Monday, April 30, 2012


We have a permanent route on weekends especially this Majówka “weekend” which lasts 9 days (Polish math ;). It goes something like this: bakery-play ground-play ground-bakery-Babcia. On our way between the bakery and the play ground (and before Babcia’s) there is the “big church”, one of 3 churches in our small town. It really is a lovely church. It was completely re-done outside a few years ago and now the inside is freshly renovated as well. You’d never know it though unless you went to services because they lock it up immediately after mass. I mean, so fast that someone could locked in…like American ladies trying to take some photographs, but whatever.
So, I wasn’t able to capture any images from inside the church, but I did get a snapshot of this poster just inside the vestibule. It kind of reminds why I don’t go to church.
I hope they are not ranked in order of dangerousness – or dangerosity as one of my students says. I mean unicorns before swastikas? Really?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Going “Home”

We are very slowly preparing ourselves for our visit “home” this summer – first visit in 7 years. From arranging substitutions at work, asking somebody to water our plants, deciding what to pack and preparing our girls for the long flight – we are really busy. Oh, we should go to the dentist before we go too. Oh, and we have to get an insurance policy in case we get sick in the US. Oh and this and that and another hundred other little things, but they all add up. But c’mon, it’s not so bad really. I mean it is not as daunting as it is for Olivia who has to sell her house in America and move with her husband and children to Poland for good. We will survive.

From past experience, I am sure that I am going to suffer from a bit of reverse culture shock (everything is in English!) and I will also be bombarded with questions about Poland from my friends.

Here are some of the typical things I get asked by friends, family and acquaintances. What shall I tell them?
Poland or Holland?
What’s the difference between Poland and Holland?
Where is Poland?
Is Poland near any “good” countries?
Poland’s as big as which state?
Did anything good ever happen in Poland, I mean, in history, ya know?
Do they speak Russian in Poland?
They speak Polish?! I didn’t know they had their own language! How long they had that?
Do you go to Auschwitz a lot?
Do you have grocery stores? McDonald’s? Frozen pizza?
Don’t they have food in Poland?
followed by Why’re you so skinny? Is it ‘cause of the rationing?
Do you have indoor plumbing?
Do you have hot water?
Have people in Poland heard about the internet?
Do people have cars in Poland?
How much do you earn?
How much do people earn?
How much does gasoline cost?
followed by Jesus Christ! How can anyone afford to drive over there?
So, what d’ya mean, you have public health care? So like you can just go to the doctor and leave without paying?
So, what d’ya mean the doctors didn’t give you anything for the pain when you had your kids?
Is it hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road?
It must be cool to be so close to Paris. Do you go there often?
Where’d you learn how to teach foreigners English?
How come your husband has a British accent?
and my all-time favorite…
Have you heard this one? A Polak, a Jew and a cowboy go into a bar…
I can’t wait!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

So you wanna have a baby in Poland, Part 3

I suppose that in this post, Part 3, I may get to the part where I actually have a baby. Let’s hope…
There I was, reaching the end of my pregnancy. The crib had been purchased and set up. The “Baby Whisperer” had been memorized. The baby carriage had been purchased and my hospital bag had been packed. All we needed was permission from the doctor, The Ordinator, that we could have a “family birth” and most importantly, contractions to start the birth. Contractions and we’d be rolling.
That was what I was most worried about - the contractions.  How would I know that the birth was starting? I mean I had had Braxton-Hicks contractions.  How were the “real” contractions different from that? None of my pregnancy books could satisfy this question nor could my doctor. I was worried then but now after 2 births, I can say that you just know. B-H contractions are sort of around your pregnant belly while labor contractions come from your core. At least that’s how I describe it.
In preparation for the birth, I started to get a lot of advice from well-meaning friends who already had kids. There were also a lot of horror stories from a friend of a friend of a friend. I tried to take all the advice with a pinch a salt and focus on the positive. I was worried first of all about my baby, then that I would need an emergency c-section and lastly about the episiotomy. Really, this episiotomy thing was stressing me out until a friend explained it her way –
Friend: Chris, you want an episiotomy.
I want a lot of things but episiotomy isn’t high on my list.
Chris: I do?
Friend: Yes, you do. Think about it. It’s like if you have an old pair of underwear and you stretch out the waistband. Wouldn’t it be better to cut the stretched out waistband and sew it back up as it was before?
Well, um, I kind of had to agree with her but was concerned that in this scenario my vagina was the stretched out waistband, but anyhow, no sense worrying about what you can’t control. And you can’t control it, that’s for sure.
So when I finally felt like this was it, we called our mothers and then my doctor and headed to the hospital. My doctor said he would call the hospital for us and tell them that we were on the way. He wished us a “Happy Easter” as it was Easter Sunday and explained that he would not be present at the birth. That much I figured anyhow. When we arrived to the almost deserted hospital, everyone was very nice. Most of the nurses also worked for the Ordinator in his private office and they remembered me. I am quite memorable ;) I was admitted with all the unpleasant admittance procedures such as enema and shaving but it was really the least of my worries.
Then the nurses asked me the very delicate question, I suppose necessary for their paperwork, if my husband was the father of my baby. As he was seated right next to me, I opted for the affirmative answer ;) I’m not sure why it was so important because in Poland any child conceived during marriage is considered to be fathered by the husband even if you state otherwise. The husband/maybe father-maybe not father can of course apply to change the paternity of the child.
When we got upstairs to the birthing area, I saw that the doctor and nurses were enjoying their Easter breakfast. I went to the birthing room and things got rolling after that. To cut the story short, I can tell you that in Polish, the only thing you need to know when giving birth is the word “push”. It is kind of a hard word in Polish – pchać. I had a better method, I taught the doctor and midwife “push” in English. The birth went something like this:
Czy Pani jest gotowa? No to push! Push! No to, nie push. Nie pushujemy teraz. Ok, ok no to push! Push! Dobra, dobra, Jeszcze jeden push i już.
Simple, really.
There were some complications at the end with the umbilical cord wrapped around my Lizzie’s neck. I almost don’t remember those panicked moments until she started to cry and got her color. Thank goodness, all turned out well.
And yes, there was an episiotomy, which was sewn up very nicely by the doctor. At least that’s what the other doctors said, especially the doctor whose job it was to check the crotches in morning rounds. It went something like this:
The door slams open, say about 5:45 a.m. waking you and baby. Babies usually room-in with mom in Poland. A nurse takes your temperature, well actually, a nurse tells you to take your temperature (with the thermometer which you had to bring from home). She will come back in a minute to check it. Then the door slams open again and Dr. Crotch enters.
He mumbles, “Dzień dobry. Proszę pokazać krocze.”
What? “Good morning. Please show me your crotch.” That’s it. No, my name is… How are you feeling this morning… Nothing. If you wanna see my crotch, you’re gonna have to try harder than that. For heavens sake, he didn’t even close the door behind him and I am crotch to the world. What to do?
I reply, “Pan pierwszy.”
They say that a large part of how you are treated depends on you and I can say that it is true. After that, Dr. Crotch was much nicer and at least engaged in a little niceties before examining my crotch. I wanted him to remember that we were people not just crotches but I did feel a little sorry for him. It’s difficult to remember about the people behind the crotches when you have to check 50 crotches every morning before breakfast.
It wasn’t  so bad really, my first birth in Poland. True, the anesthesiologist came to my room with his cup of tea in one hand and his Easter white sausage in the other hand, to inform me that no anesthesia would be administered for a normal, vaginal birth. I was in so much pain, I wanted to jam that sausage down his throat but the fantastic doctor, Dr. Nice, explained that I was less than an hour away from holding my baby. She stayed with me the whole time and she knew what she was talking about. Less than an hour later Lizzie was born, our little Easter baby.
Goodness, that was 6 years ago. Where did the time go?
Happy Birthday Lizzie!
Part 1
Part 2

Monday, April 2, 2012

Clean windows = Rain

Or at least it does for us. I cleaned and cleaned all our windows in preparation for Easter and for Rosie’s birthday party. Yes, I have bowed down to the Polish tradition. Immediately after finishing, it began to rain and has not really stopped since. Oh well. At least the party went well.
Happy 4th Birthday Rosie.