Tuesday, March 21, 2017

letting go of confidence

One good night of sleep, and another characterized by sleep-lite. Maybe the third will be sleep-heavy? You can never tell when you mess with time zones.

I am lying in bed, mentally calculating how many hours of sleep I should have clocked in when I hear a distinct bell ringing.

But what bell? I have my iPhone. I have skype. I have google voice. I have my Polish phone.

I decide it's none of those - it's the intercom to the downstairs entrance.

Who could it be? My sister has keys and besides, she's busy cooking up a storm at home. Who would be trying to see me at 8 in the morning? A mistake maybe. I ignore it. The bell stops but then starts again.

I get up and try to open the bedroom window. The shade is half drawn, but I manage enough of a crack to see a retreating form: a young man with a back pack. (My sister later tells me that it's likely the son of my downstairs neighbor. They've been fighting and oftentimes the older man throws the son out and refuses to let him back in.)

Alright. It's quiet again. That is until the opening window dislodges the whole shade and causes it to come crashing down on me.

It takes a long time for me to figure out how to climb up, way up and find a way to attach it to the clamps.

And so I begin the morning humbly running late. Enough time to glance at my morning bouquet...


But not enough time to eat breakfast.

It hardly matters. I am meeting my friend for a morning coffee. She is my oldest, enduring friend. And as I rush to meet her, I think -- where it not for my friends and my sister, I would not come to Warsaw as often as I do. I love the place, but it would feel empty without them. They, and not my history here, are what makes this home.

I had asked my friend to pick our coffee place and she writes without hesitation -- let's meet at Brunet Cafe. It's an Iranian place and it's been targeted by the nationalist racists here. Vandalism, threats -- that kind of thing.

I wanted to walk, but I am late, and so right by my old University gates...


... I catch the bus and meet her there.

It's a lovely little spot and they even offer a breakfast of oatmeal. (A patrol car drives by every few minutes. The proprietor checks in with the police. They move on. ) And of course, I have a wonderful set of hours with my friend.



We catch up on everything, but we also veer toward politics. How can we not -- last time I saw her in January, we had not yet inaugurated a new president. But she tells me the political drama in Poland is even more intense.
I cannot agree. How can it be more intense? She is an avid reader of the press. She knows what's going on overseas.

But when I listen to her, I realize that it can get worse. So long as democratic institutions are still functioning to provide checks and balances, one hopes that eventually the better instincts, reason, knowledge -- all those fine elements of a society will prevail. But there are no guarantees. In too many countries, the attack on such institutions is very very strong.

We have lived through so much turmoil in Poland! Can those who mock a free press and an independent judiciary have such short memories?!

By noon, we both have to move on. We walk together toward the metro, concentrating on the pretty neighborhood, the signs of spring.

It's the first day of spring -- my friend tells me. My sister had earlier said the same thing.
No it's not! I had looked it up to be sure. Spring officially arrived here at 11 a.m. yesterday. At the same moment as for the rest of the northern hemisphere.
But she reminds me -- it's all in how you describe it. In Poland, we've always regarded the 21st as the beginning of the new season.

She's right, of course. You can describe things however you want. Custom drives such vocabulary. And anyway, it surely is beginning to look and feel like spring here. Even as the Polish grandma (as opposed to me!) still bundles the child in layer upon layer of warm clothing!


(This vendor is selling what I regard as the quintessential Polish flower box plant: the pansy. I am amused to note that these are actually from outside Poland: Sicily. Does it make sense to treat Europe as one? Does it make sense not to treat Europe as one?)


(I stop at a bakery to pick up what surely can be regarded as a Polish cake: poppy seed - this one combined with a Polish style cheesecake.)


(Riding the subway, I come across this young Pole. I hope he doesn't mean what his t-shirt says. I want to tell him -- you that's too big a request. Too high a price...)


(Pussy willows. On sale everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.)


My goal for the afternoon is to be at my sister's place. She is hosting a dinner party for her old school crowd (and I do know some of her old school crowd) and I'm to join them for the evening.

She is a great hostess, attending to detail, putting her heart into the meal, to the presentation of it as well.


It is a terrific evening, with wonderful food and a great mixture of Polish and English (my sister studied the English language at the university here and her friends, who date back to those years, jump (like her) between the two languages with ease).


And here's a treat: the two music school students who rented my apartment before I bought it came to the dinner party as well. They're progressing terrifically in their musical careers despite their relocation complications.


Later, I ride the metro back to my place and I think -- it's as if I haven't left, right? Except that I have. And so this now is my interlude. My break. My departure from the routines of a farmette life.


  1. It is so intriguing that the two music students also attended the dinner party. Interesting life connections taking place.

  2. My sister helped them find a place to stay after they left my apartment and they keep in touch rather regularly.


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