Sunday, June 28, 2009

Between Gardens and Dzialki

It's a sad day. I think my digital camera died.

Recently, I've been starting my own little garden on the balcony. There's a smattering of herbs and flowers, and a few ambitious projects like cucumbers and peas. They're doing well (especially the cukes!)
Small-scale gardening is somewhat of a passion here. Many, if not most, families have dzialki: small huts on tiny plots of land on the borders of cities where people eke out various amounts of vegetables from small beds. A lot of dzialki simply serve as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city (we call them camps up in ME.) Others serve more as a gardening patch, much like a liberty garden back in the '40s.
Dzialki occur in rather large clumps, like little suburbs. The buildings can be a big as a cabin to the size of a garden shed. They are a common sight from the train as it departs urban centers. During the communist era, there was a law that employers had to provide dzialki to their workers. So, companies bought up huge areas with like 200 dzialki; the only catch was that the workers couldn't build on the land or sell it, they were only allowed to go there and relax. Some of these sit almost in the middle of Warsaw, in Mokotow and such, prime real estate. Now, investors are waiting for the law to be changed, so they can snap up the dzialki from the aging workers and sell it for huge profits.

On the way to Arkadia to buy some lucky bamboo, I noticed a fairly large cherry tree with branch reaching over the fence and hanging over the sidewalk. The tree was at the border of someone's dzialka, which was right across the fence (along with many other dzialki.) Its crop was just beginning to ripen, and it wouldn't be long until bushels and bushels could be plucked from its lower branches. It struck me because my family has the very same type of cherry growing behind my mother's garden, at the fringe of the woods. The cherries are small, fire-engine red, and taste very tart. Eat too many and you'll get the shits for a few days.
I picked a couple ripe ones, intent of tasting the quality of the tree. I didn't eat them because they were actually rather filthy, on account of the natural grime and dirt that will cover everything next to a major road and walkway.

It's doubtful that I'll be able to enjoy any of the cucumbers or tomatoes I've grown. Since they were planted so late, I'll be leaving just before they start to ripen.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Beerfest Be Not Held

The Polish beer market: it's dominated by native brands such as Zywiec, Tyskie, Lech, Okocim and Warka. Cheaper brands such as Krolewskie and Tatra also are on tap. There's no real shortage of brand variety here; there's only one problem: they all pretty much suck.
If you're a fan of light, tasteless beer, Poland has plenty to offer. From the pathetically mild Lech to the non-taste-bud-stimulating Tyskie, Poland has it all. The most widely available beers run the gamut from light lager to pilsner; much like Busch, Miller, Coors, and the much-sneered at, Budweiser.
I find it odd that here they are quick to condemn Budweiser (and all other American beers, which I also condemn. Sam Adams and Harpoon really are the best I've had so far.) But reality is harsh and Zywiec is just as bad as Budweiser; Tyskie is only slightly better, but it's still just a slightly-chilled glass of banality. Until I find a properly brewed ale or stout, I'm enjoying the good-neighborly German Paulaner.

Note: These breweries most certainly brew other types of beer, it's just that I haven't procured them yet and they don't seem to be very popular.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waxing Nostalgic: Europop

I must admit the sounds of Europop take me back. They take me back to a time when I didn't even know what it was or where it came from. (Nothing says nineties like funky dance music.)
The things about Europop is not that it's deep, meaningful, complex, or even very good; it doesn't offer us perspective on our lives or influence our outlook on life. Lost in the simple beats and repetitive lyrics is a rhythm of Feel Good, which everyone can use. Catchy choruses and easy-to-bump-to beats help define these songs, and are what makes them so popular—if only for a short time.
The songs were more of one-hit wonders, staying popular for a few months at a time; later only seeing the occasional spin when a radio station does a "This Day a Decade Ago", or some DJ wants to induce nostalgia into the audience. They get played all the time, only to tire out the people quickly, and then they retire.
It's precisely these quick spurts of overexposure and overplaying that's the draw. Unlike venerable favorites like Tool, Stone Temple Pilots, and The Prodigy, which are heavy in rotation on my iPod, Europop songs are to be enjoyed on rare occasions. They help serve as markers in our lives; ones that can help us remember back to when it was played every day, and we can groove a little bit (and then have that chorus stuck in your head for the next week.)
Europop's not dead, they still make trashy songs. It's just that the trash of today will be the nostalgia of tomorrow. (Hint: Shaun Baker's VIP, the quintessential crap Europop song.)

I'm Blue: who can deny this song?

La Bouche: Some of the Godfather's of Europop. Nothing says Nineties like these funky beats.



Crap? Yes. Hate it? Yes. Five years you'll be like, "Hey yeah, I remember that! Man, does that take me back!"? Unfortunately, yes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Kodak! Say It Ain't So!

Kodak recently announced that after seventy-four years, they will discontinue production of their venerable Kodachrome slide film. The loss of the film, which served as the mainstay of photography for over half-a-century, has caused great pains for me. Known for it's archival quality, I am still able to admire my parents' photos from when they were on their honeymoon, in Africa, and from when I was but a wee one (the Agfachrome they used has since faded and taken on a green cast.)
I've sent an urgent letter to the States asking for some rolls (I can't find any here.) There's been a run on it and all the online retailers are currently out of stock. I hope to snag a few more rolls before it's lost forever. There's nothing like the look of a picture taken on Kodachrome.

Sleep well, sweet Prince. Sleep well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Small Walks About

Occasionally, I sling up my camera bag and go for a stroll about this fair city. I've seen the Old Town and New Town a million-plus times, so now I usually aim for the less prominent parts.
Recently, I went for a walk in Powisle and along the Wisla.
sidewalk graffiti warsaw powisle
125 Burza (I think it's a graffiti ad for a nudie bar or something.)

sidewalk graffiti warszawa powisle
Is that a set of boobs or an 8? Anyway, the yellow dots lead the "125 Burza."

The Wisla is pretty enough, and I rather like the bridges that pass over. Powisle seems to be a forgotten part of the city. It's on the bank of the Wisla, but all major traffic goes over it; over the bridges that soar over most of the buildings there; over to the Pragas. Under one of them there's a small shopping complex of sorts. It's actually very quiet, and I usually don't see a lot of people strolling about.
I prefer to walk around there on overcast/rainy days or in the evening. It fits the mood better. The concrete walk along the river is often littered with trash, and it's often not crowded. It's a nicer walk towards the Old City, and there are determined anglers at several intervals. (One note: for those of you who know Boston, would you eat a fish caught in the Charles? Probably not.) There's not a whole lot of development right up on the banks of the river like there is other cities.

Walking across the platform at Warszawa Powisle, I quickly turned on my digital camera and snapped a quick picture of the departing train. I was aiming to get a picture of the bright yellow doors, but I got the picture below.
train powisle warsaw
It's cooler to stand in the open doorway (easier to escape the conductor too) than it is to sit in the empty seats.

On a rainy walk back home, I passed by an open door leading into a courtyard garden. It looked rather peaceful and pretty, so I entered to see the garden, but a lady in sitting just inside the courtyard shooed me out, telling me it wasn't free for me.
courtyard garden warsaw

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Last Few Days

One nice result of this weather is the weath of beautiful rainbows. I was fortunate enough to see two form right in front of my eyes after a brief shower. They hung around for about a half-hour before the clouds came back in and they dissolved away.
The first, bright rainbow, and the second, fainter one.

No pot of gold here. If you look closely, you can see how the rainbow forms a nice circle.

On Sunday there was the Pierwsza Parada Labadorów at the Palac Kultury i Nauki. I didn't stay around long enough to see the actual parade, but I was there for the initial gathering. As expected, there were tons of labs and retrievers (and a few other breeds some people snuck in.) Some of the dogs simply lay down sedately, while others went out of their minds in barking and sniffing other dogs.
The traditional greeting.

The water table with free water dishes for the dogs.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some Recipes for Fish

One thing about most Polish food is that it's remarkably simple. I must admit that I have a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and many of the recipes require pages of ingredients and numerous laborious steps to complete. Have you ever made risotto? It's step after step after step, that's why is so expensive to order.

While I have a few Polish cookbooks, I'll try not to pull recipes out (besides, I don't own the copyrights and I hate citing works.) So, these recipes come from some housewives who learned them from their mothers (or mother-inlaws.) They miss some exact measurements, but that's half the fun; you can experiment with what you want and decide what you think is good.

Here are a few recipes for herring (sledz, pronounced like "shledge"):

The first one is an incredibly simple sledz in oil, which I find is rather popular (especially for Christmas Eve Supper.)

Ingredients:
2-4 medium fillets of sledz (herring.) (Many Poles buy this from fish markets. The fillets are salted and technically edible as is.)
vegetable oil
2-3 medium onions
peppercorns and capers are also optional.

Soak fillets in water for two hours and rinse (this is if you buy the sledz in the traditional way: salted.) Cut the fish into small pieces and pack into a sizable jar. Dice onions and pack on top (add other ingredients if you wish.) Fill jar up with oil and let sit for several days (it's good up to two weeks. I'd keep it in the fridge.) And that's it!

Pretty simple, right?

The next one actually isn't a Polish recipe, it's a Russian one. It's called "Herring in a Fur Coat" and has enough cholesterol to kill a pig. I think it's also a traditional New Years food there.

Ingredients:
1-2 medium fillets of salted herring
3 medium onions
3 medium potatoes
5 eggs
4 small beets
2 large carrots
a large jar of mayonnaise

Get a good-size bowl (large enough to fit everything.) Peel and boil potatoes in salted water until cooked through (about fifteen minutes.) Boil the eggs until they are hard-boiled; boil beets until cooked through (but firm; maybe a half-hour.) Boil carrots until soft (ten minutes.) Peel eggs, potatoes, carrots, onions, and beets. Dice and fry the onions over medium heat until translucent (ten minutes.)
Get out your grater. Grate herring (if it's too hard, you can just mince it up as well) and layer the bottom of the bowl with it. Cover the herring with the onion and grate the potatoes over the onions for the third layer. Grate the egg whites over the potatoes; grate the carrots over the egg whites to form the fifth layer; grate the beets over the carrots to form the sixth. Add a good layer of mayonnaise atop the beets and top with the crumbled egg yolks. Cover and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours and let the mayo really seep down and sink in. Serve chilled.
You can mix up the layers and have multiple layers of herring or beets and whatnot. It ends up all mixed up anyway on the plate, but it's pretty good.

Friday, June 12, 2009

These Days

Spring can be amazing: flowers blooming, birds returning, shorts and skirts getting smaller. But the weather here is starting to piss me off. First it starts out sunny and hot, then quickly converts to a downpour with lightning, then back to some semi-sunny haziness.

I felt a little ridiculous today when I offered a friend of mine the use of my shotgun, which currently resides in my permanently parked car outside my apartment in the States (he has the keys.) He lives in a sleazy area (no restaurant will deliver there) so I figured he could use the protection, and with a 3.5" slug he'd have enough firepower to liquidate a grizzly's skull. Anyway, I kind of felt like a hick.

Is everyone else loving this two-day bank holiday? I went shopping Wednesday night around 10PM and the place was mobbed. Everyone filling up on stuff before the holiday.

The EU elections were held recently, and I can tell you that I don't care in the least. I think it's shocking that the BNP actually gained a few seats with close to a million votes and an anti-EU party (the UK Independence Party) came in second.
The Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc) of Kaczynski fame is still going strong. I don't know if that's good or bad news. I know plenty of Poles who hate that party and the Kaczynskis in particular. Whenever I ask why they always give vague answers like, "Because of their policies." or "Because of their behavior" or "Because of their arrogance." When I press them deeper they start a mental scramble and finally force something out about them bad-mouthing another party or something. Student G said that their platform of making Poland a strong national militarily was a sign of their arrogance. (I'm not joking, he really did say that.) I'll disavow any claims to being pro-PiS, but no one has made any real, convincing argument to why they're bad. (If you want, pray tell why, but leave out the anger.) In fact, I really fail to see the difference between PiS and PO.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Opera na Zamku

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the premiere of Piękna Helena (Beautiful Helen.) It's a modern adaptation of the wooing of Helen of Troy. The story has been modified to be a critique of modern politics and such. The full storyline and production notes can be read here. It's sung entirely in Polish.
Piekna Helena Poster
The promotional poster for the opera.

While I'm not the hugest opera fan, I did enjoy this production. I must say, it's awesome. Some chick totally gets naked on stage at the beginning of the second act, and there are several scenes where scantily clad women dance provocatively to classical music. (Actually, the girl comes out wearing nothing but a g-string and a tie, but from where I was sitting she seemed naked.) They actually hired three strippers from a local club to do the sexy dancing scenes, and one of them was the one that came out baring her money makers.
Besides the scarce nudity and such, I actually did enjoy the show (music and all.) It's an interesting concept and I must admit the tunes are actually pretty catchy. The whole thing, however, is actually more of a musical play than an opera. There's mostly dialogue interspersed with musical numbers, and this, apparently, was a matter of great grievance between the director and the cast. (The cast resented that they were expected to be actors, when they are actually just singers. The orchestra hated it too because they were forced to deal with a lot of downtime and be bored.) The chorus was humorously made up as clown, making it difficult to tell which were girls and which were boys. Also, the whole plot takes liberties with the actual storyline of Helen of Troy.
From what I could tell, the audience really enjoyed it. The people sitting next to me were chuckling throughout (I think they were laughing with it and not at it) and it got quite an ovation. One curious thing was the clapping in unison by the audience while the cast were taking their bows (kind of like they were clapping in a square dance.)

After the first night, there was a reception for the cast. It offered some hors d'œuvre and drinks, but I wasn't getting social with the cast. After the second night's show, there was a small gathering in the rehearsal room of mostly the cast and a few people from the orchestra. There were chips and drinks (obviously from someone's private stash. Half the alcoholic drinks were near-empty before the gathering even began.) Various people played tunes on the grand piano. Further into the night, when the drinks began to take their toll, the conductor sat down and began to play while the cast began crooning away in their rich, operatic voices (often changing the words for swears and nonsense.)
video
There ain't no party like an opera cast-party.

(These videos are of the actual cast—soloists, conductors, and directors.)
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The finest of voices are at Opera na Zamku.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stettin: Szczecin: Brickville

This past weekend I went to Szczecin for a three-day trip which was bound to involve a lot of opera. Now, I'm not the hugest opera fan in the world, but I was especially invited to view the premiere of Piekna Helena at Opera na Zamku (The Opera in the Castle.) More details in the next post about that.

artwork szczecin pomeranian dukes castle stettin
Artwork in the castle courtyard. In each chest there is sand with progressively more trash and pollution. As there is more pollution, the body changes until it becomes less defined and more 'mechanical' in a sense.

My road to Szczecin started at 10:45 in Warszawa Centralna. I bought my ticket with minutes to spare and hurried down to the platform where the waiting train was already boarding. Rushing through the cars, I found a cabin that was somewhat open. Inside, three men sat in a haze of cigarette smoke, one with a lit cigarette in his hand, obviously ignoring the No Smoking sign on the doorway, while the other two had their hands ever-ready on their darling packs of Marlboros. I sat down but only stayed a few minutes after I couldn't take the smell and the stinging in my eyes anymore. I grabbed my luggage and hunted for a new compartment.
The next one I found was peaceful an quiet with two men. I sat down between them (apparently the opposite bench was taken by women that were absent.) A young man to my right stared straight ahead while he shifted to make himself comfortable, while the older gentleman to my left (around sixty) listened to heavy metal on a Sony discman. The conductor came along and after looking at my ticket, promptly told me that I needed to move: these train cars were going to Zielona Gora, not to Szczecin. I asked which ones were going to Szczecin and he said to go three more wagons down.
I finally came to rest in a compartment with three gentlemen (one left in Poznan, I think) and tried my best to sleep. The sun does rise early in these summer days and I only managed about two hours of broken sleep before I arrived in Szczecin Glowny. Right before we did, we passed through some of the thickest fog I have ever seen. Outside the windows was pure white that reduced visibility to zero. From the main train station there was still some fog hanging over the water.
Morning fog from Szczecin Glowny Stettin
Morning fog from Szczecin Glowny (Stettin Hauptbahnhof.)

My time in Szczecin was limited, but enjoyable. I spent a great deal of time in the Zamek Ksiazat Pomorskich w Szecinie (The Pomeranian Dukes' Castle) and the Opera na Zamku (The Opera at the Castle), which is an opera company that operates out of the castle.
On Saturday, it was the last day of Dni Kultury Ukrainskiej (Days of Ukrainian Culture) at the castle. There was a large stage set up in the main courtyard, on which traditional Ukrainian folk dances and songs were performed. I only caught the tail end, but the performers' uniforms were terrific and hilarious. Also, I'm pretty sure that some of the songs they were singing are more of the 'Pop' category, and were not traditionally sung by Ukrainian peasants while harvesting their grain. One song that was absent from the performance was the fantastic Razom Nas Bahato, Nas Ne Podolaty.
video
video
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Dances of Dni Kultury Ukrainskiej

Inside the castle, within the realm of the Opera, a restaurant called "Restauracja na Kuncu", which is a play on words, since the director of the Opera's last name is Kunc. It's a bit of fine dining; a place to go for a meal or coffee before the show, but it has reasonable prices. The prices were further reduced because everyone associated with the Opera gets half-off all dishes (something the owner resents.) Thus, with my indirect association I was able to dine there with a relatively small bill. Aside from the usual fare of typical Polish food, it offers some interesting additions. One such was the Salmon Tartare, a take on steak tartare (sans egg yolk) with salmon. I had it, and it was really good! Their pierogi are serviceable, but I've certainly had better; their sauces contain a distinct amount of cumin.
Sign for the restaurant in Opera na Zamku
Sign for the restaurant in Opera na Zamku.

The clock tower at the Pomeranian Dukes Castle
The clock tower at the Pomeranian Dukes' Castle.

I was given a restaurant and shopping guide by a member of the opera, which was more entertaining than it was valuable. Inside it boasts that Szczecin is now a major destination for plastic surgery (someone told me that many Germans cross over into it, not only for plastic surgery but things like dental care as well, because it's far cheaper than in Germany.) The part on plastic surgery is as follows:

Many new and modern clinics have opened within the last couple of years and most of the staff speak very good English. A typical stay for an operation can be as short as 2 or 3 days. There are great savings! For example a breast enhancement/reduction or liposuction (fat removal) is usually 50% cheaper in Poland than in many other Northern European countries.
How wonderful. The best part of the whole guide is the part on Szczecin's history. It's an interesting little blurb that conveniently fails to mention anything about Szczecin being a German (ethnicity-wise) city for something like 700 years.

Szczecin boasts over 1000-year and turbulent history [sic]. It was the ducal seat and a member of the Hanseatic League since the 13th century. The city was one of the most powerful ports and trading centres on the Baltic Sea. During World War II, 60% of all buildings were destroyed.
And that's about it for Szczecin's history. I guess it's enough for a small pamphlet. One thing that was interesting, is the amount of German tour groups visiting the area. The most that I saw were older people, and we joked that they were coming to say, "Hey! I grew up on this street. It sure looks a lot different than it did back then."
graffiti poland
Artwork (graffiti?) on a stoop near the castle.

I should mention that Szczecin is a city dominated by brick architecture. If you love everything brick, there's plenty to see here. Marble may rule in Italy, and limestone in Western Europe, but here, brick is king. (Now, not every building is made out of brick, but all the older buildings and churches are.) Since Szczecin is known for its brickwork, many new buildings are cosmetically going with that theme and feature mainly brick facades. In some older buildings, Saint James' especially, it's easy to spot where the older brickwork has been replaced by newer bricks. I'm told the widespread use of brick is because there isn't much stone to quarry in Northern Europe. Since brick is basically dried mud and clay, which is in abundance, it found its way into being the premiere building material. They've certainly been creative with brick, and since brick goes so well with ivy, there's some ivy thrown in there as well.
St. James' Cathedral
The front facade and spire of St. James' Cathedral.

Saint James Cathedral Szczecin
The beautiful main doors to the cathedral. You can see where the old brick has been replaced by new brick.

Saint James Cathedral Stettin
An entrance on the side of the cathedral. This side was currently undergoing renovation.

Szczecin brickwork
Typical brickwork.

While Szczecin is not really that big—much smaller than I thought—it does have its share of sights. Simply wandering about will do, but they also have a path painted throughout the city that goes by all the major sites. I more of ambled about, but it's impossible not to cross this path multiple times.
I was able to catch part of a fashion show at the central mall, Galaxy, and meander through the nearby Park Zeromskiego. There, it's a stroll to the banks of the Oder River. They were actually dredging the river, so we were able to see some huge backhoe dig up the mud and silt and deposit it in a barge (the barge with the backhoe was German flagged, while the accompanying barge was flew the Polish flag.) Actually, it was a very interesting process and attracted a small crowd.
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Dredging the Oder River.

A few things I left unseen, one was the interior of the St. James' Cathedral and I dearly love climbing the spires (which I was unable to do.) When we went, there was a Mass, so we were not allowed in as tourists. There were the sort collection of museums that I didn't have a chance to peruse, but I'm sure I will if I go back. It may seem rather lame that I mainly dined at na Koncu, but remember, I'm on a budget here; I'll take half-off wherever I can get it.
I was also forced to deal with the frequent crap out of my digital camera. It's a junky point-and-shoot, but it usually gets the job done; however, recently it's decided to freeze when I least want it to and to refuse turning on randomly even if the batteries are fine. While my main camera, my Canon Elan 7ne is working well, it's a film camera so unless I scan my pictures (slides; I usually shoot on slide film), I can't upload them to here.

A great place to catch lunch is at Milk Bar Turysta. Jam-packed during the rush, it's worth it. Cheap with good food and large portions, it beats out most other places. I had a wonderful bowl of chlodnik, which was perfect to cool me down in the hot afternoon.
milk bar meal stettin
My meal at the milk bar.

When I left, I took the 11:15PM train back to Warsaw. This one didn't split up and I shared the cabin with two girls and a guy with acne scars so bad he looked like he had been burned with wax. He left (in Poznan also, I think) and was replaced by another girl later on in the trip. The seats smelled like dank sweat and we were near the bathroom, so we got that wonderful waft of shit and piss that hasn't been cleaned up since Stalin died. I got more sleep this time, but it was still cramped and the bathroom was revolting (piss all over the floor.) They seriously need to update these trains.

Three days, sun and rain, not bad.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Two Score

Twenty years ago, it all began to come apart for communist Eastern Bloc; and it all started in Poland.

They've come far, and they have a ways to go, but they don't show any signs of slowing down. Let's cheer 'em all on.


Addendum:
Most Poles I know were quite happy and marked this occasion; although not all did. One, M from Lodz, was in mourning. M isn't really old enough to remember the Communist Era, but for some reason he longs to be back in that oppressive environment. He voted for the Communists in the last election (he despises both Tusk and the Kaczynski twins) and I never really understood why. I think it's just some sort of counter-culture thing (he also hates shopping malls and the people in them. Well, so do I.)
Oh, and I fucking hate communism.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stereotypes Are a Real Time Saver

Hey, why not use stereotypes?

Let's just admit it, we all carry around stereotypes. The Jews are all rich, the Americans are all fat, and the Poles are all stupid thieves. (I only say stupid because of the plethora of Polish jokes in the US. Here's one: How do you sink a Polish submarine? —Knock on the door.)
The Poles are known throughout Europe, Germany in particular, to be thieves. The German retailing giant, MediaMarkt, even released a commercial about it for the 2006 World Cup (one of many, most playing off stereotypes of nationalities.) It's actually pretty funny.





The basic gist of it, is three Poles thank the three German salesmen, saying that they have products for once in the world, "The prices are deep, like the Polish soul." After the hugs, the salesmen remark how decent Poles are, only to realize their pants are missing.
It's funny, but many Poles got really pissed off at this; they don't like jokes taken at their expense.

Is drinking the national sport of Poland? No, but it is the national sport of Russia (something like 48% of all adult Russian men die alcohol-related deaths.) The birthplace of vodka, which Poland defends more vehemently than its own borders, doesn't have shit on typical anglo-american college students (I'm not saying that with pride either.)
The Polish defense of vodka is actually quite interesting. They claim that Cîroc isn't really vodka since it's made from grapes, and they're making a big stink about this. Now that Poland is in the EU, and the EU is notorious for it's bureaucracy, they want clear definitions!

It's pretty much the consensus amongst the younger women here, that New York City is the definitive America and that all women who live there live lives exactly like Sex and the City. Many have professed dreams of moving to Manhattan for a year to do just that. I tried to tell them about how expensive it is to live in Manhattan and that the lives that the crew of SAC live are actually not very viable, but I was hushed, and told how that since it's on TV, it's not only possible, but common.

Work Day

There's this dziadek in the lab who is probably around eighty-years old. He's this wizened little fellow and hobbles along on crutches and almost always wears a bathrobe. The thing is, is that his desk isn't conveniently on the lab floor like some others, but up a flight of stairs on a platform overlooking the whole lab. He sits there, occasionally getting up to walk to his coat on the hanger, or to go someplace else. He's apparently designing some fire extinguisher that utilizes atomized water particles at high speeds. He's usually the last to leave. One time, he actually started to make conversation with me as I was leaving. As you should know, I'm not exactly the most proficient speaker of Polish, so I ashamedly said so. His English is rough, but at least he understood my small bits of Polish.

We finally got the laser to work somewhat. The instructions are all in English, so I'm usually the one reading and deciphering them. We still can't control it by the computer, only manually, but tomorrow a faculty member from the Physics Dept. should come and teach us how (he's the one who originally used it ten years ago, so he may be a bit rusty on the operating procedures.)

I'm getting more used to the formal 'Pan.' It brings back memories of my teaching Martyna, Martyna and Tosia (read here) where they all referred to me as such. There are periods where pan isn't used: K doesn't use it with me (when he does speak to me in Polish, he uses the informal 'ty', which is what I prefer.) There are no women here, so 'Pani' is completely off the table.
An interesting thing about Polish genders, is that usually they have two nouns (feminine and masculine) for one profession or occupation, i.e. student and studentka both mean student, just one is female. 'Profesor' is not one of these nouns, and referring to a female professor as "Pani Profesorka" would probably be an insult or diminutive. The correct form, according to my Polish professor (Whom I address as Szanowny Panie Profesorze) is simply "Pani Profesor."