Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Angriest I Have Ever Been At My Mother

That's the card I received for American Mother's Day. Please notice that the card is in English. Oh, and that's me in the pink and purple stripes.

No one can make you angry like your mother can. It usually doesn't take much, an innocent comment, sometimes just a look, that goes straight to your heart and immediately infuriates you. I remember plenty of slammed doors as a teenager and the occasional "you're ruining my life". I even remember an argument years ago which ended with me storming out of the house in tears.

Don't get me wrong. I love my mother. We are very different people and very different mothers. Even so, she had her hand in who I am today, tears and all. My mother knows I love her because I tell her so. We're the rare breed of mother and daugher who actually say the words "I love you". I must admit that I was the one who started it. I don't recall any "I love you's" from my childhood, not a one.* As an adult I was very resentful of this fact. Some years ago I decided to be an adult about it and change it. What was the worst that could happen? My parents wouldn't say it back? Of course they would, and they did. Thus, a new family tradition was born. That means that "I love you" was the last thing I said to my father and the last thing I heard from him. You never know when it's the last one. 

Moms have a big influence on their kids. I know that some day, my girls will grow up and sit around the table talking about how I infuriated them over the years. Just the thought of that warmed my heart. I'd like to hope that now I am an adult, I could return the favor to my mother....and infuriate her like she has infuriated me.... and have some influence on her...positive influence, I hope.

The town where I grew up is teeny tiny, and located in a rural area.There is a university though, so we felt all worldly about that when we were kids. Any new people in our town were usually professors, doctors, or other professionals. It wasn't a place where people moved to but rather away from. I mean there wasn't any reason to move there if it wasn't for a job. We didn't get many or any foreigners back then.

Flash forward to hometown is still teeny tiny. The area is still rural, but maybe a little less than before. There's still a university - it's even bigger than when I was a kid. The newbies in our town come from all kinds, not just professors or professionals. We even have some foreigners.

My aunt happened to be our Spanish teacher in school. We couldn't figure out why we had foreign language lessons back then. We didn't see the need. Plus we did everything to sabotage my aunt's lesson plans, thus leaving us after all those years with little to no Spanish in our heads. My aunt is retired now, but she substitutes in the district schools and works as an aid when a Spanish-speaking kid needs language support. My mother was telling me about my aunt's latest position as an aid in one of the kindergartens. There was a kid who couldn't speak English almost at all. My mother's commentary on that (break out the mom voice), "Well, apparently his parents can't speak a lick of English. I don't know what the problem is, if they're just too lazy or too stupid to learn."

And that's where my head exploded. Pure fury. Skype hath no fury like a daughter for her mother. I don't even get that mad when my mom Skypes me in the middle of the night and asks why I'm not asleep. 

My question to my mother, "Do you think I'm too lazy or too stupid to learn Polish?"

My mother, in her totally mom voice, "No, of course not honey. Polish is a very hard language! And you are a very busy lady. You have your work and the girls."

"So Mom, maybe those parents just came to the US. Maybe they work long hours. Maybe they haven't had an opportunity to learn. There are a million reasons why somebody wouldn't know English and stupid and lazy are not at the top of the list."

The conversation went downhill from there, you can be sure about that. I was angry and disappointed that my mother would not have more sympathy for an immigrant parent when I myself am an immigrant parent. Me, her child.

I still love her though. She's my mom.

Happy Polish Mother's Day!

*I just remembered one "I love you" from my childhood. My father dropped me off at my high school and just as I reached the main doors where my friends were waiting, he got out of the car and shouted, "Chri-is! I loooooove you!"

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What's all the hubbub? Abortion Law in Poland

Last year in Poland, there were 1812 legal abortions performed in a country with a population just under 40 million. A woman may seek abortion in cases of rape, serious threat to the life/health of the mother, or severe birth defect. That's how it is supposed to work under the so-called compromise between the church and the state, and apparently it did work in 1812 cases last year.

I am personally aware of a case that didn't work - of the woman who was denied an abortion not because it was illegal, but because she couldn't find a hospital or doctor to perform it. But that is neither here nor there.

I think the current law is pretty restrictive. I've seen Pro-Life protesters on the street in Poland and always wondered what they were protesting exactly. It's practically illegal, right? What more could they want? A total ban on abortion? 

Yes. A total ban on abortion.

The proposal, still in project form, for a total ban on abortion has been sent to the Polish parliament. 

I'm not Pro-Abortion. I'm Anti-Unwanted Pregnancy. I support sexual health education and access to birth control in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies. That doesn't do anything for the cases outlined above, but it's my position nonetheless. I remember those Sex Ed. classes in school and the realization that the 15-year-old boy next to me didn't know the urethra from the vagina, nevermind the clitoris and nevermind birth control. That wasn't his problem.  

So on Sunday I decided to join the protest against this proposal. I feel it's my civic duty. We protested. We shouted. We clapped. We took our obligatory protest selfie. We crossed our fingers for the future of women in Poland.

On Sunday, priests in Poland read out the church's position on the matter during mass. Across Poland, some parishioners walked out of church in protest. For the most part, this was a silent protest without incident. In one church there was a loud exchange and hands were laid on one of the protesters.

And that's it so far. Ms. Beata Szydło, the Polish Prime Minister, said on Monday that it wasn't even a topic of discussion in Poland although a few days before she declared that she supports a total abortion ban. It's not even a bill yet, that's true. A bill is a law before it is signed, before it becomes a law. But when should we protest? After it's a done deal? 

As I was perusing my Facebook wall Monday morning, you know, as you do, I noticed a post about the protests in English. It was pretty standard, pretty much what I've written above. It was the comment section below the article that caught my eye - comments showing that the commenters had not even read the article and did not understand the current law or the proposed changes. There was even one saying that the protests hadn't actually taken place, that it was all a media manipulation. And that's where I made a mistake. I commented. For the last two days, I have been suffering through what can only be described as "hate". I've been bombarded with private messages...and I've learned a lot about myself. First of all, I am a whore, bitch, baby killing murderer. I don't actually live in Poland. I do live in Poland, and I have a secret agenda to liberate Polish women (that one's inadvertently humorous). I am funded by the EU to create abortion mills in Poland for the profit of Big Pharma. And the not so funny threats to my children. Not cool, not cool at all. But on the bright side, I finally figured out how to use my blocking settings.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Easter in Poland 2016

It's Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday), and our Easter break is coming to an end. Per family tradition, I was the first one up so I was the water sprinkler, not sprinklee. Also as per tradition, one child was laughing while the other one was crying. Mommy almost cried too when she discovered that the crying child had slept all night on a chocolate egg! I must admit when I first saw it, I thought it was something else so I'm grateful it was just a smooshed and melted chocolate egg. Small mercies.

The weather is absolutely beautiful. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The birds are chirping. And we are all inside with our noses in our books or gadgets because we're all sick. We've all got the same sickness, but at various stages and degrees of severity. That means no walking, running, cycling, or playing outside for us. It also means pajamas, syrups, cups of tea, and mountains of used tissues. 

Good Friday we spent getting the house ready. My husband arranged a wonderful lady to help out. She's a lifesaver even though she didn't do the windows "bo i tak nie świętujecie". Yes, she decided to leave the windows for later because we don't celebrate Easter. We had a good laugh. She promised to do them next time. It was during this time of cleaning up and decorating that we realized that we simultaneously have Easter, Christmas, and Halloween decorations up in our house. That's okay, right?

The girls made an Easter egg tree

This is my Easter tree with handmade glass ornaments and blown-out painted eggs.

I found the perfect use for this yellow vase I bought in Bolesławiec.
On Good Friday, we also paid a visit to our local egg dealer, an older lady from our neighborhood. Our old egg dealer is in prison. Our current egg dealer was feeling a bit lonely I think and wanted to chat. I got to know that her grandson was the getaway driver for our old egg dealer. He went to prison for that, but now he's out. He's been trying to grow marijuana in the garden and in the little woods near their house, but grandma and the chickens keep destroying all his attempts. We also got to know that most of the young people in her family have gone to England to work and that she'd much rather her grandson went to England to work than engage in questionable activities here in Poland. Then she had to run off to the shop to buy dishwashing liquid, you know, because she had to do her windows.

This is the first batch of eggs.

Some of the eggs got dyed.

The rest of the eggs were made into pickled eggs.
Good Saturday we packed up the sick kids and forced them to go for a walk near the church to get some fresh air and to see people taking their Easter baskets to be blessed. My children were not interested at all, so nothing has changed since last year. I, on the other hand, love looking at the baskets. My favorite basket carriers this year included a small gang of surly teenaged boys decked out in their favorite sweatsuits and a leather-clad biker dude carrying the most delicate basket of all. We wanted to peek inside the church, but the crowd made it impossible. Plus our children were bored to death, and our pockets were full of used up tissues. We came back home.

It was standing room only at the church on Good Saturday.
At church
A billboard outside the church "YOU crucified Jesus"
Easter Sunday is our girls' favorite day because the Easter bunny visits them, and did he ever. I think they were satisfied with what they found in the garden. We also found a chicken in our garden, a real one. This chicken has been hanging out in our garden, making a big mess, for the last three days. It's ours now, right?

They missed one..we found it today.

"Easter eggs"

Our new chicken. Rosie's named it "Rosół". That's Chicken Soup in Polish.
While the girls sorted through their Easter baskets, we could get breakfast ready. 

Pickled eggs and Spinach and Salmon Tart
It wouldn't a Polish Easter without veggie salad.

The spread
I almost forgot that we went to an Easter Market a week ago for Palm Sunday. I love small town markets.

There were so many stalls, these selling crafts and decorations.
There was also a palm contest.

I always wondered how they transported those big palms.
Honey, jams, and syrups
Bread with lard and a pickle and hams

Eggs, bread, heavy cream, sausages. The seller asked me, "Are you buying or just smelling." I was just smelling :(
Fresh bread

These lovely ladies agreed to pose for a picture.
The Mazurek that we bought.

The selection of Babki decorated for Easter.
A selection of Easter cakes from the local bakery.
Lamb cake for Easter only 10 zl.

The Mazurek we didn't buy :)

An entry in the Mazurek cake contest
An entry in the Mazurek cake contest
An entry in the Mazurek cake contest
I believe this Mazurek took first place in the cake contest.
These baskets were much emptier after my visit.
Bunny decorations
Glass eggs ornaments plus one Maluch Fiat 126
A close up
It's not very Eastery, but I couldn't resist.
Little loaves of bread for the Easter baskets
Easter cemetery candles
Felt Easter baskets
All in all, it's been a very nice Easter holiday. Now it is time to think about going back to school and work.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is Poland a safe country?

I came across this meme as I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed.


In Poland annually 30,000 women are raped, 700,000 experience physical violence, 190,000 sexual violence, 150 of those die, that's 3 women per week. Dear Refugees, don't come here. It's not safe.

So is Poland safe? I guess the answer partly depends on your definition of safe. What's your definition of safe? Mine is evolving. 

Once I was hired to help out a family from Brazil, transferred to Poland for work. We met in a cafe where they would not hang their coats on the coat rack nor would they lighten their death grips on their bags. They said in Brazil they often chained their bags to the table. I told them that they should be careful with their coats and bags, but we were the only folks in the cafe, and they could chill a bit. They somehow understood what I said as meaning that Poland was a crime-free zone. After settling into their new home, they bought their kids bikes which they left in front of their building. Those bikes were promptly stolen. According to them, I was to blame because I had told them Poland was safe. I meant that you can drink your coffee without clutching your bag and you probably won't get murdered, not you can leave your bikes unattended or your front door unlocked. We had a different definition of safe. 

Back to the meme, I don't know how accurate these figures are or how they compare to other countries. If you live in Poland and have never experienced any sort of violence, you may think they couldn't be true. I suspect they are. 

Violence occurs in my country too. I'm not saying Poland bad, America good. In America, you can just walk around your whole life, experiencing no serious violence, until the day you get shot perhaps by a criminal, perhaps by accident, perhaps by a police officer. We have a lot of guns. The possibilities are endless. I'm quite confident (but still superstitious, knock on wood) that I won't get shot here in Poland. If I do, it will be by a hunter while I'm cycling through the woods, not some crime of passion, robbery, or random act of violence. No consolation for me, 'cause I'd be dead.

I'm safety-conscious. I took all those extra classes at university such as "Safety on Campus" which involved brainstorming sessions of how not to get raped and "Self defense for Women" which involved learning how to properly kick an attacker in the crotch. As a university freshman, I had to park my car in Lot D located behind an old paint factory, overlooking a cliff with not a single light in sight. For that privilege, I had to pay 300 bucks per semester. I always had my keys ready, not only to quickly open the car door, but also to jam into my attackers eyes, just as I had learned in class. 

I learned that rapists waited for women in dark places. Rapists were sketchy guys who put drugs in your unattended drink at a party. The description of a rapist was so clear, it should be obvious who's a rapist and who isn't. It didn't occur to me then that it could be any stranger I met, sketchy or not, dark alley or not, spiked drink or not. It never occurred to me it could be someone I knew. I never wondered why male students weren't invited to attend the "Safety on Campus" classes. That was about 20 years ago. It's probably different now. Or not, based on the news headlines, but perhaps news reporting is just better now, not the number of rapes has increased. Let's hope.

Let me be clear. I have never been raped. You can keep reading.

Everything I learned in those classes may have been true, may still be true, but that information didn't protect me from the ticket inspector on the train who locked us in a compartment, beat me, and attempted to rape me. That was my third day in Poland and not a very nice welcome. He looked like a guy doing his job, not sketchy at all. It was daylight, no alleys in sight. I try to treat it as an aberration. I bear no ill will towards Polish men nor Polish train ticket inspectors except that one. I do bear some ill will to the police officers who didn't take the police report despite witnesses and an imprint of the ticket inspector's hand on my face. (Edit: The police wrote something down. I was not asked to sign it. They didn't want my ID. I was never contacted again.)

After that I had quite a few unusual experiences of complete strangers poking, stroking, or otherwise touching me in inappropriate ways. None of them progressed as far as the train inspector. One man stopped on the street, said hello, tipped his hat, and then clobbered me on top of my head with his umbrella. It turned out that he was the downstairs neighbor of my now sister-in-law and was schizophrenic. I had to forgive and forget, but I saw stars. Another man followed me home like a puppy declaring his love for me in a whisper under his breath. I later learned that he was a patient of the local psychiatric hospital, let out for a walk.

Hmm what else? I was spit on but that was by accident. A man stole my shoe from my foot and then punched me in the nose. He was probably insane so not to be blamed, and I did get in a few shots of my own as well as getting my shoe back. I can blame the bystanders who didn't help me even as I asked for it. Oh well.

The funniest incident, now that it is in the past, involves a neighbor. I had just come back home from a run. I met my family heading out the door to pick up a pizza. They exited. I closed the door, kicked off my shoes, and ran upstairs to the bathroom, you know, to pee. While preparing to pee, I heard the door open and what I thought was my husband yell something to me. I yelled back from the bathroom in English that I was on the toilet. I was home alone, right? I didn't close the bathroom door. Do you? I heard footsteps on the stairs. No worries, just my husband, right? I was busy inspecting the hole I had made in the toe of my new fancy smancy running socks. I was just turning my head to say to my husband - look what happened to my new socks - when I discovered the man standing in the doorway of my bathroom was not my husband. I immediately jumped up from the toilet pulling up my underwear and running pants in one go. Then I inexplicably put the toilet seat down and flushed. This man had seen me on the toilet from the top of the stairs, walked the six steps to the opened bathroom door, took two steps into the bathroom, and I flushed the fucking toilet. What a well-mannered victim I am.

I knew this man. He was our neighbor from two houses down. He was a farmer and he farmed our land for us. That doesn't mean we saw him often, or really talked to him, just that we were acquainted. I was also acquainted with his son who used to sneak into my kitchen and tap me on the shoulder to scare me. He went to prison for attempted murder of his mother. He hit her in the back of the head with a board after an argument. His prison stay was the calmest 4 years of my village life. He's not any problem now though (knock on wood). He lives back with the mother he tried to kill, but apparently he now suffers from agoraphobia or another similar affliction and stays indoors almost all day.

Back to my bathroom, so my neighbor, a farmer in his 60s, continued his walk into my bathroom asking where my husband was because he needed to talk to him. I, the most polite victim in the world, informed him that he had just left and that I would tell him to call. The neighbor continued his approach, commented that he wished his kobitka wore trousers like mine. Then he licked his lips as I stepped back and finally hit my legs on the bathtub. The buck stopped there at the tub. No more bathroom after the tub, and at that moment I thought to myself - I am not gonna get raped by my sexual deviant neighbor in my own bathroom. No fucking way. 

I plowed through him, got out of the bathroom, and told him to leave. He exited the bathroom and then entered our bedroom and commented on the changes we had made to the house. He did a round through the whole upstairs. It was at this point I noticed he was wearing rubber boots covered in manure (a.k.a. horse shit) that he had tracked all over my bedroom. Keeping things in perspective, I realize that floors covered in horse shit are nothing compared to the potential of being physically and sexually accosted, but still, I had just cleaned.

I walked down the stairs, opened the door, and told him to leave. Here's the kicker. I could have left. I wasn't held hostage in my own home. I could have walked out the door, left him there, and gone to the un-rapey neighbor across the street. He came down the stairs, proceeded to the kitchen and declared his intention to wait. I closed the door, went to the kitchen, took a knife in my hand and sarcastically asked, "Maybe tea?" I called my husband and told him what had happened in English. He told me to leave and that he was on the way. I stayed. I waited in silence while my neighbor proceeded to say disgustingly inappropriate things to me. Me, holding my knife contemplating the depth of the blade versus the puffiness of his jacket. He with his tea, which I made, while clutching my knife. Would my knife go all the way through, I wondered. If I had to defend myself, would I actually hit skin? Killing a neighbor probably wouldn't make me too popular here in our village of 500 people, but then again he was a sexual deviant, maybe my popularity would rise. And anyhow, Crazy Bolek killed two people, and he just went to the special hospital, and everybody started to call him Crazy Bolek. I could live with the shame of the moniker Crazy Chris if it came down to it. I mean it would be self-defense, right? My plans of murder in self-defense almost became plain, old regular murder as my sexual deviant farmer neighbor, noticing that his boots were covered in shit, scraped the shit off on the leg of my kitchen table. At that moment my husband came home sparing the neighbor's life. My husband threw him out and yelled over his shoulder to leave the manure, he would clean it. So nothing happened, right? But it felt like something happened.

The second kicker is that this guy was shocked that my husband threw him out. He couldn't believe that he had frightened me. He was flirting. Flirting? Flirting. Fuck. He...was...flirting. He's still a farmer and most certainly still a sexual deviant. He no longer farms our land and sold the plot directly adjacent to ours. We never see him. We always lock the door now.

Some men in our village beat their women. Some men in the city beat their women, too. This is certainly not exclusive to Poland. Then you get the women who beat their men, and the parents who beat their children. I can only speak of what I know, what's happened to me, and the fact that I made it through the American portion of my life without incident, while the Polish portion sounds like the screenplay for a black humor comedy.

Here in the City, I am very conscious of the terrible stories of domestic violence where the neighbors claim not to have heard a thing, so when I heard our new neighbor sobbing uncontrollably in their bathroom (the only wall we have in common) and screaming for her partner to leave her alone, I decided to pay attention. Ok, I decided to eavesdrop, but it was eavesdropping for a cause. As it turned out, her partner was not beating her and as we learned over the next couple of months may have been the kindest, most understanding guy a girl could have. What did I hear that eased my mind? "Kicia, you don't have to work there if you don't want to. You can march in there tomorrow and quit. Don't cry. We'll be alright." To which she responded, "How can you say that?! You don't understand! You don't understand! Nothing! You understand nothing! I can't do it! I can't go there!" To which he responded with a lot of calm and kind words with a lot of Kicias and Koteks thrown in. These episodes were weekly and the lack of them is how we figured out that those folks had moved out.

That was our next door neighbor upstairs, but the neighbors downstairs had a much more serious incident. It involved a loud argument from apartment 2, threats, sounds of things breaking, and for our friend in apartment 1, the final straw was the scream of "Stop beating me!" Our friend tried to intervene while this lady continued to scream and in the end he broke down their door like in some 1970s cop show only to discover that they were fighting, some things were broken, but that guy wasn't hitting her. He hadn't laid a finger on her. Her dishes were all broken. And what was the result? They were furious with my friend for butting in. Now they have a new baby and everything is cacy. 

Knowing that I am sensitive to train violence, my husband stepped forward in a situation between a man and a woman outside the Wars carriage as we were traveling to Kraków. An older man was molesting an older woman. I don't know how else to describe it. They were struggling. She was yelling at him to leave her alone and stop touching her. He was grabbing her arm and had one hand deep inside her bra. My chivalrous Misiu asked the lady if she needed help to which we found out this was her husband trying to give her a hundred zloty that she didn't want to take. He was attempting to put it in her bra. People are strange.

The latest incident in my village that I know about happened in autumn in public in the middle of the night. The screaming woke people up. It was settled with a couple of other neighbors beating the culprit and not calling the police because the wife and mother would then have been called to task for returning from a party at 1:00 a.m. with a 4-year-old in tow.  Just go to the village shop and listen to some of the men. I know men drinking at the shop are not the best sample of men, but still. The way they talk about their women, dziwka, szmata, kurwa. If any of those ladies heard Stara they'd think it was a romantic gesture. Ask any one of those guys if they beat their women and you'll get the reply - it happens on occasion...and it doesn't end with their women. It naturally extends to their children. Because how else can you shut up that whore bitch of a wife who keeps complaining that you sold the public benefit coal for cash which you drank and now there's no money and the house is cold? True story.

So you are probably wondering about Crazy Bolek. I first heard about Crazy Bolek because after going to the Big House (not really, just to the Crazy House), his family put his house up for sale. Crazy Bolek was permitted to come home for holidays under the care of his family, but they declined for obvious reasons as you will read. Crazy Bolek's house is the last house on the right on Leśna Street which is two streets over parallel to my street. Our house is the last house on the right on our street. We soon began getting visits from people insisting our house was for sale. The Polish people can vouch for me when I tell you that this is an example of a real conversation I had with a complete stranger who stopped by my house.

Random stranger: How much is it going for?
Me: Excuse me? What?
Random stranger: The house. How much?
Me: This house?
Random stranger: Is this your house?
Me: Yes.
Random stranger: How much?
Me: To buy it?
Random stranger: Yes, lady, to buy it.
Me: It's not for sale.
Random stranger: Yes, it is for sale. I asked at the shop.
Me: No, it's not for sale. You're mistaken.
Random stranger: No, you're mistaken. It's for sale. How much would you take for it?
Me: As much money as I would need to buy the same house in the City.
Random stranger: Jesus lady. You're crazy. Nobody will pay that much for this house. You'll never sell it.

I paid a visit to the shop owner after that to discover that it was Crazy Bolek's house for sale and not some conspiracy to drive me out of the village. And then I heard how Bolek became Crazy Bolek. Crazy Bolek lived with his girlfriend and elderly father. One day, his girlfriend committed suicide by hanging herself upstairs in their house. It was a sad event, I'm sure, but the suicide rate in our local area is rather high so not suspicious. Some months later, Crazy Bolek's father bled to death after an unfortunate incident with a straight razor while Bolek was shaving him. It quickly came out that Bolek was the culprit. He also admitted to having strangled his girlfriend and to hanging her to make it look like a suicide. He was sent away, and forever became known as Crazy Bolek in our village.

Signing off,
Crazy Chris, don't underestimate me ;)

Friday, January 15, 2016

You think you know somebody

Can you be friends with someone who thinks you're simple? That's what I'm asking myself today.

Conversation with a teacher friend, the short version:

Friend: You're wrong, but I forgive you because you're not Polish. Chriiiisss, you couldn't possibly understand the situation. You know nothing of European history, recent politics, the Polish education system, the situation for real people in Poland.

Me: Kochana, I studied history.

Friend: But in America. It doesn't count. (Gee, thanks my friend.)

Me: Yes, yes. On my exams I only wrote "America good. Rest of world bad." And I got an A+. Anyhow, I read a lot and not only from sources sympathetic to my opinions. 

Friend: But you read English papers. You cannot get the whole picture that way.

Me: I read the Polish papers too, dear friend. 

Friend: But as an American you cannot understand the Polish reality of people who work and live in Poland. People who have to find a job, a place to live, find a place in the hospital, pay a mortgage.

Me: Absolutely, since I came to Poland 16 years ago, I have never had a job interview, never been hired or fired from a job. My home was given to me by angels. Mortgage? What's that? Hospitals welcome me with open arms, especially that time I almost gave birth in the waiting room because the hospital refused to admit me. 

Friend: But you can't imagine how it is to be a public school teacher here. The abuse we have to take, the peanuts we earn.

Me: As a former school teacher I assure you, I understand your struggles.

Friend: But you taught in a nice school in America. I work over 40 hours in two different schools.

Me: I worked 50 hours in one school. Nice? Our metal detectors were certainly top-of-the line.

Friend: Ok, but at least you got paid a reasonable salary.

Me: I earned less than the per hour pay of a fast food cashier.

Friend: Well, in Polish schools it's just worse.

Me: I worked in high school in Poland and while it wasn't all fun and games, nobody got shot. 

Friend: Please. You're exaggerating. You didn't get shot at school in America.

Me: Not me. One of the kids. That's why I'm not a public school teacher anymore, that and the money.

Friend: Well, anyhow. You're not fully immersed in Polish culture, so you've been misled by the leftist media. If you really understood life in Poland, your (political) opinions would be different.

Me: Well, at least you didn't say it's because I'm a cycling atheist.


I know plenty of foreigners who live in Poland and don't give a rat's ass about Polish politics. They don't know who the President is, are unaware that there's also a Prime Minister, and probably won't take an interest as long as they live in Poland...unless the exchange rate continues its plunge right into the toilet.

But someone who knows me, has known me for years? I thought they'd put me in a different category than the random expat passers through. I know that I wasn't born in Poland, and I'm not Polish, but jasna cholera I take an interest in the country I call home. Yes, I have a different perspective. I'm an immigrant after all. I'm not asking her to agree with me. I'm only asking for respect of my intelligence as an adult member of society. 

My friend? Please ask her what's wrong with Obama, why Americans are overweight, or who will be the next US President. She's an expert.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cleaning house czyli dobra zmiana

Things are changing here in Poland after the latest elections, most notably in recent days, journalists of public television and radio are losing their jobs. In a nutshell, the ruling party (called PiS, the Law and Justice party) believes that the role of the public media in a democracy is to support the narrative of the government; criticism is unacceptable. Democracy inaczej.

Regardless of who's in power, unceremonious cleaning house is wasteful in my opinion. Knowlege, know-how, and experience are laid to waste. Hopefully, the free market will scoop up those folks who are worth it.

Believe it or not, even I got house-cleaned once. It was a few years ago while teaching in a large, public company. I was teaching some gentlemen that I had met years before in another company, not public, that had been bankrupted by the tax office. (The tax office was later found to be in the wrong and had to pay compensation, small justice for all the people who lost their jobs including me). Anyhow, I arrived for my first meeting only to discover that my "boys" were board members and now wore suits to work and had assistants and drivers and the like. These guys were educated and qualified. They had strategies and plans. And then there was the election.

I came to work just as any other day. I was invited to talk to the new president. That was a surprise. He informed me that my "boys" didn't work there anymore and that my services were no longer needed. I explained that we had a contract. They promised to fulfill their obligations under the contract, but we were finished. I've been hired and fired many times. It's part of the job. I suggested the new board continue the contract, you know if that Prezes needed English so does this one. The new president explained that I had to go because of the elections. I finally got it and blurted out, "Grzegorz was in PiS!?" So very diplomatic of me, nie? I reminded him that I'm American and not involved in Polish politics, but he apologized once again explaining that their policy is to end all contracts signed by the old guard. Bad for me. I guess I should give that Grzegorz a call now, nie?

On a side note, with all that is going on in politics I decided to give my Twitter account a look. If you use Twitter, Kielbasa Stories is there :) I'm not very active there. Instagram is more my thing. Anyhow, Twitter informed me that controversial Polish politician Krystyna Pawłowicz had recently opened an account. I decided to follow her as her 8th follower only to unfollow her two days later. I gave a look through her posts and although they were rude and abrasive just as the real lady is, I suspected the profile was fake. Even as her popularity on Twitter rose, I still felt the profile couldn't be hers. Why? The person behind the Krystyna Pawłowicz Twitter profile did their best to mimic the notorious MP. Insults and accusations flew, but this faker could in no way match the amount of poison which spills each day from the original source, her real Facebook page serves as an amazing record of her creativity and stamina in attacking her opponents, real and imagined. I don't follow her, and I don't recommend following her either. 

Kielbasa Stories, on the other hand, I recommend following. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What is my motivation?

have always achieved my goals through motivation and a strong will. Okay, okay, there are plenty of goals I have made in my life and not achieved, but lack of will and motivation wasn't the cause. Now I am at the point where I think neither motivation nor a strong will can help me.

Goal: Reduce cholesterol to normal human levels. 

I am extremely motivated to do this. My marathon running father had a quadruple bypass at age 52, just months after running a race. Many of my cousins from my father's side of the family have had heart attacks under the age of 50. I don't want to end up like that. When another cousin had a heart attack at age 40 last year, I decided to get my cholesterol tested. It was 300. I was shocked and paralyzed with fear. I didn't eat for several days not knowing what was safe to put in my body. Motivation kicked in when my father died soon after that and my cardiologist tried to reassure me by saying, "Don't worry. I've operated on people younger than you." He also said "wdzianko" my least favorite word in Polish thus losing his Hot Doctor title once and for all.

I do not want to leave my children motherless. You'd think that would translate into "I don't want to die", but it really is about sticking around for my kids. It's especially important as we have no extended family to depend on. If it was just me, I'd eat all the bacon and get fat and die. It's my birthright.

Sure, I want to be slim. I absolutely want to be fit. I am quite slim and relatively fit. I don't eat what a heart patient shouldn't. I exercise vigorously, not moderately, my allotted times per week. I don't drink. I don't smoke. So what's up with my cholesterol?

After one year of hard work, my cholesterol is down 25 points to 275. That's great, right? I should be happy with my achievement, and I am. The thing is, my bad cholesterol hasn't budged, not even one point. I'm still motivated, still wanting to stay alive and all that. I am able to just not eat all that stuff I shouldn't. It's not a big deal really. But Jeezuz, what if it isn't enough? I'm going into Year 2 of my cholesterol lowering plan. Let's hope it's enough.

Me on a chilly bike ride :)