Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Back to the Computer

Hello again. The days are getting shorter, school has started (which gets me up early) and I'm anticipating the lovely warm autumn to turn wet and cold. I am therefore steeling myself to sitting at the computer again and writing. (For those who work in offices, it's a bit like the first Monday morning after a wonderful holiday away from everything, with your eyes completely adjusted to not looking at a computer screen. )

I was going to read the other blogs I have on my list as a warm-up (like looking through the immense pile of paper/list of emails in your in-boxes on that Monday morning). However I saw a comment on my last post from Philipp von Plato, co-founder of InterNations– the leading international online community for expatriates and global-minded people, as the comment describes it.

It reads like spam, but I guess it is serious. However, I'm not going to send Philip my email address as my impression of the site is that it is the complete opposite of how I have decided my self-image should be.

I dislike thinking of myself as an expatriot, no matter how true a dictionary definition it is. It sounds incredibly negative, focusing on leaving, dwelling on the past, and being in a strange place. Internations' Polish page describes it quite well:

Cześć and a heart-felt welcome to the InterNations community for expats in Poland! Our international network caters to your specific needs and supports you in relocating to and putting down roots in Poland. Living abroad in a foreign country is definitely a great intercultural experience, but typically brings up a lot of questions for expatriates Poland: ʺWhat is the best international school for my kids in Poland?ʺ, ʺHow do I find a job for my spouse in Cracow?ʺ or ʺWhere in Warsaw can I meet fellow expats and compatriots from my home country?” Just to name a few examples…

InterNations aim is to help you, as an expatriate, in becoming part of the Poland expat community and exploring the Polish way of life in all its aspects: From enjoying the traditional bigos to celebrating Smigus-Dyngus Monday.

I would rather describe myself as a 'newpat', if anything, but the real truth is probably that all I have done is move out of the crowded, ugly London city streets to a leafy, rural suburb. That it happens to be in Poland rather than, say, (non-suburban) Norfolk might be traced back on my side to a bar discussion in Westminster when I was called a Sophist (in the sense of someone who always twists their arguments), which when I objected, was itself twisted to the alternative meaning of a teacher. (My style was more modelled on a less assertive version of Plato's approach in The Republic - widely available for downloading: when speaking to a person with strong opinion's, ask questions designed to show the inconsistencies within the opponent's own point of view. I voiced no opinion of my own.) That she didn't happen to come from London was just part of everyday living and quite inconsequential. In other circumstances this might be Necton: Life and Times outside London, with pictures like this (of Mildenhall War Memorial):

I'm much too locally focused to consider myself globally minded, as I understand the term. I don't know if there is a good description. 'Self-centred' implies too much of a focus on me: maybe I flatter myself, though. 'Narrow minded' implies too much bigotry: everything is new and wonderful. There have been times when I have been manual labouring in the garden during the summer when things such as 'narrowly focused' seemed apposite, but I'm not sure its right more generally. I have worked in jobs where that really is true. "When two Structural Funds practitioners get together all they do is talk about the Structural Funds" is, in my limited British, Polish, French, German, Danish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Latvian, Italian and Brussels community experience, a European-wide truth. What spouse would believe that four adult men would sit all night/early morning in a pub with music and pretty girls around them speaking about Structural Funds. This should make even more sense if you have no idea what they are, so don't worry about it. (Piotr and Michał - who never figured out why - later divorced, Lionel's wife was at home in France and I left early...ish ... comparatively speaking that is.)

Thanks to Philip for giving me a focus for reintroducing myself. It may not seem to say too much, but I suspect a psychological profiler will have pretty much figured me out. If Philip reads this and his comment was not just advertising spam, I would pleased to reconsider if he wants to comment again: please explain what you want. I might be able to give some gardening tips: "Asters are an essential autumn feature of the Polish garden, both for their own colour and for the flocks of butterflies they attract. Chrysanthemums also provide autumn colour, but are less hardy and, perhaps more importantly, they are often considered to be grave plants and unsuitable for the home". Probably not ...

I wrote "I'm anticipating the lovely warm autumn to turn wet and cold". It was dark at the time, so I didn't know and the thunderstorm last night - very little rain - seemed more a hot weather phenomenon.

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