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Published: September 2nd 2006
I got another good night’s sleep, this is becoming a habit! And to think, it only took me 8 days to get over my jetlag! Ironically, I slept through breakfast at this new, swank hotel, so I venture across the green park, to the symbol everyone in the world knows instantly. The Golden Arches, gleaming under the Sopot sun. Now, I’ve been in a few Mickey D’s, but this was the cleanest, most well organized and well run I have ever seen. It is what other McDonald’s aspire to be. Outside, in the park, is a covered picnic spot to enjoy the otherwise unremarkable food. I kill the next couple hours by reading, writing, and last minute shopping with Lindsay, before donning my suit and heading to Gdansk for the wedding.
The ceremony is being held in the aforementioned Gothic Cathedral, you remember, 779 years old? All of the pictures of the wedding are from Lindsay’s mom or the professional photographer, for, as my lot in life is reconfirmed, I’m asked to videotape the wedding. It was a short wedding, thanks to the groom not being Catholic, and we were whisked away by shuttle back to Sopot with other English speaking folks, mostly Londoners. At the reception I was intentionally seated between two Polish men named Piotr (yep, Peter), one whom I did not talk to (he speaks English, but doesn’t like to), the other I talked with at great length, and who will hitherto be the only Piotr I refer to. The guy was fifteen years old, had a head on his shoulders, not to mention being slightly more mature than me, so we hit it off right away. If you want to make Piotr laugh really hard, just say Przepraszam (Sha pra shom - Excuse me) when you mean Dziekuje (Gin koo ya - thank you). I swear if there’s an outbreak of “stupid-American” jokes in Poland, I’m the reason. Sure, he probably would’ve let me go had I only done it once, but after the forth time, I guess he had a right to laugh at me remorselessly. In my defense, there’s a Polish tradition that every time someone raises a toast to the new bride and groom, or comes up with and equally valid reason, everyone takes a shot of vodka. Have I mentioned that I love Poland?
Lindsay, Piotr and I headed out to buy more batteries for my camera (not a great idea after 4 “toasts” in an hour). There was a small kiosk in the street and Piotr did all of the talking for me, as I told him what kinds of batteries I needed. He told me the price, I gave the cashier the money, she handed me the batteries and I said, “Przepraszam”.
This would be the “przepraszam” that sent Piotr over the top. He and Lindsay laughed the whole way back to the hotel. You see, przepraszam, means excuse me, in the same way it does in English; if you need to get past someone, if you need to interject in a conversation, or if you allow a private bodily function out into the world. If it’s obviously not one of the first two reasons, it’s assumed to be the third. So every time I try to say thank you, I’m essentially admitting to breaking-wind. That can be rather off putting.
This is actually a good time for another anecdote about my language issues. Jer’s number one rule of linguistics: If you don’t remember a word, it’s probably best not to guess, or sound it out. Lindsay and I were on Long Street buying amber jewelry when I was helped by a very nice and very patient woman. After transacting our business, I said, “Przepraszam (Excuse me)…no ummm, dobrze (Dobpcha - nice or good), dupa (Dubpcha - ass), ummmm…” At which point, she laughingly said, “Dziekuje (Gin koo ya - thank you)?” and I nodded, repeated, “Dziekuje”, uttered another thank you in both English and Polish and left telling Lindsay about my mistake. Lindsay nearly doubled over in laughter and translated for me, “Excuse me…no ummm, nice, ass, ummmm”. That’s how amazing the Polish people are. She was either thrilled I tried, or she was thrilled about the compliment, (she did say thank you!)…not sure which, but I didn’t get arrested or struck, so no harm no foul.
I digress. After the battery issue we were walking back to the Hotel and there was a street performer playing a guitar. Piotr stopped dead in his tracks and says, “That’s Zeppelin!” which made Lindsay and I take pause, neither of us having recognized it! Sure enough it was, so we stayed to listen briefly, paid him and went on our way.
For the rest of the night, every time someone did anything for someone else, Piotr and Lindsay would yet, “Przepraszam!” and start laughing all over again. I really thought I’d get partial credit for trying, but all I got was a large amount of ridicule.
I finally retired to my room at midnight, got packed, and climbed back on my window sill and watched the people on the streets. A mere three hours later, still drunk, I’d be showered, dressed, and journeying back to the good, old U.S. of A. with Lindsay.
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