Friday, November 20, 2015

Hej Lala

I'm a walker. Through some combination of public transportation and huffing it on foot, I get where I'm going. You'd know I'm a walker just by checking out my gear - flat, comfy shoes, courier bag, umbrella, pack of tissues (my nose runs in cold weather). Heels? Those are car shoes. I haven't worn them for years. I'm an experienced pedestrian. I always keep right. I look out for doggie bombs. I look both ways before I cross the street.

As a pedestrian there is something that I really cannot avoid. Doggie bombs? I do my best. Cars? They're bigger, so they always win. No, they're not what I had in mind. It's catcalling, yes, catcalling. It happens to me occasionally here in Poland...still...even at my age. The catcaller is usually in a group of men, often road workers or construction workers, sometimes students. The catcalling consists of anything from a light comment that would be considered a compliment if it weren't shouted at me on the street (hey, you look nice today) all the way to the most vulgar commentary on me, my body, what the catcaller would like to do to me.

I can take a compliment. I have no trouble recognizing the difference between someone chatting me up and someone crossing the line. Years ago a very nice road worker gave me a very polite shout of "good morning" from across the street and told me that he had wanted to ask me out for a coffee for a month. I spoke to him for awhile and thanked him for his invitation, but declined. He said it was a pity. No catcalling there. All in all a nice interaction. Another gentleman invited me for coffee on the street after witnessing my amazing parking skills. I declined. He said it was a pity. No harm, no foul.

The roofers working on my building were catcalling me from the roof and were mortified when I went inside to the top floor where I live, opened the window, and called them out on it. A guy on the tram years ago invited me to his place, but in much more impolite words. Two guys on the bus made oral sex gestures to me. There was the time... Ok, you get the picture.

All of those people were strangers. Never to be seen again. But I have some neighbors that catcall me on a regular basis. I'm not sure if there are two or three of them. They spend their evenings on the balcony having a drink and a smoke. When the weather was better, a catcall from them was guaranteed - some kissy noises, some commentary on your ass, you know, standard. Now that the weather has changed, it's getting harder to catcall. They cannot spend endless hours drinking and smoking on the balcony, and the ladies walking by are all bundled up. Plus, most of the foot traffic on my street is from people who live here. No fresh meat.

A new tactic is needed and has been duly implemented. It goes something like this...

Almost 8 p.m. on a dimly lit street..

Smoking, drinking catcaller from his balcony: Hey Babe!

I don't know why, but this time I stop in my tracks and look up with an inquiring look.

Catcaller: (exhaling a lungful of cigarette smoke, leans over the rail, totally relaxed and in fact looking quite tired) Why don't you come up here and give me a blow job?

Me: Do you propose that to everyone who walks by?

Catcaller: Nope. Just the women.

Me: Any takers?

Catcaller: Not a one.

Me: Well, you're disappointed again because I won't take you up on your offer. 

And the catcaller waves me on with his cigaretted hand, looking down the street for his next victim ;)

The most surprising thing about that interaction for me was not his proposition, nor his calm demeanor. It was the fact that I called him Pan. Why Chris, why?

Monday, November 9, 2015

So I bought this...

So I bought this at a flea market thinking it was a makatka for the wall. Now I see that it isn't quite right for a makatka - the pattern and shape aren't good for hanging over the stove so what should I do with it? Any ideas? 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Można? Można! Czyli Halloween in Poland 2015

Our Halloween in the village turned out to be a great success. We braved the cold, and hit about half the houses in the village before it got dark. We left the after dark trick-or-treating to the "big kids". And we had lots of trick-or-treaters or Halloweeners as the girls call them. There were skeletons and vampires and scary Dziady-inspired girls with flowers in their hair and "blood" running down their faces. For me, Amerykanka, it was fantastic, a taste of home, of my own childhood. 

I asked the drunks at the shop if they had anything for me, and I got some spare change and an offer of a kiss. I mean I was wearing a costume after all. I was a not very scary scarecrow. Lizzie was a rock star. Rosie was a purple witch. Misiu wore a Scream mask. We represented well. And did I send all the kids out with Starbucks and Costa Coffee bags? Yes I did. I was saving them up for ages.

And now the calm after the storm. Till next year!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

You immigrant

This week there was an interview with a Muslim lady in Wroclaw and her recent experiences. She said in the interview that in recent weeks as anti-immigrant sentiments have grown, the environment around her has become more hostile. They have been verbally abused. Her husband has been attacked, and she has been spit on.

An article today tells the story of a boy beaten at school. They chanted, "you immigrant".

People accuse me of refusing to acknowlege the bigger picture of the "immigrant problem". My acquaintainces say that is life, I am naive, she should get over it, what did she expect parading around in her head scarf, they do worse things in Muslim countries than spit on you, she is a representative of the barbaric acts carried out in the name of her god around the world and as such shares responsibility. 

So it's okay to spit on her? 

I am not willfully ignorant of the world around me. I am not ignoring the bigger picture, but I am asking people to see the smaller picture. The smaller picture of a lady walking home from the store who was spit on. The smaller picture of her fear, her fury, her shame and humiliation, her paralysis as she wavered between wiping the spit from her face and picking up her shopping from the sidewalk. If we lose the ability to see the individual in the group and the human in the individual, I fear for us. Nobody's god will help us then.

Poland is not for everybody as one acquaintaince pointed out to me yesterday. It is true. Poland is not for everybody, but it should be for banal reasons like the weather or taxes. It should not be because we threaten people on the street.

I have been spit on. It was by accident. The spitter didn't hear me walk up beside him. He apologized profusely, tried to clean me up, and offered me 50 złoty compensation which I didn't accept and somehow made me feel worse. It feels terrible being spit on.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Orchard Festival

As it turns out we missed the Harvest Festival (Dożynki) last week because we were visiting a friend. We go to Dożynki every year, so we could stand to skip it this year. What we could not skip was a visit to Bolesławiec on the way to our friends. We have just about everything you can buy from the Polish pottery Mecca, but I did find a few things our collection was missing.

They have a whole basket, if anyone is interested.

We started our Orchard Festival Sunday with a bike ride. I've just returned to cycling after years, so the plan is to build up my distance each week. Because we go on bike paths through the forest, we get a whole body workout - or at least that's how it feels this morning. I could definitely see the signs of autumn on our ride. The morning breeze was crisp, and some leaves have already fallen. 

After that we headed off by car to the festival. We started from a musical performance by the local school kids. Na Straganie is really funny when each vegetable is acted out by another kid.

Then we hit the stands to buy some apples and grab something to eat. There were so many people buying fruit I couldn't even get a picture.

Autumn is everywhere even at home.

I love autumn in Poland so be prepared for more unnecessary and repetitive autumn posts.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

That's so (sic!)

Justinowi Bieberowi powiększono na fotkach mięśnie i wypukłość gatek opinających krocze (sic!).

This sentence is taken from the Polish magazine Polityka from an article about the use of Photoshop.

Over the years, more and more English has slipped into the Polish language. I'm not a language purist, and English is my language so all the better for me. When I first came to Poland, the common "okay" saved me many a time. Having said that, when incorporating a foreign word or phrase into our own language, we should know what it means and strive to use it properly. 

I had a very frustrating boss in Poland who used to mix lunch and launch, two words he constantly used while speaking and writing in English and in Polish. I pointed it out to him, but he lunched/launched on. I think he was messing with me. He also mixed up BS and BO - bullshit and body odor. He'd walk around the office shouting, "That's total BO!" I didn't tell him about it. He was kind of a jerk. I told the rest of the office though. I'm kind of a jerk too.

It's important that when using WTF in Polish that you either say "what the fuck" or the censored version "what the what". If you choose to say the letters WTF only, the Polish pronunciation probably isn't the best idea. Well, it always makes me laugh anyhow. The most important thing is the context, then the pronunciation. I've yet to see WTF used out of context in Poland.

I overheard a group of teenagers talking on the bus about how one of the boys almost managed to ask out a girl he likes. "So close," the one boy said in English. It was perfect.

And that's why we use a word or phrase in another language - because it is a better match to our situation...unless someone is a jerk and wants to pretend to be sooooo international. Those people don't count. Context or no context, pronunciation or no pronunciation - they're still jerks.

That brings us back to (sic!). I was taught in school back in the dark ages that it should be written [sic] and in no way means that the aforementioned text is sick or is some kind of situational fuck-up czyli fakap for the Polish corporate audience. It is primarily used when you are quoting some original text, and there is an error in it. The [sic] indicates that you are aware of the error, not just a poor typist or autocorrect victim. If you the author would like to write something incorrectly you may also add [sic] to your own text. If you would like to write something that is so absurd or crazy that people will assume it is a mistake, you can also use [sic]. It is less often used to point out archaic use of words or erroneous logic in a quoted text. On Facebook it is usually used to embarrass someone who doesn't know that the word definitely doesn't have an "a" in it. 

My point here is [sic] does not mean chory. So what kind of commentary is Polityka making about the fact that Justin Bieber's muscles and, um, package were allegedly enlarged using Photoshop in his advertising campaign for Calvin Klein? I guess that it is so absurd that without the (sic!) you'd think it was some kind of a joke. Maybe. I'm not so sure.


I started to think that I was unfair to Polityka maybe because I don't think it is at all absurd that Bieber had himself Photoshopped in an ad campaign. I will give Polityka the benefit of the doubt. I decided to Google sic in combination with different publications and check the the top 20 hits. What did I find? I found that usage in Polish is almost exclusively to show absurdity. Sometimes the statements are not absurd enough in my opinion. It should be used when it's so absurd you'd think it was a mistake. In English it was almost exclusively used to indicate an error in spelling or grammar in the original text. So let's agree that we use it differently. And as pointed out in the comments, sic is Latin which I am aware of.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Boga przecież nie ma

Raising your children without religion doesn't mean they have to be ignorant of religion. It also doesn't mean that they lack a moral foundation. But it is not without work. Here's what we've done so far.

Like most people, we started our children out on fairy tales. We talked about what was good and bad in the story, what was magical, what was make-believe, what was real, what we would do in the same situation. Then we moved on to mythology. I am not at all interested in mythology so we bought some mythology books that the girls showed an interest in. That's when I spotted Jest wiele wiar - O co pytają dzieci  by Monique Gilbert.

The book contains 4 sections of 4 religions. We learn about a day, a week, and a year in the life of a Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Jewish boy and girl. We learn about important events for each religion and compare and contrast the beliefs, traditions, and rituals. We also learn about important figures in each religion. This book, although for children, is very informative. I learned a lot from it. The intention of the book is for children to feel comfortable with religion and to understand people who practice those religions better.

Here's a quick peek inside:

Next we chose this book Boga przecież nie ma - Książka o niewierze w boga by Patrik Lindenfors. What I like most about this book is the support it gives to a child to not believe in something - to not believe in something that an adult tells you, to not believe because it doesn't make sense to you, to not believe because you don't like it, to not believe simply because you don't and that is your right even if you are a child. 

Here's a peek inside:

I think that these books are useful tools for parents in non-religious and religious households alike. I found them both at Empik book shop right off the shelf. Jest wiele wiar - O co pytają dzieci  by Monique Gilbert can be found in the original French under the title Il était plusieurs "foi" pour répondre aux questions des enfants sur les religions. I haven't been able to find it in English. Boga przecież nie ma - Książka o niewierze w boga by Patrik Lindenfors can be found in English under the title God probably doesn't exist. Polecam.