24 December 2006

Not a Carp in Sight

Today marks the beginning of the 3 day celebration that is Christmas in Poland. This is the day when everyone feasts on the mandatory 12 dishes, none of which contain meat, several of which contain carp. Very fresh carp. As in, we purchased it live at the market, brought it home in a plastic bag full of water, and let it swim around in the bath tub before we killed it for dinner.

I turned down 3 separate invitations to partake of said carp, in favor of holing up in my apartment and watching movies. I just wasn't in the mood to go through the effort required to turn down any particular food item in this country. Traditionally, you're supposed to take some of each of the 12 dishes on the table. I don't eat fish. This makes the traditional Polish Christmas dinner a bit of a challenge.

You see, Polish hospitality is a strange and wondrous thing. It's not sufficient to smile and say "No, thank you." Generally, it takes a minimum of 3 refusals for the message to get through. I guess it's something about the first 2 being politeness, and only at the 3rd one do the hosts realize you REALLY don't want any.

So I stayed home, ate chicken, and am ready for my 3rd movie of the evening. Of course, having turned down all those dinner invitations, I'll probably never get another one - karma's funny like that. But at least I won't have to eat any carp.

23 December 2006

Small Changes

I first started wearing glasses when I was in the 6th grade. I clearly remember the moment my vision started to blur. My sister and I were watching M.A.S.H., and the picture on the TV was just a little out of focus. I mentioned it to my sister, at which point she ran gleefully into the other room to announce to our parents that I needed glasses. Up to then, I was the only member of the family without them, so I guess she was happy I was joining the club. I don't want to believe she was so thrilled because she envied my perfect sight and was happy to discover it was gone, but that may be the case - she was a little cruel to me during our childhood. (don't bother trying to dispute that, Sis, or I'll tell everyone about how you used to pin my arms down before you'd hit me, so I couldn't fight back - oops, too late)

Anyway, from then on, my vision got progressively worse. In 8th grade I switched to contacts, and wore them continuously until about 3 1/2 years ago, when my eyes suddenly became very dry. Shortly before moving to Poland, I switched back to glasses, and have worn them the whole time I've been here.

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to get my eyes checked, not because my vision seemed to have changed (miraculously, the degeneration has finally slowed down), but just because I hadn't had an eye exam in over 3 years, so I was due. I'd also been thinking about trying contacts again, hoping my eyes had had enough of a rest to tolerate them. So I found myself an eye doctor, and got some new contacts.

That was 3 weeks ago. I've been wearing contacts every day since then. Only one person has noticed.

I'm choosing to believe that this is because my glasses are so great, so suited to my face, that no one ever noticed them, and therefore I look the same whether I'm wearing glasses or not. I'm choosing that option, because the alternative is that no one ever notices me at all, and that's a little depressing. I already feel like invisible girl at work this year, so I don't need any more negative self-image issues.

So there you have it. I was wearing glasses, now I'm wearing contacts, and apparently I look exactly the same. But I no longer have to deal with the annoying fog when I go into a warm shop after having been outside, so I'm just a little less irritated in my daily life.

22 December 2006

Postal Wanderings

My sister sent me a package for Christmas. When it arrived, I wasn't home, so the postman left a note in my mailbox, informing me that I could pick it up at the post office. So I went to my local post office, which is where I've picked up every single package I've received in the last 3 years.

Unsurprisingly for this time of year, there was a fairly long line. After waiting about 20 minutes, I took a closer look at the note from the postman, and noticed something strange. In the place where they write the address of the post office where the package is being held, he hadn't written the address of my local post office, but an address about 15 minutes away, in a different apartment complex. So I stepped out of line, and went to find that post office. (No, I didn't bother to wonder why my package wasn't at my local post office, this is Poland.)

After some wandering, and asking a shopkeeper, I found the second post office. Again, a long line, which I stood in for 30 minutes before reaching the front. I handed the woman my note from the postman. She looked at it for a minute or two, then informed me that I was at the wrong post office. My package was being held at the "big" post office over on the main street, on the other side of my apartment complex. Again, there was no point in asking why, I merely thanked her and left. And then realized I didn't have time to go wait in another line, since the post office would be closing in 15 minutes. Oh well.

The next day, I took a stroll to the "big" post office. Oh look, an even bigger line! 45 minutes later, I made it to the window, handed over my note, and crossed my fingers for luck. Amazingly, I was at the right office, and my package was retrieved from the back room. As soon as I got it home, I opened it and treated myself to some Kraft mac & cheese, as a reward for successfully navigating the maze that is the Polish postal system.

This was just one more reminder of why the post office is my least favorite place in Poland, and has been since my very first day in this country, more than 11 years ago. But I do enjoy receiving packages! :)

08 December 2006

Contemplating a Splurge

Once in a while, you just have to treat yourself. (And by 'you' and 'yourself,' I mean me.) Normally, this isn't a problem. I often buy myself some fancy chocolates, or a glossy magazine with a free DVD included. (Who am I kidding, I barely even glance at the magazine, it's all about the movie.) I'm even on the verge of dropping 100-something zlotys for a set of DVDs I've been eyeing for months. I did feel the need to justify that one, but that's easy now, since my parents just deposited my Christmas present into my bank account - thanks, Mom & Dad!

No, this is a little different. Ever since I first came to Poland, I've been a little bummed about certain things I can't get here. These are mainly food items, like Reese's peanut butter cups, Oreos, Kraft mac & cheese, and ginger ale. When I'm in the US, and have these items readily available, I don't even buy them that often. It's just the idea of them being unavailable that makes me want them more. When some kind-hearted soul takes it upon themself to send me one of the above-mentioned items, I hoard it like I'm stranded in the desert & it's my only food for a month.

(Stick with me, I'm finally getting to the point.)

Last week, I was at my neighborhood grocery store, perusing the drinks aisle, and there it was. Schweppe's ginger ale! For 7 zloty and change per liter!

OK, if you have dollars, this is about $2.50 a bottle. I have zloty. This would be like spending $7 on a liter of soda. It's rather pricey.

And yet, I think I'm going to buy some. Just because I got paid early this month, and I want to. I'll probably get a glossy magazine to not read while I'm drinking it. And maybe even some of those fancy chocolates.

Because once in a while, you just have to splurge.

02 December 2006