Of late I have been thinking that Polish class is not much fun. We of the Third Level have been reading graphic novels about a Polish girl named Marzi who was about 10 when the Berlin Wall came down. Marzi complains a lot as she reflects on her life in Poland during the 1980s and early 90s, and I find her attitudes and point of view incredibly alien. In the darkest recesses of my mind an Ontario WASP sniffs, “They’re not like us, dear”– an attitude that, by the way, inhibits foreign language learning.
The drawings of the adults in Marzi’s life make them look, at best, dumpy and, at worst, utterly frightening. (For some unknown reason, all Marzi’s male relations look like ax murderers.) The real-life Marzi fled to France ASAP and told her stories to her new French boyfriend, who drew them into cartoons. (The books were first published in French.) Does Marzi love Poland or hate Poland? Probably both. I would be very much afraid to meet Marzi at a cocktail party. (Imagine cartoon of your poor correspondent in a mad frock, face a sort of white pudding with two tiny raisins for eyes.)
Besides Marzi comics, we read a lot about Polish politics, and as our professor does not like the New Guard, there is a lot of doom and gloom in the handouts. We also discuss Brexit as if it were a sort of philosophical genocide of local Poles. Where, I ask myself, is the gleeful spirit of Polish weddings? Of Polish joy? Of–dare I mention it–Disco Polo?
Add to this denunciations of my lamb-based bigos as Polish-American (not properly Polish), and Polish class just did not seem fun anymore.
Then I opened the file attached to the email about last week’s class (which I missed, due to one of B.A.’s appointments. The star of the week’s non-Marzi reading was me.
Problem with eye
Dorota: Excuse me, where is the Eye Department?
Nurse: You must go outside, go around the building and turn left.
It was the tale of my Warsaw Eye Terror, which I had sent (in English) to my professor as an example of a conversation her students might really have in a dire Polish emergency.
As I read, I began to laugh. Later a fellow student confessed that she had also laughed. And, indeed, as I read out my own part in class, the other students laughed too.
Second Nurse to Third Nurse: I don’t think that she has proper insurance.
Third Nurse: Well, then she will have to pay!
Given that I had temporarily lost 80-90 percent of the sight in my left eye and was in terrible pain and fear, you would not think that this was very funny. But I got my sight back, and seeing the doctor cost only 120 Polish zloty (i.e. £25), so all’s well that ends well. Besides, the nurses were funny in their grim, unsmiling way, and I suppose it was funny that I longed for Polish Pretend Son’s real mother to appear (if humanly possible, which it wasn’t), just so a mother (any mother) would hold my hand.
For once I had given myself plenty of time to do all the reading and homework exercises. And although there were some references to Trumpa, Brexit and Kaczyński, class was fun.