Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That’s So Polish: The Killer Draft

While many of us have heard (or may believe) that drafts can cause colds, it is only in Poland that I learned drafts can kill.

I would laugh it off as an individual’s idiosyncrasy except that I have heard it many times from many different people. The stories are usually about my friend’s sister’s neighbor’s cousin’s uncle’s baby who died because of a draft. While horrible as that story may be (and I don’t recommend putting babies to sleep under open windows), a draft alone will not do you in.

I decided to investigate the situation and according to Google, the source of all my health information, long-term and repeated exposure to drafts can make you more susceptible to illness, but the draft in and of itself does not make you sick.

I also think we should clarify what we mean by draft. A draft in my opinion is a cold, unpleasant blow of air usually from an open window or door or in an old house. A draft “po polsku” seems to be any movement of air when you have 2 or more windows open in your home. Draft is przeciąg in Polish not to be confused with pociąg which is something else entirely.

So drafts do not cause colds. There is no medical reason why I cannot open windows in all the rooms of my home simultaneously. In my opinion, stuffy is not better than drafty and so far (knock on wood or unpainted wood as it is in Polish), no one in our family has been the victim of a deadly draft. Scratch that. My mother-in-law’s window slammed shut and broke after an unfortunate draft incident. Don’t ask, it was all Dziadek’s fault.

On a side note, depending on who you talk to you shouldn’t eat ice cream or drink cold drinks when the weather is too cold or…..too hot for that matter. Yes, I have heard it both ways.

And apparently, if you eat a lot of rich foods your liver will hurt.

And a cure for bladder and kidney ailments is warm underwear (not antibiotics).

And vodka kills germs (this one is probably true).

Na zdrowie!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

So you wanna have a baby in Poland…

So, you wanna have a baby in Poland.

You should start from choosing your hospital.

After you have chosen your hospital, you should choose an OB/GYN associated with that hospital. Your OB/GYN will perform some tests, give you some vitamins and wish you luck in getting pregnant. Your OB/GYN will not actually come to the hospital for your child’s birth, but at least you can allude yourself that the thousands of zloty you have paid your OB/GYN will make him/her feel morally obliged in some way.

Actually, I’m wrong. You shouldn’t start from the hospital or the OB/GYN. You should start from checking your bank account for sufficient funds.

I suppose that is a good place to start anywhere, not only in Poland.

In my case (funds secured), I chose the “baby” hospital where I had unfortunately spent some time in the scary “interna” section a few years back. It only made sense to then choose the boss of the hospital, the Ordinator (sounds cool, like The Terminator), as my private doctor. I made a pre-pregnancy visit and we were rolling.

We, however, suffered a false start which landed me in the hospital. I knew the situation didn’t look good but was still taken aback when the sonogram technician informed me that “You, ma’am, are no longer pregnant”. Too bad for me that the bad news was delivered just as another patient opened the door, asking “Można?”. I quickly covered my bloody legs in shame. I didn’t even have a moment to myself to think about what I had just been told. I had to hurry up as a line was forming. I quickly dressed as I had undressed, blood and all, in front of 2 technicians while patients peeked their heads in to check if it was their turn yet. They have the “rodzić po ludzku” campaign, maybe they should have “miscarry po ludzku” too.

I was admitted, the next day given the “standard procedure” and sent home on the 3rd day. My papers indicated I had occupied a bed for 3 days which is important because the hospital doesn’t get paid for stays under 3 days. 5 days is better.

I was placed in a room with 5 other women, 4 of whom were recovering from hysterectomies and one other who was waiting for hers. In case you have never been hospitalized in Poland, you should know that patients love to talk about their illnesses and operations, the more gruesome the better. The ladies in the room were a bit annoyed that I wasn’t holding up my end of the conversation and by the second hour in that room, I went to the nurses station and asked to be moved to another room.

My doctor immediately agreed (benefit of going to his private practice). He had not wanted to place me anywhere near the baby ward and he thought I wouldn’t understand what the ladies were jabbering on about. I was placed in a double room with a university student who was waiting to get a cyst removed from her leg (and yes, she showed me the cyst). Not very gynecological in my opinion, but she seemed happy even after they had re-scheduled her operation for the third time. She was missing her exam session at uni. I think that was the point. What an wasteful way to get out of your exams.

Anyhow, I was not allowed to eat or drink prior to my procedure which was not a problem considering how bad hospital food is. The next day, I was led to the procedure room by a very nice doctor who later was the doctor at my first birth. I was surprised to see 5 people in the room besides myself. That seemed like a lot for something they assured me was routine. The anesthesiologist began to fill out the forms with me. Name, address, date of birth, PESEL…All was well until - “Czy pani jest na czczo?”

I had never heard na czczo before and couldn’t even ask the doctor what it meant. I told him in Polish that I didn’t understand and asked him to ask me another way. He asked, “Czy pani jest na czczo?” Hmm, that didn’t seem to be another way but just the same way as before. I repeated that I didn’t understand and could he ask me in another way (czyli innaczej). He asked me louder. Then, he asked me slower. After that he asked me louder and slower. I still replied that I didn’t understand. He turned to the other doctor and asked if I had bumped my head (really). That I did understand and I reminded him that I’m not Polish. C’mon, duh, he filled in my very-not-Polish name on the form. Anyhow, the other doctor, Dr. Nice, asked me if I had had anything to eat or drink (czyli na czczo) to which I replied no, and we were rolling.

I hopped on the table and a man sat down in front of me and with no greeting (excuse me) spread my legs. I immediately sat up and asked who he was and what he was doing. (He thought I had bumped my head as well). He was still looking at me with no explanation when I asked by the way who the 5 people in the room were and what they were needed for. With a heavy sigh, he explained that Dr. Na Czczo was going to administer the anesthesia, Dr. Nice was to assist as were the two nurses who were opening a sterile kit which included, gulp, a saw (I am not kidding). I nodded and asked “A pan?” to which I got an exasperated reply, “I am the doctor!” I stuck out my hand as if to introduce myself and said “Ja jestem pacjentką, najważniejsza w tym pokoju”. He was not impressed.

Then Dr. Zblazowany asked me to sit back so Dr. Na Czczo could begin knocking me out. As the mask went on, Dr Na Czczo (whose intelligence was already in question) asked me (as is practice in administering gas) who the first king of Poland was. I answered “jakiś Bolesław ale pierwszy prezydent USA był Waszynton”. Next, he asked me to count backwards from 50. I told him that I could count back from 10, 5 times and he said to begin. I was out before cztery. I suppose they were relieved.

I woke up some time later in my room. Dr. Nice told me that “smacznie pani spała” and that I could go home the next day. I went to the shower room to get washed up. In the shower room, I met another lady who was intently observing me (which is BTW not cool in any shower/stranger situation but especially not cool in a hospital).

“Well,” she said as I struggled to somehow maintain my privacy, “what’re you in for?'”

“I was pregnant,” I replied.

She cackled, “Well with all that blood, I guess you aren’t anymore”.

Polish hospitals, gotta love ‘em.

I returned to my room where I set in to watch the soaps with roommate and waited till the next day to go home.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Communist Bastards

What a nice Mother’s Day I had. I received adorable wishes, cards and flowers from my girls (which was great) and information that Rosie did not pass through the first stage of pre-school recruitment (not so great).

We will take part in stage 2 of recruitment which means we put Rosie on the waiting list and hope that somebody drops out. Rosie, along with more than a thousand other 3-year-olds, didn’t get in so her chances of getting in are pretty slim.

I am not angry that I will have to pay for a nanny. I am not angry that I will have to enroll Rosie in a private pre-school which is well below the standard of Lizzie’s public pre-school. I am not angry that I will have to drop off my children to 2 completely different locations each morning and pick them up the same in the afternoon. No, I am angry at the educational opportunity for Rosie which is lost. I am angry that I will have to explain to Rosie why she cannot go to pre-school with her sister, why she cannot play in the playground with her sister, why she cannot go to the same lessons that her sister attends. That makes me furious.

Thank you commie bastards and your super duper polityka prorodzinna.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lizzie says…

Lizzie says it is better to be a girl than to be a boy. This is from the girl who was mistaken for a boy twice today. I suppose it is partly because of her manner of dress (a dinosaur t-shirt and khaki shorts) and partly her behavior (climbing to the top of the jungle gym and jumping off the top). A girl she definitely is, just not a typical one I guess. She’s her own person – unique. That’s pretty darn cool.

For the latest school play, Lizzie will play Snow White. We already reserved the dress from the costume shop because unlike many of the little girls in her class, we don’t have a ready supply of princess costumes at home…and the stores are all out until Halloween/Carnival time next school year. If only they needed a Spiderman for the play, we’d be all set. I am glad that the teacher chose her for a princess role though. Lizzie never would have chosen that role for herself. It’s good for her to try something new.

For the Christmas play, Lizzie was a sheep with a group of other girls…or as we like to call them “disco sheep” because in the middle of a very somber play about the birth of baby Jesus, the group of sheep burst out in song and danced a little disco number. They have totally cool teachers.

Lizzie, however, was not very excited about being a sheep, disco or otherwise. There was one role that she wanted very badly, so badly she learned all the lines just in case the other child unexpectedly fell ill. She practiced every evening and took her job as understudy seriously even though the teachers hadn’t asked her to do it. And what was that coveted role, you ask? Joseph, of course. He had a very cool stick. Even this weekend, as Lizzie stood on stage in a restaurant we visited, she recited Joseph’s lines and then took a bow…maybe next year sweetheart.

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cool restaurant for kids

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I almost forgot…Lizzie says it is better to be a girl than to be a boy because you get to do more stuff and wear more kinds of clothes when you are a girl. You can play “boys” and “girls” games and wear “boys” and “girls” clothes, but boys kind of have to stick to the “boys” stuff or kids make fun of them.

An insightful little creature, isn’t she?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Women of Wroclaw, rejoice…

…for you have joined the civilized world.

Anesthesia during childbirth is now available to the women of Wroclaw. MP900422710[1]

And this time, they really mean it.

Read more here.

Such a headline could be read any given month over the last 5 years in Wroclaw (and elsewhere). The only problem with such an announcement is that until now access to anesthesia for birthing moms was purely hypothetical. The reason? Well, as the Polish saying goes - if you don’t know what it’s about, it’s about the money.

I am not suggesting that moms had to pay for anesthesia. That would have been too easy. Anesthesia, other than a shot of Dolargan* or in my case Vitamin B, was not available because there was no one to administer it…unless you needed (or “needed”) a c-section. Then you were good to go.

Hospitals are refunded a set amount of money for each procedure performed. That includes vaginal births and c-sections, respectively, no matter what resources are actually used in said birth. This amount, on average, is enough to cover the staff, equipment, drugs, etc. needed for each birth or c-section. Hospitals are strongly motivated then to use as few resources as possible with each birth. This system, in fact, would work just fine if not for the lack of anesthesiologists. Even if the hospital allowed patients to pay for the anesthesia, it is not possible to pay for the anesthesiologist.

So, it sounds like I am complaining. Boo-hoo, poor American mom gives birth in this 3rd world country. It was soooo painful and and they didn’t help me at all.

Not true. Ok, it was painful, but they did try to help me…somewhat. Didn’t I mention the Vitamin B shot?

I have given birth in Poland. Twice. Without anesthesia of any kind. I simply didn’t need it which was convenient because they weren’t offering it. Birth is painful. It is true. It is very painful even, but what was more distressing for me than the pain was my complete and total lack of options. You have to give birth i już. Koniec. Kropka.

And so I did. Misiu says that I did an excellent job as well. Don’t you know that I am Super Mom? I even have a t-shirt that says so.

Now if only Wroclaw could do something with its roads.



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As Seen In Poland…

On our visit to the park with our kids, we could see a lot of cool gnomes and one not so cool bottle of wódka żołądkowa gorzka in the bushes. 05142011073 (640x480)Booooo!

I guess this krasnal had to quickly ditch the bottle when he saw us coming. It’s always the ones you least expect ;)

Monday, May 16, 2011

As Seen in Poland…

A morning distraction on my commute to work is Antonio Banderas -the latest installment in a bank ad campaign which features internationally famous faces.

Apparently “Poles know what’s best” and what is best is cash loans from 5.99% interest (it is also best if you don’t read the fine print).

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

My first Polish jokes - Painters at PZU

For some reason when I first came to Poland, people liked telling me jokes especially the joke (maybe you know it) with the punch line “piłka…do metalu” (complete with arm motions showing a ball and then a saw). The problem with that joke is that it is only funny in Polish. Translated to English it doesn’t make any sense. And even if you can figure it out, nothing kills a joke more than a long, drawn out explanation. So after about the 10th time hearing this joke, I just smiled anScreen bean character laughing with great happinessd laughed at the appropriate time thus allowing at least the joke-teller some enjoyment.

So while living at PZU (if you don’t know, check out some old posts), I had an opportunity to hear this joke again – from the painters.

It was definitely unfortunate for me that PZU decided to paint their premises during the year of my stay. I got to know about it when I came home to my Archives and found my door wide open and all my belongings gone, excluding the contents of the wardrobe which were still there (but the door to the room was open and unlocked). I immediately went to the caretaker to politely inquire as to what was going on (translate – to ask her what the f*#$ was going on). She informed me that the building was being painted and that I had been moved to another room. Strangely enough, they wanted to leave my wardrobe in its original place but they moved the fridge from the kitchen to another room for me. Weird.

MC900434743[1] After many a morning of running into the painters on my way to or from the bathroom, one painter decided to be brave and talk to me. He started with a joke. I politely waited for the punch line and after seeing the hand movements indicating “a ball for sawing” I laughed accordingly. My newfound painter friend, spurred on by my laugher, decided to tell me another joke unfamiliar to me. As I didn’t understand a word, I didn’t laugh at the appropriate moment and after an awkward silence I said goodbye and continued back to my room. About 15 minutes later a friend came to visit me. She had also brought a message with her from the painters. They asked her to apologize to me for their “off-color” joke. Apparently, the second joke was a bit risqué and they thought that was why I hadn’t laughed.

All turned out well as the painters later invited me for a shot of vodka in my (and all of PZU’s) kitchen. When I stammered out one of the few clumsy yet useful phrases I knew in Polish “Bez popitki?”(without chaser?), the vodka-pouring painter laughed whole-heartedly and called for all the other painters to join us. A little bit later, well exactly 4 shots later, I had to excuse myself to go to one extra-curricular hour of English at the vocational school. When I arrived, my students, judging by the redness of my cheeks, decided that the weather must have turned colder since the morning ;) Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, totally unprofessional and unethical behavior I exhibited at the start of my career.

PS More recently I had a group of business people every Monday and Friday morning. The deal was that Mondays were mine, I could teach whatever “business crap” (as they put it) I wanted and Fridays were theirs to talk about whatever subjects they wanted – usually cars and cars and cars.

view detailsEvery Friday morning started out with the “Peter Show” a 5-minute joke-telling set by the Vice-President of the Board of Directors aka Peter. His jokes were definitely off-color which I enjoy (who doesn’t?) and his comedic timing perfect. What he was lacking, due to all that “business crap” I was teaching them, was the proper vocabulary needed to tell such variety of jokes. So every lesson began with a pre-lesson vocabulary check with me. You know, nobody wants to “burn” a good joke. However, when you as teacher are asked practically all the vocabulary needed for a joke, you’ve pretty much got the joke figured out. But no worries, my fake but sincere-sounding laughing skills are just about perfected after all these years of teaching adults (just kidding). To give you an idea of how my Friday mornings usually started, here’s a taste…(attention - it's gonna be vulgar)

Peter: Chris, Chris! I have a really funny joke to start the lesson today. I just need one word.

Me: Cool. What’s the word?

Peter: How do you say “pizda” in English?

I knew that lesson was going to be a doozey.

I love my job!

Something's up

Something's up with blogger so all comments and posts from the last few days have vanished. Let's see what happens to this short post.

Feel free to comment about any topic just to check if it works.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Aqua Park: the place where I go to cure all my complexes

Over the long May weekend (May 1st is Labor Day and May 3rd is Constitution Day), we decided to pack up the kids and take them to the Aqua Park. Unfortunately, half of the City had the same idea.

The park opened at 9 a.m. and we arrived about 10 minutes before and waited in a short line. A few minutes after 9 we were at the cashier and 93 zloty later we were in the changing room with a family pass for the whole day.

Anime girl swimmingOur girls wanted to hit the kiddy pool first which is a nice, shallow pool with a slide for the younger kids. It is also hot, something like bathwater, but it is a good place to start the morning because after an hour or two it is always packed with new moms and dads and their little babies.

After a bit, the kids got braver and braver and with Mommy and Daddy and their favorite Ciocia* explored the wave pool, the salt water pool outside, the Lazy River (which also travels outside), the big slide and the indoor playground. I personally spent at least 2 hours in the Lazy River with Lizzie and let me tell you, it is not that lazy. To keep yourself and your child afloat without crashing into other swimmers is pretty difficult. Misiu even came away from the Lazy River with a cut on his hand to which the swimming pool medic slapped on a non-waterproof band-aid. Witaj w Polsce!

After 5 hours, the kids absolutely did not want to go home. And they didn’t really have to. The Aqua Park has a restaurant and a place to rest. I even saw some of the little kids having a nap in the playpens provided by the park.

The best part for me besides having fun with the kids is checking out the other swimmers. That’s how I cure my complexes and boost my self-esteem.

view detailsThere were the people who wanted to keep covered up at all costs. I understand those folks a bit because I don’t like to hang out everywhere either and I definitely don’t want to see what someone else has hanging out. That’s why I chose a swimming suit which, umm, well, keeps everything contained.

In the baby pool, you can really feel good about yourself in comparison because let’s face it, new moms are usually packing a few extra pounds. I remember that was me with 6-month-old Rosie (and anview details extra 10 pounds) on my hip a few years ago.

I don’t even check out the dads. It’s just an array of flat stomachs, fat stomachs, back hair (better to ignore) and speedo style swimming trunks (eeewww). The new dads have usually got a video camera in hand.

There were a lot of figure flaws on display, but also a lot of physically fit folks - our favorite Ciocia included. I also noticed that tattoos are becoming more and more popular but it seems that experienced tattoo artists must be in short supply judging from some of the amateurish creations I saw. That also brings meview details to a point of unscientific research I have been working on – Can one, in polite society, openly stare at a stranger’s tattoo? I would venture a guess as to “yes”. I mean, why else would you get a 15 centimeter tattoo on your back and then take your shirt off? Surely, you want this masterpiece to be appreciated by others. My in-field research has shown that 15 seconds is the border between appreciative admiring and shameless gapienie.

I admit to some shameless gapienie. I couldn’t help myself. I had to check how long before the very attractive young women (in permanent make-up) realized that her white swimming suit was completely transparent when wet. It took her quite a while actually. She spent the rest of her visit either under water or covered in a towel and t-shirt.

I also kept another lady in my radar. She was probably my age or less with a beautiful figure, lovely swimming suit, impossible Two children splashing and playing in a swimming poolorange tan, perfect hair (also orange), full make-up and a permanently pissed-off look on her face. She came to the pool with her husband and son and somehow expected not to get wet. Every splash of water in her direction (in the wave pool!) was met with an even more pissed off look (if possible) and an angry reprimand of her husband who apparently is to blame for all the world’s wrongdoings. We got wet from head to toe, ran into a friend with his son, spent a wonderful time and somehow did not fall asleep in the car on the way home. It was a good day.

*Our favorite Ciocia is every kids dream. She loves to sing and dance, play games, go to the playground and go to the pool. I think she also loves Lizzie and Rosie. A few weeks ago, Lizzie asked me if I know why Ciocia is so great. I had a few suggestions such as Ciocia likes to read stories or sing songs. Lizzie agreed but those were not the best thing about Ciocia. The best thing about Ciocia according to Lizzie is that you can sit on her. Yes, you can sit her. Poor Ciocia.

PS What a fantastic May weekend. It has started to SNOW! Do you think it is a bad idea to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels inside our apartment?Father helping his daughter learning how to ride a bike

Monday, May 2, 2011

Breżniew is always right

Misiu, a kid at heart, loves to play games with our girls. That works out well because the kids love to play with him too. Misiu’s latest favorite game in entitled “Breżniew is always right”.

Would you like to play?

Misiu: We are playing “Breżniew is always right” and I am Breżniew.

Lizzie: (always agreeable) OK.

Misiu as Breżniew: Pick a number.

Lizzie: 5

Misiu: 6. I win! Pick a number.

Lizzie: 8

Misiu: 9. I win! Pick a number.

Lizzie: (thinking intently the highest number she knows) 17!

Misiu: 18! I win. Breżniew is always right.

Lizzie then tried out the game on me.

Lizzie: Mommy, I am Breżniew. (not a sentence I thought I would ever hear from my daughter)

Me: OK.

Lizzie: (nothing)

Me: Pick a number.

Lizzie: 11

Me: 12! I win!

Lizzie: But Mommy, I am Breżniew and Breżniew is always right.

Misiu to Lizzie: Tell Mommy to be careful. She doesn’t want to find out what happens to people who outsmart Breżniew.