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.