Monday, September 28, 2015

Orchard Festival

As it turns out we missed the Harvest Festival (Dożynki) last week because we were visiting a friend. We go to Dożynki every year, so we could stand to skip it this year. What we could not skip was a visit to Bolesławiec on the way to our friends. We have just about everything you can buy from the Polish pottery Mecca, but I did find a few things our collection was missing.

They have a whole basket, if anyone is interested.

We started our Orchard Festival Sunday with a bike ride. I've just returned to cycling after years, so the plan is to build up my distance each week. Because we go on bike paths through the forest, we get a whole body workout - or at least that's how it feels this morning. I could definitely see the signs of autumn on our ride. The morning breeze was crisp, and some leaves have already fallen. 

After that we headed off by car to the festival. We started from a musical performance by the local school kids. Na Straganie is really funny when each vegetable is acted out by another kid.

Then we hit the stands to buy some apples and grab something to eat. There were so many people buying fruit I couldn't even get a picture.

Autumn is everywhere even at home.

I love autumn in Poland so be prepared for more unnecessary and repetitive autumn posts.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

That's so (sic!)

Justinowi Bieberowi powiększono na fotkach mięśnie i wypukłość gatek opinających krocze (sic!).

This sentence is taken from the Polish magazine Polityka from an article about the use of Photoshop.

Over the years, more and more English has slipped into the Polish language. I'm not a language purist, and English is my language so all the better for me. When I first came to Poland, the common "okay" saved me many a time. Having said that, when incorporating a foreign word or phrase into our own language, we should know what it means and strive to use it properly. 

I had a very frustrating boss in Poland who used to mix lunch and launch, two words he constantly used while speaking and writing in English and in Polish. I pointed it out to him, but he lunched/launched on. I think he was messing with me. He also mixed up BS and BO - bullshit and body odor. He'd walk around the office shouting, "That's total BO!" I didn't tell him about it. He was kind of a jerk. I told the rest of the office though. I'm kind of a jerk too.

It's important that when using WTF in Polish that you either say "what the fuck" or the censored version "what the what". If you choose to say the letters WTF only, the Polish pronunciation probably isn't the best idea. Well, it always makes me laugh anyhow. The most important thing is the context, then the pronunciation. I've yet to see WTF used out of context in Poland.

I overheard a group of teenagers talking on the bus about how one of the boys almost managed to ask out a girl he likes. "So close," the one boy said in English. It was perfect.

And that's why we use a word or phrase in another language - because it is a better match to our situation...unless someone is a jerk and wants to pretend to be sooooo international. Those people don't count. Context or no context, pronunciation or no pronunciation - they're still jerks.

That brings us back to (sic!). I was taught in school back in the dark ages that it should be written [sic] and in no way means that the aforementioned text is sick or is some kind of situational fuck-up czyli fakap for the Polish corporate audience. It is primarily used when you are quoting some original text, and there is an error in it. The [sic] indicates that you are aware of the error, not just a poor typist or autocorrect victim. If you the author would like to write something incorrectly you may also add [sic] to your own text. If you would like to write something that is so absurd or crazy that people will assume it is a mistake, you can also use [sic]. It is less often used to point out archaic use of words or erroneous logic in a quoted text. On Facebook it is usually used to embarrass someone who doesn't know that the word definitely doesn't have an "a" in it. 

My point here is [sic] does not mean chory. So what kind of commentary is Polityka making about the fact that Justin Bieber's muscles and, um, package were allegedly enlarged using Photoshop in his advertising campaign for Calvin Klein? I guess that it is so absurd that without the (sic!) you'd think it was some kind of a joke. Maybe. I'm not so sure.


I started to think that I was unfair to Polityka maybe because I don't think it is at all absurd that Bieber had himself Photoshopped in an ad campaign. I will give Polityka the benefit of the doubt. I decided to Google sic in combination with different publications and check the the top 20 hits. What did I find? I found that usage in Polish is almost exclusively to show absurdity. Sometimes the statements are not absurd enough in my opinion. It should be used when it's so absurd you'd think it was a mistake. In English it was almost exclusively used to indicate an error in spelling or grammar in the original text. So let's agree that we use it differently. And as pointed out in the comments, sic is Latin which I am aware of.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Boga przecież nie ma

Raising your children without religion doesn't mean they have to be ignorant of religion. It also doesn't mean that they lack a moral foundation. But it is not without work. Here's what we've done so far.

Like most people, we started our children out on fairy tales. We talked about what was good and bad in the story, what was magical, what was make-believe, what was real, what we would do in the same situation. Then we moved on to mythology. I am not at all interested in mythology so we bought some mythology books that the girls showed an interest in. That's when I spotted Jest wiele wiar - O co pytają dzieci  by Monique Gilbert.

The book contains 4 sections of 4 religions. We learn about a day, a week, and a year in the life of a Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Jewish boy and girl. We learn about important events for each religion and compare and contrast the beliefs, traditions, and rituals. We also learn about important figures in each religion. This book, although for children, is very informative. I learned a lot from it. The intention of the book is for children to feel comfortable with religion and to understand people who practice those religions better.

Here's a quick peek inside:

Next we chose this book Boga przecież nie ma - Książka o niewierze w boga by Patrik Lindenfors. What I like most about this book is the support it gives to a child to not believe in something - to not believe in something that an adult tells you, to not believe because it doesn't make sense to you, to not believe because you don't like it, to not believe simply because you don't and that is your right even if you are a child. 

Here's a peek inside:

I think that these books are useful tools for parents in non-religious and religious households alike. I found them both at Empik book shop right off the shelf. Jest wiele wiar - O co pytają dzieci  by Monique Gilbert can be found in the original French under the title Il était plusieurs "foi" pour répondre aux questions des enfants sur les religions. I haven't been able to find it in English. Boga przecież nie ma - Książka o niewierze w boga by Patrik Lindenfors can be found in English under the title God probably doesn't exist. Polecam.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What's all the Hubbub? Refugees

am sure I have mentioned before that I have a recurring bad dream in which we have to quickly flee our home grabbing only our children and the clothes on our backs. As dreams can be, mine is realistic and terrifying. I have woken up frantic. I have woken up covered in sweat. I have woken up relieved that it was only a bad dream. I think my subconscious is influenced by the history of our house. The German people who lived there were not thrown out as in my dream though. They had sufficient time to pack and prepare before the Polish family moved in - the Polish family also removed from their home hopefully with ample time to prepare as well. I mean if there ever is ample time to leave a place that you consider home. 

You may have heard about the wave of refugees pouring into Europe. Perhaps you've seen them on TV. We're in Europe and they're pouring this way, so we get a lot of coverage. I don't know what the coverage looks like where you are, but this is what I've seen. I've seen people arriving to Greece on a boat that looked more like our blow-up kiddie pool. The people said they were fleeing the war in Syria. Parents wept as their children, alive if not well, were placed on firm ground. I've seen refugees in Greece aggressively fight with locals - locals overwhelmed by the sheer number of people arriving on their shores. People were everywhere, going everywhere, even into people's backyards and homes. I've seen women and children lined up at a train station in Hungary while guards minded them with sticks and dogs. I've seen a journalist kick, trip, and punch refugees including children trying to escape from guards. I've seen groups of male refugees deny women and children aid passed out by guards, throwing the food, water, and clothes in the trash or on the train tracks. I've seen bodies floating in the sea. I've seen groups of Germans welcome refugees at the station. I've seen comments to articles that I cannot believe are written in free Europe and not Nazi Germany with one commenter suggesting the trains full of refugees go straight to Auschwitz. I've seen Polish support rallies interrupted by opposition. I've seen heated, but polite political debate. I've seen a person opposed to refugees spit on a supporter.

Many people in Poland are opposed to taking refugees or at least that's what I get from the newspapers, television, and my Facebook feed. Not all people opposed hold the same feelings or to the same degree. Here are some as I have seen them...

They question if those refugees flooding into Europe are in fact from Syria. They wonder where all the women and children are and why the refugees have smartphones. They question why those who reached Turkey didn't stay there. They wonder why they don't flee to countries with more similar religious backgrounds and why those countries have not offered to take them in. 

Many are upset about the seeming lack of policy and/or procedure concerning people arriving via boat or on land. They point out that other countries process refugees in a different way. They are skeptical of Germany's loud cries of "welcome" and see it an attempt at atonement for WWII.

Some wonder at Poland's ability to absorb the numbers Poland has been asked to take. Many scoff at the irony of so many Polish people emigrating in the last few years due to the poor economic situation in Poland and lack of jobs and wonder where their assistance was. They joke that the refugees will escape from Poland as soon as they see that our social benefits are not as generous as in other European countries.

Many are skeptical at the refugees/migrants/immigrants ability and willingness to assimilate to Poland's culture and religion. Many are worried that the predominantly Muslim migrants will pressure the government to allow Shariat for them and then extend it to others. They remind me that as an atheist, punishment of death awaits me and my family.

Many simply do not want any person category "other", other nationality, other language, other religion, other color. Some protest against those "dirty Muslim terrorists". Still others while looking at the pictures of drowned children say, "Good. They would have grown up to be terrorists anyway."

I don't have the solution. Frankly, I don't want anyone to pressure the government to make legislation according to their religious beliefs. I wouldn't like it if refugees did it, and I don't like it when Marzena Wróbel does it either. I don't want them to die either. There has to be a better way.

Were you hoping for more out of me? 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The many stages of Chris

The many stages of Chris...

...on a Saturday morning...

...when Father of the Year and general all around good guy Misiu takes the kids to the pool.

That's a long title, but the original one was much longer.

First thoughts when husband packs up the kids and takes them to the pool is OMG I can get sooo much done - laundry, cooking, nails, whatever I want. But I should also do something in the garden, and the windows could do with a cleaning, and I haven't even peeked in the attic for ages. So that's me 15 minutes later sucking back my second coffee, catching up on my YouTube watching, not giving a crap about any of the stuff mentioned above. 

On to Plan B, I shall combine YouTube watching with cooking, or something similar to cooking - spaghetti and a sauce that the kids picked out at the local grocery store last night. Despite our American heritage, we are not a ready sauce kind of a family. After checking the list of ingredients for trans fats and various E's and finding none, we agreed on a sauce. While watching Fatfighters International, I mix up the dinner for my hungry swimmers and discover something terribly wrong with that sauce. I then whip off an email to the producer in Polish stating that something is either seriously wrong with their recipe or the whole batch of sauce is spoiled. I probably shouldn't be left alone.

As I prepare to dispose of the offensive dinner (in the slop trough of the neighbor's pigs), I decide to leave it for the fam to decide if it's just me or if the sauce is off. Pigs can eat spaghetti, right?

Plan C involves actually getting dressed, but not after I take a long and relaxing bath sans interruptions. Plan C is delayed as the power has unexpectedly gone out as it does at least 5 times a week here in the Village. No power means no hot water. No hot water, means no bath. No power also means no wifi. No wifi means no YouTube. No worries as I have a hot cup of coffee and my Kindle. Oh, the power is back - bath time.

Fam is still not back. I shall enjoy the bathroom all to myself and actually put on some makeup...on a Saturday. Quite a useless activity, but a fine opportunity to practice my kreska without little people bumping me while brushing their teeth and sending my kreska all the way back to my ear. Full makeup terribly clashes with my messy bun and Saturday t-shirt and sweatpants. They are new sweatpants straight from the fall collection, but I must say even the kreska cannot class them up.

Fam is back and sit down to the offensive spaghetti dinner. I say nothing as Rosie immediately declares the sauce inedible. Lizzie takes a bite and also declares something wrong with the sauce. Misiu tastes his portion and agrees that the sauce is a bit off and proceeds to eat his plate of spaghetti and the spaghetti left by the kids. The soup is never too salty in our house.

This post is sponsored by Lizzie who by quitting soccer has inadvertently signed herself up for Saturday morning swimming.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Me, a hypocrite?

The school year has begun for us. Not much has changed for Rosie, our 2nd grader. She has the same teacher in the same classroom with the same locker. She was also elected class president for the second year in a row. For Lizzie, our 4th grader, the whole world has changed. She has to change classrooms for every subject and has to adapt to the expectations of new and different teachers. Both of them have schedules more complicated than my university schedule, but that's how it is in Poland. One starts at 8:00 and finishes about noon, while the other one starts at noon and finishes after 4:00. Then the next day they switch.

Lizzie, the 4th grader, starts her second foreign language this year. English is mandatory twice a week, and we had a choice between French and German for the second second-language. Come to think of it, the school chose German for us, but theoretically we had a choice. German lessons are in fact German lesson because they have it once a week for 45 minutes, and in the first lesson they did not learn a single word in German in the whole 45 minutes.

Catechism, called "Religia", as always is an optional class twice a week. My girls don't attend as we are not Catholic so they spend time in the day room or in the library with the couple other kids who don't attend. Ethics is theoretically on offer at our school, but even if you declare in June that you'd like your kid to attend Ethics, the school will not arrange it. If they do, it'll start in November, not September. It will probably be at 7:00 in the morning or after 4:00 in the afternoon. It may also take place in another school or may possibly be taught by a nun. True story.

From the whisperings in the hall at school, some parents are not happy with the catechism situation at school. My only interest in catechism in school is that my children don't go, so I offered no comment to the conversation. Often parents who don't send their kids to catechism are quite critical of the parents who do. I'm not. Ok, I'm a little critical but of the school not necessarily the parents. When the school principal and teachers said that we would not have swimming lessons this year claiming a lack of money or that Lizzie wouldn't have a locker until the budget came in, then I was critical. Well, Misiu was critical and counter-claimed that the money was there. It's just spent on things that the school thinks and apparently parents think are more important such as catechism twice a week. Speech therapy? Forget about it. 

My children do not attend catechism not because I am a non-conformist, although I am. It's because I'm not a hypocrite. I know that some parents send their kids even when they themselves have stopped practicing that religion and even when one or both parents are non-believers. They're hypocrites. It is true, but I understand them just the same. 

The cost of not being a hypocrite can be very high. Some people are not willing to pay the price so to speak or allow their children to pay it. The cost for my children is hour after hour, year after year spent in the day room at school. The cost for us and them is no extended family, no aunts and uncles, no grandparents, no birthday wishes, no weekend visits. The choice to not be hypocrites was ours, the decision to exclude us from the family was theirs. It's extremely difficult to make a decision to raise your children according to your beliefs when you know that may mean a childhood without grandparents, without family. We decided that we would not buckle under the pressure. I wouldn't change a thing, but at the same time I understand the folks who are not brave enough to try. I wish they'd join me though. Maybe it'd be a little bit easier for all of us.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Łódź is not pronounced Loads

Road trip! This time to Łódź...which is not pronounced Loads if that is what you were thinking. I once blew my boss's mind in the States when at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC I explained that the Łódź Ghetto is the Łódź Ghetto and not the Loads Ghetto.

Łódź is a pretty cool place. Perhaps too cool. I do believe if Łódź challenged Wrocław to a hipster-off, Łódź would definitely win. But we weren't there for the hipsters or Piotrowska Street. We were there for Miś Uszatek!

If I am truly honest here, I think I enjoyed the Se-ma-for Animation Museum more than anyone who has ever been there, ever. Miś Uszatek was my first Polish teacher and what an adorable teacher at that. I was very happy to see him, his friends, his room, the wallpaper, all of it. I've seen almost all the episodes over the years, and I didn't catch on for ages that all the voices were done by one man. Of course there's more to Se-ma-for than Miś Uszatek. 

The Museum tour begins with a stop in the movie theater where you will see a selection of old and new Se-ma-for creations. Then a tour guide, in our case a lovely young lady, tells the visitors all the most interesting things about Se-ma-for past and present. After that, visitors are free to roam around at their leisure. There's so much to say about the museum, but I don't want to spoil it for you so I'll just show a few pictures.

Our trip was a short one, so next we hit Piotrowska, the "mainest" main street in Łódź. We grabbed something to eat, did some sightseeing, hit some shops, and then headed back home.

In reaction to the lack of "Hel" t-shirts or any other Polish souvenirs in Hel, we hit the Pan tu nie stał shop pretty hard - Polish design, made in Łódź, to takie miasto w Polsce. We got 8 stamps in one visit. Is that a lot? 

Visit their online shop at When I wear my "zołza" shirt, people are so nice to me.

I almost forgot about the Łódź hipsters. They're all so very cool. The ladies, so ladylike yet functional and funky. The men, so dapper and colorful. I felt oh so very plain there in Łódź, but I got in some great people-watching. And about that hipster off? I think it would go something like this:

Łódż, I hope to see you again soon.