Happy New Year everyone!
It was a wild New Year’s Eve here in Płużnica. Today I feel like I’m writing a course paper what with my reluctance to blog – or to do anything for that matter. Thank goodness I didn’t have any plans or anywhere to be today.
I woke up yesterday (Dec. 31) and had some cereal and juice for breakfast (rare treats both) and Paulina (my host sister) showed me the telephone and a number written on the back of a Christmas card. Magda had phoned looking for me; I meant to send her an SMS myself but at the moment I was having problems with my phone. To complicate things, Paulina was saying something about her and “Silvester,” which turned out to be Sylwester, the Polish word for New Year’s Eve, but then I was thinking, “Who the heck is Silvester? A new boyfriend?” So anyway, I called her up from the land line and we made plans to go out on Monday.
I got washed up and ready for the day, then I checked my e-mail and typed a handwritten blog entry into Przemek’s computer. Before long, Marcin came to the door and I was off to Wąbrzeźno in Monika’s new lime-coloured Fiat Panda. (It’s cute.) We had a nice lunch of pizza and spaghetti at a small pasta place and then we went through the snow-filled streets in search of food for the party. Just about everything had already closed at 1330 or 1400 except a small liquor store, so we bought that stuff and got back in the car to visit a supermarket outside the downtown. Their deli counter was completely empty! That was understandable – we were in a fairly small centre and everyone was buying the things they needed for their parties. So we purchased some weiners and cheese and made some makeshift hors’d’ourves back at Marcin’s compound.
I joke that Marcin’s house is a “compound,” but it might as well be because it’s a huge house set about a million miles up a driveway from the main road. There’s a greenhouse and a furniture factory on the property as well. Justyna showed us around the upstairs; she has this wonderful photo collage of herself on a wall up there including professional shots as well as a few prints that I sent her myself from Souris lo those long months back.
We went back to TRGP to leave our party paraphernailia, and then I caught a ride back to my house with Monika. I met Paulina and Przemek just as they were leaving, and they gave me a lovely red tie to wear with my grey bluenotes rayon collared t-shirt – Paulina ironed it and Przemek tied it. And before much longer I was at TRGP myself.
The party was awesome. We had a lot of Polish wedding music, which meant those giant circle dances with everyone jumping and kicking and having a great time. (As of today, my calves are still sore from all that dancing!) You can’t not have a good time at a party like that. Marcin did remark that there was one problem: no girls. We mean that there weren’t any single girls; in fact, everyone at that party save ourselves had come as a couple.
Oh Michelle, your host mother is hot. And fun. I also met a woman named Karolina who worked for Reuters – she’s not a journalist, but she works behind-the-scenes on databases and statistics.
We eventually set things up so that I was sitting between Marcin and Monika so as to create a small “English zone,” which was a nice balance between being able to communicate in Polish and converse in English.
To make a long story short, I left my four cans of Warka Strong untouched and I had a lot of Polish vodka. Not that I poured any for myself; I had Voytek on my right offering it to me, Przemek on my far left, and two guys in front of me... ah, yeah. I explained to Pani Krystynna (my host mother) this afternoon that I don’t like to say no. Unlike Ukraine, I probably could have said no a few times here, but I don’t like to be antisocial. I tried to eat a fair bit to balance it out, but in these kinds of social situations I sometimes lose my appetite. Anyway, I survived until 2:50am and made it home on my own, which was something.
At one point Paulina took me downstairs and outside, and we went into the fire hall where there was yet another New Year’s party! This one had a different crowd, but people were still coming out of the woodwork and greeting me. Around the stroke of midnight we were all standing outside, listening to the siren, watching fireworks, and taking lots of pictures.
Today I slept in.
I woke up a few times, and when I was brazen enough to turn about in my bed, my stomach would begin doing cartwheels. Around 1530 I had a hearty breakfast and later we all gathered around the kitchen table to have something approaching a conversation, relying heavily on dictionaries. We have fun nevertheless. I gesticulate a lot when I speak, so even if I haven’t got exactly the right word, it’s not difficult to be understood. Sometimes it just takes a little time.
What gets me is that I’ve spent more time communicating with my Polish host family over three days than with my Ukrainian host family over a period of three months (excepting the times when I’ve done something to provoke their displeasure). I just don’t get it. I’ve tried everything; I ask them questions about how they are and what they do, but their replies are so curt that eventually I stop bothering to take the trouble and I spend most of my time trying not to be noticed. You’d think that with two English speakers in the house that there’d be a lot more communication, but no. Anyway, I don’t mean to get into a comparing session – of course I personally am happier in a congenial, middle-class, sociable Polish household than a stolid, taciturn Ukrainian one, but this is more of a reflection on me than anyone else. I don’t yet have the power to create or instill warmth where it is lacking; I can only prosper and grow in the warmth of others.
And now I’m catching up on my offline blogs on a downstairs computer. It’s not hooked up to the internet, but it’s great for typing. On the desktop is a family picture from our community farwell: Paulina, Pan Andrzej, Pani Krystynna, myself, Czarek, Przemek. You can even make out Cedrick in the background by the door. Seeing that picture really brings back memories, and like I said before, it’s funny to think that we actually lived here for more than two months. Moreover, most of us had a pretty good time.
I spent a few hours tonight watching CNN International and BBC World. CNN had an interesting piece that looked back at the major news events of 2005 and how they were covered. It was an interesting year, though I feel like I’ve sat it out on the Moon – I’ve spent most of 2005 in Eastern Europe! Once in a while there’ll be a huge news event and I’ll hear about it like so: “-Name of country, sometimes in the local language.- -One word describing the event, usually in the local language.- ” Then I get the details on the internet. Watching CNN was also refreshing since it’s all but banned from the libary in Ostroh. I’ve wanted to tune it in a few times, but I was vigorously overrulled, even when BBC was just reshowing the same stories from the previous hour. They’re mostly against it since it’s an American product. Still, it’s not like it’s “FOX News International” or anything. Speaking of news channels, I guess it would be nice to get CBC Newsworld out here (or any CBC TV) but in a week I can watch Can-American TV until my eyes fall out, so it doesn’t really matter.
Jan 2nd: Eduard texted me to say that we’re going to Kyiv on the sixth. That changes things a bit and it might mean I can spend an extra day in Poland. We’ll see!