So I’ve been meaning to write another blog post for a while, but you know when you get in a routine and, even if you’re half way around the world doing really cool things, every day just feels kind of normal? And then you’re like, “Oh, I should blog something exciting,” but you’re like, “What’s exciting?” Yeah, that’s basically what happened.
I’ve been in Warsaw for almost a month now and things are pretty chill. Actually, they’re almost winding down. A week and a half ago we entered the “output phase” of the program. We switched from attending lectures and having discussion sessions to working in small groups on a final project. My group consists of me, a German fellow, and a Polish fellow. Given the topic of “Jewish Rights/Issues,” we chose to address everyday anti-Semitism in the Polish language. It’s inspired by a book I read a few years ago called The Everyday Language of White Racism by Jane Hill. If you haven’t read it, you should. Because it’s amazing. And it rocked my world. And some of her theoretical assumptions are underlying my project here in HIA. The project consists of creating a workshop for Polish high school students, trying to encourage them to think about and change the language they use. It’s actually been pretty neat to plan out class sessions. It was a really great carryover from learning how to do lesson plans last year as a BRIDGE TA.
Other than project stuff, we have just been relaxing and enjoying our time here. Most days I wake up to the sounds of construction work and traffic outside my window, which is wide open because the ho(s)tel doesn’t have AC. I have a ton of mosquito bites – they get me at night while I’m sleeping. We have a continental style breakfast downstairs which consists of lots of bread and yogurt. Then we explore and work and explore and work. This past weekend several of us went to Krakow, a city in southern Poland, for a few days. I’ll write a separate post about that trip, but overall it was awesome and so much fun. In a few days HIA’s big annual, international conference will start here in Warsaw. I’m pretty excited for it. All the other 2013 fellows from across Europe, senior fellows who’ve done the program in the past, and lots of other really interesting people will be here and I’ll have opportunities to meet and network with them all.
After the conference there will be zero time to debrief, as next Monday I’ll head to Amman for my HNGR internship. I’ve been trying to think and process through what I have learned here in Warsaw. For the most part, I haven’t learned what I was expecting to learn, but I have learned so much. That’s a pretty vague statement and a lot to unpack, but I’m still sorting out what it all means. In HNGR they tell us to hold our expectations loosely. And I remember someone telling us that we’ll learn the most from the unexpected things. That’s definitely been true of my time here in Warsaw (and all of my life, but we forget, right?). I’m excited to see how exactly God uses this time I’ve had (and still have) here, and what it will mean for the future, and how it will influence other things in my life.
Here’s one thought real quick: I think part of the reason being here became “normal” so quickly was that so much of the program style and structure is centered around the American fellows. There’s a lot of privilege built into the program. Everything is in English. We live in a hostel/hotel with one roommate each and private bathrooms. We come home at night to “a little America.” The program directors communicate with us through Facebook. Polish TV and radio stations play a lot of American films and music. Other people do our laundry and change our sheets. We didn’t need visas to come, while some other fellows did. When we go out, most Polish people know a bit of English and don’t expect us to know any Polish. It’s really a very insulated program. And I don’t really like that. One thing I appreciate about HNGR is that it’s not meant to be so insulated. The amount of privilege we (Americans) have here is overwhelming (as I’m sure it will be on HNGR as well). What’s so strange is that the program is intentionally structured in ways that keep us insulated. It has been difficult to be here, be a part of a program that’s set up to privilege and separate us. And that’s just what everyone, staff and fellows, expects and accepts. Does that make sense? I’m still figuring a lot of this out. But this one thing has been bugging me since we got here and has caused me to question the program a lot. If you have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them. 🙂
I’ll try and post some pictures soon of life here in Warsaw. Pictures always help me, so I like to put them up for other people. Please pray for me this last week, that’d I would take every opportunity and use them well. And pray for me as I head to Amman. All the other HNGR interns are in the field and I’m eager to join them. If you get a chance, you should check out the other interns’ blogs at hngr2013.com. It’s been really helpful for me to read some of their reflections on their time so far.
Lots of love! And peace!