Będzin

Dr. E. here – I feel bad that I’m doing most of the blog updates as I know you would like to hear from others, but by the time we get back to the hotel most of the students are ready to crash.  Today was a very long, very good day.  After breakfast at our hotel, we traveled about 20 minutes to the town of Będzin,  Several months ago, I had contacted a Polish friend from past trips named Asia (“Ah-sha”) to let her know we would be in her part of Poland.  She arranged to have an English language fair for her high school students, and also invited middle school students.  This was a really big deal.  There was a large bulletin board filled with pictures and information about Malone University, and we found out that Asia has been having her students surf Malone’s website to find out things about the school that interested them.  We were welcomed in the auditorium by the principal of the high school, and engaged in an exchange of gifts.  Dr. Harris and I later met with Asia and the principal to explore ways that we might be able to help their students practice their English skills in the future.

Each of our students was paired with a Polish student who was in Asia’s English class.  Each of the pairs spent the day together running booths at the fair, with each booth designed to get students to practice talking in English, and at the end of the day we provided prizes for those students who excelled at the games (Malone t-shirts, Malone blankets, etc.).

After school let out, we walked through Będzin, a town which had over 21,000 Jewish inhabitants prior to World War II – over half of the town’s population – and now has none.  We went to an apartment that has recently been restored by a preservation group who discovered that it had been a Jewish prayer house.  Later, we went to a Jewish cemetery, with many graves dating to the period of the last bubonic plague outbreak.  Sadly, many of the gravestones have been vandalized, and the entire cemetery is now overgrown with forest.  Throughout Poland, there are sad reminders of the holocaust.  Ironically, throughout the middle ages, Poland became home to many Jewish people because it was one of the most tolerant and accepting European nations.

We also got our first good look at a castle, Zagłębia w Będzinie.  The castle was originally a wooden structure, but was constructed in its current state out of stone in the 14th century.  (When my friend Jarek and I were driving through town several years ago, I asked him how old the town was.  “Not that old,” he said, “maybe six-hundred years.”  I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

We returned to the church about 4:00 and had lunch (yes, meals work quite differently here), and then spent the rest of the day doing yard work at the church, playing football with Daniel’s daughters, and hanging out with the youth group at the church (a very small group, which made us realize how fortunate most of us are to have had relatively large support networks).  Tom, Ezra, Don, and Dr. H. were absolute beasts in tackling way overgrown lawn and landscape issues, and Erin and Hope jumped in with weeding, weed whacking and clean up.

Tomorrow, most of us are headed on a long hike with some young people from the area as part of the church’s outreach to its community.  A few people may stay behind because they think the hike might be a bit too much, so it will be interesting to see what we find for them to do.  But, for tonight, please know that we are well.

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  4. This sounds like a fantastic and impactful day, Dr. E.! It's heartwarming to hear about the successful English language fair at Asia's school, and how your students interacted and connected with the Polish students. The cultural exchange and learning opportunities for both sides must have been truly valuable. The historical background about Będzin and the visit to the Jewish cemetery sound very educational. We understand some might not be able to participate in the hike tomorrow, and we wish them a relaxing day as well. We appreciate you sharing these experiences, and while we know everyone might be tired, we encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences when they have the chance. We're all looking forward to hearing more about your trip
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