to read the first part of this story, click here: the decision

There were only 7 of us going on the trip, 6 students and Fred, our professor. Michael, Teré and I took a plane from Detroit to London. Then another to Frankfort. In Frankfort, we met Fred, Lori & Brad. Lori had her 100 pack of xacto blades confiscated by security. The next leg was much different. Even though it was still Pan Am, it looked and felt like we travelled back in time about 20 years. The plane was old and worn. The crew was old and worn as well as Polish. I would soon learn that everything was old and worn in Poland, even the new stuff.The flight was uneventful, the arrival, not so much. There was no jetway so we had to walk down the stairs outside, in the cold. It was February. At the top of the stairs was an armed guard counting the number of people who got off the plane. We walked into the terminal and collected our luggage. There were no carts so we had to carry, kick or drag it all ourselves across the dirty floor. We stood in queues in front of steel gray doors lining a tall wall that did not reach the ceiling. You walked through and realized you were in sort of a no man's land with another row of doors in front of you. This new wall also did not reach the ceiling but was too high to jump. And as the heavy door slammed shut behind you, you got this feeling there was no turning back. No escape until you served your time. Some of the polish professors and students met us once we were through customs. We then got on a bus and travelled to our dorm. I looked out at the gray. Not only was the February weather gray, but so was the city. Most of the buildings were built after the war. But they were falling apart. What did I expect?We pulled up to our dorm and I was happily surprised by this cheery yellow building. It didn't look new, but well-kept and nice. That old saying is true: Don't judge a book by its cover. The memory of the lobby has faded over time. I remember dirty beige. An elevator that mostly didn't work. Some phone booths that usually stood empty. Nothing cheery or inviting.We trudged up the stairs and there were plenty of people to help with the luggage. Bradley & Michael would have their own suite on the second (first) floor. The four of us girls would have a suite on the third (second) floor. Lori & Teré would share a room and I would share with Noppawan who would be arriving soon from Thailand.Each suite contained 2 bedrooms with 2 single beds, 2 bookshelves and one armoire. There was small bath, shower and sink but no toilet, and another room which had a counter and some cabinets. The communal toilets were down the hall to the left. The communal kitchens were down the hall to the right. There were no refrigerators, you had to buy what you needed each day.I should also note that the sheets threw us for a loop. There was a flat sheet and another sheet that seemed more like a pocket. But it wasn't big enough the slip over the mattress. How long did we go before we figured out that it was a duvet and we were supposed to fold those scratchy wool blankets inside and use the flat sheet on the mattress?One thing I regret was not taking more photos of everything. But I only had 16 or 18 rolls of film for 4 months. I had to ration it. Why would I want a reminder of all that gray?