Monday, June 05, 2006

We've moved!

P3 is now here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

New beginnings

It's a new month. Spring is slowly but surely turning into summer, and p3 is ready to take its next step forward.

Beginning from Monday, June 5, p3 will have a new look, at least one new contributor, and a new web address:

The reasons vary, but my favorite two are: a)The desire for independence from the blogger format, as well as for new features, such as indexing, and b) the need for a fresh start. As anyone can see, some p3'ers are far better at contributing than others. (I myself am one of the worst sinners on this front.) We need a new gust of fresh air to put the wind back in our sails.

With the launch of the new format and address, we'll be building up next week to the equality parade, due to take place in Warsaw on Saturday, June 10, in which a few of us plan to participate. This should prove a very interesting - and bloggable - experience.

But there will be much, much more coming from p3 as well.

We'd like to thank you, our readers, for sticking with us for this long, and we hope you've enjoyed the ride so far. We think that the new format and address will make p3 even more entertaining, interesting, and fun - and will lead to more great discussion, which is what p3 is all about.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Love on Benches

So I was walking around the park today and there were lots of couples on benches all entwined around each other whispering amorous thoughts of the future into each other's ears and I couldn't help but smile. In the States, love is a very sterile enterprise carried out by partners confirming their mutual interest but in Europe it's much more earthy.

Ah, Spring.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stolen Hopes

"What do you think?" she asked me, staring over her Bloody Mary.

This is what I heard tonight from a friend (well, she's a bartender at a place I frequent) about her and her boyfriend's plan to go to England for the summer. We were sitting in a restaurant that had already closed. We were allowed to stay in because her boyfriend delivers food for them.

As everyone in Europe knows, Poland is going through yet another diaspora at the moment. This time, though, it's mostly young people leaving instead of whole families. I feel so dearly for people like my bartender friend. She has no idea what to expect. Her boyfriend has a job lined up for six pounds per hour doing construction work. They are filled with hope and still plagued by anxiety. Why else would they ask an American about work conditions in England?

I told her that if there is a tourist industry in this town then she has a good chance of getting a job, however locally low the wage might be (I'm not so sure about this point since Poland has joined the EU, but I remember hearing about Poles working for ridiculously low wages a few years ago). She sounded mildly hopeful, but when her boyfriend left for a moment, she told me that she would really rather stay in Poland because she likes her job here. She would only go to England because she'd miss her boyfriend too much.

England is a shangri-la for many Polish people. It's the local version of the American dream: Work hard, earn money, be happy. Learn English for free. It's a success story for many but now, due to some tax irregularities (I bet beatroot knows more about this than I do), that dream has lost much of its gloss. There are still so many young people ready to throw caution to the wind and make that journey. I don't know whether to take this as a testament to their bravery or to the condition of the economy in Poland.

As we part ways after our Bloody Marys, I can't help but wonder what will happen to my new friends but I do know that their hopes, imparted to me in a dark room after hours, live in the hearts of thousands (maybe bordering on millions) of their peers and compatriots. I sincerely wish them all the best.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

United Press International - NewsTrack - Poland censors to ban vulgarity for pope

United Press International - NewsTrack - Poland censors to ban vulgarity for pope: "Special censors promoted for the occasion are to purge from television programs ads for personal hygiene products and underwear, the Italian ANSA news agency reported."

Doesn't this sound a bit pointless as all of the kiosks in Czestochowa hang copies of Fakt with girls baring all for the inquisitive camera? Why the focus on TV, which Bennie will probably not watch?

This is typical Poland for me. Someone important is coming so let's slap up a coat of paint (apply it thin because it's expensive) and as soon as our guest of honor is gone everything starts to peel. When it's convenient, Poland shows its "faith" and then, when nobody is looking, the sex shops re-open.

Of course, a big hullabaloo is happening in Warsaw. According to this page a 25 meter cross is being erected in the Old Square in Warsaw. Come on Poland, didn't anybody ever tell you that size doesn't matter?

And of course, "The frontal part of the Eucharistic table is to be embossed with the names of the Poles beatified and canonised by John Paul II."

Really, guys. Get over yourself.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Red Tape and Stamps

Next week I will have been in Poland a year.

This week I finally got around to applying for my residence permit, which I need if I am intending to stay in the country for longer than 3 months... *ahem*

I actually never stayed in Poland for longer than 3 months at a time, leaving every so often for a trip abroad. Still, it was pretty obvious that the people responsible for my voluntary project here in Warsaw were never going to get round to sorting out my paperwork. I should have taken things into hand before this week when the responsibility really shifted to me with the end of my voluntary project.

There is a simple reason for my tardiness: I was scared.

I moved here from Brussels, the bustling international city that has more foreigners than locals. I experienced getting registered in a Brussels suburb. The place where they direct you to an airless shadowy basement room, to wait with other non-Belgians on a row of chairs, eyes focused on a lone door.

The door opens every so often and someone shuffles out. Names are called, and the next person enters, but you have to know the system. The system is never explained, but if you have sharp eyes (or get tired of waiting for hours) you can discover the secret.

If you've been before you have a little scrap of paper with a number and appointment time. You have to take your courage in both hands, walk up to the door and knock. Someone then opens it a couple of centimetres and you can slip through your paper. They then tell you to sit back down and it could be a matter of minutes, or hours, until your turn.

If you've just called beforehand to make an appointment or (horror of horrors) just shown up, you also have to walk up to the door and give your name. Once the information has been received, the door closes, no 'please take a seat', no 'we'll be right with you', just a closing door and a line of uncomfortable plastic chairs to choose between.

Once you make it into the room, oh that's when the real fun begins. You (well, I) will invariably have the wrong piece of paper, or not enough photos (5 if I remember correctly, just so you have to get two sets of 4 I imagine), or the wrong kind of letter explaining why you want to stay in the country.

When I went through all this I was working at an EU institution, the guardian of the freedom of movement for workers, and yet it took many visits and bits of paper before I was registered and my paperwork was in order.

Of course most people have to go back several times. Back to the basement, to sit under the low ceiling next to other unfortunate individuals waiting several minutes or several hours depending on the whims of the people behind The Door.

This is why I was scared.

I now had to go through this process in a country where you need to queue for two days and promise your first-born to a human trafficker just to post a parcel.

We decided on a first visit to suss the place out and get the list of requirements. We entered the building, close to the old town and pleasant on the outside. So far so good. We were directed up a flight of stairs (no basement holes here!) and I wearily eyed the people lining each side of a corridor. It looked like a long wait. I spotted the ticket dispenser and took an 'A' ticket, for EU citizens. Mine was A68. I turned to the display and winced in anticipation of just how many people were in front of me. A67 flashed up. What? Just one person? I'm next? At the end of the long corridor was my room. The poor souls lining the corridor were all B tickets, from outside the EU and destined for a long wait. I walked past them, to the room at the end with the EU flag. It would have been even more impressive if the flag hadn't been stuck on with messy tape.

My number came up. We were greeted by a smiling pregnant lady (yes, they do exist) who found out quickly what we needed, gave me the relevant form, told me the list of documents I would need to attach the form and advised me not to bother including the letter from my work. 'You're from England, there's no problem, we just need to know you have enough means to look after yourself, it's the EU'. I wanted to take her head in my hands and kiss her forehead. I restrained myself.

The following day I returned, sauntered up the corridor, took my place behind one other person, was seen after ten minutes, handed over my completed form, passport photocopy, insurance card copy, photos (just two), proof that the bank transfer had been made and smiled at the pregnant lady. She took out a lot of important looking stamps, stamped everything thoroughly, signed a lot of other bits and handed me a piece of paper.

'This tells you when the card will be ready. Here's our number if you'd like to check a few days before.'

That was it.

Brussels take note: Poland is well known for its inability to carry out the simplest procedure without metres and metres of red tape. If they can sort my paperwork for me in just a couple of brief visits with zero problems, you have no excuse.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What will these kids do?

I was on a bus yesterday with a friend who teaches in high school here in Poznan. Well, gymnajium, actually, but the kids were 15 or so and that translates into high school age for Americans. My friend said hi to the students and they said hi to him. My friend told me that they hadn't been to school since New Year's Eve and one of the students had just told him that he hadn't been home since that time, either.

They were your typical new punk Polish young males. Shaved heads, cigarettes, baggy trousers, and hooded sweatshirts. 100% American gangsta. And so young: 15!

Where are this country's strong male role models these kids so desperately need? What kind of people are teaching in the high schools? Where are their parents?

I'm not saying that this phenomenon is limited to Poland, or to only the financially distressed, but in a country that prides itself on character and with a government that prides itself on morality, what is not being done to save these kids from a life of crime and violence drives me almost to tears. There is a lack of strong male role models and an excess of bad ones.

I don't want to see the machismo ethic undermine the social structure and national identity. I wish Chuck Norris could come to Poland and have a big workshop on "How to be a Man." Maybe then they would listen.