Winter School 2009 took place last weekend in the national park of the Karkonosze Mountains, Poland. The First Years and anybody else who chose to attend, were put up in two huts, Samotnia and Strzecha, located 500 metres from each other, with the nearest city of Karpacz situated a good 1.5 hour walk through the snow-covered mountains. Given the circumstance, making a quick and painless get-away from the place is near impossible. The logic then for the remote choice of location, as explained by Poldi, is somewhat tautological: Making a quick and painless get away from the Winter School is near impossible. The resulting corollary is that everyone must spend all their time with each other. If you have any doubts about such a model of integration, of forced companionship amongst poor, unsuspecting students from all possible backgrounds, the Winter School is the place to be. Surprisingly enough, the model works.
Successfully into its Second Year, the School continues to be a place of great learning alongside intellectual and physical stimulation for its participants. Informally however, it has has been in existence for a much longer time. A strong indicator of its continuing popularity is the fact that students and teachers alike have unabashedly fallen in love with the place, expressing ardent wishes for a continued association with it: these range widely from wanting to be buried there to wanting to be married in the hallowed precincts of Samotnia. Although wry bystanders have marked there might not be much difference between the two.
Winter School 2009 opened with an informal party on Thursday night which lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. Inevitably, students were late for the official introduction to the Winter School after which participants were divided into four groups according to the workshops that they would be attending. Despite the many eye-opening discussions about the resource curse, the Holy Roman Empire, the femininity of the European Union and court room simulations, most of the learning ultimately took place outside the classroom, as is often the case with such events. The parties at the end of each day provided natural laboratories for observing the effects of alcohol on social cohesion and cultural sensitivity. The locals were also integrated into the festivities creating many an awkward situation involving the foreign female students in particular.
Eye-witnesses also reported two individuals running naked through the snow in brave defiance of the wind and the oppressive weather conditions. This was undoubtedly in deference to the wishes of their teacher who was only trying to encourage participants to test their physical and mental endurance in trying circumstances. The mountain hike the next day for example. To put a long story short, some climbed the mountain, some did not. Amongst those who did not, most could not. At least one could not breathe and another had her knee broken from the festivities of the previous night.
Lastly, I would like to end this report by sharing what is perhaps the most important thing learnt at the Winter School. This is something every human being in all of time has undoubtedly wondered about and searched for answers to in vain.
Both Summer and Winter Schools, aside from being places of great learning, are also places of great loss. Apart from the chances of not seeing again all the wonderful people you meet, there is also a great danger that you never see again your favourite mp3 player, your diary, your prized copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide that you carry everywhere to spoons, coats and blankets. The loss of these beloved and much needed objects leads one to the inevitable question: where do all lost things go? Surely, they must go somewhere.
A fellow participant was kind enough to share with me his insight about the location of these objects: According to him, all of them are sucked into the buttered cat anti-gravity vortex. As we all know, cats always land on their feet. And as per Murphy’s Laws, a buttered toast always lands the buttered side down. Now, if one were to tape a buttered toast to the back of a cat and drop it from a great height, as it approaches the ground it will slow down, hover and slowly begin to rotate, producing an anti-gravity effect.
This is where all lost things eventually find their way. For a practical application of the Buttered Cat Anti-Gravity Field please click here. Otherwise just have a great day and visit the Karkonosze Mountains when life and time allow.