Krakow, Poland Main Square


The Main Square in Krakow dates back to the 12th century. This center of Old Town Krakow has been rebuilt many times over history because of invasions and destruction. The current Cloth Hall- the large central building with the multiple arches- was rebuilt in 1555 and was always a central trading place between the East and West. Throughout the Middle Ages, merchants sold goods here and traders brought goods from throughout Europe, Asia, and Persia. This central square has been listed as the best public space in Europe.

Throughout the day, the Main Square bustles with activity, including cafes, public gathering areas, and plump pigeons.


The florist below sells fall bouquets made from leaves and autumn flowers in preparation for All Saint’s Day, when Polish people will visit their relatives’ graves and bring floral tributes.


By night, the Main Square continues to thrive with restaurants, shopping, and gathering.




Welcome to Poland! Witamy w Polsce!

Free Beer

Welcome to Poland! This post will be devoted to “first impressions” of Poland. One of the first things to greet us upon stepping out into the walking paths of Poland was a life-sized mug of beer. The grounds surrounding the ancient castle and cathedral in Krakow have lovely walking paths, and some targeted advertising. The mug of beer is holding a sign that says “Free Beer”.

As we continued our strolling, we came upon this gentleman dressed in some sort of traditional garments and playing the accordion. He gives the camera a sophisticated, one-eyed glance.

Polish Accordion Player

We learned the legend of the dragon of Krakow, who tormented the city because he was eating farmers’ livestock. The king offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man who could rid the city of the dragon. A peddler’s son created a mixture made with copper and then filled the belly of a sheep’s carcass with the heavy metals. He sewed the sheep back up and planted the body in the field. The peddler’s son tricked the dragon into eating the sheep filled with metal. According to legend, the dragon’s belly grew hot and the dragon raced down to the river and drank water and blew fire, drank water and blew fire. Eventually, he drank so much water that he exploded. So, the peddler’s son won the king’s daughter, and the Polish have a statue on the Vistula River devoted to the dragon (not the peddler or the king or the king’s daughter). The dragon statue breathes fire every couple of minutes. Polish sculptor Bronisław Chromy created the dragon statue.

Fire-Breathing Dragon Statue

Along the river, Polish families, students, tourists, and Krakow locals enjoyed the cool fall air and the pleasant intermingling smells of leaves and smoke from leaf fires. Here, people feed the swans, ducks, and pigeons on the banks of the Vistula River, safe from the fire-breathing dragon of days gone by.

Feed swans and geese on the Vistula River

First impressions of Poland bring humor and history.

How Education intersects with Intergenerational Adolescent Pregnancy in Brazil

This current event post is contributed by Kate. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Preview this new article and then contribute to the discussion questions posed. Thank you and enjoy!

Link to the article –

When looking over Vandyworld, I was immediately drawn to your visit to Brazil. I had the opportunity to visit Brazil for ten days during my fall semester in Argentina. If you left the States on the 21st, then we actually overlapped time in Rio without knowing it. I spent four days in Salvador and six in Rio de Janeiro. Rio is a dream. The mountains, the beach, the food, the people, the weather – I quickly fell in love. However, it is impossible to think of Rio without considering  a feature that dominates the city almost as much as the white beaches: the favelas. Looking out the window as our plane landed, I was stunned. It was an endless urban sea. There were miles and miles of houses stacked on top of each other that look like colorful postcard from a distance. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone who has visited a favela, kept up with the news, or at least seen “City of God” can attest.
The sheer number of people living in such a small place poses problems. Then, extreme poverty, lack of property ownership, and a large drug trade come into the forefront. Not far behind, is the relationship between education and pregnancy. As you stated in the November 16th blog post, “Eve described that one of their primary goals was to increase the average age of first pregnancy in the favela. When the Center first began, Eve said that women in the favela typically became pregnant at age 14, and that they have shifted the average age to 21. She said they feel this is still too young, because young women will not have had the opportunity at age 21 to have completed college.”
The article found that the level of education in young women and men is an important factor in the repetition of adolescent fertility across generations. Poverty is perpetuated because pregnancy interrupts a woman’s schooling and reduces their chance of entering the job market. This applies specifically to Brazil. “Both women and men were more likely to have had an early pregnancy experience if their mother had had a child before age 20 (odds ratios, 2.0 and 2.3, respectively).” When young people have greater access to education, they also have improved opportunities to avoid early childbearing.
The AfroReggae Cultural Group in Vigário Geral and subsequently in other locations is the backbone that can be crucial in people living in the area’s lives. The social, musical, educational, and training programs are vital to the community, both in the unification of inhabitants and in the preservation of culture.
Some questions to think about…

  1. Education clearly makes a world of difference lowering the birth rate. Is this more effective when the source is internal or external? Can some of the largest favelas in Rio generate programs to address this problem? Where could funds come from?
  2. How could one address the juxtaposition of the favela to more developed areas of the city? Where does one begin to bridge the gap?
  3. With the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics quickly approaching, all eyes will be on Rio. Will these statistics (average age of childbirth is 21) hold up under a global stage of scrutiny?

Special Olympics in Uzbekistan

This current event post is contributed by Jenna. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Preview this new article and then contribute to the discussion questions posed. Thank you and enjoy!

Uzbekistan’s first Special Olympics challenges stigma against children with disabilities

This article discusses the first-ever National Special Olympics held in Uzbekistan in 2012. It was a very exciting step for the nation in moving towards eliminating the stigma associated with disabilities. It is also a demonstration of the Uzbekistan government’s commitment to supporting and protecting children with disabilities.

The article mentions that the number of registered children with disabilities in Uzbekistan has been increasing, with worsening economic conditions cited as a possible factor in the increase. The major infrastructure in place for children with special needs in Uzbekistan is institutionalization. However, a study showed that many of the children who are currently institutionalized could live with their families if the proper support systems existed. In 2005, the Ministry of Public Education issued a decree encouraging all education departments to mainstream children with disabilities.

I chose this article because it is a mini-success story that inspires optimism about a subject that can sometimes be upsetting. I am not surprised that Uzbekistan was so late to hold its own Special Olympics. Given the economic situation, that is not necessarily a priority for them. But I think the fact that they did take this step is indicative of a bigger movement within the country to increase support for children with special needs.

I also think that the current system of institutionalization in Uzbekistan poses some challenges for the future of this movement. The goal of improving the lives of children with special needs is theoretically consistent with the system of institutionalization, but there are some better alternatives that could accomplish this. I am particularly interested in hearing your thoughts on this controversial subject, as we have to be realistic in terms of what is feasible for this nation.

1.  The first-ever International Special Olympics was held in the United States in 1968. Why do you think it took so long for Uzbekistan to hold its own National Special Olympics?

2.  What are some ways you think the Uzbekistan government could continue to support children with special needs?

3.  What are some other reasons why the number of registered children with disabilities in Uzbekistan may be increasing?

4.  What are your thoughts on mainstreaming children with special needs into the public education system? When is it most effective? What are some of the risks?


Welcome to VandyWorld!

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