Głupi Projektów Rolniczych 27/08/2010Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures, Leçons Culturelles.
Tags: agriculture, cuisine, development, economics, european union, hybryda, industry, pasaz, poland, rynek, socializing, tarnów, tourism, travel, walks, wandering, zenit
Point Break did not happen. The surge protector blew when I plugged in my power strip and instead we were treated with the worrisome stench of fused plastic and wires. Lights worked but all the plugs in the apartment were shot and we could not find the breaker inside, in the stairwell, in the catacombs below.
Sitting between the communist blocks and old town is Zenit. It looks like your average warehouse retailer, until we walked inside and became rats in a behavioral sciences experiment. The interior is a labyrinth cut from seven foot plexiglass display cases. Perfume is here, t-shirts over here, watches are here and each department is autonomous.
Janice negotiated murky vocabulary with a patient woman hawking junk drawer electronics in the back. There were no crowds of bargain hunters, but our wandering was limited. The company’s website leads me to believe, by virtue of fractured google translation, that the retail spaces are leased to independent vendors. Either everyone is selling black market goods or they’re receiving some serious government stimulus to run their glossy flea market stalls.
Apparently Zenit also has a grocery, plant nursery, laundry service and “production activities in the field of carton packaging”. They say that 80% of their work force come from an employment program for the disabled. Someone’s gotta get their hands caught in the cardboard cutting machine.
The main post office was almost exclusively florescent lit employees staring into space. In Poland every function from shipping packages to banking requires a separate room with a separate staff. We paused at a plaque honoring postal employees who were killed by the Nazis. Someone had left fresh flowers.
Janice had to teach English to the few people who could still afford to learn it. I was parked at Hybryda, set up with a coffee, and left in the darkest room available. Since our meticulously planned entertainment had been spoiled by substandard wiring we had spent the evening sharing war stories while clearing the powerless fridge of any highly perishable vodka and beer. Although I had unwrapped my new European power strip and it had not exploded my computer it was easier to watch the cafe employees cycle through their afternoon than deal with the outside world. People rolled kegs back and forth or scooped out the occasional sundae for mystery clients. Two guys stopped in for a World Cup match, some teenage girls eventually took a table and chainsmoked, splitting dishes of ice-cream.
After class I was collected and Janice wracked her brain for a place where we could find nuts and berries to eat. A former student, Marcin, was sitting out on the Rynek and invited us to join him. Introductions were made, polite questions asked, conversation pursued its inevitable course.
Marcin had graduated from university as a chemist but does not work in the local factory. Instead of producing food and feed additives he runs a small machine shop that fabricates little bits of metal used to turn other little bits of metal into machines for producing chemicals or cutting cardboard. I got the impression that business was bad.
He’s understandably anti-communist but wary of western free-market capitalism. When asked about corruption in America we talked of lobbyists and corporate malfeasance falling on either side of the law, and this was met with no surprise. I asked about EU funding. Poland was indoctrinated six years ago and is being groomed for the euro through development projects. Little placards are all over town, including the now dismantled stage where uniformed girls were parading a couple days earlier. Every train station in the country was hidden behind scaffolding. Marcin’s a fan of the investment but complained that Polish administrators were dumping cash into stupid agricultural projects instead of technology.
Why not move? Poles can be freely despised by dole collecting Brits for stealing their jobs now that the gates to the west have opened. Even bigger cities like Warsaw or Krakow must have better opportunities. But Tarnów is his home, and he’s quite happy living there. I said that old town was beautiful but found the encircling landscape depressing, almost menacing. And so we spoke of the different Tarnóws, and maybe even understood one another.
Across Rynek an information center waits for masses of tourists who have yet to arrive. The city knows they can’t hold onto their manufacturing and agricultural foundations forever. The Poles have been undercut as Europe’s illegal laborers and in a couple years the euro will destroy its production of cheap goods. Tarnów hoists its banner as the warmest place in Poland and has found someone like Marcin to translate signs into English so that we can marvel at their past atrocities, wooden churches, and statues of unknown poets. No one at the information center speaks English, it’s a pain in the ass to get to from Krakow, and since leaving I’ve found the official tourist site has been taken offline.
Marcin wanted us to stay and have a beer but the conversation had left our stomachs growling. We wandered around until Janice decided on Pasaz. The dining room was nearly empty, the better to show off the luxurious splendor that hadn’t been updated since Tarnów’s glory days, or at least was designed by someone with a lapsed subscription to design magazines. The one waiter took our order looking as though he would cry if things didn’t work out well. The food was correct but since we’d ordered three dishes we received three place-settings and he held our pierogis for a guest that never came.