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To answer the rhetorical question posed in my ealier post, I was feeling isolated for the reassuringly literal reason that I was spending the week on a business trip to Poland. More specifically, to Szczecin (pronounced to rhyme with 'Cha-ching!' (by me, anyway)). For some reason I had envisaged some grim Soviet industrial wasteland, but it was actually very pleasant, leafy, open, 'European'-feeling city.

I had previously envied those with jobs that take them to exotic destinations, and it is disappointing to note the dearth of imagination betrayed by that response. Of course it's fun, interesting and mind-broadening to travel alone to a foreign country. However, equally obviously, it's disruptive, confusing and lonely.

Enough bitching; it was quite fun really, and I'm truly impressed and pleased to be alive in an era in which my boss can ask on Thursday lunchtime if I'm happy going to Poland, have a flight and hotel booked by the end of the day, and be there by the following Monday. Of course, having complained to my boss that I felt I wasn't being stretched enough by my job, I was hardly going to turn the chance down. Also, it was an opportunity to help write software that I'm going to have to use anyway, and I'm by far the best person to do this. I'm glad both that I'm in the position of subject matter expert, and that this is recognised by my employers.

So, I was sent to our Polish office. I say 'office', but it's really just four guys in two rooms full of computers, in the upper storey of a residential house in the suburbs. The ground floor of this house was full of attractive young women, which is a policy which more companies should adopt. Apparently they're students doing part-time work assembling fibreoptic components. I'm no engineer, but I guess pretty women are better at that sort of thing?

Luckily, I really clicked with the guy I was sent out to work with. In the first couple of days we covered two vast whiteboards with diagrams and specifications, which would have been a nightmare to thrash out had we not been face-to-face. Having neatly divided up the work, we spent the rest of the week working on our respective tasks, and ended up with something which, though not finished, successfully proves that all the concepts are sound. The rest is details which we should be able to thrash out on-line.

Work aside (cue sighs of relief), what have I learned? What insight and perspective did this trip afford?
  • It takes longer to check in for a flight to Poland than to fly to Poland.

  • On arrival, I only asked my Polish colleague to teach me two words: 'thanks', and 'sorry'. I don't know what this says about me.

  • I subsequently added 'Hi' to my vocabulary, along with 'rhubarb', and two words that seem to approximate to 'cool' and 'groovy'.

  • The Polish default for tea is exactly the way I like it: black and strong with several sugars. Now when I make it in England I feel exotically cosmopolitan, rather than like a cheapskate student slacker doing his best to home-brew something with an effect like Red Bull.

  • While 'Flemish' is an unfortunate adjective to apply to soup, those Flems certainly can do delicious things with lemon and chicken.

  • When you're wandering disorientated through a foreign city seeking comfort, there can be few more comforting words to recognise than this.

  • A local restaurant had special pre-concert meals for an upcoming Rolling Stones gig. Both came with a complimentary drink... of apple juice. I commented that surely a bottle of Jack Daniels would be more appropriate, but Maciej pointed out that they are very old now. Maybe it just reflects their current rider?

  • All the shops and restaurants I went into were playing almost entirely of bad English pop from the 80s and 90s. Michal complained that one disadvantage of learning English was that he could now understand the words...

  • When I asked about Polish music, Piotr found me a radio station which played a bracing combination of hip-hop, crooning, and adult-orientated rock. Better any of those than the Spice Girls.
I fear that above demonstrates that my mind wasn't very broadened by my jounrney. On the other hand, I didn't actually travel very far. Oh, to have bluedevi's knack of having transcendental experiences at the drop of a hat...

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
t__m__i
Jul. 21st, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
Well you see I am impressed you know "cool" and "groovy". The Polish I thought to l33ch off Marcin before he fled to a games company in Leamington Spa was:
Thanks (snap!)
Hello
See you after lunch
This doesn't work
Why doesn't this work
I don't understand this
Now it works!
Meeting! Let's go.
Most of this I have now forgotten though to balance it out I have some of the above phrases in Serbian.
My colleague said he once had to discuss code with a Russian who spoke as much English as he spoke Russian, but this seemed not to be an obstacle as they communicated by pointing at bits of the code and making suitable querying noises! LOL.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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