Friday, January 15, 2016

You think you know somebody

Can you be friends with someone who thinks you're simple? That's what I'm asking myself today.

Conversation with a teacher friend, the short version:

Friend: You're wrong, but I forgive you because you're not Polish. Chriiiisss, you couldn't possibly understand the situation. You know nothing of European history, recent politics, the Polish education system, the situation for real people in Poland.

Me: Kochana, I studied history.

Friend: But in America. It doesn't count. (Gee, thanks my friend.)

Me: Yes, yes. On my exams I only wrote "America good. Rest of world bad." And I got an A+. Anyhow, I read a lot and not only from sources sympathetic to my opinions. 

Friend: But you read English papers. You cannot get the whole picture that way.

Me: I read the Polish papers too, dear friend. 

Friend: But as an American you cannot understand the Polish reality of people who work and live in Poland. People who have to find a job, a place to live, find a place in the hospital, pay a mortgage.

Me: Absolutely, since I came to Poland 16 years ago, I have never had a job interview, never been hired or fired from a job. My home was given to me by angels. Mortgage? What's that? Hospitals welcome me with open arms, especially that time I almost gave birth in the waiting room because the hospital refused to admit me. 

Friend: But you can't imagine how it is to be a public school teacher here. The abuse we have to take, the peanuts we earn.

Me: As a former school teacher I assure you, I understand your struggles.

Friend: But you taught in a nice school in America. I work over 40 hours in two different schools.

Me: I worked 50 hours in one school. Nice? Our metal detectors were certainly top-of-the line.

Friend: Ok, but at least you got paid a reasonable salary.

Me: I earned less than the per hour pay of a fast food cashier.

Friend: Well, in Polish schools it's just worse.

Me: I worked in high school in Poland and while it wasn't all fun and games, nobody got shot. 

Friend: Please. You're exaggerating. You didn't get shot at school in America.

Me: Not me. One of the kids. That's why I'm not a public school teacher anymore, that and the money.

Friend: Well, anyhow. You're not fully immersed in Polish culture, so you've been misled by the leftist media. If you really understood life in Poland, your (political) opinions would be different.

Me: Well, at least you didn't say it's because I'm a cycling atheist.


I know plenty of foreigners who live in Poland and don't give a rat's ass about Polish politics. They don't know who the President is, are unaware that there's also a Prime Minister, and probably won't take an interest as long as they live in Poland...unless the exchange rate continues its plunge right into the toilet.

But someone who knows me, has known me for years? I thought they'd put me in a different category than the random expat passers through. I know that I wasn't born in Poland, and I'm not Polish, but jasna cholera I take an interest in the country I call home. Yes, I have a different perspective. I'm an immigrant after all. I'm not asking her to agree with me. I'm only asking for respect of my intelligence as an adult member of society. 

My friend? Please ask her what's wrong with Obama, why Americans are overweight, or who will be the next US President. She's an expert.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cleaning house czyli dobra zmiana

Things are changing here in Poland after the latest elections, most notably in recent days, journalists of public television and radio are losing their jobs. In a nutshell, the ruling party (called PiS, the Law and Justice party) believes that the role of the public media in a democracy is to support the narrative of the government; criticism is unacceptable. Democracy inaczej.

Regardless of who's in power, unceremonious cleaning house is wasteful in my opinion. Knowlege, know-how, and experience are laid to waste. Hopefully, the free market will scoop up those folks who are worth it.

Believe it or not, even I got house-cleaned once. It was a few years ago while teaching in a large, public company. I was teaching some gentlemen that I had met years before in another company, not public, that had been bankrupted by the tax office. (The tax office was later found to be in the wrong and had to pay compensation, small justice for all the people who lost their jobs including me). Anyhow, I arrived for my first meeting only to discover that my "boys" were board members and now wore suits to work and had assistants and drivers and the like. These guys were educated and qualified. They had strategies and plans. And then there was the election.

I came to work just as any other day. I was invited to talk to the new president. That was a surprise. He informed me that my "boys" didn't work there anymore and that my services were no longer needed. I explained that we had a contract. They promised to fulfill their obligations under the contract, but we were finished. I've been hired and fired many times. It's part of the job. I suggested the new board continue the contract, you know if that Prezes needed English so does this one. The new president explained that I had to go because of the elections. I finally got it and blurted out, "Grzegorz was in PiS!?" So very diplomatic of me, nie? I reminded him that I'm American and not involved in Polish politics, but he apologized once again explaining that their policy is to end all contracts signed by the old guard. Bad for me. I guess I should give that Grzegorz a call now, nie?

On a side note, with all that is going on in politics I decided to give my Twitter account a look. If you use Twitter, Kielbasa Stories is there :) I'm not very active there. Instagram is more my thing. Anyhow, Twitter informed me that controversial Polish politician Krystyna Pawłowicz had recently opened an account. I decided to follow her as her 8th follower only to unfollow her two days later. I gave a look through her posts and although they were rude and abrasive just as the real lady is, I suspected the profile was fake. Even as her popularity on Twitter rose, I still felt the profile couldn't be hers. Why? The person behind the Krystyna Pawłowicz Twitter profile did their best to mimic the notorious MP. Insults and accusations flew, but this faker could in no way match the amount of poison which spills each day from the original source, her real Facebook page serves as an amazing record of her creativity and stamina in attacking her opponents, real and imagined. I don't follow her, and I don't recommend following her either. 

Kielbasa Stories, on the other hand, I recommend following. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What is my motivation?

have always achieved my goals through motivation and a strong will. Okay, okay, there are plenty of goals I have made in my life and not achieved, but lack of will and motivation wasn't the cause. Now I am at the point where I think neither motivation nor a strong will can help me.

Goal: Reduce cholesterol to normal human levels. 

I am extremely motivated to do this. My marathon running father had a quadruple bypass at age 52, just months after running a race. Many of my cousins from my father's side of the family have had heart attacks under the age of 50. I don't want to end up like that. When another cousin had a heart attack at age 40 last year, I decided to get my cholesterol tested. It was 300. I was shocked and paralyzed with fear. I didn't eat for several days not knowing what was safe to put in my body. Motivation kicked in when my father died soon after that and my cardiologist tried to reassure me by saying, "Don't worry. I've operated on people younger than you." He also said "wdzianko" my least favorite word in Polish thus losing his Hot Doctor title once and for all.

I do not want to leave my children motherless. You'd think that would translate into "I don't want to die", but it really is about sticking around for my kids. It's especially important as we have no extended family to depend on. If it was just me, I'd eat all the bacon and get fat and die. It's my birthright.

Sure, I want to be slim. I absolutely want to be fit. I am quite slim and relatively fit. I don't eat what a heart patient shouldn't. I exercise vigorously, not moderately, my allotted times per week. I don't drink. I don't smoke. So what's up with my cholesterol?

After one year of hard work, my cholesterol is down 25 points to 275. That's great, right? I should be happy with my achievement, and I am. The thing is, my bad cholesterol hasn't budged, not even one point. I'm still motivated, still wanting to stay alive and all that. I am able to just not eat all that stuff I shouldn't. It's not a big deal really. But Jeezuz, what if it isn't enough? I'm going into Year 2 of my cholesterol lowering plan. Let's hope it's enough.

Me on a chilly bike ride :)