Monday, 27 May 2019

Alice in Wonderland Puzzles Room

Every year Poland celebrates the “Libraries Week,” consisting on different events and activities during the week for everyone. During my stay in the country it happened from the 8th till the 15th of May and, of course, the library in Pomiechówek wouldn’t be less and plenty of workshops and other events were held here.
I also decided to do my part and create a new escape room -once again following the idea of the previous volunteer, Angeline.

After much discussion, we decided that the story theme would be “Alice in Wonderland,” merging the fairyland kingdom with the writer Lewis Carroll’s room. The final composition turned out pretty cool in my opinion.

The pre-game story explained that the Queen of Hearts had stolen some pages of Carroll’s manuscript, so that Wonderland would never be the same and she could take over it. The participants had 40 minutes to find the 10 missing pages in the room and save the Kingdom.
First, the children (though not only did we have children, also adults!) had to play memory cards with illustrations from the first Alice edition, which gave them the password to enter Wonderland through the Rabbit Hole –this is  literal, they had to kneel and squeeze through a “hole” down a tree on the wall! Kalina, or the “Mean Guardian” was standing at the door preventing them from coming inside ahead of time.
Once on the other side of the hole, Marine -The Rabbit- and I -Alice- were waiting there in case the participants needed some hint to find the manuscripts.

The right side was set as Carroll's writing room, with the desk full of old papers and ink, a lamp, a sofa and a coffee table and many other old things on the shelves. They had to pay special attention to the clock, tea, chess and suitcase.

The cupboard down the television - in which we displayed the countdown - was covered with giantic paper flowers and it locked a laptop. Once they discovered the password to it -the missing numbers from the card deck,- the participants had to pass a small quiz about Carroll’s less known facts. They had all of the information inside a locked board.

Moving to the left side, we also prepared a smaczny Tea Party, with an Unbirthday cake, a tea set and all! The mini-cupcakes hid the key to the cookies box and the flowers the secret flashlight for the note with invisible ink. I am still surprised that nothing was broken here.
We also included a “waterfall” and a stand for the plenty of plushy cats we had.

Finally, when the kids found the ten pages, they had to take the highlighted words and put them in order to create the password to go out again. We are happy to say that all of the participants managed to escape and save the kingdom of Wonderland!!

We did an amazing team job and everyone in the library gave their bit to make the room look professional

So thank so much to Mrs. Ewa and Kalina for bringing so many old decorations; to Kalina also for being the “bad guardian;” Sylwia for coming up with great ideas and being the Mad Hatter; to Bartek and Kuba for helping with some puzzles; to Marine, the Rabbit, for her unconditional support; and of course to all the participants, whom we hope had as a good time as us! It was GREAT!


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Struggles with the language

One of the things that scared me the most before coming to Poland was, without a doubt, the Polish language -and I bet it’s a shared feeling by most of the volunteers.

It is truth that most of the languages spoken in Europe descend from Indoeuropean, but nowadays they don’t really look alike anymore. Polish, belonging to the Slavic languages family, has very little to do with Spanish (which derives from Latin) or English (German and Latin descent). Also it’s easy to spot some Latin-derived words in Polish, like “biblioteka” or even from French, like “parasol” (meaning umbrella), but these are mainly exceptions and the bulk of vocabulary and grammar forms have nothing to do with anything I am familiar with.

Therefore, I was really worried about how would I communicate with everyone here, especially since Pomiechówek is a small town and I had no high expectations with people speaking English. Fortunately, everyone at the library speaks quite good English –and also Marine, the volunteer from Pompa and Bartek, my mentor- so during most of my day I don’t really need Polish. Withal, in order to be able to communicate at the little shops, cafes or to ask for signs… well, everyone surely needs some basic knowledge in Polish.

That’s why the program European Voluntary Service includes a  30-hour course of the language of the country you find yourself at. The previous volunteers in Pomiechówek had these lessons through and online program, apparently not very useful. However, Marine and I were lucky enough to have private lessons with an amazing teacher, who is actually specialized in teaching foreigners.

I still remember the first day of our course,  a dark evening in November. The teacher, Pani Kasia, spoke in Polish from the start, and though then she later translated everything English, it was really overwhelming and I was sure that I would never be able to understand a word in this language, left alone speak it myself. Still, as weeks passed, Marine and I could totally feel the progress, especially when we catched some words in the middle of conversations of our coworkers or started to understand what the billboards on our way home tried to sell.   

I have to admit that I still don’t understand everything, and also that there are plenty of sounds my Spanish ear doesn’t recognize hence I can’t  pronounce -words containing dzi,ż,si, ci, ,ć, ś, sz still make me feel nervous when I should say them😓.  Despite this, I am very happy with our evolution and very proud every time I manage to communicate in Polish what I need with non-English speakers.

Apart from the good luck of having found a real instructor instead of the online way, we were very lucky to have fund Kasia, for not only she  is a wonderful teacher but also person. She mixed greatly grammar with vocabulary, and games with cultural information. She even invited us to her school to do presentations about our countries to the children!

Finally, we completed our course with Kasia the 7th of May and she kindly brought us chocolate and a dyplom! It was a really sweet reword but we are surely going to miss her and her lessons!!
Here is a picture of the happy moment, so guys, it's possible to get along well with the Polish language! 😊

Monday, 1 April 2019

Theatre Week at the library

The 27th of March is the International Day of Theatre. Fortunately, this dramatic art is recovering the importance it used to have in our societies, and more and more people enjoy with the different performances available nowadays.

For this reason, the library decided to organize an event for children about theatre, specifically about our already famous orange box, the Kamishibai show.

In case you don’t know, kamishibai is an ancient Japanese theatre art that literally means “paper play.” It consisted on wooden boards with illustrations drawn on them. The narrator would change the slides and go on telling the story. This theatre was very popular from the 30s till the popularization of the television.

Therefore, Marine and I did our version on cardboard, and chose the stories of “The Ugly Duckling” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, for they are tales that everyone is familiar with and we needed that since we narrate them in English.

We also prepared a little craft puppet based on Goldilocks story. The children had to choose one of the characters, paint it front and back, cut it and paste it to a wooden stick to make the puppet. I have to say that seeing the children play with them afterwards was simply adorable. I also loved discovering pink-haired Goldilocks and rainbow bears!

The activity took place four times. On Tuesday 26th we went to the Kindergarten of Pomiechówek. The kids were three and four years old, so they paid close attention to all the performance. For the craft they needed help from all of us but it was super cute!

The next day we had two different school groups at the library, so it was an exhausting day, but they were older kids, hence required less attention. 

On Friday we had another group from the primary school. It was really nice to see that the children did not feel themselves too grownups not to want to paint, and I believe they enjoyed the process!

In summary, it was a really good idea to organize this Theatre Week for the children really need this kind of cultural activities.  And of course we also enjoyed ourselves quite a big deal!!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Women’s Day in Poland

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. Surely, everyone remembers this date, but I discovered this year that each country celebrates it in a different way.

In Spain, it is a day for the vindication of women’s rights. There is a female strike and huge demonstrations in the main cities. The number of participants keeps growing every year, reaching 370,000 in Madrid.

That is why I was very shocked when, just after arriving to work, two strangers (delegates from the mayor, as I was explained later) came in the library with a bucket of tulips, gave a flower to each of us and three kisses. We also had some sweets from Mrs. Ewa. Apparently this is super common in Poland; every women is congratulated on this day and usually receives some flowers.

Marine and I also decided to do our bit to contribute on this day, as part of the activities organized by the Culture Center. We did a presentation -translated by Ania- about Influential European Women, focusing on people or facts not that well known, but still crucial for History.

We started with the ancient times and learned that Cleopatra, last Queen of Egypt, could master 10 languages and different sciences. Also about Hypatia of Alexandria, who was the first female professor in any institution. In the middle ages, we find outstanding women like Hildegarde di Bingen, a canonized German abbess to whom we own many botanical and medicinal studies; and the French pirate Jeanne de Belleville. I also included the heroine of my town, Maria Pita, whose courage save Coruńa from the invaders. We went on with the great Baroque painter Artemisia Lomi Gentileschi; and the entomologist and traveler Maria Sybilla Merian, who was the one introducing some fruits in Europe like the pineapple, and whose paintings of them were realistic and accurate.


Catherine the Great of Russia needs no explanation. Also the English writers Mary Wollstonecraft, author of Vindication of the Rights of Women, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, the first modern science-fiction novel.

Getting to the 19th and 20th century, it became harder to make a selection, for women started to gain a few more rights and freedom to get great achievements. We spoke about the twice-Nobel-prize Maria Skłodowska Curie -although the audience knew her well enough, and a woman told us that she was also one of the first women to have a driving license. We also mentioned Florence Nightingale, the precursor of modern nursing system.

Then, we went through the story of how the Suffragettes made it possible for women to vote in Britain. Linked to this theme is Clara Campoamor, the Spanish politician that achieved women’s vote for my country. We also discovered Concepción Arenal, first women to attend university in Spain, disguised as a man to trick the prohibition.

We came back to novelists with the bestseller of all times Agatha Christie, who was also probably the first European woman to learn how to surf; and  to Simone the Beauvoir, the well-known French philosopher. We surly also had to speak of Irena Sendler, the great Polish woman who saved the lives of 2,500 Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Regarding actresses, we included Hedy Lamarr and Audrey Hepburn, who also stood out for the inventions of the first one (she developed the precursor of Wi-Fi), and the humanitarian missions of the second one. We closed the series with the Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, and the Women of the Don, an NGO that played a crucial role at the Chechen War demanding peace and human rights.

Afterwards, we joined the women in a decorative workshop with colorful beads, laces and diverse materials, to make brooches and other ornaments, which turned up very relaxing and beautiful. And of course, we also had tea and cakes. It was surely a different Women’s Day for me!

Monday, 11 February 2019

Winter Guests in Górzno

As foreigners living in Poland we -Marine and I- also like to travel and discover a bit more about this country and its culture. That is why we were so happy when the cultural center in Górzno invited both of us to participate in the activities they had prepared for children during the winter holidays.
In case you do not know, Górzno is a cozy little town close to Brodnica, which is close to Toruń. Marine had already been there in a conference about theatre so that is how we met Krzysztof and Agnieszka, the couple who usually manages the workshops in that cultural center.

So there we started our travel on Sunday. Being Górzno a little town, it took us forever and four different trains to get there. The man was waiting for us at Brodnica and took us to their home for dinner -at 17.00, I will never get used to Polish timetables, but it was another proof of Polish hospitality ♥. They are a very nice family and own a goat farm, so that they can make cheese and grow vegetables.

The couple lived in France and in Chile for many years, so that they spoke both Spanish and  French, although little English, so managing a conversation between the four of us was a real challenge. After dinner they took us to the place where we were going to sleep. Since there is a professional high school in the town and students have to sleep there regularly, they have a dormitory building, so we were staying in one of the rooms. 

Regarding our work at the cultural center, Krzysztof and Agnieszka had the three next days super well prepared so that the children would not get bored. The theme of the workshops was the Baltic sea, and the kids had already been learning about the fauna and flora living there and about many other stuff related to the subject during the previous week.

On Monday they tried to repeat the key words of the project and we would tell them how it was in English, French and Spanish. Words as “fish, sea, deep, swallow or  seal” came out, so it was also a great way for us to learn some Polish. That day we also investigated how to filter water and how water bombs work in order to provide fresh water for each place. After having some szarlotka, the whole group went for a walk outside so that we could see the surroundings of the village, and went close to two beautiful frozen lakes. Needles to say that the children were delighted with the snow and the ice.

On Tuesday we had to wake up early to go to Toruń to the museum, the Center for Modernity Mill of Knowledge. Marine and I were lucky that most of the panels with explanations were in English!

It was actually a really educational experience as well as enjoyable, since the museum had a lot of interactive activities and experiments that both children and adults alike. It combined diverse subjects, from the river (topic of the winter holiday) to the outer space, but also nature, experiments with different lights and perspectives, and also technology. I strongly recommend that you pay a visit if you ever find yourselves in Toruń!

Wednesday was the last day of the winter holydays. Marine and I had the opportunity to show the children a kamishi bay play, which is an old way of theatre from Japan that consists in exhibit slides in a screen while telling the story. We chose “The Ugly Duckling,” since it is a fairy tale everyone knows and we wanted them to understand even though it was in English. We also proposed some games to play with the children, as “fruit salad,” “orchestra chief” or the “Arabic phone.”

However, the coolest part was stramping tote-bags with our own designs of the animals from the Baltic Sea. We ended up with our hands filledwith paint, but it was totally worth to see the creations! 

Once everyone went home Marine and I decided to take advantage of the last hour of sunlight to go for another walk to the lakes. They are certainly beautiful and we were brave enough to walk over one of them! Let the pictures speak by themselves!

The next day we were coming back home. We were supposed to take a bus from Brodnica to Warsaw but it was another adventure since we could not find the right stop and we missed the bus, hence we had to wait a lot for the next one. In the end, we managed to arrive to Pomiechówek after spending nine hours between the waiting and the buses. Finally, having a nice shower at home was the best reward we could get for such busy days!

I leave here some liks you may find interesting:

The web page of the Gmina:

The museum in Toruń:

 Facebook page of the GOK in Górzno:

Monday, 14 January 2019

Christmas in Pomiechówek

Since I first arrived to Pomiechówek I was eagerly expecting the Christmas period. Everyone talked about traditional dishes, snow and temperatures below zero. However, the most repeated event throughout these three months was the Art Bazar. This is a kind of handicraft market that takes place twice a year in the sports hall, before Christmas and Easter, and it is one of the biggest occasions in town.

It was celebrated on the 2nd of December, so Marine, the volunteer at Pompa, and I were in charge of some of the decorations for the place, as well as for the cultural center and the library. Therefore the two previous weeks we were super busy developing ideas and preparing all of the designs. I think in the end it looked pretty well and we had lots of fun.

 At the library there was also a lot of hustle and bustle since they would have their own stand to sell books as well as paint children’s faces.

Finally the day arrived and it was probably the most active day in my volunteering experience so far.

Two other volunteers from our organization had also come to help in two workshops, Origami and little plush toys. They had a table for them in the room for children and, next to it, it was the library table to paint children’s faces, where Ewelina and I were going to work for the next four hours. They literally flew by, for children came all of the time to get some make up on. They were so many it was exhausting! At the beginning I was a bit scared because I had never painted faces before, so I was quite slow but little by little I gained more confidence and the paintings looked better. Afterwards, I also had time to see all of the stands and to do some Christmas shopping. 
                                          It was a really crazy day!

Right after the Art Bazar things seemed to calm down a bit around Pomiechówek. However, just two weeks before Christmas, when Marine and I were going back home, the town became super active again! We were invited to a few Christmas events, starting with the Volunteers Christmas party at Warsaw. All of the group of volunteers of our association and a few mentors gathered around some food and mulled wine to chat and sing karaoke. It was a really memorable night!

I was also invited to join the library team in a dinner celebrated in Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki with some other librarians of the surrounding towns. It was a very special supper since it was my first time doing the  “opłatek.” This Polish tradition consists on breaking a piece of flat bread with somebody while you give each other your best wishes. I had no idea of this at first but when the girls started talking I was certainly touched by their words. I think it is a beautiful tradition that we should have in Spain! 

We repeated this ceremony twice more at the culture center since we also attended the Christmas dinner of associations and volunteers of Pomiechówek and the lunch of workers of the library and Pompa. So during our last week in town we ate so much traditional Polish food! My favorite without a doubt are “Pierogi z kapustą i grzybami,” this is, the traditional Polish dumplings filled with mushroom and cabbage. I also enjoyed very much the fish and the beetroot soup.

That same week, Marine and I also gave a presentation about the Christmas traditions in our countries, France and Spain, and cooked some typical deserts for Polish people to try them.

Moreover, when we woke up the last 2018 Sunday at Pomiechówek, we found out that it had snowed during the night, so everything was covered in white! We sure rushed to the forest to enjoy the day and it did not melted during the following days. Pomiechówek sure looks beautiful like this!


Now the Christmas time it’s over and, as Marine says, the volunteering period feels a bit like “chapter 2.” Everything is still under a layer of snow and it is likely to stay like this for the next two months, needless to say that the temperatures are dropping below 0.  However days are slowly getting longer and we already have some projects and events planned for the next months. 

    So let’s see what adventures will bring us this new year!