Ellen: Much essentially Western has arrived in Poland…materially and politically. Desirable and undesirable. In the latter category, Jehovah’s Witnesses are on the loose. Twice I’ve been pounced on by women in pairs. Regrettably, protestations that I don’t speak Polish have produced responses in English, along with English Watchtowers.
Happily, though, PETA hasn’t made it here. I was thinking about that yesterday while riding the train to Gdansk. It was a frosty morning with snow flurries. Women in my compartment and waiting in stations were sporting enough plush, gorgeous fur for an Arctic herd. Mink, seal, otter, others I couldn’t identify. They looked warmly luxurious and elegant.
The sight of their lovely coats, jackets, hats and shawls didn’t make me brood about mink farms or the clubbing of baby seals. It just made me downright envious…and conscious of my own rather scruffy Romanian leather coat. I contented myself by reflecting that furs are best left to the tall and slender, anyway. People my size, swaddled in fur, generally don’t look elegant…more like they should be on all fours. I admired the fashion spectacle, though, and hope Heather Mills & Co. continue to give Poland a wide berth. (Oh, wait – I understand Heather is no longer top billing for PETA. Guess even they have some standards.) It’s doubtful they’d make much of a dent with their agenda here, not only concerning fur and leather. Vegetarians in meat-loving Eastern Europe still tend to be considered pathetic or eccentric. Rigidly uncompromising tourists are directed to a vegan chain churning out dishes which must be as tasteless as their names on the menu. I pass Gdynia’s outlet regularly. It’s full of shiny chrome, reflecting no one.
While I’ve boasted to Ruth about how I manage to easily blend in here until I open my mouth – quite a change from Israel, where everything about me seemed to scream “Foreigner!” – if I were younger, I’d be conspicuous for my stature. Lack of stature, that is. I’m continually amazed by the number of very tall young men and women here and had to laugh when a British girl on the Ex-Pats in Poland forum, contemplating moving here, noted that she was 5’9…would she have trouble finding clothing? If she’s 5’9 and 300 pounds, it could be a problem. Otherwise, she’s sure to be easily accommodated. 5’9. I have a 13-year-old student who would look down on her! No predicting what this kid’s ultimate height will be, but I admire her perfect posture and graceful gait, all the more remembering the stoop-shouldered, embarrassed tall girls of my junior high years. The boys, especially those still plagued by unrealized growth spurts and squeaky voices, were merciless to them.
I was considered “tall” in my class at age 11. That was when I reached my final height. As it stands now, the only student shorter than me is the 6 year old. Give him another six years and I’m sure that will change.
(Copyright 2007 by Ellen Dlott)
Sorry to hear the Witnesses have descended on Gdynia too, there are extremely annoying. I usually adopt the tactic of saying “Sorry, I don’t speak English” in English, which confuses them just long enough for me to make my escape.
Oddly enough I’ve recently been commenting on how generally short Poles are. I think it’s a geographical phenomenon. The further south you go in Poland, the shorter people are. Perhaps the entire country is cunningly tilted in some way that I don’t understand.
Anyway, nice to stumble across another English-language blog about life in Poland (even if it is only 50 percent). I will watch with interest.