Name: Christopher (Chris) Kasubinski
Host Country: Poland
Host District: 2230
Host Club: Wroclaw
Sponsor Club: New Albany
School: Gahanna-Lincoln High School
Cześć! I am Chris Kasubinski and I’m from Gahanna Ohio. I will be living in Wroclaw, Poland for my junior year of high school. I cannot wait to see what Poland has in store for me while I’m over there! All the people I’m going to meet and all the new experiences I will have. This year will be the most memorable year of high school for me and I am so thankful to my parents and the Rotarians for their support. My family on my dad’s side is Polish so I am excited to see what the old country is like. To be able to learn about where my ancestors came from, how they lived, and the history of Poland will be excellent. Being the only member in my family to be fluent in Polish will also be very cool. I’m a very athletic and academic oriented person. I was on the high school lacrosse team, football team and the speech and debate team. I’m also a huge science nerd, especially when it comes to biology and I love history from other perspectives. I hope to join a rugby team while I’m overseas to stay in shape for when I come back to the U.S. The past year has been an incredible journey working with the Rotary to prepare and soon I will be off to Poland. Thank you to the New Albany Rotary Club for sponsoring me, District 6690 for all their support to prepare for this experience, and especially my family for allowing me this adventure. Do zobaczenia później!
It’s been an entire month since I’ve been here and it’s gone by so quickly. I’ve made quite a few friends and have done quite a few new things. Yoga is one of those new things and I have also decided that Yoga is stretching for masochists. It is hands down the hardest thing I have ever done. No amount of training in football, wrestling or lacrosse compares to what you do in yoga. That being said it’s actually quite enjoyable and at times fun. School has also been one heck of a ride.
Trying to figure out what the teacher is saying and trying to get my friends in my classes to translate has led to some very funny mishaps. For instance in chemistry we were learning about electrons on shells or something like that, and a word that I had no clue what it meant came up. So i asked one of my friends to translate it but he didn’t know and neither did anybody else. When I typed it into google translate out came a word that i’m not typing for fear of being vulgar. I got a kick out of that and nobody else really understood why it was funny except for me. I’ve learned a lot about Polish history too. There was an order in Poland called the Teutonic knights. They were christian knights who only ever did 7 hours of work a week unless there was a war. Whats interesting about this order is that it’s not Polish. It’s a German order that was started by Pope Celestine II. Their role in the crusades was largely support. They controlled a hospital made specifically for German crusaders who could speak the local language nor Latin. They were even allies of Poland until a land dispute and war arose from this dispute. Many battles later and a few massacred villages a treaty was made to stop the war.
What’s even more interesting is the city I’m in was once controlled by Germany. Now it wasn’t controlled by the Teutonic order I still find it quite interesting. It’s even funnier how they put Polish citizens within the city. After WW2 Wroclaw and the surrounding villages were mainly German. So the Polish Government literally moved a bunch of eastern Poles and put them in this city. They let them pick whatever house they wanted. There’s even a story about a Polish lady living with a German lady, until she was forced back into Germany. What’s even funnier is it happened in my village. I don’t know what house but still that circumstance is quite an amusing tale. I think I have said this before but it amazes me how old some of these buildings are. Imagine the stories these walls could tell if they could talk.
Wroclaw has also been named the capitol of culture in Poland for the time being, Early in the month I went to see a show called Chemia Swialta and it was amazing. They had a famous Polish jazz singer and they had these amazing drummers and dancers. Then a few days later I went to a jazz club that my host dad was playing at. I’ve never been a huge fan of jazz but I think that might change. I’ve done so much here and that’s only in Wroclaw that doesn’t include my city. Exploring my village is so much fun. Especially at night when the stars are out. I probably sound like a child but I’ve never seen so many stars in the sky. I could actually see the big dipper as clear as day one night. It sounds so childish and trivial but coming from a place were I’m lucky to see one star to place where I can walk out my door and see the big dipper is amazing.
Two months in Poland. Two months away from home, two months away from family and all I can say is I have no regrets. These two months have been some of the best months of my life. I’ve met so many people and I have done so many new things. I attended a traditional Polish dance class and let me tell you something. Traditional Polish dances are hands down the hardest dances ever. The one dance I remember was like a spinning dance (I don’t remember the name). You had to keep a sturdy body and had to take short choppy steps. The dance required you to be flat footed which is easy until the spinning starts. It was hands down the hardest dance I have ever done. While I was at the class I met two people from Germany. They’re both 18 and one of them was working here while the other was doing a volunteer year or something like that. I couldn’t hear very well over the music.
I have also managed to join a lacrosse team. I’m super excited for that because I knew that finding sports I would like to play here would be such a hard thing to do. Lacrosse here is a fairly new sport though. Like the National Polish Lacrosse Team was started in 2011. That’s mind blowing to me. Still I’m so excited for my first practice which is tomorrow. Oh, also the fundraiser Pinkies for Polio has kinda fallen to a standstill at the moment but it hasn’t deterred me.
I’m going to preface this by saying that this will not be a normal letter. Where I mainly tell you about what I’m doing and what not. While those are definitely important it can be boring. Reading the same old thing about “Oh I went and saw this” or “My Host family is the coolest because they take me here and here and here”. To speak with complete and utter candor it seems like a waste of time. Time is such a precious commodity too. More valuable than all the worth in the world and we can never have enough of it. We have such limited time to everything we want. While this may sound depressing I think it’s inspiring because it forces us to make the most of that little amount we have. I’ve been here close to 3 months now. In those 3 months I have made some amazing friends and have experienced mind blowing things. For instance snow. It is such a simple thing but to see snow in a different country amazed me. I have no idea why and I probably will never know why. I think it has to do with the sudden realization that no matter how far we travel, no matter what borders or barriers we cross. The small things stay the same. We all share similar experiences. The context is different or the situations are different but the emotions are the same.
We as humans have created so many barriers that separate us. Yet if we were to look past those barriers and really see the person whoever they are we would realize that they are just like us.While I’m only 3 months into my exchange and I still have a lot more to experience, this is without a doubt what the cultural exchange is all about. Meeting new people, trying new food and experiencing new things are all well and good but being able to go past the differences. Past all the glamour of being on exchange and really looking at the people in your country. That is what matters, that is what exchange is about and I think that is what leaves the biggest impact on us when we go home.
This year has gone by much quicker than expected. It has been four months since I’ve been here in Poland. I have just recently moved families and while it’s a little hectic I’m very excited to see what it will be like to live with my new host family. While it was difficult to move families it was more difficult to pack everything. You would not believe the amount of stuff I have accumulated in these four months. My polish is improving everyday and it’s getting easier to communicate with people. While it is still difficult and it will be a few more months until I am fully fluent I am filled with hope everyday. I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but I picked up the bass guitar. My first host dad was teaching me to play and he said that he would continue to do so. This is only the second time I have ever played an instrument. The first time was in middle school but we don’t talk about that.
I have also made a new friend. Originally he avoided me because of the language barrier but now that I went from chopping the polish language to mincing (it makes sense in my head) we started a very strange friendship. Full of mispronunciations and accidentally confusing the word women for go. The thing I’ve learned though when it comes to people from eastern and central Europe is that they can appear very cold in the beginning. Once you get to know them though they are some of the most kind and fun people to hang out with.
Another Rotary Report another month gone. I don’t know if this is just part of getting older or that I’m in a whole different country but this year is going by too quickly. I also think I say this every time I write but it’s still true. This month has been an interesting month though to say the least. I had some type of illness in the beginning that caused me to have a minor fever. At the time trying to speak to my host mom in polish with a fever wasn’t fun but looking back it was really funny. I tried to say I feel sick but I think I ended up saying I feel cucumber or some other vegetable like that. It only lasted a week which is good because I then immediately introduced my friends to ghetto sledding. Ghetto sledding is essentially where instead of using a sled you just slide down the hill using your body as one. Which reminded me, instead of using sleds, kids use these plastic shovels to sled. It looked really strange but then I remembered some people in the U.S have used old couches as sleds so I guess it’s not that weird.
I’ve also decided that one of my goals here in Poland before winter comes to an end is to go polar bear swimming. Now I don’t know where I can do it and I’ve asked a few of my friends about it but they just keep saying no and that I’ll freeze to death. I even asked some of the other exchangers if they knew of any place and they said no. They also said that I will freeze to death. Even though they are not with me I refuse to give up. Though time is running very short. Speaking of winter, the winter here in Wroclaw was very tame. It’s not very cold and we never got a whole lot of snow. Maybe a day or two of snow but mostly rain. Freezing cold rain. One of my polish friends Radek actually asked me why I want to go polar bear swimming when I step outside and get soaked. While I do agree that you get wet and cold it’s just not the same. Also polish people hate when you crack your knuckles. I get yelled at every time I do it. The other thing I learned is that I love rock climbing.
I found a really good spot to go indoor rock climbing and I even made a few new acquaintances. Now none of them were polish most of them were foreigners from different countries. One guy was from England another from Sweden and one from Ireland. They were all there working for some company that I don’t know the name of. All in all this month has been really fun.
I don’t know if I’ve ever given you thanks for sponsoring me and letting me go on this exchange but it’s better late than never. So thank you for letting me go on this amazing journey. While the journey isn’t over it’s definitely drawing to a close. I’ve seen so many new things. Just a few weeks ago our rotary club here inPoland took us to the local Synagogue and we got to eat traditional Jewish cuisine. We also got to sit in on service. They do a lot of singing and dancing. Not like the signing in Catholic churches though this singing was different. The only way to really know how it was different was to be there.
Then immediately afterwards my host mom took me to a play/ballet. The show was an interpretation of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST. It was an amazing play and I was able to understand quite a lot of it. It also helps that the pamphlet has and english translation in it. The only thing that I did not like was that I couldn’t film it. While I understand why I couldn’t and was prohibited from filming no amount of words could describe how awe inspiring the play was.
I’ve also picked up rock climbing to fill my time. I found a place not far from the city center that offers rock climbing lessons. I’ve always wanted to get more into rock climbing but I’ve never had the chance until now. The problem is I’m really out of shape from not doing sports these past few months. So I cannot climb as much as I like. My arms get so pumped that I can barely grab onto anything much less make a fist. Still though I think rock climbing is possibly the second most fun thing I’ve ever done. Right under lacrosse and Football. Even though I will have to deal with football when I go back I’m definitely going to continue rock climbing.
his year has flown by. To think that only a few months ago I was terrified of leaving the U.S and being away from my family. I’ve seen so much and experienced so much more. I was on Eurotour and we went to a lot of countries. France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Vatican and Monacco. Going around all these countries was amazing. Especially Venice. Venice was my favorite part of the entire trip. Me and a few friends took a gondola ride. We saw the house of Marco Polo and I bought three renaissance masks.
The food in all the cities was amazing. Especially in Portugal. We tried these special pastrie called Pastel De Nata. From what our tour guide told us true Pastel De Nata can only be bought in Lisbon. From a specific bakery that we visited. I’ve had lots of different pastries and the ones from Lisbon top them all. I also tried escargot in France which was surprisingly good. They covered it in garlic butter and that’s the only thing you could taste but it was spectacular ( I can’t keep using amazing it will get repetitive).
When eurotour ended it was kind of a relief but also very saddening. That sadness didn’t last for long though because my host dad is taking me and my host brother to Austria to ski. Then later on to Switzerland to ski. I haven’t been skiing since I was like 10. That was in Canada on kitty hills. I have no idea how I’m going to do but I’m excited none the less.