Saturday, September 10, 2016

So my friend died.

My friend from high school died a couple of days ago. This is the view we shared of our hometown.


My friend was 42. He was married with 3 school-age children.

Since we graduated from high school and all went our separate ways, he was someone I might run into at the supermarket when I went home for a visit. He was a guy that I exchanged pleasantries with on Facebook. Congratulations on new jobs, new babies, new cars - that's it for 20 years. Then he got sick. He announced his illness on Facebook, February 2015. It was an aggressive form of cancer, but he was ready to fight. He was one of the fittest, clean eating, clean living people I knew. He looked the picture of health. Actually, he looked better than healthy. He looked like he could kick somebody's ass, so kicking cancer seemed like it would be no problem.

He publicly announced his illness and his plan to fight and was answered with silence. I knew it wasn't because no one had seen his post or that no one cared. It was just a lack of words. I mean what is the proper sentiment to offer when someone who has so much before them declares, hey guys, this just might be where the road ends for me.

I was sick once. I was able to hide it from most of my friends and family in the US. No need to worry them till it was actually time to worry. I couldn't really hide it from friends and family here in Poland; however, the response I got from the people who knew and the people who didn't know was pretty much the same. Kind of like how your chance of winning the lottery doesn't change a whole lot when you've bought a ticket and when you haven't bought a ticket.

I resented that fact for a good long time after I got better. Not when I was sick though. I was grateful for the silence back then. I was grateful that some people treated me like I was already gone. I didn't have the energy to spare worrying about them. 

But I could see from post to post that the lack of response bothered this friend. I had to reach out to him. I told him how my story played out. How resentful I felt. How much I didn't care about it now. How much more sympathy and empathy I have for people now. He said he really appreciated the fact that I had reached out. I wished him all the strength he would need.

For about the next year, it seemed he was winning the fight. He looked great. He said he felt great. He spent a lot of time on social media promoting his sports regimen, fighting against transgender bathroom access, supporting Donald Trump, and telling me to repent for my sins and return on God's path before it was too late. That's not how I would choose to spend my time, sick or not sick, but to each his own.

He often wondered if this was his last birthday, his last Christmas, his last trip to the beach. He expressed his disbelief of the fact that he wouldn't see his children graduate from school or get married. I too have those thoughts occasionally, but in a "knock-on-wood" way. Not in a "this-is-my-reality" way.

The support finally did roll in. It took some time for people to break the ice, the ice of sorrow and the ice of encouragement. Now that he's gone, the support for his family continues to roll in.

I did my best. At the beginning of his fight, he had asked me to pray for him. It wasn't a flippant request. He was a deep believer and a very public worshipper. I told him that I would keep him in my thoughts, but that I wouldn't pray for him as I am an atheist. Unfortunately, he couldn't understand how I found meaning or purpose in life without the promise of an afterlife. I couldn't understand how while facing death, he couldn't see that his family, his friends, and his relationships were his purpose in life. 

Or maybe he did. Closer to the end, he wrote to me and confided that his faith in an afterlife was growing weaker by the day, and it worried him so. I told him it didn't really matter, did it? Something will happen after we die. We might go to another place or maybe our consciousness will come to an end. What will happen, will happen regardless of the amount of faith we put into one scenario or the other because we have no way of knowing. His last comment to me..."Hahaha, I knew the atheist would be the one to put me back on track." I hope I did.

Mike, it was a pleasure to have known you.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What's all the Hubbub? Harlow


You may have heard of the Polish gentleman who was beaten to death last week by a group of teens in Harlow in England. It is said that they attacked him after hearing him speaking Polish on the phone. I don't know if they attacked and killed him because he was speaking Polish or because he was not speaking English. We are most certain it was because he was foreign. 

I haven't been physically attacked in Poland because I am foreign, or because I was speaking English on the street, or because I wasn't speaking Polish. Nothing like that has happened to me...yet. I have been attacked because I was alone on the street, because I am a woman, because I was smaller, because I was weaker. That's not exclusive to Poland, I must say.

The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs has gone to the UK to discuss the matter with UK officials.

I haven't been beaten on the street for being foreign, but others have. It's not an everyday thing here in Poland, being beaten on the street. It's rare actually. I don't think it's an everyday thing in Harlow either, but that man is dead just the same. I think those kids should have to learn Polish as part of their punishment. They're sure to have plenty of time to do it while incarcerated. Then they should have to face that man's family and apologize to them in Polish.

I haven't been beaten on the street, but I have been shouted at.

"Mów po polsku ty głupia krowo!" he shouted in my face. (Speak Polish you stupid cow!)
"Mów po jakimś normalnym języku!" he screamed as his spittle hit me in the eye. (Speak some normal language!"

"Odwal się! Wystarczy po polsku?" I reply. (Piss off! Is that enough in Polish?)

"Brawo! Pani umie. Brawo!" he says as he claps his hands in applause. (Bravo! You can do it. Bravo!)

So I went from you stupid cow using the informal you (ty) to the formal Ma'am (Pani). From spitting in my face, to applause all in one short conversation.

But that's just some weird guy on the street right? Normal people don't think like that.

"Jesteśmy w Polsce. Mówimy po polsku!" she reprimanded us. (We are in Poland. We speak Polish!)

True. People in Poland speak Polish. My family speaks Polish. But we speak English too, and I will not let anyone shame me or my children when we speak English to each other.

Oh, the above statement came from the Principal of our children's school. I was so happy to point out to her that they taught the kids the wrong words in the Polish national anthem. Kiedy, my dear, not póki. We are in Poland. We speak Polish.







Saturday, August 20, 2016

New Teeth!

As I was working in my garden last week a neighbor lady who hasn't spoken to me for about 6 years due to a dispute on our street and the fact that her husband is a sexual deviant, came to the fence to radzić. She wanted some advice about a building project, and I guess I am the expert on our street. Before I could answer her question she shouted out, "Chyba Pani wstawiała sobie zęby!" Yes, she asked if I had got false teeth as I swiftly noticed that she had a new set of false teeth. I assured her that these teeth were my own, in the sense that they grow out of my head not in the sense that I have paid my last installment for them. Her response? "Amazing!" 

Your teeth, false teeth, no teeth? Keep smiling!

Monday, July 11, 2016

I do!

I'm at the age where I rarely get invited to friend's weddings anymore. I mean it's because nobody's getting married, not that I'm so obnoxious nobody invites me. I do get invited out for divorce celebration drinks. FYI, celebratory drinks post-divorce is a hoot. Really. Anyhow, no one expects us to pop back to the States for a wedding (or divorce drinks) especially for a second or a third wedding (or divorce), although one friend did have her new graphic artist husband photoshop me into a couple of pictures. We haven't got much in the way of family here in Poland, the standard source of wedding invites. I'd pretty much given up on weddings, thinking the next round would be our kids.

You can probably see where I'm going. We got a wedding invitation in the mail. We rarely get mail that isn't a bill or a last notice of some kind or a summons to testify in court, so we were pretty excited to get some mail. Here comes the tricky part, although the invitation was addressed to us, I did not have a clue who the bride or groom were. Not a clue. It was like the time we found a DVD of a wedding in our DVD collection, not our wedding, not a clue whose wedding it was, watched the whole damn thing, didn't recognize a single person nor the person filming, no idea how it came into our possession. It's like that.

It turns out that the bride is my husband's goddaughter. Da-da-dum! The mystery thickens.

This August, I will have known my husband for 20 years. In all that time, I never once heard a single mention of a goddaughter. I mean I had always let open the possibility that a child much older than our own might appear in our lives one day; my husband was quite the popular guy, but never a long-lost goddaughter. We're atheists for goodness sake!

This goddaughter comes from the Szczebrzeszyn side of the family, and my husband himself had not seen the bride for about 25 years. So I thought we didn't have to go, right? Wrong! We were going! All four of us. Auntie What's Her Name will be so pleased.

And it just so happens as it often does that as we were getting ready to drive across the country, our car died. Not wanting to cancel at the last minute, we rented a car for the occasion.

We arrived to the roadside hotel/restaurant where the reception would take place and got ourselves gussied up for the event. Then we were off to the church. We weren't quite sure we had the right place. I mean we saw a bride, but we couldn't say if it was "our" bride. It turned out it was. We said our Hello's and waited for the wedding already taking place inside to finish up so "our wedding" could begin. The other bride and groom came out to a shower of rice and right behind them a lady we had met at the hotel. She didn't know the bride and groom either and sat through someone else's wedding (complete with mass) not realizing she was at the wrong one till the vows. She came out after the other couple and peered from left to right like a lady Mr. Bean, a Pani Fasola, if you will. She spotted us, and sighed with relief.

The ceremony was a little different than I have come to expect. First, there was no wedding march coming in. We guests were like - is it starting? The young couple is well into their thirties but were so shy and quiet in delivering their vows. I could barely speak Polish at my own wedding, but I belted out my vows loud and clear. In this church after you take communion you cross your arms across your chest and keep them crossed as you return to your seat. At the end of the ceremony, the priest blessed the newlyweds, the guests, and also some mementos from the ceremony. That was new to me. The momentos were a crucifix and an icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. It appeared that they were gifts from the best man and maid of honor otherwise known as the witnesses in Polish. That's a nice tradition because if you really are a couple starting out your lives together in a new home, you'd need blessed objects to hang in your home. After that we were all a little thrown off because the bride and groom and their immediate family very unceremoniously walked down the aisle with no music, and it appeared that they exited the church. We confused guests high-tailed it out of there not to miss the couple and the rice and all that, but we discovered them in a vestibule near the entrance lighting some candles. We decided to go outside as the bride and groom returned to the aisle, and as the music began exited the church. Rice, kisses, wished of all the best on their new way of life, envelope with tysiak...and that's the last the bride and the groom spoke to us for the evening. Oh well.

The wedding reception was fortunately in an air-conditioned reception hall. The DJs specialized in disco-polo with various medleys of YMCA and Cocojambo thrown in. The DJs however thought that they were the most important folks of the night. For example, as the dinner was being served they insisted the bride and groom dance their first dance because the dry ice smoke was a-wasting. We were seated with Auntie's friends from work, so the average age of our table was 67, but we got a hot political discussion going anyhow...I mean after those friends announced loudly that they couldn't stand the current ruling party. That called for a toast ;)

The wedding was lovely. The bride looked beautiful. The other guests were gracious and friendly. Nobody forced me to dance or to drink. I had flat shoes. Misiu could dance with his girls on the dance floor (Rosie said all the songs were about her), but honestly, it was as if I got all dressed up, drove to a random church, and crashed a stranger's wedding.


The kids were all danced out by 1 a.m. so I was able to put them to bed. Unfortunately for us, our room was situated in such as way that our door appeared to be an entrance to a hallway. That left us with wedding guests of various levels of sobriety trying to kurwa mać zamknięty get into our room.

We declined attending the second day party and headed off to Kazimerz Dolny, a place my husband had promised to take me for the last 20 years. Kazimierz Dolny is a lovely place. I recommend it, but perhaps not on the weekend. Maybe a lot of other husbands promised to take their wives there too that day, or so it seemed. We saw the sites, ate some lunch, and got back on the road.








It was an exhausting weekend, and now I have pink tulle skirt and nowhere to go.

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 today...my 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.
Jealous?
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 :(
Eggs
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.