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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Warsaw, my love...

I wrote this a while ago, but now, as I am in Warsaw, it sounds even more true. 

I read a very touching article about my beautiful city on this blog. It's called: "Warsaw, I love you!". The author states something very true: "Don't think of Warsaw as a city. Warsaw is a woman. A real woman". As an explanation I must add that in the Polish language, Warsaw-Warszawa is feminine (she, her, etc.), while cities like  Kraków (Cracow), Gdańsk (Danzig) and Wrocław (Breslau)- are masculine. And those masculine cities, the article goes on to explain, show what they got when you go in. Warsaw doesn't. At first sight, it is a sad, grey city, a capital city where people work, where they are always in a rush, and want to show off with their clothes and cars. But if you get to live there for a while, you get to see the other face of Warsaw. And by that, I don't mean the tourist attractions.

I mean the simple fact that the whole history of Warsaw is mirrored in it's walls. Starting from the Old Town to the modern skyscrapers, you can follow everything this city has been through. And it's been a lot. The past, the presence, and the future meet in Warsaw, and together they cause a pleasant chaos that I've come to love so much, and I haven't seen anywhere else. 

Here you can see a beautifully renovated old building. The walls have just been painted, and it looks fantastic. Next to it, you can see a ruined house. It still has holes in its walls that date back to WWII, one of the many sad souvenirs that the Nazis left in Warsaw. On the walls you often see plaques commemorating the people who were shot at that very spot. And you very often see the  “Kotwica”-sign as proof of Polish resistance against the Nazis. When you look further, you see the majestic, pompous architectural style of the soviet times, and then the many modern skyscrapers made of glass. 

Warsaw is a city of contradictions. On one hand, the city has to be modernized. On the other hand, the its history has to be preserved. I think that at the moment, both is well represented. But will it stay that way? Warsaw invites you to face history. I often think that if history was different, my city would be important, beautiful, a center of power and culture. I have stumbled upon a beautiful project: a digital reconstruction of Warsaw how it looked in 1935, before WWII. The project's website can be seen here. How beautiful Warsaw used to be, comparable with Paris and other Western cities! 

I am often homesick for Warsaw. Not only because my friends and family live there, but also because I am fascinated by my city. I know the good cafes, restaurants, and other places, and I learn of others. My newest discovery is MiTo, a cafe, galery and bookstore all at the same time. Places like this don't just happen like that. I think Warsaw has a whole lot to offer. I hope that the people who came here for the European Championships took their time to get to know the city. Who was born in Warsaw, stays that way forever. Even though I now live far away from my city, I feel connected to it like never before.

Do you also feel that way about your city? What do you miss most?
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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Mama says "krowa", daddy says "Kuh"

This is an early post I wrote on bilingualism and now I decided to translate it from Polish. Enjoy!

I've recently attended a workshop on multilingualism where I could gain so much new information I didn't know before, and I decided to share what I had learned.  I read that at 4 years of age there is this moment where children learn to differentiate between languages. They say: "mommy says it this way, and daddy says it that way". But through this workshop, I have learned that this moment happens much earlier. Even children in K's age (update: she was 2 years old then) can understand that mommy and daddy have different names for different things. 

To be frank, I thought that this happens just like that. That a child will understand at some point that the parents speaks different languages that have their own grammar systems and vocabulary. But I wanted to give this a try. So when we were going by train, Klara saw a cow and exclaimed: "Kuh, Kuh!". I told her: "Yes, K.. Daddy says "Kuh", and mama says "krowa". It seemed to work! K. was excited and when I asked her what I call a cow, she said "krowa". Now, when she learns a new word, she wants to know how daddy and mommy call that particular thing. She now knows that daddy says: "Oma" and "Opa", and mommy says: "dziadek" and "babcia". 

I think that K. has already figured it out by herself, because she uses the appropriate words for "woman", "man", "child" depending on whether she speaks to me or my husband. She also uses more Polish with me, and more German with her daddy. When Dutch people talk to her, she hides behind me, but she seems to understand everything. We also go to international playgroups, where English is the main language of communication- and she already can say "bye, bye"!  We don't teach her English because it's not our priority at the moment, but I think it will be somewhere in her head till she will need it.

The funniest thing is that these three languages are like three separate worlds. K. knows some words in one language and other words in the other. She knows the names for things used for cooking and household in Polish, and she says some animals names in German. It is obvious that she has learned some expressions at daycare ( „Op! Op!- when she drinks everything in her bottle, or  „deze”, when she wants to show me something. But these worlds seem to get closer and closer every day. For a while she said "eten" for food because she learned it at daycare, but she understood that nobody talks like this in her home, and so now she uses the Polish or German word for "food".

So even though she can't label these languages, she makes progress in all of these languages, and I think telling her who speaks what helps immensely, as it stimulates her interest in different languages and builds up her vocabulary. So far, we have similar input in all the three languages. This can change when she goes to school, where Dutch and German will dominate and Polish will most likely be missing.  So right now, we concentrate on Polish. I am also curious how will J's multilingualism look like. She doesn't talk yet but she's 8 months old (update: now she's 18 months old). If I see her saying things in the many languages, I'll write about this. (Update: J. still is not speaking a lot, because she concentrates hard on learning to walk. But she already said "mama" at 10 months, and can say "papa". She also loves repeating words and sounds)

Sometimes, multilingualism leads to funny situations. K. has a doll she loves playing with. She wants to change the doll's diaper, and feed her. My husband saw that and asked, in German: „K., wo ist denn deine Puppe?”. K. thought for a while, and then she understood what daddy was asking her, and pointed to her... bottom. You see, in German, "Puppe" means "doll (my husband asked: "K., where is your doll?", in Polish "pupa" means well, "bottom.

Update: It is posts like that that amaze me how much progress K. has made in these 10 months. For so long I worried that maybe, just maybe she has a speech delay and needs therapy. I worried that we're really messing with her head by raising her with three languages. But it is working, and I have to keep reminding myself that. 
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Monday, 16 January 2012

My stance on smoking

I wrote this a while ago, in German, and it is as true now, as it was then. Because each time somebody smokes (and it happens all the time), I am reminded of that situation. 

We went to thein  beach yesterday. The weather was beautiful, the cold didn't bother us. We went to Sealife Scheveningen because K. loves watching fish. After that, she played on the beach a little bit. That was so much fun! At some point, we were hungry, and decided to go to an Italian restaurant at the beach, since we knew the pizza there was good. 

I ordered lasagna (I love lasagna!), and a hot chocolate, my husband ordered a pizza and a grog. We sat close to the entrance because it was very hot inside. And so we had some fresh air, or so we thought. We were joined by a large family with a dog. They seemed nice, and the dog was  small, cute, and well-behaved.  When we were done eating, I wanted to breastfeed J. I took her out of her stroller, and was just about to go back to my table, when I smelled something bad. The woman sitting next to me was holding a cigarette in her hand. 

I've always been very sensitive to cigarette smoke. It bothered me that after a party, my clothes and my hair smelled of cigarettes. I have tried to smoke one cigarette in my life because I wanted to know how it feels like. It felt gross, and I've never tried it again ever since. When I was pregnant with Klara, it was enough for me to smell cigarette smoke, and I had to vomit. 

Since I had children, I became even less understanding of smokers. Because this is not only about my health. Now it's also about my children's health. Luckily, nowadays smoking has become pretty uncool, and the number of smokers is going down. You notice when somebody smokes. The lady in the restaurant smoked her cigarette for maybe 15 minutes. But hours later, when we came back home, my hair still reeked of cigarette smoke. My cuddly blue cashmere sweater reeked of cigarette smoke. And the worst thing was that K. and J. also reeked of cigarette smoke. I couldn't hug my children without having to cough. 

Of course, you could always say that this was our fault. After all, the part of the restaurant with access to fresh air was designated for smokers.But we have as much right for fresh air as anybody else. This woman saw that we had two little children. What would have happened if she had gone outside or waited a little bit? 

Dear smokers, it's not like I have something against the fact that you destroy your lungs in the name of your personal freedom. But I really, really have something against my children having to inhale that smoke. The fact that the restaurant had a special designated area for smokers, didn't help, because while smokers get access to fresh air, non-smokers have to choose between cigarette smoke and the hot, sticky air inside of the restaurant.  And they still have to pass the smokers. And so the end effect would have been the same: my sweater would still  have stunk of cigarette smoke. And Klara's hair. And Julia's hair. 

Sometimes, it seems, I am not so tolerant. This, of course, is my own opinion on smoking, not everybody has to agree.

Do you smoke? How do you feel about people smoking? Can you think of a good solution to this?

On the topic of smoking, KevinMD  has published an interesting article. How very appropriate!

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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Z wizytą w MiTo

MiTo już pół roku temu dołączyło do licznego grona warszawskich kawiarni. A dokładniej dołączyło ono także do równie licznego grona warszawskich galerii i księgarni. Bo MiTo to trzy w jednym: kawiarnia, galeria i księgarnia. Mówi się, że jak coś jest do wszystkiego, to jest do niczego. Całe szczęście, w przypadku MiTo to powiedzenie zupełnie się nie sprawdza.

Od samego początku MiTo wzbudza zainteresowanie swoim nowoczesnym, a jednak wysmakowanym wystrojem. Dominują kolory biały, czerwony i czarny. Na ścianach wiszą duże obrazy, a na półkach ułożone są książki. Wszystko to sprawia, że w MiTo jest niezwykle kolorowo. Nie oznacza to jednak, że jest pstrokato. Wręcz przeciwnie, wystrój sprawia wrażenie, jakby ktoś go dokładnie przemyślał.Tu gra każdy szczegół, nic nie jest przypadkowe. Krzesła są wygodne, a duża powierzchnia kawiarni pozwala w spokoju rozkoszować się licznymi smakołykami, które MiTo ma do zaoferowania.

Można na przykład zamówić kanapkę (8zł), czy też sałatkę (19zł). Ja jadłam wersję z oscypkiem na ciepło. Podobno skład, wielkość i dressing sałatki zależą od inspiracji tego, kto ją przygotował, powiem więc, że moja była niezwykle pokaźnych rozmiarów i bardzo smaczna. Na deser zamówiłam suflet czekoladowy (15zł), znany mi pod angielską nazwą „Death by Chocolate”-„Czekoladowa Śmierć”. Suflecik, choć małego rozmiaru, był niezwykle czekoladowy i pyszny. Podano go z bitą śmietaną i lodami waniliowymi. Wylewała się z niego ciepła czekolada. Krótko mówiąc, cudo.

 MiTo specjalizuje się w wyparzaniu kawy bez udziału ciśnienia, co na pewno zaciekawi każdego kawosza. Tu można poczytać o używanej w MiTo maszynie do kawy, którą można także zamówić. Ci zaś, którzy tak jak ja, wolą herbatę, nie będą zawiedzeni. MiTo bowiem posiada duży wybór różnego rodzaju herbat. I nareszcie ktoś pomyślał o tym, że są osoby, które potrzebują porządnego kubka. Na przykład litrowego. Można w takim kubku wypić herbatę, można go także kupić za 50zł. Oprócz tego MiTo oferuje różnego rodzaju naturalne soki, napoje, oraz smoothies (od 5zł do 13zł).

Udało mi się także przyjrzeć dwóm pozostałym częściom MiTo, czyli galerii i księgarni. W galerii można obejrzeć głównie malarstwo współczesne. Jest także do kupienia biżuteria i różnego rodzaju ozdoby. Księgarnia zaś ma duży wybór książek polsko- i angielskojęzycznych. Szczególnie rzucają się w oczy piękne albumy. Mogę także polecić książeczki dla dzieci, które są niezwykle wyszukane. My kupiliśmy Klarze „10 little penguins”- uroczą, choć nie pozbawioną czarnego humoru książeczkę o nie zawsze bezpiecznych zabawach małych pingwinków. Obsługa MiTo bardzo chętnie przyjmuje indywidualne zamówienia na książki.

No i zupełnie bym zapomniała o bardzo ważnej rzeczy, bez której nie można sobie wyobrazić MiTo: iPadów. Każdy, kto zamówi coś w MiTo może zupełnie bezpłatnie pobawić się iPadem: sprawdzić maile, czy zmienić status na facebooku, że właśnie jest się w MiTo. A także przejrzeć najnowsze wiadomości, czy przeczytać kolejny wpis na ulubionym blogu. Owe iPady są genialnym pomysłem. Idealnie pasują do nowoczesnego wnętrza kawiarni, no i przyciągają klientów. W naszym przypadku iPad całkiem nieźle przydał się do zabawiania Klary. No właśnie, dzieci. W MiTo dzieci są mile widziane. Mają miejsce do zabawy, mogą poczytać książeczki, czy pobawić się na wyżej wymienionym iPadzie. Bardzo się cieszę, że ktoś pomyślał o miejscu dla dorosłych, kóre jednocześnie jest fajne i ciekawe dla dzieci. W łazience co prawda nie ma przewijaka, ale w razie potrzeby obsługa udostępni miejsce do przewijana dzieci.

Bywalcy MiTo współkreują to miejsce. Na facebookowym profilu często ogłaszane są akcje takie jak: „Zdejmij obraz, który ci się nie podoba”. MiTo zorganizowało także Wieczór Wyborczy oraz ku mojej wielkiej uciesze: „The Rocky Horror MiTo Show”. Brawo! MiTo to coś więcej, niż kawiarnia. To niezwykle inteligentn i przemyślane połączenie kultury, technologii i dobrej kawy. Powiem nawet więcej: MiTo ma szansę stać się multimedialnym salonem XXI wieku- inteligentnym, nowoczesnym, zaangażowanym. Salonem na miarę dawnych salonów literackich. Jak ponownie będę w Warszawie, na pewno tam wrócę.
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