Thursday, July 30, 2009

Przystanek Woodstock 2009 This Weekend

The massive music festival, Przystanek Woodstock (Woodstock Stop ("stop" as in "bus stop"), is due to take place in Kostrzyn nad Odra this weekend. I must admit that I will not be able to attend, but I will be sending one of my merry gophers to go and report back.

It's apparently going to be pretty big (huge, even), with preliminary reports of 200,000 spectators expected as a bare minimum.
As for the acts, I know that Polish pop sensation, Ewelina Flinta will make an appearance at some point. Scientology enthusiast, Juliette Lewis, is also going to perform. As for the rest, a bunch of bands and musicians I've never heard of. They might have small reputations and followings, but no one on the A-list (what else do you expect from a free concert?)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vulgarities, Vulgarities

Cipcia, a slang word equivalent to "pussy" (in the anatomical sense, not in the cowardly or weakness sense), seems to be the staple of some Poles' vocabulary (that plus the more-famous dupa and kurwa.) I must admit that I actually am not totally well-versed in Polish slang as I'd hope, and when I inquired about cipcia, a friend of mine explained the definition then she started saying,
"…but when I was young, my babcia used to call me and my girl cousins 'cipcia', but not in that sense. I guess it meant… I mean it was probably… well, she was from the country."
That seems to be a common excuse are here (especially in Warsaw) for anyone who does something that might be perceived as old-fashioned, backwards, or just plain odd. The country folk are stereotypically simple, unsophisticated, and a tidbit hickish. That great-uncle that used to leer at young girls and stand on the balcony in an open bathroom with his dooda out for all to see? It was because "he was from the country."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Film Review: Mała Moskwa

I was quite eager to view Mala Moskwa (Little Moscow), albeit I had no knowledge about the plot, characters, or anyone involved in the production of the film (I was sold by the poster.) I gathered that it was some sort of drama having something to do with Russia in some way.
So, I returned to the Kino Luna (I bypassed the concessions, being a little late into the theater.)

Mala Moskwa is a story told between two time frames, one set in the present day and the other set in 1967-68. It doesn't take place in Moscow (but is mostly in Russian), but rather in Legnica, a city on the western border of Poland. The main actress, Svetlana Khodchenkova, hammily plays the main character, named Vera, in the 1960's timeframe, and Vera's daughter, Vera, in the modern timeframe.
The seemingly happy couple of Khodchenkova and her pilot husband, Juri (Dmitri Ulyanov), arrive in to a Soviet military base in Western Poland after her husband has been dropped from being a cosmonaut. They share their living space with a Catholic Armenian couple expecting a baby.
The strikingly beautiful Khodchenkova catches the eye of a dashing Polish military officer, Michal "Misha" Janicki (Leslaw Zurek), who also happens to be somewhat of an musician, when she sings a Polish song (in Polish) at a music competition, winning the first prize. From then on Zurek and Khodchenkova start a torrid and forbidden love affair that ends with her suicide.
The sub-plot consists of Juri and his now-grown daughter (played by Khodchenkova again. All they did was lazily update her fashion; she even keeps her beauty mark next to her mouth) returning to Legnica, searching for some answers as Juri tells his daughter about her mother, whom she hates.
About ten minutes into the film I began to realize that the whoever made the movie (writer, director) was less concerned with telling the story than making a fiercely nationalistic movie, where the virtues of Poland: it's culture and it's people, were extolled in contrast to the brutish Russians. The younger Vera is introduced slandering the Poles and Poland while admonishing her father for defending them and taunting him constantly about her mother's affair. All the Russian officers are portrayed in an unsympathetic light, pouring on vitriol about Poland; all things Polish display their obvious primacy, even in the face of the assault by the Soviets.
The premise slips slowly away from a tragic tale of forbidden love to one where none of the characters are remotely sympathetic, likable, or even tragic. Zurek's character is about as suave as Larry The Cable Guy; it's a wonder he could woo a beauty such as Khodchenkova when in reality he wouldn't be able to seduce a fat chick who hasn't been laid in twenty years. His courtship of her consists of pathetic pick up lines and sexual advances, which she weakly resists. Their romance is hardly a secret, as everyone (including her husband) on and off the military base knows about it. Her husband barely even objects, but simply glumly looks on as his wife gets stolen away. In fact, most of the people involved in the love story end up looking repugnant and Vera's death is a bit of some twisted justice.
Juri's commanders begin to take notice and object, and the whole thing finally comes to a head, but not before the overwhelming goodness of the Poles (plus a polonized German) and the beauty of Poland is shown in contrast to the wicked Russians and their awful air base. There are some small sub-plots about the illegal baptism of the Armenians' baby, the backdrop of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and, of course, the daughter's constant harping on her hapless father. Between the Polish proverbs and the overwrought insults, there's a film with a lot of growing up to do. Sadly, it's the characters that doom this picture.
The whole shitty movie fucks the viewer one last time in the last scene (spoiler: it takes place at Vera's grave) in the final confrontation between the weak Russian and the righteous Pole.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ursynów: Warsaw's Bedroom

Ursynów, the southernmost part of Warsaw, is known as the 'bedroom' (not to be confused with Ursus, which is known as Warsaw's toolshed, and Praga Polnoc, which is Warsaw's liquor cabinet.) It is a forest of flats. Some—built during the Communist Era—are pretty cheap, but the more south you go, the newer and more expensive the flats. The older flats are probably what one would imagine when thinking of Communist-built flats, while the new ones are built with a little more care and precision. Occupying the southern edge, before running into a wall of trees, these flats belong mostly to young couples; hence, there is a plethora of shops for children and babies (and second-hand shops are abound.)

Most visitors only come through Ursynów to go to Kabaty, the forest that borders its southern edge, and I don't really blame them. While there are plenty of parks and greenery, it's not like they're truly attractive.
Beyond Kabaty (to parts of Wilanów) and to the west, the blocks give way to houses and a more 'suburban' feel. Here, property is pretty expensive.

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Many of the apartment flats have shops and small businesses on the bottom floor.

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa Leclerc
Ursynów is no stranger to box stores (such as this Leclerc.)

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa flats apartments
A forest of flats.

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
A common sight: the un-renovated blocks stick out like sore thumbs.

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Part of Metro Ursynów

Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
Ursynow Warsaw Warszawa
The newer blocks by Metro Kabaty.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yesterday it rained so hard that part of the subway flooded (or so I was told; I was inside the entire time.) The downpour lasted only a little while, and the sun came out in time to turn everything into a muggy sauna. It's like living in a gym sock.

This past week, a lady showed up at the lab, chatting with all the professors and my supervisor. She was rather small, about 40 years of age, and wore an elegant, sexy black evening dress (as if she was off to a high-class restaurant.) On her feet, she wore sparkling silver slippers.
The next day, she showed up again, taking a tour of the lab. Again she was decked out in fancy attire, which struck me rather odd. I later asked my supervisor who she was and why she was dressed so. He replied that she was his professor when he was in Paris and she was in Warsaw on vacation. She had studied in Warsaw in her youth, so she could speak Polish quite well. Her manner of dress was because apparently that is the current style for women in Paris.

One of my students and I went to Powsin, the Park of Culture in Kabaty. We went to the line park (it's difficult to say what exactly it is. It's part zip-line course and part obstacle course.) You get into a harness with a couple of carabiners and a pulley attached and you climb up into the canopy of Kabaty. There's a course that goes from tree-to-tree, each span has a different type of 'bridge'. They range from a zip-line to a net that acts as a bridge to several logs that act as stepping stones. It's actually rather cool, rather new, rather fun, and rather makes-me-uneasy. I personally don't think the whole construction of the thing is really up to par (they use a lot of duct tape and clamps; the duct tape is mostly used to cover the sharp ends of the steel cables.) You're supposed to be clipped the entire time to some sort of anchor, usually a steel cable. This brought me little relief, because I was sure that if I did fall off, my harness would then crush my nuts while I dangled in space. I think I'd have preferred to fall to the forest floor below.
We did the second-hardest course (about thirty feet up. The hardest one is apparently forty-five feet up.) I'm actually not the hugest fan of heights, so the first few things unsettled me a little bit. I got the hang of it and began enjoying myself. It was near evening, so being up that high with the sun sinking low was a nice experience. My camera ran out of battery power before I even got there, so I don't have any pictures.
Mid-way through, a guy from the office (who runs the whole course) came and started talking to us. They wanted to close and he kind of wanted us to hurry up. As we made our way through the course, he'd tell stories of people on that particular span or would shout advice ("Left, right, left, right!") Towards the end he wandered off back to his post to sit with his friends, leaving us to finish up and return the harnesses.

In Powsin, there are a whole line of faucets which pour clean water and you can drink. The only place in Poland I know where on can drink the water from the tap! (I know there are other places; don't get all huffy.) There's about twenty faucets and people come to wash up or refill their water bottles (bikers and runners especially.) I first sipped the cold water with some trepidation, but I saw that others were gulping down huge quantities (and I haven't gotten the shits yet, so I figure it's OK.)

Analysts think that the Polish stock market will decline.

Oh, so very hot.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Paint

Recently, the City of Warsaw has repainted all the lines on the roads. We just woke up one morning and were greeted with brand new lines. Now we have crisp, new cross walks, and the traffic lanes couldn't be clearer.
Road Warsaw Warszawa
A fine example of their work.

I must say that I'm shocked at how quick they did it. It seems like they did the entire city in one night (which they probably didn't do, but I only noticed it then.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Lato Filmów and Movie Theaters in General

I've just returned from a trip to the Luna theater for a show. The Lato Filmów (Summer of Movies) film festival has just drawn to a close. I've been kicking myself because I only got to see one movie, since they've actually had quite a selection and the tickets are a scant 5zl.

The Kino Luna is actually rather quaint. It's like The Criterion in its old-timey feel (for those who are not familiar with The Criterion, it's an Art Deco theater.) The concession stand is small and sells only a select number of treats and goodies. I slapped down 8zl for '7up' and a water. The '7up' was merely .7 liters of carbonated water sans syrup, but I didn't make a scene and make the poor fellow take it back. I heard the place had financial problems anyway.
The theater inside slopes softly down (no stadium seating here) and then turns into a shallow bowl. It appears that the front seats are slightly higher than those in the middle, which is rather nonsensical. The seats are that old quality (I can't really explain) with a satin material as their covering. Also, no drink holders.

I guess most movie theaters here are just like they are in the States, except they have this annoying habit of assigned seating. When you buy your tickets, you buy the seat number as opposed to just going in and picking your own. It favors those who come early; buy their tickets and pick their seats; then come when the commercials have finished (and they have prime seating.) But still, it's a bit of a pain in the ass for those who show up ten minutes before show time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Songs of Learning

Way back when I was studying Polish at school, every Friday my teacher would rock out on his guitar and we'd all sing traditional Polish folk songs. There was an entire list, which I have unfortunately forgotten in the States. We'd go through and he'd explain the lyrics, where the song came from, plus the time period from which it originated. Then, we'd (actually, they, my fellow classmates, I usually looked down and tried to mumble something or hum along with the tune) would try to keep up as the professor strummed his six-string and lead us in tune. It's a great way to teach language and I try to get all my students to sing, with varying degrees of success.
There was a wide range of songs, but the most common were venerated staples like Hej Sokoły and Siekiera Motyka. Even though I don't have my lyric pages with me, I can still recall some of the lines (and the melodies.)

A personal favorite of mine was, Śmiej się Griska, a song that probably originated from Ukraine. It's about how this guy, Griska, shouldn't be sad and should drink his troubles away (sounds like something a Slav would say.) Of the lyrics, I only remember the first few lines:
Śmiej się, Griska
Bardzo do kieliśka
something something something
dah dah die dum dum
And that's about it.

The other songs are probably known by every Pole, even if they don't know all the lyrics. I was able to find the lyrics elsewhere, so I'm able to post them here.

Siekiera, Motyka lyrics:
Siekiera, motyka, bimber, szklanka,
W nocy nalot, w dzień łapanka,
Siekiera, Motyka, światło, prąd,
Kiedyż oni pójdą stąd.

Już nie mamy gdzie się skryć,
Hycle nam nie dają żyć.
Po ulicach gonią wciąż,
Patrzą, kogo jeszcze wziąć.

Siekiera, motyka, piłka, linka,
Tutaj Prusy, tam Treblinka,
Siekiera, motyka, światło, prąd,
Drałuj, draniu, wreszcie stąd.

Siekiera, motyka, Styczeń, Luty,
Hitler z Ducem gubią buty,
Siekiera, motyka, linka, drut,
Już Pan malarz jest kaput.

Siekiera, motyka, piłka, alasz,
Przegrał wojnę głupi malarz.
Siekiera, motyka, piłka, noż,
Przegrał wojnę już, już, już

They're rather rowdy songs, good to sing while drinking and waging war.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Random Collection of Thoughts

Powsin Warsaw Warszawa Kabaty
The open fields of the Polish countryside? No! Warsaw!

powsin kabaty warsaw warszawa

Powsin Warsaw Warszawa Kabaty
The run down, deserted fair rides at Powsin.

I found a temporary replacement for my dying camera.

The garden on the balcony is thriving in full vigor. The tomatoes are growing up and the cukes have turned into a small forest in a bowl. Soon, the morning glories will be climbing up the walls.
cucumbers balcony warsaw
Some of the plants growing on the balcony.

I think I met a hooker at a bus stop. I wasn't able to confirm, but the way she was trying to catch my eye made me suspicious.

These days at the lab are sometimes rather slow. The campus is deserted now that all the students finished up with exams and all the professors are now taking vacations. Just today, the Professor who is kind of above me (above my supervisor even) awoke me from my nap. I quickly showed him some results I had on the boundary layer (I got it with a hot-wire CTA probe.) Good thing Excel was open on my screen.
politechnika lab warszawa
Late afternoon in the lab.

There's a film festival going on in Warsaw right now, but I haven't been able to get on over there. I think tomorrow I'll catch a film or two. I highly recommend anyone able to, to go (the prices are only 5zl each per film.)

Cleaning the balcony during a rainstorm is the best time. No one has laundry underneath, and you only have to sweep the dirt and grime to the edge and let the water take care of the rest. The Christmas tree was out there for several months, and was only recently taken down. I was able to sweep away huge piles of brown needles with the assistance of some of the heaviest rain I've seen in a year.

One of my students, Roza (let's call him), wants to take me to a strip bar. He says that in Warsaw there's a club with 100 girls, and in Poland, you can touch the girls (a big no-no in the States.) He told me a story of a time when he was in San Diego, when he reached up and gave a girl a caress. The bouncer immediately yelled at him (but he wasn't thrown out.)

One more lesson and the week is over.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Students: New Crop

Well, it's not a completely new crop, but there are a few new faces. It seems like the new bourgeoisie are still looking for teachers. For what it is worth (blessing or curse) most of them are nothing like my previous crop. (Some of my first posts are here and here.)

I have the good fortune of one of my students being a teacher (of English, no less!) It sounds a little strange (she even charges the same rate as I do!) but I think it's beneficial for both of us. We trade teaching styles and techniques, plus I get paid.

The other day, one of my students and I walked through Powsin, the culture park in Kabaty. We were going to go to the zip-line park there, which he said was great fun (and I believed him) but, alas, it was closed.
It was fine anyway, we took a seat beneath the shade had a beer (Krolewskie.) We chatted about the recent brouhaha on a recent Polandian post (I highly suggest reading the article and the comments.) I talked about why there are roads lined with empty shells of houses, half-finished. He calmly talked about how there's a bunch of corruption, which slows down public works (like the subway) and that many people build their own houses by themselves, so they simply build over the course of several years as they get the money (foundation one year; frame next; finishing touches on the outside; complete the inside.) Seemed logical to me.

Teaching has allowed me to connect to various parts of Polish life. There's a good mix students: ones from Warsaw, others from towns; some are well off, others (like Tomek) are not so; some are students, while others are middle-aged. What binds them all together is their desire to speak English more naturally—whatever their motives are.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Words I Love

Polish is awash with words that are playful, and—to me, since I'm an English speaker—sound rather silly.

Dziki (Wild): I swear I can say this all day every day. I sometimes repeat it end on end until someone tells me to hush.

Spalony (Burnt): Rhymes with baloney. Any word that rhymes with baloney is sure to be a hit with me.

Akuku (Peek-a-boo): Even though it's childish and something to say to babies and little kids, it's still a joy to yell.

Ponimayo/Ponyatno (I understand/Obviously): Actually, this is Russian (a language that I've only recently admitted to being more beautiful than Polish.) I heard it from Cheburashka, and the way he says it just kills me.

Pan Twardowski (Mr. Strong): It only took me four years to say, but I finally got it down pat.

Dzwon (Ring (as in a bell)): Mostly because it's in "Hej Sokoly."

As my vocabulary grows, I'm sure I'll discover new words that I can randomly place in sentences for the hell of it (plus say without need or reason.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July to one and all!!!

I won't really be celebrating that much (unless I try to sneak into the embassy, but I'm not sure if I'm invited.)

Well, Happy 4th!!!