A brilliant photographer lives somewhere in Warsaw. He or she is the person who took the pictures of this apartment that we viewed on the web, the ones that made it appear strikingly modern and attractive. It is neither. It is, however, serviceable and well-located, mostly meaning that Susan has a short walk to the psychology building, and the tram and bus lines are within a few blocks.
As best I can tell, very few units in this large complex are short-term rentals like this one. Presumably most of the others larger; there are many young children living here. The kitchen is equipped with just enough cups, plates, silverware, etc. to get us through a day. There is no coffee maker, a sad discovery. The small amount of Starbucks instant we brought “just in case” is long gone, and Polish stores sell the kind of instant coffee our parents drank in the 1950s. Those readers who are addicted to good coffee can appreciate what deprivation this represents, especially given that there is no café within a reasonable walk that opens before eleven.
Then there is the bed. It is a double-bed mattress resting on a single-bed box spring. It is covered by a duvet that needs to be readjusted in twenty minute intervals through the night. Susan generally does not sleep well when traveling, and she is making a serious run at a new Personal Best in sleep deprivation.
Since this is a working trip for Susan, who is cramming 15 hours of instruction with all the related reading of student papers and such into five days (add in the lecture she gave at a hospital yesterday to medical students), it is good to report that we have excellent wifi. What we do not have is a desk, so she is using her thickest textbook as a lap desk as she grades papers.
A miniature washing machine was creatively jammed into the bathroom, a wonderful asset during the days when my luggage was missing. Like the rest of Europe, Poles love warm towels, so the heated towel rack has proven an effective clothes dryer. We have been in many tiny European showers, but none quite so small as this one. Early learning: if you run the water full blast, the shower will overflow in less than a minute.
Also like the rest of Europe, there are no washcloths, but I always bring my own. I would one day like to watch a European man shave, just to see how he cleans the soap from his face when he is done. The other rarity in Europe are ice cubes. We do have an ice cube tray. It makes eight tiny cubes, and I am grateful to have it.
There is a grocery store in our building, and the folks there are friendly enough. We are eating in tonight so that Susan can get her papers graded, so I went down to purchase items for dinner. I am not entirely certain what I purchased, but I am pretty sure it is food. Friends like Kasia and Anna have been helping me with elementary Polish, but reading signs and food packages is part of the advanced course.
This may sound a bit whiny, which is not my intent. Having our own apartment is a reminder that we are not here as tourists or to attend a conference: in a very small way and for a very short period of time, we are taking part in the life of Warsaw. Kasia, who I will write about, has become a true friend and we are learning to feel a little bit at home here. I will be surprised if Susan is not invited to return in a few years, and surprised if she does not accept the invitation. I will bring lots of instant coffee.