Thursday, September 11, 2014
Here’s one very creative and colorful bulletin board which welcomes students and teachers alike. It looks quite nice and displays artwork of the students. It presents Edmund Bojanowski, a Polish Catholic layman who performed works of charity during his lifetime and died while studying to became a priest. He was made a saint posthumously by Pope John Paul II. Why błogosławiony Edmund Bojanowski friend of children and patriot of teachers? Okay, okay, he was Polish at least. But why not Thoth the Egyption god of education, writing, and language? Let’s switch it up for a change. And why does Saint Edmund Bojanowski appear to belong to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
Here’s another bulletin board welcoming the kids to school for the new school year. It looks nice and friendly.
The children are greeted by a welcoming angel and baranek.
If the angel and the baranek are not able to show you the way, don’t worry, Jesus will come to the rescue as this poster explains that “Jesus leads me through life”. Why not “Allah leads me through life”? Or “Mohammad leads me through life”? Or “I find my path through life”? Nope, it’s gotta be Jesus. I mean if you want. Nobody’s forcing you. ‘Cause elementary school kids are able to look at this poster and decide if they want to be led by Jesus or not. It’s not undue pressure by the dominant religion or abuse of majority position in society or anything.
Maybe a prayer for a good start this year?
Here’s my fast and very uncreative translation:
My Lord, when I hear the bell, it is you who reminds me that I must take advantage of every moment because time cannot be turned back. Give me the concentration and the courage to accept all new knowledge. I want to listen well and question wisely. Don’t allow me to disrupt my friends or teachers. Give my teachers a lot of good and patience. I want to grow up in wisdom and in your graces so that for all achieved wisdom I will be in gratitude to you and to those who teach me well.
Good God, it’s the start of the school year. New adventures await us. A new time, new tasks, new chances. I ask you, bless us. Grant us the will to work, enthusiasm in discovering the mysteries of the world, the joy of being together, a willingness to help. Help us sow the seeds of good and of peace…Bless our mouths so they will speak words of kindness and bestow smiles. Bless our hearts so they will grow in love for you and our fellow man..Bless our feet so they will carry us in the direction of people and places where you can be found.
And that’s our świecka szkoła, in the words of the principal, caring deeply about all children and completely without bias.
błogosławiony = beatified
baranek = lamb
świecka szkoła = secular school
Monday, September 8, 2014
Oh the humanity of using the public transport system on a daily basis. Over the summer, I had a chance to forget. Oh the sweet memory loss. Nothing particularly bad happened today – it wasn’t as bad as one shitty bus ride I had, but we did hit a few things you should not do on public transport.
Nikt nie hejtowałam dzisiaj ale bardzo chciałam. Here’s my list for today:
the countless number of people who blew cigarette smoke in my face today at various bus stops.
the elderly lady who passed up the empty seat reserved for elderly, disabled, and pregnant passengers as well as several other empty seats and leaned on me, deep in the bus, until I gave her my seat.
the ladies who thought their shopping deserved a seat and and I did not.
the bus stop nose-picker.
the disco-polo loving bus driver.
the middle school kids with their backpacks that they did not take off and slammed into me the whole ride home.
the middle school kid who most likely will be deaf by the end of the school year who put on his head phones and cranked up the volume on his disco-polo. I thought disco-polo was out?
the middle school kid who…
OK I see that I could go on hating on the gimbusy so I will end here. I hope tomorrow is a better day or at least gimbus-free.
Gimbus is slang for a middle-schooler who thinks he/she is so cool and grown-up. They like to swear in public and take drinking/smoking selfies and post them online.
Hejtować means to hate on somebody just like in English.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
I believe in something. I believe that potato chips are evil and are out to get me. I believe that the chance of rain increases on days I wear suede shoes. I believe the severity of traffic congestion is proportional to how late I already am. I also believe that all religions are made up. Religious arguments, religious wars, families broken up over religious issues – I understand them, but they are at the same time ridiculous for me. It’s like when my kids argue over who is better – spiderman or the pink powderpuff girl.
Anyhow, I figured that even if I am not religious and my children are raised in a non-religious household, we should still know something about world religions ‘cause you know, if people are cutting off other people’s head over something, you should probably try to figure out what is going on. So I’m still not exactly sure what’s going and there will not be any Kielbasa Stories post What’s the hubbub? ISIS, but I know more than I used to know.
For our girls, we bought a book that outlines the beliefs of a few different religions based on a year in the life of a child. It includes beliefs, holidays, restrictions, what’s different, what’s the same – it’s a cool book.
Another thing I believe is that children should not receive religious instruction. I do what I can to follow that belief with my own children, but as you may know, my girls’ school doesn’t support us in that issue. Anyhow, after our last meeting in June which took place after the zillionth time one of our children was forced to go to catechism (catechism is taught in Polish public schools), we demanded a new procedure, a procedure that has teeth, a procedure where you sign up for catechism not sign out, a procedure which if not followed has consequences for the teachers who fail to comply.
Previously each year we had to sign our children out of catechism. The school operates on the assumption that all children will attend. We complied and each year we signed our children out of catechism. Additionally we verbally reminded the teachers on the first day of school each year that our children do not have permission to attend catechism – because that is basically how the signing out process worked. Parents have to not give permission, to withdraw permission. I know it’s a weird formulation. You don’t “not give permission” when you don’t send your kids for extra French lessons. You just don’t sign them up and that’s it. But anyhow, legal or not, we still did it. And the effect? Our kids were forced to go to catechism as recently as June.
This year, on the first day of school, parents were asked to sign up. No one was asked to sign out. The teacher informed the parents that they will compile a list of kids who attend catechism not a list of kids who do not attend. Catechism still takes places smack in the middle of the day, sending our kids to the day-room to spend time with the coloring books, doll houses, Legos, the day-room teacher, and a handful of other kids who do not attend catechism.
I know it seems like a small step. I suppose it is a rather small step, but a step in the right direction. This is from a school where I was asked to declare in writing that my children will not attend catechism –one copy for the classroom teachers, one copy for the principal, and another copy for the catechism teacher. A school where I was put in my place with the explanation that catechism is fun and I am just making problems. A school where I was asked what my religion is. A school where the catechism teacher demanded to know our names and addresses so she could inform the parish. A school where my children were forced to attend catechism, one school year on 6 separate occasions for one child. A school where my children sit 2 extra hours a week in the day-room making their school day an hour longer. A school with a crucifix hanging in every classroom, not just in a special room for catechism. A school where priests and nuns are employed to teach catechism paid from the public budget. A school where the nun blessed the children’s heads on the first day of school yesterday. A school where the nun told me “All children are God’s children”. A school where I feel like some kind of criminal for demanding that my rights as a parent and the rights of my children not be violated. But hey, it could be worse.
There are public schools in Poland which started the school year as they do each year which a Catholic mass before the official opening of the school year. Some schools started from mass at church and then proceeded to school for the first assembly of the year. The answer to parents’ questions of when they should come to school for the assembly was that it depends how long the priest’s sermon takes. Other schools cut out the middleman and just invited the priest to school. In one school there was a full mass in the gym, in another just an Our Father and some words about the creation of the world, while in another the children were taken out to the parking lot to be blessed with water by the priest. I know about all the cases from the media and from support groups such as http://rownoscwszkole.pl/ and http://www.wolnoscodreligii.pl/.
To the parents of children from those schools, please don’t give up. I know you have a long way to go and that you feel helpless, but know that with each small step we are getting closer to our goal of a secular education for our children.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Although we’re excited to start another school year (Lizzie is in 3rd grade and Rosie starts 1st grade), we are sad to say goodbye to summer. It seemed shorter this year. I guess my age is showing.
Farewell rainbows after a summer rain.
Goodbye grain in the field.
So long yard work and rhubarb with sugar.
See you later fun-in-the-sun.
Bye-bye burgers from the grill
No more hot-air-balloon surprises on the drive home.
An end to summer festivals.
The last of the fresh blueberry muffins.
The final summer BBQ’s with friends.
Hello new school year. It’s going to be a great one!
Thursday, August 28, 2014
I hate to park in front of the pawn shop. I’m not headed to the pawn shop, but the parking is on the street near my destination. It’s not strictly for the pawn shop. It’s not that I think I’m too good for the pawn shop either, I’m just fortunate enough to not need their services. I hate to park in front of the pawn shop because every time I park in front of the pawn shop one of the skinhead no-necks that hangs out there, parks me in. The pawn shop owner often parks me in too, but he is a nice man who will gladly move his vehicle when you ask. He always calls me Pani and smiles at me. But the skinhead no-neck, no way. He takes pleasure in the fact that I am parked in. OK, I am no princess. I don’t hide or come back later. I find the guy and tell him to move his car. And he does move his car, but he likes to move his car just enough - just enough that you could get out of your spot if you had a hovercraft or could perhaps bend the laws of physics. The last time I asked him why he didn’t move down a bit further, I mean he was still double-parked anyhow so what was the problem. He laughed and said, “I wanted to see if you could get out.” I replied that I could get out, but that his nice, shiny car had no dents or scratches yet, while mine already had a few. “The first scratch always hurts the most, but you’ll get over it,” I said. He moved his car.
After that I decided to park somewhere else, but I still walk past the pawn shop on the way. I have mixed feelings about pawn shops in general. I mean, if you need some fast cash and are desperate, I guess the pawn shop is a pretty cool institution. If I had to, I’d probably take my TV in. I need my computer for work, and I don’t have any tools or any other valuable stuff.
Once I watched a guy from out of town take in an ipad. He came back out, money clutched in one hand and with a dramatic gesture thanked the lord above. I believe he gave the fistful of money a kiss. It looked like a scene from a silent movie when the villain gets away with his dastardly deeds. Maybe I’m not so far off. Maybe that ipad was stolen. From my casual observation, I see the same crew coming in and out of the pawn shop. They most often have cell phones and small power tools. I find it highly improbable that these are their own possessions or that they require pawn shop services on a daily basis.
Awhile back I parked in such a place that while not parked in front of the pawn shop I still had to cross in front of the pawn shop on the way to the parking ticket machine and back. To set the scene, it was early morning and there was the usual crew of men hanging out in front of the pawn shop. They were all dressed almost identically in track suits, drinking beer and smoking.
The smallest guy of the group was clearly agitated. He was bouncing around and jumping from one foot to the other. He also had some kind of nervous tic of grabbing his crotch. He started to speak to another man, perhaps the leader of the crew who was leaning on the building, relaxed, enjoying his alpha status.
Nervous crotch grabber: No kurwa, powiedz, stary, no. Byłes w tej Anglii, nie, stary, no. No powiedz no, jak było?
Alpha Übermensch w dres: No stary, kurwa, wiesz no jak w Angli. Było ok.
Crotch grabber: No staaaary, dlugo tam byłes, nie, w tej Anglii, no?
Übermensch: Trzy lata stary. Kurwa jak najebalem sie w tej Anglii.
Crotch grabber: No stary mówisz po angielsku, nie? Mówisz, nie?
Übermensch: No stary oczywiście.
Crotch grabber: No powiedz cos po angielsku stary. No mów!
Übermensch: (pausing to make sure all eyes were on him) Wassup motha fuckaaassssss!I to by było na tyle.
I cannot imagine how it is possible that I overheard this conversation. I think the stars and the planets must have been aligned that day. It was like a small gift from the universe, I think, just for me.Oh wondrous universe I thank you.
Friday, August 22, 2014
I know you’ve been waiting to contact me. Now you can thanks to the comment form I finally added to Kielbasa Stories. I know how strong the desire to contact me has been over the years by the sheer volume of e-mails I’ve received since I added the form two weeks ago. All that pent-up need. All those words gone unsaid. Yep, I hear you. All none of you, hee, hee, because Kielbasa Stories hasn’t received any messages yet. Not even from the crazies but they usually just post a comment saying that I am an idiot and then they move on.
So cheers to me for finally completing a task that has been on my to-do list forever. Check!
Saturday, August 16, 2014
A Wedding on August 15, The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw (1920)…
Why Do Our Friends Hate Us?
No, no, I’m just joking. We were honored to be invited to share this important event with our friends and the wedding was lovely. The bride looked gorgeous, just perfect. The usually casually dressed groom looked fine in his elegant 3-piece suite and bow tie. It’s just that somebody forgot to tell the priest that weddings are festive occasions.
I’ve been to quite a few weddings and this one was the most unusual to date. Most wedding ceremonies have been about new beginnings, fresh starts, long lives spent together, ups and downs on the way. Positive, positive, positive.
This one was a little bit different.
First, the wedding took place on an important holiday in the Catholic church, Mary’s Assumption into heaven. It could not go without comment or without 20 minutes of rambling commentary if you’d like the less generous (but more honest) opinion. August 15 also marks the anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw which should not go without mention or incomprehensible rambling. What do these two events have in common with each other or have in common with weddings?
Surprised? We were too.
I didn’t know it was possible to use the word death so many times in a wedding ceremony. It’s like the scene in Friends when Monika didn’t get invited to her cousin’s wedding but her brother Ross did so he takes her as his plus one. As she scopes out the other guests at their table she says, “I’m a relative and I didn’t get invited! A blood relative! Blood!” To which her brother Ross says, “Stop saying, ‘Blood’ to strangers.”
OK, I lied. There was something about new beginnings – how death is in fact your new beginning in the afterlife. Awesome.
If the wedding ceremony was black and white (and long and monotonous), then the wedding reception was a splash of color and life.The wedding reception was typically Polish, lots of food, alcohol, dancing and fun. I am American, it is true but occasionally, I feel moderately Polish. Weddings are not that occasion. That’s when I feel maximum American. First of all, I am not much of a drinker. Secondly, I cannot dance. Thirdly, I don’t like flaki or golonka. And lastly, I only know the first verse of Sto Lat.
The bride and groom had a blast as did their guests. They are both only children so the parents and families really lived it up and danced till dawn. We busted out about 2 a.m. My feet are killing me today.
I did dance bo wypada. I had to choose my dances carefully as the repertoire was heavy on the disco polo. Ona tancy dla mnie, anyboy?
It was just nice to see two people enjoy themselves entirely and share such a memorable moment in their lives.
To the mloda para!