Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friendly Day

First, I forgot to relate a story from yesterday.  Unlike in American shops, it always seems like change is in short supply around here. Cashiers will ask for smaller denominations of bills and coins pretty much always.  I have trouble understanding this.  In designing a video game or virtual economy, we think of "sources" of funds and "sinks" of funds in order to keep the game in balance.  It seems like everywhere I go is a "sink" for change.  How does one get change?  I tried stopping by a bank to buy a roll of coins, but had language issues.  I'll try again later this week, or maybe commission Laurel with that mission when she arrives.

Anyway, yesterday morning I decided to try buying a precel (pretzel) on my way into work as part of my breakfast.  In spite of the name, they're actually more like bagels.  Anyway, they cost 1.50 Zloty (about $0.45 USD) and they are best in the morning, so I thought I'd try one.  I had less than 1.50 in change, but a 10-zloty bill (the smallest paper denomination).  The older woman selling me the precel was distraught about this, and eventually took most of my change (about 1.25 zloty) and let me have the precel.  I don't understand this.  Wouldn't it be easier to visit a bank than to lose revenue?  Culture is funny sometimes.

This morning I went back to the gym near my work.  As I was leaving, I found that my backpack also contained my camera, something I had forgotten I threw in there.  As a consequence, I present to you some pictures from the train station at my work.  This is more like suburban Kraków as opposed to the urban pictures I've been posting thus far.

I spent most of the afternoon with the guy I met at the train station a few days ago.  I got to show him some of the areas around the main square (although he had explored quite a bit as well) and teach a few Polish words.  We happened across a wedding ceremony that was occurring at one of the old churches, and he was really fascinated by that.  He's from Oman, and he'd never seen a Christian wedding before.  They were all outside the church at the receiving line, and the happy couple eventually got into their BMW and drove away to some fabulous destination.  (There was a crowd of other tourists gathered as well, and they gave a kiss in front of the getaway vehicle for the tourists.  I was slightly surprised no one applauded.)

Tonight I went down to a jazz concert with some of my friends from the language exchange club group.  Although a little further away than our usual meetings, there was a train stop on the way down that I thought would make the transport easier.  Unfortunately, the train was delayed and the stop itself was a little sketchy, so I was later than expected; however, so was the concert, so all was well.

I also misread the times and misjudged the departure time of my train by an hour, so I found myself with an hour to kill at the mall.  I decided it would be good to tackle this problem of not having enough change.  Previously, someone had mentioned to me using an automated cashier to solve this problem - just buy something small and pay the machine with a large bill.  The problem was that I didn't know where any such machines were.  It turns out Carrefour has them, but they're in an entirely different side of the store than the human cashiers.  Once I figured that out, I did the equivalent of buying a $0.80 pack of gum with a $15 bill, which helped my change problem out greatly.  I will use this trick in the future.

Although I would have turned the volume down about 20%, the jazz concert was enjoyable.  One of the guys from the language group plays the harmonica, and he plays it well.  I gather he's won some competitions with his skills. He was definitely showing them off tonight.  The band played some older American rock songs, including "Route 66", "Blue Suede Shoes", "Great Balls of Fire", and "Knocking on Heaven's Door".  It was kind of funny when they were all singing along to Route 66 and then I had to explain what Route 66 was.

Afterwards (about midnight), the group went out for zapiekanka (the french-bread pizza stuff). This late-night zapiekanka is part of Polish culture, so I decided it would be good for me to go, even if it delays sleep an hour longer than I would ordinarily have chosen.  It was good, they gave me good directions to get home, and I made it safe and sound.  Kraków really is a charming and safe city, at least in the districts I frequent.

Today was very delightful.  After two weeks of near isolation, having friends to go out with is a most welcome change.


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