Friday, March 8, 2013

Guest Post: Martin

I asked Martin a while back to give a little economic comparison between the U.S. and Poland. Taxes, where our money goes, cost of living, etc. He demanded that before he tells people how America stinks in every way and how Poland is far superior in every way, that he should first introduce himself. I agreed. This way when, inevitably, half my readers start throwing hamburgers and the other half start throwing Pierogi, they will know who they are stoning. (could that last line get any cheesier? I doubt it)

Onward:

P.S. His first paragraph is soooo Freshman College English class essay but he said to roll with it, so I am, just so you know that he knows and that I know and that we're both o.k. with it...  I'll stop talking now.

P.P.S. Also, when I was younger, like Elementary School, I didn't know that you were supposed to write "P.P.S." when you wanted to add another post-script. I thought, "surely it must be P.S.S, otherwise it would be P.P.S. and that would spell (whispering) pee-pee-es...gross!" Later I learned I was wrong, and yet, not.

Martin strongly dislikes everything I have just written and is embarrassed to share this blog post with me but its my blog soooooo....



What's your name? Even that simple question has had more than one answer in my lifetime: In Poland, I’ve always been “Marcin,” while in the States I go by “Martin.” I consider these to be translations of the same thing and, like any other translatable word, have chosen to use the one which fits my audience’s primary language (and, yes, I do introduce myself as “Martín” to Spanish speakers – it always sounds so cool said back to me). What happens when my audience is multi-lingual, you ask? Well in case of a tie, the nod has always gone to Poland. And before I’m strong-armed into writing posts comparing the socio-economic realities of my two homes, I thought I should first say a few words about where this “nod” comes from.

I grew up in Poland, sort of. My father works for renowned universities in Poland and Texas; as a result, I spent my childhood bouncing between the two. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that we changed our country of residence about every two-three years, until high school. And, even though by that time I had spent roughly the same amount of time between them, I always considered myself to have been “born and raised in Poland…while taking trips to the U.S.” No doubt a lot of this has to do with the fact that my parents spoke to us exclusively in Polish and worked hard to cultivate a Polish community in Austin. I know now how much work this required and I thank God every day for my parents’ dedication.

Whatever the reason, my identity during childhood was decidedly “Polish.” I loved studying Poland’s history (which reads like a freakin’ action novel, btw – if you haven’t already done so, grab any old link from Wikipedia, clear your weekend, and dive in), took great pride in wielding what is commonly agreed to be one of the world’s most difficult languages, perked up any time Poland was even mentioned and generally reveled in being Polish. I remember this pride distinctly from my earliest years, despite the fact that my earliest memories come from one of my “trips” to the States.

As I was saying, my international “bouncing” reversed directions in high school. We’d still go back to Poland but only during the summers and about every other year. Pretty soon I became “born and raised (and summering) in Poland but living in Texas.” With each day though, surrounded by my fully-American peers, the first part of that description became fainter. And with each bi-yearly trip, compared to my fully-Polish family, that faintness became more apparent. It culminated during one particular trip during my early college years, when I heard several people tell me that “my Polish was very bad.”

I’d accepted that I’d always be Polish and at least a little Texan but now the pendulum had swung too far. My final years of college saw me very involved in the Polish students’ organization, writing my senior thesis about the tourism industry of 1990s Poland, reading over an hour of Polish news each day and searching for employment in Krakow. I simply had to go back, to reconnect, to realign, to rebalance. And I did. And it was great. Until I realized that there was something even stronger than Poland controlling my destiny…

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Picture taken in Croatia, Martin clearly looking longingly toward Poland, I am simply trying to touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth to make my face look slimmer for the picture. Priorities!
Which brings me to my point: it’s very difficult to define what it means to “be Polish” (or any other nationality) these days. Distances are getting smaller, people are becoming more mobile and the world is simply changing. But whatever it means to “be” anything, I believe it’s largely influenced by one’s parents (and especially one’s mother… especially if you homeschool), one’s peers and one’s surroundings – and largely in that order. Irony would have it, that my ardent desire to reconnect with Poland is what made me realize that the mother of my children was going to be a Texan. Like I said, that much was beyond my control. But if my children were to think of themselves as “Polish” (and Texan), I had to work hard to level the playing field. This is why I make an effort to speak to my children exclusively in Polish and why we live in Poland. Yup, it’s all Olivia’s fault.  :P






24 comments:

  1. Did anyone else notice the "word of the day"? Hmmm? The stars are aligning...

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  2. Love this post. As an American of Polish Decent, I need some context. Martin/Marcin, how old are you? If you don't wish to share, an approximate age range would help. I'm trying to determine what time period you were growing up in America and what technology and social forces you were exposed to (MTV versus Facebook for instance).

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    1. I am 32. Bounced around in the 80s, started high school in the mid-90s, finished college in the early naughts.

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  3. Great job Marcin! Your post certainly sheds more light on the origins of the idea of moving to Poland, which sometimes is hard to understand for someone who (1) is Polish and (2) started reading this blog mid-way rather than from the beginning. I'm a Pole living in the US and married to a New Yorker (I'm referring to the state, not the city). My husband and I have been considering moving to Poland to live when we retire, which would be a culture shock to both of us. It's always interesting to see how other people are managing. Olivia, I have been following your blog for several months now, and I really admire you for your courage and determination.

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    1. Thanks, glad you liked the post. Truth be told, there are a few other reasons why we're here but I'll save those for another time.

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    2. Thank you for the kind words. My courage and determination are fair weather friends these days but we keep in touch. ;)

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  4. Nice story. Thanks for sharing. I would rather eat pierogi and even burgers then throw them someone ;). I cant wait to reed why "Poland is far superior in every way" ;-). For 30years this country brings me down and makes upset, and I think I just would achieve more somewere else. I Think about going Texas, Raleigh(NC) or England (least but most likely - no visa required). This makes it interesting... hope to reed more soon :) ciao

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    1. You're welcome! And don't read too much into my wife's sense of humor - the States and Poland are both great in their own ways. But don't get me started on England...

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    2. Sure, please also do not be fooled by my complaints ;). Among my worries and pains, I still love Poland for many reasons.

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  6. Glad that piece of writing was fruitful for you, Anonymous. Happy spamming!

    P.P.S. What's a beauty dentist?

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  7. I love the intro. Boys just like different things ;)

    I'm excited to read more!

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    1. So am I! He has so many great stories from his childhood. He rolls his eyes, but I really want him to write them up.

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  8. Great post Martin. I never thought of you as European, always Texan like all of the rest of us. I guess I never knew how polish you are. Miss you guys!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I'm like a chameleon (my eyes sometimes wobble and I'll eat just about anything that flies close to my face).

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  9. Great intro! I can relate to your childhood. Looking forward to your comparison between the U.S. and Poland.

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  10. Interesting to read about your background and "being Polish" - I am about the same age, born in Poland, moved to Germany when I was 10 where I eventually met my American husband and moved to the states about 10 years ago. I had a hard enough time with the am I Polish or German thing but after the American patriotism hit me in the forehead I just gave up on trying to determine what and who I am and presently go with the flow of just being a human being. (Besides Easter and Christmas maybe - too many good memories and traditions.) I tried to teach my children Polish but managed only a few phrases ( hard when you don't have nobody else to talk with), then reasoned that German might be more practical - and easier to teach. I just can't speak polish to them then turn around to speak English while I am still thinking polish and vice verse. BUT my parents are coming over for three months so maybe they will pick up more this time around. Sorry this is such a long post! Almost a blog. I do enjoy reading about your adventure back in Poland though so keep at it you two :)

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    1. Thank you, Martina - your comments are always welcome (the longer the better)!

      Good luck teaching the kids Polish (or any other language). It is, indeed, hard work but definitely worth it, in my opinion!

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  11. Hi Olivia, cześć Marcin:
    I've been reading your blog from the beginning :) I really like Olivia's sense of humor and honesty. I would like to thank you for sharing your experience with us, readers.
    My husband and I, we grew up in Poland. His family moved to States when he was 15 years old boy. It is his 21st year here. I came as an adult, after I graduated. We started our family in US and raising our son here but we are planning to go back to Kraków in 2-3 years. The reason is, although we both have good jobs, speak the language,and take advantage of all opportunities this country has to offer, we don't feel like our roots are here. Something is missing.
    What I really want to say is that for some people (including me) moving away from the homeland makes to realize and appreciate many things which you don't see until you zoom out far enough. And long enough. There is no perfect place to live. Each country has its problems and absurd. Medical system in US is one of them.
    I'm looking forward to read your next posts - comparing other practical "stuff".
    I realize that for you Olivia it is a challenge to adjust but I think I will see "now I really feel like I'm home" sentence written by you here one day :D
    I can so relate with your struggles - I went the same "path" in US. Even this little things like missing particular flavor in food :)

    One big step is local language. I don't know if you've heard about The Center for Polish Language Culture by Jagiellonian University http://www.polishstudies.uj.edu.pl/en_US. They offer variety of polish language classes and report great results in short time.

    Good luck to you guys!
    Agata

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    1. Olivia here
      I am looking in to the Jagiellonian courses actually. It's hard to find a good time that fits our schedule...

      Yes, the food! I completely understand and agree.

      I think it's also when you start raising kids. It just becomes more apparent that you now have something to give to another person and what is it that you want to give them, impart to them? You know? Just my thoughts.

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    2. Agree with all of the above. And there is a lot to be said about the "zoom out effect." Maybe even particularly for Poles who (as a nation), after a period of severe restriction, have embraced mobility in such large numbers... Hmmm, blog post?

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