I hear that the Internets ™ are abuzz with various reports of Puddintopia’s sad, unexpected demise, or, um, something like that. Regardless of whether or not such gossip is actually floating around out there*, I can say with near absolutely certainty that rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Admittedly, I thought I might be dead at one point, but it turns out I was just on a ten-hour transatlantic flight. If you’ve flown to Europe from Atlanta, let me tell you that it’s the kind of thing where each minute stretches before you like Christmas Eve does for a 6 year-old. You can only hope that Santa will leave you that super cool Transformer to make the waiting worth the torment. Of course, I suppose I can’t complain as much as your average Joe. Reason #137 that the company I work for rulez is because they shell out for the Business Class seats for working trips to our plant in Poland.
Actually, I feel way bad for the other First-Classers. I expect they shell out that kind of dough specifically to escape the riff-raff like me.
Anyway, yes, I was away for a little over a week visiting Poland. That’s why there have been no updates. I had better intentions, of course. I was loath to leave you with nothing for so long. The goal was to write a Halloween-themed short story over the Atlantic and post a piece of it each day. Unfortunately, my laptop is roughly the size and weight of a World War II-era aircraft carrier, and burns electricity at the same rate. I dragged the thing out to start work somewhere over Newfoundland, but there was just no way to achieve anything creative with that monstrous thing in that seat, First Class or not. The best laid plans…
By the way, I would still consider the Halloween-related short, if someone was interested. You know where to find me.
So, what was it like? Surely I have a litany of comments about my adventures in Poland, right? Well, maybe, someday. But I’m not ready yet, and it might take me more than one trip across the ocean to give it the full Puddintopia treatment. Of course, there are all the standard observations I expect people make when they visit Europe for the first time. Those are:
- Wow, this place seems kinda old;
these people have a culture nearly a thousand years old, why can’t they seem to get with the antiperspirant program;
- Holy Cow! Would it kill them to get some toilet paper up in here that doesn’t qualify as heavy-grit sand paper? I’m not planning to manually plane an oak tree or degrease a 1967 V-8 engine with the stuff!
On several occasions, different members of our host team asked me if it was my first trip to Europe. When I told them yes, they inevitably asked what I thought of Poland. To be honest, I didn’t know how to answer. In fact, I still don’t. I intentionally tried not to have pre-conceived ideas, because if I’d allowed myself any, they would have largely consisted of James Bond-style, Cold War-era stereotypes.
Those would have been very wrong.
What I found is that the countryside is beautiful, and the farms we passed on the roads between cities were gorgeous and looked very well-kept, even for being several hundred years old. I also found that nearly everywhere you look you can see signs of a country less fortunate, meaning less wealthy, than ours. We are blessed with an abundance of energy and food, quality roads, and relative safety. And even though we consistently give up our freedoms, we are still lucky to have many of those as well. In contrast, my travelling companions and I were pulled over one day, arbitrarily, by Polish police, just to check the papers on the car.
All that said, I think there’s an important lesson to be learned from my new Polish friends. It seems that whatever else, they value the moment and yet plan for the long term. The culture is not nearly as fragmented or short-term as what you usual find in the US. They have a toast for every occasion, and never shy from having a good time; in fact, a Polish wedding celebration usually lasts two days.
What stuck with me the most about my trip was that in all my time in Poland, I only saw one fast food place, a McDonald’s. I rarely saw a single person eating alone, but instead usually found a group of friends or family sharing a meal together. Along the same lines, the buildings I saw were mostly made of stone, not just wood and dry wall, to last the test of time. In both things, you can see the benefit of strong foundations, the patience of knowing the right way.
The people bind themselves together, the same way they make structures that hopefully will stand for generations.
There is certainly a lesson in that for us, regardless of our relative wealth. In some things, we have made ourselves too poor.
*There’s nothing of the kind floating around out there