A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poland: Day 35

Sure Polish foods can be bizarre and a bit "different" ... but after visiting a restaurant on the border with Slovakia I'm certain that everyone should try these specialties!

Witches are delicious! And apparently a Polish delicacy - at half price!
Also, if anyone knows how to make a crumpet right, it's a highland robber. Mmm-hmm.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Poland: Day 26

Back to school.

The notion, for some, may bring thoughts of dread or disenchantment over how little they've actually accomplished over the course of 3-or-so months of summer sun. Or it may evoke ideas of autumn leaves, a new curriculum, and a return to nights in front of the textbooks. But for me the very phrase heralds the massive commercial wave that has become a staple in all consumer societies. Acting as a new holiday in itself (alongside the colorful marketing for Halloween and Chrimmas) the "back to school" sale offers an enchanting plethora of notebooks, pens, and those protractors that people buy buy because the list says so, but never actually use.

While I have to admit I was a little saddened by the thought of an August sans Target's or WalMart's famed back to school centers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Poland's own supermarket chains have embraced the back to school mantra with almost as much zeal as any American counterpart.

Back to school in Krakow.

Take any Carrefour or Real (both French hypermarkets) and you'll find that there isn't really much surface difference between them and an American chain. There's the same push of low-low prices, fervent list checking, and display of parents nudging their kids towards the generic folders rather than those boasting cartoon characters, extreme sports, or favorite bands.

But then the culture shift kicks in - and you realize the notebook you've picked up has Hanson on the cover, it's tiny compared to our spiral-bound monstrosities, and it's pages are all grid paper - no college or wide-rule here!

Check out those fruits on the cover.

Such are the joys of Polish back to school shopping then. A lot of notebooks are already sorted by class with 'themed' covers for subjects like English (the British flag), physics (Issac Newton), or religion (Pope Benedict) - and since they're smaller and cheaper than most American spiral-bounds the variety in terms of covers is a little daunting. But that's not the only big difference. There's also your choice of writing utensil!

Much as a lunch-box is a staple for any elementary school kid in the US, the piórnik (featured above) is everything a Polish kid needs in terms of their note-taking. With colored pencils, markers, rulers, erasers, sharpeners, and sometimes even calligraphy pens or weekly schedules this really is your all-in-one (mini) trapper keeper of sorts. These can get just as varied looking as the notebooks, and cartoon characters seem to be the favorite choice (I personally bought a Dexter's Lab one), though there are definitely odd ones too, like the "Savage Spirit" theme up there.

Having brought up lunch boxes though, they're one of the things you won't find in a Polish back to school section. Also on this list: crayons (the waxy kind), huge trapper keepers, plastic-sealed TI-89s, locker "gear", eraser tops or pencil grips, and there's definitely not a College-bound section with dorm decorations! Everything else is fair game though, and with plenty of Chinese products the variety is endless and sometimes a bit frightening.

The Polish back to school section seems to be much more art-themed though, which is a nice discovery. With colored pencil and marker sets, paint, easels, and lots of packets of plasticine (plastelina) kids aren't going back with just your garden variety box of 24 Crayola crayons. Also unique is the number of globes and world maps you find, which, when coupled with the varied language instructions and sometimes blatantly Chinese product names - gives a nice feel of multi-culturalism.

Finally, the most important back-to-school item the world around, the backpack.

While in Poland the choice you find is pretty much the same as in the US, with a veritable plethora of styles and colors, I had my eye out for a very special backpack, one I haven't seen in ages - the 'tornister' - or in English, a satchel!

These were almost everywhere in the 80s, but now, like the mythical animals of ages past, they've all but gone extinct in the mind and hearts of school-children. As I searched the backpack aisle I felt my hopes plummet, these were all brands and types identical to their across-the-Atlantic counterparts! But then - with a discovery that shook me to my core. I found quite possibly the most fantastic display of tornister-y known to mankind!

It was akin to finding the last of a species - a species long though crushed by time and circumstance. Except this was not a creature besotted by it's presumed fate. In it's dying days it had grown more splendiferous and exaggerated then ever though possible!

Almost egregiously decorated - with such a furious show of American patriotism and dizzying amount of highlighted material - I just couldn't take my eyes off of it. Surely, such a satchel must have been the very same as worn by Ronald Reagan when he karate chopped down the Berlin wall, or contained within it's depths wonders beyond the wildest dreams of the founding fathers! This truly was the American dream, bringing justice and liberty with the triangular reflector lights of its shining glory!

Alas it'll have to live on in my memory. But I have no doubt in my mind that bringing this specimen back to the US may have caused an influx of patriotism so strong that the very fabric of the universe may have been jepordized! It was chance enough that this product would be carried in Europe, by a French supermarket no less, and so it was with trepidation that I even lay eyes upon this product - fearing that it's presence, much like the standing of the US in the world at large, may be naught but a mirage. But it wasn't - and it was awesome.

I came away from these sales with a bunch of weird notebooks, folders, and a Chinese made pencil sharpener shaped like a pineapple with a face and a bowtie - but the backpack definitely made my day.

Oh. And the back to school ads.
They made my day too ...

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

Poland: Day 8

Work on the dig in Igołomi – Wawrzeńczycach has started!

These are just some introductory photos. Digging has already started to a depth of 25 cm and is turning up a lot of material. You can spot me working over the piles of dirt that have come out of the dig site - even a second time around I was still able to get two bag fulls of clay fragments, flint, and scattered bones. Though the work is rather grueling. I'll try to get some more non-copywrite infringing photos when I can.

For now, bask in the awesome power of the Polish sun.

My legs are finally tan ... unfortunately the socks posed a bit of a problem. Haha, so cool.
Hopefully a month of work in the field won't leave me too crisp!

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