Shoeless in Gdynia

From Ellen in Gdynia, Poland:  I’ve now got a serious impetus to be at least a slightly less slovenly housekeeper than usual: the predilection of several locals to remove shoes upon entering and progress toward the table in their socks or stockings.   

The first time it happened, I was startled.  Understandable if there had been a snowstorm or mudslide, but on a clear, beautiful day?  I asked a friend what this was all about. 

She sniffed. “Well, you know, Poland’s better classes were nearly wiped out during the war.  What we were left with were – peasants.  These are their descendants.  It is a peasant custom,” she said dismissively.   

My friend is such a snob.  It’s one of the things I love about her.  Meanwhile, this descendant of a ragtag Indian tribe and small town Oklahoman shopkeepers is going to be more attentive about preventing these alleged peasants from collecting dog hair and grit when they arrive for lessons.  They’re an interesting crop of new students, among them, a young physicist, a marine insurance manager and an orthodontist.   The latter is a perfect advertisement for her profession, with the most beautiful teeth I’ve ever seen.  No blinding Hollywood chiclets, just straight, clean perfection. 

The school in Starogard Gdanski has asked me to return for the next school year.  I’m happy to accept.  Not only have I enjoyed the broadening of experience and the students themselves, it’s been a pleasure getting to know my fellow teachers.  They’re all considerably younger (seems like everybody is, these days!), but better educated.  On a regular basis I’ve been sitting in on Dominique’s classes.  She has a small group of weary young professionals late in the evening.  Aware of how tired they all are, Dominique frequently departs from the book and introduces riveting discussion topics.  Crimes. Swearing.  Politically incorrect jokes.  Designer babies.  I love watching them light up and debate the issues.  Happily, she’s generous in sharing material, so I’m well equipped to handle the class I’m scheduled to substitute for at the Gdynia Innovation Center Monday. 

It’s spring.  Inhaling the air and shy verdant beauty is enough to put me into a grinning stupor.  Just wait till next month, everyone says.  May is supposed to be stunning.

(Copyright 2008 by Ellen Dlott)

2 comments… add one
  • So funny about the shoes custom. I am Polish, living abroad, in USA now. I was just thinking the other day, when my kids were running in and out the house, what is seemed like 1,000 times, that “shoes by the door” on the muddy day is an excellent idea. 🙂

  • I think the Polish custom of removing shoes is excellent.

    I wish more people in England would remove their shoes at the door. Perhaps the many Polish immigrants in our country will spread the custom here.

    I actually dedicated an whole blog to this subject. You might want to take a look.

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