Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Married, Working, and Living Overseas (My Job Journey Part 4)

While in Texas, I completed a Print Production School with the University of the Nations.  My future wife came from Poland took the course as well.  We became friends during the school, and a year later we got married and moved to Warsaw, Poland to live.  We both worked together for the Polish Baptist Union Publishing House while we were there.  They gave us a monthly salary as well as an unfurnished apartment to live in.

Washing the floor in the living room of our apartment. 
The apartment was new and larger than an average apartment in Warsaw, however it was situated on the outskirts of the city.  Since we didn't own a vehicle, we used public transit which meant walking through a forest 2km's to the first bus stop on route 518 (in Radosc).  We brought some our new IKEA furniture home from the store on that bus, carrying it through the forest to our flat. That was some good exercise!  Be prepared to be pragmatic and use public transit if you end up living overseas as the cost of gas is high.
I enjoyed using public transit in Poland.  Because our stop was the end of the line, I was able to study and read a lot during our commutes.  I studied Polish diligently and made some good progress with my vocabulary and grammar.  Be open to learning the local language as locals appreciate it.  I also discovered a couple of magazines on the bus that I still enjoy reading (The Economist and the European Edition of Time).  They provided me with a European perspective of the news which I found illuminating - particularly since the Polish economy was trying to come to terms with the country's recent independence.  There's nothing like getting paid in 2 million zloty bills to make you think twice about currency exchange!
In the dark room
developing film

We worked at the publishing house in Warsaw from Fall of 1994 to the end of Summer, 1995. Working as an expat things don't always turn out like you think.  I thought being married to a Polish citizen would make it easier for me to legally work in Poland.  It didn't seem to.  I had to renew my work visa every three months which was a real hassle.  Ensure you obtain all the information you can about working and living in a new country before you decide to move - don't assume that you can apply logic or common sense to every situation.

The work itself was challenging as well.  While my wife and I spoke English, everyone else spoke nothing but Polish, so I had to learn fast.  I did typesetting in Polish, using Polish characters, learned to develop all our film by hand, and also learned to print full colour pages on a new, single colour sheetfed press.

In the outside market across the
street from Hala Mirowska
My eyes were opened to history, culture, and architecture in a new way while I lived in Poland. Walking through the forest to work, we could still see the remains of trenches and craters from World War II.  Once the bus got us into downtown, I loved looking at the buildings with their red, tile roofs and green copper domes.  Up to that point I had never lived in a city that large or old.  The church we worked in stood in what was once the Jewish Ghetto made infamous during the war.   Two blocks east from there was Hala Mirowska, a fantastic indoor market where we'd buy our groceries (and sometimes lunch).  Take advantage of the differences you experience abroad.  Savour them.  Read a good book about the country or continent you are on while you are there.  I distinctly remember being sick with the flu in bed for a couple of days and reading The Count of Monte Cristo - much more rich for me with the old world atmosphere!
On the grounds of the Palace in Warsaw

I don't want to make it sound like I'd died and gone to heaven.  There will be challenges and frustrating circumstances.  I definitely felt alone, separate, misunderstood, limited, and out of my element at times.  My wife says it was the first time she saw me cry.  Plan ahead and have something you can do, or someone you can visit with to help you get around those time where negative feelings try to take over.  I remember thinking 'Man, if I ever get back to North America, I'm going to take advantage of my ability as a native English speaker there'.

For the rest of my Job Journey and to read other career profiles, check out my Career Path Profiles page here or follow the links below:

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