Global Outreach

Buried in Sand on the First Day of My Internship in Poland

Posted by Christopher McAttee on Nov 14, 2015 4:20:00 PM

image of young man surrounded by children in sandbox Knee deep into my summer internship with CARITAS For Children in Warsaw, Poland.

Besides being an adorable scene, I feel that this photo contains a strong allegory for describing my time so far at the Holy Mother of Mercy children’s center in Warsaw, Poland wehre I'm working as an intern with CARITAS For Children. It is naturally difficult to grasp the overwhelming concept of being in a completely new culture. I am constantly hitting language barriers, cultural misunderstandings, and awkward little silences when neither I nor the person I’m speaking to know how to proceed in discussion. But children don’t care. When I followed them to the large play area they simply grabbed my hands, escorted me to the sand box, and started burying my feet…then my legs…arms…you get the idea. Some brought over buckets, some brought shovels, but mostly they just scooped it up with their hands and patted it down. It is through this little ritual that I started to understand my place here at the center, here in Warsaw, here in this new country.

It is necessary to simply let the culture bury me. When stimulation becomes overwhelming the natural reaction for me is to pick away at it and try to understand it through examination. But this is rather absurd. I put limits on culture when I dissect it. Albeit, when I simply let the culture be dumped upon me, a cultural eudaimonia, almost like a power surge, calms the senses and the mind, and clarity is formed. This epiphany is the origin of cultural adaption. Through this understanding one grows to be a part of a culture and experiences it in a purer context. Of course what I have read and listened to helps strengthen the understanding through association and knowledge, but it is not the foundation in any case. Before one can flourish they must meditate in chaos.

Who better to introduce this process than children? They see nothing but someone who needs welcoming. Even the shy ones have a yearning and curiosity that can be gently teased out of them. It is easily seen in their eyes. They crave my attention as much as I crave theirs’. 

street scene in Warsaw, Poland Exploring Warsaw

In general, strangers are exceedingly helpful as well. As I made my first excursion to the center of Warsaw, my look of confusion was quite noticeable. Yet many were friendly and I even had a beggar welcome me to Poland. A beggar.

So when at moments the new environment becomes overwhelming and language cannot help me, I simply will remember my little sandy welcome. The point is to be overwhelmed and I am ready and willing to have even more sand dumped upon me. 

image of young tourist wearing sunglasses Enjoying my new environment

“Не было никого, кому бы стоило позавидовать./ Что случилось плохого, все позабыл”

“Nie znałem nikogo, komu warto byłoby zazdrościść,/ Co pryzdarzyło się złego, zapomniałem”

“I knew no one worthy of envy,/ and all unfortunate events I have forgotten.” — from Czeslaw Milosz’ Gift


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