Day 47: The Lake

I checked the last three digits of the Uber driver’s license plate before I climbed into the back seat: LL5.

Usually I call for a ride because I’m moving locations and are lugging my suitcase and computer bag with me as I’ve volunteered in Krakow with Ukrainian refugees and traveled through Poland for the past seven weeks.

Today I carried only my purse.


I didn’t bring my umbrella: I was tired of carrying an umbrella. I didn’t bring a water bottle: I would buy a water when I got thirsty.

I loved traveling light.

The driver looked back at me and said, “You go to airport, yes?”

In one fast movement I unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door and had one foot out. If he didn’t know where I was going, he wasn’t my driver. I must have made a mistake when I checked the license plate.

I didn’t ask for permission to leave. There are stories of women who climbed into the wrong cars. I was not going to be a statistic, not today.

Within two seconds of him mentioning the airport I was out of the car. I was about the slam the door and move away when the driver turned back to his console and looked back at me.

“Hoooly, yes?”


I climbed back into the car. He knew my name. He was my driver.

I showed him the map on my phone for the lake I was going to,

My friends were at the red dot on the top. I was dropped off at the green dot at the bottom. Good thing I like to walk.

and then he was able to pull it up on his phone.

We rode off in with the windows open on this hot summer day.

At first I thought he was a new Uber driver, but after a few minutes I thought he was probably a new car driver as well. My least favorite moment in Poland happened when he tailgated a tram for several blocks. I was sure we were going to crash. I closed my eyes.

When I opened them I encountered my second least favorite moment in Poland while he drove slowly in front of another speeding tram.

I closed my eyes again and fell asleep.

It amazes me that my body can relax anywhere at any time unless I am at my apartment in Krakow where the neighbors, mostly men, have arguments at all times of the night. Loud arguments. The kind where people are blowing out their voices.

I lay in my bed hoping that the guy screaming isn’t ruining a singing career by killing his vocal cords.

It’s infuriating that I can’t understand what they are fighting about. I try to guess. Love triangle? Drug deal? Politics? The right way to hang toilet paper?

The building across from mine. Not sure where the noisy neighbors are. Krakow, Polad.

In New York City there would be other voices who join in the argument from far away as they cursed the loud mouths to shut the f%#@ up.

Not here. I am surrounded by patient neighbors. The ruckus wakes the young children who live upstairs and they resume their stomping around the floors at two in the morning as if it is their job.

The symphony of noises continues for hours. And then by some magic, the upstairs neighbors get their children to sleep again.

And I wonder how. What did they use? What’s the opposite of sugar that will lure a child back to sleep?

I lay there awake, listening to the screaming that becomes partying with the same intensity. I wonder if they are true friends, new friends or if they are all related by blood or if they are related by circumstance.

When Giovanni and Atle put out an invite that they were going to a nearby lake Zalew Kryspinow, I decided to join them for a while. Giovanni sent me a pin of where they were on the lake and a few photos.

It was only a twenty minute ride from Krakow, but it was in the country.

I wanted to see the lake.

Rather than using the information on the pin, I entered in the name of the lake into the Uber app on my phone so that the driver would use to know where I was going.

I woke in the Uber and read the signs as we neared the lake; the lake is close to the airport.

Okay. I could see now why he asked me about the airport.

Call me jumpy.

Lake Zalew Kryspinow, outside of Krakow, Poland.

I got to the lake and paid 15 zlotys to enter (Around $4.) before I turned on the map program to locate my friends on the beach.

Oh. It seems they were on the left side of the lake. No problem. There was a trail.

Unfortunately the trail ended at a locked gate about a half a mile around the lake.

No problem. I walked back and talked to the woman I paid to enter.

She hovered a stamp over my hand, then brought the stamp closer to my arm, slowly, slowly, as if the stamp were an airplane coming in for a landing and then the airplane skidded to a stop and left a blotch of red on my forearm.

I thanked her, but didn't roll my eyes until I walked away. Was she treating me like a child because I couldn't speak Polish?

I walked towards my friends. The sun was blinding. I put on my sunglasses and then added that cheap floppy hat I bought in Vietnam years ago that packs small.

The lake was long and thin and surrounded by banks of trees. I stopped for a moment and thought about how this reminded me of upstate, New York where I live.

I walked along a busy road. Too bad there wasn't a bus here or a taxi to give me a ride. This was remote and I had a long, long walk.

It was hot out. Why had I decided not to bring a bathing suit? Because I wanted to pack light.


Good think I like to walk. I was the only one walking along the busy road. I watched my phone for clues I could get closer to the lake.

Finally there was another parking lot at the far end of the lake.

I started around the side of the lake along a trail towards the red pin on the map program.

There were people scattered along the shore of the lake, mostly nestled into shaded areas.

Shade at the lake.

This was an area of the lake that was free. There were no concession stands or barbeque restaurants on this side. Maybe I should have brought a water bottle. I might have to drink lake water if I got thirsty.

I walked and walked along the sandy shores around napping people, around sunbathing people, around small children building sandcastles.

Everywhere in the world the activities on the beach are the same. I liked the feeling of standing in Poland but knowing that I could be anywhere.

After a while I checked my phone: I had walked too far.

What made me think that I could find my friends? Had I walked past them?

It’s difficult for me to recognize people out of place. I wasn’t sure how many volunteers were with the two of them, we were all invited. I searched for a crowd on the way in. On the way back I would look for the two of them.

An apple tree with ripe apples? Yes, please.

There was an apple tree filled with small, green apples. I picked one and ate it. Sweet. Juicy. Crunchy.

What a find!!! Free apple juice.

I filled my purse with the fruit and searched the banks for a familiar face.

“Hi.” Giovanni said as I was about to walk past him. He said it nonchalantly, as if it weren’t a miracle for me to find him in the wilderness.

I sat next to him and took in the scene.

Quiet. Breezy. Small waves in the water.

He pointed out to the middle of the lake. “That’s Atle there. The professional swimmer.”

Atle preparing for his Ironman competition next month.

I took a picture of the back of Atle’s head, in case this was the kind of photo he needed in his collection as he prepared for an Ironman competition in Copenhagen next month.

I knew these men from volunteering for A Drop in the Ocean, an NGO where they were both coordinators.

In my head, I referred to the three main coordinators at the Szafa Dobra Free Shop here in Krakow, Poland by nicknames.

Micha was “Mommy Drop” and Giovanni and Atle were “Daddy Drop.”

I know, they’re so much younger than I am, but nicknames are not chosen for their practicality.

I called the day-coordinators “Muscle Drop” because they solved problems on the shop floor and had to act as bouncers from time to time. I referred to the volunteers who came for only a day as “Day Trippers.” And the ones who were just there to take photos of themselves rather than actually working as “Dry Drops.”

Those of us who got Covid? I called us “Cough Drops.”

I could go on, but will drop the subject.

Words are my playground.

So here I was hanging out with the Daddy Drops and watching one Daddy Drop swimming. There was something funny about a drop swimming. I held in a giggle.

Atle swam across the lake again and back.

When he returned Giovanni asked if he was tired.

He said he wasn’t.

I was breathing harder on my walk around the lake than he was from swimming as fast as he could.

I gave each of the Daddy Drops apples from that tree, then bid them farewell.

I was cooking dinner for California, a friend who I volunteered with, and wanted to be sure I made it back in time.

When she arrived we put her clothes into my washing machine. I pushed all of the buttons and we walked into the kitchen.

I warned her it was a simple dinner.

Sharing Oliwia's homemade soup with California.

Very simple. The first course was left over soup that Oliwia brought over yesterday.

I know. Such a cheat to serve leftovers that Oliwia made. I had a small portion for breakfast and now there was enough for our first course. The soup was as delicious the second day.

The second course was a lemon broccoli/onion compote and baked lemon chicken.

“I’m just grateful to have a homecooked meal.” California said, with I thought was better than suggesting that next time we go out to eat.

I looked at the clock and told her we talked too long and missed our opportunity for the third course: to get some Frozen Rolls ice cream. It was close to eight. The ice cream place probably closed at eight.

She suggested we try to rush over so I could have another grapefruit/pineapple ice cream and she could try it for the first time.

We went to check on her laundry.

“Look.” She said. “It’s already dry.”

There are many laundry machines in Europe that both wash and dry, I didn’t think mine was one of them.

We opened the door: the clothes were still dirty.

We laughed, then put our heads together and pushed button after button until the water started running. Then we went into the kitchen and studied the dishwasher.

The buttons were in English. We pushed various buttons, hit restart and tried again and after several minutes managed to start the dishwasher too.

We rushed to Kazimierz.

The ice cream shop was open.

Made some skin lotion for California as a gift. I don't have all of the right ingredients, but was able to improvise.

I added some of my Worthy Face Serum to the cream to make it -- amazing.

Those little jam jars made the perfect cream jars. I forgot to take a photo of the filled jars.





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