Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Friday, March 31, 2006

Move over Angelina Jolie

I feel like a star.

I spent the morning speaking to a journalist and having my picture taken over and over by a photographer. Why? Because I'm a star dammit.

No, ok, I'm just an expat, but who wants to be a star when you can be an expat? Who wants to be a millionaire when you can be a penniless volunteer? Who wants to... enough.

I might be in an exhibition, or a newspaper column, or a book, or all three! Guess that's my 15 minutes taken care of. They were both very nice so you other Poland-based expats should really reply to the emails and go get your moment of glory.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006


You know a really good way of wasting time when you are supposed to be working/preparing an english lesson/studying for a Polish exam/cooking a meal/cleaning the flat/anything that you really don't feel like doing? Look at your blog's stats counter.

People show up at Boo following all kinds of weird routes. There are the regulars, the bored surfers who stumble in and out of a handful of sites a minute, then there are the googlers. The ones who have entered a search term and ended up here. Some stay for less than a second, some stay for half an hour. The interesting bit, is what they searched for.

Someone actually searched 'don't hassle the Hoff' once and ended up here. There are the poor people looking for Polish tips and getting my perplexing hints for pronunciation and the others who have found my site after searching for small baths, or tips for how to survive glandular fever.

I've noticed more and more people searching for 'boo' recently. Were they looking for the lame horror film, information on the programming language, or maybe an American lady's tribute site to her best friend, her dog Boo Boo? (check out the guestbook. Classic. My favourite comment is 'your dog is a mutt. it's ugly. i bet it goes to the bathroom inside all the time. dumb dog.')

Sadly, we shall never know.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Not so different after all...

Everyone likes to think they are a little different. Not quite as predictable as the rest maybe, whether it's demonstrated through the clothes they wear, career they choose to follow or opinions they choose to share.

I guess I thought my difference was very much based in the choices I've made over the last 18 months or so.

2 years ago I was working in Brussels doing internships and living with my family.

Now I'm living in Warsaw, doing EVS and living with a gorgeous Polish guy.

Europeans move for love rather than jobs.


Except for me obviously. Pure coincidence. I'm different. It was the exciting cv building opportunity offered by the EVS programme. Honest.

The moving to Poland thing, ignoring the Polish boyfriend for the moment, that makes me different. I've moved to a new country, managed to get the language up to communication level, made friends, got a new job, and learned more than I ever thought I would.

I'm not a Polish plumber who's moved to the UK to make money, I'm not a German student who's moved to Spain to work in bars and party all summer, I'm an educated Brit who's come to Poland to take full advantage of the opportunities available to me as a result of this fantastic thing called the European Union.

The profile of the average migrant within the EU is middle-class, skilled and well-educated, who generally has non-manual work in the country of destination, and has a positive attitude to the EU.

How depressing to be so average and predictable. I give up, I'm no different from the rest.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Another week or so...

It finally feels like spring might be round the corner. Of course we were still crunching through icy snow at the weekend, but the sun was bright and it seemed like all the birds were back from their winter holidays. The night rain is washing the snow away gradually, the sun is slowly warming the air and the earth is gathering its strength, ready to burst out in buds and shoots. It was a long time coming, but it's nearly here.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Look at those cheeks!

I don't want any of you to get the wrong idea following this post.

I am very happy being young and irresponsible, unmarried and unburdened by car insurance, mortgages and nappies. Despite the fact that almost EVERYONE I know is getting married, having babies, making blatant references to priests and churches or all of the above, it's not my time. I want babies one day, not now. I want the dress and cake and party at which drunk relatives embarass themselves, but some other time, when I've figured out the other grown up stuff like earning a living.

This baby though. She is out to get me. She makes me want to buy little outfits and take a million pictures and just coo at her all day long. I haven't seen her in a few months and I am out of my mind with jealousy because my Dad got to spend this weekend with her when he was over in the land of Eng... Just. Look. At. Her. She smothers me with her adorability.

Doesn't she make you want to soothe her worried brow?

Don't you want to make stupid faces at her for hours just to make her smile?

Doesn't she just make your head explode with her cuteness?

Honestly, I don't want one of my own but I could bring myself to borrow this one for a few days.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another weekend goes by too fast

I love having friends to stay. It means I get to do things I usually never have time for, and catch up with people I never see. It allows me to share my perspective of Warsaw and often through my descriptions of life and work, I discover how I'm actually feeling about it all. Topics get brought up that I haven't thought about for a while, and I get to see my world through another person's eyes at the same time as reminiscing about places and events of the past.

Thanks for coming Nathalie, it was great to see you.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Now this is a novel idea

I got a job. No, not a voluntary position, not an internship, not a cv-building but unpaid post, a job.

Apparently if I show up for this job, copy editor at the Warsaw Voice, they will PAY me for the work I do. I'll have money coming in regularly, a place to sit in an actual office, actual people working with me. It's such a novel concept to a girl who has passed the years since university moving from internship to voluntary position, good for the cv but bad for the bank balance.

The best thing about getting this job is actually that it more or less got me. I write blog, editor leaves comment on blog about job, I realise I need a job to fill me in while I'm finishing EVS and applying for future capital, I apply, I go through the process, I am offered job.

It really was that simple.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Poles in the UK

Over there.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

The London Experience

Damn that was fun. I think it's safe to say that I've got through my God-England's-so-dull-I-would- NEVER-want-to-live-there-ever -again phase and am well on the way to my I-used-to-live-in- a-pretty-cool-place phase. Not sure if the shall-I-go-back-there- next-time-I-move? phase is going to reach out and grab me, but you never know.

There are far too many things going round my head for me to make sense of right now and tell you about, and there is also this tiresome thing called 'work' that I'm supposed to be doing instead of blogging, so I'll just note down a few random observations and point you to my photos until I have a few spare minutes later on.

1. They are always telling you what to do in London. There are all the regular ones like 'no smoking', 'keep out' and 'no entry' but then there are the slightly more specific ones: 'Danger. Keep everything clear of the doors' in the underground carriages and 'please stand on the right' and 'hold children firmly' on the underground escalators. You have to hold the handrail, carry your dogs and keep clear of the edges. You have to 'look right' or 'look left' when crossing the road, 'mind the gap' when getting on underground trains and smile for the cameras recording your every move.
I saw quite a few no-nonsense signs, my favourite of which were the following two:

so there! And
(why would you park your car in the middle of the road?)

2. I knew about the invasion of the Polish plumber and the tabloid hype about being overrun with Eastern Europeans but their presence was definitely noticeable. I checked into the hotel in English, turned to Marek's dad and translated, then the check-in woman continued in Polish... When we were by Tower Bridge we were asked to take a picture of a Polish couple, and when we were on our way from the tube station to the hotel we saw a 'polskie piwo' sign . I knew it wasn't such a useless language to learn.

3. I lived in London until I was 15. Since then I have totally lost any claim to the 'Londoner' title. This was most obvious when I met an old friend and was talking about one of our journeys on the world-famous London underground (otherwise known as tube) system. I called it the metro.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

London Town

I'm all flustered and flurried because tomorrow Marek and I are taking his dad to London. For FOUR days. I know it's going to be fine, but what do Polish men a generation older than me, who speak no English and have rarely left the Polish countryside find interesting in London??? I know what I like, I even have a fairly accurate picture of what Marek likes, but his dad? It's not like there isn't a wealth of options to choose from, but what if we choose wrong?

Ever since I arrived in Poland, even before I could communicate with his parents in any meaningful way and our conversations involved a lot of arm flailing and exaggerated miming, Marek's dad was on at me to take him to England to visit relatives who moved over years ago. He had this plan about driving to France and getting the boat. Thankfully, we've persuaded him planes are not such a bad idea, and we're staying centrally in the cheapest no-star hotel we could find.

What are we going to talk about? I'll run out of Polish words.

Talking of Polish words, today's word of the week is WSPOŁŻYĆ, which apart from being a typical unpronouncable Polish word, means 'to coexist'...

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Monday, March 13, 2006

glandular fever and opera

A sore throat, pounding head, bulging glands and temperature of 39 degrees later, I'm still here. Urgh, I was convinced I was having a glandular fever relapse and felt totally bleugh but after surviving some medieval Polish treatments (feet in boiling water, spyritus on glands) as well as some more welcome attention (tea with lemon and honey, hot water bottles) I am well on the road to recovery.

One paragraph of self-pity is more than enough and the point of this post is to describe my Saturday night which was spent, not in a pub with beer (well, ok, a bit was) but mainly either in the opera or in the Belgian Embassy... ooh I'm cultured innit?

My lovely friend Soline (hi So!) who worked and sang with me in Brussels was here with a few (read 7) friends for a long weekend. We joined them for Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades on the Saturday night (no, we hadn't heard of it either, and our group passed the notes of the storyline from person to person throughout as the singing was in Russian and the subtitles were in Polish). It was very long but surprisingly good. The set and costumes were incredible and there were some beautiful bits of music, especially when there were several voices singing together (the solo stuff is less exciting and can drag on a bit unless they are going very high, or very low, or doing something interesting at the same time, like killing themselves or each other...)

Now, after the opera, we went round to Soline's parents' place. Soline's Dad happens to be the Belgian Ambassador and their 'place' is more commonly referred to as the Belgian Embassy, which rather ingeniously incorporates the Residence in the same humungous building with columns and sweeping staircases. It was rather nice. We ate in a dining room which can easily seat 40 people. We talked in hushed tones under the watchful eyes of the Belgian Royal couple's portraits on the wall. We sneaked peeks into lavishly decorated salons and sitting rooms.

When Marek and I left we couldn't help but giggle a little bit. We are oh so sophisti-kay.

It wasn't that late, despite the amount of singing and sumptuousness of the dinner, so we went into a pub and ordered a couple of beers to keep us company while going over the best bits of the evening. Champagne would have fitted better I suppose but we were all cultured out by then.

I might develop a taste for it... expect future posts about caviar and the development of Marek's polo playing.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women's Day

So today is international women's day. I don't remember it ever featuring very highly on the events calendar before I came to Poland but it seems to have had a long tradition here, and is gaining in recognition everywhere.

Apparently there are events all over the world; prize givings, dinners, fundraising, readings of female authors, exhibitions, screenings of women's films, concerts, anti-war rallys, all sorts of activities.

One group of women has decided that what we should really do though is ring bells...

Event Name
Bell Ringing Initiative-Standing for Advocacy for Women's Rights
Invite people to ring church bells on March 8th in support of women's rights. Why? To speak out that human rights are women's right. To urge governments to make good their promises. To stand with women for their basic rights to vote, to be educated, to live free of violence.
Iowa United Methodist Women
8 March 2006
All Day
Wherever you live.
Cost & Payment Details

Iowa Conference United Methodist Women
Contact name

Doris Howard
Contact details

Right, you'd like women 'wherever' they live, to go into churches and ring the bells 'all day'.

I wonder.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Word of the week: SKARBONKA

Some of you forgot that 2006 was Year of the Polish language right? What a good job it is that I'm here to remind you.

I've decided to do something for you poor, poor people who don't have the pleasure of daily encounters with this language. I'm selfless like that. Once a week (if I remember) I'm going to introduce you to a new Polish word, specially hand picked from the million options out there.

Today's word is skarbonka. SKARBONKA!

(you're welcome for the free advertising Auchan peeps)

It's a great one right? It means piggy-bank, or money box. When I first saw it on a supermarket poster the other day I had to stuff my hand in my mouth to stifle the errupting HA HA HAAAAWWW.

I love this language.

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Monday, March 06, 2006


If I knew where the guy who came up with skype lived (I'm pretty sure it's a guy rather than a gal, but correct me if I'm wrong) I would bake a big cake, take it over and feed it to him, while explaining to him exactly what kind of genius he is. It has to be one of the best inventions ever.

Last night I had a first-time conference call with the folks in Brussels and my little bruv in Toronto. Sure, my dad was echoing so much he sounded like the Voice Of God (VOICE VOice voice voice, OF OF Of of GOD GOd God god) in a low budget movie, and Edd was so quiet he had to repeat every sentence, but we blame the absence of decent headsets. Wow. I can have a free conversation with my immediate family which is curently spread over several thousand kms all at the same time! Genius!

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Who am I?

You thought I was Rebecca right? Hmm. Me too, before I lived in Poland.

In Polish I'm usually Rebeka, which is fine, same sound, different spelling, no problem. The thing is, when I'm being talked about in Polish I'm Rebece (Re-Be-Tsy) and then when I'm not around I become Rebeki. It's all rather unsettling.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A few more details...

When the alarm went last Friday morning it was only a little past four. FOUR! We rolled out of bed and blearily finished off the bags, filled the thermos with tea and lugged everything downstairs to the car. I thought Marek was mad quite frankly to want to drive five hours after such a short night, but he was adamant that we'd make the most of the day that way and once we had set off, I too was strangely wide awake and excited about the next few days.

By late morning, we had made it to Korbielów, our new temporary home in the mountains, dropped off our bags, changed into our bulky ski-wear and got all kitted out with boots and skis. Now we just had to make it up the mountain.

I'm a pampered skier. I've been to French and Austrian resorts, where little cabins carry you steadily up mountain sides. Vast pistes provide you with space to parallel turn to your heart's content and interesting little mountain paths wind through beautiful forests. I deliberately kept my expectations low for Polish skiing. In terms of the pistes that was wrong, but first, the lifts.

Now, I've been on chair lifts (no problem) and I've been on button lifts (again, no problem) but when you have something in between the two? Er, well it's not so obvious. The majority of the lifts were for two people, in the style of a button or t-bar lift but the bar went between the two people. This made it slightly more difficult to balance, because you can't sit, you have to let yourself be pulled like on the button lifts, but you have to take into account the fact that it is pulling you and someone else. This is easiest when you're with someone who keeps his skis straight, who doesn't grab the bar and unbalance the whole thing, who doesn't point out interesting sights along the way which make you turn your head and totally freak out when the thing wobbles. Yeah, I fell twice. But only the first day and then we got into the routine. No sweat.

Apparently, thanks to the EU, the whole place is going to be upgraded very soon. That means new lifts (we-hay!) but already the skiing is excellent. You have to work a bit to get to the top of the mountain (freaky lift after freaky lift joined by little corridors where you have to get to work with the poles. Ha, poles, sticks not Poles.) but once you get there it really is great. It's not the Alps, but there's no place for snobbery, it's still bloody fantastic.

Everyone knows that one of the best bits about skiing is the sitting in little mountain huts eating and drinking . Oh come on, that's where most people spend most of their time. In the Polish ones you generally get a sausage and warm beer, or tea which has been topped up from a hipflask you have about your person. I had never had warm beer before I came to Poland but it's damn good. Who said you could only warm wine? Inexplicably, the one we went to most frequently was usually playing Cher or Ace of Base, but apart from the music it was a little haven.

That feeling, when all your muscles are beginning to ache, the cold is slowly penetrating your layers, and your stomach is grumbling a little, is best beaten by a sausage and warm beer while looking out over the mountains.

The weather was great most of the time. We got a bit of fog

and it snowed a bit

but mainly it was sunny and clear and gorgeous.

We were with a small group of friends, and met up with some others while we were there so for me the Polish practice was continual. I had hired these mutli-coloured skis

and got approached by some woman who thought they were fantastic. I know now how to convey the merits of these particular skis in Polish. Go me.

The rest of the weekend (which only ended on Monday afternoon) involved lots of skiing, lots of sitting about eating and drinking, hardly any sleep and full immersion in this kind of Polish culture. Culture here is a loose term; we saw the longest, most drunken fight in a local pub that I have ever witnessed. A huge group of young guys were staggering about, taking it in turns to hit out at someone or hold back someone else, or shout at yet another person. They all went outside at one point to cool off and then came back in the pub for more. All the while the waitresses were weaving between them serving tables and smiling at us apologetically as if this was a nightly occurrence which was out of their control.

Now it's March. I've survived the February low and I have two full months until the end of my EVS project and the need to focus on the direction my life is taking. It's all good.

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