Saturday, September 27, 2014

Why are you staring at us?

Why are you staring at us? Why?

Is it because I wear those silly cowboy boots?
Is it because my son is wearing pink crocs ( "I like pink, mama!" "me too, Kacio!") and purple pants?
Is it because my daughter is wearing two different colored socks?

Such little things.

That can't be it because you just nudged the person standing next to you and now they're staring. It must be something else.

Is it because I am wearing my baby in a backpack carrier?
Is it because I'm speaking English to the children?
Is it because my husband is speaking Polish to the children?

Not everyday fare, for sure.

That can't be it because now you're not only both staring but you're whispering and shaking your head and...and... wait... scowling?

I just waved and smiled at you to let you know I can see you staring and scowling and shaking your head and whispering. But you didn't smile back at me. You just kept staring and scowling.

That's weird.

I sure wish I knew what was going on.

Until then I'll just assume the best. I'll assume that you stop and stare and scowl and whisper and not return smiles to ALL the people you pass by.

 I'll say a sincere prayer for you.
That you become a happier person.
A more joyful person.

A person that sees a happy family and smiles.


  1. Olivia, I guess nothing has changed for the last 19 years ( the time I spend away from Poland )! I think you just have to get used to it :) On the other hand I'll never forget visiting Poland with my 4 month old Kateri in the summer of 2001. I carried her in the Sling. An old lady, whom I saw first time in my life, commented very, very loudly, quote :" You carry the baby in that thing and then no surprised that children have crooked spines "!!! I guess the look would be a better alternative...

    1. I think, though, that the same generation that criticized you, is the same one staring and scowling at us. And because of that I am hopeful. It is a judgement of people that is dying out to be replaced with a much kinder younger generation.

  2. I would have been more sarcastic -- and responded to them with one of the following:

    1) Didn't your mother ever tell you, when you make that face too long, it will stick that way forever.
    2) You should take a picture, it will last much longer than your memory of it, and you will have something to scowl about for years to you want to borrow my camera so you can take a selfie with us in the background?

    1. That would require some very sophisticated language! :)

      I am thinking seriously though of learning a few phrases to engage in conversation. Like, "hello, I noticed you were looking at us, would you like to ask me a question about our family?" At least then the ball is in their court. Also, I am really interested as to what it is that makes them seem so .... unhappy, when they look at us. Or maybe they just are always unhappy? I don't know.

  3. Your beautiful, prayerful responses says it all about you (love your 'enemies' !! ) and just emphasises how wrong they were to try to judge and condemn you at all. God bless you and your happy family...I am quite sure He is not scowling at you! x (PS don't you go matching those socks now...)

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. In the moment it is hard to be charitable which is why God gave me a husband who is there to remind me of our purpose. And I would never make her change her socks, it's too much fun to see what she comes up with on her own. :)

  4. Greetings from Texas Olivia!
    Don't pay any attention to the staring brigade. Martin can help you say in just the right tone something like:" Co sie gapisz babo!” But I am sure he is a gentleman and can arm you with more polite responses. We (I'm Polish) can be very judgmental and hyper-critical of each other but also of ourselves. Perhaps history shaped that part of our collective unconscious. I don't know.
    I was born in Poland, but have lived in the USA for 50 years--the past 34 in Houston, Texas. I try and revisit Poland every 3-4 years. Even after all these years, it has a hold on me. I was 10 years old when my parents along with 4 daughters moved to "Amerika". So my family's journey is the reverse of yours. I came across your blog this past summer, and I've really enjoyed reading it. You've written about many poignant and touching moments. One such poignant blog entry that sticks in my mind was your feeling of helplessness and uselessness when you were struggling with the language barrier. (I think it was around the time of your first Thanksgiving away from your family.) The word helpless stopped me in my tracks because it occurred to me that my parents must have experienced the same feeling when they tried to build a new life in the USA. Both my parents have passed away, but your comment gave me insight into their struggle. I admire Martin's determination to retain his Polish and Catholic identity and your courage to help him attain that goal.
    I have a question for you about Krakow. A fellow docent at the Houston Art Museum and her husband will be traveling to Krakow in a few weeks. They plan to stay for 10 days. They’ll do all the usual tourist sights (including Wieliczka), but is there something in Krakow that you do that is unique and special? Are there places or activities that make you call Krakow “my town?” I’ve been to Krakow several times but never longer than 2 or 3 days so I can’t offer her much advice. My friend and her husband are probably your parents’ age. She is retired and paints, and he is a professor at the University of Houston Business College. Thanks for any suggestions. Sending you hot weather and visions of Dr. Pepper from Texas. Don’t let the busybody babcie get to you.
    Danuta Kruszewska

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I keep meaning to respond so please forgive the delay!

      Hmm... special places... honestly, I think the best thing for people to do, once they've seen all the sights they really wanted to see, is to just wander the streets, find a cozy place and just BE in the city. After living here for a while this is exactly the kind of thing I don't get to do that I wish I did. Finding a place on a bench in the park that surrounds the Old Town and watching the tourists and townies walking by. Hearing all the different languages. Seeing the interesting European fashion. :)

      If I can email you, I will try and forward you an email that Martin sent to someone who was asking a similar question. it also has some good ideas.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I often think about people who have done the same thing we are doing. I wonder what they found difficult. If it was the same types of things, or completely different. And as I read more from other people and realize that some of my experiences are actually "normal" it feels less lonely and isolating. (and also not so crazy)

    3. Thanks for the reply. You are actually more on top of your email msgs. than I am. My email People- watching is on my friend's list of things to do in Krakow. In response to adjusting to life in a new country, have you ever read anything by Dr. Carol Archer of the University of Houston? She coined the term "Culture Bump" to understand differences that people notice when they are in a new environment. Just google her name and the word culture bump. Scroll past the corporate training on the her web page and look for the basic definitions and examples She defines it as" a hiccup in an intercultural encounter." I wonder if some of the frustration you occasionally feel is related to the fact that you might be experiencing too many of these "bumps" in any given day/week. Just a few thoughts.

  5. Olivia,

    Are you sure they were not starring at you guys because some one may have made the appearance of being underdressed for the weather? I've noticed that as soon as it gets a little colder, everyone wraps up like an onion and is super sensitive about "dressing warm". My parents-in-law keep on telling me to dress up and that I'm no longer in California. It was probably the crocs... and not the color... that got those ladies talking.