My ideal country {5 favourite things about Scotland & Poland}

20 September 2014

GB// This post is written as a part of the Pole's Club Abroad (a club for Polish female bloggers who live abroad and write a series of blog posts on the same theme each month)

PL // Ten post jest częścią serii wrześniowych postów Klubu Polki na Obczyźnie

GB// This month's theme is "My ideal country" - i.e. 5 things I miss about Poland and 5 things I love about the country I currently live in. This will be my ode to Poland and Scotland - two countries which I've grown to love over the years, which I am happy to call home.


1. Sense of humour

This is a no-brainer. I simply love  the Scotts' sense of humour, their down to earth no-nonsense approach and ability to laugh at themselves. Not a day passes in hospital without somebody saying something so funny that the whole room dissolves in laughter. Interactions and simple every day conversations between Scotts I work with are also full of witty comments, sentences worded in a cheeky way, and friendly sarcasm towards each other. I love it and I will dearly miss it if one day we leave Scotland. The fact that there was a comedy special about the last week's referendum just goes to show how good Scotts are at doing comedy. 

Here is a little taster from one of my favourites: Kevin Bridges

2. Scenery

I chose to come to Scotland inspired by reading Wuthering Heights and Harry Potter and thanks to my English lessons where we would read about how Scotland was such a romantic country, with rolling hills overgrowing with heather. My dreams weren't far off. Scotland is one of the most beautiful places I've seen. There are the hills, the lochs, old castles, munros just waiting to be climbed, small islands to be explored. It's green, foggy, peaceful and beautiful here. Come visit to see for yourself. 

3. NHS

This is an obvious one. My admiration for the NHS probably stems from the fact that I spent my last 4.5 years living in NHS hospitals (as a medical students for those of you who are here for the first time, hi!). The Scottish healthcare system obviously has its imperfections but the culture of the NHS is unique and one that I have not witnessed in any other country. Everyone works as a team, with a sole aim of providing the best level of patient care, often in imperfect circumstances. Of course the funding is a problem, as in any other country with a state-funded healthcare system. But smiles, kindness, sense of humour and a strive for clinical excellence that I witness in NHS hospitals every day are truly unique to Scotland (in my belief). One of the good examples is the most recent campaign by a young doctor suffering from an aggressive sarcoma, who started an initiative called #hellomynameis - to make sure that everyone who's involved in your care form the moment you enter the hospital to your consultant introduces themselves by first name. To make a human connection, to make you feel like a person, not just another patient to deal with in an efficient manner. I think it's brilliant and I love and believe in the NHS. 

4. Administration

Want to pay your taxes online? Find out when the public holidays are? Start a new business? Order a new driving license? Done. Scottish administration makes it a breeze thanks to an excellent state administration, which is mostly online. 

5. Ceilidh

Now, this is a topic I can't write a lot about (because I'm still a novice!) apart from the fact that going to a Ceilidh is one of the best things you can do if you visit Scotland. Remember that scene from the Titanic where they're dancing on the lower deck? It's that much fun, only better. Scotts learn it from primary school and the band always explains the steps before each dance so that the newcomers know roughly what to do. Scottish weddings often have ceilidh dancing during the reception. One of my most vivid memories from my Fresher's week (back in 2007!) is dancing during a Ceilidh in McEwan Hall with a seasoned Scottish dancer in a kilt. Best fun ever.


Here are the top 5 favourites about my motherland.

1. Family

When I was 11 years old I decided to join girl guides. I couldn't wait for the summer to arrive so we could go camping, pitch our tents, have a bonfire each night and sing songs. What I didn't anticipate was just how much I would miss my siblings and parents. I wasn't ready to go on holiday on my own. In the end I had a good time on the camp, but still often I felt out of place, and wished I stayed home. This is pretty much how I feel living here in Scotland. I love it, but I know I'm missing something I left in Poland.

2. Weather

Poland does seasons so well. Summers can be as hot as 30 degrees, sunshine pouring generously through the windows and blushing strawberries in the garden. Winters are cold and snowy, with occasional crisp day of sunshine. And my favourite - Autumn. Golden Autumn as we call it. Leaves turning colours, sunny but cold mornings and evenings with beautiful pink sunsets.

3. Food

It's true; I haven't met a person yet who didn't like pierogi - i.e. dumplings. Polish cuisine is not perhaps well known, or famous, but let me tell you our grandmothers are one of the best cooks in the world (in my opinion anyway). Dumplings, beetroot soup, real sour-dough bread, sausages, roast dinners, duck, mushroom and beef stews - d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. 

The thing I miss the most are seasonal fruit and vegetables. When strawberries are in season, you can buy a 2kg basket for about £1-2. When blueberries are ready to be picked, people are standing on markets, street corners, by the small roads in the countryside, selling jars of fresh blueberries - perfect for a crumble or a cheesecake. Autumn has always been a preserving season in our house. From pickling cucumbers, wild mushrooms to sun dried tomatoes and cooking marmalades - we were always helping out in the kitchen. 

4. Language

Polish language is one of the most difficult ones in the world, but it's also incredibly rich and beautiful. Reading in Polish is such a pleasure. Especially poetry. Here is one of my beloved poems by a Polish Nobel Price winner, Wislawa Szymborska

Noting Twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is that a flower of a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to say
Today is always gone tomorrow

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

5. Feeling home

Because even the air smells differently in Poland. It's my home. 

Bali : Introduction and the first night in Kuala Lumpur

2 September 2014

*oh Bali...*

I've been thinking how to start sharing our Balinese trip and the first thing that comes to mind is just a dreamy sigh.

*oh, beautiful Bali*

But let's start from the very beginning.

We boarded the Dreamliner to Kuala Lumpur, not later than about 10h after coming back from T in the Park (the biggest music festival in Scotland, one that people, now including us, are pride to have survived). We were exhausted and so happy to have the next 7h to just relax, sleep, read and watch movies. It was my first long haul flight ever and the novelty of it was indeed very exciting, but I tried to keep my cool and concealed it by sleeping (obvs.).

We flew with Qatar airways over a couple of war zones, oblivious to the fact that two days later hundreds of people would tragically die on the same route, many of them indeed having boarded the Malaysian aircraft with the same prospect as us:  of a glorious holiday in Bali (such a chilling thought, that I still have shivers just thinking about it). Our flight however was peaceful and uneventful, I managed to watch the Hobbit and sleep a little. The next flight (Doha - KL) was much the same, only even more sleepy.

And then we landed in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. We wondered if the tiredness we were feeling was already jet lag, or perhaps still just an aftermath of the festival. KL was hot. And by hot I mean you felt like in a sauna, a hot humid cloud hugging your person and suffocating a little, water vapour instead of oxygen in your lungs. The train ride from the airport to KL city centre went smoothly but then we surrendered and ordered a taxi (13MYR, around £2.5) to our accommodation.

After escaping from the heat into our budget but air-conditioned hotel room we decided to search for dinner - Chinatown seemed like a safe bet for good food. Because it was the Ramadan month, we had a lot of trouble finding a taxi driver in the evening, as it was the break of fast time - sunset.Three drivers in a row refused to speak to us striaght away, but we persevered and a 4th one turned our to be a lovely chatty fellow, who even knew where Poland was (he used to work for the French embassy and delivered letters to the Polish consulate in KL).

We had dinner in an Old China cafe restaurant, which wasn't the easiest to find but definitely worth the search (thanks Lonely Planet). It's one of the oldest restaurants in KL serving Peranakan cuisine - cooked according to the recipes of early Chinese migrants who married local Malay ladies, resulting in dishes with a unique fusion of Chinese spices and Malay ingredients. While the restaurant was probably on a more touristy side than we would like, we didn't have much strength to look for a more authentic place or a food stall.

 ^Petronas Towers in the background
 View from our room over KL skyline.
Old China cafe.

Below: crispy shells called Pie Tees 

Frankly speaking, KL didn't steal our hearts on that first night.

But the following morning it was time to go to Bali,  the island of gods.


Old China Cafe
  • Address: 11 Jalan Balai Polis
    Petaling Street
    Kuala Lumpur

What to do when you're jet-lagged?

12 August 2014

... there were a lot of first times during our trip to Indonesia. 

The first long haul flight, first time outside of Europe, first broken suitcase, first jet lag. 

When we came back I woke up at 3 am and couldn't go back to sleep. I made a cup of tea in our cold and quietly eerie kitchen and sorted through the letters which accumulated over the past three weeks. I caught up with the news, having carefully avoided it while on the other side of the planet for the fear of feeling too far away from home to cope. 

4 am slowly appeared on my red alarm clock so I made a thermal mug of sweet tea, packed left over chocolates and I woke up J to watch the sunrise. It's been on my bucket list of things to do before we leave Edinburgh for good. 

We weren't the only ones on the Calton Hill. There was a cute (and very drunk) couple who decided to see the sunrise after a night of partying. She kept forgetting his name was George not Jerry. He was very fond of her, I could tell. 

We settled on the top of the hill and looked over the Firth of Forth in silence, the sky changing from grey to blue to orange and pink. The same sky that's hovering over the rice fields and seaweed farms in Indonesia. I sipped the sweet tea, J took some pictures. 

An ambulance sounded in the distance. I imagined fellow Edinburghers still in their beds, quietly breathing, allowed to dream for another hour or two.The sun rose and it was time to go back. 

most pictures taken by J. 

PS. How are you? It's been ages since I've written anything here. I'm currently in Warsaw doing my elective on a neonatal ward in one of the hospitals. I'll write about Bali and Indonesia soon... 

4 years ago

26 June 2014

 It was a perfect summer day. We felt so lucky.
4 years on, it's a perfect summer day, I feel even more lucky. 

Perfect frame

11 April 2014

Before going to Capri last summer, I imagined the perfect picture I would like to take. It was a beach full of people scattered here and there with a handful of people swimming in the sea. All seen from a cliff high above, beach-goes the size of ants, with colourful umbrellas dotting the white sand. Very vogue, you get the idea. Of course photography rarely works that way, and my case was lost from the very beginning as there are no sandy beaches in Capri. I was determined to look for opportunities to take a perfect frame, capture the moment I'd like to put up on a wall and remember what it was like being on this gorgeous island.

My perfect frame is not what I thought it would be. We went for drinks to one of the bars near Gradola beach (read rock shelf with a ladder). The sun was setting in the background and we enjoyed a few drinks and munching on pistachios. We laughed a lot because I got tipsy quite quickly as it was still before dinner and we usually skipped lunch in favour of gelato.

When it was time to go, we walked back up the steep steps to the bus stop and I spotted a lifeguard's red boat anchored near the rocks where we were sitting. It looked perfect on the background of dark blue sea and a faint silhouette of Ischia island on the horizon. I changed my camera settings to RAW and took the picture above.

When I look at it I remember the warm breeze from the sea, how content we were after a strong drink and with a prospect of a tasty dinner in one of the small Capri restaurants. Often the perfect frame is not the one you paint with your imagination, but one that finds you when you least expect it. (please excuse the cheesiness...)