Thursday, December 20, 2012

A very merry and rustic Christmas czyli Christmas Unplugged

We are going to be spending a very merry and rustic Christmas. What’s that mean exactly? No cell phone coverage (unless you stand in the field and hold the phone up to the heavens) and no internet either. Add to that no satellite TV and we're probably going to get really fat this Christmas.
Just how fat?
There will be a full report after the new year.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kolędy and Christmas festivities

I am busy, busy, busy with work. I have no time for anything and no time to write. I don’t even know why I bother, with the world coming to an end and all this Friday on my 13th wedding anniversary. It’s just a coincidence I’m sure.

This week one of my student’s showed me his record collection, I mean vinyl collection -that sounds cooler. I guess we are going steady now ;)

Lizzie and Rosie have been brushing up on their Christmas carols both in Polish and in English. “Gloria, i bezsensu Deo” is a popular tune in our house ;)

Christmas carols are called kolędy in Polish. So that would mean that caroling is kolędować or kolędowanie. Once upon a time, I found out that the priest was coming a-caroling to our building. I was pretty excited. The priest and 2 altar boys were going to come to our door and sing. How awesome, I thought. Polish priests rock! Except that when the priest comes caroling it doesn’t mean that he sings. Bummer. He just chats you up, blesses your home, says some prayers and accepts donations. That’s not quite what I had in mind.

We’ve been doing a lot of Christmas stuff such as cleaning our house, shopping, making lists and checking them twice, going to Santa Claus parties and whatnot. Santa Claus comes to our house twice, but we have the cover story all worked out. You see, Santa comes to our house on December 6th, Santa Claus Day, to get the girls’ Christmas letters and to leave something sweet. The real show is Christmas Eve/Christmas morning bardzo po amerykańsku.

First we hit the City Jarmark.

Pajda rules, by the way. It’s a big hunk of bread, spread with lard that has bits of meat in it and then topped with ogórki kiszone. Oh, unless you get something on the menu which was called (I swear I am not kidding) “Pajda Full Wypas”. In addition to lard it was topped with kielbasa, fried onions and optional bigos. Yummy.

Next, we hit the Village Santa Claus Day party sponsored by the local government. It was, um, interesting. All I have to say is that if you pick a guy to play Santa from the group of guys who drink in front of the shop, why don’t you pick the big, tall guy with a very Santa-like belly? Why pick the slimmest guy of them all? Maybe he was the most sober?

Rosie waiting above. Lizzie waiting below.


Then we hit the Village Jarmark where I reaffirmed my belief in the power of pajda and got to know that grzaniec, in fact, has a lot of alcohol in it.

SDC13455  SDC13457SDC13458 
In case I don’t catch you again before Christmas, I wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with family, delicious food, beautiful decorations, rest and relaxation.  Stay warm and safe travels.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Winter is here.

Time to break out my Relaksy.

Sure, my Relaksy are much more modern that this guy’s. Mine aren’t even real “Relaksy”, just Relakso-podobne from Puma. But my feet are warm and dry and that’s all that really matters.

I tried to persuade Misiu to get himself a pair of kultowy Relaksy which have been re-introduced to the market by Wojas. Misiu isn’t turned on by winter footwear and he wasn’t especially turned on by Relaksy by Wojas when he saw the price – over 400 PLN. C’mon, Relaksy are the ultimate egalitarian footwear. How can they cost so much? OK, they’re cheaper than the Ecco’s I was looking at, but are definitely more than the Puma’s I ultimately purchased. Wojas, shame on you ;)

Friday, November 30, 2012

You think you know somebody

Today’s good news is that I managed to avoid feces of all kind, fiend and fowl (or is it fish or fowl, or beast or fowl, or something like that?). Considering last Friday, that made for a good day.

Mister “Jewish Conspiracy Theory” kept a lid on it. Considering our last conversation, that made for a good day. (He probably just thinks I’m part of the spisek.)

This week I learned that just because someone seems to be like you, doesn’t mean that they actually are like you. I mean, the lady with the dog on the bus, let’s assume that she was somewhat like me. I mean we were both on the bus at the same time…ok, the similarities end there but I know that if my (imaginary) dog were to poo on the bus, I would be responsible for picking it up. I thought that everyone knew that. I guess not. Pan Spisek isn’t so different from me. I mean we like a lot of the same books and have a similar sense of humor. I mean, I know the Jews are not out to get me and I thought that he did too. That’s what you get for making assumptions.

Take my  “American” neighbor. Do you remember him? I have an American car. He has an American car. He wears a “Vote Obama” hat. He picks up after his dog. We live on the same street. You’d think we’d have similar world views, but as I’ve recently learned we couldn’t be more different.

I ran into my American neighbor (40 years in America, retired to Poland) while he was out walking his dog. He greeted me with a “Good Morning” and started a conversation about the recent elections in the US. The conversation quickly turned from English to Polish as we both realized that the last 6 years in Poland has not done wonders for his English. The conversation got real weird real fast after that. My neighbor informed me that you just can’t get good, reliable news anywhere. All the TV channels and radio stations spew lies. Lies, I tell you! They just try to entertain you to distract you from the real issues. If you want to find out what is really going on you can get the truth in only 2 places. Radio Maryja and Telewizja Trwam. And he just heard on Radio Maryja (of all places) that America has 0% inflation because they just keep on printing all that money. Dollars everywhere. But in Poland we don’t do that. We know that we have to suffer inflation with a strong back.

He wears Uggs for gawd’s sake!

And OK, increasing the money supply (which can be done by manipulating the interest rate, money printing nonessential) during an economic downturn usually does not increase inflation, but I’m not sure that’s exactly how the “economists” at RM explained the situation.

What was I doing during this (one-sided) conversation? Standing with my mouth very elegantly hanging open. You can call it my Jewish-conspiracy face. I was speechless. Literally, speechless. All I could manage to say was the super intelligent, “Ja nie przepadam za Radio Maryja.” I also said that I would be late picking up my kids from school and I high-tailed it out of there.

You think you know a person.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What a day

You know what’s worse than being shat on? Having to spend an hour listening to a well-respected individual lay-out the whole “Jewish conspiracy” for you and then laugh at you when you don’t agree. At least I’ll get paid.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Do jasnej cholery!

This day has been a very shitty one, literally.

To start, I am carless  - not to be confused with careless. Also not to be confused with carfree. I am carless so that means without a car, without a choice. Why? Bo samochód się zrypał and for good this time. I’m a little sad about it. That was a good car. I drove it all over- in my hometown, to my first big job in Baltimore, in the Big Apple, in Warsaw, all over Poland, to Berlin. Bummer. I even shed a tear when I went to the mechanic to say my final good-byes.

So anyhow, that means Misiu and I have to trade off between bus and public transport. Every Friday Misiu is out of town so it’s the bus for me, all over town.

As I walked the kids to school this morning, I was feeling pretty good. The girls had woken up by themselves and had dressed themselves with minimal fuss. We were out the door with plenty of time to spare. As I left the school and glanced at the clock, I knew I would make it to the bus on time. Ding-dong, all’s well. Then as I stepped outside, a very nasty bird made a very nasty mess on me. I know it’s supposed to be good luck, but do jasnej cholery, it isn’t. I cleaned it off the best I could with a tissue and told myself that it wasn’t so bad.

And it wasn’t. I caught my bus even with time to spare. Ding-dong, all is well and I’m on my way to work. The bus was a bit crowded especially with the lady and her dog. We drove, we stopped, we drove, we turned, we lurched – all the fun of riding the bus. The lady with the dog got off and the folks who had been standing around her relaxed and took advantage of the extra space to move around a bit. Ding-dong, all was well…except for some terrible smell. City buses are not known for their sweet smell, but this was especially putrid. Ah, the lady and the dog had left a nice present for us. It was especially priceless for the 6 of us in the center of the bus who had managed to step in it and spread it around. So much fun for the small fare of 3 zl.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Polish Thanksgiving

Along with Halloween, we celebrate Thanksgiving here in Poland. When I say “we” I mean our family. Thanksgiving hasn’t made it into the Polish holiday line-up ;) I’m always kind of bummed out on Thanksgiving because I know my family in the US is sitting down together for dinner and I am…at work. Our Thanksgiving always takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not quite the same but good enough.
Do you know what is the best thing about Thanksgiving (besides family and giving thanks and all that)?
The pumpkin pie! I had to practice to make sure I remember how to make pumpkin pie from last year. Here’s my first practice pie. My second one didn’t turn out.
And now the best thing about NOT having Thanksgiving in Poland…no Black Friday! I am much thankful for that.
Chris’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe – The no-crust version (which is really my mother’s pumpkin pie minus the crust and some sugar)
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
spices to taste (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg)
½ square butter
¾ cup sugar (white or brown)
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 can evaporated milk (non-sweetened)
3 cups pumpkin (cooked and mixed)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease one glass pie pan with butter (bottom and sides) and set aside.
  1. Sift or mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
  1. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter (slightly softened). Beat in 2 eggs.
  1. Add dry ingredients and vanilla. Mix.
  1. Add pumpkin and mix.
  1. Add milk and stir with a spoon.
  1. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 180°C for about 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.
1 cup=235 ml
1 tsp.=5ml
Enjoy :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Coraz bliżej Święta

Chuck Norris w świątecznym wydaniu
Another Bank Zachodni-WBK ad featuring Chuck Norris.

“Come for your Christmas hay”



So basically Chuch Norris invites you to go into debt this Christmas. Spend your way into the red. Red is a very Christmasey color, isn't it?

And in the Polish Christmas tradition, you put some sianko under the tablecloth at the Christmas Eve supper to symbolize the birth of Jesus in the manger. Every year the newspapers give away a little pack of sianko before Christmas in case you have no where to get some.

Rosie and Lizzie commented that Santa Claus has cool pants. Yes, he does. Very cool leather pants.

Chuck Norris=Santa Claus???

Friday, November 9, 2012

Have you seen this? Maisy the dog

I’m not crazy about pets (allergies), but this little dog is adorable.

Meysi (could it be Maisy in English), owned by Anna Pohl from Jarocin, Poland just may be the smallest dog in the world. Read more here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hoping to turn this…


into this…


and this.


And have no idea what to do about this…SDC13330

…I guess not make a mountain out of it ;)

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

dry ingredients:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt

wet ingredients:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup or more of blueberries

Sift the dry ingredients together. Next mix the wet ingredients together. Add the wet mixture to the dry one and stir just enough so that everthing is mixed. Fold in the blueberries. Bake at 200 °C for about 25 minutes in a greased pan or muffin tin.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What’s all the Hubbub? VISAS

Polish people need a visa to visit the US. Poland is not one of the countries included in the Visa Waiver Program. Does that surprise you? It sure did surprise President George W. Bush a few years ago when he was asked about it by (then) President Kwaśniewski. It also surprised my former classmate serving in Afghanistan as a surgeon with other Polish surgeons and medical personnel. (He was also amazed at how creative the Polish surgeons were and how “hot'” the Polish nurses were, but that’s another story.)

So, here’s the deal. If you are a Polish citizen and you want to visit the US, you need a visa of some kind. You can fill out everything online and you have to pay for the visit to the consulate or embassy whether you get the visa or not. It is said that the visa requirement would be lifted if the refusal rate dropped to 3%. I believe it is somewhere around 10% now. Some say that this rate is inflated as people denied a visa multiple times are counted as an additional refusal, but I’m not sure how the numbers are compiled.

Here’s my observation. The first time I went to the American Consulate in Poland was about 15 years ago. When I looked at the people waiting in line, well, actually waiting in a huddle across the street as a man with a bullhorn shouted various orders at them, I saw all kinds of people. While the majority of the people were young, there were some middle-aged and older people too. From my brief chats and a lot of eavesdropping, I noticed quite a few students who wanted to attend some courses in the US or go on some work/travel programs. There were also some people going to visit relatives, sometimes grandchildren. There were a few people who admitted that they wanted a tourist visa to go and work. Whatever. I was just waiting for Misiu. I’m not a government spy or something. I have no idea what the refusal rate was back then. Misiu was first in the door and came back out in about 5 minutes, approved for a visa.

A lot has changed in Poland and in America in those 15 years. Polish people are more prosperous. Poland has joined the EU. The global economic crisis has hit Poland and America. Things have changed.

Quite a few of my Polish friends have US tourist visas. Most people get a visa valid for 10 years. When you enter the US, you get stamped for a period of time no longer than 6 months. These friends go to America on vacation and usually drop quite a bit of cash. Thank you friends for your support of the American economy :)

Some other friends who would very easily get a visa, don’t want to bother. There’s the whole world out there to see and they choose to spend their tourist dollars elsewhere.

The people who want to go abroad to work have a better chance in the EU. It’s closer to home, with a legal job and a legal stay. Trips home are faster and cheaper and you are not breaking the law.

In my last observation at the consulate, the number of people that I thought were regular folks seeking a tourist visa seemed to be smaller…a lot smaller actually. That left the rest of the folks applying for visas who seemed to be real desperados. The desperados get denied at a higher rate than the real tourists…thus leaving the overall refusal rate too high for lifting the visa requirement.

Note: My research is completely unscientific and highly observational. I could be completely wrong.

I’d like to add here that the Polish requirements for Americans to reside legally in Poland are pretty daunting. I know it is not the same, but I thought it might make some people feel better :)

Lwów, Polski konsulat. Ukraińcy czekają na wizy
To compare, an old pic of Ukranians waiting in front of the Polish Consulate (2007).

And the winner is…

Barack Obama

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A white Halloween

Our Halloween celebration was a little bit foiled by the weather (it snowed all day) and a little bit by our neighbors, but the candy was abundant so I don’t think anyone took notice.
It was our first Halloween in the Village. The girls had a lot of fun decorating their room.

The girls were also very lucky to get a surprise package of goodies from our favorite Polish housewife from Poznan. Thank you Lois. Everybody loved the candy necklaces and the eyeball/gumballs. The glow sticks especially came in handy as the electricity went out on our street while we were trick-or-treating.
All was set – the house decorated – the costumes on – the food made…


   …but no guests. Two little guests from our street went to their Babcia and another chickened-out (that’s what his mom said). Luckily, my sister-in-law showed up with her family and also Lizzie’s friend from school came with her parents all the way from the City in the snow.
Despite the snow, we decided to brave the streets (well, street) and visit the pre-arranged trick-or-treating homes. Some neighbors declined our visit which is perfectly cool with us. Some neighbors accepted and went overboard with the candy. Thank you very much neighbors. And some neighbors chickened-out or just simply forgot we were coming. Anyhow, it was too cold for tricking. In the end the trick was on me – terrible cold :( Hmmm, snow, a red nose and red cheeks and soon I’ll have a belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly (if I eat any more Halloween candy). Christmas, anyone?
SDC13367 Happy Halloween…til next year!
PS 1 Rosie, aka, Minnie Mouse was very happy to go to the “elementarz” and look at the graves with all the candles.
PS 2  After a very unpleasant visit by a neighbor (and not for Halloween) who didn’t knock, who greeted me in the bathroom upstairs (not cool), who gave me a disgusting look and then licked his lips (also not cool)  and tracked manure all through the house and then scraped off his boot on the leg of my kitchen table (the most uncool of them all), I declare that from now on I will always, always lock the door to our house.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How does Poland celebrate Halloween?

This is the top keyword search phrase for Kielbasa Stories this week. The second top keyword search phrase is gross and makes me regret using the word kielbasa in the name of my blog.
So how does Poland celebrate Halloween?
I would have to say, grudgingly.
If you want to get a taste of Halloween in Japan, please check out Srodowe bento - wersja halloweenowa.
A conversation I had with Misiu just came to mind. We were sitting in the one and only coffeehouse in my little American hometown this summer just sipping our coffees and watching the world go by. Misiu was trying to come up with the proper word to describe my hometown.
“Quaint?” I offered.
“No,” he said.
“Rural? Agricultural? Out-of-the-way? Folksy?”
“Nope.  I was thinking ramshackle.”
“Oh, ramshackle. I can see it.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

With all due respect, Bishops of Poland,…

…I think you missed the point.

You can disagree with Halloween in Poland for many reasons. I’m American and I celebrate Halloween in Poland for one reason and one reason only – my children. I didn’t celebrate Halloween here before I had kids and I will probably stop (excluding the occasional jack o’ lantern) when they reach the age that they are “too cool” to celebrate it. I choose to celebrate Halloween with my children here in Poland because I want to share a bit of my childhood with them. We also go with them to the cemetery on November 1st and 2nd. They are Polish children after all. Well, Polish/American.
I have such fond memories of dressing up, bobbing for apples, going trick-or-treating. I went to Catholic School and we had to go to Mass every single morning, but what a fantastic morning it was when our priest conducted Mass dressed up as Dracula. Seriously. We were in awe. Our priest along with the nuns (usually dressed as witches) escorted us each year on a Halloween parade around the neighborhood. It was a lot of fun. I also remember my grandmother’s neighbors who dressed up as Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride of Frankenstein every year. They decorated their front porch with scary decorations and lights and even played scary music. It was great. I want my kids to have some fun Halloween memories too. I don’t want to import Halloween to Poland and insert it into Polish society. We celebrate on a small scale with willing participants only. If it helps, I would gladly remove McDonald’s and Starbucks from Poland if I could. Poland for the Polish ;)
OK, I got a little carried away. Back to Halloween.
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because it encourages consumption (because candles and wreaths and Sidolux for cleaning graves are all free).
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because it is cultural colonization from the west (so drop that Happy Meal and put down that Coke).
You can disagree with Halloween in Poland because you think it encourages hooliganism, or you can disagree with Halloween in Poland because you think it is stupid or because  masz wszystko w dupie.
That’s fine with me.
But you cannot disagree with Halloween in Poland because it promotes the occult. Because it doesn’t. You cannot send letters home to parents that celebrating Halloween breaks the 1st commandment. Because it doesn’t. You cannot tell kids that carving a pumpkin is a sin. Because it isn’t.
Does Andrzejki promote the occult? It is more mystical than Halloween. Does Karnawal promote the occult? Kids’ karnawal parties look pretty much like Halloween minus the dynia.
And what do you think of this poster? Pretty funny, isn’t it? Or pretty drastic? We had the exact same situation with Rosie. Suddenly, she couldn’t fall asleep at night. We couldn’t leave the room. What was going on? The explanation was surprisingly simple. She’s 4. She goes to pre-school. She is not signed up for Religia but the teachers seem to forget about that and let her in the room during Religia. She’s too little to tune out the Religia teacher. Soooo, we spent one week checking under the bed for “Niewidzialny Jezus”. Thanks Religion Teacher.
Ogłupianie dzieci duchami na tzw. Halloween – przysporzy klientów psychiatrom w przyszłości!
If you’d like to “sracz i rzygać jednoczesnie” (as Misiu so eloquently put it), you can read the opinion of Polish bishops on the topic of Halloween.
Here are only two articles but you can easily find more and more.
Here are some more opinions about Halloween w Polsce from the net.
Halloween w Polsce

Zapamiętajcie raz, a dobrze – w Polsce obchodzimy, Dzień Wszystkich Świetych, nie "Halloween".
Wyjaśnijcie mi jedno:
Miej świadomość – co świętujesz
Może zamiast amerykańskiego halloween – spróbowalibyśmy sięgnąć do polskich tradycji?
Najstraszniejsze przebranie na halloween? – Człowiek
Jedno mnie zastanawia –  Czy oni wiedzą, że Halloween to święto szatana?
Halloween...i znowu się zacznie – do moich drzwi nie pukajcie...! Ja jestem Polakiem czekam na Wszystkich Świętych!
Halloween – Po naszemu.
Jeśli wierzysz w Boga – to nie obchodź Halloween. Albo jedź do USA...
Może zamiast,tego waszego Halloween, – to przeszlibyście się na cmentarz i odwiedzilibyście zmarłych ?
Dziękujemy Wam, Obrońcy Krzyża! – Dzięki Wam, moja klasa wygrała konkurs na Halloween'owy kostium! Jeszcze raz dziękujemy!
- Stachu masz juz strój na Halloween? – - Po co mi? Wystarczy że będę trzeźwy, a i tak mnie nikt nie pozna
And to push the stereotypes a little further…
One of my students decided to go trick-or-treating with her friends last year. I told them the Halloween trick-or-treating rules.
No costume, no candy.
No destructive tricks.
No trick-or-treating after 9 p.m.
Wear something reflective.
No paper treat bags.
 (I had an unfortunate incident as a child when the local pastor who gave out apples –and sometimes dimes- dropped an apple into my treat bag. The apple went all the way through the bag to my feet along with all my candy. The pastor said “Happy Halloween” and closed the door.)
OK, back to my student and her Halloween haul. She got some candy, one swipe with a broom, a few opportunities to do a trick, a few F**K OFFs and 50 zloty. Wow, 50 zloty!  At one house, a guy gave her a 50 and asked her to go and buy her a flaszka. Cool.
Pół litra... – albo psikus. ;D
Walentynki, halloween.. –  Niedługo będziemy piec indyka na święto dziękczynienia!
We can only hope ;)
Happy Halloween!