Friday, 27 April 2012

Retreat Registration Closed

The Majowka dla Kobiet (May retreat for women) in Krakow must be entirely booked up, for lo the registration is closed.

It is amazing to me that women would come from all over Poland to a retreat featuring four talks by English-speaking me, but there will be a translator and, as continental Europeans often tell me, continental Europeans are used to coping with English and each others' languages anyway. Meanwhile, I am terribly pleased, as you can imagine, as I have slaving away at my talks and also at basic Polish. Yesterday I sort of collapsed in a dinner party.

It was sad, really. Imagine a beautiful Georgian room with a 12 pane window with a view of a Scottish garden, and by this window a round dark wood table, mostly surrounded by men in tweed jackets, plus one girl of 22 in a very smart V-neck Laura Ashley frock and a women got up in Edwardian black. That was me. Incidentally, my lace shawl fell off at the table, revealing a vast expanse of strap-free shoulder. Sensation, not to say sweeping Marx Brothers-style hilarity, among the men.

British men.

Anyway, I was fine for the champagne, and the simply delicious, French restaurant quality soup, and the rich cassoulet, and even the fruitcake, but I was starting to flag when the '55 port made its second round and then my head began to hurt and sitting up seemed too much of a chore and I began sending silent distress signals to B.A., who (being a man) wasn't getting them, so I gave them voice and then almost fainted in the host's hallway.

I am not sure why my body suddenly decided to pack it in after the port came around. I don't think it was a protest against the modern habit of women sticking around for the port. It was very good port, a beautiful colour, and anyway there was no hostess. No hostess, no leaving the table. And actually as far as I know I am the last hostess in Edinburgh to segregate the sexes anyway.

Could it have been the strain of learning Polish on top of everything else? I use the word "learning" in the most general sense. I try to stuff Polish into my brain at odd moments during the day--especially during bus rides--and then it leaks out. I travel about with a fat stack of cue cards with Polish words on them, and stare at the English side like a psychic trying to get a mental glimpse of the underside of a playing card. It has taken me six months to manage to glue the names of the twelve months of the year into my inelastic brain, and I'm still shaky on June.

"Listopad" (November) is my favourite month-name, and it is the discovery of such amusing words that makes the effort worth it, although B.A. would point out it isn't worth collapsing during dinner parties. Not quite the thing. Darling.*

Another subtle reward is watching Polish men speak Polish at parties, and incidentally DON'T DO THAT if you're Single. It is very odd behaviour, and I am sure I only get away with it (if I do) because I am married. Anyway, it is like watching furry water creatures (i.e. the Poles) waddle along the shore (i.e. speak English) and then slip into the water where they glide with astonishing grace (i.e. speak Polish).

After six months of me listening very hard, normal spoken Polish no longer sounds like "blah-BLAH-blah-blah-BLAH-blah-PRAV-da?" but like "I am [something]-ty and kricky kricka smoosh living in Warsaw is kricka it smoosh my flat kricky kricka smoosh thirty-three smoosh kricka shishbit in my opinion krick smoosh kricka Glasgow szbit smoosh krikety twice as expensive."

One of the parish Poles, the one who didn't like school and came to Britain to work at 17, says he learned English by listening and watching people and eventually something happened in his brain and he could understand. It sounds like magic, although I remember a similar sensation when I decided to lose 20 pounds and after a year of thrice-weekly workouts plus strict calorie counting, I suddenly fit into a Club Monaco Size 2.

Anyway, poppets, I don't think this has much to do with being Single, except that I am so happy I am going to Poland to talk to Polish Singles that I work hard every day to learn a little Polish. And I suppose it is also evidence that I believe you can achieve some things, perhaps MOST things, by hard work. You can't stop being Single, if that's what you're after, by hard work.

That said, if your fundamental difficulty is that you are not rooted in reality or you have almost despaired of understanding men (never mind Polish), those are things you can work on. You can do this by paying strict attention to reality and forcing yourself not to confuse your own hopes and fears with the actual data before you. It might help you to read the work of Bernard Lonergan to this end, but let me tell you, THAT is certainly work.

*To be fair, B.A. hailed a cab and was all hand-holding and solicitude.


Med School Girl said...

Ukrainian, being a Slavic language, has some root words in common with Polish and Russian.
November is also "listopad" in Ukrainian, and on my cultural exchange there, I was taught by my counterpart that "listopad" translates to "leaves falling". "Padaye" is the verb for falling, and I can't quite remember the full word for leaves, but I think it's "list". Makes sense, and it was helpful to understand a bit of the words I was learning.

Urszula said...

Any advice for someone who understands men, and understands Polish, but does not understand Polish men? ;)

I love the names of the months as well! They are actually related mostly to agriculture and the seasons, which makes them often very apt descriptions of that particular time of year. My favorite is our current month "kwiecień" which is related to "kwiat" (flower).

For listopad, it's actually very close to what Med School Girl was saying. "Padać" is to fall, and "Liść" is a leaf.

I'm always full of admiration for people who learn Polish and are willing to try to pronounce such words as "liść"!!

Seraphic said...

I am not going to claim to understand Polish men. Come to think of it, it's a good thing I know how to say that in Polish.

But I have a hunch. "Rules" boys. Total, absolute and utter "Rules" boys. Unlike Germans. With Germans throw "The Rules" out the window and get used to the fact that the average twenty-something German man is going to have more and better beauty products than you.

But almost every single Pole I have ever met, including priests, seems to have an unshakable sense that having been born male and Polish, he has won the lottery of life and, although he does not know who John Wayne is, he is sure he could clean his clock and steal his girlfriend if he felt like it. And unless the girlfriend is Polish, she cannot compare to the girls back home, so why bother?

Keep in mind, however, that I have spent exactly four days in Poland and only three years in Europe, and met a very limited number of Poles in Canada.

berenike said...

Hwey, ukulele!

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I speak some Russian so it's very interesting for me to listen to other Slavic languages. Russian is, oddly enough, in some ways the most influenced by non-Slavic European languages. With Russian and an understanding of how Slavic languages work in the Latin alphabet, I can figure out a good bit, but Polish (and to some extend, Ukrainian) never let me get too far without realizing it's the counterpart to English and a Germanic language among the Slavic ones -- it makes sense and you can see the connections, but gosh it's so far off from the rest of them sometimes. :-)

I got to spend a lovely month in Poland and it's a fantastic country - friendly folks, interesting history, lovely culture, etc. A Polish friend felt there weren't enough opportunities in employment for someone like himself, but I can't speak to that. Have a lovely time- and don't be surprised if a good number of the ladies don't need a translator at all. :-)

MichelleMarie said...

Heck, the names of the months (especially those darn summer months) in Polish still sometimes evade me... and I have Polish parents :) It's a tough, tough language. You're brave!

american in deutschland said...

On the topic of Polish men, the only one (but also the best one) I know is a priest here in Munich. He's not very John Wayne-y, but very warm and kind and a fantastic confessor.

Just thought I'd bring the topic around to some cool 'serious single' men! ;)

Urszula said...

The "Rules" observation is very interesting... and may be very much on target. I feel that it might apply more to Polish men who have left Poland though; for some reason, the ones I encountered in country were not very prone to taking initiative in any area, dating included. Then again, as mentioned in a previous combox, I was dealing mostly with college-age boys who might have been holding back because they weren't ready to start families.

I think it's really interesting to see how there are many Polish girls who marry foreigners (especially, in the UK, Muslim men) while Polish men very rarely do so, which you've also pointed out.

Still, I'd be really interested to see what your Polish female listeners think on the topic ;) And once again, congratulations on your persistence in tackling the Polish language!