Monthly Archives: September, 2011

Pumpkin Pepper Soup

I went to the Stary Kleparz the other day–an open-air produce market that is known for high quality and inexpensive produce. I bought 1/4 of a pumpkin, peppers, garlic and other fruits and vegetables. Later last night I got creative and I wanted to experiment with pumpkin.
I diced the pumpkin, 1 pepper, and a couple cloves of garlic and cooked them together. Then, I added some grape seed oil, threw in an egg for protein, and a cup of wild red rice (healthier than brown or white) and cooked it all together for an hour on low heat. It was a bit bland, so I sprinkled in some pepper, and seasoning like basil, tomato sauce, coriander and fennel. And while it was just okay last night–today since it had time to seep in the flavors–it was much better. It kind of resembles this:
Maybe I’ll cook it in a curry sauce next time with fennel seeds to make it more like the above…

Bullet Holes in Krakow

Walking home, I noticed several buildings with bull

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et holes. I was more aware of old buildings, history, and the tension between the past and the present due to the protest I watched today. One of the issues I thought of that probably affects many post-socialist cities is renovation with the new European trend towards sustainability.

While buildings closer to the “center” (aka Rynek Glowny) are more freshly painted and renovated–several buildings like on the street where I live, are more raw. There is exposed brick, bullet holes from G-D knows when, and some building are covered in what appears to be soot because the color is a drab ashen grey.

My professor back in undergrad, who taught “Every Day Life in Totalitarian Societies” said he himself enjoyed living in older flats with exposed brick and concrete walls. But he’s a history professor, not your average customer.

I came across this article in Der Spiegel  about the problems locals have with gentrification in Berlin. I haven’t lived in Berlin for over 18 months–but when I was researching housing costs recently, I was surprised to see that it is indeed true that housing costs have risen at least 10% in the past year or so. Two years ago I could have rented a room in a flat for around 250 euros. Now–I could not find any such price. The least expensive room I found was around 300 euros, minimum.

Here’s what the “less developed” part of Krakow looks like…not unlike some streets in Budapest.

Anarchists in Krakow

On Joszefa Street, several people gathered to protest against Da Silva House and the Church’s plans to develop two buildings (Joszefa 9 and 11) into hotels and conference centers.


The activists say that the company in question, De Silva House, has “evil plans.”

for investment. The protest is also against the evictions of some residents. Jakub has been a member of Krakow Anarchist Federation for five years. The organization itself has been around since 1986. He says that some of his friends have risked arrest and their jobs before since it is required by law to register with the police and disclose logistical details to the local authorities. He is a law student and while he does not want to get involved in politics–he encourages people not to vote because of the corruption–he wants to use his education to rewrite current legislation that currently enables companies to gentrify and forcibly evict pensioners by jacking up the rents.

There is not enough security for the current tenants–and because building is privately owned–there is nothing the State can do to help the residents. So, it is currently legal to dramatically increase the rents, he says.

I’m going to interview the developers. This will be continued.

Poster of the Ulica Joszefa Protest

Taking a Train to Poland to Beg for Cookies

September 9, 2011


Note  that this post is not all about taking trains to this country to beg for over-baked pastry dough.


My friend in Kenya is expecting and she told me how she has to drive an hour or two to get a proper stroller in Nairobi. Teaches you a thing or two about taking things for granted.


Here, I live in Catholic Land. Surrounded by nuns. They shop, buy candy, drive in their cars, all packed in with their habits. Or I see them bicycling or buying shoes. They all seem very happy in this divine sisterhood. Almost  makes me want to convert. But then certain relatives would not be particularly happy about that.


This morning I went to IWAK Newcomers’ Coffee at Cafe Wierzynek in Rynek Glowniy. I wasn’t expecting the ladies to be near my age–but they were all mothers and grandmothers there. Minimum age I estimated: 35. But honestly for some reason, I sometimes feel I have more in common with middle-aged women than women my age. Not that I’m nearing menopause anytime soon. I was probably the median age of their children. But it was pleasant and educational chatting in Polish, Russian and un petit peu de francais with the ladies from Belgium, U.K, France, Scotland, and Denmark. The lady across from me was Polish-French and had to learn Russian under the former system. I enjoyed chatting with her in Polish and Russian since for her, speaking English was an effort or seemed to be. I learned that there is a festival of sorts at the Stary Teatr of the Chekhov play “The Sea Gull” performed in Polish. I expressed my interest in organizing an outing to see Roman Polanski’s latest film “Gods of Carnage” based on Yasmina Reza’s play of the same name–I saw its performance in Los Angeles–most of the ladies preferred to talk about other events and films. I learned there is a movie theatre in Bonarka where for 20 PLN more you could get a “VIP” seat, put your feet up, enjoy free wine, and really have a smashing night out.


I am planning a possible trip to meet several of my friends in Paris, France. It would be just me, Irina, Katya, and Tina. We would meet from all corners of Europe and converge for a fabulous weekend of shopping, sightseeing and decadence. My inner id is simply rubbing its hands gleefully.


A former schlemiel classmate of ours, named Ivan* did not graduate with the rest of the class. He told me a story about how while he was in Prague, he was messaging an acquaintance of his who lived “next door” in Poland, who jokingly invited him over for cookies. Communication over the Internet is not the best way of gauging context because he took her invitation literally and hopped on the first train to her city and knocked on her door several hours later, inquiring about these cookies. She begrudgingly let him sleep on her couch that night but he had to spend a day or two finding his way back to Prague or Budapest, or wherever he started his journey from.


I joked about the reason why this poor schlimazel fellow did not succeed as much as his peers.


“He was probably taking trains to Poland to beg for “cookies.””






Polish Girls Don’t Cry

September 1

The Polish Ex-Couple


“You know they should make a film called ‘Girls don’t cry’ because I was the one crying!”   he bitterly quipped.


His ex-wife, also young, sat next to him, arms crossed, rolling her eyes. She was the beauty to his beast, in  skinny jeans and a trendy shirt while he seemed about 10 lbs overweight and had a slightly wrinkled button-up shirt and bore a few more wrinkles. He went off to buy coffee for her and their new friend they had just met on the airplane.


“You know what UPS really stands for?” the ex-wife asked, ironically proud of the fact she knew it. She and her ex-husband at met at the company “back when [I] was 19, and he was 23.” Judging from their looks, they were not much older. “UPS is full of druggies, we used to joke it was ‘United Pot Smokers!’ she finished her thought, giggling.


They seemed to like this new friendship–although it was merely temporary. The girl provided them each a patient listener, a captive audience, and emotional buffer between the two.


Tak, jaki kobieta….


The two had interrogated and mocked each other for the entire 10 hour flight from Chicago to Warsaw–and they were no way near finished. Typical questions would be “how many people have you slept with” were answered with the same question thrown back at the other one.


The ex-husband returned.


“I got a divorce in just 2 weeks!”


“That’s right” the ex-wife said, “he was very professional. We would recommend him to anyone!”


But the couple didn’t seem that  divorced. The ex-wife, as her former mate insisted on calling her from then on, preferred to speak in English while he would speak in Polish.




“No thanks!”




“Maybe just one, thank you!”


“3 zloty, proshe.”


The girl knew he was just kidding and smiled.


The girl appeared several years younger than her ex–no older than 23 although she was closer to 28.


Although they weren’t asked about why they got divorced–the couple nonetheless stumbled over each other competitively in explaining themselves.


“We were just too young” the girl said. The man, who appeared to be in his 30’s, griped in his thicker accent, “My best advice?! Don’t ever get married!”


They had bought the tickets months before they had expected a divorce–and had planned to “visit family.” Now, the girl was looking forward to seeing her family as a haven from the harassment of her ex-husband. He didn’t seem to ever want to leave her side, always hovering, helping her with baggage, and attending to her needs. She appeared annoyed and irritated by this.


Their difference could be observed superficially by their accent–she had a very soft accent, having had moved to the United States as a 3 year old–whereas he had spent no more than 7 years in the US–and not consecutively.


It seemed that she moved on from the status they had originally met in. As they waited for their next plane, he lamented, “I want to go home! I hate it here!” “Well, you’re in the right place then!” said the girl, embarrassed by her ex’s behavior.


They all boarded the plane. Their temporary friend sat several seats behind them, unaware of their conversation but read the Gazeta instead. There was an older woman who sat next to her, who could be not much older than her own grandfather. The cover of the newspaper said “NeoFaszisty”, “Jedobwane” and “Swastitkas.” These people were always going at it again–probably the biggest buyers of “This Day in History” calendars to ensure they never missed an opportunity. Jedobwane was a town infamous for the participation of the villagers in the anti-Jewish massacre. There was not one single survivor–or if there was, no one knew. Some Poles felt it was not fair for Jews to generalize their entire nation by this singular event when the Poles themselves risked more (the only country during WW2 that the act of knowledge of anyone/and or harboring a Jew was punishable by death) and had the greatest number of saviors on Yad Vashem.


An Indian boarded the plane–the only one of his kind on this miniscule Krakow-bound plane. The majority of the passengers seemed to notice this anomaly.


As the plane took off, the only positive aspect the outsider gauged from this distracting dramedy was the fact that the guy still loved the girl–and she didn’t seem to mind it–or why else would she get on that plane?

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