’s just say that the PCS process does a nice job of nailing that particular coffin lid shut.

• Five Guys hamburgers and fries. Strip-mall Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian food. Tex-Mex-Salvadoran restaurants. Margaritas!

• Flying less than two hours non-stop to see my parents, and five hours to see my daughter on the west coast. (Also, not flying with cats, ever again.)

• The whole box of crayons. Maybe if you grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, Warsaw will look and feel normal to you. But I did not, and monocultural Poland has never felt quite right. As my half-Polish son once observed, “this is a whole country of people who look just like me.” I noticed yesterday that it’s difficult to find him in a crowd! Foreign cultures are supposed to be foreign, of course. But, I can’t help looking forward to getting back to the messy cultural mix of the DC area. That is what home looks like to me.

We pack out in nine days, fly out in two weeks. Travel orders are complete. Tickets home have been purchased. All the other flight and car reservations are made. The car is shipped. The apartment is organized—at least in my mind. (I have a plan! And many lists!) Official and unofficial farewell events are over. Our renters have moved out, and my house is just sitting there waiting for me. It’s all—dare I say it?—under control.

I think I’m past the peak phase of Pre-Move Stress Disorder. Now, I’m just ready to go.

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