Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My “American” neighbor

I have an American neighbor. Actually, he is Polish, but he lived in America for more than 20 years before he and his wife came back to Poland to retire. By looks alone, it is difficult to distinguish them from any other Polish retired couple... unless you look deeper…

I noticed them first by their American car. Not that the sight of an American car on our street is anything unusual as I am the owner of 2 American cars. I guess I wanted to see who was treading on my territory. Then I noticed their unmistakably American Christmas decorations visible from the street. As my investigation deepened, I noticed that their clothes were not exactly Polish. They are more similar to those my parents wear which is a bit different than the Polish retired folks style (think marchewki jeans and white sneakers, not that there is anything wrong with that). Finally, I knew something was up when I saw that the man picks up his dog’s poo, every time, without fail, even when no one is looking (Well, when he thinks no one is looking- I’m very discreet). They had to be American. Further observation was warranted.

For investigatory purposes, I was glad to have run into the whole family in the corner shop when their son was visiting. The shop is very small so I easily overheard their conversation. Their son asked, “Czy oni mają good pastries?” “Tak, kochanie,” his mom reassured him, “Oni mają.” Oni? Chyba my a nie oni. I got riled up for a moment thinking that they were questioning Polish pastries asking if “they” have good pastries wondering why obviously Polish people would say “they” and not “we”. Then I chilled out from conspiracy theory mode and figured they were probably talking about the shop as “they” not the whole darn country.

I had to talk it over with the flower shop owner who is no longer the flower shop owner as she has leased out her shop space to another establishment -but that is neither here nor there. She and her husband also lived for about 20 years in the US and during that time built a house here in Poland and bought their shop. But that was back when one dollar was 4+ zloty not the 2.9 zloty it is now. The flower shop owner and her husband with their unique blend of Polish and Long Island accents confirmed my suspicions that the new neighbors were in fact Polish-American. Investigation over.

The flower shop owners agreed that they themselves had come back just in time to cash in on their stay in the US. Many people who are doing it now are finding it more difficult financially than they originally expected. In addition to finding the move more costly than expected, some of the people coming back can be surprised by the Poland that they find now. Still many people in Poland are poor and cannot make ends meet but more and more “normal” people are coming into their own and can afford nice cars and homes and summer vacations in exotic locations without having to work abroad.

If I were one of those Polish people who went abroad to make a better life for myself and my family, I might be a little resentful of Poland’s success. The whole justification for my sacrifice abroad is that it couldn’t be achieved at home, right? I mean I’d be happy for my country and its people but still a little pissed off that I am not returning the rich “American” to the poor Poland. You can be happy and pissed off at the same time, can’t you?

Of course, I know some people who made the move fully aware of the changes which have occurred in Poland. I also know some Polish people aware of the changes have decided to stay in the US indefinitely or to stay in the US longer to save up more money. I also know some American people who live in Poland who act like it is deep PRL here, but that is another story.

I met up with our neighbor the other day at the corner shop. He entered with his Vote Obama winter hat on and inquired as to the price of Black Smirnoff. When he heard the price he said, “No way! Idę do Żabki.” Ahh, the free market at work.

PS About the dog poo - If you are Polish living in Poland and you pick up after your dog, please forgive my generalization, but you know it is true. To be fair, I decided to count how many individual poos I encountered on my way from the parking area to the company where I taught today. The rules- too be counted the poo had to be in my line of sight at a distance no more that 3 meters away. I counted 32 individual poos…and 2 empty bottles of Wiśniowka. Not bad.


sebastian said...

In Poland, we said for this kind of meeting: the world is so small

Chris said...

Sebastian, it is so true.

Stardust said...

Chris, I'm sure is funny and exciting to meet people who come back, or people who where born in the same country as you.
Counting dog's poopoo made me laugh a loud:)) But I have a deal for you;) Since I am writing comments on your blog in english, can you please try to write comments on my blog in polish? That's not a lot writing, but it may be a good practice;) And it doesn't matter if you make a mistake, I can make mistakes in my english comments as well. Is not a test, is just fun and the perfect ocassion to practice. What do you think? Can we do that? Please don't be afraid to say NO. Is just an idea.

Gosia said...

dog's poo ...
We said if you step in - you'll be rich.
So stop counting - start stepping in:)
I found your blog by Stardust.
Do you mind if I'll stay here for longer :)
Be honest - that's good practice for me.
Can i request you for improve me, when I'll make mistake.

Stardust said...

Gosia, dog's poo suppose to guaranty happiness in love:)) That's according to my grandma:)) And I think there is something about, because right before one of my first dates with Magnificent I steped in poo.. Right in front of my work building in Manhattan, Holly crap!!! I couldn't wash the shit good enough from my shoe and was stikning in a car all the way to NJ:)) had to confess to Magnificent, because he had strange face and was snifting not knowing what the hell is going on!!!

ds said...

cześć Chris, przyszłam od Stardust i bardzo mi się podoba, jak piszesz, więc już tu zostaję. (ja jestem Polką we Francji)

ucieczka said...

I guess 2 months ago I just ran into Stardust blog, and by her links I doubled the number of my daily blogs to visit ;) Your blog is also added to list ;) I have read the notes from the homepage, and I'm surprised to see that you actually teach in normal school? (I'm mean not private or just language school). Wow, did the demand for native American teachers disappeared? Not that I'm criticising your choice, I just envy your students to have a native teacher! I have always been learnt by our own teachers after philology, (not criticising again, I'm a English philology student myself!) and must say that when we learn a language and don't have a native that we listen and repeat trying to imitate the speech and sounds the results aren't satisfying. So now I sit and listen to tapes ;p.... Ok, what I wanted to say basically is that I'm glad that Stardust has recommended you ;)

Gosia said...

Stradust if is like you said, my boys will be happy like I don't know what.
Lots of stinking dog's poo under their shoes, when they back home,
And your Magnificent - brave guy. What did he said?? You had to get out?

Chris said...

Gosia- You are welcome to stay as long as you like:) I agree that if stepping in poo makes you rich or happy, we should be one darn rich and happy family. As per your request:"Can I request for you to correct me when I make a mistake?" We don't use "will" after "when" in this sentence even though you are talking about the future.

Stardust - I promise to do my best to comment in Polish on your blog. It'll be good for me to write in Polish. Good luck trying to figure out what I mean...

ds- Welcome! What'd that be in French? The only French I know is from "Powiedz to z Noddy po francusku" from Minimini channel for kids :)

ucieczka - At the moment I work for myself and teach English in companies. Back in the day (in those last couple of posts I am writing about when I first came to Poland) I worked in a regular school on a kind of missionary status. The biggest downside of working in a Polish public school has to be the pay. The students were great fun and I keep in touch with some of them even today more than 10 years later.

evek/ewwwek/ewa said...

I also came here with Stardust recommendation ;O) and "No way! Ide do Zabki" is my quote of the day!!! ;O)
greetings from Windy City!

Chris said...

Ewa- It is a good quote useful in many situations such as boss pissing you off, argument with spouse, poor service in a restaurant.

Wait til I tell you about "frozen smarks" ;) Could be useful for you in way up there in the northern cold.

ania_2000 said...

Hi Chris! I've found your blog thru Stardust, and what a treat that was:) Haven't yet read all posts, just started. AT first I thought - RANCZO:) just kidding haha (but it was really good polish sitcom I've seen this series on internet).
Greeting from sunny Portland, Oregon ( we have el nino this year, and all rain is gone south to CA;)

aga-b said...

I also got here through Stardust and I'm here to stay ;) Best from soon-to-be very snowy Connecticut!

małgośka said...

Witaj Chris!
Bardzo podobają mi się historie które opisujesz i ilustracje do nich też :)
Strasznie śmieszą mnie zdania łączące polskie i angielskie słowa, jak "no way, idę do Żabki" czy "at Babcia's".
Tak samo mówimy w domu kiedy próbujemy rozmawiać po angielsku, chociaż my z innego powodu :)

Chris said...

Ania_2000- Sunny Portland Oregon. I see we have the same sense of humor.

Afa-b I saw on TV that you are snowed in there in the East. Well, at least you have something to read :)

Małgośka- Witam. Na pewno nie jest tak żle. You should hear my Polish :)

hjuston said...

I found you thru aneta's recommendation, but I think I also have to check who is this mysterious Stardust person.

To be fair- my American neighbor cleans after his dog only when I look thru the window!

Chris said...

Welcome hjuston! Whatever keeps them honest!