My name is Katy, and I was the first resident native female English speaker at Golden Gate. Six months’ in, on March 14, 1994, I wrote in my journal, “I thought yesterday, while standing outside my office [Golden Gate], what will I remember of this in 20 years? What will I take with me? Life is like a puzzle. Everywhere you go, everyone you encounter, adds another piece.” When Rafal asked me to write this 30-year Anniversary essay, I thought of that journal entry.
My first class was on the 20th of September 1993. I was equal parts excited and terrified and wondering what did I get myself into? I had just graduated from college, and here I am going to go live in a foreign country where I do not know anything except some foods my Dziadek used to cook. (His bigos was to die for!)
Reading through my journals and looking at my pictures and keepsakes, I know what I took and what pieces I carry with me.
Gwarki. Nights at Galleria. Halloween parties where we bobbed for apples. Christmas caroling through Rynek. Trips to Warsaw and the mountains. Football (“clears throat” SOCCER) games where we (the teachers) beat the students. And entirely too many pictures of Rafal and Jacek wearing a dress. Funny, stupid moments where the American English I know did not jibe with the British English I was teaching. (“No, this is a biscuit. That is a cookie And cooking to prove it). Polish lessons I took to be able to communicate outside the classroom (I am immensely proud to announce that I can both comfort a cat and catch a fly “po Polsku”). Each one of those memories has a person, or persons, that I can connect to it.
We sang, we celebrated life, and we learned both in the classroom and out of it, from each other. My students, and my friends who are friends still, are my puzzle pieces. It has been 27 years since Rafal picked up a petrified, 23-year-old American girl at the airport in Warsaw. (Favorite English Lesson EVER: OPSHACOM and emphasis). And it is all still right in her heart.
Happy 30th Anniversary Golden Gate. Thank you for these pieces. I am now going to pass this trip down memory lane off to Tina.