Friday, April 27, 2012

Midway Update

On May 1, I will have been here in Poznań for three months of my 6-month fellowship -- the midway point.  I'm not as far along with my research project as I'd hoped, but we've made good progress in the last couple weeks, with the coming few weeks likely to be quite busy with project activities.  In recent days, I've had several events worth reporting, and I will add a few peripheral updates as well.  Let me start with my efforts to learn Polish.

The Polish Language

I very much enjoy acquiring new language skills, and learning Polish has been a delight, but it's also a great challenge.  I continue to take three hours of formal class lessons each week, and I study on my own as well.  Polish is a beautiful language, and I love hearing it spoken.  Increasingly, I'm able to capture the gist of conversations, television programs, and other sources.  My vocabulary is expanding, but correct usage is extremely difficult.  Let me give you an example of why that is.  In the Polish language, nouns and adjectives can be used in seven distinct cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, instrumental, etc.).  Each case requires the memorization of word endings for both adjectives and nouns, and the changes can be significant.  Additionally, nouns can be feminine, masculine or neuter in their endings, and that affects endings in each of the seven cases.  Moreover, endings vary for singular and plural usage.  To complicate it further, masculine noun endings (and their accompanying adjectives) differ depending on whether the noun refers to an animate or inanimate object in some cases.  And, naturally, there are exceptions.  You can understand why, even with a Ph.D., I still quake before each Polish exam!  Nevertheless, I'm doing alright and can usually make myself understood in everyday situations. 

Meeting with the Rektor and Prorektor

Last Tuesday, thanks to a request from my colleague Dr. Ryszard Ławniczak here, I met with the rektor and prorektor of the Poznań University of Economics (equivalent to chancellor and vice-chancellor at my home university, UNC Charlotte).  Both spoke impeccable English, but appreciated my limited efforts in Polish.  They were most warm in their welcome to me and stressed how much they respect and appreciate the Fulbright program that brought me here.  Both gentlemen are economic scholars and were among the group of economists in Poland who successfully navigated and led the transition from a centrally-planned to a market economy; they truly are among the architects of contemporary Poland.  On behalf of UNC Chancellor Phil Dubois and the UNC Charlotte Office of International Program, I was able to present UNC Charlotte mementos to Rektor Dr. Marian Gorynia and Prorektor Dr. Maciej Żukowski, and they reciprocated.

Dr. Żukowski, Dr. Freitag, Dr. Gorynia and Dr. Ławniczak

Exchanging gifts with Poznań University of Economics Rektor
Dr. Marian Gorynia
Graduate PR Seminar

Also on Tuesday, I met for two hours in a formal seminar with graduate PR students here at the univerisity.  I spoke on the roles of functions of PR in the U.S. and the similarities and differences between U.S. and Polish practice.  I also discussed emerging trends and responsibilities for PR such as public diplomacy, crisis communication, issues management, development communication and corporate social responsibility.  The students challenged me with some thoughtful questions and clearly have a deep understanding of the nuances and subtleties of contemporary PR practice as well as an appreciation for its theoretical underpinnings.  Following the evening seminar, the students kindly invited me to join them for pizza and a beverage at one of the many nearby cozy restaurants, and I could hardly refuse -- a most enjoyable way to conclude!

Graduate PR students invited me for an informal continuation
of our seminar discussion.

EURO 2012 News Conference

Yesterday, my colleague Dr. Jacek Trębecki invited me to attend and observe a news conference related to the upcoming EURO 2012 events.  Poznań will host several matches in Europe's football (soccer for U.S. readers) championship.  Here are websites where you can learn more about this important event for Poznań:;  Poznań will host early round games involving Croatia, Ireland and Italy in mid-June.  The news conference was held to announce the winner of a contest to design a chair, made from recyclable cardboard, to be used in Poznań's "Fan Zone" -- a free, large-screen video viewing area in the heart of the city.  The event was well-planned and conducted, attracting about 20 local and regional media representatives.  Held in a popular Poznań disco that was once a small factory, the setting was well chosen and prepared.  A display of entries provided an appropriate backdrop, and the participation of the captain of Poznań's professional football team added celebrity status.  Later last evening, and again early this morning, I was able to watch coverage of the event on television news programs.

Media representatives await the announcement of the
competition winner.

The winning entry (on the left) is announced.  The simple
design is highly portable, folds flat and easily supports
an adult, as the Poznań football team captain (2nd from
left) demonstrated a moment later.

A display of some of the other entries.

Journalists were able to conduct individual interviews with
winning designers following the formal news conference.

Dr. Jacek Trębecki and his staff with PRElite, his PR firm,
can relax a bit following the successful news conference
they helped plan and conduct.

Spring has Firmly Arrived!

The weather the last few days has been gorgeous, and the forecast is for more of the same.  That's great, because next week marks two of the most important holidays in the Polish year.  Tuesday, May 1, is Labor Day, and Thursday, May 3, is Constitution Day.  Consequently, many Poles will make the entire week a holiday break.  The trees are leafing out, tulips are in full bloom all over the city, and the many city fountains have been turned on.  At the same time, crews appear to be working all over the city, repairing and sprucing up the city in anticipation of the huge influx of people expected in June for the EURO 2012 matches.  The frigid temperatures of February seem a distant memory, and the promise of a lush late spring and summer is being realized.

In Park Cytadela, near our apartment, people have returned
to enjoy the sunshine.  That's a skate and skateboard area
in the distance.

Just like anywhere else, parents enjoy introducing their
children to the park swing, and they proudly snap photos.

Robin in the cafe/restaurant in the center of Park Cytadela.

Workers laying sod on one of the many park-like boulevards
in Poznań.  Renewal efforts are going on everywhere in
the city in anticipation of EURO 2012 visitors.

A Puzzler

I'll leave you with this puzzle to solve.  Before the trees leafed out this spring, visible in many of the trees were spheres of green as you'll see in the photo below.  The material remained green throughout the winter.  Can you guess what it is?  I'll reveal the explanation in my next post.

What are these mysterious green spheres that appeared
throughout the winter in the otherwise bare trees?

That's it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Until next time -- do widzenia!

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