Birthday parties to integrate my kids

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I have been living in Warsaw with my family for 15 months and I feel like it’s time to write down how we are all doing.

It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, any emotions you can think of.

Something really good happened in the last few weeks.

My kids have just celebrated their birthdays (10, 8, 5 yo) and organizing their birthday parties has been a huge effort, especially emotionally speaking. They all go to Polish schools and they are surrounded by Polish kids, in their classrooms there are nearly any foreigners.

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During their first year at school they had not been invited to any birthday party (apart from my 5 yo boy) and for us parents that was a bit worrying; this fact for us meant that our kids were not well accepted, were not integrated, were not seen as one of them. Probably the main reason behind it, was simply that our kids didn’t speak Polish and were finding really difficult to communicate with other kids. 

So we decided to organize birthday parties for our children and invite their classmates and to our great surprise the guests came and they all had fun. What’s more important is that now our kids have broken the ice, there are no more barriers, they play and talk to their classmates (in Polish) with no fears. It is as if a wall has been knocked down and everybody is much happier.

It’s been stressful for me organizing their parties, fearing all the time that maybe nobody would show up but everything has gone well and I couldn’t be happier to see my kids happy.

Being an expat can be stressful but can also be really rewarding!

 

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Italian mom vs Polish culture

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I need to vent and I’m going to write things down here.

The girls left this morning at 6am for their very first school camp, 400km away together with 150 Polish kids and I haven’t received any news from them for more than 12 hours!!! Is this normal? Am I too anxious?!

What I don’t get is if it’s only us not knowing anything as parents and this is just the way Polish people deal with their kids going to school trips or maybe the other parents know everything, they are on whatsapp or other social media and we don’t.

I’m still learning about this culture and I find it pretty interesting to say the least. They let kids be more responsible and free compared to us; I like it but at the same time I’m not used to it and I find it stressful sometimes.

My girls are only 7 and 9 years old, they are away from home (from us) for the very first time in their lives, for 5 days surrounded by people who only speak Polish. Their Polish knowledge has improved a lot during the last few months but still, this is a big adventure and I’m so proud of them!

I hope they’re going to have fun and I wish they’ll have fond memories of this trip.

 

Pineapple as a present

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6th of December, in Poland kids receive presents from Mikołaj.

My kids found 3 chocolate elfs and a Chocolate Santa on the table for breakfast this morning. It was snowing and the atmosphere were just right.

They left to go to school, happy to know that there would be more sweets and a present for each of them.

One of the girl received lego and the other a jigsaw puzzle of Poland (let’s say she was not impressed by it).

At the end of the day the happiest has been little Mr. Copycat; he received a big pineapple to bring home and he couldn’t be happier! At first I was surprised but watching my son being so happy just brought me back in time, when my parents used to get mandarins for Christmas.

pineapple

Exotic fruits were rare back then, you couldn’t find them so easily all year round! So probably that’s where my son’s present comes from; a tradition?

I’d like to know more and I might probably ask my Polish teacher tomorrow.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas

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1st of December 2016:

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus would do…

Do you know this song? I heard it this morning on the radio and I couldn’t help smiling and thinking about the time my daughter sang it at kinder in Berlin; such sweet memories!

I love Christmas time, it’s a magical time,

I love buying presents,

preparing the decorations,

thinking about the Christmas menu,

writing Christmas cards to family and friends,

decorating the tree,

hiding presents,

listening to Christmas songs,

Christmas lights,

snow outside,

…..

It’s our first Christmas in Warsaw, it’s getting cold, it has already snowed a bit but not enough to make a snowman yet!

I have prepared a DIY advent calendar, very simple, with only paper, glue and a packet of lego.

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I love hearing my kids voices early in the morning, getting excited about the surprise they are going to get (and of course the comments they made about it!).

In Warsaw they celebrate St. Nicolaus on the 6th of December and the kids usually get presents that day. It seems to be very similar to Sinterklaas in the Netherlands and my kids are very happy as they are going to get presents from St. Nicolaus too!!!

Letters to Santa have been written, although my girls don’t believe in him anymore 😦 and I’m a bit sad that some of the magic has been taken away this year. At least Mr. Copycat is still little (only 4yo) and it’s going to be a very magical Christmas for him.

In my wishing list this year there are a couple of big things:

I want a hippopotamus  house and a family car for Christmas! 🙂

Am I asking too much?

 

 

First day of school in Poland: do you know…?

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1st of September: first day of school in Poland.

So, what’s so special? What’s different from other countries?

Three days ago we went to school to have some info about what to expect, what the girls would need ect.., usual questions. The answer we got was:don’t worry, come on the 1st of September at 9am and you will be told what to do next.

So, ok. It’s been a long summer but we can wait for three more days, I guess. Little Miss Fussy is getting really nervous, with big tantrums and headaches. We try to calm her down, reassuring her that everything it’s going to be ok, but this doesn’t really seem to be of any help.

Today is the day.

9am, we arrive at school.

In the school yard there are children and parents, all looking cheerful and super happy to see each others again. We look for the sign posts with the names of our children classes – 4A, 2A. After a few minutes we spot them and we take the girls to their teachers. Little Miss Fussy is so nervous she can’t say a word, her arms are so rigid you could say she’s a statue. Little Miss Daydream is more relaxed, she is curious about the other kids, you can see from her eyes that she is looking at their clothes and hair and any single thing that catches her eyes.  What I notice is that all the kids wear blue and white clothes, very smart indeed. My girls are wearing casual clothes of the wrong colours but nobody seems to notice.  The head teacher starts talking and welcomes everybody back to school, introduces all the staff members and teachers (quite a long list!). Then it’s time for the national anthem and other important Polish songs. Finally the kids are taken into school, in their classroom…and the parents too!!! I had no clue I was going into the classroom with my kids. We had to sit and listen to the teacher giving out timetables and instructions for the new school year. 30 minutes later we got dismissed together with the kids. See you tomorrow! What??? I thought the school was going to start today but that’s not how it works in Poland. Now I know 🙂

 

Note to myself

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On the 21st of June 2016 I arrived in Warsaw with my husband and our three kids.

The city has welcomed us beautifully with lovely weather, great parks to go for a stroll and a play, stunning old town and very kind people.

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I’m not new to the city anymore but I haven’t started to look for new friends, not yet, I don’t feel ready. I’m still too attached to the friends I left in Australia and part of me feels like she’s not going to find such good friends again. Time will help me and guide me, I’m sure.

School is starting next week and I am really looking forward to it. Two whole months without any interaction with other people apart from saying Dzień Dobry and Do widzenia is taking out the worst of us all. The kids keep on fighting for no reasons and I’m going insane. They need to go to school not only to learn but much more to socialize and have fun with other kids their age. I need to have some much-needed “me time” to stop and think about what’s next for me; however, before I can do that, I need to see my kids settled down in their new school and happy with their teachers and peers.

It’s still a long journey and I’m sure there is going to be a stressful time ahead of us but hopeful in six months time we’ll all feel better.

Note to myself: next time we move, avoid arriving at the new place during summer time and spend more than two months without human interactions apart from family members (it’s insane!).

Recurrent mistake in my expat life

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No, not again!!!

It’s not the first time it happens to me and maybe it also happened to many other expats like me.

My kids have been asking for muffins for a few days now and mummy has to bake them, right? So yesterday I was ready to bake them but when I was checking the ingredients I was missing one: butter.

This morning we had to go to some boring offices to get official documents and the kids behaved so well that on the way home we stopped at the local shop next to our home to buy some butter.

As the shop is tiny and there isn’t much of a selection, I found in the fridge two packages, one with the label masło, 100 grams

and one with the label smalec,  200 grams

I wasn’t too sure which one was what, so I asked a young guy in English if he could help me but he didn’t speak English or maybe he got scared of me, who knows. Anyway as I couldn’t choose I ended up buying both the packages.

When I arrived at home I realized that smalec is the Polish for lard. I couldn’t possibly bake muffins with lard, so I simply used 100 grams of butter and made 12 muffins instead of 24, not too bad.

The first time I arrived home with lard instead of butter was in the UK, it was probably the first time I went to the supermarket and I didn’t even read the label because I would have never thought lard was sold in a package similar to the butter one.

From this experience I have learnt:

  1. masło = butter, smalec = lard
  2. I can bake 12 muffins with 100 gr. butter
  3. I should use my phone to translate words to help with my shopping

I’m really curious to know what Polish people use lard for, as they sell bigger quantities of lard than butter. I might learn some new recipes! 🙂

 

 

My very first Polish lesson

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If you’re an expat,one of the best things you can do to get the feeling of the Country you’re living in,it’s to try and learn the language. Not only it will help you to better communicate with the people around you but it will also give you a better understanding of the culture, history and place where you’re living.

On Wednesday I had my very first Polish lesson.

In a school,

group of 4 adults,

a teacher speaking mostly Polish,

and…

I missed the first 3 lessons of the beginners course.

Yes, I started at lesson number 4 because I didn’t want to wait until the next course started at the end of September.

How did it go?

Well, pretty well, until they started revising number 0-10 and doing some maths with numbers up to 29. I must have had the most confused faced you have ever seen.

I felt all the numbers were tongue twisters and the most confusing ones were

9 = dziewięć

10= dziesięć

polish numbers

Now, after a few days I can say I can tell numbers from 0 to 29, a bit slowly and with a few mistakes but I am pretty happy with it.

Tomorrow I have my second lesson and I feel a bit nervous about it but I also can’t wait to learn a bit more.

 

New city, new adventure

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OMG, it’s been ages since my last post!!!

I left Italy 4 weeks ago together with my husband and three children.

In Italy the kids have been amazing, their end of school year reports were over the top and what filled my heart most were the words from both my  girls’ teachers: “It’s been a pleasure having your girl in the classroom, she is a real treasure”. What could be better for a mother’s ears?!

Now we’re in Warsaw, Poland.

First impressions:

  1. Polish people are very kind and friendly – they even give their seats on the bus when they see me with my kids!
  2. The city is very clean and tidy – I couldn’t say the same about Italy
  3. The weather? It’s summertime and it’s absolutely lovely, sunny but not too hot 🙂
  4. Food? I can find absolutely everything in the superstore plus there are lots of fruit stalls around the city selling fresh and super amazing cherries, apricots, strawberries…
  5. The language is not easy at all to understand from my Italian/English background but I’m slowly learning a few words and I’m planning to have Polish lessons ASAP.
  6. It’s funny how international stores like ROSSMANN, TESCO, OKAIDI, CARREFOUR, TESCO, INTIMISSIMI and so many others make me feel more at ease about living in a new city
  7. School: we decided for a Polish school for our girls. We met the headmaster, who although she spoke only Polish, she was very welcoming and she claimed the girls we’ll be fine with their Polish after about one year of school. That would be great!
  8. Reading the bookWarsaw boy” has been very helpful in order to understand a little bit of the history of this city.
  9. ….
  10. ….

I can’t wait to live and write about my life in this interesting city.

Reading my children’s mind

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Any parent would love to know their children’s thoughts, what’s on their mind, how their brains work.

Specifically, I’d love to know how my children’s brains are managing their languages, in which language they think/speak/dream etc…

My children’s background:

Child #1: 8 y.o. , so far lived in 5 Countries and exposed to 4 languages

Child #2: 6 yo, same as above

Child #3: 3 yo, lived in 3 Countries, exposed to 3 languages.

Countries where we lived: UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia.

Currently living in Italy, moving to Poland in a few months.

That’s a lot of travelling and exposure to different languages and cultures, I would say.

Now it happens that child #1 loves English, it’s deep in her heart but in the last three months she has been going to school in Italy and she is kind of forcing herself to speak Italian all the time. She’s just probably trying to fit in or maybe she doesn’t see the point of using English when nobody but her family can understand her. Her writing and reading skills in Italian are amazing, not to mention listening and speaking.

Child #2 loves Italian; she is funny because up to now she has never lived in Italy but she has always preferred this language. She is doing great with her reading and writing in Italian and it seems as if learning to read in Italian hasn’t affected negatively her reading skills in English, it has made them even stronger! The interesting fact is that sometimes she comes up speaking English to her sister but this doesn’t last long as her sister switch it back to Italian (her sister leads the conversation and chooses the language they speak).

Child #3 loves Italian. He’s a real chatterbox in Italian and going to kindergarten in Italy has made him even more chattier. He has never sp0ken English apart for a few words but he perfectly understand it and whenever we use English he replies in Italian, translating whatever we just said.

It’s absolutely fascinating for me observing my children, how different they are and how amazingly they adapt to each Country where we live. I’m now worried about finding the right school for them in Warsaw, in a magical world it would be great if they could learn Polish and keep on using English and Italian but….we’ll see, I’m sure they’ll find their way.