Updated: May 18
A note to the reader, this blog will try to give you a snapshot of how I got to Poland, my experiences here and be a summary of key highlights as I've made a life for myself out in Poland. I will continually add to this blog over time:
The story of my transition to Poland begins back in November 2017, I was one day away from a holiday away with my friend Matty to Amsterdam when I received a phone call from work to say there was a restructuring of the company and essentially this would mean around 20-30 people from our team being made redundant...so you can say Oxford office morale was a bit low. As the time went on they confirmed who would lose their position, the redundancy package, I was confirmed as losing my position.
At the time I guess it was something I needed, a change in career, on the other hand it's always sad to be separated from your work colleagues and being in that safe bubble of security.
The managers would go on to ask me if I would be willing to live in Poland for 2 and a half months helping with the onboarding of the Polish team and to help them with their work there.
It didn't take me too long to agree to this idea after discussing it with family and friends, this could be an interesting experience, living in a foreign country and getting paid by the company for doing it.
So it was decided, from mid February 2018 I would work in Poland until May as basically a last act for the company before parting ways with my pay out and the fun of job searching.
I would have meetings with the managers to discuss my role out in Poland, I got to meet a few of my new Polish colleagues as the office had organised some visits.
First the Warsaw managers Alicja, Marcin K, Agata P and Ola would travel over and join us in the office.
Ola I had worked with for some months already as she was taking some clients from me previously, I had helped her with some training and handovers and we had always worked together well, she was quickly able to handle the job, it was very weird meeting her in person for the first time.
I remember one of those evenings we all went to this bar in Oxford called the White Hart, had some dinner and drinks. The Oxford managers didn't stay out too long leaving me to host our colleagues from Poland, we had some beer together and we had a long discussion about work, Warsaw and Poland, I remember being very excited and I really enjoyed that night.
Alicja had been in the company for a good few years, much like myself working her way up the ranks to where she was now, a truly lovely and empathic woman who I always felt looked after me when I was in Warsaw, someone I could always turn to and who could challenge me in the right ways to grow!
Marcin K was your classic salt of the earth type, he enjoyed a good drink with the team and was always approachable, hard working and forward thinking he is someone you can rely on and feel comfortable with, a really positive yet down to earth energy.
Agata P was lovely, she was a bit of a geek like myself and we could talk about a lot and worked well together, always someone to get things done and someone you could trust.
Secondly Piotr B and Michal came to visit the Oxford office and I was asking Michal a lot of questions about day to day living in Poland and I was getting my first visions of what it would be like to live there, sadly I don't remember going out for drinks while they were staying...
My office had a general goodbye party for some of the managers who were leaving, we went to Junkyard Golf, had some games and drinks and it gave me a good chance to spend quality time with my Oxford colleagues before we went our separate ways. With all the redundancies a lot of people were moving on, though also some good people were staying...at least for now
I had my goodbye celebrations with friends and family in Oxford, having meals with my parents, my brother was living up North so I didn't get to catch up in person. Also going for drinks with friends Matty, Chris, Andy, Dan, John and Craig, to eat burgers and drink Craft Beer in Headington as a bit of a small send off, I had known these friends for years, a lot of us met while working at Homebase, others were friends of friends, but we formed this close group. We would go on holiday together, do pub quizzes and regularly meet along with some other Cohorts like Lisa, Gemma and Amara, Dennis, Shelly and a number of other characters down the way.
This was my last night out in Oxford before the trip...
Feb 9th 2018
I would wake up early the next morning to get the bus from Headington to Heathrow airport for my flight from London to Warsaw.
At this point...I didn't believe I would live in a foreign country long term, it was meant to be a fun little adventure to leave me with a bit of a financial cushion when looking for a new job, I'd even considered doing a small trip to the states with the Redundancy money.
I'd taken a backpacking tour with my good friend John around Latvia and Lithuania in previous years and I thought I could use a bit of a travel experience, as you may see I needed it haha
Before going I don't think there was a lot of preparation, I got a travel guide for Poland, work was taking care of all the bookings and accommodation, they set up these cost allowances to my bank account...and in truth I didn't know a lot about Poland...
As it neighboured Lithuania I perhaps thought there would be similarities in culture, I had never travelled to Poland before and other than some World War history learned in school I really didn't know what to expect when I would begin my stay in Warsaw. One thing I knew is it would be cold...I packed a lot of warm clothes on that first trip...also taking my PS4 to get into Witcher 3 while out there.
Taking British Airlines I actually found the flight rather smooth, the only funny thing was taking my Playstation out for security, my parents had got me this large blue samsonite suitcase which I took with an overstuffed backpack and a Laptop bag.
A bit of extra explanation here...When I knew I was in my last days of work I may have been a little rebellious and had my profile picture at work set to Optimus Prime. We didn't do so many video calls back then so this is what a number of the people working in Poland would see when speaking to me on calls or exchanging emails. I was involved in a number of handover calls for my clients so was already engaging with several people.
So this is how I was greeted when I arrived on Polish soil at Chopin Airport by MJ and Ewelina bearing this salted Polish bread as a gift and picking me up from the airport, helping me with access to my flat we chatted a bit and got to know each other a little better before I was left to my own devices.
I had flown out on a Friday so I had a weekend to settle in to my flat and see some of the city before starting my work out here.
The temperature was something like -10 C, and there was a pretty good dusting of snow on the streets.
Once I was in the flat and alone I think is when it really started to dawn on me that I was actually now in a foreign country...I had not really prepared and knew no Polish, I wasn't sure how many people would speak English...so I was a little bit nervous about things like shopping and public transport at the beginning, I may have survived on that Bread I was gifted at the airport for a day or two...
I just settled in on the first night, setting up the Playstation so I had access to Netflix and just really taking it easy, it was dark pretty soon after I got settled in so didn't really feel like taking a walk.
The Flat itself was paid for by my company, it was a fairly basic AirBnb studio, the bed was also my Sofa, the Kitchen was about 3 sq. metres, I think the overall apartment was 28 sq. Metres, a view of a quiet street with the odd tree here and there in a built up area. I had a small balcony where I could sit and watch the street. It was part of a complex, Warsaw is full of Blocks of flats, some going back over 60 years. Anyway, it may not have been luxury but I was able to make myself comfortable.
It's funny, or a little sad but I don't remember much from that first weekend. My memory tells me I was exploring but my icloud photo history shows nothing apart from a picture of my apartment:
I believe that first weekend I mainly walked around the local area, saw where my office was, surveyed what shops were around, less sightseeing and more practical. I think I was actually quite nervous about the city, the weather as well took some getting used to at first. I'm sure I must have talked to friends and family about first impressions and done some walking to get my bearings though I think I probably watched films and played on the Playstation a fair amount...
The most adventurous thing which I must have done that weekend was to go to the local shop, A Zabka I believe and buy some basics including a frozen Pizza.
So looking back I see a much less adventurous soul and further makes me reflect on how living in this country helped me grow...
Feb 12th 2018
The first day at work began with a short walk, maybe 5 minutes from my flat to the office complex, I had to enter the main reception and request a temporary key card before going up to my floor in the elevator. The building felt very modern, around 8 floors, lovely glass exterior, company banners on the roof and part of a small district of offices and flats.
Getting to the main reception I'm sure I was met by Alicja the manager of the UK team based out here in Warsaw and I was taken round to meet the team. Over that week I did the usual admin stuff, like getting my security badge, having a brief orientation about the office. I was meeting and greeting a lot of course, there were maybe around 40 people in this new team I was working with covering a few departments of operations.
People were generally friendly, nice to talk to, I have no negative impressions from those early days except I got the feeling some people were a little shy or nervous around me and there was a bit of a barrier to get through. I felt surrounded by a very intelligent an focused team who had a lot of questions about how UK operations functioned and the various processes we had in place.
I remember people being very helpful, even taking me around the shops so I could get more familiar and settle in, they would teach me some basic Polish words and expressions...and swear words haha
I got a very good feeling about these people, though at the beginning I did feel a little isolated, certainly for the first week, maybe a couple of weeks there were no social engagements outside of work that I remember and this was a bit surprising.
I would do a number of functions in my role at work, training, sitting with people and helping them with tickets, handing over my remaining clients and giving specific industry training which for me was Health & Beauty...taking over for this team were Aga S, Karolina and Weronika...and soon into the start of the process we had Magda M.
Now Health & Beauty always felt like an odd specialization for me, I was dealing with all kinds of categories most men would know very little about but after 6 years working in the UK on this sector had me know the key players and brands, the weird Masking rules we had to follow on our databases...all kinds of specific information, I worked with this circle a lot in the beginning.
You could say I was in a very lucky position working closely with this group of intelligent and beautiful women, all with great personalities we worked well together and over time taught them everything I could
...but I'm drifting off into the future now, let's get back to that first week.
All in all the week went very well, I was starting to get to know people better out here, getting secured with the office and work routine, get a nice scope of my responsibilities and just settle in to everyday living in Warsaw. The nights were dark and cold so I didn't spend much time outside in the evenings. For sure I got to experience Arkadia for the first time, which was the local 'Mall' to where I was staying...a massive place full of just about every shop you could need...especially with the big Carrefour inside
The second weekend in Warsaw I visited the Palace of Culture and Science.
Still a bit nervous about Public transport and wanting to explore the city a bit more I walked down to the centre for about 40 minutes to an hour, it was still cold outside and even though there was a lot of snow still the paths and roads were relatively clear and easy to walk on.
My first impressions of Warsaw was just how modern it was, the big Skyscrapers that dominate the Skyline, the little things like the number of Public bins or the automated crossings...which most people strictly obey here due to possible fines from the local law enforcement. The city felt very clean and it was actually quite nice to walk through, tough constantly being glued to google maps when in transit...the city did feel a little concrete and over time it would feel to me a little like a larger version of Cardiff where I had lived for a good 8 years in the past.
The Palace was immense, really standing out as a landmark from various points in the city, it was pretty impressive as a structure, actually it was among the first buildings in Warsaw to be built after the destruction of the War as a "gift" of the Soviet Union to Poland, commissioned by Stalin himself.
After taking a long walk around to find the Main entrance I would then to join the queue's inside for the observation tower at the top.
Freezing my ass off in the cold and windy weather once you went up 40 or so floors to get a total view of the city, I buy a little statue or two from gift shop after checking out the views and reading some of the information boards with some highlights in the City.
I also visited the Evolution Museum of Warsaw which is also part of the Palace, basically a few rooms with Fossils and Dinosaur Skeletons, more of a place for Kids and not really in English at all, though still fun to visit I think at only 10 Zl too...it was a bargain
The second week of work just progressed things on with more of the real work kicking in things being done to move the transition along, a lot of calls, a lot of meetings and sit downs with the team.
With time I started to work more generally with other industries and departments and therefore got to know a lot more people in the team, so I would get to know Szymon, Piotr U, Ula, Kasia A, Paulina M, Ignacio and Artur in addition to those names already mentioned so far
One fun diversion in the office was playing table football which I was surprised to find out was so popular over here, we had a table in one of the meeting rooms, this one being pretty spacious and shaped like a small amphitheater, sneaking away maybe once a day or so to play a quick game was a good bit of office fun :) or another option was Fifa...or was it Pro evo? Anyway they had a console, Xbox or Playstation which was also hooked up to the big projector screen...
At this stage in the transition it was a very low pressure environment, people were training and not all yet taking full ownership of accounts, so people worked hard but didn't get stressed so it was a very pleasant working environment.
I think it was in this week I brought up the idea of a team night out with the managers.
The next weekend I took a long walk through the city down to the Warsaw Uprising museum which was say a good 40 minutes by foot, despite the low temperature it was sunny outside and it felt quite pleasant, not being as damp as the English air back home.
The Museum ended up being a good start on my education of Polish history and culture, with very eye opening displays, well laid out content, I found the museum to be quite powerful and really gave you the picture of life in Warsaw during World War 2 and seeing the many tragedies that befell Warsaw at this time. I'd say I spent a good 3 hours there reading the exhibits. Of course learning about the almost total destruction of Warsaw during the War.
This night was my first social engagement with some members of the team, they promised me Hot Wine as its almost essential to drink this at night to keep yourself warm...we also firstly went Ice Skating at the Warsaw National Stadium which during the winter gets converted into a big ice rink.
Aga S, Ewelina, Ula and Marcin A, this nice guy from another team took me on this trip
Introducing Aga a bit more, I have to say she carries this spark of energy inside her which would explode when she got excited, she could often come across as a very serious person but with a strong curiosity and a lovely attitude.
Fair to say I was terrible at the skating, I hadn't done it since I was about 10 I think...I spent a lot of time moving slowly or clinging to the sides...I in fact only fell over once! But I sucked...rewarded for my efforts we either took a tram or grabbed an Uber to Old Town and enjoyed some hot wine from the stalls there (at least I think that's where we went after the Ice Skating...memory can be a little fuzzy...
Work wise...well nothing too exciting sticks out in the memory, just getting on with the job and building up my connection with the team and organising a night out drinking with the wider team which I think may have been the following week...
I think I ventured around the Old Town area of the city various times, which you would have to say is the most beautiful part of Warsaw, wrapped in Red Brick fortification walls, inside with nice streets, a big square in the centre with beautiful buildings and plenty of restaurants and tourist shops. To this day it's one of my normal destinations for evening walks with my friend Anna.
The whole part of the city here is where you would say Warsaw is at it's most beautiful, even the main connecting street running down to the Centre is a popular place with a lot of restaurants and bars, Nowy Swiat is a fun area to go out in the city.
I went back to the UK briefly to see my family, I had some holiday time to use up before my contract came to and end but I think they gave this weekend as a bonus.
The bus I took from the Airport managed to crash into a lamppost due to the snowy conditions on the UK roads.
I would spend time with my parents and catching up with friends before returning to Warsaw a few days later
March 5th until 9th
With not the perfect memory and a limited collection of pictures from the early days...at times this Blog may be partly guess work, however I try to be as accurate as I can be!
Here I find a picture of some Polish food...so I believe this is the week where a UK colleague Paige was visiting Warsaw to give some training to the coding team, she was down for the week and was assigned a member of the Polish team to chaperone her during that time...I'm trying to remember the name of the guy, I believe it was another Piotr...
Having a colleague from the UK was a welcome treat, Paige and I had worked together for around 2 years and were on friendly terms, during this week two events stand out...the first is the meal that me, her and Piotr went to, this was my first time at a Polish restaurant, I believe we went to Zapiecek one of the chains you find in Warsaw, I went for a Pork Knuckle which was quite a feast, with a bed of cabbage I think...
On a side note...I have to say the quality of food in Warsaw has been pretty excellent, I think every restaurant I have been to I have not been disappointed, the quality of ingredients, the reasonable prices and the portion sizes have all been something special!
Another evening I remember us going to the gym by the office, one of the Zdrofit chain...this was actually free for me, here in Poland most companies can offer you something called a Multi-Sport card, which either gives you free or reduced entry to a wide variety of Sports facilities.
For sure we would have also gone for some beers and taken a bit of a walk around the city.
I'm pretty sure we had a good moan about the whole redundancy situation as she was also losing her job and talked about our impressions of Poland, for sure positive ones!
It had been a welcome distraction having a familiar face to spend some time with and it had helped me get to know a new person in the team as well at that time.
The RD team
Now primarily I was working with say about half of the Polish team out here in Warsaw and they were the people taking over the roles I had more personal experience with in my career.
However we had a team responsible for ensuring the coding of products in our systems was kept to a high quality, and to take on projects of this nature.
Headed up by Agata P, I would work with some very diligent though you may say more introvert characters such as Dominika K, Dominika C, Dawid J, Elzbieta, Hubert, Oriana, Bartek W, Oksana and Aleksandra K.
Mainly I would not end up socialising with this team so much, though occasionally we would see the odd member here and there join us for nights out.
For some reason I bought a small rug for my flat, I know this from the picture I took of it haha, it was nice to have something soft on the hardwood floor...and perhaps it helped to warm things up underfoot...but perhaps it also indicates the beginning of my thoughts to stay in Warsaw, I'm not 100% sure though I think my colleague Ewelina had driven me to Ikea to help buy a few things for the flat as I was a little low on some basics like bed sheets...I think I also bought a small round side table so I had a surface to rest drinks.
Ewelina is a strong Vegan, but boy could she cook good food, she was always very self conscious about her work and would often ask me questions, someone with a good soul and a strong personality!
After consultation and a bit of research I believe this is the date of the first significant socialising with the team...
Firstly let me introduce Szymon, he has throughout my time in Poland been a close friend. One of the founding members of the Polish team we had had some brief contact over calls while I was onshore. Szymon is a man who likes to have a good time, someone who enjoys to be social and to enjoy a good drink, yet at the same time very health conscious and always kept a regular workout...you will hear him mentioned a lot over the course of this blog, having lived in the UK for a number of years he carried a bit of an English accent.
After work that day I had been invited to go for drinks at Bobby Burger, this was a restaurant very close to the office...as well as a fair variety of burgers they also had some cheap Polish lager on tap.
We went there as a small group and sat upstairs and had a couple of drinks.
It was good to just go out to a bar with a group of people, something I had been looking forward to in Poland since I landed here...
In fairness it is worth to point out that during the winter it is quite uncommon for people here to go out to the bars drinking, especially during the colder winters, more commonly people will have gatherings in their flats.
After a bit of a chat and some drinks, we would proceed to move to Szymon's flat, the plan was to watch Chelsea Vs Barcelona in the champions league. There was some issue with the internet or the site we were trying to watch the game on, so it was skipping a lot when it worked at all.
Quite a few people would arrive at this flat during the evening, I ended up talking to a lot of new people including Kasia R and Aga B.
Being English certainly brings the perk of people asking you a lot of questions, such as what I thought of Poland so far, why I am here and so on...so it's rare for me to be left to my own devices at parties when there are new people there...
The night got pretty rowdy, there was a lot of drinking...including quite a few shots, Polish music was being played and the front room became a bit of a dance floor, this often seems to happen at the bigger parties! I was introduced to Disco Polo...music from the 70's in Poland which is often moaned about...yet when people are drunk enough it seems to come out...
I was very happy to have had this experience, to drink with people from the office, to meet new people and to start to feel included to the social scene.
I believe I walked home in the freezing cold (around -20), managed to get a little lost...but eventually found my way back to the flat.
We had some new visitors to the Warsaw office from the Oxford team, Andy, a South African chap and Ana from Spain, they had come to do some hands on training and get to know the team a little better, at this point Andy was meant to be staying on in his role and Ana would be moving to a different team.
In the evening the three of us went out into Old town for some food and to grab some beers and have a good catchup along with the site seeing, again it was nice to see the familiar faces and to see some more social action :)
As I can't place the exact date I will also mention we had more visitors from the Oxford team, Henry would join...here I think the girls from the Health and Beauty team joined us for some walk around Old Town, also the managers Wancy and Matt would come over and with them we went for a meal in a fancy restaurant called the Soul Kitchen, Matt would also take out the supervisors and myself for drinks in the centre...though the conversation was heavily focused on work matters...which dulled the evening somewhat...
It was was this time that I had started talking to this girl Olivia, who was from the South of Poland. I had met her through one of these dating apps, it was early stages and get to know you conversation right now...
I believe it was this week...though it stands for correction that there was finally a work night out, I had been pushing for this and a colleague Ignacio who was a Spaniard living in Poland had helped to book some bar...now I have no idea of the name of the bar or even if it still exists, but for sure around 10 or so people from the office came out to have some drinks...the snow was still very thick and the pavements were covered completely which made the walk somewhat interesting...
I believe we may have been to a few places that night...memories lost in the fog of drinking ;)
Ignacio was a good laugh, someone who carried a lot of passion and fire inside him yet who also had a sensitive soul, when he did come out he would bring a lot of energy to the table!
With more holiday remaining to take...I went on a trip to Krakow...
I'll note that this is the first time I took the train in Poland, being completely clueless I had help from Paulina M with booking the tickets in the office using the PKP site...with everything in Polish this help was invaluable!
Paulina was incredibly beautiful, though she was also quite self confident and I would say shy, she has a really lovely spirit and always tries to be super helpful, we would work quite closely together as her main role was to improve quality of work.
On the morning of March 22nd I made my way to the train station with my backpack, eventually figuring out how the boards worked I went to the platform where the train was already waiting and took my seat, I was in one of the compartments, with Polish trains you either have a 6 person compartment seat or the general trin seat, and the journey took about 2 and a half hours. I got my first opportunity to view some of the peaceful Polish countryside on my way.
Arriving in Krakow I made my way through the station and out to the street, having the name and address of the hotel I walked there with Google maps as my guide.
I was staying at the Pod Rosa which my parents had arranged, and this being before Brexit I was able to call them when I got to the hotel and we met there.
The first day was spent walking around the main part of the Old City, taking in the beautiful architecture and seeing a very different city from Warsaw, Krakow for me had a similar feel to Oxford, a preserved historical city with much ornamentation.
With the big square there was an Easter celebration and we were looking at the market stalls, my Mum being very happy as she was interested in these traditions, with many coloured eggs and the like, though not as much chocolate as the UK.
The weather was sunny, and pleasant though not too warm, we had a good look around the churches and the shopping arcade in it's centre before heading down to Wawel.
Wawel was a massive historical complex containing the Castle, Cathedral as well as several museums...it's fair to say we spent some hours here exploring. For me what stands out in memory was the cathedral, with this we purchased two optional excursions, me and my Dad went to the top of the bell tower...which was a fair number of steps to traverse, and then all of us went into the crypts below and got to see a small shrine to Chopin among other graves.
As a side note, I look forward to taking this all in again in the future, knowing much more about Polish history now I feel I will understand much more context and more of the information from the museums will sink in.
After a long tour of Wawel we went around some of the shops on the way back to the main square and ended up going for dinner at one of the restaurants there, I remember very polite service, having some beer while my parents had wine I ended up trying Zurek for the first time, this traditional Polish soup was served in a bread bowl, and I loved it!
This day we had arranged a sight seeing trip with a local company...well my parents arranged it I will add.
Being picked up from the hotel or some nearby meeting point we got on a small bus with our guides, having been given a small care package from the hotel with some food to keep us going.
Our first destination was going to be Auschwitz the infamous concentration camp.
Of course I had heard of Auschwitz, who hadn't learned about this in school? But the reality was far harder than the information from text books and photos...immediately as we got there it stood out as a grim place, feeling very grey and foreboding...we had a guided tour from building to building and learned of the living conditions...as well as the horrors that this camp was responsible for...
Poles, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Gypsies...all manner of people were sent to this camp, with barely any accommodation, minimal food and forced labour being just the tip of the iceberg...
Not only were many sent to the gas chambers for slaughter or shot by firing squad...but their remains were then used, everything from their hair to their skin was harvested, the visuals and artefacts in the displays were harrowing and the actions here went beyond my wildest imaginings, this was a demonstration of the worst possible human actions...
The tour of horror didn't stop here however, as we also went to the site of Birkenhow, this was not as preserved as Auschwitz but it didn't stop us of learning of the mass graves and the furnaces used for the bodies...a very grim but important history lesson.
After all this on the way back to Krakow my parents were tired and didn't take the second half of our trip, also the guides had run out of time so we hadn't stopped for lunch, so with the trauma of history their fatigue drew them back to the hotel.
Our next excursion was to Wieliczka salt mines, again we were taking a guided tour as a group in the long trek underground, these mines were immense! Going for many many miles underground in many different directions, we learned about the history of these mines over the centuries which exploring, seeing great rock formations, seeing exhibits and eventually ending up in the cavern where a sanctuary had been established with many scenes from the bible carved out of rock by the workers, it was a very impressive sight!
This day me and the folks explored more of the outskirts of the Old Town, taking in the old city walls, touring the Jewish quarter and taking in the ethnographic museum where I would start to learn more about traditions surrounding Easter and Christmas.
I also visited a Pinball bar and had beer while using the machines, I also picked up a metal figure of the Krakow dragon.
This was the final day and we went to take in another museum, I can't remember which one but it had some exhibits focusing on Egypt and pre-history, one to find again when I return one day!
Saying goodbye to the folks I took the train back to Warsaw, one surprise was getting a free bottle of water from the conductor...this was part of the Pendilino express service...which basically meant a faster connection
Reflecting on the trip, this was my first taste of Poland outside of Warsaw and I had a wonderful time, learned a lot and in a way it was a bit of a life changing experience, especially after that second day...I have been back to Krakow briefly a couple of times since then, but this trip was the ultimate time I have spent there so far. It's just a shame this was undertaken before I had started my channel, so I have no videos from this trip...meaning all needs to be repeated, but in truth it will be good to go back and experience it all again!
With only memory to fall back on and a small handful of photos...I won't be able to give the day by day accounts as much as previously here, so let's group some of the key points:
You may remember that I mentioned this girl before my trip to Krakow, I had met her through one of these dating apps and we had been exchanging messages, sharing photos and the like. I don't remember when our first date was exactly or for that matter where we went precisely...
This was my first relationship in Poland and would certainly not be my last...
I'm pretty sure we met for craft beer in the beginning as a get to know you routine, we were able to talk well together and enjoyed each others company.
I remember that she was a bit of a tour guide for me in Warsaw, which was slightly ironic as she was from the south of Poland, the Silesia region.
She took me around Old Town and explained the ghetto markers, and for those not acquainted these are posts with information on the Jewish Ghetto present during World War 2, as well as markings on the ground to help indicate the border of the Ghetto...which was very extensive in size!
Having a car she took me to Kampinos, a forest in the North of Warsaw, where we took in the Palmiry area where thousands of Poles and Jews had been slaughtered on mass by the Nazis, which unbelievably they had tried to keep a secret! Now as well as a museum there is a mass cemetery present on the site.
We would walk along the Vistula river which runs through Warsaw, which was still a little cold but starting to warm up as we entered Spring.
We would enjoy the odd drink and had a lot of fun together, though ultimately one day we met at Lazienki park and things would come to an end, it was a very mutual ending...I wasn't clear on my future at that point and I'd say the chemistry wasn't strong enough for things to carry on, though I will always have fond memories of that time and you could having that experience contributed to me staying in Poland...Oxford was not an easy place to meet Women, and here there seemed to be more opportunity...
Work and colleagues
This was meant to be my last month living in Poland, with me being scheduled to return to Oxford to finish my last two weeks with my company.
Looking back at my photos from this month there are few...though this doesn't mean I was doing little!
I was working hard in the office to help finalise the transition of work from Oxford to Poland, working closely with the whole team to help them understand the UK operations as best they could and give them the skills they needed to have confidence and efficiency in their work.
For sure there must have been some socialising during this period, trips to various bars, the odd flat party, it's fair to say that life was beginning to Blossom after the cold and quiet winter and people were becoming more active as the days got longer and the temperatures increased.
I would watch Football with Szymon and perhaps a few others, I would go to the far side of the river and have a few beers with team mates (Piotr U, Piotr B, MJ and Ula), I was finally starting to feel at home in Warsaw.
Piotr B is one of the tallest people I know, very smart, down to earth and focused, always thinking big and pushing himself to learn as well as help others, working in bars previously he carries quick thinking and hard working ethic and enjoys a good time in the club!
Ula worked closely with Piotr, very business minded she always had some side hustle going on, having worked in London she could carry a very good English accent, very quick witted and with a positive energy!
I think at this point I realised how much happier I felt living in Poland, there were many reasons for this...and I am always asked about it, I may do a more extensive article on the subject, but essentially I had good colleagues/friends here, I enjoyed the food and drink, the cost of living was affordable and it was easier to meet women...plus I was a bit of a novelty for most Poles and often engaged in a lot of conversation with new people.
So after some discussions with managers here, HR, my friends and colleagues and of course my family I finally bit the bullet and accepted an offer of a promotion to become a Subject Matter Expert and to move to Warsaw...
Having had no intention of making this move before I went, and now writing about it over 4 years later...you can say it was the most life changing decision of my life to this date and I am happy I made it, carrying next to no regrets over the years...except of course now it was harder to see my family and keep in touch with my friends back home, all of which I was close with.
Originally this was meant to be the end of my Polish journey...however it was now more of a stop back to Oxford to finish my last few weeks with work and to catch up with friends and family.
I had to go to the Oxford office, a new building on the Oxford business estate, much smaller than our previous office but much more modern. It felt pretty surreal to be back working with my old colleagues, the fact that this was an entirely new office also contributed to the bizarre state of mind.
I had already handed over my clients and so spent most of the time debriefing the managers about the status of the team in Poland, trying to help build bridges between the two teams and helping out my colleagues in Warsaw via calls. It partly felt a little frustrating working remotely, I always preferred to speak to people face to face, though at this point I was more or less running out the clock of my old position before I moved back to Poland.
I also had a nice surprise of some gifts from my team in India, here I received a small wooden knife and two bronze deer.
Working with India:
Throughout my time with my company we had been working with our technical teams in Baroda, this was something I always enjoyed, the team in India were friendly, hard working and nice to talk to. Even though at this point I had barely met any of them I felt close to a lot of them and we had a good working relationship which I valued.
Palak, Azaz, Umang, Priyank, Anup...these were only a handful of the people I had the chance to get to know and I considered them more than colleagues. We worked on many problems together and they had really been an asset in terms of learning about the technical sides of the job, as well as having talks on Sport, religion, philosophy and of course weather.
My friends at home:
Many years prior I had worked for a retailer called Homebase, I did a bit of everything there over the years, check out, shop floor, garden centre, board cutting, colour mixing, extra choice and information desks...This was a place I worked at during school, my gap year and also when I came back for University holidays.
It was also a place where I made many good friends, some of which I still hold dear to this day!
When I worked there I was a very young, shy and naïve lad, and with my colleagues there we would often go out drinking around Oxford.
Matt was one of the first people I got to know, a couple of years older than me, but always a good and close friend, over the years he had visited me at Uni, we had gone for holidays together and often met up for drinks and deep talks.
Andy was Matt's younger brother, quite different in many ways, certainly more alternative in terms of his tastes, the two were not so close, but I considered them both very good friends.
Chris is perhaps the nicest person you have ever met, he always enjoyed a good beer and was a bit of a geek like myself, another good friend who I spent a lot of time with.
Craig was the guy who had actually got me the job in my previous company, we had worked together, been at the same school and even though his interest was more about Sport, we always go on well.
John I had met through Craig and through work, a good and honest guy with a passion for travel, someone good to spend time with and have a good old chat and a drink, actually we had backpacked across Latvia and Lithuania some years prior.
Dan was another of Craigs friends, with a great sense of humour and an outgoing spirit, a good life and soul of the party and always someone to make a good evening more entertaining.
This group I would not only go for drinks with but would also regularly attend pub quizzes, go to beer festivals and have the odd adventure here and there.
So while I was back in Oxford we would catch up a few times and I would share my stories of Poland, generally they would say I was quite brave for taking this step and making the plunge into this new life, Matt though was clearly sad to see me go and over the years I would keep the best contact with him.
While I was back in Oxford I also took some pictures of some of my collections back home to show my friends in Warsaw and when I did go back to Poland I carried as much stuff from home as I could to help settle myself in to my new surroundings.
I would then after time to take care of my affairs back in Oxford travel back to Warsaw.
Here I got to face Polish bureaucracy for the first time...and boy was it a shock!
My HR team at work had told me roughly what I needed to do, the main thing at this point was to take care of my residency papers and I had to register my stay with a local office as well...let's say it sounds easier than it was...
When I was a child I loved Asterix and Obelix, one episode of this cartoon stood out in mind, where they have to get a permit from this office in Rome...which meant them going from window to window, room to room to get all the permissions and paperwork...this is kind of what Polish paperwork felt like for me.
I would go to the local office to be told I needed to have various forms/paperwork available to process my stay.
Eventually I would go to the residence office and find out I needed extra documentation from my work...and nothing could be a photocopy. So I went back to this office twice to get paperwork submitted and a third time to pick up the residence permit, before I could go back and register with the local authority... It felt like torture, especially as these offices weren't really catered for the English speaker.
I also had to get a new bank account in order to be paid in Poland, though this was a little more straightforward...except it seemed a nightmare to get my debit card delivered...
Eventually though I got everything done that was required for work, well almost everything...I will come back to this topic later...
Towards the end of the month I went to perhaps the best work party I had ever been to!
The company had splashed out for our office to spend the night at a fancy hotel which was in a place called Jachranka, we got loaded onto buses from the office and made our way to the hotel, leaving our bags in the main foyer we were then diverted to play team building games, which were like a basic version of the Crystal maze, solving mats problems, untying knotted ropes, filling buckets...all kinds of random challenges, we would then get keys from each successful challenge to try and open some chests for points at the end.
It was a lot of fun, though my team was not successful in the end, we then had a BBQ with plenty of Kielbasa before we went back to the hotel to check into the rooms and begin to get ready for the evening activities.
Here we would sit in a large ballroom, listen to a few speeches from leadership, have free meals, Wine, Vodka and Beer and end up with music playing and the dancefloor opening up.
Soon once we were done with the above we would move around the complex and mingle, with some 400 of us there I would talk to a lot of people, both inside and out of the hotel, drifting from group to group. People were getting drunk, high...and having a lot of fun!
Once the bars closed around 1/2 there were a series of room parties, we had prepared for this stage of the night by bringing our own alcohol...particularly Turbo Cola (Basically a large coke bottle with Vodka and Coke mix), myself I had prepared a bottle of Gin and Tonic...which I had to retrieve from my room, where my designated room mate had got 'lucky' with a girl.
In the end I slept in another persons room that night and the next day in our destroyed states we would again board the buses and head back to Warsaw.
I went back to the UK briefly to attend my Nieces christening up in Newcastle, it was a good chance to spend time with my family again, particularly my brother Peter who I didn't get to see as much since he moved up north to be with his wife Marie, we got to go to the beach and at the end of it, I loaded up another batch of stuff to take to Warsaw in my suitcase.
Shortly into getting back to Warsaw I went to Ewelina's place with Piotr U, Szymon, MJ and her friend Nicholas, another person from the UK. We had an all night social gathering, going back to the 24hr alcohol shop at least twice...it got pretty crazy with singing, dancing and much talking, even getting a little emotional/heated at times, but in the end it was an epic night, followed by us grabbing some food from the shops in the morning for breakfast.
Introducing some more teammates
Piotr U is a very intelligent guy, I have always had good discussions with him, though we tend to differ when it comes to certain political views and philosophies we always have good debates, he loves his Vodka and certainly becomes the life of the party, being one of the best dancers in the group!
MJ I was very close with in the beginning, he carried a more American accent which was more common for strong English speakers in Poland, partly because of his international schooling, but also American movies play their part...he was one of the quickest learners in the team, a very bright individual!
This month we also would go to watch world cup games, especially as Poland were in the competition this year. We would go to a few places to watch the games, but mainly we had this bar near the office called Pub Trend, a bit of a local dive bar, but one where we often escaped after office hours...
There would also be a pretty epic party hosted by Kasia R, a colleague from another team in my office and a staple member of the social group at the time. With much Vodka flowing...I can say I lost my memory for a portion of the night, went to sleep, waking up around 3 or so to continue the party, with a lot of people there and a pretty big flat with an incredible balcony we had a fun time!
Also in this month I needed to secure a new flat...my work had been covering my accommodation up until the end of June. Being new to Warsaw and a bit lost with this sort of thing I ended up going through an agency, good service...but a months rent as commission meant this was a bit of an expensive way to got somewhere to live, but I have to say they delivered and I found a really nice flat just across the road from my office.
Ewa S joined the UK team, to work close with me on Health & Beauty, a very beautiful yet mysterious girl, very intelligent and hard working though often quite quiet, often she would be teased by the guys in the office but she always laughed it off, and always good company to have at parties!
The move there was a little random, as I moved all my stuff into a room in the office before I could move it to the new place, but in the end it was a nice transition into a proper flat and I really loved the new environment! Of course I would have people round to celebrate the move...
Agata P had recommended this comic book shop in the centre of town, here I spent a small fortune on figures and posters to decorate the new place, friends would also bring me some plants for the apartment.
Magda L joined the team from another department, she was always a ray of sunshine in the office, with this playful spirit and great smile, a very lovely person!
Bryn, a colleague from the Oxford office would also come to visit for work purposes and we would catch up over a few drinks in old town.
During this month my friend Artur would celebrate his birthday in Gniezdo Piratow, a pirate themed bar in Warsaw, he would play the guitar and we would enjoy some drinks with a good few people attending, with some slightly heated discussion over Polish history that Ewelina's friend Nicholas would provoke...
Artur I consider to have an old soul, he always sounded wise and was vey forthcoming with direct advice for me on how I can improve myself, most of which I ended taking up in stages over time. One of our first conversations was about Roman history in the staff breakroom from what I remember, him and his lovely wife Magda make a lovely musical couple in their spare time, when they can escape the children!
At the end of the month I would host my own birthday party...however rather than write it all out again I will share this blog for you to refer to: My birthdays in Poland
I am a bit of a loss to remember what happened this month, there are next to no pictures or Facebook posts to go back to, so maybe I will fill this out later if people come forward with something I've forgotten, for sure there would have been some nights out, we would have gone to the river to drink as well as to bars after work.
I remember back then weekends were generally kept to myself, as people would spend time with families, go out of Warsaw and such...
One key thing that happened this month was Szymon leaving the company, this was a major event as he had always been the best motivator in the team for all things social, so after he left it proved more challenging to get people to come out for a drink...not without a lack of trying!
He had moved to a Turkish startup firm that basically ended up trying to brainwash him and make him a work slave...I didn't get to see him so much after he left but we certainly stayed in touch.
I think it was also around this time we had some new blood in the team, Maciej L, Masha, Pawel and Kasia Z, I worked closely with them for onboarding and helping to pass my knowledge of the UK marketplace along.
I was still getting to know them at this point...though
Maciej was a solid guy, someone with a good soul who knew how to have fun, a good source of entertainment on a night out and a lover of clubs and dancing.
Pawel was a go getter, pushing himself hard to learn and move up the ranks, a very relaxed and deep presence who always seemed to know what was going on.
Masha was always cool, someone who knew herself well and was never shy to give an opinion, coming from Ukraine you may have thought she was an outsider but she spoke perfect Polish, truly a great person and good friend!
Kasia Z I found to be very kind, smart and dedicated, you would never have guessed she had two kids at home if you didn't know, a truly lovely and caring soul with this free spirit inside her who always makes a difference when she joins the team to socialise!
I believe it was this month where I first met Agata K, I had met her through
Tinder I believe and things really hit it off between us, for sure we would go out a few times for drinks, going to one rather nice Italian restaurant I had found recommended online. I even invited her to work do at Jas & Malgosia, a lovely bar with good food. We were in contact for about a month or so and I was very enamored with her, being a cute Polish girl with a sharp wit, lovely hair and beautiful eyes, however things came to an abrupt end leaving me slightly heart broken at the time...however this was certainly not the last time I would see her...
I remember at this point I would spend more time with Artur, he would take me to Harenda for Blues nights, I would also see him and his wife perform at La Boheme, a very alternative location, half art gallery and half wine bar and somewhat of a hidden place in Warsaw's many streets.
At the end of the month I would return the UK yet again to see friends and family, picking up some more board games so I could host more varied games nights with friends at my flat. I would also travel with my parents to London to visit the British and Natural History museums.
For sure in this first year I would travel home a fair amount, keeping good contact with friends and family and busily carting stuff from home to Warsaw...You could say I was a little homesick at times even though I was loving life in Poland
I would take a tour organised by work around some of the Praga district across the river, in particular to see the amazing mural painted on the sides of the buildings and see still remaining bullet holes from World War 2 in some of the residences.
After the sightseeing we would eat at a mexican restaurant and go to a bar, this outing was with a random group of people from the office and let me get to know a few new faces
I wonder why I wasn't taking many pictures at this time, I think that things got rather quiet socially, with the weather descending into the cold people were generally going out less now, I had more time to myself and in truth I think I got rather lonely at times, I would of course see people in the office every week day and for sure there would have been the occasional night out, but for sure I learnt that Winter in Poland was more of a quiet time.
It was around this time that Ula left the team to pursue a career in property management, which I believe she founded.
One night stands out as it got pretty crazy...a colleague from a different team in the Oxford Office Mark had come down to Warsaw for a commercial conference. After work a group of us met up at the Novotel for drinks before going to an American restaurant called Brooklyn, we went to a few bars...but what stands out is where we ended up...
We actually found ourselves in a Strip Club down Foksal street, we would have a few drinks there, the dancers would sit and talk with us, having us buy them expensive drinks...and plying us with a lot of Vodka...
Eventually I was coerced into a private dance...things turned ugly after a short spell when they started to try and drain all the money I had in my wallet, after starting to make a scene they let me go...I stumbled home, with a hangover that lasted for days...part of me wonders whether they may have even poisoned me...fair to say I never want to go to that kind of club again, especially in Poland!
The big things to come were surrounding Christmas, I had been placed in charge of a competition our office was running...my role to coordinate the decoration of our department into Santa's workshop, for this we went over themes, with Ewelina, Weronika and Magda L being the main people working with me to come up with the theme, to find supplies and to do the decoration...
It's safe to say we worked many long hours to provide the needed work and we even worked out a theme and a bit of a play for the judges, where we had a drunk Santa (Piotr U) and a general state of chaos...also, we were joint winners with a couple of other departments meaning we got 1500Zl to spend on a team night out!
We booked a table at a Piw Paw (a craft beer pub in the centre of the city) and worked hard to spend all our winnings!
We also had the work Christmas party that year, hosted in the Warsaw Expo...basically we had around 1000 people invited, as we had included the other office we had in Warsaw, so I found myself getting lost half the night trying to find people, there was a photo booth, of course a lot of free beer and Vodka and everyone was dressed up for the occasion, though after such an incredible summer party...I couldn't help but feel little let down by the event, it was definitely the start of the company winding down in spending...
I would go home for Christmas to see friends and family again, with my brother, his wife Marie and my niece Alicia coming down to join the family in Oxford, one of my star presents was a PS1 loaded with some classic games like Final Fantasy VII, which I hoped would fill up some of the spare time I faced in Warsaw.
I was back in Warsaw for new year and this year I went to the flat of Magda M, from what I remember there weren't too many people from the office there, so I got to meet a few of her other friends...and much Vodka was drunk, with us going outside at midnight to see what fireworks we could from the street.
Magda herself was a strong person, she had been hand picked to join the UK team near the start and had a very strong work ethic, she was always one to speak up and take control of a situation. Also her boyfriend at the time Clarence was there, he came from Singapore and was a very kind and friendly person who I enjoyed talking with.
Looking back I would say this year was one of the most impactful on my life, I would experience a lot and change a lot as a result of what I faced, in some ways it was one of my best years and in others my worst...
It's fair to say that Poland can get pretty cold in the winter...it isn't the best of countries to live in from November to March, though the summer months I feel make up for this. I don't think this Winter was as cold as the last, maybe averaging -5 degrees, so it's fair to say not a lot happens in these times, however I still wanted to keep busy.
Turning back to Tinder I thought I would try and get my dating life back in gear and I met this girl Alexandra, though I would go on to call her Lexi. She was a key runner who enjoyed a beer and owned a cute though blind or at least partially sighted dog.
We would first meet at this bar PINTA, where I would try this Russian Imperial Stout for the first time, by far the strongest beer I'd tried at around 20% proof. We had a nice conversation and would text. She was training to become a programmer after working as a recruitment consultant and although I wouldn't say we had a great deal in common we got on well, we would have some subsequent dates, drinking in Drugie Dno, this cool old bar with a prewar building and we went to Pole Mokotowskie, a large park in Southern Warsaw where we drank in the Bolek bar/restaurant.
However despite my hopes she wasn't interested in a relationship, though we did stay friends and would meet occasionally afterwards.
Also in this month I got into the newly released Assassin's creed Odyssey game and also we had a new addition to our team Mateusz T, who in time would become one of my closest friends, he is a pretty tall guy, I think of him as a gentle giant though, he has a very warm and calm soul and a strong mind for business, though at this point we were casual colleagues in the workplace.
Towards the end of this month we also went out for Piotr B's birthday, we started in this bar called Warmut, one of my favourite places in Warsaw, it is a characterised by Vermouth that they distill themselves and the ceiling has this model skyline of Warsaw which is quite impressive!
We would then go out clubbing and I experienced my first Techno night, a lot of heavy dancing and drinking for sure!
As the cold winter continued we would be a little less social as a work team, so I decided to invite some friends around, we would play some Jenga and some other games, have some shots of Vodka and drink beer and have a nice chilled time and a good few laughs! I very much enjoyed hosting and bringing people together :)
I also had cause to celebrate as it had been one year in Poland for me and I was feeling very happy for it, with a lot of good friends, so many new things going on, a better career path and a fair bit of personal growth, everything was heading in a positive direction!
So in this spirit I booked some space in a place called Multipub "Pod Gruba Kaska", this was a bit of an underground dive and a bit of a hybrid between a pub and a club, a place to go for watching Football, singing Karaoke or just enjoying a beer after most other places in the area had closed!
There was a fair turnout of people from the office, we drank a fair bit and enjoyed some dancing late into the night, I think a few of us even went back to Aga B's place to continue drinking for a few hours more, so it was definitely a memorable night and part of what I think of as the Golden times for me in Warsaw!
This month I would also visit home once again as a bit of a surprise to celebrate my friend Chris's birthday, going back to Oxford we would go for a nice meal, and there was even a Chewbacca style birthday cake for him, as he was a big Star Wars fan, and when we went drinking in some bars in the newly refurbished West Gate shopping centre.
This was only a brief stop for me, though again I used the opportunity to pick up some things, such as the collection of the Witcher books in English and other trinkets to take back to Warsaw...I had some fun at security at the airport, as they pondered whether my bookmark could count as an offensive weapon...luckily their supervisor was a bit smarter...
This month we also had a surprise birthday party for Piotr U, a lot of us crowded around his flat while his partner had taken him out for an errand, he was not expecting a thing and we would drink a lot of Vodka, so much so that Piotr himself was too drunk to continue and we had to continue the night without him, we went to at least one bar and ended up in some fancy club, though for the life of me I can't remember where it was!
Fair to say it was a very random night which led to a lot of fun and good times!
Even though it was still pretty cold at least it was starting to get a little sunnier in Warsaw, so I would start to go back outside and walk a little more, taking in the stunning river views...
I hosted another smaller games night where we played Catan and this was a little more civilised that the last attempt...if you want a serious games night where you actually focus on the games you need to refine your group!
I would go back to the Piratow bar with Lexi this time to celebrate St Patrick's day with a green half litre of Tyskie and some Irish dancing.
Also most noteworthy is we had Neil join us for a week from the UK, now Neil was the person I was closest to in the Oxford office, we shared one big account and he was a positive influence who I learned a lot from.
Of course while he was down we would go for drinks a few times, particularly we went to this bar called PiwPaw, a large Craft beer bar where we watched Poland playing Football on the big screen as well as enjoying a good few beers!
I was happy to have Neil to visit, it was good to catch up and have some honest and frank discussions about how the cooperation between our office and the Oxford one was going and to show him a bit of Warsaw, the health & beauty girls were also happy to finally meet him, as they all got on well with him, particularly as he was very calm and helpful.
At the end of this month I went out with Marcin K and some other colleagues, we had won a small competition in the office, where we got points for certain competency badges we had earned, this led to us visiting a rather fancy steakhouse at the companies expense
With the weather improving, though still prone to spells of cold I continued to explore more of Warsaw, this month I would go to the botanical gardens in Lazienki park and see the Powazkowski cemetary which has some of the most elaborate gravestones and memorials I had ever seen!
Early in the month we went out to celebrate Magda M's birthday, going to this rather unique bar in her area that felt more like you were drinking in someone's house than a proper bar, we also had two more UK visitors Celine and Fatima, who like Neil got on well with their Polish counterparts and came to do some training and shadowing with the Grocery team.
I would also start going out with Artur G more, he would take me out to Blues nights in Harenda bar, just tucked away around the University area, it was always good to go out with Artur, his keen wit and intelligent conversation is always a pleasure and it was nice to do something a little different and listen to some good music, including the best harmonica player in the country!
We would also see him play live with his wife Magda in La Boheme, a rather unusual wine bar which is basically a converted house, with artwork on the walls and a stage near the entrance, the artwork actually made by the wife Ewa of the couple that owns the venue.
This month I also got back in touch with Agata K, she reached out to me after a relationship didn't work out and I was hopeful that this time things may work out...
We met at this mexican restaurant in the centre and ended up at a Shisha bar. We picked up right where we left off and had a lovely conversation.
I took her along on another work organised tour, this time we would walk around communist Warsaw, visiting some key buildings and monuments in the centre and learning about what life was like before Poland regained its freedom.
It was a very cold day and we struggled, after the walk we went to a rather nice Chinese restaurant close to the centre, with very authentic food, we went back to mine and snuggled up while watching some stand up comedy on Netflix, however I drifted off...and she seemed to get a little annoyed and left for home, later she would text and tell me she was seeing some problems that had put her off me when we had previously dated and we went our separate ways a second time...
Towards the end of the month I would go out with some new girls in the team, Justyna D, Justyna G, Basia and Ewa P, it was a simple night in Beer Halle, a German themed bar close to the office
Justyna D had moved back to Germany from Canada where she had lived for a long time, with a strong character and wicked sense of humour she was a nice addition to the group.
Justyna G had a very kind and wise soul, she was religious but not preachy about it, she had a Swiss Husband and a child though she would often join us for nights out
Ewa P was pretty small and quiet, I didn't get to know her too well as she didn't stay in the team for very long.
Basia I have to say is something else, she had lived in Portugal for a while and worked as a barmaid there, she was very smart and sharp witted, though had a very free and fun spirit, she was also incredibly hard working and is someone who is always good to have around!
One significant place to start is a conversation I had with my manager Alicja in this month...she gave me the heads up that soon I would be heavily involved in a new project to move the CI work that was currently done in India to the Polish office, it would involve an entirely new team that I would be working closely with. I was there to help coordinate the transfer of knowledge and to be an expert for the team to turn to while they were learning, as well as advise ongoing on how the learning was going.
This was a new challenge and would grow me more than I could ever have realised...and not just in a work sense I will add...
This was the month I had my first haircut in Poland...being a Saturday I didn't find that many places open and I wasn't sure the best place to pick...I ended up going to one of these cheap places on Andersa street, they spoke no English there...I showed them a picture of a previous cut and ended up having a much shorter cut than I usually go for, almost military like...but luckily hair grows back haha!
In this month I also went for a family holiday, so I joined my parents in Prague! Unfortunately it cost about 1000zl for the return flight which was also on maybe the smallest plane I have ever taken, though the journey was without incident from Chopin airport.
I was there from the 13th to the 18th and being with my parents meant a lot of sightseeing!
I won't cover this trip in detail as this blog is about my life in Poland, though with my parents we did a lot of walking in the city, taking in the lovely bridges which this city is characteristic for, going to the castle/cathedral complex (Similar to Wawel in Krakow), we took in some incredible architecture in the centre which had a lot of modern beauty to it.
Of course we went to plenty of sites outside of the centre including an observation tower with a good view of the city, this was next to a mirrors labyrinth. In the evening I remember us taking a trip to this tavern where they had dancers, I think this was a trip we organised via the hotel.
We took trips outside of the city as well, going to a glass factory and we had a day trip that took us to a place called Cesky Krumlov which was a city with a great old castle, we went to the Pilsner Urquell brewery also...so a lot of fun organised excursions!
We hit a lot of museums as well including the Lego museum, an exhibit with statues made from metal (which I also went to in Warsaw in 2022), though my favourite place was this old alchemists workshop, a shop and a small museum on the ground floor...though taking a secret passage through a bookcase we went to the old basement which contained passages running beneath the city.
It's fair to say that I had a good trip, it is always special to spend time with my family and also to explore a new and beautiful city, as well as visiting a new country of course!
Getting back to Warsaw I didn't waste much time and was out drinking with friends, we went to Bobby Burger, a usual haunt near the office and enjoyed cheap beer and food along with the company, I always enjoyed these simple evenings after a day in the office :)
This month would also include the work summer party, this year they didn't make it as fancy as the previous and instead hired out this beach bar called La Playa on the other side of the river, here we enjoyed free food, wine and beer on the sands. Though of course in classic style we went to a bar called Sexy Duck first to warm up.
At La Playa we would talk and dance, some people snuck in some Vodka in orange juice cartons, so we all got fairly drunk, though I couldn't help but feel a little let down after the previous years hotel trip! Still we had fun, I remember at the end of the night finding Aga S's phone which had been lost in the sand but ultimately it was just another night of many in our many nights of fun in Warsaw!
June in true style was a hot month and one filled with hard work and hard drinking, I would grab ice cream from a small stand outside the office, I would be hard at work helping to plan the outline of the upcoming transition and there would be many social events. We would return to the river, finally able to sit in the warm sun with a beer until late into the evening and team spirits were high :)
One of the major events was a flat warming Party, Marcin K and his wife had bought a new flat over the river in Praga, so this meant a celebration before they moved all the furniture in! A lot of people from the team were there and as usual it was a party filled with good conversation, great people and a fair amount of alcohol!
That month we also took part in Global Impact Day, it was something our company would run every year where we would do a charitable act for a day instead of working, this year I elected to go and pick up rubbish in a local forest, I'd say there were a good 20 of us doing this activity and we ended up with many bags of refuse by the end...we then had a cheeky beer sat by the edge of the woods to finish off the day ;)
Even though I don't have many pictures from the rest of the month it's fair to say it was an active one, trips to the river, time spent drinking after work with my colleagues and towards the end of the month I would start to sit with the new team at work and had a couple of social outings with them to get to know them.
During the day the team of 20 odd people would be given presentations by me about our department and a general introduction to what work was done and some of our processes...it took me a while to learn the names of everyone for sure, though drinking with them helped. I remember one night starting down at the river and finishing up in Pawilony which is a hidden district of Warsaw filled with bars and often open until late into the night!
At the end of the month we would have two of our UK colleagues move to Warsaw, they would be with us until pretty much the end of the year, Ashley and Diogo.
Ashley had been in another team when I was based in the UK office, so I didn't know him incredibly well at this point, though we would end up drinking together a lot after he moved to Warsaw.
Diogo originally from Portugal was new to the team and I didn't know him at all before he moved.
Safe to say the two lads would have an incredible time in Warsaw during their stay!
The first image from this month I have in my phone from this month shows me drinking a pint with my friend Chris back in Oxford, so its fair to say I had a brief trip back to the UK, I don't think there was a specific reason for this journey, though I caught up with friends including Neil and a former manager Sam, I believe in this trip I also went to London with my parents, visiting some museums and doing some shopping on Oxford Street.
I believe in the Tate Modern I saw a computer game exhibit, from the gift shop I picked up a metal slinky and this foldable ruler with historical dates printed on to it...these objects gain more significance later.
I was back in Warsaw within a week and just in time for a big team outing...
We went to a favourite bar of mine called Piw Paw, it was this large craft beer bar that I would occasionally visit with friends, with around 100 different beers on tap. We had a large table on the ground floor level, it was a big outing with most of the team in attendance, so I'd say at least 40 people and with any work night of course free drinks.
Looking at the pictures I can see we moved into the basement area, I guess we needed the extra space as more people showed up, I was mostly sat with the new CI team I had been working with... let me take a pause to give you a few names:
Damian P - Damian was the manager of the new team, late twenties, bright, friendly and empathic, someone I valued to talk openly and honestly with, he had come over from elsewhere in the company and had a straight forward attitude and a positive spirit
Weronika B - She was the main supervisor, again over from another team, fairly quiet though had a number of ideas, we would work closely in the coming months
Piotr P - Piotr was going to be our new delivery guy, fairly young though bright, a quick study and someone who's brain moved quickly...which also meant he talked a lot, a fun and energetic soul who emanated a goodness about him.
Piotr S - Again fairly young (and when I say young about people I mean early to mid twenties), he was very intelligent though came across as a little shy and quiet at times, he also had a quirky sense of humour
Piotr D (Yes I know there are a lot of Piotr's!) - He was a little more mature and had been in the company for a few years, one of the people I knew from the times we went out drinking when I started, he was friendly though had a sense of humour that could rub people up the wrong way sometimes.
Paulina S - One of the smarter people overall, very kind and friendly with a no nonsense yet fun attitude, she had a girlfriend...which I only mention as this becomes relevant to the story later...
Paulina P - One of the younger team members with a strong and bubbly personality, always positive though realistic, smart and engaging, one of the more enthusiastic people
Asia S - Asia had a very calm demeanour, very friendly and outgoing, someone you could see had a big heart and sometimes a rather fun fashion sense, always keen to have a drink and I would say one of the stronger girls from the group, often organising events
Martyna H - Martyna had one of the more mature attitudes in the team, without being the oldest member, very smart with a darker sense of humour, she had some things going on outside work causing her some stress, though was focused in the office and good to talk to
Marta M - Marta was definitely one of the smartest team members and was initially sharing her time with France and the UK, so knew the systems very well, she didn't drink though would still join for social events, someone you knew was intelligent just from casual conversation
Magda K - She was the other SME working alongside me, friendly and warm personality and someone who always worked very hard and could be seen to be busy
Maks K - there is only one Mask haha, a true character, always telling jokes, making memes and was a bit of a joker in the team, the sort of person you would find hard to hate as he was always friendly and making people laugh
Michal R - Michal came across as pretty sophisticated, a keen reader who translated documents into English as a side job, dating a girl called Dominika, friendly and chatty and one of the main people you would see out
Grzegorz S - The hardest name for me to learn...got to love those Polish Z's! He too came with some experience and a good systems knowledge, he was well liked in the team and someone people often turned to for help
Asia C - Asia was one of the older people in the team, though you wouldn't have known, she had a PHD and had worked with a scientific expedition on an island north of Norway, a little quiet but talkative once she engaged in conversation
Kasia P - Kasia has a heart of gold and was kind of a mother to the team, smart and driven, with two kids and living a little further out than most yet still actively joining us after work when she could, a keen mountain goer she was one of the more adventurous souls
Kasia J - another mother of two, smart and focused, perhaps not as social as some though she came out when she could, very nice and friendly personality
Paulina D - The baker of the group, she would start organising peoples birthday gifts and often baked cakes for the team, she always came across as friendly and caring
Szymon S - one of the retailer team...who due to their unique processes I didn't work as closely with, though a guy who liked his beer and music and even though a little quiet, always a nice guy
Karol K - another retailer, quite easy going and also a beer lover, friendly and a little sarcastic though in a fun way
Milena K - Very quiet , I found it difficult to talk with her, though she worked hard and made some close friends
Alexandra M - Alexandra had a strong personality and seemed a little aloof at times, though would ultimately come out fairly often and sometimes her opinions may not have sat well with others
As you can see...a lot of people, some I was very close with, others not so much, but we were a strong team...though one that would go through a lot of drama in the coming months...which I will detail at my discretion...
The night was a lot of fun, I talked with a lot of people, we had much beer and Pizza, in particular I talked with Asia C a lot about myself and her exploits. This night had as well as being the first full team outing with the new members...was also a welcome to Ashley and Diogo, I don't remember if we went anywhere after Piw Paw...it's possible though, maybe even likely haha
Back in the office I was playful as well as working hard, I would throw paper airplanes around, occasionally prod people with my new ruler...which I also used as a pointer during presentations, even though it was not an easy time work wise with much to organise, many calls to attend and simultaneously helping my colleagues in the other half of the team I was happy, socialising a lot and working long hours...it was a challenge I needed, but a rewarding one!
In the next week there were two nights that stand out, I joined Ashley for some Guinness in one of the Irish pubs, I think at the time feeling a bit of pressure and needing to let off a little steam, the other night a few of us went to Craft Beer Muranow after work and had a few beers...
That night I found myself talking a lot with Asia C again, going into detail about her studies and her time on the expedition (effectively this was her favourite topic of conversation with people), when she left Szymon W (my close friend) turned to me and thought there was some chemistry between the two of us...I wasn't sure what to think about this, as I knew deep down it was not the best idea to get involved with a colleague...
The next big night only a few days later was Asia C's birthday, we went to this bar she loved as a student I believe...I forget the name in Polish, though it would translate to deep throat...
I had tried to encourage people from the CL team to join, though in the end it was just CI people, Asia bought everyone their first drink, we would play cards, have a good chat and a fun time, then she broke out this drink called Mintu, which was this mint flavoured drink from Norway...however once the bar staff found out we were basically thrown out for bringing our own alcohol...
The rest of the night was a blur, even back then I couldn't remember where we went, only getting some food at some point, the next memory I had was me and Asia C walking alone towards the river, earlier in the night I remember she had mentioned wanting to see the sunrise.
We sat on the steps and drank some Mintu together, our only other company some cleaners who were picking up rubbish from the night before. We sat and talked for some time before we kissed...eventually she would come back to my place and stayed the night, the rest I will leave to your imagination...
Over the coming weeks I would spend a lot of time with Asia, playing around a little at work, though not making things public, going for breaks together and sneaking a kiss in the elevator which she said felt like something from the movies, things were blossoming into a strong relationship and I have to say I was very happy...
The next big night was my birthday celebration, I chose the river...in fact for details one this you can read my birthday blog :p
I will add that things between me and Asia became a bit more public and we danced together, after the small after party at my flat she stayed over and we spent much of the next day together.
The team had pitched in and got me a voucher for an escape room, which was a lovely gesture :)
At the end of the month I had to move to a new flat, even though I had signed a two year lease my landlord had got divorced and needed to move in, however he helped me to find a new flat in the same building, a little more expensive though much bigger! I had a new party flat close to the office which I was looking forward to hosting in!
A few people from the CI team helped me with the move, I think Damian P, Grzegorz S, Michal R and Asia C, I had made a start already, though they helped to carry bags, boxes and light furniture to my new place. We had a drink together afterwards though Asia stayed later and we played some games and talked before she left in the evening.
Once alone I started to unpack and set up the new flat
A few small side notes:
- Prior to Asia I had not had any happy and proper relationships, I had been in a couple of serious relationships though with very troubled girls who had used me and caused a lot of problems in my life, you can see my video about this on YouTube if you are curious to know more.
- Shortly into dating me and Asia had had a serious talk, she warned me that she didn't know in which direction her life was going and that she may even move away from Warsaw in pursuit of a new career, I tried to take this all on board and agreed that things wouldn't be too serious, though in truth it didn't take long for me to develop strong feelings
- Being honest my from life up to this point I was at my happiest, I was doing well at work, had a lot of good friends, an amazing social life and I was beginning to think I had found true love, everything was going in the right direction...
The new flat was great...if a little expensive, it was 60 sq Metres, had a separate bedroom and kitchen, and was nice and close to the office. I probably went for something a bit more extravagant than I needed, though I wanted a place where I could host friends as socialising was a big part of my life at this point and I had a lot of people to drink with from the office.
Work was going strong and we were now well into the transition project, I was busy and enjoying life...but the first sign of trouble was emerging...
Even though I felt the relationship with Asia C was going well she would be cold with me sometimes at work and this I didn't understand as together outside of work things were going great, so I started to give her a bit more space in the office as maybe she didn't like the attention in front of colleagues, we would spend weekends together hanging out and playing games. We would go to the river and enjoy the sun with a few drinks, then one Saturday we made a plum cake together.
The following week we had another guest from the UK down, Fatima, in celebration a small party was being held after work to have some fun, however when we got to the end of the work day people were still busy working, me and Asia headed over to my place and hung out and had some fun together, by the time we were ready to head over she decided to go home and I went along to the party.
It was being held at Ashley and Diogo's place, they had a grand apartment with a big balcony and an amazing view of the city! Shots and cocktails were being served, the was dancing and it's fair to say it was a great party, we were drinking into the night and having fun, a lot of people from the office were there and spirits were high, for sure we had some hangovers the following day...
The following weekend Asia had arranged a trip for us, she had even used some work benefit points to cover the cost of the hotel, we were going to Wroclaw, this large city in Western Poland. This is considered one of the best cities in Poland...though I haven't made a video about it for two reasons...1 . When I went this trip I only took photos, 2. I needed a bit of a break before I went back...
The city is famous for a few things, my favourite being the Dwarves that you find hidden all over the place, some 163 of them no less! (Though some claim a lot more...), it has a network of bridges covering the river running through, of course a beautiful old town...but also the best Zoo in Poland.
We departed on the Thursday, as we had a long weekend due to a public holiday, taking the long train journey, where rest was disturbed by crying children on our carriage, Asia was reading and listening to some Spanish tapes, even though we held hands I felt she wasn't in the best mood that day. Arriving in Wroclaw we took a bus to the hotel and then went out into the centre for a walk, admiring the old town and getting something to eat as well as doing a bit of Dwarf hunting.
The next day Asia wanted to go to the Zoo, so this was our main adventure.
Wroclaw Zoo is massive and has this large aquatic centre in the middle, even though it was a sunny day it chose to rain while we queued for the aquatic centre which had a long line, I held my coat over the two of us to keep us dry.
I noted that Asia was not happy with some public displays of affection and even asked that I cup her arm instead of holding hands.
After the zoo we took in a pizza and went to the fountain, part of a Unesco world heritage site, and one that fired it's jets to lights and music, we sat there for a while, dangling our feet in the water, I grabbed a beer and we sat there in the sun, the rest of the day we mainly walked and took in some parks.
The Saturday was my day to choose activities and I did my research and planned a series of places to go, we started the day by going to a botanical garden, followed by a natural history museum, next there was a secret museum under the square with movie characters and props, finally we went to the museum of video games and I got to try out some classic arcade titles popular in the 90's in Poland.
In the evening we went to a bar and then called it a night...
Sunday was our last day, and we weren't there for too long, I opened up and asked Asia why she seemed so distant over the weekend, it got a little emotional and we hugged before going for a walk.
Things continued to be a bit awkward between myself and Asia after this weekend trip and I didn't understand what was happening, eventually we talked and she said she needed some space, so other than work we didn't hang out together.
There was a gathering down the river, I went there not knowing what to expect, Asia seemed not only distant now but a little hostile as well, I left the gathering early to meet some other friends and she text me to check if I was okay, and if I left because of her, I reassured her I just had other plans. In fact that night I went to a burlesque show with a small group...I have to say it was a great performance and it was the first time I had attended this kind of event, I had gone with Ashley, Diogo and these girls Charlotte and Alicija who I knew from another team in the office.
I would go out with other friends and remain a bit perplexed, though I did my best to honour her request and at the end of the month I was returning to the UK to attend a friends wedding.
I was back in the UK for about a week, with the primary focus going to Dan's wedding, it was held in the gardens of this manor house and was a fancy affair, with speeches, an impressive buffet which even had an ice cream machine, followed by dancing into the early morning, after which I went back to the hotel with my friend Matt who had taken us down there.
The rest of the week I focused on Oxford, seeing my parents and catching up with friends. I only messages Asia the once, though being given a rather short response I thought it best to continue the space.
Shortly after coming back to Poland there was a gathering down the river, not quite sure what to think I made my way there, though now Asia seemed to be much friendlier...which made me feel relieved, everyone came back to my flat for drinks afterwards though Asia left a bit early though agreed to come round the following day.
So she came round and we played games and watched this crappy action movie, though she didn't stay the night this time and when I was walking back to the bus stop she said some things which seemed a little hurtful, after this night we didn't spend much time together and I tried to give her space, though of course failing a little when it came to texting which just seemed to make things worse...
Towards the end of September there was this big team event, a BBQ down at this beach along the river, they bought a lot of alcohol, the RD team worked hard on a fire pit, we did some team events such as some group painting exercises, a lot of people were there...after all we had a big team, even Alicja the team manager was present...which was a very rare occasion for social outings!
However despite all the fun, the drinking and chatting...I only had one thing on my mind and that was to talk with Asia, she was a bit elusive at first, avoiding me and distancing herself, though eventually we went off to talk on the beach in private and that is where she formally ended things, citing various things from her past and telling me not to wait for her.
Naturally I was rather gutted, but I had to respect the decision and I left her alone the rest of the evening, I talked to my friend Basia who was also feeling a bit emotional over someone that night and we consoled each other.
The night ended up being very crazy, though I missed some of the more bizarre events, I would learn about these later...when we ran out of alcohol we moved down to a bar and then people came back to mine for an after party where again there were some incidents I seemed to miss at the time...
At the end of the night I remember texting Asia with something corny like I missed her already, she would respond we could remain friends and still play games together, though after this I gave her space in the office and outside.
I was a little down and would dog sit for Szymon one night, Joey I could tell felt my pain and offered me sympathy.
The last few days of the month I don't remember, I think they were quiet, perhaps having the odd drink with friends. Though there was some drama...One of the supervisors in my new team had been let go from work and it all happened rather suddenly, I heard about it from my managers at the end of the work day and naturally they were concerned about team Morale...This person would occasionally be seen outside of the office at a coffeeshop just staring and would talk to colleagues outside of work...It was a little odd for a time but the team adapted, it being more a source of gossip than distress...
Towards the end of the month we received some good news...One of our colleagues from India was coming over to join us and help train the team.
Azaz - Azaz I believe I had worked with remotely for about five years now, I remember the time when he was young and keen in work and perhaps wasn't the most serious person, yet he was always nice to talk to and we worked closely together. He taught me much about the technical side of my job and we solved a lot of problems as partners.
Learning that Azaz was coming to Poland was a lovely bit of news, I would finally get to meet this good colleague of mine and he was excited to be coming, he would ask me a lot of questions about Poland and I would help set his expectations and advise on things like warm clothing for the trip. I also set about on two initiatives:
Working out some activities with some help from the team to keep him busy on his trip
Arranging people to buy gifts for him to take back to India to his colleagues, as often when we had guests come over we would find they would bring us nice trinkets.
As usual in my company things were often arranged at the last minute so I didn't have a lot of time to plan.
We planned some meals and sightseeing...but the biggest plan was a trip that Kasia was arranging to go to the Polish mountains and in the end it would be me, Azaz, herself and Asia that signed up...
If I remember correctly I would go to Azaz's hotel the night he was first in Warsaw and we had a bit of a chat in the hotel bar, he didn't drink alcohol but as usual I would have a few beers
I believe the day that Azaz started in the office I remember talking to Asia outside of the office, she was excited as she got her permanent contract and a pay rise and I also consoled her about this supervisor as they were quite close. I remember this conversation being very warm and friendly and I saw it as a sign that tensions had calmed down and we were back on a path to being friendly.
At work I would be in a lot of meetings with Azaz and the managers to discuss the agenda for his training and also helped him get around the office.
The first night after work I believe Azaz came to mine...we were just popping to Auchan to buy some snacks and drinks and Asia came up to talk, she seemed to want to say something to me but held back with Azaz there...leaving me a little confused but also perhaps hopeful that she had been thinking about things...
That night me and Azaz had a good long talk about a lot of subjects, but I'll be honest it was so long ago I can't really remember what we talked about, he was a very wise person and I know he gave me a lot of advice about work, life and matters of the heart
She would text me after and we would play a game over the mobile against each other that she had found similar to one of the board games I had bought and she was particularly good at.
After work on the Tuesday we had arranged a bit of a walking tour for Azaz, to go from the office with a small group, through the old town and down Nowy Swiat street to teach Azaz a bit about Warsaw and show him some sights, I think there were about 6-8 of us...though the girls were giving him lots of tourist friendly information I was a bit distracted...
The reason being was that me and Asia were walking ahead of the group, the conversation was very friendly, though I stuck away from talking about our past or potential future, I was just happy to be enjoying her company again.
Eventually we got to this restaurant called Gościniec, a chain of Polish restaurants but one I liked because they serve Zurek in the bread bowl which I really enjoyed. Unsurprisingly given the walk I was talking to Asia a lot and we were being playful, she would insist that I have some of her food and at the end of the night when she left I received a very warm hug from her. In my mind I was very happy, it felt to me like she wanted to get back together...or was at least thinking about this.
By the Wednesday however I noticed that Asia was being quieter with me at work, I had arranged a games night that night but everyone cancelled and Asia also decided not to join, though we messaged a little in the evening but not too much as she was becoming less responsive
One the Thursday in the office I noticed she was acting very distant to me and I was left feeling confused, I made the mistake and texted her about it asking if she felt weird because of our situation and this just seemed to make her angry.
Originally she was supposed to join us at this Vietnamese restaurant Basia had found and was very close to Asia's accommodation but she dropped out and I was worried I had said or done something wrong but couldn't figure out what...
After this I had little to no contact with Asia in the office and no contact outside.
The following week we took Azaz to the Palace of Science of Culture,
Finally we went to this rather popular restaurant called Manekin and had some pancakes for dinner (after queuing for about 30 minutes in light rain). There would be some nights out with work colleagues that week to places like Bar Muranow and I would go to my friend Artur's concert in La Boheme.
On the Friday after work we would get into Kasia's car and head to the Mountains in the south, it was a long drive and a slightly awkward one with Asia in the front and me and Azaz in the back, we would talk and sleep a little. My friend Basia had given me a book to read called 'The subtle art of not giving a f*ck' which I found very helpful, one of those self help books that were about taking control over your life and your thoughts.
After a couple of stops and much driving we arrived to our accommodation outside of Zakopane and went out to a local restaurant (very much in the style of the mountains) had some food and watched some people dancing, I was trying to engage Asia in friendly conversation but without much success, after which we headed back and called it a night.
We got up early the next day and drove to the car park by the mountain trail leading to Morskie Oko and started to walk along the trail, I was mainly in the front with Kasia and Azaz in the middle and Asia towards the back. It wasn't a steep climb as it was basically a popular tourist trail, horse drawn carts would go past us occasionally and we would take in the beautiful scenery along the way, the sun was warm and the air was clear and I really loved the place.
We made it to our first stop which was out shelter, which meant taking a bit of a path off the main route and down some slightly steep stairs until we got to this wooden lodge, there we would store our backpacks and get some food, Kasia being rather tired after the long drive the day before.
After this stop we headed back up the trail and eventually got to the main point which was the lake with a large wooden lodge beside it where we stayed for a while, had a drink or two and enjoyed the scenery.
At this point I found myself talking to Asia again when we were alone and asked if she hated me...or something like that, citing the way she had been acting and how she kept her distance on the walk up...she maintained that everything was fine and she often walked that way in the mountains and it felt like a slight truce was made.
Then we made the further trek up to the second lake...now this was a tough journey, up steep paths, clambering over rocks and having to take a few breaks along the way...but I was determined, Asia and Kasia had joked before the trip that I wouldn't make it to the top...as let's say my fitness wasn't the greatest and I was determined to prove them wrong.
In fact I was the first to reach the destination...though this was a little selfish as Azaz was having a tough time at points of the route and the girls were helping him, but all I could think about was accomplishing this goal.
We would stay at the top for a while, have some snacks, take some pictures and enjoy the glorious view below us. On the way down me and Asia were ahead of the others and we talked a little, I was quizzing her about Spanish I think as she was learning it at the time. Going down was a lot easier a journey than the trek upwards though I'm sure I slipped a couple of times.
We would after a long while make it back to the lodge we were staying, lay out our stuff for the evening, get a shower and then have something to eat and would settle down with some drinks and got talking to a group of Polish people who were staying there, Kasia would play the guitar and then I began to notice Asia talking a lot with the new people and being a bit flirtacious with one of the guys...I think his name was Darek but I'm not certain. Azaz was the first to call it a night and then Kasia.
I remember popping outside and when I came back I saw Asia was gone and assumed she had gone to bed, it was fairly late and I decided also to call it a night, so going upstairs I went to the corridor that Kasia and Asia were based and said goodnight and then crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep.
I had a hard time sleeping...partly because some of the other residents were snoring quite loudly...and then I heard Asia and Darek coming up the stairs...so apparently she hadn't gone to bed, I peeked open my eyes and saw them holding hands and then go to Darek's room...my heart sunk and I had to go downstairs for some air, I saw a small group of the people we had been talking to earlier and sat with them.
I asked them what has happened and they told me how Asia and Darek had been very close, in fact the were made to feel very uncomfortable by the scene...I opened up and told them about my situation with Asia and they were a bit shocked, having no idea and saying they would have stopped their friend if they had known, to which I replied that she was single and it was her freedom to go with whoever she wanted, even if I didn't feel that way deep down, they had some rather nasty remarks about her after this that I won't go into, we shared some spirits and I abandoned a hip flask given to me by Asia as a birthday present outside. Eventually I went to bed and ended up having some horrific nightmares...stronger than I had felt in a long time...
The next morning I didn't want to see Asia, so I told Azaz and Kasia what had happened and made my own way back to the carpark ahead of the group. My mind racing the whole way and likely I was talking to myself as I sometimes do when stressed.
Once I got to the carpark I sat on a bench and threw myself into my book which brought me some comfort, after sometime, at least an hour maybe two the others arrived, they didn't see me and I could see they were searching for me acting a little concerned but I soon caught up to them and we got in the car and headed to Krakow, during the journey I would read and keep mostly quiet. I couldn't even look at Asia.
The plan that day was to sightsee around Krakow a bit, as Asia had lived there while studying she acted as tour guide. However I kept my distance and wouldn't talk with her, although she would try and talk to me a couple of times but I would shrug her off. We went to look around Wawel a bit, to see the dragon statue next to the river that would occasionally breathe fire and then we went to a restaurant for some food.
Kasia was again tired, the days had been tough on her, after the meal we headed back to the car...but this time me and Asia were ahead and we started talking, I was brutally honest about how I felt and she would deny anything happened the night before, eventually admitting to 'just holding hands' with the guy when I told her what I saw...he conversation got deep and she opened up about a past relationship which had caused her some trauma and we kind of patched things up.
In reality despite how hurt I had been I was happy to talk to her again and sort of relieved that maybe we could at least be friends again, but at subsequent stops I could see she was reluctantly talking to me.
We would make it back to Warsaw and she was dropped off in the city while me and Azaz were dropped off near the office, I thanked Kasia for the amazing trip and she went home, I would talk with Azaz a little that night and he would give me really wise advice on how to handle the situation, namely not to talk about it with her and to move on...stupidly I would do the opposite...
The next day in the office I confronted Asia over text about the things she had lied about in our conversation in Krakow and got some explosive messages back and was told to leave her alone as she had to calm down...I knew I had made a big mistake and left her alone...
The following week Louise (one of the senior people in the UK I had worked closely with) visited the office and I had a lot of meetings with her and Azaz to discuss the training. We would go out to the river as a group from the office with Azaz and another night to a museum called the Fotoplastikon (where you basically looked at slides through viewpoints that were inside a large cylinder), inside I saw a poster for a show they did about Spitzbergen...the place Asia always talked about and Damian suggest I send her a picture about it, I did but got a rather mute response. Then we had a meal in a fancy restaurant called the Soul Kitchen.
A group of us went to an escape room which I was gifted as a birthday present from the team and made it through (just and perhaps slightly over time), it was a space themed event where we solved clues, visited other planets and eventually found our freedom, it was a lot of fun and we had a few cheeky drinks afterwards from a gas station
I was to do my next stupid thing...I felt bad for Asia and was keen to rebuild things with her, I thought about how her past relationship had hurt her and so I tried to do something special for her...
I'm not much of an artist but I could draw things I saw so I did a pencil drawing based off a picture of Spitsbergen I found online, it took me a couple of evenings to make and on the back I wrote some motivational points for Asia which I translated to Polish and over night I went into the office and left it on her desk knowing that she always went in early ahead of everyone else. That day I either worked from home or had the day off, but I wasn't in the office.
I didn't get a message from Asia which I thought my gesture would have provoked so I texted her to ask about what she thought of the picture and I got a very angry response saying she didn't want anything from me, I was holding her back from moving on and we couldn't be friends, in fact that it wasn't normal to be friends with an ex and to leave her alone...
It was at this point I knew I had messed up and finally accepted that I had to just move on...it hit me like a freight train and I felt broken inside, I would cry that night and in the office I was a shadow of my former self, I had to hold back a flood of sadness at my desk, listening to music to drown out other people and to prevent myself from hearing Asia...the sadder part, it was part of my job to help her learn and do her job so I couldn't escape her...
From that point I made things as professional as possible between us and stopped t