Poland Dispatch: Village Gossip

Franek the cat met his end courtesy of Rocky, the insane Caucus Mountain wolf/dog that guards the premises with lethal force. The new cat, Rusek (“Little Russian”) is young, feisty, and probably doomed.
While eating kielbasa, I was told with a smile that it was made from the ostriches I’d met on my last visit. I seldom eat things I’ve met, photographed and played with, so this inspired me to not eat any more bird kielbasa. I prefer anonymous ham.
The new ostriches are not as friendly or curious as the last bunch. In fact, they operate mostly in “flee” mode. I assume this is because they’d heard I’d unwittingly eaten their grandma.
The disabled gentleman with the hearty speech impediment gets paid 63 cents an hour for various tasks. The able-bodied one who drinks a lot earns $1.25/hour. The concepts of discrimination and minimum wage don’t have much hold here in the village, which is governed more by reality and the free market.
The only bar in the village – a single, unheated room that served warm beer – is closed. Not because it was unheated and served warm beer, but because they lost their customer base as a result of the exodus of able-bodied young men and women to other EU countries. One of the perks of EU membership (for young Poles, not bar owners) is being able to go elsewhere and make more than the $1.25/hour my brother-in-law would pay you here (less, of course, if you’re disabled).
It was a close race between the village mayor and the village priest for Most Overwhelming Christmas Display 2005, but ultimately the crown goes to God’s humble servant whose power bills are subsidized by the Vatican. He had an electric sleigh on his roof and lots of people eager to earn brownie points by wiring his bushes. Honorable mention goes to the mayor, whose lights flashed wickedly and often.
Christmas mass in the 600 year old unheated pine church enjoyed a record high attendance, probably because the village lost power at 11:30pm and there weren’t many excuses not to go. Since the priest’s speaker system wasn’t working, folks in the back couldn’t hear anything and chatted loudly. Presumably about the power going out.
The freshly paved road between the farm and the carton factory makes for great tow-behind-the-car sledding until you hit the not-freshly-paved cobblestone. Then your poorly made sled will slowly disintegrate and you’ll scream for your father-in-law to stop the car before you and your son are impaled on wood shards.
The closest toy store (40 minutes) is across from the other closest toy store. Both sell the same products, most of which are Chinese knockoffs of famous brand names. The winner for Bravest Little Copyright Infringer goes to the Chinese take on Legos, called “Ligao.” A third the price and one-quarter the quality.
While browsing said toy stores, I learned that “Huey” is “The World’s Most Famous Interactive Troll ™” whatever the hell that means. Perhaps one of the worst product tag lines ever shat out.
New Year’s Eve was celebrated in the village soccer field. The Mayor paid for a limited fireworks display, supplemented by several freelance bottle-rocketeers and the indiscriminate distribution of lit firecrackers. He also offered cups of Russian “Champagne” which tastes like fermented pears, and reminds you that Russians are better at producing vodka. Fortunately I’d brought a bottle of quality French stuff given to me in London by a Virgin stewardess because my seatback TV didn’t work and I can bitch well.
I saw a fat man in the only decent Mercedes I’ve seen around here and asked if that was the mayor of the village. “Yes,” they said, “How did you know?”