30 mar 2010

1% of tax

If you pay taxes in Poland you have the opportunity to take away 1% from the state and donate it to the chosen NGO which has the status of Organizacja Pożytku Publicznego (OPP). This wonderful idea promotes NGO and encourages people to share. I can't imagine that somebody could ignore it, you really make no effort. You choose the organization and write it in PIT. PIT is Personal Income Tax but it's also the name of the document in which you declare your income (1st of May is the deadline). Here you will find the list of organizations. I also recommend you NGO's portal.

If you have no idea these are my recommendations:

1. Radek Makowski. A little boy from my distant family who as a consequence of a very difficult labour has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. He's 4 year old and needs rehabilitation. More information about him in Polish here. You can also donate money directly for him to the bank account of the foundation.

Fundacja Pomocy Osobom Niepełnosprawnym „Słoneczko”
Stanica 33, 77-400 Złotów
KRS 0000186434
Konto: SBL Zakrzewo o/Złotów Radek
89 8944 0003 0000 2088 2000 0010
With a note: Radosław Makowski 56/M

2. Fundacja Feminoteka. Great job, great portal and bookstore.

Fundacja Feminoteka
KRS 0000242885
ul. Warecka 8/91
00-040 Warszawa
Konto: ING BSK S.A.
68 1050 1038 1000 0022 9768 3522

3. Straż dla zwierząt. The Polish version of SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). A very small organization that we can help to develop.

KRS 0000248947
Konto: 16 1090 1753 0000 0001 0481 7326

You can donate any amount of money here: 68 1090 1753 0000 0001 0806 5211

28 mar 2010

Spring ritual + cultural reflection

Every year after painful winter Poles want to breathe. That's obvious that we go out more often, choose outdoor sports and just enjoy the sun. But there's also a lot to be done at home. Yes, it's time for wiosenne porządki - the spring-cleaning. We have more energy and want to tidy up everything in order to feel reborn. Ordinary dusting furniture isn't enough. It's better to mobilize and throw away and give to charity all unnecessary things, sort out clothes, clean windows and beat carpets. In the past there was a huge washing before Easter but now fortunately we don't have to wait in order to launder in the river;)

Cleaning reminded me of a funny situation my friend experienced abroad. She was asked if in Poland we know what a dishwasher is. It's nothing wrong in the fact that most people in the world know nothing about Poland and some of them consider this country as a very very developing. But maybe sometimes it's better to keep some questions for yourself? It applies to every culture. It's not that I feel offended actually not so many Poles have dishwashers. But what's the point of asking? Should we really have them? Would it make us more civilised? These kind of questions demonstrate superiority over the second nation.

But just in case let's make it clear;)

97% of Poles have a washing machine
95% a vacuum cleaner
10% a dishwasher

I found this interesting information from Główny Urząd Statystyczny in "Gazeta Wyborcza". Here you will find more statistics on what we have at home and how it's changed over last 10 years. It's also a nice vocabulary exercise:) "B.d" is "brak danych" - lack of data.
And remember that we have 2 words: "aparat fotograficzny" and "kamera". The first one is for taking pictures and the second for making movies.

25 mar 2010

21st of March - start wiosny

A very old pagan tradition of celebrating the end of winter remains important in Poland. Now we don't fight with the cruel gods or don't praise the good ones but the 21st of March is still special. The old Slavic folk custom of burning and drowning Marzanna on the last day of winter is still alive. It's performed mostly by children at primary school who make a puppy of this pagan goddess of winter and death. They drown it in river (under teachers' supervision). It's a ritual that symbolizes the passage of seasons. In the past the Catholic Church wanted to prohibid it but somehow didn't succeed. Drowning Marzanna remains one of very few Polish celebrations that are not connected with Christianity (we have almost only national or religious holidays). Most pagan signs vanished or were eliminated by the "new faith". Unfortunately we don't know much about the Slavic mythology. Only specialists analyse what is left from the past. But it's too big topic for today.

Drowning Marzanna:

The 21st of March is not only the day of spring but also truant's day (dzień wagarowicza). Theoretically teachers accept pupils who avoid school this day but in reality many people (should) come. To make it more bearable you can dress up in a funny or weird way or put on a lot of make up. Boys often try girls' clothes and accesories:) Sometimes lessons last shorter or are replaced by competitions and pupils' performances.

The 21st of March is also a good occasion for any other joyful event. I really enjoyed the idea of giving tickets to theatres, cinemas and museum in return for recyclable materials. In Warsaw it mobilized many people. If you live in Cracow or Wrocław it's an upcoming event so collect newspapers, bottles or batteries:) More info here.

I'm so glad spring has come back:) My bike waited 5 months for good weather.

17 mar 2010

On cheese once again

Food turns out to be the hottest topic here! I must write about it more often:)

Dear Michael, I haven't written that Poland is the kingdom of cheese. I agree completely - we don't have much to brag about. For some reason Poles are more original in the field of sheep milk (oscypek, redykołka, bryndza, bundz). More info about them in Wiki.

We copy products from abroad quite well. I also like Polish cheap feta and blue cheese. We have a not bad copy of Old Dutch Master which is called Bursztyn. I haven't tried yet Stary Olęder and Ser Carski but it could be something like Old Amsterdam - my favourite.

Poles like żółty ser (on the photo) - gouda, morski, edamski, salami, zamojski. Indeed many brands are tasteless (I must admit I eat only Western żółty ser). Maybe that's why żółty ser always appears in sandwiches with something on top like ketchup, mayonnaise, vegetables, cold meat or even honey or jam. I especially like it with plum jam. Would you eat it? Many Poles I know wouldn't;)

Digression: I never buy jam, I eat only one made at home. My grandma has spoiled me. Now I make it for myself. Probably I can't live without blackcurrant and apricot jam. Ach!

I'm not a fan of ser topiony (processed cheese?) but it's also popular in Poland. I use it sometimes to prepare my family's lighter version of leczo (Hungarian lecsó).

In Poland there was no tradition of celebrating cheese, only Poles who went abroad eat it alone or sometimes like French for dessert. It's changing because we have more and more brands and get to know new styles of eating. 20 years ago few Poles ate feta, mozarella, parmesan, ricotta, cheddar. We're glad that we have such a big assortment now.

15 mar 2010

Nasza zima zła!

Dear Anonim, you read in my mind - I wanted to write about the counterattack of winter. We really don't remember heavy snowing in March. My patience has come to an end and even though it's very beautiful outside I hate snow! Today I got up at 6:00 and immediately started to take pictures in order to make evidence. The sun and snow were shining and it was -5. But something has changed - the sun doesn't disappear at 8:00 (like before) and lasts a bit longer.

I want to stop wearing winter coat (it's my companion since October which was frosty) and avoid wellingtons - needless to say, snow melts and there's water everywhere. At least WKD (Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa) is reliable:

And here nice trees. It reminds me Christmas, let's do this once again! I can decorate the tree and prepare barszcz czerwony.

For fun an audio passage from Maria Konopnicka's poem for children. It's from the XIXth century but my generation knows it.

14 mar 2010

Polish white cheese - biały ser

I call it just white cheese because the names like quark or curd cheese don't sound very familiar. I have no idea what's the best English word for TWARÓG, I'm sure it's not a cottage cheese which looks like styrofoam. We have it also in Poland (serek wiejski) but this is something different.

Biały ser/twaróg it's my love and the base because I eat it every morning. I have no idea why I'm never fed up, I miss it every time I go abroad;) If I emigrated I would prepare it at home for myself like many others. I haven't done it but it's very easy - you just need milk (not UHT) and patience.

If you come to Poland you should try biały ser. I especially recommend the company Piątnica. They don't pay me for ad, I think they have the best dairy products on the market. I'm their most loyal client - give me a reward;)

There are 3 types of twaróg: tłusty (fat), półtłusty (half), chudy (low fat).

What can we do with biały ser? There are 2 options - sweet or not.

For breakfast biały ser itself with bread or plus:

1) banana, strawberries, jam, honey, sugar and cream (you can add cinnamon or anything you like)

2) radish, tomato, cucumber, chive + salt and pepper

During lunch or dinner you will find biały ser in: pierogi ruskie (with potatoes), sweet pancakes (naleśniki), croquettes with spinach (krokiety ze szpinakiem), kluski leniwe or not typical Polish dishes like lasagne or musaka. You can also fry it on a pan with spices. We even make a sandwich paste with biały ser and fish.

And desserts! For sure - delicious sernik and many other cakes.

Biały ser is cheap, healthy (organic!) and tasty - is there anything better? MNIAM MNIAM.

10 mar 2010

Women's and Men's Day

8th of March is the international Women's Day. Poles associate it mostly with communist times when women received a flower and a pair of tights which was always "produkt deficytowy". Polish men buy small things or flowers not only for their wives or girlfriends but also mums, grandmas, aunts, daughters, work colleagues, friends... It's really up to you.

In democratic Poland women not only receive flowers and greetings but also march on the streets in order to fight for our rights. Feminist organisations for 10 years have promoted idea of gender equality, access to the medical care and the right for a legal abortion. The walks are called Manifa and integrates many circles: feminist, LGBTQ, trade unions, left-wing parties... In every field there is something to do regarding the women's rights (women's rights are human rights!). Every year emphasis is placed on different things but the main aims are:

1) to change the very strict anti-abortion law
2) to fight violence against women
3) to provide free nursery school for every child
4) to hire a real government's Plenipotentiary for the Equal Treatment
5) to provide non-biased sex education in schools
6) to refund contraception and regulate IVF law
7) to respect the secularity of the Polish state
8) to establish parity in the elecctions (at least 50% of women on the lists)

For more info check the website of Manifa movement.

And the 10th of March is the Men's Day! Perhaps it's only in Poland because the international one is on 19th of November. Most people don't know about it but I think this idea is worth spreading. I can't accept the situation when women have only 1 day and men remaining 364... So give or say something nice to your close men:)

7 mar 2010

Saying hello and goodbye in Polish

This post encouraged me to write on Polish greetings. The most important rule is to use formal greetings and Pan/Pani forms to:

1. people that you don't know
2. older than you
3. on a higher position.

Of course if you're young you can be informal with people in the same age. But the older you get you should avoid saying "Cześć" to strangers. In shops, restaurants or any kind of services we always use formal versions.

Informal both hello and goodbye:

Cześć - hard to pronounce but a nice word - it also means "honour".
Siema - abbreviation of "Jak się masz?" ("How are you?"), used by young people

Formal hello:

Dzień dobry - Good day, morning, afternoon
Dobry wieczór - Good evening

Half formal half informal hello:

Witam - I welcome you, only the host uses it, very popular also in e-mails
Witaj - Welcome

Formal goodbye:

Do widzenia

Half formal half informal goodbye:

Do zobaczenia - See you! We assume that we will meet soon.
Do usłyszenia - the same but used only during phone conversation

Informal goodbye:

Na razie - See you
Do zobaczyska - See you
Pa pa
Trzymaj się/Trzym się - Take care

In the night:

Dobranoc/Dobrej nocy - Good night

How do you do? How are you?

Jak się masz? Jak się Pan/Pani ma?
Jak się miewasz? Jak się Pan/Pani miewa?

The most popular answer is "dobrze" (well) and "(Wszystko) w porządku" (ok, everything all right). But we have a wider range of options: świetnie/super, bardzo dobrze, tak sobie (so so), jako tako (tolerably well), źle (badly), bardzo źle, fatalnie/okropnie (terrible).

Co u Ciebie? Co u Pana/Pani? Co słychać? Co nowego? - What's up? What's new?

Answer can be the same as above plus: Nic nowego/Po staremu (nothing new).

As Anna in Polish Blog wrote - be aware that you can hear a real answer including somebody's problems with: health, money, work or partner. Very popular is to complain about the weather, political or economical situation in Poland. Poles don't like to brag and generally they diminish their accomplishments. This is a very interesting topic but this post is getting too long so I will continue next time...

C.D.N. (ciąg dalszy nastąpi) - to be continued

3 mar 2010

Donate blood

I realise that I have completely ignored the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Poland was actually quite successful and had won 6 medals. But today I want to write about something different...

I always promote the idea of donating blood because you never know when you might need it – and there is always too little of it in hospitals. If you're an expat why not do it here, in Poland? Of course some people just can't do it and some will never want to share this piece of their body but if you hesitate why not try?

Don't believe in myths!

1) The process of donation is 100% safe and you can't become infected. Hygienic conditions at the donation stations are excellent.

2) It's not painful and, in most cases, soon after, you will feel very well.

3) Every donor is carefully examined. You will be asked to fill out a form about your health. Your blood will be tested for STIs and hematocrit. It's worth donating, if only to get these results. Your pulse, blood pressure and body temperature will be also evaluated.

4) It is not true that after one donation (450 ml) your body will produce more blood. You don't have to donate regularly, but why not? Men can safely do it six times a year, and women, four times a year.

5) Following the donation, you will be offered some juice, a chocolate bar and 8 chocolates.

By law, if you donate blood during office hours, it is considered an excused absence. You will not be paid, but you can deduct the value of your donated blood from your income tax, i.e.,130 zł for each one donated litre.

While in Warsaw, it's best to go to ul. Saska 63/75. If you don't speak Polish, consider going with somebody who does.

For details see Wiki and Krewniacy.

1 mar 2010

How to promote Polish cities?

I won't give the answer but only show some ideas. Maybe we could start a small discussion? I chose the best videos (in my opinion). Unfortunately, you have to make an effort to find them and this isn't exactly the mainstream. Ads that you can find on BBC and CNN won't tell you a lot about the country because they mostly lack the voice or promote only very modern Poland. I don't know why exactly golf in Poland is highly recommended, I wouldn't come here for that.

I prefer to get info than just watch some nice pictures. Chopin was used too many times, we need to be more creative. Let's start with Gdańsk for business - long but informative.

The second one is new. It was made in order to promote Warsaw but probably it won't be used because decision makers don't like the idea of Warsaw as the provinces of Europe. But why not, it's at least something original!

And the winner is Zielona Góra! A funny movie about the city in Western Poland. Unfortunately only in Polish! It's a big avi file but worth downloading! HERE.

Which one do you like most?