Thursday, 25 August 2016

with a little help

I wasn't sure if I would be able to find my way to the centre. I was new in the city (and the country). I didn't speak or understand Polish. I did not have any cash. A well planned trip all in all.

I came out of the house and somehow managed to find the bus stop. But there were two bus stop, one on either side of the road. I had no idea which one would take me towards the city and which away. I sure did't want to go further away from the city.

A grandma (babunia) was waiting on a bench with her grandson.

A women was passing by. She had a child in a pram. I asked her (in English) if she knew English. She said, a little. I asked her if the bus to the centre left from there. She said this was the stop and went on to check the bus number for me. I told her, I knew the number (Google God) but wasn't sure about the direction. She confirmed that I was headed in the right direction.
Wonderful! Level 1 cleared!

5 minutes later a long two part bus with one of those flexible connector things arrived. Number 127. Middle doors opened and many people entered. Babunia followed them. I went up to the driver's door. What an unusual thing to do? The driver didn't know how to react. This had never happened before. After few seconds, he opened the doors. I asked him for a ticket. He didn't speak or understand English. I didn't speak or understand Polish. What an unusual situation to be in?

But I think ticket is a more or less universal word. You enter a bus clueless and say tickets 5-6 times with a question mark on your face. People know what you want. You enter a bus looking clueless, make vague square gestures with your hands. You think they look like a ticket or some sort of a slip. People generally understand.

The driver said something in Polish and made a gesture towards the back of the bus. I walked to the back of the bus. A young woman and another fellow traveller pointed towards a machine attached to one of the hand rails. There it was, the ticket machine.

Everything was in Polish, of course. I was thinking of asking the young woman for help. Suddenly I saw a little British flag in one corner of the screen. Thank god for those general knowledge lessons. I touched the flag and everything turned to English. God bless the Poles! Level 2 cleared!

I choose a day ticket, touched my bank card to the machine and just like magic, a ticket came out, 2 minutes later. Level 3 cleared!

I looked around for a seat to settle down for the journey. Thats when the babunia looked at me, said something in Polish and pointed to another machine opposite to the first one. I guessed I was supposed to validate my ticket. I put the ticket in a little slot in the machine. It made a creaking noise. The ticket was punched and I was set for the journey. Thanks babunia! Level 4 cleared!

Several stops and some co-passengers later I was in Plac Jana Pawła II. I could see the city centre in front of me. Minutes later I was sitting under a tree in the centre with some really cool Polish music played by some buskers. I found out what ticket was in Polish - Bilety.

Billet machine on the left (grey) and validation machine on the right (yellow) on another bus
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For the next few days I kept travelling to Plac Jana Pawła II. It was a massive plaza. I kept wondering who this woman Jana Pawła was. She must be some queen or something to have a plaza named after her. How wonderful? I asked my friends. It was Pope John Paul II. We all had a good laugh!

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Its amazing how we can communicate with each other. We speak but we don't understand. But we want to help each other. We find ways. We don't need to speak. People on bus 127 proved that. With a little help from random strangers and Google, I made my way across a strange city safely and successfully. On that note, its time to enjoy a song that is very close to me. The beautiful music of Joe.


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