Field Note: Kids
Caption: In her school library
I got to sit down with Anya on Friday when I visited her school in Lubartów (Lu-BAR-toov). Anya’s teacher is a friend of mine. Anya is 15 years old, but will be 16 this summer. This is her last year at gymnasium, the Polish version of middle school. Next year, she will go to lyceum, the Polish version of high school.
Anya was very nervous about speaking English with me, so sometimes we spoke Polish. Mostly, she spoke in English because she really likes the language. All of her answers were given in English (except for a few words here and there), so I have typed the interview in English.
Something you should know about Anya, is that she is busy studying for exams. Polish school can be a bit harder than school in the United States sometimes. Students have to take big tests each time they move on to a different school. If they don’t pass the test, they can’t go to a good school. Anya is very stressed about her exams right now.
“At the end of gymnasium there are exams and it is very important. When you want to go to lyceum, you must choose your school and profile: maybe math and physics, maybe humanities. I think it is something bad. If you write math and physics, you must study something in college related to these subjects. It is not good for students.” (Unlike in the United States, students must choose their career path when they are only sixteen years old!)
What is your house like?
Anya lives in an apartment just two blocks from her school. I forgot to ask her this question directly, but she mentioned it when talking about how she gets to school. She has her own room, which is a luxury for kids living in apartments in Poland. Anya has an older sister who has her own room too.
What chores do you have at home?
“I have a very good situation, because when it is the school week and there is a lot of work at school, because it is third class and there are exams, I don’t have to do a lot. I clean my room, sometimes dishes, but not a lot. On the weekends, I have more work. There is time to do homework and time to help my mother.
My mother works on the holidays, so sometimes we (Anya and her sister) cook meals. I can cook spaghetti and soups. I use mixes sometimes. I like baking better than cooking. I make cakes for important dates – like mother’s birthday, uncle’s. I make cakes with my mother, grandmother and aunt, and I like it very much.”
What jobs do your parents have?
“My father is an English teacher in two small towns near Lubartów. Mother is a dentist.”
Title: Anya’s School
Caption: I think it looks like a palace!
What time does school start, and what time do you go home?
“I have classes from 8:00 AM. It depends, but I have sometimes different classes in the afternoon, but I don’t stay longer than 4:00 PM.”
How do you get to school? Are you allowed to go to school by yourself?
“I walk to school because I live almost next to the school; two roads from school.”
What do you eat for lunch, and where do you eat? What is your favorite food?
“I eat lunch at school. There is a school canteen and a lot of students eat there.” (I ate lunch at Anya’s school a few weeks ago. The food is much better than food in American schools! There was a vegetable soup, bread, breaded chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and cabbage salad.)
“There is a lot…I like desserts: tiramisu…kopiec kreta.” (It took Anya and me a while to figure out how to translate the name of this cake. Our best translation is “molehill,” because it looks like the lumps of dirt moles make when they dig a hole.)
“I like Italian cuisine, sometimes I like traditional Polish food. My grandmother does a lot of traditional Polish foods, like pierogi. My grandmother does them with kasha (a kind of grain called buckwheat).”
Title: Polish Molehill cake
Caption: I found the picture online, but the recipe was in Polish. I will try to translate the recipe and make it for you next week.
What language do you speak at school? How do you say “Hello”? in your language?
“Polish in normal classes. Sometimes we speak English in English classes…sometimes we speak Polish.”
According to Anya, other than cześć,which I taught you, and dzien dobry, which means “good day,” you can say siema (SHEEAY-ma), heyka (like “hey”), and “hallo.” Polish people only say “hallo” if they are talking on the phone.
What are some common kids’ names at your school?
I don’t have a direct quote for this one. Anya or Anna are very common names (Anya’s real name is Anna). Ela and Asha (short for Joanna) are also very common Polish names for girls. Paweł is a very common name for boys in Poland. Michał, Mateusz and Adam are other common names for boys. We went through the names of Anya’s classmates and decided which were the most popular names.
What subjects do you study in school, and which one is your favorite?
“It depends if I must learn something boring, like grammar. But if we have speaking English or history of America or Great Britain, it is very interesting. I like Polish, English, physics sometimes…interesting parts of this subject.”
What is your homework like?
“It depends on the subject, but sometimes I have too much, especially in Polish.” (Anya got to skip Polish class to do this interview. When I was finished with the questions, she begged me to ask more so she could skip the entire class. Does this sound like something you might do?)
What do you like to do after school? Do you have a favorite sport or game?
“In Lubartow, there are a lot of ways to do something special, like you can learn to play piano. There is a cultural place in the building of our school. There are dancing lessons, chess lessons and a lot of others. I like meeting with friends, and sometimes I try things in the cultural place. I tried dance and piano, and sometimes I play chess.”
Are you good at chess, Anya?
“Not at all, but I like it. I think too much and I mess up.”
What kinds of music do you listen to?
“I think that I don’t listen to a type of music. I like everything. Mostly, I like Polish rock.” (Anya’s favorite Polish band is Strachy na Lachy. You can find music videos of them on YouTube. Anya also likes Lenny Kravitz. Sometimes, she likes to listen to dance music, which in Poland is called “disco.”)
What would you like to be when you grow up?
“That’s the hardest question that I hear everywhere. Everyone asks me “What do you want to do?” And I don’t know. I want to do something where I can try new things and everywhere I can learn something new. I want this kind of work. This work must be fine to me and I must earn money. It’s hard to have both.”
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
“There are a lot of places. I think I want to go to America, and visit popular places, but I also want to visit not big cities: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park, Great Lakes. I want to go to China or Japan. I know that it’s quite dangerous. My sister wanted to go to Azerbaijan. I think that I want to travel because my sister went hitchhiking in Europe. Next year, she wants to go with her friends to Romania and Bulgaria but by car. But it’s dangerous and my mother couldn’t sleep. My parents didn’t want to let her but said yes when it was in Europe.”
What do you know or think about the United States?
“I know the things that everyone knows: there is Barack Obama, there is a lot of history, a lot of national parks. I don’t know much about Americans and the ways that they live. In Poland, there is a stereotype about Americans: they only know about America and care about America, and they don’t know about the rest of the world. But I don’t think this is true.”
What questions do you have for kids in the United States?
“I have a lot of questions! I don’t know what to choose. Maybe something about the school system. I don’t know how it works. You choose classes. People from different classes go to other classes. In Poland, you have the same students in every class.” (Is this true in your school? I told Anya it is changing, but there are probably some schools like this in America.)
“Are there many things for entertainment? We have a small cinema and it isn’t too good. When we want to do something fun, we must go to Lublin. (Lublin is about 40 minutes away by bus.) I don’t know, maybe in American cities it is better?”
“What size are families? In Poland, it can be very different: sometimes two children, sometimes five children, sometimes one child.”
Title: Downtown Lubartow
Caption: On nice, sunny days, you see a lot of people outside in Poland